Posted on by Peter & Ulrike Rettig

Games for Language Learning – 5 Years later

Gamesforlanguage. com HomepageIt's been five years since we went live with our GamesforLanguage site. It's time to step back a little and have a look at how "fun and effective" our games for language learning really are.

GamesforLanguage started out as an experiment and family project: A college language teacher and language course writer/editor, a retired engineer/consultant, a computer programmer (our son) and his graphic designer wife put an idea into action:

Listen, read and repeat story dialogues, learn and practice vocabulary with simple interactive games

We get feed-back that our games are "fun." But how effective are they for learning the 4 language skills: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing? And how much new vocabulary does a player learn and remember? We'll take a stab at some answers below.

WHO CAN BEST LEARN WITH GAMESFORLANGUAGE?

Language learners are a varied group of people. Players that come to our site (and have told us) range from 14 to 80 years old and come from diverse backgrounds. Some already know other languages, others are learning their first foreign language. And, some are not native speakers of English, but seek to improve their knowledge of English while learning French, Italian, German, or Spanish.

We have players of our courses that come back again and again, schools that have their classes practice with us, and learners that systematically go through all our Quick Games. We also have users that try us a for a bit and then move on.

True Novices may find the entry into and progression through GamesforLanguage a bit hard.

woman with HeadsetLearners who've had some contact with the language before (in school or college, on travels, through self-study) seem to do well.

They want to pick up the language again, practice vocabulary in an engaging way, and improve their listening and speaking skills. (The general range of our users is from beginner to low intermediate; in the Common European European Framework of Reference for Languages that means: A1, A2, B1.)

For adults, learning a language is more about persistence than cramming. We generally recommend that a learner do only ONE NEW lesson (Scene) per day and redo earlier Scenes or Games that have less than a 100% score.

Each of the Story-Courses teaches over 700 new words. Learners that practice fairly regularly and like the game aspect appear to make good progress.

But what kind of learning goes on, and progress in what?

LISTENING COMPREHENSION

man listening GamesforLanguage provides useful tools for building listening comprehension. This may indeed be our strongest feature. We have audio for everything, from individual words, to phrases, to the initial conversations at the beginning and end of the lessons (Scenes).

When training to listen, our brains go into gear to find sound patterns. The more you listen, the better you start noticing the patterns.

You begin to hear what clusters of sound are typical for the language you're learning. You start to notice what sounds go together to make words, where words start and end, where sentences begin and finish.

It's important to hear individual words in isolation, as well as hearing them in the stream of phrases and sentences. When people speak rapidly, the sounds of individual words get "swallowed up", sounds change or simply get lost.

A goal is to understand the meaning of the sounds you hear, which happens German 2 Podcast - Gamesforlanguagebest when you get comprehensible input. Part of that is becoming aware of meaningful grammatical patterns. Are things happening now, or did they happen some time in the past? Is the statement a negation? A question, a request, an opinion?

There are various ways to practice listening with GamesforLanguage. Once you've gone through a Level (6 lessons), you can listen to the Podcast. You'll understand most of it as you've already practiced all the words and sentences. So now you can close your eyes and just listen. This is a powerful way to build listening skills.

Or if you also want to read what is being said, go back and play just the conversations, one after the other. You don't automatically get translations, but you can check, if necessary.

SPEAKING

You won't become fluent just by usingpractice speaking GamesforLanguage. Well, no online program can make you talk like a native. To become a fluent conversationalist, you have to SPEAK with live partners, often, and about a variety of topics.

But GamesforLanguage does give you the tools to get started, to help you work on your pronunciation by having you SAY and MEMORIZE phrases and sentences you can use in daily life.

You're encouraged to repeat everything OUT LOUD, every word, phrase, and sentence. By imitating the pronunciation of the speakers, you begin to attune your ear and work your mouth to make the right sounds.

The clue really is to speak out loud, to repeat, and to repeat again. Sure, there are many ways to learn vocabulary - from using flashcard apps to writing out your own flashcards. These are good ways to review new words on the go, whenever you have a few minutes.

But to practice speaking, you have to schedule some quiet time for yourself and to use that to really focus on the sounds you're making!

Record It - Gamesforlanguage.comOur best tool for learning to speak may be our Recording feature. Each lesson has a "Record It" section that you can access at any time. You hear the conversation of the lesson sentence by sentence. At each sentence you're asked to "press 'Record' and repeat after the speaker." Then, when you press "Replay," you'll hear the speaker and yourself right after. You can do this as often as you want, before going on to the next sentence.

One of our young users learning Italian complained that she "hated to hear" her own voice. We agree, it does take getting used to hearing one's own voice, especially in another language.

It's worth overcoming your reluctance. You can improve your spoken language noticeably, just by spending 20 minutes, recording your own voice and playing it back. For example, do a sentence five, six times, and try to capture the melody of what's being said rather than saying each word distinctly, etc. To boot, close your eyes while you listen and talk. It really helps.

READING

Since everything is in written form, GamesforLanguage gives learners a way to Laptop reading cartoonstart connecting sound to spelling. With time, you'll start noticing patterns in how words are spelled in relation to their sound. That's just a start, though. Next, you'll need to find a way to continue to read texts that are increasingly challenging.

Learning to read in a foreign language is a wonderful achievement. It's a way to learn a ton of vocabulary. Once you know the written language, you have access to many resources in the form of books, stories, articles, comments, letters/emails etc. printed or online.

Most importantly, you can now chose, what really interests you, a key for staying engaged and motivated.

Vocabulary is often taught in groups of topics: Greetings, food, animals,Story Dialogue - Gamesforlanguage.com body parts, professions, etc. GamesforLanguage introduces words and phrases in context by using a STORY. It's a different way of getting into a language.

While it's important to learn specific vocabulary, we've always found that we remember words, phrases, and sentences better when we hear them in the context of a conversation or a story. That's why our lessons are, in fact, Scenes of an ongoing travel story. (Our German 2 course "Blüten in Berlin?" is a mystery-story sequel to the German 1 travel-story.)

WRITING

Shootout Game - Gamesforlanguage.comUnless you keep a notebook on the side or create your own written flashcards with phrases and sentences, you won't learn much writing with GamesforLanguage.

We do have a short writing game in each lesson, but it's mostly just spelling practice for words.

Two of our games - Word Invader and Shootout - ask the learner to build sentences word by word.

These require the player to choose the correct grammatical form for each word, such as feminine vs. masculine, the verb with the right personal ending, a present or past tense form, subject or object form, etc. 

When playing, you also practice word order. Some sentences in other languages follow the English, many do not. German is a case in point, but Romance languages also have their word-order idiosyncrasies.

MEMORIZATION

Programs with Spaced Repetition Systems (SRSs) have become very popular. Word Hero Italian - Gamesforlanguage.comAn algorithm keeps track of what words you learn and what mistakes you make. You're are asked to recall the words at a specific time. The goal is to get the words into your long-term memory.

GamesforLanguage does not (yet) have an SRS. We do have several memorization and built-in recall games, but the spacing is not personalized.

To really memorize new words, you have to do more than just play through a game once or twice. You have to make new words your own and start using them actively.

The vocabulary of our early lessons is on Quizlet, for those who like to practice vocabulary more intensively.

Another good method for remembering new words is to write them out (either in a notebook or on small flashcards). 

In "Fluent Forever," Gabriel Wyner suggests that by writing out your own flashcards, you'll have a much easier time remembering words. He also says that he reviews his flashcards, in increasing intervals, for a full year before he stops completely. Even Polyglots need to review multiple times.

PARTNER SITES

We know that no program can be everything to everyone. We also use other sites to learn and practice our languages. With some sites we have established partnership arrangements.

With other free sites like Lingohut we share blog posts and tips. Our revenue-share arrangements with selected fee-for-service sites or apps, which we mention in our Dictionary and Quick Games, give us a (small) benefit. They help keep our site otherwise add-free and provide our users with learning options that we use and like ourselves.

PAST AND FUTURE GAMES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

GamesforLanguage is a labor of love and totally free. For us, working on the site is a way to learn, discover, and do what we enjoy. It keeps us in touch with new insights about language learning for grown ups that we can share with others. 

Right from the beginning, we've been working with a wonderful team of native-speaker collaborators.

Since our early days, we've added a language-learning Blog that now has weekly posts, as well as Podcasts of the stories, and over 200 Quick Language Games.

We've also continuously tweaked our Travel-Story Courses following input from users.

We decided early on to forgo the development of a GamesforLanguage app. Instead, we're relying on the increasing availability of free WiFi and the mobile-friendly design of our web-based program.

Still to be solved is making the recording feature work on mobile devices and replacing the Flash-Player that is currently necessary.

Much remains to be done: Our French 2 course has to be recorded, the Spanish 2 and Italian 2 courses have to be written and recorded.

Other ideas for improvement and new content are waiting in the pipeline.

And while we're always thinking about ways to enhance language learning, we also believe that Gabriel Wyner is correct when he notes in "Fluent Forever":

"No one can give you a language; you have to take it yourself. You are rewiring your brain. To succeed, you need to actively participate. Each word in your language needs to become your word, each grammar rule your grammar rule."

We hope that our GamesforLanguage site is a fun and useful resource for anyone who wants to learn and practice French, German, Italian, and Spanish for free. We always welcome feedback and suggestions for improving and expanding our site, so leave a comment right here!

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 Ulrike Rettig

Why You Need More Than Words For Language Fluency

body parts - Yay ImagesWords are important building blocks of languages. Without knowing them you cannot achieve conversational fluency in any new language you are learning.

So it's no surprise that people often ask: How many words do I need to know to become conversationally fluent?

This question comes without a precise answer, because it depends on the language, and to an extent on your life situation, your personal, and professional interests.

Still, there are estimates. For example, the linguist and polyglot Alexander Argüelles apparently believes that the 2000 most frequent words are those that let you express everything you could possibly want to say, although often by awkward circumlocutions.

A Lingholic blog post suggests:

"When you learn 90-95 % of commonly used words, you'll understand practically all everyday conversations. The last 5-10% you'll be able to guess just from the context."

Then looking at the size of foreign dictionaries and the claims of a number of studies, the post notes:

“A vocabulary of about 3000 words (not counting for inflexions, plurals, etc.), then, would be the number necessary to efficiently learn from context with unsimplified text.” 

Of course, having a precise number is nice. But, how do I know how many words I've learned? Perhaps the reverse is true: When I understand most of everyday conversations and texts in a foreign language, I probably know between 2000 and 3000 words.

Knowing frequently-used words is essential and will help you understand, as does the context in which you're having the conversation.

And yes, knowing at least some of the 13 body parts, shown on this drawing above, in your target language will be useful. You'll certainly come across many of them in your studies.

But if you're learning a new language, you've probably realized that “communicating,” i.e. participating in a conversation, is not that easy, even if you've practiced tons of words: You have to be able to LISTEN and COMPREHEND and then also to SPEAK.

LISTENING COMPREHENSION

Listening comprehension is learned with what Steve Kaufmann of LingQ calls listening tolistening attentively - Yay images “comprehensible input.” A lot of it.

Real conversations are often unpredictable in content. So listening to various kinds of topics you're interested in will help prepare you. With time, you'll start noticing and assimilating certain language patterns, even if there's a great variety in vocabulary.

Also, when you first start listening it will appear that the sound stream goes too fast. It's an experience most language learners share. 

I still remember arriving in Italy some years ago. Even after having completed three Levels of the Pimsleur Italian audio program (90 lessons), I could not distinguish individual words while watching Italian TV.

After several weeks, the rapid-fire Italian seemed to slow down for me. I was more and more able to distinguish individual words, then sentences, and finally to understand the context and meaning.

If you're a novice practicing listening comprehension, start out slow, with individual words, phrases, then sentences. Short audio stories are a good next step. Make sure you know the meaning of what's being said.

For the more popular languages, there now are free podcasts and YouTube videos available. Many of the free or fee-based online language programs have podcasts or videos as well (including GamesforLanguage).

LEARNING WORD ORDER and GRAMMAR FORMS

crisis center cartoon - Yay imagesWhen you learn a foreign language, you're learning how to combine words in a new way that is meaningful in your new language. In other words, you're learning a second (or third, etc.) word-order system.

You're also learning grammar forms that don't exist in your own language. In English, you don't have noun gender, for example. French, Spanish, and Italian have two: masculine and feminine, German has three: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

Or, the language you're learning has a different way of forming a question. A case in point: French has three ways to ask a question, and none of them follow the pattern of English. That means you're learning two different grammar systems that your brain will alternate between.

Dealing with two (or more) grammar systems makes a teenager or adult different from young children learning their first language. Between the ages of two and three or so, toddlers go from one- or two-word “sentences” to quite sophisticated ways of asking questions, saying what they want, telling you what they saw, repeating what they heard, teasing you, etc.

Despite some hits and misses, children seem to catch on quickly which words go into what order, and what grammar forms to use. Most amazingly, often what they say are new combinations, and not just sentences they've heard and are repeating.

Children are able to do that because of their brain's powerful “learning mechanisms,” which allow them to assimilate patterns of usage though listening.

Pattern learning also holds for adults learning other languages. The more we're exposed to the patterns of usage of a language, the better we'll acquire them. However, compared to children learning their native language(s), adults' exposure to a new language - in a class, online, reading, or listening - is typically more limited. (Unless, you're “immersed” in the language in the country or community where it is spoken, etc.)

For becoming conversationally fluent, you need to develop two skills: understand what's being said and create speech that is meaningful and relevant.

READING

You don't directly need reading for becoming conversationally fluent. Children man reading a book - Yay imageslearn to speak in sentences years before they learn how to write them. And in many countries there are still adults who can't read or write.

In fact, I was shocked to read the following, when googling for “U.S. illiteracy rate”:

According to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can't read. That's 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can't read.”

(No wonder then that learning a second language is more difficult for many U.S. adults. If the world's literacy interests you, you may be surprised by the countries at the top of this World Factbook list compiled by the CIA.)

Adults don't NEED reading to become conversationally fluent. But for most, reading is still the most practical way to accelerate their learning in class, with exercises and apps, or with online programs.

Furthermore, as soon as you're able to read news articles, blog posts, even books in your new language, you have several potential benefits:

  • For one, reading is another way to assimilate the word-order and grammar patterns of a language.
  • Also, reading will expand your vocabulary and teach you how to guess meaning from context.
  • Finally, by reading you acquire ideas and facts about topics you want to talk about. Everyday conversations don't stop at questions such as “Where are you from?” “What work do you do?” They are also very much about ideas, events, and if you're brave, about history and politics.

SPEAKING

girl on laptop skyping - Yay ImagesI very much like the motto of the late Dartmouth Professor John Rassias, a effective promoter of the immersion teaching method: “Don't learn to speak a language, speak to learn it.” Speaking fluently can only be learned by actually speaking.

You won't learn to speak automatically just by doing lots of reading or listening. Yes, both will expose you to the characteristic word-order and grammar patterns of the language. Listening will train your ear to the language's sounds, which is essential when the sounds are quite different from your native language.

But, speaking a foreign language involves transforming your thoughts into specific sounds by training your vocal chords and moving your mouth in a certain way. It also means creating a stream of sounds that has the particular rhythm, pitch, and intonation, etc. of the language.

All of that has to be practiced aloud, typically by imitating native speakers. A teacher or tutor will be able to correct your pronunciation and point out different ways the tongue or mouth can produce the desired sounds.

Apps or online programs that have recording features are quite effective for improving your pronunciation. By playing back your own recordings and hearing how you sound next to the native speaker, you can work on making changes.

As a novice, start out slowly. Listen and repeat as often as you can. Don't be discouraged when you hear yourself for the first time. Memorize conversations, even act them out, mimic the native speakers – have fun sounding like a native!

FROM REPETITION to SPEAKING FREELY

It's very hard to have a genuine conversation just with sentences that you've memorized.

So how does one progress from a “low intermediate” level - where youconversation with friends - Yay Images can ask and answer basic questions - to speaking freely about everyday topics?

Certainly, repeating words and sentences aloud, and learning them by rote are essential techniques for a beginning learner.

But then, conversations with friends or exchange-partners who are native speakers, or a tutor who only uses the target language are the best way to improve your conversational skills in your target language.

Talking with someone is a complicated back and forth that creates a context for words and sentences. With talking come all kinds of “filler words and sounds” that are normal for a casual conversation.

Participating often in such open-ended conversations will expose you again and again to the typical patterns of the language you're learning and prompt you to use these patterns yourself.

So yes, learning 90-95% of words commonly used is an excellent language learning goal. And if you learn them in context, rather than as words in a list, you'll be building conversational skills.

Even if you understand all the words, you still have to decided whether someone is asking for something or telling you what you should do. You have to figure out how to formulate a question, express a reasoned opinion, or how to comment to a fast-moving conversation of your friends or family.

Getting to that level of fluency takes more than just words, it also takes much listening and many conversations on a variety of topics. And it takes friends and conversation partners to practice with. 

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 or below.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

5 Tips for your 2017 Foreign Language Learning Goal

2017 Goals - Yay images2017 is approaching fast. Will learning a foreign language be one of your 2017 goals?

January is definitely a key month. And there's some good news: A survey published by the Boston Globe in 2014 showed that 76% of the people who keep their resolutions through February 1, will keep going.

You have at least a three-in-four chance to reach your goal by year end. So, what should you be taking into account? 

Learning a Language isn't always easy...”

Languages Around the Globe blogger Brian Powers recently pointed out in a post with the above title that “for most of us learning a language from scratch isn't always a walk in the park.”

For many language learners that may even be an understatement.

Based on school experiences, some may feel that they are “just not good at learning a foreign language.”

Others get discouraged when they don't progress fast enough.

And some just give up because they get bored and can't stay engaged.

While you may have some strong beliefs about learning a foreign language, you should keep the following in mind:

  • If you were able to learn your native language, why shouldn't you be able to learn  another language?
  • Were your expectations for fast progress unrealistic?
  • Couldn't you overcome boredom with more interesting and engaging methods?

Motivation

Surveys show that “keeping up the motivation” and “not enough time” are Motivational Roar cartoon - Yay Imagesthe two principal difficulties that learners list when learning a foreign language.

The excuse that there's “not enough time” may also hide other reasons. Most adult learners are usually quite motivated at the outset, only to realize that real progress is slow and takes more time and effort than they had anticipated.

Also, there are different levels of motivation. The need to understand and speak a new language may be different for someone who has a new job assignment and career in a foreign country, than for someone who intends to travel there for a short vacation. But “keeping up the motivation” is certainly a difficulty that cannot be underestimated.

There are few things (if any) in life we can learn half-heartedly. As children we seem to learn many things playfully. Still, it takes us quite a few years to fully acquire our first language. The same is true for complex skills such as playing an instrument or doing various sports.

One's motivation to learn is likely both genetic (“wired” for language, music, walking, running, winning, etc.) and environmental (copying, competing with, encouraged by siblings, friends, parents, teachers, etc).

As adults, the goals and challenges we set ourselves arise from various sources, family, friends, jobs, as well as our own feelings, interests, desires, fears, etc.

Being aware of our motivation for achieving a goal is often not as simple as it sounds. But for any long-term project - as learning a new language clearly is - knowing your motivation is essential.

If you want to spark your language learning motivation, have a look at an earlier post of ours HERE.

Engagement

Reading paper - Yay imagesWhat does “engagement” mean in this context? To be “engaged” implies that you do more than just attend a language class once a week, listen to a couple of CDs, take online lessons once or twice per week, or open a vocabulary app or a course book from time to time.

It means that you have been hit by the language bug and are getting involved with the new language in many different ways. Maybe at the start, you'll watch a foreign movie with subtitles or read dual-language books. Then you'll graduate to reading newspaper articles and books on topics that interest you. You'll watch TV and movies (without subtitles!), regularly listen to audios and podcasts, and meet people to talk to, either in person or online.

(Talking with native speakers is really the best way, and many believe the only way, to practice speaking and to improve your fluency.)

There are lots of ways to make language learning more interesting. If you're planning a trip to a country or region where the language is spoken, you can start learning about its culture, history and politics. If you love the country's food and wine, great – there's another entry point for making new discoveries.

Just think how engaged you are with any activities you enjoy. The more you can connect the target language with those aspects of life that are fun to you or you feel passionate about, the more engaged you'll be, and the more fuel you'll add to your motivation.

If you've read this far, you may already know what my five tips are about:

Tip #1 - Know exactly, WHY you want to learn a new Language!

The reason for learning a foreign language has to be strong enough to keep you going when things why-hook  Yay imagesget tough, as they invariably will. It's no secret that the stronger the need, the stronger the motivation to keep learning.

So take a good look at WHY you really want to make it a 2017 goal. Write down the reasons and the benefits and attach them to your fridge or somewhere else where you can see them daily.

People's reasons are always quite personal. They differ from individual to individual: A job opportunity and/or moving to another country, a new partner or family member, exotic travel plans, etc. all will bring different urgency and time considerations with them.

Tip #2 – Determine what engages – or what bores you!

class cartoon - Yay ImagesDetermining what engages or bores you is essential. This has both to do with the way you learn and with what keeps you interested.

For some, attending live language classes, being motivated by peer pressure, etc. is the way to go. Others learn well on their own, with language books, CDs/DVDs, apps, online programs or tutors.

The earlier you find ways to connect your learning and practicing method with your areas of interest, the better. That's also why the first few months of learning will be the hardest. Without knowing the language basics and having sufficient vocabulary, your choices will be more limited.

Finding the right venue or program will take some careful consideration and will also depend on #3 and #4 below.

Tip #3 – Research what's offered online and in your neighborhood

What is offered in your neighborhood or community in language learning resources will depend greatly on cartoon city - Yay imageswhere you live. Live language courses will often only be available for certain languages, but you may be able to find private tutors if you can't find any courses.

Many public libraries have language courses on CDs or DVDs, or they may have online courses for download.

Even many fee-for-service online programs have free trial offers. Take advantage of them until you find a program that's a good fit for you.

One note of caution: Don't get caught by the marketing hype. Learning a new language as an adult takes work and effort. But the right teachers and tutors can make a huge difference in how you learn. That's also true for online learning programs that keep you learning and practicing.

Take your time, if you can, and find one that keeps you going and engaged.

Tip #4 – Determine the time/resources you can commit

sandglass and dollars - Yay imagesIf you're setting a goal for 2017, you may already have a deadline or a commitment. You may even have a budget and/or time allocated for learning.

If you can spend 3-4 weeks in an immersion-style course in a language school, good for you. You'll make great progress.

If you learn best in language classes and you can find one in your community, great as well. (You'll certainly want to figure out what extracurricular language activities you should add.)

If you're a self-learner with a limited budget and/or time, you should plan when and how you're going to learn.

Experience has shown that daily exposure to the target language is key: 15-20 minutes every day will be more effective than 2 hours once a week.

So, whether learners are taking classes or using CDs, DVDs, apps or online programs, they should allow for daily connection with the language they are learning.

During the early stages, this may be just learning 5-10 new words a day, playing a language game (such as GamesforLanguage offers), doing a lesson, reading a page in a book (ideally aloud), listening to a song, recording yourself reading, etc.

Later, with the basics behind you, you can plan reading online articles, books, and watching movies and videos, etc. of topics that interest you.

Tip #5 - Set some reasonable expectations

Depending on the language you're learning, basic fluency should take between grow acronym - Yay images500 and 1000 hours of study. This is according to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). For further opinions, read up on a discussion on Quora.

So, unless you plan to study 10 hours a week for the easiest language, you're not likely to reach conversational fluency by the end of the year.

What about Benny Lewis' promise “Fluent in 3 months?” The answer is: if you use his single-minded approach and immersion strategies, you could get there.

And indeed, all of his techniques and hacks are very useful – IF YOU PRACTICE THEM REGULARLY AND CONSISTENTLY.

However, most of us will not be able to do so. We therefore need to set more realistic expectations and goals.

Here are some realistic goals that may work for you:

  • Take a class and complete it, with all the required homework, etc.
  • Learn with an app or online course, and plan the number of lessons you want to complete each week, and the number of words you want to learn and review daily.
  • Read an easy novel in your target language after three or four months.
  • Be able to watch and understand a foreign movie without English subtitles after 9 months.

It's very easy to be too optimistic at the beginning. Don't overestimate the time you have available or are willing to commit. Start slowly and get into a learning habit. Then add practice time.

Eventually you want to do something in your target language DAILY - learn/review vocabulary, play a language game, do a course lesson, read a chapter of a book or article, listen to a podcast, watch a movie, etc. - anything that really interests and engages you.

And, if you do so, your language skills will certainly grow (as the acronym above implies!)

 

Learning a foreign language as an adult is a big challenge. You need to stay motivated and put in the time.

Your efforts will show best if you have regular and frequent exposure to the language. To do that, engage with the language in as many ways as you can. Start making it part of your life!

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.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

How to Speed up Your German Learning With Social Media

Pretty woman holding mobile phoneIt's an open secret that increasing the exposure to the language you want to learn, will speed up your learning.

Setting your phone or tablet to your target language is an easy way to do just that.

Often learners are reluctant to make the switch because they're afraid that getting back to English will be problematic.

In earlier posts we discuss social media terms for French, Italian, and Spanish.

Here we'll explain how you can get some moments of mini-immersion when you set your electronic gadgets to German. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll get to understanding and using these terms.

German social media terms are made up of vocabulary that is sophisticated and generally useful. Using them, you can also learn some basic grammar forms.

If you're a Facebook user, that's a good place to start. 

SETTING YOUR iPHONE/iPAD OR ANDROID DEVICES

On an iPhone or iPad, you have to set iPad language change screen - Gamesforlanguage.comthe language by going into your iPhone or iPad Settings and change your iPhone/iPad Language. You cannot do it just for your Facebook app, etc.

Click on "Settings," "General," "Language & Region," and set your iPhone/iPad Language to "Deutsch/German." (see screenshot)

On Android phones and tablets, also go to "Settings," then scroll down to "Personal," and click on "Language and input."

On Peter's Galaxy S7, he only sees the selected English and choices for Spanish, Vietnamese and several other "preloaded" Chinese/Asian languages. He has not been able to add other languages yet and is looking for help to add Italian and Dutch. 

One word of caution: On Android devices, be careful with languages with a non-western writing system and, at least, remember the small icon in front of "Language and input," in case you want to get back to English!

(On your laptop or PC, you could change the language only on Facebook, etc., or in one of your browsers, or even set your preferred language for the computer in "Language & Region.")

Setting your language back to English:

On your iOS devices, click on the "Einstellungen" (Settings) icon, then go to "Allgemein" (General), "Sprache & Region" (Language & Region), "iPhone/iPad-Sprache" (iPhone/iPad Language), and finally, "English/Englisch."

  • "Abbrechen" means Cancel;
  • "Fertig" means Done;
  • "Fortfahren" means Continue.

WAIT! THERE'S GERMAN ALL OVER MY DEVICE

Don't Panic. The icons on your gadget give you lots of help. And here are a few initial terms to get you going:

  • Zum Entsperren Home-Taste drücken - Press home to unlock
  • Wiederholen - Try again ("repeat")
  • Nachrichten (f.) - Messages
  • Uhr (f.) - Clock
  • Seitenmanager (m.) - Pages ("page manager")
  • Notizen (f.) - Notes
  • Erinnerungen (f.) - Reminders
  • Einstellungen (f.) - Settings
  • Flugmodus (m.) - Airplane Mode
  • WLAN - Wi-Fi
  • Mitteilungen (f.) - Notifications
  • Nicht stören - Don't disturb

GERMAN FACEBOOK TERMS

Happy man using digital tabletTo interact with you, Facebook uses the friendly, familiar "du" form. For example, the familiar imperative form of "describe yourself" is "Beschreibe dich." (The polite form would be "Beschreiben Sie sich.")

To translate "Like," German uses the verb "gefallen" for the idiomatic expression "Gefällt mir" (I like it, or more literally: It pleases me).

For forms like "Comment, Share, Show, Log out" etc. (which could be both infinitive and imperative), German uses infinitive forms: "Kommentieren, Teilen, Zeigen, Abmelden" etc.

Words and phrases that you keep seeing on your device are bound to end up in your long-term memory. You'll probably never forget them.

Here's a list of 20 or so you'll see on your iPhone or iPad:

On your Profile Page:

  • Suche nach Personen, Orten und Dingen - Search Persons, Places and Things
  • Bearbeiten - Edit ("work on")
  • Gemeinsame Freunde - Mutual Friends
  • Neuer Beitrag (m.) - New Post
  • Profil bearbeiten - Edit Profile
  • Mehr - More
  • Profilbild auswählen - Upload Profile Picture ("choose Profile Picture")
  • Foto hochladen - Upload Foto
  • Info (f.) - About
  • Fotos (n.) - Photos
  • Besuche (m.) - Check-Ins ("visits")
  • Lebensereignis (n.) - Life Event
  • Beschreibe dich - Describe who you are ("describe yourself")

Reacting to Posts:

  • Gefällt mir - Like ("pleases me")
  • Gefällt mir nicht mehr - Unlike ("doesn't please me any more")
  • Traurig - Sad
  • Wütend - Angry
  • Kommentieren - Comment
  • Teilen - Share
  • Geteilt - Shared
  • Aufrufe (m.) - Views
  • Mehr anzeigen - Show more
  • Beitrag speichern - Save post

Posting on Facebook:

  • Was machst du gerade? - What's on your mind? ("What are you doing right now?")
  • Öffentlich - Public
  • Freunde (m.) - Friends
  • Enge Freunde - Close Friends
  • Freunde außer Bekannte - Friends except acquaintances
  • Benutzer (m.) - User(s)
  • Freunde markieren - Tag friends

Managing your Facebook Page:

  • Einstellungen (f.) - Settings
  • Profilbild (n.) ändern - Change profile
  • Titelbild (n.) ändern - Change Cover
  • Seite erstellen - Create Page
  • Netzwerke (n.) - Networks
  • Hilfe und Unterstützung - Help and Support
  • Ein Problem melden - Report a Problem
  • Abbrechen - Cancel
  • Abmelden - Log Out

GERMAN FACEBOOK GRAMMAR:

Certain social media terms can help you absorb some basic grammar structures. It's an easier way to learn grammar than to memorize rules.

1. Compound Nouns

In German compound nouns, it's the second (or last) noun which gives you the gender.

  • das Profil + das Bild = das Profilbild
  • der Titel + das Bild = das Titelbild
  • Some compound nouns take a linking "s."
  • das Leben + das Ereignis = das Lebensereignis

2. Verb Prefixes: "an" and "ab"

Many German verbs can take different prefixes, which change the meaning of the original verb.

  • The verb "melden" (as in "ein Problem melden) means "to report."
  • "Abmelden" means "to log out" or "sign out."
  • "Anmelden" means "to log in" or "sign up."

To say that you want to register, you would use the reflexive form: "sich anmelden."

  • Ich möchte mich bei Facebook anmelden. (I want to sign up for Facebook.)

The verb "brechen" means "to break"

  • "Abbrechen" means "to cancel" (break off).

3. Separable Verb Prefixes:

The prefixes "ab" and "an" are a separable prefixes.

  • In the present tense, the prefix "ab" goes to the end of the clause: Ich melde mich ab. (I'm signing out.)
  • In the conversational past, "ab" is separated by "-ge-": Ich habe mich abgemeldet. (I signed out.)
  • In the future tense, the prefix stays: Ich werde mich anmelden. (I'll sign in.)

4. Inseparable Verb Prefix: "er-" and "be-"

The inseparable verb prefixes "be-" and "er-" always stay as part of the verb and thus don't use "-ge-" in the conversational past. 

The verb "stellen" means "to put" or "to place." ("auf den Tisch stellen" - to place on the table)

  • The verb "erstellen" means "to create" or "to make." ("Seite erstellen" - create a page)
  • Ich erstelle eine Seite. (I create a page.)
  • Ich habe eine Seite erstellt. (I created a page.)
  • Ich werde eine Seite erstellen. (I'll create a page.)

The verb "schreiben" means "to write." ("einen Brief schreiben" - to write a letter)

"Beschreiben" means "to describe" or "to depict." ("Beschreibe dich" - Describe yourself)

  • Ich beschreibe mich. (I describe myself.)
  • Ich habe mich beschrieben. (I described myself.)
  • Ich werde mich beschreiben. (I'll describe myself.)
5. German does not have a "continuous" verb form:

In English, you can say "I'm editing" to mean that you're doing it right now, or that you're in the process of doing it (at this time). German does not have a verb form for that. Instead, you would either add an adverb, such as "gerade"  (just now) or reformulate: "ich bin dabei, ... zu bearbeiten" (I'm in the process of ...) to get the same meaning across.

The verb "arbeiten" means "to work."

"Bearbeiten" means "to edit" or "work on."

  • Ich bearbeite mein Profil. (I'm editing my Profile.)
  • Ich bearbeite gerade mein Profil.
  • Ich bin dabei, mein Profil zu bearbeiten. 

As you've probably guessed, immersion works best if you have a basic understanding of the language that's being used. Just seeing unknown words and phrases (as I would, if I set my devices to Polish, for example) would be a little scary.

Still, if you're used to navigating the apps on your iPhone and are familiar with the icons on it, you can figure out what many of the foreign words and phrases mean.

Changing the language on your devices lets you try out new things and use context to guess new vocabulary. That's a good way to learn.

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 Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

How to Speed up Your Italian Learning with Facebook and Social Media

Gamesforlanguage Facebook PageAs we and others have suggested, setting your phone, tablet, Mac/PC, etc. to the language you want to learn is a great way to increase your daily exposure to that language.

Maybe you're not yet ready to do this for all your electronic gadgets and applications. But, if you're a Facebook user, that's a good place to start. You'll be able to pick up Italian social media terms and pay attention to some Italian grammar forms at the same time. (Gamesforlanguage's Facebook page in Italian, above, left)

SETTING YOUR COMPUTER OR LAPTOP

You easily can set your Facebook language on your computer or laptop (temporarily, if you want) to Italian. On your personal Facebook page, (see mine, below, right) Facebook Page  Ulrikepull down the arrow, top right, click on “Settings” then click on “Language” (left margin).

Beside “What language do you want to use Facebook in?” click on “Edit,” pull down “Italiano,” and Save Changes.

Setting your language back to English:

To get back to English, you just need to do the reverse, but now use the Italian links: Pull down the arrow, top right, go to “Impostazioni” (Settings), then click on “Lingua” (Language).

Beside the question “Che lingua vuoi usare in Facebook?” click on “Modifica” (Edit). Pull down English, and save by clicking on “Salve le modifiche” (Save the changes). “Annulla” means “Cancel.”

Facebook - managing your pages in Italian - Gamesforlanguage.comSETTING YOUR iPHONE/iPAD OR ANDROID DEVICES

On an iPhone or iPad, you have to set the language by going into your iPhone or iPad Settings and change your iPhone/iPad Language. You cannot do it just for your Facebook app, etc. (I imagine that it's similar for Android phones and Tablets.)

Click on Settings, General, Language & Region, and change your iPhone/iPad language to Italiano.

Setting your language back to English:

Go to “Impostazioni” (Settings), then “Generali” (General), “Lingua e Zona” (Language & Region), “Lingua iPhone/iPad” (iPhone/iPad Language), and finally, “English/inglese.”

THE FAMILIAR “TU” FORM

To interact with you, Facebook uses the friendly, familiar “tu” form. For example, “Your pages” is “Le tue pagine.”

Or, see the familiar imperative form. “Describe who you are” is “Descrivi chi sei.” The polite forms would be: “Le sue pagine” and “Descriva chi è.” (See more about the familiar imperative forms below.)

FACEBOOK VOCABULARY

The vocabulary you'll learn by navigating your Facebook page in Italian is both sophisticated and generally useful. Besides, you can learn some basic grammar forms pretty painlessly, simply by seeing them over and over again in a functional context.

Cerca persone, luoghi, e cose - Search persons, places, and things

Trova amici - Find friends

Diario - Timeline (“diary/log”)

Informazioni - About (“informations”)

Altro - More (“other”)

In the Profile (Profilo) section: 

In breve - Intro (“briefly”)

Descrivi chi sei - Describe yourself (“describe who you are”)

Home: (Home)

Modifica Profilo - Change your Profile

Lingua - Language

Preferiti - Favorites

Notizie - News

Pagine - Pages

Gruppi - Groups

Applicazioni - Apps

Seeing a Post and reacting to it:

Reacting to post - Facebook Gamesforlanguage.com

X ha aggiunto - X has added

X ha condiviso - X has shared

X ha aggiornato - X has updated

Mi piace - Like (“I like it/It pleases me”)

Commenta - Comment

Scrivi un commento - Write a comment

Condividi - Share

Rispondi - Reply

Visualizza traduzione - Show translation

Creating a Post:

A cosa stai pensando? - What's on your mind? (“What are you thinking about?”)

Avvenimento importante - Life Event (“important event”)

Managing your Pages:

Le tue Pagine - Your Pages

Crea una Pagina - Create a Page

Gestisci le Pagine - Manage the Pages

Crea un gruppo - Create a group

Nuovi gruppi - New groups

Impostazioni - Settings

Esci - Log out (“leave”)

Centro assistenza - Help (“help center”)

EXPRESSIONS WITH “PIACERE”

To translate “Like,” Italian uses the verb “piacere” for the idiomatic expression “Mi piace” (I like it/I enjoy it, or more literally: It pleases me).

You often hear “mi piace” and variations

“ti piace” (you like),

“gli piace” (he likes), etc. in conversational Italian.

The word “piacere” is also a masculine noun and used in common expressions such as

“per piacere” (please);

“con piacere” (with pleasure/gladly);

“che piacere vederti” (great to see you);

“è un piacere conoscerla” (pleased to meet you);

“fare un piacere a qn” (to do sb a favor), and others.

(Our Italian Quick Game “Mi dispiace” (I'm sorry/I regret) let's you practice a few of the “piacere” variations.)

TWO USEFUL GRAMMAR FORMS

Familiar Imperative Forms

For commands like “find, search, comment, share, view, write, log out” etc., you can learn the Italian familiar imperative forms. It's a fun and easy way to get these forms firmly into your mind.

These take an - a ending (which is also in the infinitive ending):

trovare - trova (to find - find! fam.)

cercare - cerca (to search - search! fam.)

commentare - commenta (to comment - comment! fam.)

creare - crea (to create - create! fam.)

visualizzare - visualizza (to view - view! fam.)

These take an -i ending (with verbs that have infinitive ending of -ire or -ere):

condividere - condividi (to share - share! fam.)

gestire - gestisci (to manage - manage! fam.)

risponere - rispondi (to answer - answer! fam.)

scrivere - scrivi (to write - write! fam.)

uscire - esci (to log out - log out! fam.)

Noun Plurals

Masculine nouns ending in -o:

il gruppo - i gruppi (group)

il commento - i commenti (comment)

il luogo - i luoghi (place; note the plural spelling)

Masculine nouns starting with a vowel:

l'amico - gli amici (friend, m.)

l'informazione - gli informazioni (information)

l'impostazione - gli impostazioni (setting)

Feminine nouns ending in -a:

la persona - le persone (person)

la lingua - le lingue (language)

la pagina - le pagine (page)

la cosa - le cose (thing)

This is just some of what you can do. There are lots more tabs you can pull down, for example the “Informazioni” (About) or the “Altro” (More) tabs.

Or click on other options in “Impostazioni,” (Settings), such as “Notifiche” (Notifications), or “Persone che ti seguono” (Followers/Persons who follow you). One click leads to another and to more Italian.

Since the language is functional and you may already know the English for many of the terms and sentences, you'll be able to easily guess what the Italian means.

Whatever you don't know, you can quickly check against your English Facebook page, or look up online.

Have fun! It's a taste of what immersion in Italian may feel like.

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 Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

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 Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Why Polyglots Also Use Stories for Language Learning

Polyglot Symposium MontrealOn the weekend of July 23 and 24, 2016, we attended the first North American Polyglot Symposium (NAPS) in Montreal, Canada. (You can find the YouTube clips of most of the presentations, interviews etc. with this NAPS link, and many thanks to Joey Perugino, Tetsu Yung and all the others for organizing the event.)

There were some familiar faces from last fall's international Polyglot Conference 2015 in New York City, but also many new participants.

Among many others, we met Steve Kaufmann from LingQ and Lilia Mouma from Mango Languages. Both are excellent sites to learn and practice many different languages.

What are “Polyglots”?

Merriam-Webster's simple definition of a “Polyglot” is someone who “knows or uses several languages.”polyglot - Gamesforlanguage.com

There were certainly many multilingual speakers at the Montreal event. But the program also appealed to those just starting out with a second language.

One common misconception about polyglots - and we humbly count ourselves among them - is that we can speak all our languages fluently or equally well.

The fact is that we don't. Some polyglots may have grown up bilingual or trilingual. But in the languages we have acquired as adults, we often have a non-native accent and make mistakes that native speakers can easily detect.

It was great to meet and talk with many of the well-known polyglots, language bloggers, and linguists who attended.

If there was one theme that came through many of the presentations and talks, it was this: There is no magic pill, no one learning system or method that works for everybody and all the time.

Nobody can learn a language FOR you. You have to find the way that works best for you. Often that means some trial and error. You have to keep adjusting your method to the language(s) you want to learn, the goal you want to achieve, or the time you can commit. 

Motivation

motivation - GamesforlanguageOne of the speakers commented - was it Jimmy Mello? - that polyglots are not “normal” language learners. We often don't learn another language because we HAVE to, but because we WANT to. True!

Our motivation is fueled by a genuine interest in how a language works, its history, its connection with other languages, etc. Our wish to converse with native speakers in their language is also a huge motivator. To be able to do so gives you a real feeling of happiness.

Nevertheless, we also know that without frequent exposure to the target language in listening, reading, and speaking, our skills will not develop. They may even go into hiding.

Polyglots know that in order to learn a language, you have to put in the work. Yes, some may be more gifted in hearing and producing the sounds, or memorizing the words of a new language. But without practicing your skills often, consistent progress will be slow.

We heard from four young English speakers (14-17 years old) how they got interested in languages. They talked about learning multiple languages as different as Romanian, Turkish, Arabic, Thai, and Chinese. They described how much fun it was to be multilingual. They also shared their struggles with anxiety, fitting in with others, finding what works for them. Their stories were inspiring and motivating.

Why Stories from the Start?

Many language courses - be they books, CDs, online programs, or apps - are structured around airplane start - Gamesforlanguage.comlearning particular vocabulary topics: “survival words & phrases,” such as greetings, numbers, directions, shopping, time, days, months; or categories, such as colors, food items, parts of the body, animals, professions, objects found in the home, etc.

Clearly, these words and phrases are important to learn and know. However, if they are just introduced as a list and without context, they are difficult to retain. Besides, if you just learn a list, you won't know how to use them in a conversation.

That's why GamesforLanguage.com has chosen a “Story-Approach”: Each new word is introduced as part of an ongoing story – a young man traveling to the country of the foreign language to be learned: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. (this last one, English for speakers of Spanish).

Will the young traveler use all the vocabulary from the various topics mentioned above? Probably not.

But the 700 words that make up the phrases and sentences in each GamesforLanguage course will not only be more useful, but also easier to remember and apply. And that is what's important to most learners: acquiring vocabulary that they can use in daily life.

For learners who already have some background in one of the five languages, GamesforLanguage provides a fun and effective way to “brush up” on the language they want to relearn.

Why Polyglots Learn With Stories

The conventional thinking is: Before you can start reading or listening to a story in your target language, you first have to learn the basics. That's when your effort and work starts to pay off. You can now read articles, listen to audios, or watch movies that you really enjoy.

But you may not even have to wait that long. Even polyglots have to stay motivated to continue learning and improving. Several speakers at the Montreal conference related some of their personal tips and tricks.

The little Prince - AmazonFor example, Jimmy Mello, who runs a language school in Brazil, LISTENS to Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his new target language, as soon as he begins to learn it. He already knows the story in his other languages - Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, French, German, English, etc. By using the same story every time, he can focus on the sounds of the new language, while already knowing what many of the words mean.

The same is obviously true when READING “Le Petit Prince” or reading/listening to any other story that you may already know in a language you've acquired. Children's books make an especially good choice: The language is simple, the sentences short.

Olly Richards et al. took this idea and developed Short Stories for Beginners. These are currently available for English, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish, with an Audible Audio edition available for some of them.

Steve Kaufmann talked about how he keeps current with some of the languages for which he does not have a conversation partner: He reads books and listens extensively to audiobooks with topics that really interest him.

Keep Learning With What's Engaging and Interesting to YOU

In the talks and discussions during the Polyglot meeting, a recurrent topic was that we all have to develop our own way of acquiring and maintaining our target language. 

Steve Kaufmann compared the language learning experience to an inverted hockey stick: classroom At the beginning you may find your progress quite rapid and exciting as you are learning new words and phrases.

Then comes the flat and nearly horizontal phase, when progress seems to be slow. This can even happen when you already speak your target language quite well. You may have reached a fluency plateau and need to find ways to get beyond it.

Each one of us may have to discover our own path to traverse these plateaus. But finding interesting and engaging ways to use and practice your language - whether reading, listening, speaking, or writing – will keep you both motivated and getting better. 

For some, this may be attending traditional classroom courses. Others prefer online learning, reading and listening, or watching videos and movies, and extraverts may enjoy and practice speaking much earlier than others.

The good news is that if you're a self learner who really wants to learn a language, you don't have to moan and groan about course homework: You can choose you own requirements and enjoy them to boot.

 

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, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

My 12 Best Daily Habits for Learning Foreign Languages

Friends in a coffee house - Gamesforlanguage.coThere's no shortage of advice on the web about learning foreign languages. If you can just convert some of that advice into a few habits - they'd be sure to make a difference on your path to fluency.

To learn a language, you can choose from many online and offline language learning options available today. Select the one that engages you the most and has you go back again and again to learn and practice.  

But ultimately, how effective any of the programs will be, may depend on how well you can incorporate some language learning habits into your daily life. 

Here are my 12 best daily habits to maintain and improve my languages.

1. Have a Small Notebook Handy at All Times 

I do a lot of my language learning using online programswriting in note book - gamesforlanguage.com and resources. Still, I always keep a small notebook with me, which I use in multiple ways.

It's a place where I keep track of my learning. I also write down words and phrases I want review later.

When I'm in the mood, I write a short journal entry in my target language.

If you do some writing, and have a mind to get corrections, you could copy and post what you've written on Lang-8, or italki. It's free. In return, your corrections of what others have written is much appreciated.

When I come across new resources, books, sites, songs, etc. I put them in my notebook.

Yes, you can do most of this on your phone. Still, I find that writing by hand engages my mind in a different way from typing or tapping. The biggest benefit is that it strengthens my memory.

2. Try to Formulate as Much as You Can in Your Target Language

During times you're free to do so, try to think and talk to yourself in your foreign language.

For example, when I set the breakfast table, I say the names of any items in the room. Anything I want to look up, I'll write down in my notebook.

Likewise, you can talk to yourself about things that you're doing, going to do, or did in the past - all in your target language.

As you go about your day, you can spontaneously translate common phrases you hear or think, such as: "Let's go" "That's fun" "I'm late" "What's that?" "What's up?" "I don't know" "I got a text" etc.

The more you think in your new language, the easier it will become. With time, you'll be doing it automatically.

3. Say Your Target Language Out Loud Whenever You Can

talking - Gamesforlanguage.comThis is an important habit to get into. No matter how much you (silently) read and listen to your foreign language, you have to produce the sounds to speak with any fluency.

Live conversations are, of course, the best way to practice. But if you push yourself to say as much as possible aloud, your target language speaking skills will benefit enormously.

There are many ways to do this. Read a few sentences aloud from your target language book.

Or, as you practice with an online program, repeat and say words, phrases, and sentences aloud.

Reading newspaper headlines? Read them aloud. Listening to a song? Sing along.

4. Listen to Songs in Your Target Language

Popular songs in your target language can be a fun and effective way to learn and practice. 

Music opens your ears and connects you straight to the sound. There's no need to worry about grammar or pronunciation, you just go with the flow.

Even as you listen and imitate the melody and lyrics, you are practicing the sounds, rhythm, and various idiomatic phrases in the language you are learning.

You can find many songs with translations on YouTube.

And even better, Language Zen uses songs for teaching Spanish very effectively, by breaking the lyrics up into chunks, and then building up the song again, all the while integrating the music. I'm looking for programs that do the same for other languages.

5. Set Your Phone to Get Notifications or Headlines From News Sites in Your Target Language

If possible, set any news alerts you get in your native Le Monde news on iphone - Gamesforlanguage.comlanguage into the language you're learning.

Notifications are another option. Now, with the European Soccer Championship taking place in France, I've signed up to get updates in French from the newspaper Le Monde. (Depending on your interest, you can also subscribe to different Le Monde Newsletters.)

I also stay abreast of what's happening in Switzerland with German newsflashes from "20 Minuten."

Daily emails with news headlines in your target language are another option.

I get them from Huffington Post with news from Spain, Québec and France, Italy, and Germany - each in the local language. Of course, you can do this with other newspapers and in other languages too.

6. At Breakfast or Dinner Do a Quick Practice with your Partner or Children

Involving a partner, a friend, or even your children in some fun language practice is a huge benefit.

My husband and I go over a daily list with Spanish words, at breakfast or dinner, alternating who gets asked. For that, we use my little notebook with words we want to learn, and go over hard words that I've starred in pencil. Needless to say, we laugh a lot doing that as we practice sounds, find associations, think of translations into other languages, etc.

When our sons were still living at home, we spent a few minutes at each meal telling anecdotes in German.
They've often told us how much they appreciate the effort we put into helping them become bilingual. They are now busy adults, who still find time to do the same with their young children.

Children are so open to learning! A friend of ours plays a little "I see, I see what you don't see" language game in French with her kids during meals. Even her two-year-old chimes in by imitating some of the words.

7. Play Language Games

Word Invaders - Gamesforlanguage.comThere are many language game apps you can buy for a few dollars, such as Mindsnacks, Drops, Worddive, etc. You can also play the free online Gamesforlanguage Quick Games Quizlet games or games on Lingohut.

Many of these games you can play at various times during the day, while commuting by bus or train, waiting, etc.

Interactive games have features that can help you learn vocabulary and grammar points intuitively and painlessly. Replaying the games helps you to memorize.

In addition to games for individual play, there are games you can play with your friends.

And, it doesn't always have to be apps or online games. For example, you can play various Kloo Games with your children and friends and improve everyone's French, Italian, Spanish (and English).

When you're having fun through a game, you're less likely to be anxious about grammar and pronunciation.

8. Record Your Voice and Play It Back

Listening to podcasts and watching TV shows is important for your pronunciation. But you become much more aware of your own speech when you record yourself.

Use your smartphone to record yourself and just chat away in your target language. Then, play your recording back. You’ll hear your own pronunciation, and become aware of what sounds you should practice.

It's a powerful and deliberate step towards improvement.woman on laptop with earphone - Gamesforlanguage.com

(The Gamesforlanguage.com Stories all have a "Record It" feature at the end of each Scene. This way you can record each dialogue and compare yourself to the native speaker.)

9. Set up Some Time With a Tutor, an Exchange Partner, a Native-Speaker Friend, etc.

Talking with native speakers is one of the most important ways to improve your fluency. Make it a habit to seek out various people to practice with.

Ways to do that is to schedule sessions with a tutor, meet friends over a cup of coffee, attend language meetups in your town, go to a local shop or market where you can use your target language, join a cultural club, etc.

The benefit of doing so is that you'll start thinking about the upcoming session. That often involves getting yourself ready, if only by practicing a few phrases and sentences in your mind.

10. When You're Cooking, Running, or Exercising, Listen to a Podcast or an online Radio Program

woman exercising with earphones - Gamesforlanguage.comThis gives you a choice to listen to whatever interests you. If you listen to a subject that you know something about, the context will help you guess unknown words.

Even if you're not totally focused on listening because you're also doing something else, your brain takes in more than you think: sounds, intonation, words, phrases, the rhythm of sentences, etc.

The important thing is that listening this way puts you into the environment of the language, it immerses you.

11. Watch Videos, TV Shows, and Films in your Target Language

If you like watching films, TV shows, or YouTube videos, then make a habit of watching some of them in the language you're learning.

At first, quickly spoken language may sound like gibberish. I had that experience when we lived in Rome for a few months. But after a while, I started hearing individual words and getting more and more of the meaning. The flow of the language seemed to slow down.

Foreign films are a great way to practice listening comprehension and to learn about culture. Setting the subtitles option to the same foreign language is often a big help. I prefer this to subtitles in English.

12. Go over a Few Words and Phrases Just Before You Go to Sleep

As we reported in a recent post – Foreign Language Learning While You Sleep? - Swiss researchers have found that hearing such words and phrases WHILE YOU SLEEP, could improve your memory.

Unfortunately, there is no practical way yet to replicate such test results at home. However, other research seems to confirm that reviewing foreign words and phrases BEFORE you go to sleep will also enhance your memory of them. 

Apparently, your brain keeps working on what you just reviewed while you sleep and starts moving the words and phrases into your longer-term memory.

Any of these 12 habits can add some routine to your language learning. Try some of them and tell us what you think. You can always reach us via Contact.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada and speaks German, English, Dutch, and French fluently. She intends to become as fluent in Italian, Spanish and Swedish. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Disclosure: Certain links above are to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase or subscribe. 

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Speed up Your Language Learning With Chunks - Not Just Individual Words

ice cubes - gamesforlanguage.comWe all want to speed up our language learning. Lately, I have been practicing Dutch and Spanish vocabulary with LearnwithOliver.com (in preparation for a review on our Blog) and I noticed something interesting: When looking over the daily “Sentence of the Day” and “Words of the Day” list, I recognize most of them and understand their meaning.

However, when I later review the “Words in the Queue,” I often cannot produce the English translation for individual words. On the other hand, when I scroll down to the foreign example sentence – which includes the foreign word I can't remember – the meaning of that word becomes quite clear.

I have found that in many cases remembering words as a part of a “chunk” helps a lot (as do other mnemonic practices). A chunk is a short group of words that typically go together.

In my language learning, I've come across various types of chunks (also called collocations).

Here are a few examples:

A chunk that you remember because of an association you create

Continuing with my “Words in the Queue” example from above: I've had a hard time remembering the breathing under water - Gamesforlanguage.commeaning of the Spanish word “aguantar” (to put up with, hold, support, bear).

LearnwithOliver's example sentence was: ¿Puedes aguantar la respiración durante 30 segundos? What helped me, was to remember the expression aguantar la respiración” (to hold your breath).

The word “aguantar” contains (for me) the word “agua,” and I see the mental image of “holding one's breath under water.” With that image, I can now remember the individual word too, and its meaning in different contexts.

A short chunk containing a grammatical kernel

cartoon house - Gamesforlanguage.comThese can be prepositional phrases, typical verb-noun, or adjective-noun constructions, etc. Once such word combinations become automatic, they provide good building blocks for speaking.

In German, phrases “nach Hause” and “zu Hause are better remembered in context with related verbs, such as nach Hause kommen (to come home) or zu Hause sein (to be at home).

(In Gamesforlanguage's German Stories “zu Hause” and “nach Hause” appear in different contexts, which you can find by just searching for Hause in our German Dictionary)

In Spanish, “en casa” and “a casa” are quite similar to their German equivalents, as a search for casa in our Spanish dictionary will show.

A chunk in which the meaning of the individual words doesn't add up to the meaning of the phrase

With the English phrase, “What's up?”, you're not really asking the question literally, right? Other languages have similar phrases.what's up? - Gamesforlanguage.com

In Spanish, you ask: “¿Qué tal?” The word “tal” alone translates as: such, that. But the greeting means: What's going on?, How about it?

Germans typically greet each other: “Wie geht's?” This is literally How does it go? How goes it?, but means: How are you?

Very similarly in Italian: “Come va?” (“va” = it goes),

and in French: “Ça va?”, short for “Comment ça va?”

These greetings, etc. you'll remember without even thinking about grammar and the meaning of the individual words.

A chunk that contains an image that doesn't translate into your language

The German expression: “nichts am Hut haben” (literally: to have nothing on the hat), means: not to care a fig about something.

clouds in blue sky - Gamesforlanguage.comThe French expression: “Ça a l'air bon” (literally: that has the good air), means: That looks good.

The Spanish expression: “estar por las nubes” (literally: to be for the clouds), just means that something is "very expensive.”

Replacing por with en, however, changes the meaning completely: estar en las nubes means that somebody is in the clouds, or daydreaming.

There are many expressions in all languages that you'll not understand if you just translate the individual words.

But once you understand the expression, it also lets you remember more easily the individual words through association with the image.

How to practice chunks:

A good way to practice a chunk is to copy an existing audio, or record it yourself. Then play and repeat it as often as you can.

You should know it so well, that you can say it automatically, Record It - gamesforlanguage.comwithout thinking about how the phrase is put together.

That's also why, at the end of each of our Gamesforlanguage's Story Scenes, we have a “Record It” feature, which let's you record the Scene Dialogue and compare yourself to the native speakers. (Right, Italian 1 Story, Scene 3, “Record It” screen)

It will not only help you with your pronunciation, but also make you better remember typical expressions.

Another good tool for recording a phrase you want to practice is using the free Audacity audio program which you can download both for Windows or Mac by using the above link. (We'd like to credit an earlier Mezzofanti Guild post for making this suggestion.)

Never Again Wordlists or Grammar Paradigms?

That's up to you. For some, memorization of words and endings feels like a chore.

I, for one, actually like learning and reviewing vocabulary. There are plenty of programs around for doing that, a popular one being Memrise.

You may also like the practice option (for the words you had to look up) that Lingua.ly provides when you use its browser extension or its app when reading texts online

In any case, I prefer learning words and grammar structures that I've seen in context. That way, I'm sure of the meaning and I avoid committing “google translate” type bloopers.

From time to time, I also go to check a conjugation just to make sure I have the forms right. Wordreference has conjugation pages for many languages, where you can see the full conjugation of a verb on one page.

For me, various forms of chunks (pre-assembled phrases) are the anchors of the language I'm learning. Once they become automatic, I'm freed up to focus more on the message that I'm trying to express.

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.

 

Posted on by Ulrike and Peter Rettig

Why Context & Connections are essential for Language Learning

Context matters - Gamesforlanguage.comWe recently came across a very interesting article in International Business Times: Second language learning theories: Why is it hard for your adult brain to master another dialect? by Matt Atherton.

We have covered the topic of adult language learning in several previous posts. (see Language Building Blocks..., Learning Grammar in Context, etc.) The above article also provides some new insights why just learning vocabulary alone won't make you SPEAK another dialect or a second language.

Interestingly, the Atherton's headline questions the difficulty of mastering "another dialect." In the text, the author switches between "dialect" and "second language." There is no need here to discuss when a "dialect" becomes a "language." The interchangeable use of both terms in the article, however, made us realize again how important "context" is for learning both another dialect and a second language.

Learning Dialects

Both of us grew up learning different dialects in our native country, Austria. Ulrike grew up with "Viennese" German during her elementary school years and Peter with "Vorarlbergisch" German during his pre-school years.
We then learned Dutch and English (Ulrike) and High German (Peter) by the time we finished high school. (Later, Peter picked up Swiss German and French while studying and working in Switzerland and Ulrike polished her High German while teaching English in Germany.)

Looking back, it is quite clear that when we learned our dialects/native language as children, we did it in the context of playing and interacting with those around us and by imitating our caregivers and friends.

In fact, this is also how Ulrike learned Dutch during her two years of primary school in the Netherlands or learned English in high school in Canada; it's also how Peter picked up Swiss German as a young adult - by imitating friends, fellow students and teachers. (It certainly helped Peter's Swiss German that "Vorarlbergisch," like Swiss German, is an Alemannic dialect.) 

Today, both of us still UNDERSTAND those dialects quite well. And, after a few days of hearing them, we can also SPEAK them again.

Yes, studies have shown that young children have many more brain connections (synapses) than adults, and we have no reason to disagree with neuroscientist Arturo Hernandez of the above mentioned article:

 ...some individuals may have a particular neuronal activity pattern that may lend itself to better learning of a second language."

But we also firmly believe - based on our own experience in learning other languages as adults - that learning a second language is much easier with a story and dialogs.  This mirrors how we learned our first language: relating the words we heard to the activities and dialogs around us, and making the all-important connections in our brain.

That's why we are using a story with dialogs for our Gamesforlanguage courses.

Learning a new language is a pretty complicated process. When someone speaks to you in a foreign language, there are so many things going on at the same time.

You need to decode the sounds and figure out the meaning of the words; you have to answer some basic grammar questions before you can understand the meaning of a sentence: Which are the verbs, nouns, adjectives? Is it a statement or question? Is it in a past, present, or future tense?

Finally, you have to connect everything to the context of the situation. That's a lot going on at once.

The Power of "Context"Students talking - Gamesforlanguage.com

Taking a sample French “core conversation,” I'd like to illustrate how a learner may focus on different aspects of the language at different stages, and why context is important: 

A young student called Daniel is at the home of his friend Virginie. He meets her friend Mathilde for the first time.
 
English translation:
Daniel: Hello Mathilde, delighted to meet you.
Virginie: Daniel, don't be so formal. You can say "tu" to each other!
Daniel: You don’t mind, Mathilde?
Mathilde: Of course not. Among students we always say "tu".

 

Initially you may mostly focus on:

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

Soon, you may also want to know:

  • the pronouns: votre, vous, tu, te, nous
  • other conjugations of the verbs used: enchanter (enchanté), être (sois), pouvoir (pouvez), tutoyer, déranger (derange) 
  • adverbs, prepositions. etc: bien sûr, toujours

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

  • sentence structure: the form of a statement, a command, a type of question, a complex sentence
  • other grammatical forms (eg. negation with an object pronoun [ça ne te dérange pas]; reflexive verb forms [Vous pouvez vous tutoyer!, nous nous tutoyons]; the use of "que" [bien sûr que non]) 

key points - Gamesforlanguage.comKey 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?
  • 20 to 30 useful words, in a meaningful context
  • how to respond when meeting somebody
  • a typical French expression for emphatic negation "Bien sûr que non."
And, later on either explicitly or intuitively?
  • all the pronouns
  • 5 verbs and a conjugation of each
  • 3 types of sentences

What Next?

Once you've absorbed a few dozen conversations and acquired more than 500 content words, you're probably ready to engage in relevant, personal conversations with others.

If you just remember sentences such as: "Enchanté de faire votre connaissance", you'll be able to adapt it later on to other uses and circumstances (e.g. Enchanté de faire ta connaissance", "J'ai fait la connaissance de..." , "Je n'ai pas la connaissance de..." etc.).

And, when you later learn the word "connaître" (to know), you'll make the connection with "connaissance," and will have added another word that you're sure to remember.

Learning a foreign language is all about making connections. The more could can connect the words, phrases, and sentences you are learning in another language to your immediate environment, or topics that interest and engage you, the faster and easier it is for you to recall them.

Benny Lewis is certainly right when he advises you to speak your target language immediately. Maybe not everybody can muster the time or commitment that he promotes with Fluent in 3 Months. But listening to stories, reading them aloud, singing foreign songs, etc. will create more connections in your brain. They will help you not only to retain vocabulary better, but also to use them right away in conversations.

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are the founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are life-long language learners. You can follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Disclosure: The link above to "Fluent in 3 Months" is to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to buy or subscribe.

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