Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Exercising and Language Learning? Really?

Fit blond woman on step machine language learning (Updated 8-26-2017)

A few years ago we started a post with:

"No, I don't mean jogging while you listen to a language learning lesson on your iPod."

Today, we'll have to revise this first sentence, and thereby add a new and additional benefit for language learning while you exercise:

"Yes, by all means, listen to a language learning lesson while you are exercising!"

But let's first look at Gretchen Reynolds' "Well Blog" of a few years ago. She wrote: "Why, as we grow older, do we forget where we parked the car, and could exercise sharpen our recall?"

She goes on: "Young adults are good at differentiating the images into those that were brand-new, already seen or similar to but not exactly the same as earlier pictures (a baby grand piano instead of a full grand, for instance)."

We took the above question and various other tidbits of knowledge to hypothesize that "pattern separation" and "chunking" could help our language memorization.

Follow our earlier reasoning below:

Pattern Separation?

Apparently, forgetting where you parked your car (this time) is an issue of "pattern separation." For example, can you remember what you had for breakfast today, yesterday, the day before?

Ideally, the meal that you have each morning is unique and should create a "unique set of memories" in your mind. The good news is that exercise has the potential of enhancing "pattern recognition" and "pattern separation."

The Language Learning Link

By extension, (non-head-butting) exercise should also help language learning for the same reason. Learning to recognize and process patterns is an essential part of language learning.

We don't learn a language "word by word," we learn a language by beginning to understand "groupings of words" (phrases and expressions) in context.

In a New York Times column, linguist and language commentator Ben Zimmer refers to this as "chunking."  Kids learn that way, but so do adults - even if second language acquisition is different from learning your first.

Chunking...

The Johnson Blog of the "Economist" picks up Stacked Chocolate chunksthe Ben Zimmer's discussion of "chunking" in language learning: "We assume language is assembled in the brain primarily in word-word-word form, but instead it may come in more pre-assembled phrases than we have previously realized." 

And, one of the readers comments: "...learning expressions or idioms is the biggest problem in language teaching. …. expressions are really essential if you are to use a language day-to-day. … they're dotted around a language and often very idiomatic ..."

Expressions or idioms - pre-assembled phrases, or "chunks" - in a foreign language may be only slightly different from a direct translation of the expression in your own language. Being able to remember these "slight differences" is part of learning to master a language.

New Insights on Language Learning and Exercise

Gretchen Reynold's new article in the New York Times on August 2017: How Exercise Could Help You Learn a New Language describes an experiment of researchers in China and Italy, which seemed to confirm the benefits of exercise on  memorizing vocabulary.

The experiment involved two groups of Chinese college-age students: Both watched and tried to memorize English words as they appeared on a screen. While one group was seated, the other one was riding exercise bikes at a gentle pace.

Subsequent tests showed that the students who had ridden bikes performed better in subsequent vocabulary tests than those who sat still.

Reynold also noted:

"Perhaps most interesting, the gains in vocabulary and comprehension lingered longest for the cyclists. When the researchers asked the students to return to the lab for a final round of testing a month after the lessons — without practicing in the meantime — the cyclists remembered words and understood them in sentences more accurately than did the students who had not moved."

The experiment is certainly very interesting and may generate other more complex learning/exercise experiments.

Many of the readers' comments to Reynold's article are also worth reading: for some, their personal experiences confirm the test results; others note the effects of higher heart rates and increased blood flow to the brain on short-term and/or long-term memory; one reader recommended "Spark: The Revolutionary new Science of Exercise and the Brain", by John J Ratey and Eric Hagerman.

And there remains the question of whether other, more interactive, learning activities wouldn't also result in better memorization results than just sitting and watching a screen with new English words.

In any case, even if the learning advantages while exercising were not as significant as the study suggests - you'll get a "twoofer" ... you'll get healthier and stronger, and your language memory will improve.

 



Posted on by Ulrike S. Rettig

7 Ways to Get Your Language Learning Groove Back

Good Habits - Gamesforlanguage.com (Updated 8/18/2017)

As we are continuing to develop our gamesforlanguage.com program we are encouraged by the many comments we are receiving from the players of our story-based courses and Quick Games.

We know that most of our scenes (i.e.lessons) can be played in less than ten minutes, and we recommend that a player not play more than 1-2 scenes per day.

We are also well aware that stops and starts are pretty common for people who are learning a new language. Setbacks happen, and the reasons are legion. But a successful return doesn't have to be hard.

So, how do you get back?

Our 7 Ways...

The simple answer is: You have to find a way to develop a daily young men brushing teeth - Gamesforlanguage.comhabit - like brushing you teeth -  even it it's just a few minutes a day.

1. Get yourself motivated again: Unless you already have specific travel plans, pick a great travel destination (Barcelona, Sevilla, Rome, Venice, Paris, Corsica, Berlin, Salzburg ...) google some pictures, and see yourself there: Traveling and Language Learning - They Go Together.

2. Adjust the bar: Don't aim for perfection or high proficiency right away. Aim for starting to speak in the language, having simple conversations, asking direct questions; aim for beginning to understand basic conversations, start to read headlines, short dialogs.

3. Set a modest, attainable short term goal, for example 15 minutes a day for 21 days. Then set a new goal.

4. Schedule a daily reminder on your PDA, Phone, Laptop, Mac/PC for a time when you can actually spend those 15 minutes.

5. Identify the skills you need to work on especially, and focus on these. Learning a foreign language means that you are working on several skills at the same time.

You are training your ear to distinguish between sounds that may be foreign to you; you are intuitively processing grammar structures; you are training your mouth to produce sounds that may be unfamiliar; you are learning a new spelling; you are challenging your brain to make new associations between sound and meaning, etc.

6. Trust yourself and your ability to learn this new language. You learned your mother tongue pretty well, didn't you? If it's English, congratulations! For many foreigners, English is hugely challenging because of its idiomatic structure and difficult spelling!

7. From time to time, push your limits a little, stretch your mind: It may be listening to a foreign radio station, tape, CD, Ipod, a story you know already in English; do this on your way to/from work, or some time after dinner in the evening. Find a soap on the Internet in the language you want to learn, write an e-mail to a friend, say and act out a few foreign words to a friend, to a sibling, or to your kids ...

Combine Daily, Steady Practice + Have Fun

Kaizen - No 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."

The continuous improvement idea, introduced to the west as "Kaizen" by Masaaki Imai for improvements of processes in organizations, can also be applied to your language learning: Small changes over time will bring noticeable results.

Daily language practice will give you a regular connection to the language.

Steady practice will strengthen your self esteem. It'll help you develop a small discipline that could easily spill over into other things.

You'll improve a little every day, and eventually that will show up big time

Be loose. Be patient. Have fun!

Posted on by Peter Rettig

GamesforLanguage: When to use “Sie” vs. “du”

Gamesforlanguage.com when to use: "Sie" vs. "du"English speakers have to face another challenge when learning German: when to use the formal “Sie” vs. the familiar “du”. In English such differentiation does not exist.

(I'd like to acknowledge TalkinFrench.com's recent post on the similar topic “Tu” vs. “Vous”, as the inspiration for this German “guide,” as there are many similarities – but also differences – how both languages use the formal and familiar form of address.)

What also complicates the matter is that the internet and the influx of English into the German language has softened the clear du/Sie demarcation lines of the past. As we'll see later, it has also introduced new combinations of first name with the formal “Sie”.

Also, the “Sie” vs. “du” differentiation varies greatly not only at different levels of age and social connection, but also at different levels of society, community, and profession in German-speaking countries.

And as you interact socially with German speakers, you'll not only have to know whether and when to use “Sie” or “du”, but you'll also have to be able to adjust your speech by using the correct verb forms.

When to use the German “Sie” for “you”

There are some clear basic rules: You use “Sie” with:Anybody you're meeting for the first time; a stranger on the street, e.g.,2 business people shaking hands someone whom you're asking for help/directions: “Könnten Sie mir bitte helfen/sagen...” ; at a ticket window buying a train ticket, at an airline counter, information booths, etc.; shopkeepers; and your co-workers when you start a new job (but note exceptions below).

Anybody quite a bit older than you.
Anybody to whom you want or need to be respectful - a teacher, a boss, clients, policemen, or other officials.
Any groups or audience you may be addressing in a speech – unless it's your sports team, or group of friends, when “Sie” becomes “ihr” (and those exceptions are also noted below).

In general, you're much better off erring on the side of using “Sie” rather than “du” when you meet somebody for the first time.

(The young traveler Michael of our German 1 course does so in this MP3 audio clip, as he didn't know that German students “sich duzen” i.e. they use the familiar “du”.)

The “Sie” puts a distance between you and the other person, and in some circumstances this may be seen as aloofness.

But it's much better to be “invited” to use the familiar “du”, than to be somewhat embarrassed when the other person ignores your “du” and responds by using the “Sie”, thereby clearly pointing out your transgression.

When to Use the German“du” for “you”

kiss after accepting the familiar "you" in German?In general, all family members and close friends use “du”.

Members of sports clubs and political parties typical use “du” (although there again are hierarchical and age differences that may create exceptions).
Classmates
Students and colleagues that you're on amicable terms with
Children up to their late teenage/early adult years
When you've offered or have been offered the familiar “du”: “Wollen wir uns nicht “duzen”?

At social gatherings in the past, the invitation to use “du” was often accompanied by a kiss or peck on the cheek (sometimes reluctantly accepted as in the above photo). It was also often  accompanied by linking arms while taking a sip from your drink, and called “auf Brüderschaft trinken” (drink to brotherhood).

But I must confess I have not seen or experienced this old tradition for a long time – maybe because I haven't been at those type of parties for a while.

Clearly, for animals, pets, inanimate objects, etc. you use “du” as well.

Sample Situations

The rules mentioned above may not be cut-and-dried, so let’s have a look at specific examples below.

Family members: Use “du”

Regardless of age, family members use “du” when talking to each other.

Each year we join a Dutch family reunion in the Netherlands. About 100 members now living in various countries get together for a weekend. Whether we're speaking, Dutch, German, or French – even with family members we may not have met before – we always use the familiar “je/jij”, “du”, or “tu”.

 

Strangers in the 15- to 25-year-old age range

Young adults in this age group who meet each other for the first time, often use “du”, especially if they come from a similar social group, are students, etc.

 

Co-workers or colleagues

It very much depends on the type of company and the policies and traditions established by the “old hands”. In hierarchical organizations such as banks, insurance companies, government, the military, as well as schools, universities, etc., it's better to start out using “Sie”.
Once your colleagues offer you the familiar “du”, you have been accepted as part of the group and can now choose when to do the same for any newcomers.
One interesting change is occurring in many multinational firms in German-speaking countries: Rather than using the family name with the formal “Sie”, as was the norm, now colleagues often interact by using their first name while still using “Sie”.

 

Business or professional contacts: use “Sie”

When meeting new contacts in your business or profession, you should always use “Sie”. Only when you start to interact socially or get close enough to offer/be offered the familiar “du” would this change.

 

Teacher to students:

I went to school in Bad Nauheim, Germany. I remember that at the beginning of the 11th grade, and for the last three years of high school, until the “Abitur”, our teachers addressed us with “Sie”.

A friend who is a high-school teacher in Freiburg, Germany, confirmed that the same is still true today in the high school, where she teaches.
In other parts of Germany, or Austria, Switzerland, South-Tyrol, Luxembourg, Alsace-Lorraine, etc. where German is spoken, the school rules may be different.

 

"Sie" + first name

German speakers typically address persons, with whom they have not agreed on using the familiar "du", with their last name. And it is not unusual, even for long-time acquaintances, to use both the formal "Sie" and their last names.

However, likely because of the influx of English in movies and on the internet, the use of the first name together with the formal Sie has become common in many companies, especially those with international connections.

 

We'd like very much to hear from residents in those areas about the use of “Sie” and “du”, so we can add a postscript.

 

“Du” and “Sie” in other parts of speech

The formal “Sie” form (as well as Ihre, Ihnen) is capitalized, mainly to distinguish it from “sie”, which means both “they and “she”.

The written sentence: “Ich sehe, dass Sie gewonnen haben”. (I see that you have won.) can therefore not be confused with: “Ich sehe, dass sie gewonnen haben”. (I see that they have won.) When you HEAR a similar sentence, only the context will tell you who is meant by sie/Sie.

As you will know, using “du” and “Sie” directly affects the verb conjugations. But let’s look at the other “du” and “Sie” forms:

  • Noun: das “Duzen” (saying “du” to each other) and das “Siezen” (saying “Sie” to each other)
  • Verb: “duzen” (to use “du”) and “siezen” (to use “Sie”)
  • Subject pronoun: “du” - Du bist jung. vs. “Sie” - Sie sind alt.
  • Direct object pronoun: “dich” - Ich sehe dich. vs. “Sie” - Ich sehe Sie.
  • Indirect object pronoun: “dir” - Ich gebe dir das Buch vs. “Ihnen” - Ich gebe Ihnen das Buch.

If you find yourself really unsure whether the situation calls for “du” or “Sie”, don’t worry, it’s okay to ask. Here are some questions you could use in navigating the move from “du” to “Sie”:

German phrase

Translation

Wir könnten uns doch duzen!

Surely we could say “du” to each other!

Wir sollten uns duzen!

We should say “du”. (to each other)

Darf ich Sie duzen?

May I say “du” to you?

Duzen wir uns?

Shall we say “du”? (to each other)?

Stört es Sie, wenn wir uns duzen?

Does it bother you, if we say “du”? (to each other)

Sagen wir doch Du zueinander!

Let's say “du” to each other.

When you’re asked the same questions above or if you would like to set the level of familiarity during your conversation, here are some useful phrases:

German phrase

Translation

Du kannst mich duzen.

You can address me with “du”.

Ich glaube nicht, dass wir “per du” sind.

I don't think we say “du”. (to each other)

Ich möchte nicht geduzt werden.

I don't like being addressed with “du”.

Frequently Asked Questions About “du” and “Sie”

By now you probably have a good idea how to use “du” and “Sie” and all that remains is finding the opportunity to turn theory into practice. Here are some frequently asked questions with their respective answers.

Q: While you've pointed out that “geduzt zu werden” can be seen as impolite or even offensive by someone, could the reverse also be true: using “Sie” instead of “du”?

A: There are few instances in which someone would feel offended, but I can think of one: Let's say you and a younger person attend a social event, maybe an office party (and you are the person's boss). You have a few drinks together and you offer him or her the familiar “du”. The next day, however, either because you don't remember, or you've changed your mind, you again use “Sie”. The younger person may now feel bad and not dare to ask you why you've reverted back to “Sie”.

While addressing each other with “Sie” at work and with “du” at social interactions may be more the exception than the rule today, it may still be the code of conduct in hierarchical organizations.

Q: Is it okay to start a conversation with someone using “Sie” and later in the conversation switch to “du”?

A: Well, if the other person reminds you that you were already using the familiar “du” before, it's quite obvious that you should switch. Or, if you hear the invitation “Sagen wir doch du zueinander!” then it's a no-brainer either.

Also, if you're both of similar age, social status, etc. and the other person repeatedly used “du”, you could very well switch as well – at least that's what I would do.

Q: Is it all right if one person uses “du” while the other uses “Sie”?

A: As we have seen, this indeed is the typical situation between children and adults, students and teachers. It used to be quite normal in the past between aristocrats and commoners, bosses and workers, i.e. people of different rank and status etc., but in today's democratic German-speaking societies it would seem unusual between adults.

Q: Do the formal “Sie” and plural “sie” always have the same conjugation?

A: Yes, the conjugation of verbs with the formal “Sie” (you) and the plural “sie” (they) is always exactly the same.

Q: The conjugation of verbs is different for “du” and “Sie”, right?

Yes, the conjugation of verbs with the familiar “du” and the formal “Sie” is different as shown with these examples, while the English translation remains the same :

“Du siehst mich.” - “Sie sehen mich. (You see me.)
“Du hörst uns.” - “Sie hören uns.” (You see us.)
“Du liebst ihn.” - “Sie lieben ihn.” (You love him.)
“Du bist schön.” - “Sie sind schön.” (You are beautiful.)

And, if there are any more questions about the use of “Du” vs. “Sie”, just drop us a line. We'll be happy to answer them or find out.

We also welcome any comments or observations that are different from our experience and explanations above.

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

You Want to Practice Your German?

Our games and travel-story based courses are also a great way to practice your German.

With our German 1 and 2 courses you'll learn and practice German for FREE - with stories of a young man traveling through Germany and - its sequel - solving a "Blüten"-mystery in Berlin. "The Story" and easy games will let you forget that you are actually learning German!

And you can also listen to both Stories by clicking on German 1 or German 2 on our Podcast page

If travel to Germany is in your near future, you may also enjoy our post: 4 Fun German Language Games Before You Travel.

 

 

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

How YouTube Videos Can Boost Your French (And Other Languages)

father, mother, and daughet at beachRecently, we enjoyed a week's visit of family from French Switzerland. Since only Daniel, the young father, spoke any English, we were delighted to have our world dipped into French.

Focusing only on French - without resorting to translation - can give your language skills an enormous boost. But if you really want to stay only in French, you already have to have a decent level of comprehension and speaking ability in the language.

No surprise that I learned a lot from nine-year-old Michelle. She spoke fast, could only explain things in French, and relentlessly corrected my French, pronunciation and all.

I love those long, leisurely French-style mealtimes. Besides catching up on our lives and discussing current politics in Europe and the U.S., we talked of course, about language learning. We're always eager for new ideas and resources.

Daniel had a good suggestion for us, one that he uses to improve his English. It's just as useful for French, and I'm happy to pass the idea on.

French YouTube Videos

For anyone with a good basic knowledge of French, YouTube buttonYouTube videos in French are a great resource. 

I mean especially the ones that explain in French how to do things. These are excellent for broadening your vocabulary and tuning your ear so you'll understand various regional pronunciations.

Besides, you can learn (in French) anything you want: from fixing things, to cooking local French dishes, to philosophizing about life. There are computer tips, gardening tips, beauty tips, decorating tips, fashion tips. You name it.

YouTube: Cuisiner

mother & daughter cooks in kitchenIf you're a budding chef, it's fun to watch and follow cooking and baking instructions on YouTube.

Michelle loves desserts, like all kids (young and old), and she's already acquiring all kinds of knowledge about how to make some of the famous French "patisseries."

Her favorite YouTube channel is called Commentfait Ton (a play on words, the host's name is "Ton").

But as you can imagine, there are countless easy-to-find YouTube cooking channels in French.

YouTube: Minecraft

If you (or your French-learning kids) are into Minecraft, there are lots of tutorial videos in French.

Here's a link to an early one: Chambre secrète minecraft fr

You can search (countless) others by typing in something like: "tutoriel minecraft en français"

Wildly Popular Channels:

The YouTube channels listed below are popular ones in France, and I'm sure with French learners too. They are definitely worth a look.

Cyprien - Humorous sketches about daily life, in French with English subtitles.

Norman - Funny videos in French, sometimes with English subtitles.

These are just a few possibilities. You can certainly look for specific tutorials, by putting in the French phrase for what you're looking for.

For do-it-yourself odd jobs, home-improvement stints, etc., the key word in French is "bricolage."

Pratiks ("des videos pour tout faire") is a also popular channel in French. 

To really benefit, it's a good idea to write down any words that you want to learn and to review these a little later. It also doesn't hurt to watch the same video a couple of times.

PS: And if you are interested in other languages – just search for similar topics in that language – and:

Have fun, and keep learning!

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