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 Ulrike Rettig

Practice French Conjunctions with Language Games

French flags as connected puzzle piecesConjunctions join words, groups of words, clauses, or sentences, and show how actions, events and ideas are connected. They are essential for conversations and are the staple of any speech or argument. 

Memorizing French conjunctions individually is not that difficult, but using them correctly in sentences takes some practice. Most of them occur in our French 1 travel-story course, where you can practice them in various games.

French, like English, has two types of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating.

Coordinating French Conjunctions

These join words or groups of words that are of equal value.

The most commonly used French coordinating conjunctions are: et (and), ou (or), mais (but), ni...ni (neither...nor), car (because, as), donc (therefore, so).

Our Quick French Language Game, Basic French Conjunctions, will let you practice the most common ones. Click on the link or one of the images below.

et (and)

De rien, et bon voyage. (You're welcome and have a good trip.)Gamesforlanguage.com's French Conjunctions Wordinvader screenshot
Il est fatigué et dort un peu. (He is tired and sleeps a little.)

ou (or)

Vous pouvez prendre les bus 3, 4 ou 6. (You can take the buses 3, 4 or 6.)
Aller simple ou aller-retour? (One-way or return trip?)

(And don't confuse the conjunction “ou” with the acverb “où”, which is pronounced the same, but has a grave accent on the “u” and means “where” and in some cases when.)

mais (but)

Oui, mais c'est mon premier voyage en France. (Yes, but it's my first trip to France.)
Je ne suis pas certain, mais je crois que c’est ça. (I'm not sure, but I think that's it.)

ni (neither... nor...)

Je n'aime ni la glace ni le chocolat. (I like neither ice cream nor chocolate.)
Ni moi ni la police ne pouvions te joindre. (Neither I nor the police could reach you.)

car (because, for, as)

Je suis inquiet car elle n'est pas encore rentré. (I'm worried because she isn't back yet.)
Je reste à la maison car je suis malade. (I'm staying at home because I'm sick.)

donc (therefore, so)

Je pense, donc je suis. (I think, therefore I am.)
Je n'ai rien vu, donc je ne sais pas. (I didn't see anything, so I don't know.)

Subordinating French Conjunctions

These connect a dependent clause to a main clause, showing a relationship of time, place, or cause and effect between them. When using a subordinating conjunction, you'll have to think about which tense or mood of the verb to use.

The most commonly used French subordinating conjunctions are: quand (when), si (if), que (that), comme (as, since), quoique (although)

Gamesforlanguage.com's Shootout game of French conjunctionsquand (when)

Quand je me suis réveillé, il était midi. (When I woke up it was noon.)
Julie m'a fait visiter la ville, il ne faisait pas beau. (When Julie showed me around town, the weather wasn't nice.)

si (if)

Tu peux le prendre si tu veux. (You can take it if you want.)
S'il fait beau, on ira se promener. (If the weather's nice, we'll go for a walk.)

que (that)

Je crois que c’est ça. (I think that's it.)
Je suis content que tu nous rendes visite. (I'm glad that you're visiting us.)
Il faut que tu reviennes bientôt. (You have to come back soon.)
Dommage que je parte demain. (Too bad that I'm leaving tomorrow.)

Note: With expressions such as je suis content(e) que, il faut que, dommage que”, you would use the subjunctive mood for the verb. This will be the subject of another post.

comme (as, since)

Elle est partie comme j'arrivais. (She left as I arrived.)
Comme il arrive demain, il faut préparer une chambre. (Since he's arriving tomorrow, we have to get a room ready.)

quoique (even though, although)

Je veux l'acheter quoique ce soit très cher. (I want to buy it even though it's very expensive.)
Quoiqu'il soit pauvre, il est très généreux. (Even though he's poor, he's very generous.)

Conjunctive Phrases

French also has a large number of phrases that function as conjunctions. They usually end with ... que” and mostly require the subjunctive. Here are just a couple of examples:

avant que (before)

Il n’attend pas longtemps avant que le train arrive. (He doesn't wait long before the train arrives.)
Avant que la réunion ne commence, le Directeur veut vous parler. (Before the meeting starts, the manager wants to speak with you.)

parce que (because)

D’accord, mais c’est bien parce que c’est vous. (All right, but only because it's you.)
Je suis en retard parce que mon réveil n'a pas sonné. (I'm late because my alarm didn't go off.)

jusqu’à ce que (until)

Juste le premier chapitre, jusqu’à ce que je me souvenais. (Only the first chapter, until I remembered.)
Reste ici, jusqu'à ce que je revienne te chercher. (Stay here until I come back to get you.)

Maybe next time you read a French article or listen to a French podcast, you'll pay special attention to the conjunctions.

Reading and listening to French will help to internalize how conjunctions work and how they are used by native speakers.

Our easy game will give you a good start by teaching you the individual basic conjunctions and how to build short sentences with them.

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

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

How to be Definite with Italian Articles

made in Italy stampEnglish speakers have it easy! The ubiquitous “the” makes any English noun definite. But Italian articles are much harder:

Not only do you have to know the gender – OK, “a” and “o” endings will give you a clue, as long as you also remember some exceptions – but then you have to select among a number of singular and plural forms.

The masculine Italian definite articles are the ones that cause the learner most trouble.

Don't despair, however, we'll give you the major rules, as well as a fun game, Italian Articles, so you can remember the rules more easily!

Masculine Italian Articles

Definite

Maschile Singolare - Masculine Singular: il - lo - l'

Words that begin with a consonant (except s+ consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn)

  • il pranzo - the lunchItalian articles Quick Language Game
  • il giorno - the day
  • il succo - the juice

Words that begin with s+consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn

  • lo zio - the uncle
  • lo scrittore - the writer
  • lo studente - the student

Not surprisingly, there are not many masculine nouns starting with y, pn, ps, gn, among them:

  • lo yogurt – the yoghurt
  • lo pneumatico – the inflatable
  • lo psicologo – the psychologist
  • lo gnocco – the (small) dumpling

The article “lo” becomes l' when followed by a word that starts with a vowel.

  • l'album - the album
  • l'indirizzo - the address
  • l'orologio - the clock, watch

Note: The first letter of the word that follows the article determines the form of the article.

  • lo zio - the uncle
  • il vecchio zio - the old uncle
  • l'album - the album
  • il nostro album - our album
Maschile Plurale - Masculine Plural: i and gli

Words that begin with a consonant (except s+ consonant, z, y, ps, pn, gn)

  • i pranzi
  • i giorni
  • i nonni

Words that begin with s + consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn

  • gli zii
  • gli scrittori
  • gli studenti

As with above masculine singular examples, no mystery, but note the plural form of “yogurt” (which doesn't change) and and “gnocco”

  • gli yogurt
  • gli pneumatici
  • gli psicologi
  • gli gnocchi

Words that begin with a vowel

  • gli amici
  • gli edifici
  • gli ospiti

Gamesforlanguage.com: Italian articles language gameNote: The first letter of the word that follows the article determines the form of the article.

  • gli amici - the friends
  • i miei amici - my friends
  • gli studenti - the students
  • i tuoi studenti - your students

Indefinite: un and uno

Compared to the definite articles, the masculine singular indefinite articles are pretty easy: “un” is used for all masculine gender nouns, except for those beginning with s+ consonant, z, y, pn, ps, gn - where you use “uno.

  • un amico - a friend
  • un libro - a book
  • un succo - a juice
  • uno studente - a student
  • uno spazio - a space
  • uno zio - an uncle

Feminine Italian Articles

Definite

The feminine Italian definite articles are actually quite straight forward, they are either la, l', or le, as shown below.

Femminile Singolare - Feminine Singular: la and l'

All words – except those that begin with a vowel

  • la scuola - the school
  • la ragazza - the girl, girlfriend
  • la chiave - the key

The article “la” becomes l' when followed by a word that starts with a vowel.

  • l'ora - the hour
  • l'idea - the idea
  • l'edicola - the kiosk, newsstand
Femminile Plurale - Feminine Plural: le is used in all cases.Gamesforlanguage.com's  Italian articles language game
  • le fotografie - the photos
  • le settimane- the weeks
  • le notti - the nights
  • le ore - the hours
  • le opere - the works
  • le uve - the grapes

Indefinite: una and un'

No big mystery here either, as “una” is used for all singular feminine nouns, with the only variation that the abbreviated form un' is used for any feminine nouns beginning with a vowel.

  • una camera - a room
  • una domanda - a question
  • un'idea - an idea
  • un'ora - an hour

Partitive Articles and Combinations with Pronouns

Enough grammar rules for now! It's always a good idea to pace yourself and not bite off too much.

We'll cover the “del, dei, dello, della, glielo, glieli, etc.” in another post and have you practice them “playfully” with our language games.

Applying the rules and practicing the Italian articles with their singular and plural forms with as many nouns as you can remember is a worthwhile exercise.

Once you got these down pat, it's time to internalize a few other Italian grammar rules.

Let us know any comments or questions below.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

German Prefixes #1: The Inseparable Prefix “Ver-”

2 verb pairs with prefix "ver-"Some time ago we added a German Quick Language Game called 2 Verb Pairs with 'ver-'.” Soon after, a few players contacted us with some questions about the Prefix "ver".

No wonder: Among the many German prefixes, “ver-” is a very confusing one. If you agree, you're not alone: in Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals, Volume II (1877-1883), page 253, the author laments about the many “fragmental elements” of the German language:

German language is a dozen fragments of words flung into an octagonal cylinder …. up spring your fragmental elements with Ver's & Be's & Ge's & Er's & lein's & schen's & gung's & heit's & zu's & a thousand other flashing & blazing prefixes, affixes & interjections broiderd on them or hung to them.

Well, even if Twain was exaggerating just a bit, the “ver-” prefix can indeed be tricky and somewhat misleading.

Moreover, “ver-” is just one of a number of inseparable prefixes. (Others are “er-”, “ent-” “emp-“, ”be-”, “ge-”, “zer-”.) At least the inseparable prefixes don't add to a learner's word-order woes.

A Little Prefix "ver-" Language History

Today's German inseparable prefix “ver-” can be traced back to the Old High German “far-”, which originates from a mixture of Proto-Germanic “fer-”, “fur-”, “fra-” and other similar particles. And it's no coincidence that you'll recognize the “ver-” also in the “pro-”, “per-”, “pre-”, “for-” of English and other European languages.

In German the prefix “ver-” appears in three basic ways:

1. As a Simple Prefix.

Examples are:gehen vs vergehen - German Quick Language Game with prefix "ver-"

  • geben – (to give) vs vergeben – as in: Ich vergebe dir. (I forgive you.)
  • kehren – (to sweep) vs verkehren – as in: Er verkehrt in besten Kreisen. (He socializes with high society.)
  • gehen – (to go, walk) vs vergehen – as in: Die Zeit vergeht. (The time goes by.) [Note however, “sich vergehen” means to abuse someone sexually and “ein Vergehen” is a minor offense.]

In the above examples, the prefix “ver-” creates a new meaning with the root verb. Even if you know the meaning of the core verb, you may find the new meaning with the prefix hard to guess.

Many of the root verbs in this category also take other (inseparable) prefixes, such as “er-”, “be-”, “ent-”, etc.

  • ergeben – as in: Ich ergebe mich. (I give up, surrender.)
  • bekehren – as in: Er bekehrt die Ungläubigen. (He converts the unbelievers.)
  • entgehen – as in : Er entgeht einer Gefahr. (He escapes a danger.)

2. As a Prefix that makes the root verb a “faulty action,” or somewhat the opposite of what the root verb implies.

Examples are:

  • kaufen – (to buy) vs verkaufen – as in: Ich verkaufe mein Auto. (I am selling my car.)
  • zählen – (to count) vs (sich) verzählen – as in: Ich habe mich verzählt. (I miscounted.)
  • fahren – (to drive) vs (sich) verfahren – as in: Ich habe mich verfahren. (I got lost driving.)

In these cases, the somewhat opposite meaning can be guessed from the root verb. Here the ver- prefix sometimes corresponds to the English mis- prefix, as in miscount above, to misspell (sich verschreiben), to miscalculate (sich verrechnen), etc.

These root verbs combine only with a few inseparable prefixes. But they do combine with a number of separable prefixes, such as “auf-”. Often these change the root meaning just slightly.

  • aufkaufen – as in: Er kaufte halb Las Vegas auf. (He bought up half of Las Vegas.)
  • aufzählen – as in: Sie zählte alle seine Fehler auf. (She enumerated all his faults.)
  • auffahren – as in: Er fuhr auf das Auto vor ihm auf. (He rear-ended the car in front of him.)

3. As a Prefix that makes the root verb an (often new, different, but somewhat related) action.

This is the most frequent use of “ver-”.

"suchen vs versuchen" German Language Game with prefix "ver-"Examples are:

  • suchen - (to seek, search) vs versuchen – as in: Ich versuche es. (I'm trying it.)
  • binden – (to tie, bind) vs verbinden – as in: Ich verbinde Sie. (I'll connect you.)(Note that there is second meaning of verbinden: to wrap, bandage.)
  • folgen – (to follow) vs verfolgen as in: Ich verfolge ihn. (I pursue him.)

With most of these there are many other separable and inseparable prefixes that let you guess the meaning quite easily.

4. There are a number of verbs starting with “ver-”, where the root verb doesn't have a meaning of its own.

Examples are:

  • verdächtigen – to suspect
  • verdeutlichen – to make clear
  • vergessen – to forget

There are just a few verbs in this category and the root verbs typically don't work with any of the other separable or inseparable prefixes. So you'll just have to learn their meaning.

While prefixes can be confusing at times, they can also provide you with an initial clue of their meaning – especially when you understand the context in which they are used.

Test Your German with the Prefix "ver-"

Depending on how good your German is, you may have fun guessing the meaning of these “ver-” verbs below. You can look up the translation on Google translate or send us a note and we'll return the answers.

Root verb

English translation

“ver-” Prefix Verb

English translation

Category

achten

to respect

verachten

ändern

to change

verändern

ärgern

to annoy

verärgern

arbeiten

to work

verarbeiten

bauen

to build

verbauen

bergen

to recover

verbergen

beugen

to bend

verbeugen

bieten

to offer

verbieten

bitten

to ask

verbitten

brechen

to break

verbrechen

danken

to thank

verdanken

decken

to cover

verdecken

dienen

to serve

verdienen

drehen

to turn

verdrehen

And often, when you learn and remember the root verb, you'll also have an easier time remembering the many derivatives with the “flashing and blazing prefixes”.

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 Editor

Become Bilingual And Feel Great!

Yes, learning a new language is a fun and exciting opportunity - not only to grow in a very useful skill but also for feeling great for many years to come!

In the last few months research has found that bilinguals enjoy many practical advantages: 

Being bilingual can help you find higher paying jobs, improve your ability to perform mental tasks, and slow down symptoms of aging.

We have linked various articles and posts about such research in the past.

TakeLessons Bilingual Infographic

Recently we became aware of an informative infographic by TakeLessons, which summarizes those benefits quite succinctly. You'll find Take Lessons' sources at the end of the graph.

(And if you're not quite ready yet for language lessons, just click on the link below the graph and play a few fun games!)

15 Stats That Prove Being Bilingual is Awesome [Infographic]

Bilingual with Gamesforlanguage Quick Games?

No time or not ready yet for language courses? No problem.

Just play a Quick Language Game or two, when you have a minute. (No registraction required.)

We can't promise you that you'll become bilingual that way, but just maybe, you'll develop a taste for (re)learning and a habit of practicing a foreign language.

And, if you keep at it, YOU can become bilingual as well!

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

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with TakeLessons, other than using its infographic.

 

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 Rettig

German Travel Memories 2 - Michael in Heidelberg

Heidelberg mit Neckar und SchlossVisiting Heidelberg? Exploring this romantic and historic university town will leave you with lots of wonderful travel memories.

Our first German Travel Memories post covered Frankfurt a.M., where Michael, the young traveler, is visiting family. He then takes the train to Heidelberg for his second stop in Germany.

We'll follow Michael's explorations of Heidelberg. For those of you who are doing or have done our German 1 course: Michael in Deutschland, the additional details will complement those of the course.

The Travel Memories blog posts tell you more about each of the cities of GamesforLanguage's travel-story based courses. We typically use the cities' real street names, hotels, squares, restaurants, etc. and we've been to many of them ourselves.

In future blog posts, we'll provide more details of the two other German cities Michael visits, Munich and Berlin. And we'll do the same for the cities that our other travelers visit in France, Italy, Spain, and the U.S.

In our travel-story course, you learn daily conversational language. The vocabulary listed here is a combination of some words taught in the course as well as other useful travel terms in German.

Quick Facts about HeidelbergHeidelberg view from Castle

The city of Heidelberg lies on the Neckar river, in the south-western part of Baden-Württemberg (one of Germany's 16 federal states).

Because of its stunning location and picturesque cityscape, Heidelberg is a hugely popular travel destination.

A quintessential college town, Heidelberg has a population of just over 150,000, with roughly a quarter of its inhabitants being students.

The city is well known for its university, which was founded in 1386 and said to be one of the oldest in Germany. Over the centuries it has attracted prominent philosophers, poets, and scholars.

In addition, Heidelberg is the location of numerous research institutions, among them four Max Plank Institutes.

After World War II, Heidelberg, which was situated in the American Zone, became the Headquarters of the American forces in Europe.

  • Bundesland (n.) - federal state
  • Lage (f.) - location (of a city)
  • Stadtbild (n.) - cityscape
  • Universitätsstadt (f.) - college/university town
  • Studenten (pl. m.) - students
  • Philosophen (pl. m.) - philosophers
  • Forschung (f.) - research
  • Forschungsinstitut - research institute
  • Hauptquartier (n.) - (military) Headquarters, H.Q.
  • die amerikanischen Truppen - the American forces

Arrival in Heidelberg (the Weststadt Neighborhood)

House Zum Ritter in Heidelberg, GermanyFrom Frankfurt, Michael takes the ICE (InterCity) to Heidelberg, a train ride of less than an hour. (You can also take the S-Bahn, or a regional train.)

Heidelberg has 15 city districts. The Central Railway Station is located in Weststadt, the district next to the historic core of the city (Altstadt). It's also where Michael's friends live: on the Schillerstraße.

Weststadt is a residential district dating back to the 1830s. Starting in the 1870s and continuing into the 20th century (a period which is often called "Gründerzeit"), Weststadt experienced a residential building boom and became a highly fashionble neighborhood.

The "Gründerzeit" (literally, "founders' period") - related to the period when the German national state was consolidated under Chancellor Bismarck - coincided with rapid industrialization and economic growth in central Europe.

The architectural style of that time was eclectic and mixed diverse historical periods. So walking through the Weststadt neighborhood, you'll see buildings in various styles: Italian Renaissance, Baroque Revival, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, etc.

  • Hauptbahnhof (m.) - Central Railway Station
  • Altstadt (f.) - historic city center
  • Wohngegend (f.) - residential area
  • Gründerzeit (f.) - economic phase of rapid development (lit.: "founders' period")
  • Bauboom (m.) - building boom
  • Industrialisierung (f.) - industrialization
  • Wirtschaftswachstum (n.) - economic growth
  • Baustil (m.) - (architectural) style
  • Ritter (m.) knight
  • Friedrich Schiller - German philospher, playwright, poet (1759-1805)
  • nach rechts - to the right
  • nach links - to the left
  • geradeaus - straight ahead

Mark Twain's Travel Memories of Heidelberg

Michael and his friends walk through the historic of Heidelberg ("Altstadt").

One of his friends, Renate, points out a hotel, where Mark Twain supposedly stayed during his visit to Heidelberg in 1878.

In that year, Mark Twain was struggling to finish his novel Huckleberry Finn (as some journalists claim), and went on a Europe tour with his family, as a kind of working holiday.

Mark Twain loved Heidelberg (as you can  read in his Travel Book "A Tramp Abroad") and stayed there for three months. 

Possibly, the hotel that Renate points out, is today's Crowne Plaza, built in 1838 as Hotel Ernst, and located in the Old Town on the Bahnhofstraße. Mark Twain first notes in "A Tramp Abroad": "We stopped at a hotel by the railway-station."

Twain continues:

The weather was growing pretty warm,—very warm, in fact. View from Heidelberg castle where Mark Twain made travel memoriesSo we left the valley and took quarters at the Schloss Hotel, on the hill, above the Castle.

As Twain describes it, the Schloss Hotel provided him with a fantastic view: (see view from Heidelberg castle)

"Now if one turns and looks up the gorge once more, he will see the Schloss Hotel on the right perched on a precipice overlooking the Neckar—a precipice which is so sumptuously cushioned and draped with foliage that no glimpse of the rock appears. The building seems very airily situated. ...

Out of a billowy upheaval of vivid green foliage, a rifle-shot removed, rises the huge ruin of Heidelberg Castle, with empty window arches, ivy-mailed battlements, moldering towers ... It is a fine sight to see the evening sunlight suddenly strike the leafy declivity at the Castle’s base and dash up it and drench it as with a luminous spray, while the adjacent groves are in deep shadow."

Journalists and historians have tried to guess why Mark Twain loved Heidelberg so much.

Was it because "Heidelberg" (short for "Heidelbeerenberg"), in fact, means "Huckelberry mountain" as we speculate in Why did Mark Twain like Heidelberg?

More likely, Twain fell in love with the beauty of town itself, and its picturesque riverside setting.

  • Roman (m.) - novel
  • Arbeitsurlaub (m.) - working holiday
  • Heidelbeere (f.) - huckleberry
  • Wetter (n.) - weather
  • Aussicht (f.) - view
  • Schloss (n.) - castle
  • Klippe (f.) - precipice
  • raten - to guess

Twain had a love-hate relationship with the German language and his The Awful German Language - an Appendix to his 1880 book, A Tramp Abroad, is a fun travel memories read for anyone learning German.

Heidelberg University

Heidelberg Universität The founding of the University of Heidelberg (1386) was prompted by a curious historical event. At the time of the Great Schism of 1378 (when two popes - one French and one Italian - were elected after the death of Pope Gregory XI), German secular and spiritual leaders supported the Italian one in Rome.

As a result, German students and teachers at the University of Paris had to leave. But, the Italian Pope, Urban VI, allowed the creation of a university in Heidelberg.

During the years 1804 to 1809, a number of writers who were part of the German Romantic movement, spent time in Heidelberg for teaching and research at the university. They included poets such as Clemens Brentano and Friedrich Hölderlin.

In the 1960s and 70s, Heidelberg University became one of the main centers of left-wing student protests.

Today, Heidelberg University is internationally renowned. Its building are grouped in two main locations. 1) In the Altstadt: the Old Town Campus (for humanities), some of whose buildings reach back to 1712, and the Bergheim Campus (for economics and social sciences). 2) In the district of Neuenheim across the river: The New Campus built during the 1960's (for the natural sciences and life science).

  • Universität (f.) - university
  • Gründung (f.) - founding
  • Pabst (m.) - pope
  • Romantik (f.) - Romantic movement in the arts and literature (late 18th-early 19th c.)
  • Dichter (m.) - poet, writer
  • Dichterin (f.) - poet, writer
  • Linker Studentenprotest (m.) - left-wing student protest
  • Ort (m.) - location, site, place
  • Unigelände (n.) / Campus (m.) - campus

Heidelberg SchlossDas Schloss

A Renaissance ruin and well-known landmark, Heidelberg Castle is nestled on the slope of the Königstuhl hill, 300 feet above the city of Heidelberg.

To go up to the castle from near the center of town, you can take a funicular to the Molkenkur station, and from there change to another funicular up to the castle. In all, it's about a 15-minute ride, and the view from the top is fantastic.

First built in 1890, the two Heidelberg mountain railways (Bergbahnen) underwent various building phases, renovations, and additions to meet current safety standards.

  • Ruine (f.) - ruin
  • Abhang (m.) - hillside
  • Wahrzeichen (n.) - landmark
  • Standseilbahn (f.) - funicular (cable car on a slope)

Further sights may interest you:

Other Places to visit in Heidelberg

Studentenkarzer: The Student Prison (part of the old university), which was used from 1778 to 1914.

Philosophenweg: The Philosopher's Walk is a pathway that the university's philosophers frequented. It runs along the side of Heiligenberg and provides spectacular views of the castle and the city.

Alte Brücke: The Karl Theodor Bridge goes over the Neckar river joining the two historic parts of Heidelberg.

Königstuhl: Instead of taking the funicular up to the summit, you can also make the Königstuhl (King's Chair) a destination for hiking.

For anyone interested in poetry, click on Poems about Heidelberg (Heidelberg in der Dichtung) 

Michael's Next Stop

Munich HofbräuhausFrom Heidelberg, Michael takes the Intercity to Munich. There he stays at a hotel, visits the Hofbräuhaus (see picture ), and spends the evening with friends in Schwabing, a lively student quarter.

We'll soon tell you more about Munich in our future post "German Travel Memories - Michael in Munich"

Register or log in again to continue with the German 1 course.


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.

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