Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

5 Easy Italian Language Games

Woman writing: "Parli Italiano?"Here's a fun way to learn some Italian words and phrases with 5 easy Italian language games.
Italian is such a beautiful, melodious language, and learning some basic vocabulary and pronunciation is not that hard at all.
Try a couple of these easy Italian games. You'll become familiar with some typical Italian words and sounds, and you may well end up falling in love with the Italian language.

A good place to start are a few common greetings and expressions. Even if that's all you know, it's a great way to engage with Italian speakers, and locals if you're traveling in Italy.
When you play the game, imitate the pronunciation of the speaker - out loud. It's all about "mouth mechanics".
Just thinking the words in Italian won't make you them sound them out right in Italian.

Italian Hello/Good Bye: Ciao1. Hello, Goodbye, etc.

Greetings and polite phrases should definitely be in your language kit.
They signal respect and friendliness.
Click on Italian Language Game: Hello, Goodbye, etc., to learn and practice these essential words and phrases.
They'll become automatic in no time, you'll see.
Being able to say them "like a native" will definitely boost your confidence when in you're in an Italian setting.
Here's what you'll learn in Game 1:
• Ciao - Hi
• Buongiorno - Good morning
• Benvenuto - Welcome
• Per favore - Please
• Grazie - Thanks
• Prego - You're welcome
• Bene - Okay
• Mi scusi - Excuse me
• Arrivederci - Goodbye

Italian Numbers 1-202. Italian Numbers 1-20

Italian Numbers 1-20 are a good next step.
Not only do numbers contain typical Italian sounds, they are really easy to practice even when you're doing something else.
Count steps when you walk, count pushups or weight reps when you exercise, count when you're cutting your veggies, the list can go on.
Click on Uno-Due-Tre: Italian Numbers You can Learn, where you'll find Language Games for Italian Numbers 1-20, as well as another game for Italian Numbers 21 and beyond
This is what you'll learn in Game 2:
• 1 uno
• 2 due
• 3 tre
• etc.

Italian question word game screen3. Italian Question Words

Question Words are the language tools you need for getting information, even if your Italian is limited.
You'll use them for shopping, finding your way, getting together with others, learning what a word means, fixing the time when meeting someone, etc.

Click on Italian Language Game: 8 Question Words.
They are easy to pronounce, but to keep them apart you'll need a little practice. Give them a try!
Here's what you'll learn in Game 3:
• quando - when
• quale - which
• quanto - how much
• come - how
• dove - where
• chi - who
• perché - why
• che cosa - what
(With Italian 2 for Travel on our - also completely free - sister site, Lingo-Late.com,   you can learn and practice 12 questions with “Mi scusi, dov'è...? [Excuse me, where is...? ] - quite useful when traveling and looking for directions.)

Gamesforlanguage.com: Italian "essere" game screenshot 4. Present Tense of  "essere" - to be

As a next step, you may want to learn the present tense forms of the irregular verb "essere" - to be.
Note that in Italian, personal pronouns (I, you, he, she etc.) are often left out unless they are needed for context or clarity.
We include them at first in the game, then drop them in some of the easy practice sentences.
Click on the Italian Language Game: Essere - Present Tense.
Here's what you'll learn in Game 4:
• io sono - I am
• tu sei - you are (familiar)
• lui/lei è - he/she is
• noi siamo - we are
• siete - you are (plural)
• loro sono - they are

Passato prossimo with the present tense forms of "essere":

Note that the present tense forms of "essere" are also used to form the "passato prossimo", the Italian tense you use to talk about past events and actions that are finished.
"Essere" as an auxiliary verb is used mainly with verbs of motion, those expressing change, or verbs that are intransitive.
Examples: lui è arrivato (he arrived, he has arrived); noi siamo andati (we went).

Gamesforlanguage.com: Italian "avere" Quick Game5. Present Tense of  "avere" - to have

Finally, here's a game to learn and practice the present tense of "avere" - to have. Again, the personal pronouns are included at first and then dropped in a couple of the easy practice sentences.
Click on the Italian Language Game: Avere - Present Tense.
Here's what you'll learn in Game 5:
• io ho - I have
• tu hai - you have (familiar)
• lui/lei ha - he/she has
• noi abbiamo - we have
• voi avete - you(pl) have
• loro hanno - they have

Passato prossimo with the present tense forms of "avere":

Note that the present tense forms of "avere" are also used to form the "passato prossimo", the Italian tense you use to talk about completed past events and actions.
"Avere" as an auxiliary verb is used with most verbs (besides movement verbs, verbs expressing change, and intransitive verbs).
Examples: io ho mangiato. (I ate, I've eaten); noi abbiamo comprato (we bought, we've bought).

A few easy language games, even if they're fun, won't make you fluent. But they're a start.
And if they've put you on the language learning road, it's a good thing.
Learning new skills, discovering new places, making new, international friends, is an exciting part of being alive, right?

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

5 Language Tips Before Traveling Abroad

Travel and ContinentsIf traveling abroad is on your horizon, these 5 language tips will make you more confident when you get there. Travel is slowly coming back. Now is the time to start getting ready.

No, these 5 language tips won't make you fluent or have you really SPEAK the foreign language. But just learning to UNDERSTAND and SAY some essential words and phrases will make your trip much more enjoyable.

Anticipating a new travel adventure can be very sweet. It's a lot of fun to figure out where to go, where to stay, and what to see. Plus, it's smart to learn a few expressions so that you can pronounce them well and use them easily.

The benefits of doing so are huge: not only will you feel more confident, you'll also find it much easier to make contact with people there locally.

5 Language Tips Before Traveling Abroad to Build Your Confidence

Colorful numbers1. Make a list of words and phrases

• Think about past travels and try to remember what kinds of words and phrases you had come across and wished you had learned.
• Make a list. It should certainly include greetings, polite phrases, and basic numbers.
• Put these on Flash Cards that you can glance at from time to time.
• If you're are already using a language program or app look for travel-related lessons.

2. Practice pronouncing them

Search online

You can google for help with pronunciation. For example, type in: "how to pronounce X in French" (using either the English or the French word or phrase you're looking for). Google has a surprising number of "translate audio" examples online.

Consult language learning sites

You can also go to various basic language learning sites, but they may teach vocabulary in specific sequences. Just think of Duolingo, Memrise, etc.
You might try, however, our free Partner Site LingoHut. Its lessons are organized by topic and you can access any lesson, any time.
Or, start out with our free sister site, Lingo-Late with its 12 European languages. Our lessons list essential words and phrases. These you can practice in any sequence, including recording yourself and playing back. You'll also find language tips there.

Practice Speech Cartoon3. Set up an easy practice routine



Set small goals

Set yourself goals you can easily meet, and learn your list of expressions in baby steps. No need to rush, you can give yourself all the time in the world.



Practice regularly

If you can find a way to practice 10-15 minutes every day, regularly, you'll make good progress. One way is to add your practice to something you do every day, like having your morning coffee.

4. Engage with the language

Hearing and seeing the language will help you internalize the sounds. You'll also acquire some new vocabulary without even trying.

Watch movies

Watch foreign TV series or movies with subtitles. They should be fun and interesting, something you genuinely enjoy. During the Covid time-out last year we discovered the MHz channel, which we subscribe to via Amazon Prime. It has movies and TV series in a number of languages with English subtitles. We enjoyed the entire Italian Commissario Montalbano series, as well as German, French and Spanish series and movies.

Listen to songs

Listen to songs as you're preparing a meal, or going on a walk. Songs are a great way to learn sounds and words of a language, especially if you sing along. (We suggest songs for German, French, Italian and Spanish on our site. They also include some language tips.)

Read easy texts

It's easy to find posts, texts, etc. online in a language you're focusing on. If you don't know a word or phrase, just google it for the translation, or consult an online dictionary such as Word Reference.
For paper reading, there are plenty of dual language texts available for total beginners.
 

Play language games

Play some language games. See links to a few of ours below.
Plus, a site with games in many languages is Digital Dialects.
We've also enjoyed the game-oriented app Mindsnacks.
Another interesting app that includes games is Mondly. It has a VR (virtual reality) program, and an AR (augmented reality) version.

Clock5. Learn about typical cultural norms

Read up a little on social behavior in the country or region you're visiting. Cultural norms are often reflected in a country's language. For example:
• Are there formal and familiar forms of address and when do you use these?
• What are the local attitudes to time (Are you expected to be punctual or not)?
• How would you politely strike up a conversation with a stranger?
• What are some typical interjections and which are okay to use?
• How do people regard personal space when you talk with them?
• What are the customs for tipping?
• Also: Are there right or wrong hand gestures?

How to Overcome Your Foreign Language Anxiety

It's very common to feel anxious about speaking another language, especially if you've only learned the basics. But there are ways to overcome this anxiety. These are some tips I like to use:

1. Keep your flash cards with you.

Do this before your travels and also when you're there. Know you can consult them any time.

2. Practice in front of a mirror.

You'll get used to seeing yourself speak in the language. Doing this often enough may well dispel any awkwardness you feel when jumping into a foreign language.

3. Record yourself and play back.

You'll get used to hearing your own voice speaking the words and phrases you're learning. Many people find it strange listening to their own voice, even when speaking in their native language. But doing it often enough will make it feel less weird.
(For twelve European Languages you'll find greetings, polite phrases, and more on our sister site Lingo-Late. There you can practice them with Quizlet flashcards and record yourself as well.)

Why make the Effort?

The reasons for making an effort to learn some language basics for traveling are both personal and practical.

You won't feel like an idiot.

When you arrive in a country where you don't speak the language, you won't feel like an fool. When people greet you, you'll know how to greet them back. You'll have a few polite phrases at your fingertips, including "excuse me", "yes", "no", and "I'm sorry".

You show respect.

Your language efforts are a sign of respect for the country and its language. Often this can open all kinds of wonderful opportunities you would otherwise not experience. You may find that people are eager to share tips on what to do or see locally. In any case, a few expressions will help you start a conversation, even if you then have to switch to English.
 

You'll benefit your brain.

A benefit you may not have thought about is that learning and speaking another language clearly benefits your brain. As Sanjay Gupta MD says in his book "Keep Sharp. Build a Better Brain at Any Age " (2021): "The complexity of a new skill is critical. You need to use your mind in a manner that gets you out of your comfort zone and demands more long-term memory."
Using a foreign language locally in a country where it is spoken is definitely a complex skill and surely will take you out of your comfort zone. Plus, the new experiences that your contacts with locals make possible, will help to "rewire" your brain and make it more resilient.

Additional Readings

5 Reasons for Learning a Language before you Travel 
How to Relearn a Dormant Language

Four Fun Language Games to Play Before You Travel

Spanish: Practice Numbers, Question Words, Common Adverbs, Everyday Phrases with 4 Fun Spanish Language Games
German: Practice Question words, Basic Phrases, Numbers, Buying a Train Ticket with 4 Fun German Language Games
French: Practice Everyday Phrases, The Verb "être", Numbers, Practice French Sounds with 4 Fun French Language Games
Italian: Practice Basic Phrases, Question Words, Numbers, Making a Phone Call with 4 Fun Italian Language Games

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's 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 right here!

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Canal Boating on the Canal Latéral à la Loire

Docked @ Canal Latéral à la LoireI recently remembered our canal boating trip on the Canal Latéral à la Loire of a few years ago. A friend had just come back from a trip in the Bourgogne in early August and had shared with us the good and the bad. (His experience prompted me to write about Chartering a Canal Boat in Europe on our sister site Lingo-late.)

Chartering a boat on the Canal Latéral à la Loire was our second canal boating experience in France. We had previously cruised the Canal de Nivernais from Corbigny to Joigny. (see Locaboat map below)

This time we were going from Decize to Briare on the Loire, or as we quickly found out, actually on the Canal Latéral à la Loire. On that stretch, the Canal Latéral à la Loire counts 23 locks (écluses) on a length of 132 km (or 82 miles). Our trip took one week.

Choosing a Canal Boat and Route

Locaboat map Decize to BriareAs always, organizing a canal cruise takes a bit of planning.

I like one-way or round-trip cruises, so you get new impressions and vistas every day. As we only had one week, though, we also needed to be aware of the distance and number of locks and bridges that had to open.

I first contacted Locaboat (we'd had a good experience with them before) for a one-way cruise from Dompiere to Briare, or vice versa.

However, for our time period (early September), they did not have a boat with three separate cabins. But we were lucky. For a one-way trip from Decize to Briare the first week of September, we found the perfect 3-cabin boat with Crown Cruise Lines (now part of Le Boat).

Our chart showed us that the “Tirant d'air” (T.A.), or bridge clearance was 3.50m (11.5 ft) and the “Tirant d'eau”(T.E.) or maximum draft was 1.80m (5.9 ft), both no problem for our boat.

Crusader 54The Crusader-type boat is popular because of its 3 cabin/3 head layout (see picture) and worked really well for us. It had an upper deck and could also accommodate the five bicycles for the five of us.

And, always an issue on one-way trips, the charter company would (for a fee) drive our car to Briare, so we had it available when we arrived.

We knew that the Loire was only navigable for a short stretch from Nantes to Angers. The river however feeds the adjacent Canal Latéral à la Loire which was constructed between 1827 and 1838. It links the Canal de Briare - which connects to the Seine and Paris - to the Canal du Centre.

Indeed, the French waterway network is quite extensive: From the Mediterranean Sea you can reach Le Havre or Dunkirk on the French Atlantic Coast. And, continuing via several canal options to the Rhine, you can even get to the Netherlands and Germany's Baltic coast.

Getting to the Boat

Crew on Canal Boat in MarinaWe set off from Fribourg, Switzerland, where Ulrike and I were visiting my sister Ingrid. She had been a regular crew member on many of our sailing trips along the US Coast and the Caribbean, and would join us this time as well.

Our friends Candy and Bill had flown in from Boston a few days earlier. We picked them up at their hotel in Geneva on our way into France on Saturday morning.

By 4 PM we were in Decize. We completed the charter formalities, checked out the Crusader 54, and happily settled into our new home for a week.

We were able to purchase all we needed for next day's breakfast and had a delicious dinner at Brasserie Maxime's terrace near the river.

On previous canal trips, we typically had breakfast and often lunch on the boat. For dinner, we usually found a local restaurant near the canal or river. And as it turned out, this was going to be the case this time as well.

CANAL BOATING WEEK

The first night, we stayed in the Marina, and the next day we were eager to get going.

Sunday

We left the Marina in the morning after breakfast.

In Fleury-sur-Loire, lock #18, the lock-keeper had flowers galore all around the lock. We tied up and then walked up to the village with its Romanesque church (late 11th century) and low old houses. In fact, we were delighted to discover that this middle part of the Loire Valley has many village churches that have survived through the centuries, some even from Romanesque times. Because there was an open door policy for visitors, we were able to look at quite a few of them.

Lunch on sun deck @ UxeloupAt noon, we enjoyed lunch on the upper sun deck under a beautiful blue sky near Uxeloup, lock #19.

It didn't take us long to learn that lunch hour is sacred for French lock-keepers. Even our chart advised: “Soyez aimables de laisser aux éclusiers le temps de dejeuner entre 12h30 et 13h30; ils sont à leur poste 10h à 13h par jour, selons les saisons.” (Be nice and allow lock-keepers time for lunch between 12:30 and 13:30. They are on duty for 10-13 hours, depending on the seasons,)

Around 4 PM, we arrived in Plaigny and tied up in the marina. We took our bikes, rode the 3 miles into Nevers and did some sightseeing. The Cathedral St Cyr-et-St Julitte, bombed during WW2, now has beautiful, contemporary stained-glass windows by Gottfried Honegger.

Monday

on the Pont Canal du GuétinAfter breakfast in the Café du Canal, we were on the way again. In the afternoon, we crossed the Allier River via the Pont Canal du Guétin, an “aqueduct” or canal bridge. Rather than staying in the little village with its auberge and restaurant near the bridge, we pushed on.

We were certain that we would again find a little restaurant for dinner near the canal. However, this time we struck out. By 19:30, lock closing time, we were still in the middle of nowhere. A few phone calls later, however, the owner of “La Bonne Franquette” came to pick us up in his car, and we had an excellent dinner in the restaurant's pretty courtyard.

Tuesday

In lock unloading bikesIn Marseilles-les-Aubigny after Lock #25, Ulrike, Ingrid and Candy decided to ride along the Canal on their bikes and do some shopping. Bill and I stayed on the barge and continued on.

When they joined us again at Lock #30, in Herry, they had a few fun stories to tell. Their shopping in French had gone great, they had visited a couple of Romanesque churches, and discovered a fine little art exhibition. We all had an excellent dinner at the restaurant L'Atalante near the canal.

Wednesday

The next morning, we left Herry around 9:30 AM and the women again decided to explore the area on their bikes. They bought some charcuterie and baguettes in one of the villages and joined us for lunch in Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, where we decided to stay overnight.

View of sancerre from Gitton vinyardIn the afternoon, we visited the Gitton vinyard. Pascal Gitton spoke excellent English, as well as German, Spanish, Bulgarian, etc. He was a real character, had many stories, and showed us the old and new barrels, his bottling plant, etc. We tested four wines, 3 Côtes de Duras and 1 Sancerre, and bought several bottles.

From the Gitton vinyyard we had a great view of Sancerre (see picture above)

At night, we had another wonderful dinner, at Le Floroine right at the Canal. Here we tried “crottin” (goat cheese) in all its stages.

Thursday

Talking to lock keeperWe continued to Bannay, Lock #34, where I had my usual chat with the lock-keeper (see picture.)

Then, in Belleville-sur-Loire, a small farming village, we had lunch while waiting for the lock to open. Across from us, directly at the Loire, we saw the big nuclear Power plant, (reminding us that France derives 70% of its electricity from nuclear power today.)

We stayed the night in Beaulieu-sur-Loire, where we took a tour through l'Église St. Etienne. The church building reflects the evolution of architecture over the centuries: Built in the 11th century, it has a Romanesque nave, a Gothic transept and choir, and a Baroque altarpiece, where later some Neo-Gothic elements were added.

Friday

After breakfast, we biked over to the Château Courcelles Le Roi, now an inn, surrounded by parklands and ponds. Not surprising that it has become a picturesque place for weddings. We then continued on the Canal to Châtillon-sur-Loire, which also got us closer to the Loire River again. There, we strolled around the little town, visited a bookshop, had lunch.

Entering the Pont de BriareAfterwards, it was on to our last stretch on the Canal to Briare. There were no more locks and we looked forward to crossing the famous Pont de Briare, another aqueduct, or canal bridge, this time indeed crossing the Loire.

Arriving late afternoon in the Marina, we cleaned the boat, walked around town and concluded our very successful canal trip with a dinner at Auberge du Pont Canal.

A wonderful Trip

With good company and friends, we had also been very lucky with the weather: Sunny skies all week with pleasant temperatures at night, no trouble with the boat, and passing through wonderful little villages and landscapes.

The bike rides along the canal through little villages kept the women busy and entertained, while the men enjoyed piloting the boat, talking with the lock-keepers, and enjoying a beverage or two on the sun deck.

We found our car easily and a few hours later we were all back in Switzerland.

And if you are interested in canal boating in the Netherlands - fewer locks, more bridges - check out this post: European Travels 3: Dutch Language and Canal Boating. And for those who might even consider buying a river barge for a life-time adventure on the European waterways, Eurocanals is the website to consult.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Italian Travel Memories 3 - Marco in Venice

Gondolas in Venice, ItalyDo you have Italian travel memories or are you dreaming about visiting Venice? Exploring this romantic and historic city will leave you with lots of wonderful memories.

Our first Italian Travel Memories post covered Pisa, where Marco, the young traveler in our Italian 1 travel-story course, visits his aunt and uncle. He then takes the train to Florence, and Venice is his third stop in Italy.

In this installment - Marco in Venice, we'll follow Marco's explorations of Venice. For those of you who are doing or have done our "Italian 1 course: Marco in Italia", these additional details will complement those in the course.

Our series of Travel posts tell you about our own travel as well as more about each of the cities of GamesforLanguage's travel-story based courses. We typically use the cities' names of the streets, hotels, squares, restaurants, etc. and we've been to many of them ourselves.

In our free travel-story courses you learn everyday conversational language. Here, we've listed a few additional basic words and phrases in Italian that will help you in your travels.

Brief Facts about Venice

The city of Venice is located in the northeast of Italy. It is the capital of the Veneto, one of Italy's 20 regions (regioni). Venice is also a Metropolitan City (città metropolitana), which includes the city of Venice and 43 other municipalities (comuni).

Venice's origins are traditionally said to date back to the dedication of its first church, San Giacomo in 421 A.D. The name Venice may be derived from the ancient Veneti people who lived in the region many centuries earlier.

Early on, the area of Venice was a Roman/Byzantine outpost. From the 9th to the 12th century, Venice developed into a city state (the other three being Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi).

With its strategic position at the head of the Adriatic, Venice became an international trade and finance center with considerable naval power.

From the late 7th century until the end of the 18th century, Venice was ruled by a Doge, who was elected for life by the city's aristocracy. The word "doge" is the Venetian dialect version of the Latin "dux" (leader) and related to the English word "duke".

After the Napoleonic wars and the Congress of Vienna (1815), Venice was annexed by the Austrian Empire. Italy was unified in 1861. In 1866, Venice became part of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1946 Italy's monarchy was abolished by a constitutional referendum.

Because of its rich cultural heritage and unusual urban layout, Venice has become one of Europe's most popular tourist destination. The city stands on an archipelago of 118 small islands that are connected by 400 foot bridges and 170 boat canals.

The lagoon and the historic part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Marco's Arrival in Venice

Vaporetto on Venice LagoonMarco's train trip from Florence to Venice takes him two hours or so. He arrives at Venezia Santa Lucia, Venice's main train station.

From there, he takes the Vaporetto - water bus - on the Grand Canal to his hotel Antica Locanda al Gambero, located on Calle dei Fabbri, just a few minutes from the Rialto Bridge. (Going to the hotel on foot would have taken him about 20 minutes.)

The historic city of Venice is divided into 6 administrative districts called "sestieri". They are: Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Marco, and Castello.

The hotel Al Gambero is situated in the small, historic quarter (sistiere) of San Marco, where many of the city's landmarks are. He checks in, gets a key, and finds out how he can connect to the hotel's Wi-Fi.

Useful Italian Vocabulary

• il vaporetto - the water taxi
• il sestiere - district, quarter, neighborhood
• prenotare - to make a reservation
• l'albergo - the hotel
• una camera - a room
• il passaporto - the passporto
• la chiave - the key

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco, Venice, ItalyNext day after breakfast, Marco walks over to the Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square). It is usually just called "la Piazza". That is because all other squares in Venice are called "campi" (fields), with the exception of Piazzale Roma. A "piazzale" is a large, open square, and Piazzale Roma serves as the main bus station for Venice and major entrance to the city.

Piazza San Marco (Photo by Francesco La Corte on Unsplash) is named after Venice's patron saint, San Marco, who received that honor in the middle of the 9th century. It was an assertion of the city's independence, and soon after, the building of the basilica began.

For a narrative of the eventful history of la Piazza, see this Wiki Link.

Piazza San Marco is a beautiful square, beloved by visitors and locals alike. At one end stands the stunning Basilica San Marco. Around the other sides of the grand square you'll find many shops, restaurants, and cafés. As you sit and sip your aperitif, it's always fun to watch what's going on: street musicians playing, kids chasing the pigeons, people hurrying about. It's a great place to linger and meet others.

Useful Italian Vocabulary

• il giorno dopo - the next day
• camminare - to walk
• la piazza - the square
• il piazzale - the (large, open) square
• il campo - the field (in certain cities: square)
• l'autostazione - the bus station

The Doge's Palace

Marco has a wonderful time strolling through the Palazzo Ducale, which is also located in the sestiere San Marco. Dating back to the 14th century, the Palazzo Ducale is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, with layers of building elements added over the centuries.

Read up on its history HERE.

The inside rooms and corridors of the Palazzo Ducale are lavishly decorated and filled with collections of paintings and with statues.

Marco is especially interested in the wall and ceiling paintings of Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/19–1594) a master of the Venetian School.

Campo Santa Margherita

In the evening, Marco gets together with Claudia, a student he had met, and some of her friends. They have dinner at the storied Caffè Florian on Piazza San Marco. Then they walk to Campo Santa Margherita, which is located in the sestiere of Dorsoduro.

Originally an industrial area, Dorsoduro is now an artsy, bohemian neighborhood with museums, galleries, palazzos, churches, bars, restaurants, and of course, "gelaterias" (ice-cream parlors). Since the 18th century, Dorsoduro has attracted painters, sculptors, writers, collectors, etc. It's a great place to spend an evening and is frequented by local students and art lovers alike.

Useful Italian Vocabulary

• il pittore - the painter
• lo scrittore - the writer
• un palazzo - a large building
• una chiesa - a church
• una gelateria - an ice-cream parlor
• lo studente - the student (m)
• la studentessa - the student (f)

Saint Mark's Campanile

On Marco's last day in Venice, Claudia suggests they go up Saint Mark's Bell Tower, il Campanile di San Marco. At 98.6 meters high (323 ft), the bell tower offers a gorgeous view of Venice and the Venetian Lagoon.

Have you been to Venice? We'd love to hear some of your suggestions and travel memories!

Marco's Next Stop

From Venice, Michael flies to Rome, the last stop on his Italy trip. That's our last Italian travel memories post. From the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, he finds his way by train and tram to the historic Trastevere neighborhood, where his aunt Grazia lives. As a welcoming meal, she makes "saltimbocca". After dinner, they take a little walk (una passeggiatina) to the Colosseum. The next day, they visit the famous Piazza Navona and afterwards go to a wine bar on Campo de' Fiori.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

French "avoir": 20 expressions and 2 language games

French "avoir" = English "to have" Today we'll take a look at the French verb "avoir", with 20 expressions and 2 language games for practice.

In English "avoir" means "to have", as in "j'ai un soeur" - "I have a sister". But "avoir" also appears in many idiomatic expressions, which are often used in daily conversations.

For some of the expressions, the meaning is pretty obvious. These are the ones that typically combine a form of the verb "avoir" with a noun. In idiomatic English you would use either just a verb, or the verb "to be" plus an adjective. For example: "Elle a du charme" - "She's charming."

For other expressions, it's hard to guess what they really mean. That's because you cannot easily infer the meaning from the individual words.

In either case, idiomatic expressions are fun to use and will make your French sound more natural.
(You'll find the 2 French language games, one to practice the Present Tense, the other with the Passé Composé, below after the 20 French expressions.)

20 Common French Expressions

1. avoir besoin de

Meaning: to need
Literally: to have need of
Sentence: Tu as besoin de quelque chose ? (Do you need anything?)

2. avoir faim

Meaning: to be hungry
Literally: to have hunger
Sentence: J'ai vraiment faim. (I'm really hungry.)

3. il y a

Meaning: there is, there are
Literally: it here/there has
Sentences: Désolé, il y a erreur. (Sorry, there's a mistake.)
Il y a beaucoup de monde à la plage. (There are a lot of people at the beach.)
Il y a du soleil aujourd'hui. (It's sunny today.)

4. il y a + time phrase

Meaning: - ... ago
Literally: it here/there has
Sentences: Je l'ai vu il y a deux semaines. (I saw him two weeks ago.)
Je l'ai connu il y a quelques années. (I met him a few years ago.)

5. avoir l'air

Meaning: to look, seem
Literally: to have the air
Sentences: Ce gâteau a l'air bon. (This cake looks good!)
Tu as l'air fatigué. (You look tired.)
Il a l'air triste. (He looks sad.)

6. avoir envie de [qch] 

Meaning: to want [sth]
Literally: to have wish/desire of [sth]
Sentence: Tu as envie d'une glace? (Do you want an ice cream?)

7. avoir envie de faire

Meaning: to want to do, feel like doing
Literally: to have desire to do
Sentence: J'ai envie de voyager. (I want to travel.)

8. avoir soif

Meaning: to be thirsty
Literally: to have thirst
Sentence: Oui, nous avons soif. (Yes, we are thirsty.)

9. avoir mal à la tête 

Meaning: to have a headache
Literally: to have ache in the head
Sentence: Il a toujours mal à la tête. (He always has a headache.)

10. avoir peur de 

Meaning: to be afraid of [sth, sb]
Literally: to have fear of
Sentences: Ils ont peur de moi. (They are afraid of me.)
Moi, j'ai peur des araignées. (Me, I'm afraid of spiders.)

11. avoir de la peine à faire [qch]

Meaning: to have trouble doing [sth]
Literally: to have some pain/trouble/effort/sorrow
Sentences: J'ai de la peine à comprendre ça. (I have trouble understanding that.)
J'ai de la peine à croire ça. (I can hardly believe that.)

12. avoir des soucis 

Meaning: to be worried, have problems
Literally: to have some worries/trouble
Sentence: Je sais qu'il a des soucis d'argent. (I know that he has money worries.) 

13. avoir tort

Meaning: to be wrong
Literally: to have fault
Sentence: Tu as tort, ce n'est pas le mien. (You're wrong, that's not mine.)

14. avoir lieu

Meaning: to take place
Literally: to have place
Sentence: Ce marché a lieu tous les samedis. (This market takes place every Saturday.)

15. avoir X ans

Meaning: to be X years old
Literally: to have X years
Sentences: Il a quel âge? (How old is he?)
Il a vingt ans. (He's twenty.)

16. avoir le cafard 

Meaning: to be depressed, feel blue
Literally: to have the cockroach
Sentence: Ma soeur ne veut pas sortir. Elle a le cafard. (My sister doesn't want to go out. She's depressed.)

17. avoir beau + infinitive

Meaning: to do something in vain
Literally: to have beautiful
Sentence: J'ai beau essayer, je n'y arrive pas. (However hard I try, I just can't do it. )

18. avoir beau jeu

Meaning: to be easy [to do sth]
Literally: to have beautiful game
Sentence: Il a beau jeu de protester. (It's easy for him to protest.)

19. avoir du pain sur la planche

Meaning: to have a lot to do
Literally: to have bread on the shelf
Sentence: Je ne peux sortir ce soir, j'ai du pain sur la planche. (I can't go out this evening, I'm swamped.)

20. en avoir marre de

Meaning: to be fed up with/sick of
Literally: It's unclear what the origin of "marre" is.
Sentences: J'en ai marre de faire mes devoirs. (I'm sick of doing homework.)
J'en ai marre de cette voiture. (I'm fed up with this car.)

The verb "avoir" is frequently used in conversations, both in its meaning "to have", or as part of idiomatic expressions. Becoming familiar with its forms is a good start. So, go ahead and try those two games below.

2 French language games for fun practice

screen shot of French Language Game: avoir - Present TenseThe first French language game lets you practice the present tense forms of "avoir", and five of the idiomatic expressions above.

With many verbs, the French passé composé is formed with the present tense of "avoir".

Screenshot of French Language Game: Passé Composé with "avoir"In the second French language game, you can review several passé composé forms with "avoir". You would use this tense in French to talk about a one-time event or action that took place in the past.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's 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 right here!

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

German Dative and Accusative Pronouns With Easy Games

confused emoticonDo the German Accusative pronouns and Dative pronouns give you a little headache from time to time? Do you automatically know when to use use the dative or accusative form?

It not, you're not alone. But there's a way to tackle the dative and accusative forms step by step. Here you can start with the German dative pronouns.

The "dative" forms, also known as "indirect objects" are nouns or pronouns that tell you for whom or to whom an action is done.
For example:
You gave my number to him!?
Oh no, you gave her my book?
She showed me her apartment.

In English, the pronouns for the indirect object (dative) and the direct object (accusative) are the same: me, you, him, her, us, them.
However, German has different forms for the dative (indirect) and the accusative (direct) pronouns. The two exceptions are "uns" (us / to us) and "euch" (you-all / to you-all).

German Dative and Accusative Pronouns

Dat: mir - (to) me
Acc : mich - me

Dat: dir  - (to) you, familiar
Acc: dich - you, familiar

Dat: ihm - (to) him
Acc: ihn - him

Dat: ihr - (to) her
Acc: sie - her

Dat: Ihnen - (to) you, formal
Acc: Sie - you, formal

Dat: uns - (to) us
Acc: uns - us

Dat: euch - (to) you-all
Acc: euch - you-all

Dat: ihnen - (to) them
Acc: sie - them

So, how to navigate this grammatical jungle?
Start by becoming familiar with the forms. A good way to do that is by practicing some simple sentences that will help you to get the words and the sounds into your brain.

Geben, zeigen

The verbs "geben" (to give) and "zeigen" (to show) are very useful for learning dative pronoun forms.

It's pretty clear that one gives "something" (direct object /accusative case), "to someone" (indirect object /dative case).

And, that one shows "something" (direct object /accusative case), "to someone" (indirect object /dative case).

Sehen, kennen, suchen, anrufen

The verbs "sehen" (to see), "kennen" (to know, be acquainted with), "suchen" (to look for), and "anrufen" (to call, i.e. phone) clearly take a direct object (i.e. the accusative pronoun).

To help you make these forms intuitive, we've put together some games. One for Dative pronouns, one for Accusative pronouns, and a third one where you choose between Dative and Accusative.

Screenshot of Gamesforlanguage Dative GameThe Dative Pronouns Game

In the Dative Pronouns Game, you'll first review the dative pronouns and some vocabulary. You'll then put basic sentences together. To ace the Dative Game, you may want to play it a couple of times.

Ich gebe ihm den Schlüssel. (I'm giving him the key.)
Kann ich Ihnen meine Handynummer geben? (Can I give you my cell number? [formal])
Geben Sie uns doch Ihre Adresse. (Do give us your address.)
Warum gibst du mir das Buch? (Why are you giving me the book?)

Sie zeigt ihnen die Zeitung. (She shows them the newspaper.)
Er zeigt dir den Stadplan. (He shows you the city map.) [familiar]
Wir zeigen ihr das Foto. (We're showing her the photo.)
Sie wollen euch die Wohnung zeigen. (They want to show you-all the apartment.)

Screenshot of Gamesforlanguage Accusative GameThe Accusative Pronouns Game

In the Accusative Pronouns Game, you first review the accusative pronouns. You'll then put together basic sentences using these pronouns and verbs that take a direct object.

Er sieht dich. (He sees you. [familiar])
Wir sehen Sie. (We see you. [formal])
Ihr seht ihn. (You-all see him.)

Du kennst ihn. (You know him.)
Ihr kennt sie. (You know her /them.)
Kenne ich Sie nicht? (Don't I know you? [formal])

Ich suche sie. (I'm looking for her /them.)
Er sucht euch. (He's looking for you-all.)
Wir suchen sie. (We're looking for her /them.)

Du rufst mich nie an. (You never call me.)
Ich rufe dich später an. (I'll call you later. [familiar])

Screenshot of Gamesforlanguage German Pronoun GameThe Practice Pronouns Game

If you have navigated the previous two games successfully, the Practice Pronouns Game will be your next challenge.
Here we have Accusative and Dative forms mixed up and you'll also have to choose again between the familiar and formal  forms.

Dative Prepositions

Some German prepositions always take the dative case. Here are 5 common ones:
bei, mit, nach, von, zu

Examples:
bei (near, next, at, with)
Sie wohnt jetzt bei mir (She now lives with me /at my place.)

mit (with, together with)
Ich gehe gern mit dir ins Kino. (I like going to movies with you.)

nach (after, to [direction])
Bitte, nach Ihnen. (Please, after you. Go ahead.)

von (from)
Ich habe heute einen Brief von ihm bekommen. (I got a letter from him today.)

zu (to [direction])
Gehst du heute zu ihr? (Are you going to her place today?)

Dual Prepositions

You thought that you have figured out now whether to use the accusative or dative form of the pronouns?
But I have bad news: There are also a number of common German prepositions that take either the dative or the accusative case. Generally speaking, the difference is one of "static position" (with the dative), "change of position" (with the accusative).

an (on, at)
auf (on, on top of)
hinter (behind)
in (in, into)
neben (beside)
über (over, above)
unter (under, below)
vor (in front of, before)
zwischen. (between)

These prepositions are best explained with examples using a noun rather than a pronoun.
We'll do this in another blog post.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's 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 right here!

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Language Learning Games with Gamesforlanguage

Games & Stories Facebook imageDuring the Covid-19 Pandemic we experienced an increased interest in GamesforLanguage travel-story courses and quick language learning games. As our free Quick Language Games and Podcasts can be played without registering, we don't know the countries of origin of those players.

Our free 36-lesson courses of the four European languages, French, German, Italian and Spanish, however, require users to register, so they can continue their course(s) where they left off when returning.

From the addresses (e.g. the “.edu” e-mail part) we know that many of these courses are played by school classes, just recently the Italian course by 46 students in Australia.

Whether teachers like our games and courses because they are completely free, without any upsell emails and Google ads, or simply because they are a fun language learning break, we often don't know. We've heard all those reasons and encourage more teachers to try our courses and games with their language classes.

Although we don't know the countries from where the Quick Language Games are accessed, we can tell which games have become favorites. Here are the favorite Quick Language Games for our four main languages:

Quick Spanish Games

Screenshot of Spanish Quick Language Game: "ir" The clear winner for Spanish is the irregular verb "to go": "Ir - Present Tense". I agree, it's a fun game. Since beginning of April, it was played well over 1200 times.

The first part is a Shootout game to learn/review the present tense forms of "ir". In the second part, you play the Memory game to learn 4 common nouns. The third and last part is a Word Invader game with which you put together 8 short sentences using different forms of "ir" plus one of the four nouns. (For example, the Spanish equivalent of : "She's going to the park." "We're going to the café." "I'm going to the station.")

Other popular Quick Spanish Games are: "8 Question Words"; "Tener - Present Tense"; "Hello Goodbye".

Quick French Games

screenshot of French Language Game: 8 French Question words"8 Question Words" is the hands-down winner for French. That has been true for quite some time, maybe also because of the particular French way of asking a question.

The first part consists of Memory and Snap Cloud games, to learn/review 7 question words and the question phrase: "est-ce que ?" These are followed by a Balloon Word (listening) game. To finish up, you hear and then reconstruct 3 common questions with the Word Invader game.

Other popular Quick French Games are: "Days of the week"; "Modal Verbs"; "The Verb faire".

Quick German Games

screenshot of Quick German Language Game "zu Hause"In recent weeks, the surprising favorite German game has been "At home": "Zu Hause". This game is based on a 7-sentence conversation between two people who sit next to each other on an airplane to Germany.

You'll learn and practice the individual words as well as each of the full sentences using various games such as Snap Clouds, Say It, and Word Hero. At the end you'll hear the conversation again and you'll very likely manage to listen without translating in your head.

Other popular Quick German Games are: "Present Perfect Tense 1"; "The Modal Verb können"; "Wie komme ich...?"

Italian Quick Games

Screenshot of Italian Language Game "Avere" The irregular verb: "Avere - Present Tense" is the champion game for Italian. No surprise there, the verb is super useful and needs practice.

You first see the present tense forms and then test yourself with the Shootout game. You'll then learn 4 basic nouns with the Memory and Flash Card games. Finally, with the Word Invader game, you put together 6 simple sentences using the words you learned. (For example, the Italian equivalent of "I have the key." "He has the photos." "They don't have the address".

Other popular Quick Italian Games are: "Days of the Week"; "Numbers 1-20"; "mi chiamo".

Quick Language Games are a great way to take a quick time out and listen to and practice a few morsels of the new language you are learning. You will be surprised how well they will “stick”.

Note: On our German Facebook page: Learn German - A Game a Day, you'll find a different Quick German Game every day. We have close to 100 of them at this time, and continue to create more of them.

Posted on by Guest Post by Vienna Dennis

How Foreign Language Skills Will Boost Careers in 2021

https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2015/03/26/09/41/tie-690084_1280.jpg Credit:PixabayForeign language skills may not always be required, but the benefits multilinguals bring to organizations are real — especially now that the market is getting more competitive.
“[Multilingual] employees greatly enhance your company’s capabilities to interact with a larger swath of the population; they help foster a more innovative and diverse business and give you in-house capabilities,” explains Salvador Ordorica, the CEO of The Spanish Group, in an article on bilingualism.
This is why multilingual employees are paid better.
But what exactly about knowledge in foreign languages will help you advance in your career?
Here are three important reasons:

1. Foreign Language Skills Boost Cognitive Power

https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2012/03/01/15/43/brain-20424_1280.jpg Credit: PixabayLearning new languages doesn’t just give you an extra skill, it also boosts your problem-solving ability, creative thinking, and memory.
In our post on the benefits of being bilingual, some studies show that those who know more than one language are better at remembering sequences, for instance.
Those who work in math-related professions like economics and insurance might see their career advance faster because of this.
The increased vocabulary may help with your ability to communicate — an essential soft skill you need in higher positions no matter the department.

Students who have completed a full four-year language course even score more than 100 points on the Scholastic Aptitude Test compared to those who only knew one, further emphasizing how well the brain works better if you’re multilingual.

2. Foreign Language Skills Increase Your Ability to Understand Your Team

https://images.pexels.com/photos/1367276/pexels-photo-1367276.jpeg Credit: PexelsIf you’re aiming for the top, know that you need to learn how to understand and guide the people below you.
Knowledge of your team’s native languages can help you with this.
For instance, they might more thoroughly explain their findings in their first language than they would in English.
Furthermore, top careers in business, like HR and operations management, rely heavily on communicating and connecting with others both within and outside your team.
For example, operations managers are tasked to inform and guide other departments within their organization.
If you belong in these people professions, know that multilingualism will come in handy during your assessments.

Your chances of advancement are better if you work for companies with ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts, as it’s proof of how they value their employees, regardless of background.

3. Foreign Language Skills Open Better Networking Opportunities

https://images.pexels.com/photos/6248917/pexels-photo-6248917.jpeg Credit: PexelsNot all prospective partners will have English as their primary language (nor will they be fluent in it), so knowledge of their native language can help you build valuable connections with more people.
For example, did you know that the Fortune Global 500 is slowly being dominated by Chinese CEOs?
Many successful businesses like Trader Joe’s, 7-Eleven, and Holiday Inn are also run by foreigners.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that a lot of your business’ prospective partners' first language won’t be English.
If you’re aspiring for a higher position, you will need to communicate with them frequently.
This is why multilingualism is a very sought-out skill in leaders.

If you run your own business or have a freelance career, the situation is the same. You might find yourself in networking events, which your foreign language skills will prove useful in.

Whether it’s by boosting your memory or introducing you to more prospects, a foreign language can help boost your careers in multiple aspects. Fortunately, learning a new language is something that can be done in your free time via online classes, podcasts, or even games.

Author’s bio: Vienna Dennis is a freelance writer with an expressed interest in foreign languages. Her goal is to learn at least one European and one Asian language before she hits 30.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

LING-APP – A Review: Finnish, French, German, and much more

Ling Language app BannerA while ago we were approached by Ling-App about reviewing their language learning app. As we like to do, we spent some time using the program to understand how it works and to see how effective it is.

The Ling app has 60+ languages on its platform, many of them less commonly taught. So for me, it was a treat to choose a language I didn't know much about. I decided to focus on Finnish. The Finnish language has always intrigued me, and now, with an eye on visiting Finland in the fall of 2021, this was a perfect opportunity to learn some basics.

Besides learning Finnish, using English as the teaching language, I also looked at a couple of other languages on the app: Swedish and German, using Italian; English, using German. Peter did a number of lessons in Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish, using English and German as the teaching languages.

We'll do a general overview of the app, and wherever it fits, add a comment about the languages we tried out.

THE LING PLATFORM

The Ling app was built by Simya Solutions, Ltd. using state of the art technology (such as React and React Native).

You can download Ling on the App Store for your iPhone, iPad, and on the Play Store for your Android phone, tablet. There's also a web version: https://ling-app.com/

Ling works on the freemium model: eight lessons of each language are free. For further lessons you'll need to get a subscription (either per month, per year, or for lifetime). For specific prices, check the individual apps.

THE LING APP SETUP

The setup is logical, easy to use and intuitive. It's identical for all of the languages.
There are five (5) Levels of difficulty:
1. Beginner
2. Intermediate
3. Upper Intermediate
4. Advanced
5. Expert

Each Level has ten (10) themed Units.Ling Language app Finnish Unit 1
For example, the Beginner Level in each of the languages consists of:
1. Introduction
2. Basic Sentences
3. Numbers and Family
4. Numbers and Counting
5. Activities
6. Food & Tastes
7. Vegetables & Fruits
8. In the Café
9. Eating Out
10 Where is it?

Each themed Unit has four (4) Lessons. The new vocabulary items (see examples below) are all used in a sentence, which you'll also learn and be tested on.
In the Introduction Unit, you'll find the following 16 vocabulary items:
• a woman, a man, a girl, a boy
• twenty-five, twelve, fourteen, forty
• USA, Germany, China, Japan
• English, German, Chinese, Japanese

Gamified Tasks

Ling Language app: Finnish Match the cardYou practice the new vocabulary and sentences with gamified exercises. They all have audio and give you hints if you need them. The tasks are short and fun to do and function as quick self-tests. You'll check each answer to see if it's correct.
The exercises and their content are identical for each language:
• Match the card. In the screenshot I first chose the wrong word for "roommate" (red)
• What did you hear?
• Sort this Sentence.
• Translate this sentence.
• Conversation (with known vocabulary in the context of some unknown words).
• Fill the gaps (in a simplified version of the conversation).

Other Activities

You Have Learned:
At the end of the lesson, you'll see "You Have Learned": a list of the words/phrases (with a simple image) and the sentences, as they were introduced at the start of the lesson.

Review It All:
You'll see this on top of every unit and it means a review of the full unit, i.e. all 4 lessons. With the review, you'll go through flashcards with audio to review the 16+ vocabulary items and sentences. You'll also go through the 4 dialogues in the sequence that you learned them.

Courses that have grammar explanations also have a review of the 4 grammar cards from the unit.

Speaking:
Ling Language App Speaking Recording screenshotFor the speaking exercise that comes with each unit on the phone and tablet app, you can first listen to the native speaker or read off a word/phrase or sentence.

The speech recognition function works pretty well, as I could test with German. Swallowing my Viennese accent, I got a "perfect" score at 100% each time. Same with English.

With Finnish, I was less successful. The first sentence I got for the first Unit was long and looked complicated. I got a totally deserved "poor" rating, with 26% accuracy.

Exam:
The exam at the end of each unit consists of about 10 tasks that include:
• Pick the translation of a word or sentence into your target language, multiple choice.
• Pick the translation of a target language word or sentence into your native language, multiple choice.
• Sort the sentence.

Chatbot:
In some of the Units, you can go to the Chatbox and participate in a conversation. You either tap on a response, or just read it off. The language should be familiar to you if you've done the unit. It's a fun way to try out the language you've been learning.

VOCABULARY

What you learn on Ling is basic, practical, everyday vocabulary. Each unit introduces between 16-24 new words (that is, for the languages we tried).

You won't be dealing with sentences that are weird or cute. (Though, some sentences are less practical than others. In the 'Swedish for Italian' Unit Dove/Where?, I came across the sentence: Boken är under jordgubbelådan. Il libro è sotto la scatola delle fragole. = The book is under the box of strawberries. This is probably a sentence I'll never use.)

I like the way vocabulary is introduced: a word/phrase together with a sentence using it. So, you always have some context.

The conversation at the end of each lesson includes known words, but also words and sentences that were not taught. But they help widen your experience of the target language and you do get translations and audio.

The practice games all follow the same pattern and sequence. They are easy to do and for each of your answers you get feedback. You can request a "hint", which will make it even easier to get the answer.

You can enter the course at any lesson that you choose, and skip around as much as you want (except within a lesson itself). Also, you're not required to stick to the sequence of Units as they are presented. That's an upside.

AUDIO

For each item you learn, you have audio (recordings of native speakers). These you can play back as often as you want, either at normal speed or slowed down. The voices we heard were very pleasant.

We often play the audio of a sentence several times, both after the speaker and also with the speaker, shadowing so to speak.

GRAMMAR

It's our impression from the several languages we tried that some languages on Ling have no or very limited grammar explanations. That's probably true for the less common languages. Finnish certainly doesn't have any grammar explanations at this time.

Since all the courses teach the same vocabulary and topics and don't focus on building language-specific grammar patterns, you'll find yourself just memorizing stuff at first. That even goes for a language that does have grammar explanations, such as German.

PRICING

Subscriptions to the app may seem a little high, especially for languages that have lots of other resources, some of them totally free.

Still, when you compare the cost of the Ling app to paying for individual tutoring, the yearly Pro subscription at 4 USD/month looks like a good deal. This is especially true for languages for which resources are scarce.

WHAT WE LIKE

• You can learn many less commonly taught languages.
• It's fun to learn with Ling.
• Navigating the app is easy and intuitive.
• It's easy to replay individual audios.
• It's easy to repeat a lesson.
• You can skip around if you want
• The vocabulary is practical and useful.
• You can get reminder emails and keep your streak.
• Words/phrases are always taught together with a sentence using them.
• The native-speaker audios we tested are usually of excellent quality.
• The Chatbox is a fun way to try out conversations.

OTHER POINTS TO CONSIDER

• In the languages we know well, we noticed some errors, but you can flag them (top right flag image).

• In the Chatbox, you can choose between responses, but some of them don't make sense in the context.

• The identical setup and topics ignores some of the cultural specifics, e.g. in food, activities, customs, etc.
Ling App German Unit 1For example, in German you would not ask a person their age right after you've met them. It may be somewhat awkward in other languages, too.
This is the dialogue in the second lesson:
A: Excuse me. What's your name?
B: My name is Tom. What's your name?
A: My name is Mary. How old are you?
B: I am 25 years old. How old are you?
A: I am 40 years old. Nice to meet you.
B: Nice to meet you too.

• For languages with different sounds systems, pronunciation tips would be helpful. We didn't find any yet for the languages we tried.

• You get little or no help with understanding grammar patterns, e.g. sentence structures, cases, conjugations, grammatical endings, typical idiomatic phrases. A good example is Finnish. It has 15 noun cases (indicated by its suffix), 6 of which are locative cases (for which English uses prepositions). Gradual introduction of these with an explanation would have have made learning easier.

• From Beginner to Expert - and probably because of the strict focus on vocabulary and topics - the progression in language complexity is somewhat uneven. Sometimes sentences are long and complicated, sometimes they are surprisingly simple and easy.

• Complex grammar items are sometimes bundled. In the Expert category for example, the units Wishes 1 and Wishes II, are used to introduce the future, conditional, and subjunctive verb forms.
Ling App French Unit 50: revenirFor example the English: “I wish she would come back to me.” (Unit 50) has the following forms in:
French: J'aimerais qu'elle revienne vers moi. (conditional and subjunctive)
Italian: Spero che torni indietro da me. (indicative and subjunctive)
Spanish: Desearía que ella volviese a mí. (conditional and subjunctive)
German: Ich wünschte, sie würde zu mir zurückkommen. (subj II preterite and subj II future)

You'll also notice that  “I wish” is actually only used as indicative in Italian (spero), but actually translated as the conditional “I'd wish” in French, Spanish and German.

• A few different conditional and subjunctive forms of the new verbs are introduced in Unit 50. However, they are certainly not enough to learn their conjugations nor are there any explanations why and when they are used. A grammar book would therefore be quite advisable for any serious learner.

• For the web version use the Google browser is recommended, as the audio features may not work on all browsers.

Conclusion

Ling will not be the app or language program which will get you to fluency in a hurry – no app or online program really does.

The program does work well for beginners and intermediate learners or those who use it as an addition to another learning effort or method.

Its 50 lessons are well structured and fun to do, with useful and practical vocabulary, although additional grammar and pronunciation help may be needed.

Especially for languages that are less commonly spoken and taught, the Ling App platform offers some great resources.

The seamless interchangeability of target and teaching languages lets language lovers also experiment with different combinations and understand language differences, and use one target language to learn another.

Disclosure: We added Ling App to our Partner's list. For the above review we received a free 2-month subscription. Should you decide to subscribe to the Ling, Gamesforlanguage may receive a small commission which will help us keep our own site ad-free.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

What Makes Language Learning Engaging & Less Boring For Us?

Four boys playing ballIt's been about a year now that daily life has been upended by the pandemic. Like most people, we at GamesforLanguage have gone through various kinds of moods and emotions. As you can expect, the pandemic blues have included periods of heightened boredom and lowered motivation for language learning.
We are looking forward to more moments like these four boys are enjoying. (Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash)

It's been particularly hard to be separated from family and friends. At times Zoom fatigue has set in, and texting doesn't do the trick all the time either.

We also sorely miss traveling. We have siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, as well as long-term friends all who live in Canada and Europe.

Besides, over the years travel had become an important impetus for our language learning. We've enjoyed travel and one-month or longer stays in several different countries, as you can read in our European Travel series on our Blog.

This past year has been tough. But here we are, still using our languages and striving to improve our fluency. The months grounded at home have made us think a lot about what motivates us to keep on learning languages.

What Has Helped Us to Keep Going?

1. Having a routine

For better or for worse, we've hung on to some kind of a language learning routine, even though we've sometimes struggled to stay motivated. Our routine may have thinned out, but it's still the backbone or our language learning and has kept us going.

2. No rote learning

We've scrapped memorizing lists of random words or phrases. Learning a language in context is so much easier and more interesting. Indeed, we find it essential.

3. Short and focused language practice

We continue to use online language programs, but only for short periods. At the moment, I'm playing Spanish GamesforLanguage course lessons every day, and am just about to finish Level 3 of Duolingo's Dutch. Ulrike has started Finnish on Duolingo and also does daily Swedish lessons. (Once travel is back, we're planning to visit those two countries.)

4. Grammar in baby steps only

For now, grammar is to be enjoyed only in sweet little bites. Only when a phrase or sentence just doesn't make sense, do we resort to some grammar sleuthing. We treat grammar like fun little puzzles to be solved.

5. Lots of passive learning

A large part of engaging in our languages has been watching news programs, listening to interesting podcasts, and watching foreign TV series and films (with or without subtitles). We watched the entire Italian Inspector Montalbano series, as well as various French, Spanish and German series on Amazon Prime's MHz channel.

6. Reading and listening to interesting stories

To practice my Dutch, I recently purchased Olly Richard's Dutch Stories for Beginners. They are a little wacky, but made great bedtime reading. (Maybe I even improved my Dutch while sleeping.)

Both Ulrike and I regularly read or listen to French stories and novels. The latest: Michel Bussi: "T'en souviens-tu, mon Anaïs"; Guillaume Musso: "Un appartement à Paris", "La fille de Brooklyn"; Dominique Manotti: "Racket", "Marseille 1973".

7. Exercise, sports, walking

This has been really important for us. Lots of walks, tennis outside in the summer, at least 20 minutes of exercise every morning. We both work at a "walking desk". Exercise may not seem immediately relevant to language learning. But it's been well documented that it can sharpen memory and thinking skills.

All these above activities have helped us stay with our various languages. It's been clearly a question of how to make language learning fun and to avoid getting bored. Is there a "secret ingredient"?

Young Children

When we watch young children, we marvel at the ease they seem to learn their native language. Children acquiring their first language will focus on learning how to use it. It's like a full time job for them. It takes their full attention. Boredom is not an issue.

It's the same for young children who live in an environment that totally immerses them in another language. And even older children seem to be able to pick up a new language quite easily when there's lots of interaction with friends and family who speak the language. It's the social component that's crucial, while more structured learning (drills, exercises, practice) helps to build vocabulary, and improve pronunciation and grammar skills. (See also how our 10-year old grandson learns French with GamesforLanguage.)

Several of our grandchildren are taking regular French lessons online, which has them talk with a tutor and requires them to listen and speak. They seem to enjoy this a lot, especially because of the live interaction.

Challenges for Adult Learners

What makes learning a new foreign language as an adult so challenging are many factors, among them:
• Our increasing difficulty with time (starting in late childhood) to accurately hear sounds that are different from our native language, as well as producing those new sounds when speaking.

• A busy life that leaves little time and energy for extensive daily focused language learning.

• Language programs that are not engaging enough to sustain our frequent and regular use.

What Makes Online Language Learning Courses and Apps  Engaging?

There are several elements that can make language learning more engaging.

1. Social contact when learning a language

Children learn languages through their social contacts with parents, caretakers, siblings, playmates, etc. Adults can replicate such contacts to some degree in live or online language language classes. But clearly such interactions cannot compare with the time that children spend speaking and listening.

Many of the apps and programs also include user forums where learners can ask questions, and interact with others, etc. With italki and similar platforms you can book private tutors, which does provide social contact and more customized learning with emphasis on listening and speaking.

Immersive language programs, such as offered at Middlebury College, VT, rely heavily on the social contact aspect of only communicating in the target language.

We've just learned about a new option: Pangea Chat. This platform has just become available online, in the App Store and on Google Play. On Pangea Chat, friends text each other in their native language. These exchanges are then automatically translated into the chosen target language and put into gamified “activities” for practice.

Pangea Chat would seem to check off the "social contact" and "relevant, comprehensible input" boxes that we discuss below. We are planning to review the app once we have used it for a while.

2. Interesting topics and relevant input

This is what many language programs are lacking. Especially for beginners, language lessons are often limited to what the teachers or developers consider essential first words and phrases.

Steve Kaufman of LingQ is a great proponent of “meaningful input that matters to you”.  He expands on what the well-known linguist Stephen Krashen thought of as the essential requirement for language learning: “comprehensible input”.

LingQ's approach certainly applies the idea of "comprehensible input". Subscribers to the program can read and listen to content that they are interested in. Translations are available as needed.

This is different from the Rosetta Stone method, which uses pictures that the user has to match to a foreign word. That quickly became boring for us.

Most apps and language programs rely on some form of translation to provide “comprehensible input” for the learner. However, the lesson topics include mostly the words and phrases of categories such as “Basics”, “Greetings”, “People”, “Travel”, “Family”, "Activity”, “Restaurant”, “City”, etc. (as in the early lessons of Duolingo's French course).

For learners who are really serious about learning a new language, Gabe Wiener's Fluent Forever app, starts with the sounds of the foreign language. The app uses images and flashcards to teach you vocabulary and lets you also customize your learning. This is followed by stories with which you learn grammar. Finally, you can practice with native tutors. A motivated learner who uses Fluent Forever regularly, will certainly progress quickly.

3. Games for language learning

When Duolingo appeared 2011, just about the time when we launched Gamesforlanguage.com, gamified learning suddenly became the craze of the day. Many of the programs and apps we have tried also include some form of games.

Games are clearly a compelling technique for learning: They provide a challenge, they let you know when you're right or make a mistake. As language learning also relies on memorization and repetition, you can repeat the games until you “get it”.

However, after a while even games can become a little tedious, if they don't involve “meaningful input that matters to you”. That was the reason why the GamesforLanguage courses use a travel story rather than unrelated words and phrases. (Admittedly, even travel stories of a young traveler can become boring when you repeat them several times.)

4. Success feedback and voice recognition

Most language learning apps and programs today use some form of feedback.

Over time, Duolingo has evolved a number of such feedback parameters, including a daily goal and point counter. These show up in a chart, achievement levels, a streak counter, etc.
LingQ tracks the number of known words and now also has a streak counter, and so do Mosalingua and Fluent Forever. Including a “streak”, that shows how many days a learner has been learning in a row, seems to become ever more popular.

When we tried Babbel the last time, we did not like the voice recognition feature. Duolingo on it's AppStore app also uses voice recognition, but the feature is easily fooled. We suspect that it will only be a matter of time until voice recognition will be smart enough to be incorporated into many language programs to provide real-time feed-back to the user's pronunciation.

Until then, speaking aloud and recording yourself is still the best way to practice new sounds and comparing yourself to native speakers. (Unfortunately, and different from a live dialogue with a friend, this is both time consuming and quickly becomes boring as well.)


So, we have found that the best language language learning "package" for self learners would consist of a combination of meaningful social interactions and resources that provide interesting and relevant input.
If you like music and singing, learning the lyrics of a song in your target language could work well. (Here are our suggestions for French, German, Italian and Spanish songs.)
To add some fun to pronunciation practice, and vocabulary and grammar building, I would add some features that include gamification and feedback.

Let us know which language learning programs and apps are engaging for you, and in particular, which elements keep you practicing regularly.

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