Posted on by Peter Rettig

Learning and Practicing Spanish – Language Zen Update

Language Zen home pageRecently, Ulrike reviewed Language Zen - one of our partner sites for learning Spanish. While I had also used it intermittently, I really got into practicing with it during the last several weeks.

I also discovered a few features that are really helpful, but that I had not paid much attention to before.

“Literally” vs. "Meaning”

For translating a sentence, you often have the option to select “literally” vs. “meaning.”not a single man knows it - alternative Spanish translations - Language Zen & Gamesforlanguage.com

For example, to translate “Not a single man knows it.” I was very tempted to start with something like: No un solo hombre ...

However, when I clicked on the “literally” option, it suggested I say: “Not it (male) he knows not one man,” for my translation into Spanish.

And, as ningun had been introduced previously, I remembered that it was the translation for not one. Thus I was able to translate the sentence correctly. Then, when I confirmed my response, I was given the other possible correct answers, i.e. I could also have used “señor” and a different word order.

Using the“Try Again” Option

Earlier, I'd been frustrated when I made a mistake or could not remember a word or form. I finally discovered the benefits of the “Try again” link. Not only can I correct a mistake, but by retyping it correctly (or saying it again, see below) it helps me to remember it better. It also improves my accuracy score.

That woman has something in her hands - Spanish translation - Gamesforlanguage.comA case in point would be translating the following sentence: That woman has something in her hands.”

Using the “literally” option, I see that in Spanish you would not say “her hands” but “the hands.” However, I had forgotten that the Spanish word for “hand” has a feminine gender – although it ends with an “o.”

As I check my answer I both HEAR the correct translation and am informed of my mistake: los is crossed out, and I read las is missing from your answer.

I can now rewrite (or say) the sentence with the correct female pronoun “las.” Not only has it now cemented the correct gender for “la mano” in my mind, but I am also are credited for the correct answer in the progress chart. (Love that!)

Translation Alternatives

As I pointed out above, one other translation alternatives - Language Zen and Gamesforlanguage.comfeature I find particularly helpful is getting translation alternatives for many English sentences. In many other online programs there is often only ONE possible correct answer.

Language Zen gives lots of translations alternatives both for the vocabulary as well as for the word order of a translated sentence.

The screen shot (on the right) for the translation of “Can you (formal) tell me what happened?” shows a whole series of options, including different verb options for  tell, and happened, different word order, etc. 

(You'll also note that I did not conjugate the verb pasar correctly - or, the voice recognition did not like my pronunciation and I failed to correct the shown spelling.)

Lesson Accuracy and Progress

Language Zen accuracy chart - Gamesforlanguage.comOne of the motivating factors for me is the “lesson accuracy” at the end of each lesson. See the screenshot of my last lesson: 98%. I just hate it when I can't get close to a 100%, i.e. a perfect score.

My score tends to slip when I lose concentration and get tired. That is also a good reminder that it's time to stop and do something else.

Under “View Progress,” you'll see the words that I've practiced multiple times (green) Language Zen Progress Chart - Gamesforlanguageand the new words (blue) that were recently introduced.

Clicking on the “View Progress” tab lets me see several other learning metrics and also check how I'm doing in several categories: words, phrases, facts and meanings.

The screenshot on the right shows how my recent re-engagement with Language Zen is reflected in those categories.

Courses – Watching Sports

With the Olympics recently happening, I thought I would check out the “Courses” and the “Watching Sports” topic.

screenshot: which channelIndeed I was learning much relevant vocabulary, e.g. “partido,” “canal,” “defender,” “boletos,” etc.

For the translation of “On which channel is the game?” I had neglected to use the “literally” option (On what channel they GIVE the game?) and promptly made a mistake. Let's hope that I now remember to use “dar” and translate: “¿En qué canal dan el partido?

I also learned that “One has to defend well” translates to “Hay que defender bien.” Again the “literally” translation option (“There is that to defend well”) had given me the clue to avoid a mistake and pick up this idiomatic expression.

Using the Microphone

I'm also using the microphone more often now to enter myLanguage Zen screenshot translations. This is only practical when you are by yourself without much background noise.

The voice recognition is not always perfect as this screenshot (right) shows – it understood my “tienes” as “quieres,” but that is also easy to correct.

I noticed that the system appears to be getting used to my still imperfect pronunciation. Either the system's improving with time, or I'm getting better (or maybe both ...)

In any case, having the translation transcribed speeds up the practice, even considering the necessary corrections. It also lets me do more translations within my daily time quota, currently set to 3 hours per week. (I plan to double this time once I have again completed my 2 daily Scenes of our GamesforLanguage Spanish 1 course.)

At the moment, the transcription of dictated translations does not work on my iPad. It does work in my Android phone and tablet with the Chrome browser. We understand that Language Zen is working on an app, which should fix that issue. 

Learning with Songs

Language Zen song - Julieta VenegasThe idea of learning with songs attracted us first to Language Zen. I have just started taking full advantage of this feature by playing Julieta Venegas' wonderful song Eres para mí (You are for me).

It's not only a great way to learn a Spanish song, but the repetition of phrases and sentences certainly makes you remember certain expressions. 

For example, it will be hard to forget the refrain Eres para mí and its expansion to  eres para  yo soy para ti.

The song feature lets you listen to the song, see the lyrics either in Spanish or in English. (You can switch between either as the song plays.) Then you can click on Start lesson on the lyrics.tus ojos mirandome - Language Zen

After that, you're asked to translate the English words, phrases and sentences of the song into Spanish. Again you can use the microphone and when you check your answer you'll often hear the fragments of the song again.

For example, in Your eyes watching me you'll pay attention the the gerund of mirar and in this, as in many other instances, how Spanish words are linked: mirándome.

I especially like songs with a memorable refrain and melody. Language Zen's selection is still limited, but you may well find a song that you like and that you'll want to learn. And when you do it with the Language Zen song feature, you'll not only learn the song, but also improve your Spanish skills at the same time.

In taking advantage of the various options Language Zen provides, I'm not only enjoying the lessons more, but with my increased accuracy percentage I can also see that I am getting better!

Realizing that I am making progress is definitely an important motivator to continue learning and practicing.

Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He's 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.

Disclosure: Language Zen is a partner site with revenue sharing should you decide to subscribe.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Why Context is Essential for Language Learning

Languages GlobeRecently I read again Steve Kaufmann's post Meaningful Context in Language Learning. He tells the story of a Chinese family.

The family immigrated to Canada 12 years ago when the daughter was 4 years old. She is now 16 and speaks English fluently, while her parents still have great difficulties and can't speak English well at all.

Steve traces their lack of English language skills to the fact that English is not very important to them. [...] They don’t have a strong sense of wanting to participate in an English-speaking society so there isn’t that context of wanting to participate in the language, but context goes beyond that.”

Clearly, lack of exposure to the new foreign language – as so often happens in immigrant enclaves in all countries – may well be the main reason the parents in Steve's anecdote never learned to speak English fluently.

In their daily lives, English did not occur in a “meaningful context for them,” and that may explain why they were not motivated to learn.

Why immigrants learn or do not learn the language of their new country is a complicated question. It involves issues of time and money, stresses of daily life, problems with assimilation, integration into the local community, the language used at work, availability of resources, etc. All or any of these may hold a person back from becoming functionally fluent in a new language.

Comprehensible Input

Steve Kaufmann argues that to get beyond just the basics of ahand on laptop - Stock Unimited language, a learner has overcome personal hurdles and also learn with interesting comprehensible input.

That means being exposed to language materials that are relevant, that “resonate” with a person's interests.

With all the technology available these days, you can be pretty much in control of your own language learning, though sometimes this may be a hit-or miss process to find your level.

To get the right kind of exposure to your new language, you can set up the right context for learning your new language by reading books and articles, listening to audios, watching films and videos that genuinely interest you.

But just LISTENING alone will not let you learn a new language unless you have a way of figuring out what the sounds and words of the new language mean. Whatever you're listening to has to be comprehensible - language that you understand, at least about 80% of it.

The Story” and Games

French Dialogue screenshot - Gamesforlanguage.comOur approach at GamesforLanguage is one way of providing “comprehensible input.” We teach vocabulary and grammar structures with short games and “The Story” - a sequential and connected series of dialogues and short narratives that tell of a young man's travels in one of four European countries.

While the different games help the learner to practice all four skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking), the dialogues and narratives introduce and repeat grammatical structures, which he or she will recognize and/or, at times, be alerted to.

For example, already in the second Scene (lesson) of our French 1 course, Deal no Deal screenshot - Gamesforlanguage.comwe bring in the subjunctive, with the sentence “Je suis contente que vous parliez...” in our dialogue (above left). 

We then briefly explain the form “vous parliez in our “Deal no Deal?” game (see right). Twenty Scenes later, the expression “je suis contente” is used again, but with the subjunctive of another verb.

Will we teach all subjunctive forms of these particular verbs? No, but the learner is alerted to the context in which such forms are used and will soon start to recognize new subjunctive forms as they come up.

The Limitation of Flashcards

I love flashcards and we use them in our games. Learning vocabulary is clearly necessary and flashcards are a great tool for that.

But simply memorizing lists of words is not enough to really understand and speak a foreign language. Individual words are the building blocks. But you need to know how to build sentences with them and how these relate to each other in a conversation. 

The goal is to internalize how the language works for communication, in other words, the grammar rules that govern speech. That is best done in context. In addition, you have to understand what language fits into the given context.

Why Context Matters - An Example for French

Taking a sample French “core conversation,” in our French 1 course, I'd like to show how learners would focus on different aspects of the language at different stages of their learning, and why context is important:

In this short dialogue, a young man, Daniel, is at the home of a friend. There he meets Mathilde for the first time.

woman shaking hand - Gamesforlanguage.comDaniel: Bonjour Mathilde, enchanté de faire votre connaissance.
Virginie: Daniel, ne sois pas si formel. Vous pouvez vous tutoyer!
Daniel: Ça ne te dérange pas, Mathilde?
Mathilde: Bien sûr que non.

Hello Mathilde, delighted to meet you.
Daniel, don't be so formal. You (two) can say tu to each other!
You don’t mind, Mathilde?
Of course not.

Initially you may mostly focus on:

  • individual words and phrases
  • learning their meaning, practicing their pronunciation and spelling
  • finding a way to practice the sentences (Speak them aloud to whoever is willing to listen, type or write them out, hang the page up in the kitchen or your office.)

Soon, you may also want to know:

  • basic conjugations of the verbs used: faire, pouvoir, déranger, tutoyer, être
  • negation in French with ne ... pas: ne sois pas; ça ne dérange pas

Replaying this dialog again later on, you may discover and understand:

  • sentence structure: the form of a statement, a command, a type of question
  • other grammatical forms: the imperative of être: ne sois pas [tu]; a reflexive verb with a reciprocal meaning: vous pouvez vous tutoyer

Key Points to consider:

What is important about the context the dialog provides?

  • the age of the people (here they are students in their twenties)
  • how well people know each other
  • the circumstance of the conversation

Why take a conversation rather than individual phrases or sentences?

  • you'll better remember the words/phrases related to the context
  • you'll pick up cultural information (i.e. students say “tu”)

What will you have learned initially, and later on, either explicitly or intuitively?

  • 20 useful words, in a meaningful context
  • negation with ne ... pas
  • 5 verbs and a conjugation of each (Conjugations are shown in the game: Deal no Deal?)
  • 3 types of sentences
  • an imperative form of être and a reflexive form of se tutoyer

Once you've absorbed a few dozen conversations and acquired more than friends in a coffee house conversation - Yay Images500 content words, you're probably ready to engage in relevant, personal conversations with others.

Based on our own experience of learning several foreign languages as adults, we know that we can best retain and apply words and phrases when they relate to objects, actions, feelings, etc. that we encounter in our own life. (That's why we chose a travel story.)

We have found that it's best to learn a language in the context of a topic that interests us. It lets us recall words and phrases as part of meaningful statements, questions, etc. Moreover, when we use them in new sentence combinations, applying the grammar rules becomes much easier.

Discovering grammatical structures in context during the learning process is rewarding and more effective than drilling conjugations, tenses, etc.

Once we're out of the basics in a language, it's helpful to get more detailed grammar explanations. Sometimes though, explanations are just confirmations of our own discoveries.

There are plenty of ways to get comprehensible input” for many of the more popular languages. The extensive offering of free or inexpensive apps and online courses will allow you to choose and combine different approaches that fit your needs and learning preferences.

Real Conversations

People in Sevilla - Gamesforlanguage.comFinally, practicing your language in real conversations is a must!

As the Finnish born linguist Dr. Marjo Mitsutomi describes in Some Fundamental Principles of Language Teaching and Learning, you need interaction with others (speaking and writing) about topics that are relevant to you.

She argues: “mere exposure is not sufficient … interaction in the language is needed in order for the learner to communicate personal meaning in the target language. [...] Language practice which takes place in relevant context will then result in the acquisition of the language.”

Or, said in a different way: If your goal is to engage in relevant, personal conversations with others – the “context approach” is a good way to get there. 

As the Language Lizard Blog stresses, the value of context should be remembered even when teaching language to young children: “We use language for communication and therefore it is best learned in its natural form: through discussions, conversations, and stories.”

Yes, certainly, gestures, pointing to objects, repeating, etc. are all ways children learn to speak their native language(s). But from very young on, language for children is also a back and forth between them and others.

Adults who live in an immersive language environment can improve their new language skills tremendously if the language engages them in the context of their daily lives (and, in addition, if they practice speaking, and study reading and writing, as children have to do as well).

The Process of Communication

When you speak with someone in a foreign language, many things communication - Jay Imageare happening all at once. This involves multiple skills.

You need to follow the stream of sounds, catch where words start and end, interpret what the words mean, and create responses.

As far as it's important to the meaning, you have to figure out the essential grammar. (Is the verb in the present, past, or future? What pronouns or personal verb endings are used?, etc.) You also have to understand what kind of sentence it is. (Is it a question, a statement, an exclamation, a request or command?)

On top of this, it all has to make sense in the context of the situation. At the same time, you have to keep up your side of the conversation. Your brain has to construct meaningful responses, and you have to produce the right kind of sound stream to be understood.

That's a lot going on at the same time. All conversations from basic to advanced take place in a specific context.

Sounds are key. We know that imitating and producing sounds starts early in childhood. Learning to hear and say sounds forms part of a child's brain development.

However, as we grow up, we lose our ability to HEAR and DISTINGUISH sounds that don't exist in our native language (See our post: Beyond "Learning a Language Like a Child"). While this also makes it harder to sound like a native, it does not prevent adults from becoming quite fluent in a second or third language.

If you're not in the country and don't have a live community that speaks your new language, you should head to one of the virtual “language learning communities,” which Kirsten Winkler, Founder and Editor of EDUKWEST, calls Pubs of the Global Village. There, you can practice what you know and you'll continue to learn and improve your vocabulary and pronunciation - until you sound (almost) like a native.

We like italki a lot and use it ourselves to practice some of our languages. But there are many other language exchange sites such as Speaky, HelloTalk, WeSpeke, Tandem, etc. where you can find conversation partners.

It may take a little time, but you are likely to find someone with whom you can talk in your target language about topics that interest both of you. 

And that's when your language studies really start to pay off: When you can have an interesting conversation and are really communicating with another person in their language.  

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 Peter & Ulrike Rettig

The Languages of Curious George – and Documentary

Margaret and Hans ReyWe recently joined the Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about the lives of the Curious George creators, Hans and Margret Rey.

Before settling in the US they had traveled to and lived in several different countries. 

The Rey's Curious George books have been translated into many languages after they were first published in the US in 1941. Curious George, the little mischievous monkey they created, had different names in other languages, but the images stayed the same.

Curious George's Other Names

Readers of this post may know Curious George by his other names, to just name a few:

French: “George le singe”

German: “Coco”

Italian: “Curioso come George”

Spanish: “Jorge, el Curioso”

Portuguese; “George, o Curioso”

Dutch: Nieuwsgierig Aapje

Danish: Peter Pedal

Swedish: Nicke Nyfiken

Finnish: Utelias Vili

Hungarian: Bajkeverö majom

I remember reading “George le singe” to my niece in Switzerland while learning French at the same time.

Margret and Hans Rey's Story

This Wikipedia excerpt summarizes the Rey's storyThe Journey that saved Curious George - Amazon

Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in Hamburg, Germany, as was his wife Margret. Hans' and Margret's fathers were German Jews; Margret's mother was not. The couple first met in Hamburg at Margret's sister's 16th birthday party.

They met again in Brazil, where Hans was working as a salesman of bathtubs and Margret had gone to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany. They married in 1935 and moved to Paris in August of that year.[3]

They lived in Montmartre and fled Paris in June 1940 on self-made bicycles, carrying the Curious George manuscript with them.[4][5]

If you'd like to learn more about the Rey's wartime escape from Paris, the book by Louise Borden and Allan Drummond, The Journey that saved Curious George, tells the full story (see picture right) 

Our Connection to Curious George

When our children grew up, we read to them from several of the The Rey Center - Waterville Calley, NHCurious George books. They also watched some of the early animated Curious George films on TV.

We've now enjoyed for many years the programs organized by The Margaret and H.A. Rey Center at the Curious George Cottage, in Waterville Valley, NH. It's the place where we spend our summers hiking, swimming, playing tennis. During the winter months, we often come up to ski.

Just last week, we listened to the Center's 2016 Artist-in-Residence, Nicky Philips, as she explained her project for a musical about the Rey's lives.

While we never met Margret and Hans in Waterville Valley (Hans died in 1977 and Margret in 1996), we know many who did.

And when we received the kickstarter invitation from Ema Ryan Yamazaki, we did not hesitate.

The Documentary Project

The Curious George Documentary projectHere is Ema's description of her project as posted on the Center's website: (see also the link with video below)

Some of you may know that I’ve been making a documentary about the creators of Curious George, Hans and Margret Rey. Using animation, archival materials, and interviews, the documentary explores the extraordinary lives of the Reys, who fled the Nazis on bicycles with the first Curious George book in their possession.

The documentary also features Waterville Valley, a place the Reys made their summer home, as we learn about the Reys from Waterville residents who knew them, and their experience of watching the Reys create the Curious George books.

In making this documentary, I’ve made three trips to Waterville Valley, including a week of filming last summer as I interviewed those who knew the Reys, as well as the beautiful landscape of the valley. Out of all the places the Reys lived in, from Hamburg to Rio, to Paris, to New York, Waterville Valley is the only place I still very much felt their presence. I can understand why the Reys picked Waterville as a place to call home – it’s special, and I believe that comes through in the documentary I am making.

From Tuesday, July 26, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete the documentary. Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform where projects can connect with “backers” who support projects in return for rewards. We have 30 days to raise $175,000 – it’s an all-or-nothing deal, meaning if we don’t make our goal, we don’t receive any of the funds. So we need your help!

Join us on our journey in completing this documentary. Who the Reys were is why we have George today – and I’m determined to share their story. Check out our Kickstarter campaign, pick your reward (we have quite an array of offerings, from limited editing Curious George mugs to signed movie posters!), and help us spread the word through emails and social media. We are so close in making this film a reality, and are now turning to you to make that possible.

Kickstarter Link: biy.ly/CuriousGeorgeDoc

Ema Ryan Yamazaki Director/Producer/Editor

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/curiousgeorgedocumentary/

Twitter: twitter.com/CuriousGDoc

Instagram: instagram.com/curiousgeorgedoc/

The Rey's Languages

At last week's talk at the Rey Center, we learned from Nicky Philips that she had visited the Grummond Children's Literary Collection in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This Center had received the Rey's entire literary estate when Margret died in 1996.

As Nicky was researching details about Margret's and Hans' lives, she came across many letters they wrote to each other.

Both spoke German as their native language. Hans had worked in Buenos Aires as a salesman of bathtubs (and where he married Margaret) and spoke Portuguese. They both lived in Paris from 1935 to 1940 and were quite fluent in French.

Interestingly, Nicky found, when looking through the many boxes at the Grummond Center, that all of Margret's and Hans' correspondence with each other was in English.

Those who knew them in Waterville Valley don't recall ever hearing them talk to each other in German either. Maybe they abandoned their native language after having to flee their home country and then their second home in Paris from the Nazis 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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

 

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"MosaLingua" - Learning Italian - A Review

Mosalingua - Gamesforlanguage.comHave you heard of MosaLingua? I hadn't, until a few weeks ago, while I was looking for an iOS app to practice and improve my Italian.

I had put Italian aside for a couple of years, because I wanted to focus on Spanish (and was afraid of interference between the two languages).

It's been a nice way to ease myself back into Italian. I've actually found that using a different program for Italian (than for Spanish) helps me to minimize interference between the two. (I have a visual memory. When I'm recalling a word, I also remember the visual context in which I learned it.)

WHAT IS MOSALINGUA?

MosaLingua is a range of flashcard-based vocabulary apps for iPhone,Mosalingua Flashcards iPod, iPad, and Android devices.

It has a great, uncluttered design, easy to use layout, and a number of cool features. 

The vocabulary you learn is extensive and highly practical. Moreover, you can choose what to learn and at what level.

Your learning is driven by a spaced repetition system for refreshing your memory. Ideally, whatever you learn will be reviewed 8 hours later, then 2 days, 8 days, 1 month later, at which time it should be in your long-term memory.

Currently, there are apps for 6 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Brazilian Portuguese, and for any language combination between them (eg. French for Italian speakers; German for Spanish speakers, etc.).

There are also individual applications that teach Business language, Medical vocabulary, and, for those learning English, Test preparation for TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] and for TOEIC [Test Of English for International Communication].

CONTENT SETTINGS, LEVELS, CATEGORIES

Mosalingua offersWhen you start, you're asked to set a learning objective: Travel, Speak and socialize, Work and do business, Improve grades, Pass an exam, Other. You can change your objective at any time.

Within an app, you can change the teaching language. I, for example, have the option to learn Italian from any of the 5 other languages. At the moment, my "preferred language" setting is English.

My husband Peter is currently using Spanish as the teaching language to practice his Italian. He actually says that it helps him to not mix up the two languages (as he usually does).

In a couple of weeks, I'll start learning Italian from Spanish to find out whether it works for me as well.

When you begin, you can take a "Level test" (find this in "Settings"), or you can choose a level of difficulty to start with. You can change the difficulty level at any time. Italian has 12 levels.

Next, choose what type of vocabulary you'd like to start with. For Italian, there are 16 Categories and 4 Episodes of a Travel Story: Fabrice's Trip to Cambodia.

The categories include many which you'd typically find in a travel guide, e.g. Eating, Accommodation, Transportation, Shopping, Tourism, Emergencies, Time and Weather, etc. But there also are others, such as Hobbies, Socializing, People, Telecommunications, etc.

Optional Packs for the more advanced users offer further possibilities. There are many materials included in the fee-based Italian apps, as the above screenshot shows. You'll find over 3,000 Flashcards, organized in 16 main and 100 subcategories and 10 levels of difficulty, Tips for studying, 37 Dialogues, 200 "Bonus" items, and more.

Just for registering on MosaLingua's website, you can download an ebook: "The 6 essential tools to learn a language," as well as 5 Phrasebooks (French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Portuguese), and more. 

LEARN and PRACTICE

Mosalinguag Learning stepsNow, you're ready to start learning the 5 flashcards that show up.

You'll follow these Learning Steps:

  • Listen & Pronounce: Then Repeat and Record.
  • Memorize: An English cue and a picture help you remember the word or phrase.
  • Write: You translate words, or arrange words into short sentences.
  • Self-Assessment: You test yourself with an English cue and a picture. Your self-assessment determines the recall schedule. (You can choose: Again, Difficult, Good, Perfect.)

(As I already knew the first batch of Italian words, I clicked on "Perfect," only to be alerted that this "assessment" will not provide any information for the recall schedule. So, I set a more difficult level and switched to "Good" for the next few times.)

You'll practice these flashcards again eight hours later or the next day, before you start learning with new flashcards. 

DIALOGUES

There are 34, Dialogues. The audio of each is about 60 to 90 Mosalingua Dialoguesseconds long. They depict specific situations, such as Introducing yourself, Taking a taxi, Talking about your trip, Buying a bus ticket, On the phone, etc.

As with individual words and phrases, you can listen to the full dialogue with several options: Audio only, Audio with target language subtitles, Audio with English subtitles.

With each of these options, you learn a little differently. Following a conversation by just hearing it, allows you to focus just on the sounds, while your brain figures what the rush of words means.

It's exhilarating to suddenly start getting the meaning of what you hear.

Finally, you can choose to go through the dialogue sentences to memorize them, with the option of adding any of them to your learning stack.

Under the section "Dialogues," you'll find "Travel Stories." With these, you not only learn travel language, but also follow the adventures of Fabrice on his trip to Cambodia.

At this time, there are 4 Episodes in Italian. The approach is the same as with other Dialogues.

GRAMMAR LATER

There are few explicit grammar lessons in the early MosaLingua lessons.

Co-founder Luca Sadurny explains: "In my opinion, it's best to start to learn a language by listening, memorizing vocabulary, repeating loud sounds, words and sentences. ... Especially at first, when you learn grammar it can be a real drag when learning how to speak. ... But, [grammar] will prove to be useful later on."

We actually do agree with Luca on this. Focusing on grammar rules too early will inhibit you from speaking. Once you have absorbed the basics of the language and acquired sufficient vocabulary, you'll begin noticing and remembering some of the grammatical patterns. And then you'll want to know more about some of the grammar rules.

From time to time, at the end of the day's practice session, some grammar tips do appear, and, I assume more frequently as I progress.

Also, under "Categories" and "Lessons: Tips for Success," you'll find a section on "Italian Conjugation." It explains the conjugation of the auxiliary verbs "to be" and "have," as well as the conjugation rules for the various tenses of regular verbs.

Some of the tips are not available in the "Lite" version.

ADVICE, TIPS

The MosaLingua Italian iOS app, which I am using, offers lots of advice and practical tips. Two quick examples out of many:

At the end of the list of words in Level 0 (The Basics), you can tap on "Our advice on how to initiate a conversation with a stranger." You get practical tips, as well as 12 easy conversation starters. These are flashcards with audio, and a translation. For each, you have the option to add it to your learning stack.

Or, after a flashcard practice, I'm told that I've put them into my long-term memory: "Long-Term Memory? What does it mean to have flash cards in your long-term memory? It simply means that the review sessions for these flash cards will be 30 days apart." 

BONUS MATERIAL

As an inducement for continued study, MosaLingua offers "Bonus Material," which only unlocks after you have reviewed more cards and progressed.

They include historic facts about Italy, quotes of Italian celebrities, Italian proverbs and jokes, as well as further learning advice, memorization techniques, and much more.

As I've just started and have only studied about 50 flashcards to date, there's a lot of bonus material still waiting for me. One of the "language facts" I recently unlocked:

  • Around 59 million people are native speakers of Italian.
  • In total around 85 million people speak Italian around the world.
  • Italian is obviously the official language of Italy, but it's also an official language of Switzerland.
  • You'll find many Italian speakers in Malta, Vatican State, Croatia, Slovenia and France (especially in Corsica). In addition, Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina.
  • etc.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Another example would be these two Italian quotes, which are easy to memorize and help to remember some of words they include:

  • Un viaggio de mille miglia inizia sempre con un singolo passo. (by Lao Tzeu): A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. (I would, however, translate it as: ... always begins with single step.)
  • Ho un'ottima memoria per dementicare. (by Robert Louis Stevenson): I've a grand memory for forgetting.

You then also have the option to click on an icon and "put this flash card in your learning stack (menu 'Memorize')".

COST

The apps are available on iTunes (for iOS) and Google Play (for Android).

See also mosalingua.com for information about the coming Desktop app.

There is a free "Lite" version with reduced content, for each of the languages. Individual language and test apps are +/- $4.99. Business language apps, and app bundles are also available. Check for special offers or discounts.

The advanced learner can buy additional packs: Advanced Vocabulary, Master slang, Sound like a native speaker, Speaking online, Manage at school/university; News vocabulary. (You can find those in Optional Packs, under Categories.)

In Next dialogues (under Travel stories) you can add the final dialogues of Fabrice's trip to Cambodia and his complete trip to the USA, for $2.99.

Compared to the monthly subscription prices of many of the popular online language programs and their free apps, the MosaLingua apps appear like a real deal. And there are the Free "Lite" versions, so you can first try out whether you can learn with them.

Especially when considering that - after purchasing the basic apps - the all-inclusive packs are currently offered at a substantial discount ($10.99 iOS, and $6.99 Android).

WHAT WE LIKE

  • The fun, clean design
  • The feature to record and play back your voice to check your pronunciation
  • Spaced repetition system for memorization
  • Option to set level and choose categories of vocabulary
  • Option to add and remove and word or phrase from the learning stack
  • Frequent advice and practical tips
  • The dialogues to start practicing listening comprehension
  • The forthcoming desktop app for PC, Mac, Linux users

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • For some, the many options may seem a little overwhelming at the beginning. Once you get familiar with it, however, you'll discover many more ways to learn and practice (and to buy other packages).
  • While the iOS and Android apps are excellent, some users may prefer a larger screen and full keyboard. (A Desktop option is in development.)
  • The travel stories are like a "dubbed" film: eg. in Cambodia everyone speaks Italian. A story happening in the target language country could better address what is particular about Italian culture and language.
  • MosaLingua is based on memorization, which is not the only way we learn. For example, longer stretches of listening and reading - without memorization - help the brain to recognize and process linguistic patterns. (We'd advocate more stories.)
  • No online program or app is going to make you a fluent speaker. You need to line up other resources to practice speaking: a tutor, a language-exchange partner, local language meetups, friends who are native speakers, etc.

Both the iOS and Android apps are well made and easy to use. They offer motivated learners a great way to learn and practice their target language on the go, while commuting or waiting.

And anyone traveling to one of the countries whose languages are offered can quickly pick up some essential travel language with the apps and/or with the free phrase books you can download.

 

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagramand leave any comments with contact or below.

Disclosure: The link above to Mosalingua is to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Traveling and Language Learning – They Go Together

world map - Gamesforlanguage.comMaybe you've already traveled this summer and regretted that you didn't understand the language(s) spoken in the countries you visited?

If you can capture that feeling, it'll motivate you to start learning before your next trip!

Or you're planning to travel to a foreign country this fall and believe that it's too late to even begin?

Not so. I won't tell you that you'll be fluent in 30 days. But practicing some essential phrases and sentences is a good start.

Listen and repeat what you hear. That way you'll become familiar with the sounds and the rhythm of your new language. Doing some of this regularly for even just a month will go a long way to make your trip more enjoyable.

If you keep your goal in mind, learning a new language can truly be an exciting project. Besides boosting your confidence and improving your memory, it'll open up a new world to explore, a new way of looking at life.

Blue Latitudes and Captain Cook...

While recently reading Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes - Boldly going where CaptainReplica of "Discovery" - Cook's ship Cook has gone before – I was vividly reminded how different traveling was then: No phrase books, no tapes, no CDs, no online audio, no apps with which to prepare for encounters with the various native peoples of Polynesia, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Cook's three epic journeys between 1768 and 1780 count among the last great voyages of discovery. (picture: replica of Cook's "Endeavour" in Whitby Harbor)

The book makes for fascinating reading, not only because it tells of the explorations Cook made (as well as the damages, health problems, diseases he and his men left in their wake) but also because it recounts the difficulties of communication he and his men encountered.

An example from Cooks landing in Botany Bay in Australia in 1770 (page 151):

Most of the natives fled as the English boats came close to land. But two men stood their ground.

'They called to us very loud in a harsh sounding Language of which neither of us or Tupaia [a Tahitian native who had wanted to sail on with Cook] understood a word,' Banks wrote. 'Parkinson recorded their words as 'Warra warra wai'. Cook, meanwhile, attempted his usual peacemaking, throwing 'nails, beeds, etc. ashore.' ...

Englishmen aboard the First Fleet would later learn that 'warra warra wai' meant 'Go away'."

Traveling Today – an Opportunity to Learn

Eiffel Tower & Trocadero - Gamesforlanguage.comYes, we travelers today are in a different category than the great explorers of the past. We mostly follow well-traveled paths. But we are explorers in our own right. We want to experience new cultures, discover new vistas, meet new people.

From that perspective, learning a new language can be a fresh and fun experience. It should stretch our mind and engage our whole person. One way to do this is to tie language learning to planning our  trip.

As we map out and organize our trip, we anticipate being there. We imagine walking through the old parts of Berlin; gliding through the Venice canals in a vaporetto; looking at the stunning view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro hill in Paris (see left picture); taking a night tour of the Alhambra in Granada.

School Memories?

Some of us remember our school experience. As a teenager, school memories - Gamesforlanguage.comlearning a foreign language sometimes seemed "tedious" and totally unrelated to our lives.

Why memorize lists of strange sounding words and learn phrases we would never use? And, give me a break - why learn the grammar rules of a foreign language?

Worst of all, we had to stand up in front of the class to give a presentation in the language we were learning. Lots of anxiety there.

Now we have numerous options as self-learners to refresh a school language or acquire a new one. If we do it right, it can be both fun and relevant. 

A Running Start

running start - Gamesforlanguage.comHave you ever encountered visitors to the U.S., who don't speak any English? Their experience of America is bound to be limited to looking at sights and taking tours in their own language.

If they're traveling on their own, of course, they would pick up some English along the way. But if they had learned some essential words and phrases before their trip, they would have had a running start.

It's the same for us when we travel. Not everyone in another country speaks English (or wants to). The better we speak the local language, the more deeply we experience the country and its people. Being able to communicate allows us to venture off the usual routes and engage in conversations with those we meet.

New Ways to Learn

The internet has opened a whole new way of learning a foreign language. Sure, some adults may still prefer attending language classes or taking private lessons, when these are offered in their community.

girl on laptop with earphones But for many others, language apps, online learning programs, and online tutors, are quickly replacing or supplementing books and live classes.

Self-learners have access to a large variety of resources in many foreign languages: You can listen to language audios and podcasts, read ebooks and hear the audio version at the same time, watch videos or movies, read news online, participate in language groups and forums. The list goes on.

So, when you have a travel destination, get started on learning some basics in the language that's spoken there. It's a fun adventure in itself.

At the very least, buy yourself a travel guide and study and practice the key phrases it provides.

We'd also encourage you to learn the numbers from 1-100, as they will prove very useful for shopping, making an appointment, paying at a café, etc. (For French, German, Italian, and Spanish, you can practice numbers and many common words and expressions with our Quick Games.)

For the above languages, and if you have more time, you can also use our FREE travel-story courses, or use the online programs of our partners - Frantastique, Lingualia, Language Zen, Lingohut, Moslingua's apps, and iTalki (some of them also have FREE versions).

For those and other languages, we also like Duolingo, LearnwithOliver, Linguaville and LingQ.

Don't wait! Start learning and practicing today. Do it with enthusiasm and with imagination. Find a way to motivate yourself to stick with it. Then travel and speak up!


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.

Disclosure: Some links above are to a partner's program with revenue sharing, if you decide to buy or subscribe.