Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Auditory & Visual Language Learning: Our Danish Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Language learning becomes more challenging when those are different.

Different Alphabets

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

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

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

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

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

Different Pronunciation Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Danish Language Learning Experience

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

Language Learning Insights and Conclusions

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

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

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

We now find we are making more progress with Pimsleur.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted on by Maile Proctor

7 Ways to Reinforce Language Learning During Summer Months

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

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

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

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

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

Keep a Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plan a Day Trip

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

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

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

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

Read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultural Cuisine

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

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

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

Apps and Games

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

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

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

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

Music and Podcasts

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

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

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

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

Watch a Movie

Pick an age-appropriate foreign language movie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted on by Dimitris Polychronopoulos

Why Writing is an Important Part of Language Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Writing Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Language Learning Motivation

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Writing Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on by PeterRettig

Eine “Affenhitze”? Fahrenheit to Celsius Made Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first a little history.

Fahrenheit

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

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

The scale is defined by two fixed points:

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

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

Celsius

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

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

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

But enough of physics.

The Fahrenheit/Celsius Correlation

We now know:

Water freezes at 32 ºF and 0 ºC.

Water boils at 212 ºF and 100 ºC.

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

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

Each 5 ºC correlates to 9 ºF

If 0 ºC = 32 ºF, then

   5  ºC = 9 ºF + 32 ºF = 41 ºF

You got the idea?

What would then 20 ºC be in Fahrenheit? Easy!

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

4 x 9º  + 32º = 68 ºF

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

68 ºF correlates to 20 ºC

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

50 ºF correlates to 10 ºC

How do I know?

Well, remembering that 5 ºC correlates to 9 ºF,

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

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

What are the ºC/ºF equivalents? Easy!

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

30 ºC correlates to 86 ºF.

Add another 5 ºC or 9 ºF and you get:

35 ºC correlates to 95 ºF.

The Fahrenheit – Celsius Table

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

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

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

No problem, right?

Here is a good one to remember as well:

-40 ºC correlates to -40 ºF

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

The Fahrenheit – Celsius Formula

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

ºC = [(ºF – 32 ) / 9] x 5 and

ºF = ºC x 9 / 5 + 32

Some Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted on by Peter and Ulrike Rettig

How to say 'song' in French? Try this Language Game!

screeshot of Gamesforlanguage.com Quick Game: La chansonWe are always surprised that “How to say 'song' in French?” has so many hits on our Gamesforlanguage Dictionary!

And those hits are in spite of the increased use and popularity of Google Translate, which provides the translation as well.

So we thought we would give those who are looking for the translation of 'song' a  Quick French Language Game: La Chanson. Click on the link or the image above to play it.

You'll learn also a bit about the Saint Bénézet bridge - which you may know under another name.

And for those who like to practice French with songs and want to learn more about the etymology of “song” and “chanson,” here are a few fun facts.

Singing the Song 

It appears that the English “to sing” has its roots in the Proto-Germanic word “sengwan,” and the later old High German and Old English word “singan.”

Variations in other Germanic languages over the centuries have led to today's German “singen,” Dutch “zingen,” Swedish “sjunga,” and Norwegian and Danish “synge.”

The Online Etymology Dictionary notes that there are “no related forms in other languages.”

Chanter la Chanson, Cantare la Canzone, Cantar la Canción, Cantar a Canção

The roots of the French “chanson” go back to Latin. Gamesforlanguage.com dictionary song-chanson screenshotThis is also true for other Romance languages: “canzone” (Italian), “canción” (Spanish), “canção” (Portuguese).

The Old French “chançon” derives from the Latin “cantionem” (song) and from the Latin verbs “cantare and “canere.”

The French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese verbs for “to sing” are all identical or close to their Latin root.

Song vs. Chanson

The words “song” and “chanson” clearly have different roots. This may not be surprising. Still, a recent article pointed out that “The English language is a lot more French than we thought,...”.

What is interesting from the article's analysis and chart is the conclusion that of the first 200 most-used English words, Old Norse makes up 5-10% and Anglo-Saxon 85-90%.

Can that be the reason that the French or Latin terms never replaced the Old English?

Our Two Favorite “Songs” in French

Our readers will know that we also like songs as a way to practice languages. We are especially fond of two French songs: Edith Piaf's: “Non, je ne regrette rien and Joe Dassin's: “Si tu n'existais pas.

The ear-worm quality of these songs lets you easily memorize key phrases and expressions. And when you hear them several times, you'll discover new words and grammar forms that stay with you.

But these are just two songs we like. You should find a few of your own. Listen to them, memorize and sing them, and your “chanson” (or canzone, canción, canção, etc.) will not remain just a bunch of foreign words to you!

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

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Children And Adults Use Games For Language Learning!

Extended Family playing chessWe all know that children use games to learn how things work. They don't need to be taught how to play. They just do it.

For them games are a way to explore the world around them.

Adults see games less as a means for learning, but rather as way to relax and being entertained or - as in this picture - as a family activity.

By combining a travel story with games for language learning our courses both teach and entertain.

DIGITAL GAMES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

For digital language games, the rules are often simple. The player gains points or advances for making the right match, and loses points or has to replay for getting it wrong. Graphics, sound, and gamification features add fun and excitement.

When Duolingo launched in 2011, the “gamification” of language learning started in earnest.

Now there are hundreds of language learning apps available for iOS and Android mobile devices. Most online language learning programs now use games or game-like features.

Games for very young children often match a picture or sound, with a letter or word. Games for preschoolers teach them to recognize words, how to spell them, and how to sound them out.

For school children, games can get more complicated. These often involve sentence building, spelling races, and grammar searches.

SECOND LANGUAGE GAMES FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS

More and more language games for children are being developed, both as web apps or as native apps, available from App stores.

Typical ingredients of second-language games are:children playing games for language learning

  • Flashcards
  • Fun graphics and sound
  • Simple rules, involving hit and miss
  • Rewards, in the form of advancement, points, trophies
  • Lots of repetition
  • Interactive play

Figuring out how a game works is all part of the learning.

Maybe adults are not as enthusiastic when they get the correct answer as the children in the picture above - but gamification features also help adults to stay motivated.

An early feedback from an adult learner was: "I didn't even notice that I was learning. But I was!"

And maybe that's one reason, children also like Gamesforlanguage.

GAMES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING ONLINE

French family & relatives Games for Language LearningOur Gamesforlanguage courses and Quick Language Games were originally developed for adult learners. Banking on the wider use of WiFi, we decided against developing a mobile app.

We are actually surprised by the number of children in school classes playing our courses and games.

This French Quick Language Game, for example, shows some of the games included with our free courses. (Click on the link above or the picture to play it!)

Through feedback, we have learned what works for all players:

  • The courses and games are interactive
  • The travel story appeals to older children (4th grade and up) who travel with their parents
  • The story sequel format with 36 (or 72) Scenes works well for children and adults
  • Text-based games practice individual foreign words, phrases, and sentences, as well as English reading and spelling
  • Foreign spelling is practiced with simple words
  • Travel-story podcasts advance listening skills

MANY DIFFERENT ACTIVITIES FOR LEARNING NEW LANGUAGES

It's clearly a good idea for children and adults to engage in all kinds of different activities to learn and practice languages. Digital games are just ONE tool.

Our 3-year-old granddaughter, for example, is taking French Skype lessons with a tutor several times a week. She loves to sing "un deux trois" and is very proud when she can surprise us with a new French word from time to time.

Adults have access to a large array of resources. They can learn AND entertain themselves with foreign movies, YouTube videos, etc. Or read books, foreign newspaper articles online about topics that really interest them – once they have mastered the basics of a foreign language.

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.

An expanded version of this post is scheduled has been published on the British website Lingotastic.

Posted on by Sophia Sanchez

10 Free and Fun Language Learning Apps for Quick Progress

young people looking at phoneThere are several benefits to being a polyglot and language learning can be fun and engaging.

Knowing multiple languages not only boosts your employability, but it also makes you more open minded and appreciative of other cultures.

Also, being able to communicate with a broader network of people betters your chance of discovering new things and making new friends. Multilingualism broadens your horizons and opens the door to rich experiences no matter who you are and where you come from.

Whether you’re a student who is learning a new language at school or a professional whose career demands learning different languages, or simply a traveler who wants to talk to the locals in their language, learning a new language can be both exciting and exacting.

Although learning a foreign language isn’t always a cakewalk, it doesn’t have to be an uphill climb either.

Thanks to the evolution of technology, we have access to multiple platforms and tools that make learning an appealing and a fun experience.

What’s more, a lot of these tools are free to use. You don’t have to shell out a single penny!And remember what Benjamin Franklin had to say about pennies: A penny saved is twopence clear.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some free language learning tools that are totally fun to use. For more more comprehensive content and in-depth learning they all offer in-app purchase options.

Language Learning Apps for Android and iOS

Lingbe

Lingbee app screenshotImagine being able to practice the language of your choice with its native speakers...Well, don’t just stop at imaging.

Go right ahead and practice Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, etc., with native speakers through voice chat on Lingbe app.

It’s easy to use and comes with a call button that instantly connects you with a native speaker who can help you practice the language of your choice. The best part: you get real-time feedback about your progress from collaborators who guide you and help you become more fluent.

And if you’d like to help other learners learn your mother tongue, you can collaborate with them for which you’ll receive not just brownie points, but some actual credit points in the form of lingos (practice exercises). More lingos you earn, better will be your chance at practicing.

HiNative

English (US), Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Spanish (Mexico), Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal) - the list goes on and on to include over a 100 languages!

No matter which language you choose, HiNative helps you learn it in style. You can either upload audio files to get feedback on pronunciation or you can share pictures of those complex Chinese characters to know their meaning, or you can simply stick to the plain old Q&A format.

No matter which format your queries come in, HiNative’s learning community readily helps address them by providing pronunciation support, example sentences, grammar tips, and what not!

Not just that, you can also ask the community about different countries and their cultures. Whether you’re traveling to someplace or moving permanently, you can learn about the dos, the don’ts, and everything else by simply asking the people who are already there. If that isn’t convenient, then what is?

Available also for Windows

Mango Languages

Mango Languages gives you access to 70 different foreign language courses and 17 different types of English language courses that are designed keeping in mind native speakers and their requirements.

All courses focus on four key components of communication: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and culture. From Yiddish, Tagalog, Pashto, to Haitian Creole, Cherokee, Mango Languages has courses that make language learning an enjoyable process.

Besides the regular courses, there are some specialty courses that focus on specific learner requirements. If you don’t have time for an entire course and are simply looking for a short-term course to help you with a short trip abroad, then you can choose from a list of specialty courses available to suit varying needs.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer

Whether you’re a native speaker or a newbie learner who wants to improve vocabulary by learning new words, Lingo Vocabulary Trainer is what you need.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer includes more than 100 different topics (business, education, nature, science, sports, tourism, etc.), different levels of learning, and statistics that help you gauge progress.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer consists of more than 5000 words and helps you learn and pronounce words through images that help you memorize better.

What makes Lingo Vocabulary Trainer fun is that it allows you to collaborate with other app users through online games where you can earn some cool points!

Another noteworthy thing is the listen-and-type feature where you get to listen to an audio piece following which you’ll have to type what you heard to help better your listening skills

SpanishDict

SpanishDict boasts of 10 million plus user base each month, making it one of the most popular Spanish language apps available today.

It offers Spanish-English dictionary which provides examples, insights into regional usage, and contextual information.

SpanishDict helps you by providing audio pronunciation support and also comes with an autosuggestion feature that helps save time and effort.

If you don’t have access to the internet, you don’t have to worry because with SpanishDict, you can look up words offline as well. Also, you get to use three separate in-app translators to translate words and phrases.

What makes SpanishDict appealing is that it provides conjugation tables for all tenses for thousands of verbs and highlights irregular verb conjugations in red for ease of understanding.

Besides, if you want to learn on-the-go, you can enable the push notifications to conveniently receive new words on your phone everyday.

Available also for Windows

Andy - English Speaking Bot

If you’re the shy type and are apprehensive about approaching people to help you with learning English or bettering your English conversational skills, you would consider Andy a blessing.

Andy is an English speaking bot that converses with you and helps you learn new words, study grammar, and play language-learning games - all without being judgemental.

From casual day-to-day interactions: greeting, chatting about your day, weather, etc., to daily lessons and tests, Andy comes in handy by catering to your English learning needs.

You can discuss about topics like travel, movies, hobbies, art, jokes, and curious facts with Andy and can also expect a detailed explanation on what is right and what is not when it comes to language usage.

And if at any point in time you’re tired of rigorous learning or are simply bored, you can take a break and play fun games available on Andy.

Cram

Cram app screenshotIf you have trouble memorizing words and are working on building your vocabulary, Cram flashcards can help address your issues.

Known to be one of the most tried and tested learning tools, flashcards aid active recall - a mental technique that helps remember and recall answer to any given question through spaced repetition learning technique.

Cram puts to use the same technique to help you memorize better through effective learning and recalling of new words and their meaning. There are two modes - Card mode and Memorize mode.

The Card mode enables you to view and use the entire set of flashcards in a sequential manner. In case you want to focus on a few cards and hide the ones you don’t need, you can switch to the Memorize mode.

Cram gives you access to a whooping 176 million (and counting) flashcards across various subjects, in different languages, which are free and easy to use.

Idyoma

Based on which language you want to learn and which language you already know, Idyoma connects you to other language learners nearby.

By using Idyoma, you not only meet new language partners but also get to build a network online by following your favorite partners. Idyoma focuses on language exchange between people.

Besides practicing the language of your choice, you get a chance to teach your native language to other learners.

Idyoma enables you to check the location of your language partner and see if you have common people in your network, depending on which you can schedule real-life meetups.

Idyoma is all about social learning and helps not just better your language skills, but also meet new people and make new friends.

Language Learning Apps for Android

Quazzel - Language Exchange

If you want to connect with native speakers to learn a new language or practice a language which you recently learned, Quazzel can help.

Quazzel has an effective way of connecting you with native speakers based on your preferences. You can choose who you want to connect with by using the language settings, which in turn helps you find a dynamic match.

The calendar feature shows the availability and preferred time of contact of your language partner. An indication of free spot helps you better plan and schedule your sessions.

You can also pre-schedule your video chats to efficiently manage multiple language partners. If you want instant chat support, you can connect with native speakers available online.

Add-ons: Free

Beelinguapp

With Beelinguapp, you can read texts Beelinguapp screenshotin two languages side by side.

By doing so, you can compare the text of the language you’re learning with the text of your native language or the language you already know. This helps you understand the new language better by means of referencing.

What sets Beelinguapp apart is that it you can listen to text in any language using its high-quality audio, even when your phone is in the sleep mode.

The app lets you pay attention to what the audio voice is saying by highlighting the text in karaoke-styled animation. What’s more, you can use the audiobook feature to listen to stories in any language of your choice.

Soon to be available on iOS

So no matter who you are and what your language learning requirement is, there is an app out there to help you achieve your learning goals.

Thanks to technology, learning a new language is not as complicated as it used to be. Just a click here and a click there and you’re all set!

Bio: Sophia Sanchez is a passionate educator, a lifelong learner, a freelance writer, an avid reader, and an adrenalin junkie all rolled into one. When not working, she spends time networking and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with Sophia Sanchez or any of the learning app companies reviewed above, except for publishing Sophia's post on it's site.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Is GamesforLanguage a “Serious” Language Learning Program?

Gamesforlanguage shoot-out gameAt times we think that the “GamesforLanguage” name has two drawbacks, as some language learners could assume that:

(1)  Language learning games are more for children, or that

(2) Gamesforlanguage.com is not a serious and well-thought-out self-teaching language program.

They could not be more wrong.  

And then we also remember: Adults can't learn a new language as easily as young children do - but at least they can have a little fun playing games while learning and practicing - as children do.

GamesforLanguage's Key Language Learning Features

Our courses are based on our own extensive experience in foreign language learning, as well as a 20-year stint in writing and editing self-teaching language programs.

Each of our courses integrates several key features into one unique comprehensive language learning program:

  • A travel-story sequel of a young traveler visiting Young Friends having funny conversationthe country of his parent's family.
  • Fun games that practice reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
  • Everyday vocabulary, which is introduced, practiced, and then repeated in later lessons.
  • New words and structures introduced in every lesson, and familiar words and structures repeated from previous lessons.
  • Travel-related and culturally relevant vocabulary, dialogues, and expressions that are immediately useful on a foreign trip.
  • Grammar and structures that the learner can discover gradually. Brief comments and tips that clarify aspects of the target language and culture.

Language Learning Patterns

student in new learning environmentWe know that learning a foreign language as an adult takes motivation, engagement, and commitment.

We also know that self-teaching online language programs are not for everyone.

Recently, a post on another language-learning site analyzed the learning patterns of its users.

It prompted us to look at the learning patterns of our registered users.

We can distinguish a few characteristics, and we are not always "serious"! Some fun also helps learning!

The “0” Points Player

Now and then we see visitors who register and start a course, but then decide on the next screen not to continue.

Maybe they expected another type of course or game, or thought they had to register for the Quick Games. (You don't.)

We are planning a survey of those players to better understand their reasons for registering, but not continuing with a course.

The Nibbler

About 15% of those that started a language course playNibbled apples only a game or two.

As each lesson starts with a story dialogue, they may have listened to the dialogue, but then stopped after the first game screens.

Maybe they expected a different game, pictures, or a video game.

Or they just wanted to see what “GamesforLanguage” was about, without any real interest in learning a language.

We have also noticed that some “Nibblers” come back later to practice or try out another language.

The Voracious Player

Sometimes we see players who - in one stretch, after registering – play an entire level, or six lessons, often just beating the minimum score to move on to the next lesson.

Maybe these players are motivated by the fun aspect of the games to test their knowledge.

However, we also noticed that they are unlikely to come back, to either improve their scores or continue.

The Finisher or Focused Learner

Marathon finish lineThe Finisher plays through all or most of the games of the first lesson, though he or she may skip the Recording (as it requires the Flash Player which is not supported on smart phones or tablets).

Then, having met the score requirement, this learner moves on to lesson #2. These players seem to be interested in one language only.

They may also “nibble” sometimes by trying out another language, but then return to the language of their choice.

These are the learners who are most likely to continue with their course.

Language learning is not a short sprint but more like long-distance running. After you cross the finish line, the feeling of accomplishment is sweet and will stay with you for a long time.

The Polyglot Player

Polyglot players go for at least one scene of two or more languages right away. From his or her scores we can speculate that this player may already know one or more of the languages.

Sometimes Nibblers also try out different languages. When their scores are high enough to let them move on to further Scenes, we can't distinguish them from Polyglots.

The Quick Language Game Player

Since our start, we have added over 200 Quick Language Games, which can be played without registering.

These Quick Games are quite popular. But we don't see the names of individual players, we can only note which games are played and how many times.

How to Play, Learn & Practice

The “serious” learners are more likely to click on “How to Play and Learn” under “New Here?” on the Course Page.

Below are a few key suggestions for effective learning and practice. These apply not only to GamesforLanguage, but also to many other online language learning sites:

  • Play only one (1) NEW lesson per day, and - if you have 20-30 minutes - start by reviewing the PREVIOUS lesson, or at least the Dialogue of the previous lesson.
  • Re-play any of the games of a previous lesson, for which you scored less than 100%.
  • To get into the learning habit, PLAY SOME GAMES EVERY DAY. (Also note that the Quick Language Games can be played without logging in.)
  • Don’t worry, if you don’t know the meaning in the “Balloon Words,” or “Say It” games. Just concentrate on the sounds and the melody of the language, while you repeat what you hear.
  • Repeat the native speaker's words and phrases in any game whenever you can - BEFORE the native speaker, if you can, and AFTERWARDS to correct yourself.
  • Practice your pronunciation with “Record It.” Keep recording and re-recording your voice until you feel that you're getting close to the native speaker's pronunciation.
  • In the games, pay attention to the occasional abbreviations that appear directly behind the English word. They will tell you which form of the foreign word you should use.
  • After completing a Level (six or twelve lessons) listen to the Podcast. If you don't understand a lesson perfectly, replay it.
  • Listen to the Podcast of the next Level and find out how much you can understand or guess, before you start a new lesson.

How About Fluency?

Few, if any, online language programs can make you fluent. The only way to become fluent is to TALK, to engage in as many conversations as you can join.

But online programs can be an excellent preparation. That's why we emphasize REPEATING ALOUD, and making use of the recording feature whenever possible.

Fluency not only requires sufficient vocabulary, but also the ability to combine words into phrases and sentences when talking with others.

Until online programs can truly generate interactive one-on-one conversations, teachers, tutors, language exchange or conversation partners (in-person or on-line) are the best way to become fluent in a new language.

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

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Language Learning During Retirement? It Worked for me!

Retirement dreams...My (first) retirement is now already a few years behind me. I was very lucky when we were able to sell the consulting firm I had co-founded. I was still in my fifties.

However, while I was looking forward to a less stressful life, I was also aware that retirement can have its own challenges.

I had read the usual books about retirement, how to stay busy, get or continue with a hobby, etc. Yes, I also had the typical list of house projects I never had time to complete earlier.

But during the months leading to the day when I didn't have to go to work anymore, my wife Ulrike and I made plans for an extended stay in Italy.

Preparing for Italy

Both Ulrike and I already spoke several languages: German, English, French, and she also Dutch.

These were languages we had either learned as children or young adults living/working in the respective countries. Italian was to be the first language we were going to learn as mature adults.

A few months before my retirement and our travels – my wife was working as a development editor at Pimsleur International at that time - we began using Pimsleur's self-teaching Italian language courses and completed all three levels of the program, 90 lessons in all.

This was an accomplishment. We felt quite smug about being able to understand basic Italian, but we also knew that the real test would come upon our arrival in Rome.

First Impressions and Lessons

We were picked up at Fiumicino Airport by our landlord's driver. WhenRoman and Guiseppe in Trastevere bakery we tried out our Italian on him it became clear immediately that his English was much better than our Italian.

Our first apartment was in a narrow street above a grocery/bakery in Trastevere (see picture of Romand and Guiseppe), and located just opposite a wonderful little restaurant, Le Mani in Pasta. (This restaurant is now listed on Tripadvisor as #27 of 327 restaurants in Trastevere.)

We became regulars there, and as the owners and waiters spoke very little English, it was great place to practice our Italian.

Seeing “Le Mani” everyday when we left our building, it was easy to remember that “la mano” (the hand) is one of the exceptions in Italian, as most nouns ending in an “o” are masculine.

Other feminine nouns ending with “o” are: àuto (car), mòto (motorcycle), dìnamo (dynamo), ràdio (radio), mètro (subway), libido (libido), etc.

Fluency Realities

Trastevere vegetable standWe also quickly realized, however, that we were far from being fluent in Italian. Yes, we had completed maybe 45-50 hours of learning with the Pimsleur audio courses. 

While we got compliments for our pronunciation, we still had to rely a lot on pointing and gesturing for buying groceries in our grocery/bakery or local market (see picture).

For several weeks, our vocabulary clearly continued to be insufficient. And to our dismay, the Italian on TV was an incomprehensible garble of words for us.

We were lucky to find a tutor who discovered quickly via a first test that our Italian spelling was atrocious. With Pimsleur's Italian audio course we had not learned how to read and write and our spelling was automatically based on the French we knew.

The daily 2-hour lessons with required homework kept us busy learning for half the day. The other half we spent exploring Rome and its surroundings. We tried out our Italian wherever we could.

After a few weeks, the Italian TV garble dissolved into individual words that we began to distinguish where they started and ended. While we still did not know a huge number of words, we started to guess what words meant from the context. That accelerated our learning further.

Over the next months, as our tutor worked with us and monitored our progress, our confidence grew. We started to understand and enjoy Italian TV and movies, and increasingly conversed with shopkeepers and people we encountered during the day.

Language Learning during Retirement

There have been many research findings about the benefits of mental exercises for older adults. And learning a foreign language is near the top of that list - ahead of playing Lumosity games or solving crossword puzzles.

Learning a new foreign language as an adult takes effort and discipline. But our brain is certainly able to acquire new vocabulary and new grammar patterns through practice.

And yes, we also experienced – although still far away from a Golden Anniversary - what a friend described facetiously in a guest post, French in Dijon: Fluency Realities with no "Lover Option".

When younger people are sitting in bars discussion politics, love, and pop music Friends discussing in coffee housewith passion, we are getting ready for bed. Since my wife and I've been married more than fifty years, neither of us can go out and find a lover! In short: The quickest avenues to fluency are now closed to us.

Acquiring fluency in a foreign language is certainly harder when you don't speak it all the time with your partner. That's true even if you stay in the country where the language is spoken.

However, there are also many opportunities today to Progress Faster to Language Fluency.

If you can take advantage early on of one of retirement's key benefits: Planning your day and doing activities that YOU like – you'll never be bored.

Then, if language learning is on that list, you'll open a new world to explore: articles to read, conversations to have, movies or TV shows to watch, planning a trip to a place where your new language is spoken.

Beyond Retirement – “Un-Retiring”

For me personally, learning Italian (and later continuing with Spanish and Dutch, see my post about P.M Tools.) also led to our starting up Gamesforlanguage.

Using my interest in languages and my project management skills, plus Ulrike's background in teaching and course development has given us a wonderful way of combining our passion with a purpose:

Helping others practice languages we have learned as well, and sharing our experiences about language learning, culture and travel on our Blog.

And when we get a Thank-you note such as this one from a 80+ year old woman, who had completed both our German courses, we also know that it's never too late to learn and practice a new language: 

"Thank you for such an interesting way to practice and learn German. I have really enjoyed doing this each day and am hoping to go to Austria in the Fall for a week at a spa. I liked the way you varied the learning process, also that you had a score at the end of each lesson, which, if not good enough, you could redo. Thank you again, M."

So who knows – once you start learning another language during your retirement – you may also discover reasons to “un-retire” again.

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

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Language Learning - LingoHut Portuguese – A Review

Lingohut Homepage with Youtube ClipLearning a new language is always an exciting project for me. I love trying out different language learning sites.

Lately, I've enjoyed learning Brazilian Portuguese with LingoHut, one of our Partner sites – and like Gamesforlanguage – a completely free language learning site. (Click on the Homepage image, left, and hear Kendal explain LingoHut's mission.)

LingoHut currently offers you twelve (12) different languages. And, if your native language is other than English, you can set the language with which you learn. You have many choices.

The vocabulary of each language is presented by Category and Topic, in the form of Vocabulary Cards, Flashcards, and Games. The words are said and written. There are no pictures.

LINGOHUT'S LANGUAGE LEARNING SET-UP

For Brazilian Portuguese, there are 109 Lessons that contain between 8 and 22 words or phrases each.Lingohut learning options

The Categories of the Lessons include: Start, Numbers, Directions, Colors, People, Time, Weather and Seasons, Antonyms, Body, Travel, Hotel, Around Town, Sightseeing, Shopping, Restaurant, Food, Beach, Vacation, Health, Office, Employment, Computer.

In each Lesson, you have Vocabulary Cards with Portuguese audio, the written Portuguese word or phrase, and a translation set to your native language.

The Lesson's vocabulary also shows up as a list just under the cards. This list can be downloaded and printed out. For a quick review, you can click on a word on the list to hear the audio again.

The Vocabulary Cards are followed by a Flashcard Game, with which you can practice what you learned and test yourself.

Other games in each Lesson for practice are the Matching Game (where you determine whether words or phrases and a translation match); the Tic Tac Toe Game (where you have to get 3 correct answers in a row); the Concentration Game (a traditional "memory game"); the Listening Game (where you hear, but not see, a Portuguese word or phrase, and then choose the English equivalent).

LISTEN AND SAY OUT LOUD

Lingohut Portuguese Vocab CardThe Vocabulary Cards are great. You hear each word or phrase three times and are encouraged repeat it out loud. The cards continue to the next automatically. But you can also go back or forward one by one.

A key to learning a new language is listening and saying the words out loud. Because the cards advance automatically, you can close your eyes and just listen and speak, which is a powerful way of focusing on sound.

Another way of practicing could be to let the Vocabulary Cards play, treating this as a dictation, i.e. you write out the words you hear on a sheet of paper. (You can then check back for any corrections.)

THE DRIP FEED

Kendal calls the LingoHut mode of learning "the drip feed." What makes it work is exactly that: You acquire the sound, meaning, and spelling of your target language, gradually, in small steps.

The speaker pronounces each of the words and phrases slowly and clearly. This is perfect for someone who is in the early stages of learning a new language. You can try each word as many times as you want.

Remembering new vocabulary is an issue for everyone. The remedy is frequent exposure to the words you're learning and regular repetition.

A good way to get words and phrases into your longterm memory is to go back and redo earlier Lessons. If you find some words particularly difficult to remember, write them out in a small notebook or on paper flashcards, and review these separately.

LEARN GRAMMAR INTUITIVELY

With LingoHut you learn useful words and phrases that allow you to communicate with native speakers. You do not get grammar explanations.

However, the human brain is wired to recognize and internalize language patterns. With frequent exposure to typical patterns of sound and/or spelling, you pick these up without much thinking about the grammar rules behind them.

By frequently hearing and saying different phrases and sentences in a new language, you become familiar with the wording of commands, statements, and questions, the gender of nouns, adjective-noun agreement, the personal forms of verbs, etc.

Once some of the patterns of your target language are lodged in your mind, you can easily check up on a grammar rule that would explain a structure that baffles you. The internet is a fantastic resource for that. A useful site for basic grammar, for example, is on Learn Portuguese Now. But you can google others, or if you prefer, you can always get an introductory grammar book.

For checking words and idioms, I often use the free Word Reference site, a popular online dictionary. Here is the Portuguese Link.)

PORTUGUESE and other ROMANCE LANGUAGES

If you know one of the other Romance languages, you'll notice that many Portuguese words are quite similar. That, of course, helps you to learn.

However, pronunciation is a different matter. For example, I've reached an upper intermediate level in Spanish. When I see Portuguese words, I can often figure out their meaning from Spanish. But when I hear Portuguese spoken, I have no clue (as yet). The sound of Portuguese is very different from Spanish.

That's why the listening and speaking practice that LingoHut offers is so important.

LINGOHUT'S GLOBAL INITIATIVE

LingoHut's co-founder Kendal Knetemann left Nicaragua at age 13 as a refugee, fleeing the civil war in her country and coming to the United States without her parents.

Her experience as a young refugee and the need to quickly learn a new language inspired Kendal together with her husband Philipp, a software developer, to create a free language learning site with free access to all learners.

As a native Dutch speaker now living in America, Philipp Knetemann has firsthand experience with learning a foreign language. That experience has guided him to build a platform that is user-friendly for language learners.

LingoHut was created in 2012 and since then Kendal and Philipp have been adding numerous lessons in 12 languages. What makes the site particularly useful on a global scale, is that a learner has a wide choice for setting his or her language of instruction. (See the list below)

Screenshot of Lingohut's Teaching Languages

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.

Disclosure: GamesforLanguage and LingoHut have a non-financial Partner relationship, exchanging language learning ideas and tips. Learning with LingoHut and GamesforLanguage is free. 

1 2 3 4 5 .. 12   > >