Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Why Context is Essential for Language Learning

Languages GlobeRecently I read again Steve Kaufmann's post Meaningful Context in Language Learning. He tells the story of a Chinese family.

The family immigrated to Canada 12 years ago when the daughter was 4 years old. She is now 16 and speaks English fluently, while her parents still have great difficulties and can't speak English well at all.

Steve traces their lack of English language skills to the fact that English is not very important to them. [...] They don’t have a strong sense of wanting to participate in an English-speaking society so there isn’t that context of wanting to participate in the language, but context goes beyond that.”

Clearly, lack of exposure to the new foreign language – as so often happens in immigrant enclaves in all countries – may well be the main reason the parents in Steve's anecdote never learned to speak English fluently.

In their daily lives, English did not occur in a “meaningful context for them,” and that may explain why they were not motivated to learn.

Why immigrants learn or do not learn the language of their new country is a complicated question. It involves issues of time and money, stresses of daily life, problems with assimilation, integration into the local community, the language used at work, availability of resources, etc. All or any of these may hold a person back from becoming functionally fluent in a new language.

Comprehensible Input

Steve Kaufmann argues that to get beyond just the basics of ahand on laptop - Stock Unimited language, a learner has overcome personal hurdles and also learn with interesting comprehensible input.

That means being exposed to language materials that are relevant, that “resonate” with a person's interests.

With all the technology available these days, you can be pretty much in control of your own language learning, though sometimes this may be a hit-or miss process to find your level.

To get the right kind of exposure to your new language, you can set up the right context for learning your new language by reading books and articles, listening to audios, watching films and videos that genuinely interest you.

But just LISTENING alone will not let you learn a new language unless you have a way of figuring out what the sounds and words of the new language mean. Whatever you're listening to has to be comprehensible - language that you understand, at least about 80% of it.

The Story” and Games

French Dialogue screenshot - Gamesforlanguage.comOur approach at GamesforLanguage is one way of providing “comprehensible input.” We teach vocabulary and grammar structures with short games and “The Story” - a sequential and connected series of dialogues and short narratives that tell of a young man's travels in one of four European countries.

While the different games help the learner to practice all four skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking), the dialogues and narratives introduce and repeat grammatical structures, which he or she will recognize and/or, at times, be alerted to.

For example, already in the second Scene (lesson) of our French 1 course, Deal no Deal screenshot - Gamesforlanguage.comwe bring in the subjunctive, with the sentence “Je suis contente que vous parliez...” in our dialogue (above left). 

We then briefly explain the form “vous parliez in our “Deal no Deal?” game (see right). Twenty Scenes later, the expression “je suis contente” is used again, but with the subjunctive of another verb.

Will we teach all subjunctive forms of these particular verbs? No, but the learner is alerted to the context in which such forms are used and will soon start to recognize new subjunctive forms as they come up.

The Limitation of Flashcards

I love flashcards and we use them in our games. Learning vocabulary is clearly necessary and flashcards are a great tool for that.

But simply memorizing lists of words is not enough to really understand and speak a foreign language. Individual words are the building blocks. But you need to know how to build sentences with them and how these relate to each other in a conversation. 

The goal is to internalize how the language works for communication, in other words, the grammar rules that govern speech. That is best done in context. In addition, you have to understand what language fits into the given context.

Why Context Matters - An Example for French

Taking a sample French “core conversation,” in our French 1 course, I'd like to show how learners would focus on different aspects of the language at different stages of their learning, and why context is important:

In this short dialogue, a young man, Daniel, is at the home of a friend. There he meets Mathilde for the first time.

woman shaking hand - Gamesforlanguage.comDaniel: Bonjour Mathilde, enchanté de faire votre connaissance.
Virginie: Daniel, ne sois pas si formel. Vous pouvez vous tutoyer!
Daniel: Ça ne te dérange pas, Mathilde?
Mathilde: Bien sûr que non.

Hello Mathilde, delighted to meet you.
Daniel, don't be so formal. You (two) can say tu to each other!
You don’t mind, Mathilde?
Of course not.

Initially you may mostly focus on:

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

Soon, you may also want to know:

  • basic conjugations of the verbs used: faire, pouvoir, déranger, tutoyer, être
  • negation in French with ne ... pas: ne sois pas; ça ne dérange pas

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

  • sentence structure: the form of a statement, a command, a type of question
  • other grammatical forms: the imperative of être: ne sois pas [tu]; a reflexive verb with a reciprocal meaning: vous pouvez vous tutoyer

Key Points to consider:

What is important about the context the dialog provides?

  • the age of the people (here they are students in their twenties)
  • how well people know each other
  • the circumstance of the conversation

Why take a conversation rather than individual phrases or sentences?

  • you'll better remember the words/phrases related to the context
  • you'll pick up cultural information (i.e. students say “tu”)

What will you have learned initially, and later on, either explicitly or intuitively?

  • 20 useful words, in a meaningful context
  • negation with ne ... pas
  • 5 verbs and a conjugation of each (Conjugations are shown in the game: Deal no Deal?)
  • 3 types of sentences
  • an imperative form of être and a reflexive form of se tutoyer

Once you've absorbed a few dozen conversations and acquired more than friends in a coffee house conversation - Yay Images500 content words, you're probably ready to engage in relevant, personal conversations with others.

Based on our own experience of learning several foreign languages as adults, we know that we can best retain and apply words and phrases when they relate to objects, actions, feelings, etc. that we encounter in our own life. (That's why we chose a travel story.)

We have found that it's best to learn a language in the context of a topic that interests us. It lets us recall words and phrases as part of meaningful statements, questions, etc. Moreover, when we use them in new sentence combinations, applying the grammar rules becomes much easier.

Discovering grammatical structures in context during the learning process is rewarding and more effective than drilling conjugations, tenses, etc.

Once we're out of the basics in a language, it's helpful to get more detailed grammar explanations. Sometimes though, explanations are just confirmations of our own discoveries.

There are plenty of ways to get comprehensible input” for many of the more popular languages. The extensive offering of free or inexpensive apps and online courses will allow you to choose and combine different approaches that fit your needs and learning preferences.

Real Conversations

People in Sevilla - Gamesforlanguage.comFinally, practicing your language in real conversations is a must!

As the Finnish born linguist Dr. Marjo Mitsutomi describes in Some Fundamental Principles of Language Teaching and Learning, you need interaction with others (speaking and writing) about topics that are relevant to you.

She argues: “mere exposure is not sufficient … interaction in the language is needed in order for the learner to communicate personal meaning in the target language. [...] Language practice which takes place in relevant context will then result in the acquisition of the language.”

Or, said in a different way: If your goal is to engage in relevant, personal conversations with others – the “context approach” is a good way to get there. 

As the Language Lizard Blog stresses, the value of context should be remembered even when teaching language to young children: “We use language for communication and therefore it is best learned in its natural form: through discussions, conversations, and stories.”

Yes, certainly, gestures, pointing to objects, repeating, etc. are all ways children learn to speak their native language(s). But from very young on, language for children is also a back and forth between them and others.

Adults who live in an immersive language environment can improve their new language skills tremendously if the language engages them in the context of their daily lives (and, in addition, if they practice speaking, and study reading and writing, as children have to do as well).

The Process of Communication

When you speak with someone in a foreign language, many things communication - Jay Imageare happening all at once. This involves multiple skills.

You need to follow the stream of sounds, catch where words start and end, interpret what the words mean, and create responses.

As far as it's important to the meaning, you have to figure out the essential grammar. (Is the verb in the present, past, or future? What pronouns or personal verb endings are used?, etc.) You also have to understand what kind of sentence it is. (Is it a question, a statement, an exclamation, a request or command?)

On top of this, it all has to make sense in the context of the situation. At the same time, you have to keep up your side of the conversation. Your brain has to construct meaningful responses, and you have to produce the right kind of sound stream to be understood.

That's a lot going on at the same time. All conversations from basic to advanced take place in a specific context.

Sounds are key. We know that imitating and producing sounds starts early in childhood. Learning to hear and say sounds forms part of a child's brain development.

However, as we grow up, we lose our ability to HEAR and DISTINGUISH sounds that don't exist in our native language (See our post: Beyond "Learning a Language Like a Child"). While this also makes it harder to sound like a native, it does not prevent adults from becoming quite fluent in a second or third language.

If you're not in the country and don't have a live community that speaks your new language, you should head to one of the virtual “language learning communities,” which Kirsten Winkler, Founder and Editor of EDUKWEST, calls Pubs of the Global Village. There, you can practice what you know and you'll continue to learn and improve your vocabulary and pronunciation - until you sound (almost) like a native.

We like italki a lot and use it ourselves to practice some of our languages. But there are many other language exchange sites such as Speaky, HelloTalk, WeSpeke, Tandem, etc. where you can find conversation partners.

It may take a little time, but you are likely to find someone with whom you can talk in your target language about topics that interest both of you. 

And that's when your language studies really start to pay off: When you can have an interesting conversation and are really communicating with another person in their language.  

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

Posted on by Peter & Ulrike Rettig

The Languages of Curious George – and Documentary

Margaret and Hans ReyWe recently joined the Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about the lives of the Curious George creators, Hans and Margret Rey.

Before settling in the US they had traveled to and lived in several different countries. 

The Rey's Curious George books have been translated into many languages after they were first published in the US in 1941. Curious George, the little mischievous monkey they created, had different names in other languages, but the images stayed the same.

Curious George's Other Names

Readers of this post may know Curious George by his other names, to just name a few:

French: “George le singe”

German: “Coco”

Italian: “Curioso come George”

Spanish: “Jorge, el Curioso”

Portuguese; “George, o Curioso”

Dutch: Nieuwsgierig Aapje

Danish: Peter Pedal

Swedish: Nicke Nyfiken

Finnish: Utelias Vili

Hungarian: Bajkeverö majom

I remember reading “George le singe” to my niece in Switzerland while learning French at the same time.

Margret and Hans Rey's Story

This Wikipedia excerpt summarizes the Rey's storyThe Journey that saved Curious George - Amazon

Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in Hamburg, Germany, as was his wife Margret. Hans' and Margret's fathers were German Jews; Margret's mother was not. The couple first met in Hamburg at Margret's sister's 16th birthday party.

They met again in Brazil, where Hans was working as a salesman of bathtubs and Margret had gone to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany. They married in 1935 and moved to Paris in August of that year.[3]

They lived in Montmartre and fled Paris in June 1940 on self-made bicycles, carrying the Curious George manuscript with them.[4][5]

If you'd like to learn more about the Rey's wartime escape from Paris, the book by Louise Borden and Allan Drummond, The Journey that saved Curious George, tells the full story (see picture right) 

Our Connection to Curious George

When our children grew up, we read to them from several of the The Rey Center - Waterville Calley, NHCurious George books. They also watched some of the early animated Curious George films on TV.

We've now enjoyed for many years the programs organized by The Margaret and H.A. Rey Center at the Curious George Cottage, in Waterville Valley, NH. It's the place where we spend our summers hiking, swimming, playing tennis. During the winter months, we often come up to ski.

Just last week, we listened to the Center's 2016 Artist-in-Residence, Nicky Philips, as she explained her project for a musical about the Rey's lives.

While we never met Margret and Hans in Waterville Valley (Hans died in 1977 and Margret in 1996), we know many who did.

And when we received the kickstarter invitation from Ema Ryan Yamazaki, we did not hesitate.

The Documentary Project

The Curious George Documentary projectHere is Ema's description of her project as posted on the Center's website: (see also the link with video below)

Some of you may know that I’ve been making a documentary about the creators of Curious George, Hans and Margret Rey. Using animation, archival materials, and interviews, the documentary explores the extraordinary lives of the Reys, who fled the Nazis on bicycles with the first Curious George book in their possession.

The documentary also features Waterville Valley, a place the Reys made their summer home, as we learn about the Reys from Waterville residents who knew them, and their experience of watching the Reys create the Curious George books.

In making this documentary, I’ve made three trips to Waterville Valley, including a week of filming last summer as I interviewed those who knew the Reys, as well as the beautiful landscape of the valley. Out of all the places the Reys lived in, from Hamburg to Rio, to Paris, to New York, Waterville Valley is the only place I still very much felt their presence. I can understand why the Reys picked Waterville as a place to call home – it’s special, and I believe that comes through in the documentary I am making.

From Tuesday, July 26, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete the documentary. Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform where projects can connect with “backers” who support projects in return for rewards. We have 30 days to raise $175,000 – it’s an all-or-nothing deal, meaning if we don’t make our goal, we don’t receive any of the funds. So we need your help!

Join us on our journey in completing this documentary. Who the Reys were is why we have George today – and I’m determined to share their story. Check out our Kickstarter campaign, pick your reward (we have quite an array of offerings, from limited editing Curious George mugs to signed movie posters!), and help us spread the word through emails and social media. We are so close in making this film a reality, and are now turning to you to make that possible.

Kickstarter Link: biy.ly/CuriousGeorgeDoc

Ema Ryan Yamazaki Director/Producer/Editor

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/curiousgeorgedocumentary/

Twitter: twitter.com/CuriousGDoc

Instagram: instagram.com/curiousgeorgedoc/

The Rey's Languages

At last week's talk at the Rey Center, we learned from Nicky Philips that she had visited the Grummond Children's Literary Collection in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This Center had received the Rey's entire literary estate when Margret died in 1996.

As Nicky was researching details about Margret's and Hans' lives, she came across many letters they wrote to each other.

Both spoke German as their native language. Hans had worked in Buenos Aires as a salesman of bathtubs (and where he married Margaret) and spoke Portuguese. They both lived in Paris from 1935 to 1940 and were quite fluent in French.

Interestingly, Nicky found, when looking through the many boxes at the Grummond Center, that all of Margret's and Hans' correspondence with each other was in English.

Those who knew them in Waterville Valley don't recall ever hearing them talk to each other in German either. Maybe they abandoned their native language after having to flee their home country and then their second home in Paris from the Nazis 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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

 

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

"MosaLingua" - Learning Italian - A Review

Mosalingua - Gamesforlanguage.comHave you heard of MosaLingua? I hadn't, until a few weeks ago, while I was looking for an iOS app to practice and improve my Italian.

I had put Italian aside for a couple of years, because I wanted to focus on Spanish (and was afraid of interference between the two languages).

It's been a nice way to ease myself back into Italian. I've actually found that using a different program for Italian (than for Spanish) helps me to minimize interference between the two. (I have a visual memory. When I'm recalling a word, I also remember the visual context in which I learned it.)

WHAT IS MOSALINGUA?

MosaLingua is a range of flashcard-based vocabulary apps for iPhone,Mosalingua Flashcards iPod, iPad, and Android devices.

It has a great, uncluttered design, easy to use layout, and a number of cool features. 

The vocabulary you learn is extensive and highly practical. Moreover, you can choose what to learn and at what level.

Your learning is driven by a spaced repetition system for refreshing your memory. Ideally, whatever you learn will be reviewed 8 hours later, then 2 days, 8 days, 1 month later, at which time it should be in your long-term memory.

Currently, there are apps for 6 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Brazilian Portuguese, and for any language combination between them (eg. French for Italian speakers; German for Spanish speakers, etc.).

There are also individual applications that teach Business language, Medical vocabulary, and, for those learning English, Test preparation for TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] and for TOEIC [Test Of English for International Communication].

CONTENT SETTINGS, LEVELS, CATEGORIES

Mosalingua offersWhen you start, you're asked to set a learning objective: Travel, Speak and socialize, Work and do business, Improve grades, Pass an exam, Other. You can change your objective at any time.

Within an app, you can change the teaching language. I, for example, have the option to learn Italian from any of the 5 other languages. At the moment, my "preferred language" setting is English.

My husband Peter is currently using Spanish as the teaching language to practice his Italian. He actually says that it helps him to not mix up the two languages (as he usually does).

In a couple of weeks, I'll start learning Italian from Spanish to find out whether it works for me as well.

When you begin, you can take a "Level test" (find this in "Settings"), or you can choose a level of difficulty to start with. You can change the difficulty level at any time. Italian has 12 levels.

Next, choose what type of vocabulary you'd like to start with. For Italian, there are 16 Categories and 4 Episodes of a Travel Story: Fabrice's Trip to Cambodia.

The categories include many which you'd typically find in a travel guide, e.g. Eating, Accommodation, Transportation, Shopping, Tourism, Emergencies, Time and Weather, etc. But there also are others, such as Hobbies, Socializing, People, Telecommunications, etc.

Optional Packs for the more advanced users offer further possibilities. There are many materials included in the fee-based Italian apps, as the above screenshot shows. You'll find over 3,000 Flashcards, organized in 16 main and 100 subcategories and 10 levels of difficulty, Tips for studying, 37 Dialogues, 200 "Bonus" items, and more.

Just for registering on MosaLingua's website, you can download an ebook: "The 6 essential tools to learn a language," as well as 5 Phrasebooks (French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Portuguese), and more. 

LEARN and PRACTICE

Mosalinguag Learning stepsNow, you're ready to start learning the 5 flashcards that show up.

You'll follow these Learning Steps:

  • Listen & Pronounce: Then Repeat and Record.
  • Memorize: An English cue and a picture help you remember the word or phrase.
  • Write: You translate words, or arrange words into short sentences.
  • Self-Assessment: You test yourself with an English cue and a picture. Your self-assessment determines the recall schedule. (You can choose: Again, Difficult, Good, Perfect.)

(As I already knew the first batch of Italian words, I clicked on "Perfect," only to be alerted that this "assessment" will not provide any information for the recall schedule. So, I set a more difficult level and switched to "Good" for the next few times.)

You'll practice these flashcards again eight hours later or the next day, before you start learning with new flashcards. 

DIALOGUES

There are 34, Dialogues. The audio of each is about 60 to 90 Mosalingua Dialoguesseconds long. They depict specific situations, such as Introducing yourself, Taking a taxi, Talking about your trip, Buying a bus ticket, On the phone, etc.

As with individual words and phrases, you can listen to the full dialogue with several options: Audio only, Audio with target language subtitles, Audio with English subtitles.

With each of these options, you learn a little differently. Following a conversation by just hearing it, allows you to focus just on the sounds, while your brain figures what the rush of words means.

It's exhilarating to suddenly start getting the meaning of what you hear.

Finally, you can choose to go through the dialogue sentences to memorize them, with the option of adding any of them to your learning stack.

Under the section "Dialogues," you'll find "Travel Stories." With these, you not only learn travel language, but also follow the adventures of Fabrice on his trip to Cambodia.

At this time, there are 4 Episodes in Italian. The approach is the same as with other Dialogues.

GRAMMAR LATER

There are few explicit grammar lessons in the early MosaLingua lessons.

Co-founder Luca Sadurny explains: "In my opinion, it's best to start to learn a language by listening, memorizing vocabulary, repeating loud sounds, words and sentences. ... Especially at first, when you learn grammar it can be a real drag when learning how to speak. ... But, [grammar] will prove to be useful later on."

We actually do agree with Luca on this. Focusing on grammar rules too early will inhibit you from speaking. Once you have absorbed the basics of the language and acquired sufficient vocabulary, you'll begin noticing and remembering some of the grammatical patterns. And then you'll want to know more about some of the grammar rules.

From time to time, at the end of the day's practice session, some grammar tips do appear, and, I assume more frequently as I progress.

Also, under "Categories" and "Lessons: Tips for Success," you'll find a section on "Italian Conjugation." It explains the conjugation of the auxiliary verbs "to be" and "have," as well as the conjugation rules for the various tenses of regular verbs.

Some of the tips are not available in the "Lite" version.

ADVICE, TIPS

The MosaLingua Italian iOS app, which I am using, offers lots of advice and practical tips. Two quick examples out of many:

At the end of the list of words in Level 0 (The Basics), you can tap on "Our advice on how to initiate a conversation with a stranger." You get practical tips, as well as 12 easy conversation starters. These are flashcards with audio, and a translation. For each, you have the option to add it to your learning stack.

Or, after a flashcard practice, I'm told that I've put them into my long-term memory: "Long-Term Memory? What does it mean to have flash cards in your long-term memory? It simply means that the review sessions for these flash cards will be 30 days apart." 

BONUS MATERIAL

As an inducement for continued study, MosaLingua offers "Bonus Material," which only unlocks after you have reviewed more cards and progressed.

They include historic facts about Italy, quotes of Italian celebrities, Italian proverbs and jokes, as well as further learning advice, memorization techniques, and much more.

As I've just started and have only studied about 50 flashcards to date, there's a lot of bonus material still waiting for me. One of the "language facts" I recently unlocked:

  • Around 59 million people are native speakers of Italian.
  • In total around 85 million people speak Italian around the world.
  • Italian is obviously the official language of Italy, but it's also an official language of Switzerland.
  • You'll find many Italian speakers in Malta, Vatican State, Croatia, Slovenia and France (especially in Corsica). In addition, Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina.
  • etc.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Another example would be these two Italian quotes, which are easy to memorize and help to remember some of words they include:

  • Un viaggio de mille miglia inizia sempre con un singolo passo. (by Lao Tzeu): A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. (I would, however, translate it as: ... always begins with single step.)
  • Ho un'ottima memoria per dementicare. (by Robert Louis Stevenson): I've a grand memory for forgetting.

You then also have the option to click on an icon and "put this flash card in your learning stack (menu 'Memorize')".

COST

The apps are available on iTunes (for iOS) and Google Play (for Android).

See also mosalingua.com for information about the coming Desktop app.

There is a free "Lite" version with reduced content, for each of the languages. Individual language and test apps are +/- $4.99. Business language apps, and app bundles are also available. Check for special offers or discounts.

The advanced learner can buy additional packs: Advanced Vocabulary, Master slang, Sound like a native speaker, Speaking online, Manage at school/university; News vocabulary. (You can find those in Optional Packs, under Categories.)

In Next dialogues (under Travel stories) you can add the final dialogues of Fabrice's trip to Cambodia and his complete trip to the USA, for $2.99.

Compared to the monthly subscription prices of many of the popular online language programs and their free apps, the MosaLingua apps appear like a real deal. And there are the Free "Lite" versions, so you can first try out whether you can learn with them.

Especially when considering that - after purchasing the basic apps - the all-inclusive packs are currently offered at a substantial discount ($10.99 iOS, and $6.99 Android).

WHAT WE LIKE

  • The fun, clean design

  • The feature to record and play back your voice to check your pronunciation

  • Spaced repetition system for memorization

  • Option to set level and choose categories of vocabulary

  • Option to add and remove and word or phrase from the learning stack

  • Frequent advice and practical tips

  • The dialogues to start practicing listening comprehension

  • The forthcoming desktop app for PC, Mac, Linux users

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • For some, the many options may seem a little overwhelming at the beginning. Once you get familiar with it, however, you'll discover many more ways to learn and practice (and to buy other packages).

  • While the iOS and Android apps are excellent, some users may prefer a larger screen and full keyboard. (A Desktop option is in development.)

  • The travel stories are like a "dubbed" film: eg. in Cambodia everyone speaks Italian. A story happening in the target language country could better address what is particular about Italian culture and language.

  • MosaLingua is based on memorization, which is not the only way we learn. For example, longer stretches of listening and reading - without memorization - help the brain to recognize and process linguistic patterns. (We'd advocate more stories.)

  • No online program or app is going to make you a fluent speaker. You need to line up other resources to practice speaking: a tutor, a language-exchange partner, local language meetups, friends who are native speakers, etc.

Both the iOS and Android apps are well made and easy to use. They offer motivated learners a great way to learn and practice their target language on the go, while commuting or waiting.

And anyone traveling to one of the countries whose languages are offered can quickly pick up some essential travel language with the apps and/or with the free phrase books you can download.

 

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

Disclosure: The link above to Mosalingua is to a partner's program with revenue-sharing, should you decide to purchase.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Traveling and Language Learning – They Go Together

world map - Gamesforlanguage.comMaybe you've already traveled this summer and regretted that you didn't understand the language(s) spoken in the countries you visited?

If you can capture that feeling, it'll motivate you to start learning before your next trip!

Or you're planning to travel to a foreign country this fall and believe that it's too late to even begin?

Not so. I won't tell you that you'll be fluent in 30 days. But practicing some essential phrases and sentences is a good start.

Listen and repeat what you hear. That way you'll become familiar with the sounds and the rhythm of your new language. Doing some of this regularly for even just a month will go a long way to make your trip more enjoyable.

If you keep your goal in mind, learning a new language can truly be an exciting project. Besides boosting your confidence and improving your memory, it'll open up a new world to explore, a new way of looking at life.

Blue Latitudes and Captain Cook...

While recently reading Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes - Boldly going where CaptainReplica of "Discovery" - Cook's ship Cook has gone before – I was vividly reminded how different traveling was then: No phrase books, no tapes, no CDs, no online audio, no apps with which to prepare for encounters with the various native peoples of Polynesia, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Cook's three epic journeys between 1768 and 1780 count among the last great voyages of discovery. (picture: replica of Cook's "Endeavour" in Whitby Harbor)

The book makes for fascinating reading, not only because it tells of the explorations Cook made (as well as the damages, health problems, diseases he and his men left in their wake) but also because it recounts the difficulties of communication he and his men encountered.

An example from Cooks landing in Botany Bay in Australia in 1770 (page 151):

Most of the natives fled as the English boats came close to land. But two men stood their ground.

'They called to us very loud in a harsh sounding Language of which neither of us or Tupaia [a Tahitian native who had wanted to sail on with Cook] understood a word,' Banks wrote. 'Parkinson recorded their words as 'Warra warra wai'. Cook, meanwhile, attempted his usual peacemaking, throwing 'nails, beeds, etc. ashore.' ...

Englishmen aboard the First Fleet would later learn that 'warra warra wai' meant 'Go away'."

Traveling Today – an Opportunity to Learn

Eiffel Tower & Trocadero - Gamesforlanguage.comYes, we travelers today are in a different category than the great explorers of the past. We mostly follow well-traveled paths. But we are explorers in our own right. We want to experience new cultures, discover new vistas, meet new people.

From that perspective, learning a new language can be a fresh and fun experience. It should stretch our mind and engage our whole person. One way to do this is to tie language learning to planning our  trip.

As we map out and organize our trip, we anticipate being there. We imagine walking through the old parts of Berlin; gliding through the Venice canals in a vaporetto; looking at the stunning view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro hill in Paris (see left picture); taking a night tour of the Alhambra in Granada.

School Memories?

Some of us remember our school experience. As a teenager, school memories - Gamesforlanguage.comlearning a foreign language sometimes seemed "tedious" and totally unrelated to our lives.

Why memorize lists of strange sounding words and learn phrases we would never use? And, give me a break - why learn the grammar rules of a foreign language?

Worst of all, we had to stand up in front of the class to give a presentation in the language we were learning. Lots of anxiety there.

Now we have numerous options as self-learners to refresh a school language or acquire a new one. If we do it right, it can be both fun and relevant. 

A Running Start

running start - Gamesforlanguage.comHave you ever encountered visitors to the U.S., who don't speak any English? Their experience of America is bound to be limited to looking at sights and taking tours in their own language.

If they're traveling on their own, of course, they would pick up some English along the way. But if they had learned some essential words and phrases before their trip, they would have had a running start.

It's the same for us when we travel. Not everyone in another country speaks English (or wants to). The better we speak the local language, the more deeply we experience the country and its people. Being able to communicate allows us to venture off the usual routes and engage in conversations with those we meet.

New Ways to Learn

The internet has opened a whole new way of learning a foreign language. Sure, some adults may still prefer attending language classes or taking private lessons, when these are offered in their community.

girl on laptop with earphones But for many others, language apps, online learning programs, and online tutors, are quickly replacing or supplementing books and live classes.

Self-learners have access to a large variety of resources in many foreign languages: You can listen to language audios and podcasts, read ebooks and hear the audio version at the same time, watch videos or movies, read news online, participate in language groups and forums. The list goes on.

So, when you have a travel destination, get started on learning some basics in the language that's spoken there. It's a fun adventure in itself.

At the very least, buy yourself a travel guide and study and practice the key phrases it provides.

We'd also encourage you to learn the numbers from 1-100, as they will prove very useful for shopping, making an appointment, paying at a café, etc. (For French, German, Italian, and Spanish, you can practice numbers and many common words and expressions with our Quick Games.)

For the above languages, and if you have more time, you can also use our FREE travel-story courses, or use the online programs of our partners - Frantastique, Lingualia, Language Zen, Lingohut, Moslingua's apps, and iTalki (some of them also have FREE versions).

For those and other languages, we also like Duolingo, LearnwithOliver, Linguaville and LingQ.

Don't wait! Start learning and practicing today. Do it with enthusiasm and with imagination. Find a way to motivate yourself to stick with it. Then travel and speak up!


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

Disclosure: Some links above are to a partner's program with revenue sharing, if you decide to buy or subscribe.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Why Polyglots Also Use Stories for Language Learning

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

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

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

What are “Polyglots”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

Why Stories from the Start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Polyglots Learn With Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Learning With What's Engaging and Interesting to YOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Brexit language and history: 18 German terms you should know

Brexit sign (Updated 8/16/2016)

Over the last few weeks, Europe has slowly been adjusting to the vote by the British people to leave the European Union.

Brexit,” a new word which combines “Britain” with “exit,” has become the generally used term in many languages to describe this event.

It's interesting to read how different news organizations in various countries are explaining and commenting on the vote and its likely effects on Great Britain, Europe, and the world.

But for us language enthusiasts, it's also an opportunity to discover terms and idioms that relate to Brexit in another language.

Here are 18 German terms that may help when you're in a Brexit discussion with German speakers. We'll give explanations and some historic background. You'll also find a separate list of all the German terms at the end of this post.

Volksabstimmung - Referendum

On June 23, 2016, Great Britain held a people's referendum (Volksabstimmung).Brexit decision sign The Brexit vote actually was the second referendum for the British related to the European Union. (Many German newspapers actually also use the term "Referendum.")

In 1973 the conservative government achieved the entry (Beitritt) into the European Economic Community (Europäische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft, or EWG), the precursor of the European Union (Europäische Union, or EU).

This could only happen after the departure of French President de Gaulle, who had twice vetoed Great Britain's entry into the EEC.

At that time, the left wing of the social-democratic Labour Party had opposed joining the EEC and, in order to prevent a breakup (Auseinanderbrechen) of the party, prime minister Harold Wilson decided to hold a referendum in 1975.

In that first country-wide referendum in Great Britain's history, over 67% of the population voted for remaining in the EEC.

History does not repeat itself exactly: Prime Minister Cameron attempted to counteract the rise of the Europe-critical UK Independence Party (UKIP), which was fueled by immigration, the economy, and other concerns, by holding new negotiations with the EU and finally by the referendum.

For many observers, the Brexit vote also marks the culmination of a gradual estrangement (Entfremdung) between Great Britain and Europe over several decades.

Briten Rabatt - Rebate for the Brits

Rebate signFrom the beginning of its membership in the EEC and later in the EU, Great Britain had been able to negotiate special arrangements.

Prime minister Margaret Thatcher is remembered for her words: “I want my money back!” at the EEC meeting in Fontainebleau, France, in 1984. The Germans called the agreement that followed, the “Briten-Rabatt.”

This special rebate meant that two-thirds of Britain's net payments to the EEC were to be returned to Great Britain. This was justified then, as the UK, with its smaller agricultural share, did not benefit as much from the EEC's agricultural subventions as other countries. In spite of this rebate (6 billion Euros in 2014), Great Britain has remained one of the largest net payers in Europe.

Other special rights (Sonderrechte) allowed Great Britain, as well as Denmark, to not join the currency union (Währungsunion) in 1999, which had been part of the Maastricht agreement of 1992 and a goal of the EU.

This allowed Great Britain to remain fiscally more independent and not follow the decisions of the European Central Bank (Europäische Zentralbank, or EZB) – seen by many as an advantage during the recent economic turmoil, the Greek bailout, and other looming bank and debt crises.

Great Britain did not become part of the European Schengen Area (Schengenraum) which instituted open borders between European countries.

Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit - Workforce mobility

A word composed of “Arbeitnehmer” (worker or employee) and workforce mobility - Gamesforlanguage.com“Freizügigkeit” (mobility, permission to move around) was and is a key discussion point for many in Great Britain and the rest of the EU. The realization that the ability to work in other European countries may become severely restricted seemed to concern especially many of the young in Britain.

The attempt to limit the immigration to Great Britain by EU residents (currently around 3 million, including over 800,000 from Poland) was an important argument by Brexit advocates. While British politicians will attempt to secure work mobility for their citizens in the EU, similar to the rights of non-EU members Norway and Switzerland, it's hard to see how this would be achievable without reciprocity for EU citizens in the UK.

(Norway and Switzerland provide residence reciprocity for EU citizens, as long as they have an employment agreement or sufficient other means to live on.)

Brexit Befürworter - Brexit supporters/advocates

supporter-opponentThe German word for supporters, "Befürworter," is another typical German composite word, meaning to “have words for something,” or favoring or advocating something. Brexit advocates argued that the EU's zeal to regulate (Regulierungswut) was hindering Great Britain's economy.

They may overlook the fact that Britain's economy is one of the least regulated in the world and not consider the advantages of easy access to a unified European market (or assume that such access will continue even after the Brexit).

Austrittsverhandlungen – Exit negotiations

Since 2009, Article 50 of the EU agreement gives each member negotiations signcountry the option to leave the EU “in accordance with its constitutional rules.” A member needs to apply for the exit (Austritt) to the Council of Europe (Europarat), which consists of the leaders of each member country.

These negotiations could take as long as two years, and, theoretically, Great Britain could leave the EU after such time, even if the negotiations were not concluded. Most observers believe the latter unlikely, as access to the European market would then stay in limbo.

(Or, within the two year time frame, Great Britain could withdraw its exit request.)

Any agreement would have to be approved by a qualified majority of the European Council and could also be subject of a veto by the European Parliament.

At the time this post is written, Great Britain has not yet made an official request to leave the EU.

In fact, Theresa May, in her first telephone calls after becoming Great Britain's new Prime Minister, with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Holland asked for more time to prepare for the Brexit negotiations

(Much of the information above is based on Vera Kämper's Endlich verständlich: Die wichtigsten Anworten zum Brexit in  “Spiegel Online” as of 6/24/2016 and recent articles in der “Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung”)

German Terminology:

Arbeitnehmer (m) - worker, employee

Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit (f) - workforce mobility

Auseinanderbrechen (n) – break-up

Austritt (m) – exit from an organization, party, club, etc.

Austrittsverhandlung (f) – exit negotiation

Befürworter (m) – supporter/advocate

Beitritt (m) - entry

Briten-Rabatt (m) - Rebate for the Brits

Entfremdung (f) - estrangement

Europäische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft (EWG) - European Economic Community (EEC)

Europäische Zentralbank (EZB) - European Central Bank

Europäische Union (EU) - European Union (EU)

Europarat (m) - Council of Europe, European Council

Freizügigkeit (f) - freedom of movement, mobility

Regulierungswut (f) - zeal to regulate

Sonderrecht (n) - special right

Volksabstimmung (f) - people's referendum

Währungsunion (f) - currency union

Postscript: This article which appeared in the Guardian on August 15, 2016 article sheds some more light on the difficulties Great Britain faces: Theresa May's Swiss holday will show her just how bad Brexit could be

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

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun Italian Language Games Before You Travel

Pisa leaning Tower - Gamesforlanguage.comPlay these 4 fun Italian Language Games a few times before you travel to Italy or to a region where Italian is widely spoken.

The four games in this post are just a taste of Italian, of course. It takes more to become fluent in Italian, but they're a start. And we hope that they'll inspire you to learn more.

For us, knowing some everyday vocabulary, essential travel phrases, and the numbers 1-100 has been a must for our travels in countries where we don't speak the language.

Some Simple Tips

Always say the words and phrases aloud. The more you do this, the better you'll remember them. It will also greatly improve your pronunciation over time.

Focus on practicing any expressions as "chunks" and try not to think about them as individual words. Like that, you'll directly link sound to meaning.

Whenever you can, associate words and expressions with an image in your mind. That way you'll remember them better.

It's essential to repeat words and phrases many times. Hearing or saying something just once doesn't cut it.

Speaking involves using various mouth muscles to produce the right sounds. The term "muscle memory" well describes how we learn to produce sounds that are not in our native language. And ultimately, our brain has to attach the correct meaning to a particular sound sequence.

Whatever your preferred method for learning may be - saying the Italian out loud and writing words and phrases out by hand helps you to internalize the language.

1. Basic Everyday Italian Phrases

Learning greetings and pleasantries in a language is aItalian snapcloud - Gamesforlanguage.com start, especially if you practice them so you can say them spontaneously and with good pronunciation.

There are lots of situations you can use them throughout the day - when getting your morning coffee in a café; visiting the local market; browsing in a store; having lunch or dinner; hanging out in a bar; socializing with new friends, etc.

Click on Basic Phrases or the screenshot right to play this Italian Quick Language Game. "What is it?" may be a question you can ask the waiter when a menu item is unfamiliar to you.

2. Italian Question Words

Question words game - Gamesforlanguage.comQuick questions help you to orient yourself in a city; to get information about when shops and museums are open; to ask for the price at markets; to start conversations with people you've just met, etc.

Common English questions words - with the exception of "how" - begin with a "wh-" sound (which, where, when, why, what, who, whom).

Italian interrogatives have greater variety of sound and form. There are contractions, such as: dov'è (of dove + è = where is). Chi (who/whom) combines with the prepositions a, di, con, and per - which go before. There are three ways to ask "what?": che cosa?, che?, cosa? - which are interchangeable.

Here is a Game to practice the 8 Italian question words. ( Or click on the "Memory game" screen shot, above left.)

3. Italian Numbers

Mastering the numbers gives you a great tool for dealing Italian number 21+ - Gamesforlanguage.comwith daily tasks in another language. But you need to practice them enough to understand them easily and to say them automatically.

Numbers come in handy for setting appointments, paying in stores or restaurants, making reservations, purchasing tickets, etc.

The Italian numbers from 1 to 20 can be easily memorized. And, once you know the round numbers 20, 30, 40, to 90, you won't have any trouble with the numbers from 21 to 100.

One thing to remember is that from 21 on, you contract the compound number slightly when the second number starts with a vowel, which is the case with "uno" (one) and "otto" (eight). So you say "ventuno" and "ventotto" in contrast to "ventitré" or "ventinove." This is consistent right through 99: "novantuno" and "novantotto" versus "novantatré" or "novantanove."

Here's a game to practice the numbers 21 and beyond in a fun way. (Or click on the "Word Invaders" screen shot, above right.)

4. Making a Phone Call in Italian

Balloon Listening game - Gamesforlanguage.comIt's quite a challenge to make a call in a foreign language. But hey, if you do it often, it'll become routine and give you quite a boost in confidence.

When we were staying in Rome, I was the one who regularly called in to make a tennis court reservation at a local club where we played. At first I was nervous and read off what I was going to say. Even then I made mistakes.

After a couple of weeks, though, it became automatic and I actually enjoyed doing the call. It also prepared me for making other and more difficult calls later. 

Every call you make is going to be a little different. But with a little practice, you learn how to prepare and how to deliver what you want to say. 

Here's a Game to learn and practice how to ask for someone on the phone, and possible responses. "Non c'è" is a common phrase meaning that someone isn't there. Click on Pronto or the screen shot of the listening game above left.

Free Italian with Gamesforlanguage

If you enjoy our approach and these games, look for more Quick Games for French, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.

Or why not try our FREE Italian 1 travel-story course: Marco in ItaliaWith its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn close to 750 new words.

But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Italy, or a country or region where Italian is widely spoken.

These include the canton of Ticino (Switzerland), the peninsula of Istria (Croatia), the island of Malta, the state of Monaco, and the micro-state of San Marino.

Any of these would make fascinating travels, by the way!

And, just maybe, you'll also get enchanted by Italian songs such as by one of our Italian favorites: “Dimmi Quando...”. This early 60s song, first performed by Tony Renis – who also wrote the music – was translated into many languages and later sung by Pat Boone, Connie Francis , and others. You can learn more about this song and its lyrics with the typical Italian constructions, by clicking on the above blog post link.

Learning Italian Easy & Fast?

Not everyone will agree with Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot, that learning languages is easy.

But, if you're serious about learning Italian - and even before you buy or subscribe to any expensive courses, you may want to learn more about Benny's approach by clicking on his explanation of Why Italian is easy!

We recently discovered a very effective App for learning Italian: MosaLingua. We like the iOS and Android Apps and you can try out the Italian "Lite" version App for FREE!

And even if you don't have the time or motivation to learn the language to fluency before traveling to Italy or an Italian-speaking region, knowing some basic vocabulary will make your trip more enjoyable.

We certainly always find it helpful to know some key vocabulary and phrases, and who knows, perhaps they will also get you out of some tricky circumstances.

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.

Disclosure: Some links above are to a partner's program with revenue sharing, if you decide to buy or subscribe.

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Do You Need a Language Learning Time-Out?

Time-0ut sign - Gamesforlanguage.comIt happens to many language learners at some point:

The initial enthusiasm for learning a new language wanes.

The app or program that was fun and interesting becomes boring.

You don't reach your daily goal of learning X new words.

You start skipping your language class, etc.

Setbacks happen, and the reasons are legion. But getting back on track doesn't have to be hard.

So, how can you rekindle your enthusiasm?

Here's what has worked for me:

Take a Time-out

This could be a few days or a couple of weeks. Put the books and the dictionary away.

Turn off any reminders you may be getting from your online courses.

Become aware of your thoughts about your original language “project.”

What made you want to learn your new language in the first place?

Has anything changed?

Are you still looking to study or work abroad?

Do you still want to converse with foreign language friends or family members in their language?

Are you still planning a trip to the country or a region where the language is spoken?

If the main reason you started learning the foreign language is still valid, then it's time to look at your study goals.

Review and Adjust Your Practice Goal

Did you set yourself a too ambitious practice goal? Did language learning consume too much of your spare time? How much daily study time is enough? (The post by Languages Around the Globe explores this question.)Rubgy goal kick - Gamesforlanguage.com

Forcing yourself to cram a lot of new foreign vocabulary every day is not only tiresome, it's also not very effective.

That's especially true if you're preparing for a test or exam. Studies have shown that a relaxed mind can learn languages faster.

You could try a more modest and attainable short-term goal, for example 15 minutes a day for 21 days. See how that works. Then set a new goal.

Rather than just studying and practicing, you should plan to include other language-related activities, e.g. watching a foreign movie or video, reading a foreign newspaper article online, reading comics, children's books, etc.

But before you re-start your learning program, you could learn from other language learners.

Get inspired by Blog Posts, Books, Ted Talks, YouTube Videos, etc.

A little extra inspiration can never hurt. Learning foreign languages is a topic that is generating many blog posts and books. Polyglot Benny Lewis is well known for his “Fluent in 3 months” online offer and book. Or watch his Tedx Talk Hacking language learning  where he talks about how he learned 10 languages after the age of 21. He claims that adults are better language learners than children. 

BBC - Alex Rawlings InterviewOr have a look at Gabriel Wyner's book, Fluent Forever, which is already a classic.

A YouTube video that's fun to watch is the interview of university student Alex Rawlings on the program BBC Breakfast (see picture left). At 20, he won a national competition to find the UK's most multi-lingual student.

And if you google “foreign language learning” or join a Reddit language group for your target language, you'll discover many inspiring ideas and tips.

Or, if you have done all of this BEFORE you started on your language learning journey, read some of the posts or books again. You're sure to discover new insights that you may have missed earlier!

Then, armed with these new insights, take a fresh look at your learning and practice tools.

Try out Different Apps, Online Programs, or Tutors

This is key: To get your enthusiasm back, you need to find resources that engage your interest and motivate you to continue learning and practicing.

If you're so inclined, you could use some of your time-out to get a taste of other apps or online programs. You could even schedule a couple of trial lessons with new tutors.

What works for me is using a number of different online programs just for variety.

For example, for Spanish, I play our Spanish Quick Language Games, and listen to our Spanish Podcasts, do a lesson of Lingualia, and review my Spanish Word list on Learn with Oliver.zorro novel title page Recently we discovered LanguageZen and I have been using it a lot for translating sentences.

In the evening, just before going to sleep, I often read a few pages of a Spanish novel.

And no, I don't use ALL of them every day, but at least ONE of them every day.

I always find that when trying out a new online program - as I'm currently doing with LanguageZen - it rekindles my enthusiasm for the language I'm learning.

And sometimes when you change your online tutor - as my wife did recently with iTalki - it provides a new impetus.

When you have reviewed, maybe adjusted your goals, got inspired by the experiences from other learners, settled on your learning and practice tools, it's time to continue with your language learning project again.

Keeping Your Enthusiasm Alive:The Daily Habit

Daily Habit - Gamesforlanguage.comNo matter what you want to become proficient in: math, reading, yoga, karate, basketball shooting, writing, meditation - the key seems to be, any way you google it: daily, steady practice.

Daily language “practice” – and I don't mean only lessons, but any activity which engages you with your target language - will improve your proficiency a little every day.

Eventually that will show up big time, when you are able to read a foreign novel, understand the dialogues in a foreign movie, or participate in a conversation in your target language.

Steady practice will strengthen your self esteem. It'll help you develop the discipline that could easily spill over into some of your other activities as well.

A time-out is the perfect opportunity to decide and plan which language habits to incorporate into your daily life.

While these habits may be different for every learner, they will be essential for making steady progress in your target language.

And feeling that you are making progress will keep your enthusiasm alive.

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.

Disclosure: Several links above are to sites with revenue-sharing arrangements should you decide to buy or subscribe.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun German Language Games Before You Travel

Schloss Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany Are you planning to travel to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or another country where you can use German? (Image left: Neuschwanstein castle, Bavaria, Germany)

Then practicing your German with these German language games may be for you!

In our travels we have found that knowing question words, some basic vocabulary, common travel phrases, and the numbers 1-100 has been very useful in countries where we don't speak the language.

You won't speak German fluently, of course, after reading this post and playing the four games. But you're sure to remember some of the words and phrases, and how to pronounce and use them correctly.

A Few Simple Tips

Always say the words and phrases aloud, or if you're on a bus Speaking aloudor standing in line, mouth them silently to yourself. Then when you're on your own, say them OUT LOUD from memory.

A good way to learn phrases and expressions is to practice them as "chunks" not as a series of individual words.

Idiomatic phrases often have a meaning that's quite different from the sum of the individual words in it. Once you know them, practice them as whole phrases and attach a mental image to them.

Repetition is essential. We rarely learn something just by hearing and saying it once or twice. 

To pronounce foreign words, we have to learn which mouth muscles to use for the right sounds. Each particular combination of sounds has to get lodged in our brain. And, our brain has to connect sound to meaning.

No matter how you like to learn German, speaking words and phrases out loud and writing them out by hand will help you remember them.

1. Question Words

German Question words - Gamesforlanguage.comInterrogatives are a basic tool for giving and getting information, either in casual conversations or when you're shopping, asking for directions, or inquiring about opening and closing times, train schedules, local events, etc.

In English, common question words - with the exception of "how" - tend start with "wh-" (when, where, why, who, what, which).

Common German question words begin with a "v" sound, which is how you pronounce a German "w."

English and German have look-alikes that have different meanings. For example, English "who" is German "wer"; English "where" is German "wo." Also, German has individual words for "where," "where to," and "where from."

Here is a Game to practice German question words. (Click also on "Snap Cloud" screen, above left.)

2. Basic Everyday Phrases

The basic phrases in our game include greetings and pleasantries that you German Basic phrases - Deal no Dealwould use often and in many situations - in a café, at a bar, at a party, in a store, online, on Skype, etc. (Click on "Deal no Deal" screen shot, right)

When you learn conversational phrases and expressions in context, you're focusing on communication. You don't have to think about grammar.

Learn and practice German Basic Phrases with this fun German game.

3. Buying a Train Ticket

Buying a train ticket - dialogue screenGoing by train in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland is one of the pleasures of traveling there. (Click on "Dialogue" screen shot, left)

The network of train and bus connections is huge and with it you can reach many towns and villages that are off the beaten track.

Knowing a few specific terms is very helpful because outside of the cities not everyone is fluent in English. You'll definitely want to understand and say the German for such terms as "ticket," "one-way," "return trip," "change," and other terms involved with buying a ticket.

This Buy a Train Ticket game will give you a good start.

4. Numbers

When you travel to another country, knowing the numbers is a good skill German Numbers Word Invaders Gameto have. But you need to be able to understand them as well as to say them.

Numbers come in handy for talking about schedules, shopping, paying in a café, buying tickets, making hotel reservations, etc.

Knowing the numbers 1-100 is a good start. German numbers up to twenty are easy for English speakers. Then, you have to remember that the numbers from 21 to 99 are turned around. In German you say "one and twenty," "two and twenty," right through to "nine and ninety." It's a matter of saying them enough so they become automatic.

Here's the Numbers 1-20 game to practice the numbers in a fun way.  (Click on "Word Invaders" screen shot, above left)

Even if you don't have the time or motivation to learn a language to fluency before traveling, knowing some key vocabulary and phrases will go a long way to making your trip more enjoyable. It will also be quite helpful in many circumstances, and who knows, perhaps get you out of some tricky situations.

You want to learn more German?

If you're having fun with our approach and these games, you'll find additional Quick Language Games for French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.

Or why not try our FREE German 1 travel-story course: Michael in Deutschland. With its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn over 600 new words.

But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real-life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or one of the other countries or regions where German is widely spoken, such as, South Tyrol (Italy) Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Belgium.

And, just maybe, you like German songs, such as the one my husband often hums in the morning: Guten Morgen liebe Sorgen .... This song was an earworm in Germany in the 90s. You can learn more about it and its funny lyrics by clicking on the song title link above.

We recently discovered a very effective App for learning German: MosaLingua. There are currently iOS and Android Apps, with the MosaLingua Desktop App for PC, Mac and Linux in the works. You can try out the "Lite" version App for FREE!

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She's been 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 on our site on contact.

Disclosure: The link above is to a partner's program with revenue sharing, if you decide to buy or subscribe.

Posted on by Kendal Knetemann

Venice: Romance and Delicious Foods...

Venice travel log - LingohutIf you ever want to practice the Italian you have just learned and enjoy the local cuisine as well, you can combine both in this beautiful place called Venice.  

“Romance” is certainly the word that came to our mind when my husband and I visited this city during a recent mini escape and collected our visual impressions in this Lingohut Travel log (click also on the image) .

Venice, capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a marshy lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Its stone palaces literally rise out of the water.

There are no cars or roadways, just canals and boats. The Canal snakes through the city, which is filled with innumerable narrow, maze-like alleys and small squares.

One of the pleasures of being in Italy is hearing and trying out the language. Spoken Italian is so melodious and expressive! You can learn and practice Italian vocabulary here.

As you can see just below, many common words can be easily recognized by English speakers. But oh, what fun to sound them out!

  • il canale - the canalVenice canal - Lingohut
  • la barca - the boat
  • l'isola - the island
  • la città - the city
  • il palazzo - the palace
  • la piazza - the square
  • il calle - the street, alley

It's in Venice's old town that we discovered our favorite food during our journey through Italy.

I would like to share two places with you. Let me start with the best lasagna and eggplant parmesan we have ever put in our mouths: It was at Osteria Ale Do' Marie. I had never eaten a sea food lasagna before in my life, it was decadent! This place is off the beaten path and visited mostly by locals. 

Another must stop is the Taverna da Buffo nestled in one of Venice’s many squares with a canal running alongside is an ideal romantic place to enjoy a meal with your love or a terrific spot to meet good friends. 

While you sit there eating a delicious meal, from time to time a street performer will stop by and serenade you.  To me it was complete ecstasy, the square was serene and charming. There is nothing better in life than to sit with the love of your life in this surreal environment.

Enough about the ambiance, let’s get to the important stuff, the food.  It was out of this world.  After trying many pizzas, I was thrilled to find the perfect one at Taverna da Buffo.  This thin crusted wood fired oven pizza, with delicious topping and just the perfect amount of mozzarella was mind blowing.  As we all know Branzino _ Lingohutthe mozzarella in Italy can’t be topped.

My husband will tell you that his fish was scrumptious and one of the best he has ever had.  That is saying a lot for him, since he is a fish connoisseur.

We spent three of our evenings in Venice in this quaint square having romantic dinners at Taverna da Baffo.  The first night he ate the “Branzino,” a delicious sea-bass and the other evenings he enjoyed the “Rombo” turbot, a local fish.  In his words “Wow.”

The following may also come in handy:

  • osteria - pub, bar
  • pesce - fish
  • forno di legno - wood oven
  • frutti di mare - sea food
  • artista di strada - street performer

During our first lunch, oh yeah I forgot to tell you, we found this place by accident in the middle of the day while strolling the narrow alleys of Venice, that is when we had the pleasure of meeting Alex Barcaru, the owner. He is such a friendly charismatic young man, always making sure his customers are well taken care of.

During our visit to the restaurant we also got the honor to get to know Diana and Andrei, two very personable and knowledgeable waiters. They were so helpful in sharing what the dishes had and how they were fixed. Stick with their house wine you will not be disappointed. Buon appetito!!!

A different version of this blogpost was published on LingoHut.

Bio: Kendal Knetemann is founder of Lingohut, where free language lessons, activities and articles are making language learning uncomplicated. Communication is our thing!!! Help us grow, share us with your friends and like us on Facebook

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