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 to be 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. 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Pimsleur Unlimited – Learning Russian – a Review

Learning Russian with Pimsleur UnlimitedLearning Russian with Pimsleur Unlimited

If you're learning Russian, Pimsleur's Unlimited app is a versatile option to consider.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the then newly-released app for Pimsleur German. Since I'm bilingual in German and English, I couldn't talk about learning German. In that earlier post I described the app and its features. I also talked about the Pimsleur method in general.

This review of Pimsleur Unlimited Russian is a little different. Russian is a new language for me and my first Slavic language. The languages I speak all belong to the Germanic or Romance language families.

AUDIO LESSONS

The core structure of the course consists of 30, thirty-minute Pimsleur Russian Day 1-3audio lessons, presented as Day 1, Day 2, etc., through Day 30. Each day shows a beautiful picture and gives you some brief cultural information (when you tap on the lightbulb image).

The Audio Lessons are classic Pimsleur: Each unit introduces up to 10 new words, has you practice the pronunciation through backwards build-up, lets you recall what you learned with a built-in spaced repetition system, and sets you up to anticipate new combinations.

Individual lessons start with a 2-minute conversation, which uses new combinations of familiar words. This is followed by a 7-minute review of vocabulary, the introduction and practice of 10 new vocabulary items, plus a final practice exercise.

Using the audio with the app is great. In each audio lesson, you can easily navigate back and forth by sliding the button, which also shows you where you are on the minute-and-second time bar. Plus, there's a 10sec Skip Back and a 10sec Skip Ahead button. That way you can hear and repeat a word or phrase as many times as you want. When you interrupt a lesson, the app automatically puts you back to where you left off.

AM I MAKING PROGRESS LEARNING RUSSIAN?

Language learning is not a linear process. Even with a course that builds vocabulary as slowly and systematically as Pimsleur, someone like me is going to find ups and downs.

I was sailing along beautifully through Lesson 4, when in Lessons 5 & 6, I hit sentences with what I found to be difficult word order. They were sentences with "You would like ...", "Wouldn't you like ...?" and "Where would you like ...?" I've practiced these a lot and I'm still not able to give fast, automatic responses.

In each of those sentences, two particular little words are at a different place. When I need to give the answer, my mind gets stuck on placing those two little words. I know with time even that will become automatic. But it's taking time.

To help me learn difficult words and phrases, I've written up flashcards using 3"x5" index cards. Writing these out by hand helps me to memorize them. They also give me the chance to practice the words in a different way. I've started adding the Cyrillic spelling for the words, which is a good method for practicing the Cyrillic alphabet.

In the next couple of weeks of learning Russian, I'll start looking at some basic Russian grammar. I'll then better understand the word order of some sentences, and why some of the endings change.

READING LESSONS

Pimsleur Russian Reading Lesson Day 6There's a tab for Reading Lessons on the audios. There are nine Reading Lessons which can be accessed from Day 2 to Day 10. (No Reading Lessons after Day 10.)

Together, the Reading Lessons take you through 320 Russian words or phrases. The first 200 help you to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, letter by letter, in the context of words and short phrases. The last 120 items are for practice.

The words in the Reading Lesson are not translated and many of them are never taught in the Audio Lessons. However, you hear the correct pronunciation of every word, phrase, and sentence you see and tap on, and thereby learn the correlation between Cyrillic letters and their sound.

DO THE READING LESSONS WORK?

I did all the Reading Lessons in two days (about an hour each day). By the time I reached the practice lessons, I was pretty good at sounding out most of the words. My pronunciation wasn't perfect, but it was close.

I was amazed how quickly I could figure out the sound of individual words I had never seen before. It's also been fun to see a familiar word here and there and go "Aha - that's how it's written!"

That doesn't mean that I can now read texts in Cyrillic. Reading for meaning is a whole different world. It's the next step and something I'll need to practice a lot.

FLASH CARDS, QUICK MATCH & SPEAK EASY

Pimsleur Russian Flashcard screenshotEach lesson has three specific review exercises, Flash Cards, Quick Match, and Speak Easy. You can do any of the review exercises whenever you want.

For the Flash Cards, you hear the audio and see a written version of the new words and phrases of the lesson. At the bottom of the card, you have the option to check "Show Transliteration" (which shows you the words in romanized spelling). Otherwise, you'll see the words written in Cyrillic. (You can even go back and forth between Transliteration and Cyrillic script on each card.)

In the Quick Match exercises you get an English sentence, audio and written. You then choose the correct match for the Russian, either in Transliteration or in Cyrillic. (If you wish, you can toggle between the two.) Once you tap on an answer (even if it tells you it's incorrect), you'll hear the audio.

In the Speak Easy exercises you practice and engage in the conversations of each lesson, by listening, reading, and finally taking the role of one of the speakers. The conversation lines are in Cyrillic, and you can add the Transliteration.

Together, these exercises help you memorize the words and practice your pronunciation. Once you've done the Reading Lessons and know the Cyrillic alphabet, the Flash Cards, Quick Match, and Speak Easy exercises are a great way to start practice reading for meaning.

I like all of these exercises. They give a quick review, they're fun to do, and are a way to stay engaged.

LEARNING ON THE GO

Playing your language program while you're doing something else: driving, running, cooking, washing dishes, etc. is definitely convenient.

I sometimes listen to Italian or Spanish while cooking, now that I'm on an upper intermediate (B2) level in those languages.

But when I start out with a new language, I have found that I do my best learning when I'm alone, when I've put time aside, and can really focus on the learning itself.

I can listen without distraction, repeat words aloud as many times as I want, stop and write myself notes, create my paper flashcards, etc. This is where I'm now with learning Russian. 

Then, once the words and sounds are in my brain, playing them again while my mind is half on something else will be okay too.

I also know that I'm still a long way from being able to understand Russian conversations. So for now, I have to listen and learn with focus wherever I can find some quiet time with my app.

CAN YOU DO 30 LESSONS IN 30 DAYS?

Maybe I could, if I were relearning a language I had taken in school or college. But for Russian, I've not been able to do a new lesson every day. I've had some interruptions (holidays, travel, flu). More importantly though, I've found the need to go back to earlier lessons and review sentences that I find hard.

The key to learning Russian, or any other language for that matter, is doing something every day. It could be redoing a lesson, or part of one. Or it could be going back and playing some of the Flash Card, Quick Match, or Speak Easy exercises.

I have now finished just over half of the course. I feel I'm well-launched into learning Russian. My pronunciation is pretty good, I know the Cyrillic letters, I'm starting to recognize some words, and I can automatically recall some of the basic words and phrases.

Most of all, I continue to feel motivated. The more I'm learning, the more I'm getting excited about learning more.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Pimsleur language courses are not inexpensive. You can currently purchase each of the 3 levels of the Pimsleur Russian Unlimited Software online for $135 (as  CD or Download), or all three levels for $315. One MP3 audio lesson can be downloaded for free. You may find lower prices on Amazon for new or used CDs.

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: Ulrike Rettig was the Development Editor/Author of Pimsleur's German Levels 1, 2 and 3, written during the time she worked for Pimsleur Language Programs (owned since 1997 by Simon & Schuster Audio). She left Pimsleur in 2010. GamesforLanguage has no business relationship with Simon & Schuster Audio, other than receiving the German and Russian Unlimited apps for free.

Posted on by Peter & Ulrike Rettig

GamesforLanguage's 10 Top 2016 Blog Posts

top 10 - yay images2016 has been another fun and adventurous year for GamesforLanguage.

We know that learning a language as an adult is challenging. Not everybody has the time, discipline, and opportunity to learn foreign languages the way Benny Lewis does. (But his language hacks are worthwhile to study and apply.)

In 2016 we attended a language conferences in Montreal, where we met many of the well-known polyglots and language aficionados. (The #5 Blog Post below was a direct result of that conference.)

We continue to enjoy writing on our Blog on a weekly basis, drawing from our own insights and struggles with learning foreign languages.

Maybe not a surprise: While we also write about our travels and related language experiences, our 10 most popular posts in 2016 relate to language learning.

One surprise: Our post about "La Paloma: Learning Spanish with a song," which we published in June 2013 was our 3rd most read blog post in 2016.

1. 1-2-3 German Numbers Are Easy – Just Know the Basics

red numbers This post was our #10 in 2015.

How automatic are your numbers, in any foreign language, when you need them? Numbers may be something you really have to practice a lot to get confident using them.

We have always found that even when traveling in countries where we don't speak the language (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, etc.), it's good to at least know the numbers from 1 to 100.

Numbers also came in handy when shopping in small stores or paying the bill in restaurants.

Most numbers you'll see are in digital form. You'll rarely need to spell them.

But you do need to understand them when they're spoken. And to learn them, it helps to see them written out.

Many of the English and German numbers from 1-12 are related and have a similar sound, even though their spelling may be different.

The German numbers from 13 to 19 use the same model as English, by combining the lower number with the suffix “-zehn” (-teen), so “dreizehn” is thirteen, etc.

The numbers beyond 21 (that don't end in a zero) often cause confusion, especially when you want to remember a phone number.

They deviate from the English model and invert the digits:

So 45, forty-five, is vierundfünfzig and 54, fifty-four, is fünfundvierzig.

2. Uno-dos-tres: Spanish Numbers Are Easy

numbers Maybe it's not surprising that a very similar post explaining the Spanish numbering system was our second most read post.

Indeed as with German for most English speakers, the Spanish numbers from 1 to 15 are not difficult to learn as many of the English and Spanish numbers are related.

The numbers 16 to 20 are a little trickier as they use the inverse English model by placing the prefix “dieci-” in front of the single numbers, e.g. “dieciséis” whereas English uses the German model and places the single numbers in front of the suffix “-teen” as in sixteen.

The numbers 21 to 99 use the English model although a Spanish spelling revision made 21 to 29 a little more tricky: You have to remember some accents on veintidós (22), veintitrés (23), and veintiséis (26) and the binding “-i-” that has replaced the “y,” which still is there in the numbers above 30 , e.g. treinta y uno (31).

As in English, once you know the Spanish numbers 1-9 and the round number 20-90, then 21-99 are a breeze.

3. La Paloma Lyrics – Learning Spanish With a Song

Victoria de los AngelesWe wrote this post in June 2013 and it has been one of our most read post ever since.

The German version of La Paloma has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. At that time I neither knew anything about the origin of the song nor that “la paloma” means “the dove.”

I thought that “La Paloma” was a sailor's song, as sung by a famous German actor Hans Albers (Here is a YouTube clip.) and later by Freddy Quinn and many others.

When I heard the Spanish version for the first time, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more.

Not only is the melody wonderful, but so are the original Spanish lyrics.

Listening to the amazing voice of Victoria de los Angeles is a great way to both practice your listening skills and pick up some typical Spanish constructs.

We don't quite know why this post made it to a third place in 2016. (Maybe it was due to a 2015 post that linked La Paloma to Cuba, and to Bizet's opera Carmen.)

4. My 12 Best Habits For Learning Foreign Languages

friends in coffeeshop This is a very personal post by Ulrike, in which she explains how she keeps current with the 6 languages she speaks (and a couple of others she is learning).

While she always keeps her little Notebook handy, it's also clear that even she can't keep up with every one of those habits for every language she speaks or learns.

However, just doing a few of them consistently will reap big rewards. Also you will want to concentrate on those that are most appropriate for the level you're at.

For example, watching foreign movies without subtitles may be boring and counter productive, if you don't understand much in the foreign language yet.

It's up to you to try out and adapt the habits that work with your lifestyle, skill level and time you have available.

Are any of these habits part of your language learning? What works best for you?

5. Why Polyglots Also Use Stories For language Learning

Polyglot conference - Gamesforlanguage.comThis post was motivated by the talks of several speakers at the Polyglot conference in Montreal in July 2016.

We were especially intrigued by Jimmy Mello's idea to read a book that he already knows well in his native Brazilian Portuguese (he uses a translation of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry), when he starts with a new target language.

By taking the same story every time, he can focus on the sounds of the new language, while already knowing what many of the words mean.

And when we say “story,” we mean any narrative, which may cover sports, history, politics, etc., i.e. anything than interests you and keeps you engaged in the target language.

(That's also why Gamesforlanguage's courses use the format of a travel-story sequel.)

Using “stories for language learning” means that you are not just learning words, but their meaning in context.

The Polyglot Symposium - renamed Montreal LangFest - will take place again in 2017, on the last weekend in August. The event will appeal to anyone who loves language and is involved in languages in some way (teachers, students, adult self-learners, parents raising bilingual kids - or wishing to, etc. as well polyglots). Check it out. We'd love to see you there!

6. Foreign Language Learning While You Sleep

sleeping womanThe way human memory works is a fascinating process. Clearly, the brain doesn't just shut down when we sleep, it keeps working on what we learned and experienced during the day.

A PsychCrunch Podcast by The British Psychological Society alerted us to studies about sleep and memory recently done by Swiss scientists. They had come to some interesting insights.

For example using MRI technology, they looked are the core stages of memorizing vocabulary and why sleep is so important for vocabulary retention. "Hearing" recently learned vocabulary again during certain stages of sleep, will consolidate these new memories.

There are no practical ways yet to replicate such tests 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.

7. How to Progress Faster to Language Fluency

teenager talkingIf conversational fluency is your goal, what are the crucial techniques for getting there? Why is it important to say everything out loud rather than silently to yourself?

The simple answer is that to learn to speak in a foreign language, you have to speak. That's easier said than done. The question is how you can get yourself speaking enough so that you feel totally comfortable in a conversation.

But is just speaking enough? How important is reading for fluency? For many, reading will boost their vocabulary (especially if they start using these words in a conversation), and will provide them with interesting topics to talk about.

8. Three Tips to Spark Your Language Learning Motivation

sparkplugLearning a language can be fun, and there are many reasons for that. But when life is busy, sticking with your language project takes time and effort.

And sometimes it's hard to stay motivated. From Jeremy Dean's ebook "Spark - 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything," we gleaned three tips that apply especially to language learning.

Don't just jump into any old program, be self-aware as you plan your learning and implement your plan. Dean has some interesting ideas that can be easily applied.

Figure out coping skills that help you along. Dean suggest "modelling" yourself after someone whose coping skills fit your own situation.

In Spark we also found a couple of easy, practical tips that work well for creating a language learning habit. See if you agree.

9. Reaching Language Fluency: My Experience With Spanish

friendsIf you're learning a language, fluency's the game. But, really, what is fluency? Can an adult learner really achieve fluency? Can you be fluent even if you don't "sound like a native"? How does grammar figure in fluency?

Not everyone agrees what fluency is. (But when you have it, you do know what it feels like, don't you?)

We would argue that there are three essential marks of fluency, even if you haven't reached perfection.

What is fluency for you? Have you reached it yet for a foreign language?

10. Do You Need a Language Time-Out?

time-out signThere are lots of reasons for taking a language time-out. Once you lose your enthusiasm for learning a language, taking a time-out is really a good thing.

This happens to all language learners at some time or another. When it happens to either of us, we  see it as a time to reassess, to find new inspiration, and to look for new resources. The language won't go away, but during our time-out we'll find a new way to approach how we learn it and to get our motivation back.

Happy New Year and make learning a new language one of your 2017 goals!

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 right here.

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

Listening and Speaking: Language Fluency's Key Challenges

man an d woman listening and speakingFor many adults, listening to and then speaking a foreign language remain key challenges. And that may be so even after several years of school and college instruction.

Hearing and producing the new sounds of another language take a special effort. Plus, we may be shy about speaking up, afraid that we'll make mistakes.

A popular marketing promise of some language programs contains some wishful thinking: “Learn a second language like a child.” It implies that by following such program learning will occur as effortlessly as young children seem to learn their first language.

No matter that children spend nearly all the waking hours of their first few years just listening to and then learning to speak the language of their parents and caregivers. Once in kindergarten and school, it'll take them several more years to learn how to read and write.

What we may consider “effortless,” actually involves quite a bit of struggle and effort. As infants, children first learn to understand the meaning of the words, gestures, and expressions others use to interact with them. At the same time, they start using their own vocal chords to replicate the sounds of words they hear. It's only after much trial and error that they can make themselves understood.

Clearly, it takes time and effort to develop good listening and speaking skills in a language. Children learning their first language have the advantage of being immersed in the language on a daily basis. They hear their native language and speak it all the time. (In fact, they can even handle more than one language!)

For adults, who are learning another language, listening comprehension and speaking are important skills to practice. However, many language programs focus more on reading and writing, than listening and speaking – with the exception of predominantly audio programs such as Michael Thomas, Pimsleur, and some others. 

THE IMMERSION TEACHING METHOD

We recently had a conversation with a friend of ours, who spent over head above water cartoon30 years teaching German to English speakers in U.S. colleges, as well as English to German students in high schools in Germany.

He firmly believes that students progressed most in his classes – both in the U.S. and in Germany - when he taught with a method that uses immersion. In particular, he found the Rassias method to be very effective.

John Rassias, former professor of French and Italian at Dartmouth College, believed in the motto: Speak to learn a language, not learn to speak a language. The Rassias method, which continues to be widely used, combines theatrical techniques and rapid-fire drills to fully engage the learner in the target language.

My experience with college language teaching in the U.S. was pretty similar. In a classroom, you can create an immersive environment by staying in the target language and explaining things using gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions, pictures, reformulations, etc.

But clearly, getting students to understand and speak in their new language in class does require a lot of extra theatricals and energy. And, no matter what you do, if you have a large class, students won't be speaking much in the target language. 

Teachers at international language schools, such as the Goethe Institute, the Alliance Française, or Berlitz, often create an immersive learning classroom. But unless the school is located in a country where the language is spoken, students rarely use their target language outside of class. 

(Some language schools, e.g. the Middlebury [summer] Language Schools, ask students to sign a pledge to only speak in their target language.)

It seems that one-on-one lessons taken in person or online via Skype may provide the best chance for immersion learning, if you can't be in a country or region where people speak the language. That's especially true if the tutor pushes you to speak a lot.

HOW ABOUT ONLINE LANGUAGE PROGRAMS and APPS?

New technology has made it convenient to learn a language online and doing so has become very popular. But to what extent can online programs and apps provide immersion learning, and with it, fluency in listening and speaking?

Immersion learning, especially for beginners, is not easy to create in an online program. But training listening and speaking in foreign language is a challenge that different programs have attempted to solve in various ways.

Having developed our own GamesforLanguage courses and reviewed a number of other language learning programs, here's a quick snapshot how these programs encourage listening and speaking (in sequence of our development/review).

GamesforLanguage

Each of our course lessons (we call them “Scenes”), start with a dialogue of an ongoing travel story. The learner reads and hears sentences in the target language, which he or she might encounter while traveling, but may or may not fully understand.

New words are then taught and tested with various games in which learners see the words and are encouraged to repeat them. In the listening game Say It, the player hears and is asked to repeat a new word, which then appears for just a moment. In another listening game, Balloon Words, the player hears the word and has to pick the correct one from three words with a similar spelling. In both, no translation is given so that the attention can remain on listening and repeating.

After other translation and writing games, learners can then record the sentences of all story-dialogues at the end of each lesson, as often as needed. This helps to both memorize phrases and expressions, and to get close to the pronunciation of the native speakers.

Rosetta Stone

Are you now thinking, but isn't “Rosetta Stone” total immersion? Yes, there are no English translations and you are indeed “immersed” in the foreign language throughout a session.

I only bought Level 1 of Spanish, quite a while ago, so that's all I can comment on. The four Levels are set up as pictures and short sentences that describe the pictures.

You hear a sentence, identify the corresponding picture, and then are prompted to record your voice. My voice recording often gets rejected even after several tries. But it's not clear why some sentences are accepted and others aren't. Rather than improving, I just get frustrated. 

Is there a boredom factor built into Rosetta Stone? People do seem to give up easily on the kind of "immersion" this program offers. It may be because in each lesson you go through repeating dozens of unrelated phrases and sentences. On top of that, many grammar lessons are in the form of simple pattern drills, where you just click on one word each time. And, because everything is done with pictures, it gets hard to remember what each picture is supposed to mean. (See our 5 Rosetta Stone reviews)

Babbel

This program has a fairly traditional approach: A lesson starts with a flashcard exercise where you are asked to Study the words and their spelling. Then you go through exercises to practice writing, reading, listening, speaking, and basic grammar. Most of the exercises work from translation. Explanations are in English.

For listening practice, I particularly like the dictation exercises (Write what you hear), and the part where you complete the sentences of a conversation by adding a word that cued from the English translation of the sentence. In both of these sections, you see and hear language in context.

Speaking practice is up to you: It's best to repeat words and sentences as much as you can. Most lessons have a section for practicing sounds that are different from English. 

Duolingo

My main beef with Duolingo is that it has me often write English translations, which I find a huge waste of time. I'd rather be writing answers in the target language. I would be learning so much faster. To avoid writing in English, I've set my native language to another language I'm learning.  (I now have an account to learn Italian from Spanish.)

I do like the voice recognition part because it makes me say things out loud, which I sometimes forget to do. (Of course, there is no REAL voice recognition with feedback.)

Duolingo's newest addition are the Chatbots. At this time, they're available for French, German, and Spanish conversations. What you do is chat in your target language with a partner by writing predictable answers to questions and comments, with help from pictures. It's really quite neat.

You hear and see what your Chatbot partner is saying. You can check the meaning of the vocabulary, and get feedback for what you've written. To practice speaking, though, you just have to push yourself to say out loud whatever you hear and see. (see also Duolingo and Babbel: How They Differ)

Language Zen

At the moment, Language Zen is only available for learning Spanish online. The addition of Spanish Music (songs and lyrics) to its courses let's you focus on listening.

In general, you hear a lot of Spanish in this course. You learn new Spanish words and phrases by hearing them (and seeing their spelling and English translation). Next, you hear the Spanish word or phrase and have to identify the correct English translation among five options. When you click on the correct translation, you'll hear it again, see it spelled in Spanish, and are thereby induced to repeat it yourself.

Speaking is an important part of the course. Once you've heard and learned a few words, you are asked to translate an English sentence into Spanish – either by saying it (or by writing it). The voice recognition software is actually pretty good. It has adjusted to my voice, as well as Peter's voice and accent, and writes what it hears.

You can correct any spelling (or hearing) mistake. Click on “Check Answer” and you now hear the correct answer. If you're correct, move on, if not, you have one more chance to say or write the correct Spanish translation.

We very much like the fact that you're encouraged to say (or write) Spanish words and phrases quite often, and that you're not asked to say or write sentences in English. (see also our detailed Language Zen Review.)

SuperCoco

This is a new app for Spanish, created by Larkwire. It can be used hands-free. The program is very well done and clearly focuses on listening and speaking. So far, four (4) Levels have been released, from Beginner to Intermediate (with higher levels to come).

Each lesson (almost 250 to date) has you listen to and repeat individual words and sentences, with an emphasis on individual sounds, intonation, and the rhythm of the language. Since the purpose of the program is to repeat what you hear, that's what you do. English translations are spoken and written, so you do hear lots of English not just Spanish.

Brief pronunciation lessons teach you the basic sounds of Spanish. You're told how to produce the sounds and are given examples. Then you record yourself, play back your voice, and compare your pronunciation to that of the native speaker. This is a great feature. (See also our SuperCoco Review.)

Lingualia

Lingualia is an online program (with iOS and Android apps) to learn Spanish or English. All word definitions, audios, fill in the blank and unscramble exercises, image identification, etc. are in the target language. 

If you want, you can set the interface language to English, Spanish, and now also to German. So, if you're learning Spanish and if you set the interface language to Spanish, everything will be in Spanish.

In the program, you're not asked to do any translations (though translations with google are available).

With Lingualia you can work seriously on your listening skills. The program contains 200 rapidly spoken conversations, one at the beginning of each lesson. You can listen to them as often as you want, with or without seeing the text.

There's less chance for practicing your speaking skills, unless you make a special effort to constantly repeat individual phrases of a conversation as they scoot by. There are no exercises to practice sentences. There's no recording feature to play back your voice. (See also our Lingualia Review.)

Pimsleur

Having worked at Pimsleur both as author of the first three German courses and co-author and development editor of various other courses, I'm both familiar with and fond of the Pimsleur approach. We have not (yet) published a review of this program, which started out with audio tapes and CDs, and now also has MP3 files for download. In addition, there's an interactive product called Pimsleur Unlimited, which can be downloaded on your computer or mobile devices.

With a Pimsleur Audio course, you listen and speak right from the beginning. The Narrator guides you along (first in English and later in the target language) and gives explanations. After you've heard the initial dialogue, you learn new words by hearing and repeating them, usually by building them from the end.

As a lesson progresses, the Narrator gives you the English cues for the words that you've learned, sometimes prompting you to make new combinations. However, the audio lessons are hard to navigate beyond listening in sequence.

Pimsleur Unlimited contains the 30-minute audio lessons, Flashcards and Quick Match to practice new words and sentences, plus a Speak Easy part to practice the conversation. Except for Speak Easy, where you participate in the conversations, everything is prompted from English.

In all, Pimsleur does a great job pushing the learner to say everything aloud. Its particular audio method (backward buildup, anticipation of the answer) is very effective to train the ear and help the learner get a good pronunciation.

THE ONLINE/APP TEACHING DILEMMA

dilemma - Gamesforlanguage.comAs this quick survey shows, none of these programs (including our GamesforLanguage courses) can provide a true immersion experience, the way a live conversation, or online session with a tutor can.

Online courses or apps have to rely on images (e.g. Rosetta Stone, etc.), written text, or English audio to transmit meaning to the learner. A teacher or tutor can do that with gestures, mimic, different sounds, or alternate expressions in the target language, etc., all options that apps or online courses do not have.

The online/app dilemma then is this: Images are rarely sufficient for explaining the meaning of thoughts, feelings, and complex activities, etc. in the target language. You require a teaching language to translate from. (I don't know if Lingualia is an exception for beginners, who may use Google translate in the early stages.)

Translations, however, take the learner away from the the target language. The moment the learner hears or reads the translation in his or her native language (English or otherwise), immersion is interrupted.

THREE POWERFUL IMMERSIVE TECHNIQUES

Still, using online programs and apps to learn can give you a good basis for getting started and progressing in a language, for learning vocabulary, expressions, and pronunciation.

My advice: Don't just click on the correct translation or answer. Repeat and speak the words and phrases you hear and learn in such programs. Without speaking and trying out the new sounds you won't become fluent.

So, what can you add - besides a regular language tutor - to strengthen your immersion experience in the language and become more fluent?

  1. Watch a film or YouTube video in your target language, without English captions (or with captions in the same language).
  2. Listen, with attention, to an audio book. If you can, follow along with the text in your target language.
  3. Listen to a passage from your audio book, and then read and record the same passage. Play back and compare. Do this several times. This is really powerful.

And remember: learning to become fluent in a new language is a long-term project. Use as many different means and methods to read, listen to, or speak the target language every day. Daily “exposure,” if not “immersion,” will get you there.

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

Disclosure: Several of the language learning companies mentioned above are partner sites with revenue sharing should you decide to subscribe.

 

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