Recently, I came across a report by Inc.com, entitled: “5 Innovative Language-Learning Tools.” I had learned five languages either through immersion, or with traditional methods (grammar-translation, audio-lingual) and materials (textbooks, classroom, CDs). For a critique of traditional methods, see David Nunan’s article: “From The Traditional to the Contemporary …” Now I was curious to see what new technologies were available for my next language learning project: Spanish. Here are some of the innovative features listed in the Inc.com report for five language programs:
For Pronunciation Practice:
- audio clips
- speech recognition technology
- function to record your own voice and play back to compare
For Vocabulary Acquisition and Practice:
- flashcards, vocabulary games
- feature to build your own vocabulary lists
- community page for sharing word lists
- review manager (for managing vocabulary practice)
For Improving Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing Skills:
- online audio, tv, radio programs, interactive video
- spoken and written exercises
- visual text
- chat feature
For Social Interaction:
- spoken and written exercises which can be submitted for peer review
- a community platform to find language partners
- crowdsourced content
Language Learning with Social Interaction Online
For me, communicating with others is the goal of my language learning. If that is also true for you, then from day one, you’ll want to focus on learning the language of communication. It means that the vocabulary you practice should relate to your interests, and the topics you cover should be ones you enjoy conversing about. David Nunan calls this: “learning real language for use in the real world.”
To that end, the features mentioned in the Inc.com report that provide social interaction seem the most interesting and most innovative to me. (Voice recognition systems to help with pronunciation hold great promise, but the ones I have tried were more frustrating than helpful.) Engaging online with native speakers anywhere in the world is a great way to practice. But you have to push yourself to take a few risks. Yes, it's stressful to speak in a foreign language in a real situation. But just think: Your language partner is in the same situation as you...
When you get into a conversation with Italians, you have little time to think about the many particularities of the language: noun gender, different types of articles, prepositions, etc. Here are ten easy rules that you can keep in mind when you speak.
1. Nouns ending in -o are normally masculine.
il ragazzo - the boy
il libro - the book
Notable Exceptions: Feminine nouns ending in -o: la mano, la foto, la radio, l’auto
2. Regular masculine nouns that end in -o change their ending to -i in the plural.
i ragazzi - the boys
i libri - the books
3. Nouns ending in -a are normally feminine.
la ragazza - the girl
la scuola - the school
Notable Exceptions: Masculine nouns ending in -a: il problema, il cinema, il programma
4. Regular feminine nouns that end in -a change their ending to -e in the plural.
le ragazze - the girls
le scuole - the schools
5. Instead of il, the definite article lo (the) goes before masculine singular nouns beginning with z, s+consonant, ps, gn.
lo zio - the uncle (but: la zia - the aunt)
lo studio - the study (but: la strada - the street)
lo psicologo - the psychologist (but: la psicologa - the female psychologist)
6. The definite article gli is the plural form of lo - instead of the masculine plural i.
gli zii - the uncles
gli studi - the studies
gli psicologi - the psychologists
7. The definite article is used with possessive adjectives, except with singular nouns denoting family members.
il mio libro - my book
la tua amica - your friend
mio padre - my father
tua madre - your mother
mio zio - my uncle
Note: With plural family members, the definite article is used: i miei parenti - my parents (plural!)
8. To make a sentence negative, put non before the verbal expression (incl. object pronouns).
Non voglio mangiare. - I don’t want to eat
Non ho finito. - I haven’t finished.
Non lo conosco. - I don’t know him.
9. The preposition in (to/in) is normally used with continents, countries, regions, and large islands.
in Africa - to Africa/in Africa
in Francia - to France/in France
in Toscana - to Tuscany/in Tuscany
in Sardegna - to Sardinia/in Sardinia
10. The preposition a (to/in) is normally used with cities and small islands.
a Roma - to Rome/in Rome
a Capri - to Capri/in Capri
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