Posted on by Sean Patrick Hopwood

5 Practical Tips for Improving Your Italian

Parli Italiano written by woman's hand: Do you speak Italian?Italian is a language that is easy for native English speakers to learn, because it also has Latin roots like English.

The sentence and grammar structures of Italian are not similar to English, but they are not difficult to understand and remember.

Plus, English and Italian share many cognates. If you're thinking of working in a translation services company, Italian is a great language to learn and master.

Italian used to be widely spoken in the U.S. Until the year 2000, there were more than one million Italian speakers in country, but the language is losing ground.

In 2010, the number of speakers went down to just over 700,000. Other languages such as Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese have overtaken the Romance language.

Based on the latest data from Ethnologue, there are 63.4 million first language (L1) speakers of Italian in 13 countries around the world.

Still, Italian is a favorite among language learners. In fact, it is the fourth most studied language in the world.

According to the General Assembly of the Italian Language in the World, the number of foreigners studying the language in the academic year 2015-2016 is 2.2 million, compared to the previous academic year's 1.7 million.

The United States, Australia, Germany and France are among the countries where the increase in Italian language learners is most remarkable.

While British citizens are known for their lack of foreign language skills, the British Council stated that Italian is very important for business. According to their study called Languages for the Future, it is the fourth most requested language by employers from prospective hires.

Now, if you're one of those students who are learning Italian and you want to improve your speaking or reading skills out of the norm, here are a few tips:

1. Listen to Italian Music

Most Italian music is timeless. Italian songs are romantic and beautiful just like Italian Music PosterItalian culture.

Learning a language through music is advantageous because in this way the brain retains the words quicker and longer.

Pay attention to the lyrics, or better yet, download the lyrics so you can sing along and learn the pronunciation as well.

It will help you greatly to remember the words and enhance your Italian accent.

There are several amazing singers from Italy. Who can forget Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti? Listen to the songs of Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, Mina, Patty Pravo, Umberto Tozzi or Laura Pausini.

They actually make good language teachers because they are trained to enunciate very well. You'll not only enjoy some great songs, you'll boost your speaking abilities as well.

(See also "Dimmi Quando..." - An Italian Song For language Learning.)

2. Use Phone Apps

Phone apps cartoonSupplement your formal Italian language classes with an Italian language app for your phone or tablet.

Besides free language apps, there are those that you can buy. Apps can help you learn the basics – expressions, phrases and words that are commonly used by travelers.

It's like having a phrase book, something that you can take with you anywhere.

The good thing about a language phone app is that it lets you practice the language you're learning wherever you are, at a time that's most convenient for you.

There are also programs that you can download on your PC or laptop; or you can just visit and bookmark a language learning website, where you can read lessons and listen to recorded audio at the same time.

A fun way to learn is by signing up for Duolingo. Or, check out these alternativeTo: MindSnacks Italian, the game-based Learn and Play Italian, Learn Italian (Hello Hello), Learn Italian – Molto Bene, 10,000 Sentences, and the game-based app, Xeropan.

3. Listen to Podcasts

Whether you're a beginner or at an advanced level, you can improve young man listening to Italian podcastyour Italian with dedicated podcasts in the language. Here are some that are quite popular and helpful:

  • News in Slow Italian. This is wonderful for beginners as the hosts speak very slowly while reporting international news.You learn about the nuances of the language and how it's used in the context of regular speech, while getting up to date in what's happening around the world.
  • Al Dente. If you're at the A2 level, this is a good choice for you. The podcast is recommended for those who are learning the language from scratch. The site is in Italian.
  • Italiano automático. This podcast is for intermediate, or B-level studies. Earlier episodes are available on iTunes. You can also visit their website if you favor watching videos on a larger screen.
  • Maxmondo.This website gives you free and premium access. The podcasts allow you to learn not just the Italian language but also Italian culture, food and traditions. This is learning about the Italian way of life. The podcasts are recommended for intermediate and advanced learners.
  • ItalianLingQ. Their podcasts let you learn about the wonders of Italy, beautiful travel destinations, history, stories and news. It is a great way to be immersed in all things Italian. The site is in English and Italian and easy to navigate.

4. Find a Language Buddy

young men discussing Another way to improve your Italian is to find a language buddy, someone else who can share the journey of fumbling about the language, especially when you're just starting!

Preferably, team up with another student who doesn't speak your native language, as this will force you to speak in Italian and improve your fluency. You'll also feel that the pressure to speak faultlessly in Italian is reduced, because you'll both be making mistakes and improving your skills together. 

5. Watch Videos in Italian

Learn and enjoy. That is what you get when you watch videos in Italian.young woman watching video

You can find Italian channels on YouTube or go to movie streaming sites to look for Italian movies, dramas and other shows.

Turn off the subtitles so you do not get distracted from listening to the words, phrases and sentences.

Of course, the actors may speak with a regional accent, but the main point is you're listening to the dialogue in Italian.

You can also watch the films again with subs, just to check if your understanding of the dialogue is right.

When learning a language, the most important things to remember are patience and dedication.

You should love and have particular interest in the language, otherwise you'll not strive to fully learn it when you encounter difficulties.

You have to listen, practice, talk and make it a part of your life.

Write down unfamiliar words you encounter when listening to podcasts and music and when watching videos.

Review what you've learned at the end of the day and think in Italian as much as you can.

Author Bio: Sean Patrick Hopwood, MBA, is founder and President of Day Translations, Inc., an online translation and localization services provider, dedicated to the improvement of global communications. By helping both corporations and the individual, Day Translations provides a necessary service at the same time as developing opportunities for greater sympathy and understanding worldwide. You can follow Sean on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Auditory & Visual Language Learning: Our Danish Experience

Language learning child with motherLanguage learning experts continue to discuss the relative benefits of auditory versus visual learning.

Young children learn their first language(s) by listening to and repeating the words, phrases and sentences they hear their parents, caregivers, siblings and friends speak.

They can't read and write yet, but they do get a lot of feed-back from others in the form of explanations, corrections, etc.

In most cases, foreign language learning by older children and adults occurs somewhat differently.

They already have a native language they can read and write. This gives them an additional learning tool that can, however, both help and interfere.

Adults can indeed learn a new language just by listening. At the beginning it helps to hear the translation in their native language.

This is the method used by audio-only programs such as Michael Thomas or Pimsleur, the latter being the one we are most familiar with. (See also our reviews of Pimsleur German and Russian)

Language learning can also occur visually. One way is by using a combination of images and written words. Language books and dictionaries are the backbone of that approach.

Apps and online learning programs typically combine audio, images, and words in written form. Some use a teaching language, others don't (such as Rosetta Stone, Lingualia, and others.)

Most other programs, including Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, GamesforLanguage, etc. rely on reading (and writing) the foreign words, sometimes also together with images.

This works well when the foreign and teaching language use the same alphabet and have similar pronunciation rules.

Language learning becomes more challenging when those are different.

Different Alphabets

For English speakers learning to read and write languages scriptures-in-cyrillic-alphabetthat don't use the Latin alphabet is quite a challenge.

A few years ago, in preparation for a trip to Japan and China, we used the Pimsleur method to learn some basics. Learning Chinese characters was not even one of our goals.

As we reported elsewhere, we did not progress much beyond the usual greetings, please, thank you, etc. However, we drilled the Chinese numbers quite a bit and found knowing them very useful.

Learning other alphabets, e.g. Cyrillic (see picture above), Arabic, and others is easier for English speakers, than learning Asian writing systems.

In either case, you have to know the new writing systems before you can acquire “comprehensible input” through reading. Until then you can only learn though listening (or using transliteration, as is often done with Japanese, Chinese, and others).

Different Pronunciation Rules

English speakers sometimes forget how difficult it is for foreigners to learn the often inconsistent pronunciation rules of the English language.

Even children learning English as a native language have a tough time. We see it with our young grandchildren, as they are sounding out words like “through,” “though,” “tough,” “eight,” “height,” “weird,” or try to spell them.

French Girl speakingOn the other hand, German, Spanish, Italian, and French (the other four languages on our GamesforLanguage site) do have rather consistent pronunciation rules, or as linguists may call it, more or less "phonetic spelling."

This is certainly true for German. Once English speakers can get past the American “r” and “l”, get the vowels and umlauts correctly, figure out the “ch” and end “g”, there is not much mystery remaining in German pronunciation.

Among the Romance languages, Italian and Spanish may be even easier, as long as you remember the spelling of the “k” sound at the beginning of words, and a few others.

For example: “when?” translates to “quando?” in Italian and “¿cuándo?” in Spanish; but “what?” is “che cosa?” in Italian, and “¿qué?” in Spanish. Aside from that, there's a strong correspondence between sound and spelling in both languages.

And yes, French has a lot of accents and silent sounds, which may make writing more difficult, but reading not that much.

Once you learn a few of the basic rules, you can figure out how to pronounce the words, even if you may not always succeed.

In our experience to date, this is not at all the case with Danish.

Our Danish Language Learning Experience

In preparation for a trip to Denmark later this year, we have started to learn Danish. Because it's a Germanic language, we thought learning Danish would be quite easy.

 Danish - dansk signFor the last few weeks we have been using Duolingo and Memrise (and lately also Pimsleur).

On Duolingo, we are on a 52-day streak doing between 2-4 lessons every day. Peter's fluency is shown as 41%, and with Ulrike ahead in the lessons, her fluency lists as 49%.

But we both don't feel at all even close to those percentages and don't feel that we have made much progress in understanding and speaking Danish.

Why?

Because we have not (yet) figured out most of the correlations between written and spoken Danish.

Different from the four languages (besides English) on our GamesforLanguage site, the Danish pronunciation rules are not so obvious to us.

While we are continuing with Duolingo and Memrise at a somewhat reduced speed, we're experiencing something interesting as we're doing the Pimsleur Danish course.

There is much discussion and disagreement about learning styles, but that's not the issue here.

With Pimsleur, we can concentrate fully on listening, understanding, and speaking – without having to also consider the correlation between spelling and pronunciation.

Language Learning Insights and Conclusions

The experience with Danish gave us a few insights into the difficulties language learners can have with different pronunciation systems (in addition to different writing systems).

Growing up with or learning German, Dutch, English as children, later adding French, Italian and Spanish, (and trying a few other languages), we had never experienced such a disconnect between the written and spoken language as with Danish.

We both don't find it difficult to do the Duolingo and Memrise lessons and exercises. However, remembering the pronunciation AND spelling of Danish words remains a hit-and-miss affair.

We now find we are making more progress with Pimsleur.

Maybe because we only have to remember the translation and pronunciation of words and phrases.

Our Danish language learning experience is giving us this important insight: There are clear advantages to focusing on listening/understanding FIRST, when sound and spelling systems are different from the ones we are used to.

Once we have mastered basic vocabulary and with it the Danish pronunciation system, we'll then go on to consciously work on our reading and writing skills. 

Have you had similar experiences learning foreign languages with spelling systems quite different from the one(s) you're familiar with? And if so, what tips can you give us?

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

French Travel Memories 2 - Daniel in Aix-en-Provence

Cours Mirabeau sign surrounded by wiresVisiting the South of France? Then try to include Aix-en-Provence and make your own travel memories there - maybe in the Cours Mirabeau.

As you play our travel-story based language courses, you'll follow a young traveler through several main cities in each country.

And – if you visit these cities yourself – you'll discover that the travel-stories' street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc. all exist. We visited many of them and took pictures.

Our French traveler Daniel flew into Paris, which was the topic of our first French Travel Memory post.

After Paris, Daniel's next stop is in Aix-en-Provence, a picturesque city located in the south of France, about 20 miles north of Marseille.

In Aix, Daniel looks up a French friend he had met earlier during his studies in Boston.

In our travel-story course, you learn daily conversational language. The vocabulary listed here is a combination of some words taught in the course as well as other useful terms.

Often referred to as a city of art and history, Aix sports beautiful gardens, picturesque fountains, historic buildings, and the remains of Roman baths.

You can find specific events for your travel dates on the Tourist Office website, and more information in these books and travel guides.

We'll just mention a few quick facts and list some basic terms in French that will help you in your travels.

A FEW QUICK FACTS ABOUT AIX-EN-PROVENCE

Aix is a city-commune (or, incorporated municipality) located in the region of Provence, in the department of Les Bouches-du-Rhone.

In 2014, it counted a population of 142,149.

The region of Provence gets its name from the Romans. By the end of the second century BC, the region of Provence was part of the first Roman "province" beyond the Alps.

Aix had its beginnings in 122 BC as a Roman town. During the breakdown of the Roman Empire and beyond, the town survived numerous battles, periods of occupation, and repeated plundering.

From 879 until 1486, Provence was a semi-independent state ruled by the Counts of Provence. During that time, Aix became its capital and an artistic and intellectual center.

In 1487, Aix passed to the crown of France, together with the rest of Provence.

le Midi - the Midi, South of France (colloquial)Fountain at La Rotonde in Aix-en-Provence

les jardins - the gardens

les fontaines - the fountains

les ruines romaines - the Roman ruins

la commune - the town, municipality

la capitale - the capital

ville d'art et d'histoire - city of art and history

RUE MAZARINE

Daniel's friend Pierre lives in the Mazarin district on rue Mazarine, a street that runs parallel to the popular and lively Cours Mirabeau (more below).

The "quartier Mazarin" was developed in the 17th century by the then ruling archbishop Michel Mazarin.

Located in the south of Aix, this elegant neighborhood is known for its numerous "hôtels particuliers" (grand townhouses), built for the nobility, army officers, politicians, and the newly wealthy merchant class.

FRENCH TRAVEL MEMORIES WITH PAUL CÉZANNE

Paul Cézanne monument in Aix-en-ProvenceThe painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was born and grew up in Aix-en-Provence.

His father, co-founder of Banque Cézanne et Cabassol, was a successful banker. For several years the young Cézanne studied law and worked in his father's bank.

At the same time, however, he was also enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix and envisioned a career in the arts.

At age 21, Cézanne left for Paris and for the life of a struggling artist.

Read more about Cézanne's struggles and artistic development.

Throughout his life, Cézanne came back to Aix frequently and finally settled there again during his later years.

Café Clément, where Cézanne often went to meet friends, was at 44 Cours Mirabeau.

The bank Cézanne's father founded, Banque Cézanne et Cabassol, was on 24, rue des Cordeliers. It is now the location of a property management company.

In Aix, you can visit Cézanne's atelier: 9 avenue Paul Cézanne. It's about a 30-minute walk to the north of the town. That's where he worked every day from 1902 until his death in 1906.

l'atelier - the atelier, artist's workshop

le peintre - the painter

le tableau - the painting, picture

la peinture – the paint, painting

la banque – the bank

le banquier - the banker

travailler - to work

LE COURS MIRABEAU

Cours Mirabeau tree-line avenue in Aix-en-ProvenceThe Cours Mirabeau is a wide boulevard built in 1649 along the southern ramparts of the city. To the south of this lively street lies the quartier Mazarin (see above).

The Cours Mirabeau is lined with restaurants, cafés, stores, bookshops, movie theaters, and beautiful fountains. (see picture)

The popular café "Les Deux Garçons" - frequented by the writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, the philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as Paul Cézanne - is at number 53 Cours Mirabeau. It was built in 1660 and is the oldest café in Aix.

le cours - the long avenue

l'écrivain - the writer, author

le cinéaste - the filmmaker

le philosophe - the philosopher

le dramaturge - the playwright

CATHÉDRALE SAINT SAUVEUR

Aix's cathedral was first built in the 12th century, Main entrance of Cathédrale Saint Sauveur in Aix-en-Provenceon the site of a pre-Roman pagan temple and later Roman temple of Apollo.

In the following centuries, the cathedral underwent several more phases of construction.

Now a national monument of France, the building is an interesting combination of Roman, Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-gothic architectural styles.

Noteworthy are the Gothic portals, the Bell Tower (started in 1323), the Romanesque Cloister, as well as the interior of the church.

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT

Besides strolling through the streets old Aix with its stunning architecture, its markets and shops, the Hotel de Caumont centre d'art is worth a visit (located in a "hôtel particulier").

Also of interest are short tours into the surrounding countryside. First on the list may be the neighboring Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a frequent subject of Cézanne's paintings.

And, if you are visiting during the summer months, don't miss a tour to Provence's lavender fields.

SOME ADVICE

As you're making your travel memories, you'll notice that Aix-en-Provence has an atmosphere that is reminiscent of Paris. 

In the summer you may enjoy "Musique dans la rue" or one of the many "Festivals" and art exhibitions; or join the fashionable Aixois sipping an expresso or an apéritif on one of the terraces of the Cours Mirabeau cafés.

The center of Aix' old town is now a pedestrian zone with large parking lots around the perimeter.

So, if you travel by car – use one of those lots and don't even try to drive into the town center!

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her travel memories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact or below.

Posted on by Maile Proctor

7 Ways to Reinforce Language Learning During Summer Months

summer beach fun for kidsSummer’s here and kids should be having fun.

But as a parent, you don’t want your child to lose all the (foreign or native) language skills he or she learned during the school year.

Whether they’re studying in school or taking lessons, without consistent practice, children can experience learning loss during the summer.

While they may dread actual academic assignments, it's easy to find some creative ways to help them practice.

Here are seven ideas to reinforce your child's language learning during the summer.

Keep a Journal

Journaling is a great way for kids, especially teenagers, to write down their thoughts summer journal for language practiceand feelings, remember things and develop their language and writing skills. 

A journal is also a great tool to help them practice their foreign language skills.

Challenge your son or daughter to journal. He or she can do so in their native language, or in Spanish, French or another language they’re studying. This gives them an opportunity to work on grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.

“Writing practice is the ultimate way to really learn new vocabulary and practice verb construction,” according to Jane Smith from Omniglot. “Practicing new words in writing is a perfect way to ingrain them in your mind and remember how to use them again. You will also understand how to integrate them into full sentences.”

Remind your kids to write in their language journal every day and look up any words they need that they dont know. It doesnt have to be a long entry. Just a little bit of daily practice can make a big difference.

If your child is a older, you may want to consider finding an online pen pal. Sites like Global Penfriends pair kids from around the world to communicate via email. Regular correspondence can be a great way to develop language-writing skills.

Plan a Day Trip

It's very likely that there's a cultural center or community of Spanish, French, German or Japanese speakers near your home. This provides a good opportunity for foreign-language practice.

Take your son or daughter there to interact with people in their native language. With your supervision, allow him or her to speak and listen to others.

Grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood and encourage your child to practice his or her language skills while ordering.

If there’s a cultural center, you can find shows and events to go to during the summer. Your child will have an opportunity to hear the language and learn a little more about the culture.

Read

Mother reading to daughter on beachHopefully, your child’s school has some sort of reading program to encourage reading during the summer.

To reinforce a child's foreign language studies, encourage him or her to pick up an age-appropriate book in the language they’re learning.

Reading is one of the most underrated tools when it comes to learning a language.

“Like reading in one’s native language, reading in a foreign language helps us become more comfortable with the words and grammatical rules that enable us to express our own thoughts,” according to BrainScape.

“Seeing the text of new words and concepts visually helps to reinforce our memory of them, while having the ability to stop, think, or look up words in a dictionary allows for more individualized pace of mental absorption.”

Best of all, urge them to read books for pleasure. For kids it’s a great activity to cool down after playing outside in the summer heat.

Or, read to them. No surprise: 83 percent of children across all age groups say they love it when their parents read aloud to them.

Cultural Cuisine

Many children love to help with cooking. Make it a special project to prepare a foreign dish together with your son or daughter.

Your child can research the recipe and culture and share fun facts, traditions and vocabulary with the rest of the family.

Not only will your child get to practice his or her language (and cooking) skills, your family will get to try and enjoy a new dish.

Apps and Games

If your child is learning a foreign language, he or she may already have boy andgirl playing video gamesome language-learning apps or playing GamesforLanguage's online Quick Games.

Games and apps are great to make sure your child gets consistent language practice.

Even if you want to limit the amount of time your child spends on electronic devices, you can let him or her have a limited time to practice with language apps or games.

Games and apps are a low-pressure way for your child to avoid learning loss.

Music and Podcasts

Download foreign-language songs your child likes, and stream stories or podcasts.

Your child may not be able to understand everything, but hearing the language will help to reinforce the skills and vocabulary he or she has already learned.

Write down words your child doesn’t recognize so you can look them up later.

Summer drives are perfect for listening. Keep music or story CDs handy whenever you head out.

Watch a Movie

Pick an age-appropriate foreign language movie.

You can leave the subtitles on to follow along, or turn them off for an added challenge.

Just like listening to music, watching movies can help to reinforce your child’s language skills. It's especially good for picking up on sentence structure and other language patterns. Again, write down unfamiliar words to look up.

Some of these ideas may work better for your child than others. The key is finding the activities your child enjoys.

How do you help your kids practice a language during the summer months ? Let us know in the comments below.

Maile Proctor is a professional blogger and content editor. She writes articles on lifestyle and family, health and fitness, education, how-to and more. Maile earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking in San Diego, California.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with any of the linked sites (except Gamesforlanguage.com) and Maile Proctor, other than publishing Maile's article.

 

Posted on by Dimitris Polychronopoulos

Why Writing is an Important Part of Language Learning

hand with pen writing in a note bookLearning a language generally involves learning four skills: listing/comprehension, reading, speaking and writing. We typically learn our first, native language by listening and speaking and then add reading and writing later in school.

When we learn other languages as adults we typically do so with "comprehensible input," by listening and reading, and we practice some writing early on as well (unless we use audio-only methods like Pimsleur).

When we learn a new language, we often neglect to truly develop our writing ability in that language.

Our language-learning efforts often focus only on trying to understand what others are saying and trying to be understood when we speak.

As we advance, many of us strive to be able to read the newspaper in our target language.

When it comes to writing in another language, though, we often only reach the level where we are comfortable writing text messages, emails and short notes.

The Writing Challenge

There is a lot a language learner can gain by taking the time to practice writing. Obviously beginners will not be able to practice writing essays and articles yet.

At the early stages, it is best to focus on writing simple sentences and paragraphs.

It is easy to receive feedback on short writing samples by using the app or website Hi Native for single sentences or the website Lang-8 for entire paragraphs.

When you are at the intermediate level, you can start to write longer texts. Composing an entire article requires a lot of thought.

The task becomes less daunting when you start with an outline. One of the drawbacks of writing in a foreign language is that it is harder to find native speakers to offer quality feedback.

Native speakers themselves are often not highly skilled at offering constructive feedback on long texts, because they themselves may not have studied essay-composition skills and article-writing and editing skills.

That means you may need to rely on a professional language teacher for feedback.

Your Language Learning Motivation

It is a good idea to consider your motivations.cartoon of Lion's motivational morning roar behind desk

Some language learners will be more motivated to become skilled writers in their target language, while others will not.

Those who wish to study at a university in a foreign language, work at a professional level in a foreign language and integrate into society in a different language will be highly motivated to reach the highest level possible in their writing abilities.

Although those who do not have such ambitions will be less inclined to spend the time to improve their writing skills, that doesn’t mean that they should ignore writing practice altogether. After all, there is a lot to gain from writing practice.

The Benefits of Writing Practice

When you practice letter writing and article writing in a foreign language, you get a clearer picture of your limitations in grammar and vocabulary.

As you revisit the texts you’ve written in a foreign language, it is easy see the progress you make.

Your past mistakes get cemented in time and you see at what point you learn to overcome certain mistakes that you habitually make.

There may be a certain word that you continue to misspell, or a particular verb that you never seem to conjugate correctly.

Perhaps you notice a common trend of mixing up two words that sound alike or sound similar, such as it’s and its or affect and effect.

By conquering these differences, you build a stronger grasp of the language you are learning.

Writing also allows you to focus on how to organize your thoughts and how you seek to logically draw arguments and conclusions.

This is a challenge enough in our native language(s).

The extra challenge of doing so in a different language helps build up your skills in that language in ways that can spill over to your other abilities in the language, such as improved conversational skills and better reading ability.

Bio: Dimitris Polychronopoulos is the founder of yozzi.com, where he welcomes guest posts and guest interviews in his eight strongest languages: English, French, Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Yozzi is a platform where you can offer feedback to help others improve their writing skills in their target languages.

Posted on by PeterRettig

Eine “Affenhitze”? Fahrenheit to Celsius Made Easy

Celsius - Fahrenheit thermometerA recent post about German expressions you may hear in Germany during the summer months includes “Affenhitze.” (Literally, it's “monkey heat,” or very hot, you get the picture.)

Talking about the weather is always a good conversation topic, especially when traveling.

For many travelers from the U.S. to Europe (or vice versa), being able to correlate the Fahrenheit scale to the European Celsius is a mystery.

There are conversion charts, thermometers often show both scales as on this picture, and your smartphone will have an app for conversions of areas, weights, temperatures, etc.

(And yes, there is the simple approximation: deduct 30 from ºF, divide by 2 to get ºC, or double ºC and add 30 to get ºF.)

But after reading this post, "approximate" won't do for you any longer and you can also impress your friends, by NOT using a mobile gadget.

You'll now be able the make all conversions quite easily in your head by just remembering a few key numbers.

And, feel free to forward the post to anyone who could use it!

But first a little history.

Fahrenheit

The Fahrenheit scale was proposed in 1724 by the Danzig/Gdansk born,Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit doing experiment Amsterdam-based physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit.

Today Fahrenheit is used as the official temperature scale only in the United States, a few Island states in the Pacific, the Bahamas, Belize, and the Cayman Islands.

The scale is defined by two fixed points:

32 ºF as the temperature when water freezes, and 212 ºF as the temperature when water boils at sea level and a defined atmospheric pressure.

Just remember: On the Fahrenheit scale, water freezes at 32 ºF.

Celsius

Anders Celsius paintingThe Celsius scale, which the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius proposed in 1742, was actually the reverse of the scale we are using today: 0 as the boiling point and 100 as the freezing point of water.

Read about the Celsius history, and how the reversal to 0 ºC as the freezing point and 100 ºC as the boiling point of water came about, in this Wiki entry.

Just remember: On the Celsius scale, water freezes at 0 ºC.

But enough of physics.

The Fahrenheit/Celsius Correlation

We now know:

Water freezes at 32 ºF and 0 ºC.

Water boils at 212 ºF and 100 ºC.

The difference between freezing and boiling is therefore 180 ºF and 100 ºC on either scale.

Dividing both differences by 20 (180:20=9; 100:20=5) gives you the first easy relationship to remember:

Each 5 ºC correlates to 9 ºF

If 0 ºC = 32 ºF, then

   5  ºC = 9 ºF + 32 ºF = 41 ºF

You got the idea?

What would then 20 ºC be in Fahrenheit? Easy!

Remembering that 4 x 5 ºC = 20 ºC, you apply the same logic to the Fahrenheit conversion:

4 x 9º  + 32º = 68 ºF

This leads you to the second correlation you may want to remember:

68 ºF correlates to 20 ºC

Once you remember this one, it's not difficult either to calculate and even remember the next one

50 ºF correlates to 10 ºC

How do I know?

Well, remembering that 5 ºC correlates to 9 ºF,

you can either add 2 x 9º = 18º to 32º, or deduct 18º from 68º, both result in 50 ºF.

In the last few weeks European temperatures have often exceeded 30 ºC, and the 90s ºF are not unusual for many parts of the U.S. these days: 

What are the ºC/ºF equivalents? Easy!

Just add 2 x 9º = 18º to the 68 ºF (= 20 ºC) that you remembered from above and you'll get:

30 ºC correlates to 86 ºF.

Add another 5 ºC or 9 ºF and you get:

35 ºC correlates to 95 ºF.

The Fahrenheit – Celsius Table

Here is the table for the easy 5 ºC increments, and you can obviously interpolate among those. But as long as you remember the key relationships  (5 ºC ~ 9 ºF, 0 ºC ~ 32 ºF and 20 ºC ~ 68 ºF) , you can always figure it out again easily.

Celsius   Fahrenheit
0º           32º
5º           41º
10º         50º
15º         59º
20º         68º
25º         77º
30º         86º
35º         95º
40º       104º

It's summer now, but you may also want to know in the winter how cold -10 ºC is in Fahrenheit?

No problem, right?

Here is a good one to remember as well:

-40 ºC correlates to -40 ºF

By now, I'm sure you are able to figure out why this is correct.

The Fahrenheit – Celsius Formula

For the more mathematically inclined readers, here are the two conversion formulas which the mobile apps are using:

ºC = [(ºF – 32 ) / 9] x 5 and

ºF = ºC x 9 / 5 + 32

Some Final Thoughts

For those readers who use European cook books that include ºC temperature recommendations, it's worthwhile to know that 200 ºC is 328 ºF and 250 ºC is 418 ºF.

I've written these two conversion sets in each of my European cook books.

Of course, as with anything, you have to practice a bit. And, if you are learning a foreign language, why not practice the conversion numbers in your new language?

To brush up on the numbers, just click on the French, German, Italian and Spanish number posts and games!

As the Germans would say: You could “zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen” - which converts easily to “kill 2 birds with one stone”...

And please, forward this post to anyone for whom the Fahrenheit/Celsius relationship has always been a mystery!

Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact or below.

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Practice French Conjunctions with Language Games

French flags as connected puzzle piecesConjunctions join words, groups of words, clauses, or sentences, and show how actions, events and ideas are connected. They are essential for conversations and are the staple of any speech or argument. 

Memorizing French conjunctions individually is not that difficult, but using them correctly in sentences takes some practice. Most of them occur in our French 1 travel-story course, where you can practice them in various games.

French, like English, has two types of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating.

Coordinating French Conjunctions

These join words or groups of words that are of equal value.

The most commonly used French coordinating conjunctions are: et (and), ou (or), mais (but), ni...ni (neither...nor), car (because, as), donc (therefore, so).

Our Quick French Language Game, Basic French Conjunctions, will let you practice the most common ones. Click on the link or one of the images below.

et (and)

De rien, et bon voyage. (You're welcome and have a good trip.)Gamesforlanguage.com's French Conjunctions Wordinvader screenshot
Il est fatigué et dort un peu. (He is tired and sleeps a little.)

ou (or)

Vous pouvez prendre les bus 3, 4 ou 6. (You can take the buses 3, 4 or 6.)
Aller simple ou aller-retour? (One-way or return trip?)

(And don't confuse the conjunction “ou” with the acverb “où”, which is pronounced the same, but has a grave accent on the “u” and means “where” and in some cases when.)

mais (but)

Oui, mais c'est mon premier voyage en France. (Yes, but it's my first trip to France.)
Je ne suis pas certain, mais je crois que c’est ça. (I'm not sure, but I think that's it.)

ni (neither... nor...)

Je n'aime ni la glace ni le chocolat. (I like neither ice cream nor chocolate.)
Ni moi ni la police ne pouvions te joindre. (Neither I nor the police could reach you.)

car (because, for, as)

Je suis inquiet car elle n'est pas encore rentré. (I'm worried because she isn't back yet.)
Je reste à la maison car je suis malade. (I'm staying at home because I'm sick.)

donc (therefore, so)

Je pense, donc je suis. (I think, therefore I am.)
Je n'ai rien vu, donc je ne sais pas. (I didn't see anything, so I don't know.)

Subordinating French Conjunctions

These connect a dependent clause to a main clause, showing a relationship of time, place, or cause and effect between them. When using a subordinating conjunction, you'll have to think about which tense or mood of the verb to use.

The most commonly used French subordinating conjunctions are: quand (when), si (if), que (that), comme (as, since), quoique (although)

Gamesforlanguage.com's Shootout game of French conjunctionsquand (when)

Quand je me suis réveillé, il était midi. (When I woke up it was noon.)
Julie m'a fait visiter la ville, il ne faisait pas beau. (When Julie showed me around town, the weather wasn't nice.)

si (if)

Tu peux le prendre si tu veux. (You can take it if you want.)
S'il fait beau, on ira se promener. (If the weather's nice, we'll go for a walk.)

que (that)

Je crois que c’est ça. (I think that's it.)
Je suis content que tu nous rendes visite. (I'm glad that you're visiting us.)
Il faut que tu reviennes bientôt. (You have to come back soon.)
Dommage que je parte demain. (Too bad that I'm leaving tomorrow.)

Note: With expressions such as je suis content(e) que, il faut que, dommage que”, you would use the subjunctive mood for the verb. This will be the subject of another post.

comme (as, since)

Elle est partie comme j'arrivais. (She left as I arrived.)
Comme il arrive demain, il faut préparer une chambre. (Since he's arriving tomorrow, we have to get a room ready.)

quoique (even though, although)

Je veux l'acheter quoique ce soit très cher. (I want to buy it even though it's very expensive.)
Quoiqu'il soit pauvre, il est très généreux. (Even though he's poor, he's very generous.)

Conjunctive Phrases

French also has a large number of phrases that function as conjunctions. They usually end with ... que” and mostly require the subjunctive. Here are just a couple of examples:

avant que (before)

Il n’attend pas longtemps avant que le train arrive. (He doesn't wait long before the train arrives.)
Avant que la réunion ne commence, le Directeur veut vous parler. (Before the meeting starts, the manager wants to speak with you.)

parce que (because)

D’accord, mais c’est bien parce que c’est vous. (All right, but only because it's you.)
Je suis en retard parce que mon réveil n'a pas sonné. (I'm late because my alarm didn't go off.)

jusqu’à ce que (until)

Juste le premier chapitre, jusqu’à ce que je me souvenais. (Only the first chapter, until I remembered.)
Reste ici, jusqu'à ce que je revienne te chercher. (Stay here until I come back to get you.)

Maybe next time you read a French article or listen to a French podcast, you'll pay special attention to the conjunctions.

Reading and listening to French will help to internalize how conjunctions work and how they are used by native speakers.

Our easy language games will give you a good start by teaching you the individual basic conjunctions and how to build short sentences with them.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

How to be Definite with Italian Articles

made in Italy stampEnglish speakers have it easy! The ubiquitous “the” makes any English noun definite. But Italian articles are much harder:

Not only do you have to know the gender – OK, “a” and “o” endings will give you a clue, as long as you also remember some exceptions – but then you have to select among a number of singular and plural forms.

The masculine Italian definite articles are the ones that cause the learner most trouble.

Don't despair, however, we'll give you the major rules, as well as a fun game, Italian Articles, so you can remember the rules more easily!

Masculine Italian Articles

Definite

Maschile Singolare - Masculine Singular: il - lo - l'

Words that begin with a consonant (except s+ consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn)

  • il pranzo - the lunchItalian articles Quick Language Game
  • il giorno - the day
  • il succo - the juice

Words that begin with s+consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn

  • lo zio - the uncle
  • lo scrittore - the writer
  • lo studente - the student

Not surprisingly, there are not many masculine nouns starting with y, pn, ps, gn, among them:

  • lo yogurt – the yoghurt
  • lo pneumatico – the inflatable
  • lo psicologo – the psychologist
  • lo gnocco – the (small) dumpling

The article “lo” becomes l' when followed by a word that starts with a vowel.

  • l'album - the album
  • l'indirizzo - the address
  • l'orologio - the clock, watch

Note: The first letter of the word that follows the article determines the form of the article.

  • lo zio - the uncle
  • il vecchio zio - the old uncle
  • l'album - the album
  • il nostro album - our album
Maschile Plurale - Masculine Plural: i and gli

Words that begin with a consonant (except s+ consonant, z, y, ps, pn, gn)

  • i pranzi
  • i giorni
  • i nonni

Words that begin with s + consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn

  • gli zii
  • gli scrittori
  • gli studenti

As with above masculine singular examples, no mystery, but note the plural form of “yogurt” (which doesn't change) and and “gnocco”

  • gli yogurt
  • gli pneumatici
  • gli psicologi
  • gli gnocchi

Words that begin with a vowel

  • gli amici
  • gli edifici
  • gli ospiti

Gamesforlanguage.com: Italian articles language gameNote: The first letter of the word that follows the article determines the form of the article.

  • gli amici - the friends
  • i miei amici - my friends
  • gli studenti - the students
  • i tuoi studenti - your students

Indefinite: un and uno

Compared to the definite articles, the masculine singular indefinite articles are pretty easy: “un” is used for all masculine gender nouns, except for those beginning with s+ consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn - where you use “uno.

  • un amico - a friend
  • un libro - a book
  • un succo - a juice
  • uno studente - a student
  • uno spazio - a space
  • uno zio - an uncle

Feminine Italian Articles

Definite

The feminine Italian definite articles are actually quite straight forward, they are either la, l', or le, as shown below.

Femminile Singolare - Feminine Singular: la and l'

All words – except those that begin with a vowel

  • la scuola - the school
  • la ragazza - the girl, girlfriend
  • la chiave - the key

The article “la” becomes l' when followed by a word that starts with a vowel.

  • l'ora - the hour
  • l'idea - the idea
  • l'edicola - the kiosk, newsstand
Femminile Plurale - Feminine Plural: le is used in all cases.Gamesforlanguage.com's  Italian articles language game
  • le fotografie - the photos
  • le settimane- the weeks
  • le notti - the nights
  • le ore - the hours
  • le opere - the works
  • le uve - the grapes

Indefinite: una and un'

No big mystery here either, as “una” is used for all singular feminine nouns, with the only variation that the abbreviated form un' is used for any feminine nouns beginning with a vowel.

  • una camera - a room
  • una domanda - a question
  • un'idea - an idea
  • un'ora - an hour

Partitive Articles and Combinations with Pronouns

Enough grammar rules for now! It's always a good idea to pace yourself and not bite off too much.

We'll cover the “del, dei, dello, della, glielo, glieli, etc.” in another post and have you practice them “playfully” with our language games.

Applying the rules and practicing the Italian articles with their singular and plural forms with as many nouns as you can remember is a worthwhile exercise.

Once you got these down pat, it's time to internalize a few other Italian grammar rules.

Let us know any comments or questions below.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

German Prefixes #1: The Inseparable Prefix “Ver-”

2 verb pairs with prefix "ver-"Some time ago we added a German Quick Language Game called 2 Verb Pairs with 'ver-'.” Soon after, a few players contacted us with some questions about the Prefix "ver".

No wonder: Among the many German prefixes, “ver-” is a very confusing one. If you agree, you're not alone: in Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals, Volume II (1877-1883), page 253, the author laments about the many “fragmental elements” of the German language:

German language is a dozen fragments of words flung into an octagonal cylinder …. up spring your fragmental elements with Ver's & Be's & Ge's & Er's & lein's & schen's & gung's & heit's & zu's & a thousand other flashing & blazing prefixes, affixes & interjections broiderd on them or hung to them.

Well, even if Twain was exaggerating just a bit, the “ver-” prefix can indeed be tricky and somewhat misleading.

Moreover, “ver-” is just one of a number of inseparable prefixes. (Others are “er-”, “ent-” “emp-“, ”be-”, “ge-”, “zer-”.) At least the inseparable prefixes don't add to a learner's word-order woes.

A Little Prefix "ver-" Language History

Today's German inseparable prefix “ver-” can be traced back to the Old High German “far-”, which originates from a mixture of Proto-Germanic “fer-”, “fur-”, “fra-” and other similar particles. And it's no coincidence that you'll recognize the “ver-” also in the “pro-”, “per-”, “pre-”, “for-” of English and other European languages.

In German the prefix “ver-” appears in three basic ways:

1. As a Simple Prefix.

Examples are:gehen vs vergehen - German Quick Language Game with prefix "ver-"

  • geben – (to give) vs vergeben – as in: Ich vergebe dir. (I forgive you.)
  • kehren – (to sweep) vs verkehren – as in: Er verkehrt in besten Kreisen. (He socializes with high society.)
  • gehen – (to go, walk) vs vergehen – as in: Die Zeit vergeht. (The time goes by.) [Note however, “sich vergehen” means to abuse someone sexually and “ein Vergehen” is a minor offense.]

In the above examples, the prefix “ver-” creates a new meaning with the root verb. Even if you know the meaning of the core verb, you may find the new meaning with the prefix hard to guess.

Many of the root verbs in this category also take other (inseparable) prefixes, such as “er-”, “be-”, “ent-”, etc.

  • ergeben – as in: Ich ergebe mich. (I give up, surrender.)
  • bekehren – as in: Er bekehrt die Ungläubigen. (He converts the unbelievers.)
  • entgehen – as in : Er entgeht einer Gefahr. (He escapes a danger.)

2. As a Prefix that makes the root verb a “faulty action,” or somewhat the opposite of what the root verb implies.

Examples are:

  • kaufen – (to buy) vs verkaufen – as in: Ich verkaufe mein Auto. (I am selling my car.)
  • zählen – (to count) vs (sich) verzählen – as in: Ich habe mich verzählt. (I miscounted.)
  • fahren – (to drive) vs (sich) verfahren – as in: Ich habe mich verfahren. (I got lost driving.)

In these cases, the somewhat opposite meaning can be guessed from the root verb. Here the ver- prefix sometimes corresponds to the English mis- prefix, as in miscount above, to misspell (sich verschreiben), to miscalculate (sich verrechnen), etc.

These root verbs combine only with a few inseparable prefixes. But they do combine with a number of separable prefixes, such as “auf-”. Often these change the root meaning just slightly.

  • aufkaufen – as in: Er kaufte halb Las Vegas auf. (He bought up half of Las Vegas.)
  • aufzählen – as in: Sie zählte alle seine Fehler auf. (She enumerated all his faults.)
  • auffahren – as in: Er fuhr auf das Auto vor ihm auf. (He rear-ended the car in front of him.)

3. As a Prefix that makes the root verb an (often new, different, but somewhat related) action.

This is the most frequent use of “ver-”.

"suchen vs versuchen" German Language Game with prefix "ver-"Examples are:

  • suchen - (to seek, search) vs versuchen – as in: Ich versuche es. (I'm trying it.)
  • binden – (to tie, bind) vs verbinden – as in: Ich verbinde Sie. (I'll connect you.)(Note that there is second meaning of verbinden: to wrap, bandage.)
  • folgen – (to follow) vs verfolgen as in: Ich verfolge ihn. (I pursue him.)

With most of these there are many other separable and inseparable prefixes that let you guess the meaning quite easily.

4. There are a number of verbs starting with “ver-”, where the root verb doesn't have a meaning of its own.

Examples are:

  • verdächtigen – to suspect
  • verdeutlichen – to make clear
  • vergessen – to forget

There are just a few verbs in this category and the root verbs typically don't work with any of the other separable or inseparable prefixes. So you'll just have to learn their meaning.

While prefixes can be confusing at times, they can also provide you with an initial clue of their meaning – especially when you understand the context in which they are used.

Test Your German with the Prefix "ver-"

Depending on how good your German is, you may have fun guessing the meaning of these “ver-” verbs below. You can look up the translation on Google translate or send us a note and we'll return the answers.

Root verb

English translation

“ver-” Prefix Verb

English translation

Category

achten

to respect

verachten

ändern

to change

verändern

ärgern

to annoy

verärgern

arbeiten

to work

verarbeiten

bauen

to build

verbauen

bergen

to recover

verbergen

beugen

to bend

verbeugen

bieten

to offer

verbieten

bitten

to ask

verbitten

brechen

to break

verbrechen

danken

to thank

verdanken

decken

to cover

verdecken

dienen

to serve

verdienen

drehen

to turn

verdrehen

And often, when you learn and remember the root verb, you'll also have an easier time remembering the many derivatives with the “flashing and blazing prefixes”.

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Posted on by Peter Editor

Become Bilingual And Feel Great!

Yes, learning a new language is a fun and exciting opportunity - not only to grow in a very useful skill but also for feeling great for many years to come!

In the last few months research has found that bilinguals enjoy many practical advantages: 

Being bilingual can help you find higher paying jobs, improve your ability to perform mental tasks, and slow down symptoms of aging.

We have linked various articles and posts about such research in the past.

TakeLessons Bilingual Infographic

Recently we became aware of an informative infographic by TakeLessons, which summarizes those benefits quite succinctly. You'll find Take Lessons' sources at the end of the graph.

(And if you're not quite ready yet for language lessons, just click on the link below the graph and play a few fun games!)

15 Stats That Prove Being Bilingual is Awesome [Infographic]

Bilingual with Gamesforlanguage Quick Games?

No time or not ready yet for language courses? No problem.

Just play a Quick Language Game or two, when you have a minute. (No registraction required.)

We can't promise you that you'll become bilingual that way, but just maybe, you'll develop a taste for (re)learning and a habit of practicing a foreign language.

And, if you keep at it, YOU can become bilingual as well!

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with TakeLessons, other than using its infographic.

 

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