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. 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.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

German Direct or Indirect Pronouns With Easy Games

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

German Dative (indirect) and Accusative (direct) 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 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 case).

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.

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.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

A Ten-Year-Old Learns French With GamesforLanguage

Gamesforlanguage French 1 Course Home PagePublic schools in the US traditionally have a week of school vacation in mid-February, that didn't change even during the pandemic. Since spending time with our grand-kids was out of the question, Peter had came up with a suggestion for an activity they could do.

After all, their parents had to work, and the kids needed some projects. The children are learning other languages, so we thought we'd give them the challenge to go through the French 1 and the German 1 course. At the end of the week, we would interview them.

Our ten-year-old grandson Will chose French. His family has traveled a few times to France, and he's been getting regular French lessons on Zoom. By the end of the week, he had finished three lessons of French with GamesforLanguage.

We're encouraging Will to continue playing the French course and the Quick French Language Games. We "interviewed" him on the front lawn of his home where he was building a snow fort. It was obviously not a school-like setting for him, and he was pretty relaxed.

Did any answers surprise us? Yes, a couple of them did.

Here are the Questions about learning French with GamesforLanguage:

Question 1: You've been learning French for a little while now, what do you like about French?
• I like the sounds, French has cool sounds.

His answer was quick and spontaneous and surprised me at first. I did not expect it to be "sounds". But then why not? Hearing sounds, imitating them, and producing sounds to get things, that's how children actually learn their first language. Reading and writing doesn't come until later and takes several years of schooling.

Question 2: What's the first French word that comes to your mind right now? Dialogue Page, Lesson 1, French 1- Gamesforlanguage
• I want to say "juice" but I can't remember the French word. But I do remember "pomme".

Okay, now we know kids can't remember everything either. In our French 1 course, "jus", "pomme" and "jus de pomme" come up early and several times. Looks like it was "pomme" that stuck.

Question 3: Do you remember your visit in France? Did you actually have the chance to say things in French? Order food? Do you remember any words?
• Oh yes, a lot. I said things in French when we were in restaurants. I always ordered what I liked. What I said many times: "De la glace. Je veux de la glace, s'il vous plaît."

Clearly, even kids learn to say things that they "need" to say, much better than stuff they just have to learn by rote. That's as true for them as it is for us, and includes saying things in another language.

Question 4: What is your favorite French word?
• The word I really like is "fromage", and also because it tastes to good.

A good example here of associating a word with one of the senses. For language learning, it's well known that "sensory input" boosts your memory.

Question 5: What French sound do you find a little hard to pronounce?
• The sort of harsh sounds are hard. I'm thinking of, like, "cr", "croissant" or "crème".

I was expecting him to say that he found the "nasal" sounds hard, as in "moi", "non"; or the French "u", as in "tu". But he had no problems with those. Just shows: mastery of new sounds is an individual thing, not everyone has the same difficulties.

Question 6: How do you practice a sound that's hard?
• Oh, I say it over and over and over again, "croissant", "croissant", "croissant au chocolat" ...

For anyone - children or adults - learning new sounds takes practice. To produce a sound that's not in your own native language, you have to move your mouth (tongue and lips) in a different way. And that takes practice until it becomes automatic.

Gamsforlanguage French 1.1 Memory Game screenshotQuestion 7: When you're playing GamesforLanguage - What is the easiest game for you?
• The easiest? It's the Memory Game. That's the game where you see 4 cards for a word. I had no problem picking the right one.

The Memory Game is multiple choice and a good way to introduce 4 new words or phrases. You first see the right match for each word (French and English equivalent). Then the English cards are mixed up and you need to pick the one that's the translation.

Right in the first lesson, you have the 4 phrases: "un jus de pomme" (an apple juice), "si'il vous plaît" (please), "mon premier voyage" (my first trip), "en France").

Question 8: On GamesforLanguage - When playing a game, do you repeat out loud or just in your head?
• I definitely repeat out loud. Sometimes again.

He's got that right! An online game doesn't make you fluent, but saying what you hear out loud is good practice for improving you pronunciation and listening skills. To be able to say a word right, you have to hear it correctly and to check whether your pronunciation matches. Just silently thinking what about the French is not good enough.

Question 9: What game do you find a little hard?
• The Clouds Game, it's harder to pick the right one.

Snap Clouds is a recall game, which makes it a little harder to pick the correct answer. Plus, the choices are not as obvious as in the Memory Game. For example, you'd be asked to choose the correct pronoun and form of the verb: For "I speak", you have the choices: "tu parles", "je parle", "elle parle", "il parle".

Question 10: What game is the most fun to do? GamesforLanguage French Wordinvaders screenshot
• I like the Space Invaders. I don't find that hard, I can shoot the right word.

Actually, we call that game "Word Invaders". With it you build phrases and sentences, word by word. For each word you get two or three choices. For example, you're asked to build the phrase in French: "An apple juice, please (formal)". The answer will be: "Un jus de pomme, s'il vous plaît".

These are the choices that you have for each of the words:
1. un une 
2. jus eau vin 
3. à de
4. poire pomme raisin
5. s'il mais
6. vous tu
7. plaît parle passe

Question 11: What do you think you learned most with GamesforLanguage: words, pronunciation? Or has it improved your understanding of what the speakers say?
• I learned reading French the most. I didn't know how to read much French before.

This answer surprised me because I hadn't thought about it. In his Zoom lessons, he hears his French tutor and answers in French, but he doesn't see the words. So, seeing how the French words he hears are written was a novelty and probably the most challenging for him.

Question 12: Do you like getting points at the end of a lesson?
• Yes, I like it. It feels like you earned something.

"Earning" something seems to matter to some learners. At the end of each lesson, we've set a minimum percentage of correct answers a player must reach in order to continue with the next lesson. That number goes up gradually, from 50% in the first 6 lessons, to 90% in the last 6 lessons.
He also told us that he had not listened yet to the lesson audios or downloaded each lesson's PDF file.  (You can access the audio for each level (six lessons) via the Podcast link and the PDF file via the link under each course lesson.)

It was fun to talk with our ten-year-old grandson about his tryout of learning French with our GamesforLanguage course. He's one of our younger users.
We have several school classes located in the US, UK, and Australia playing French, German, and Spanish. What appeals are the Quick Games and the game structure of the courses.
Besides, our games, courses, and podcasts are completely FREE, there are no Google advertisements.
Only our courses require a simple registration and a password - which is only needed so you can continue your course where you left off.
Quick Games, Podcasts and Blog can all be accessed by just clicking on the link

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Gamesforlanguage Favorites During Covid-19 in 2020

Gamesforlanguage Games and Stories Ten years ago, GamesforLanguage started out as an experiment and family project: a language teacher and course editor, a retired engineer, a computer programmer (our son) and his graphic designer wife collaborated on what has turned out to be a fun and rewarding enterprise.

Over the years, we've had a steady stream of users and have gotten valuable feedback. We've also found plenty of incentive for our own language learning by using our own courses, joining online language learning groups and trying out other language programs and apps.

Our site is free to all - without any Google advertisements - a fact that more and more teachers and parents seem to appreciate as well. You can play our Quick Games and Podcasts, and read our Blog Posts by just clicking on the links.

Only our language Courses require a simple registration. This way, players can pick-up the story and continue learning and practicing where they last logged off.

At the beginning of a new year, we usually look back to determine what has interested our users most. Over the last few months of 2020, we've noticed a substantial increase in groups playing our Quick Games and travel-story Courses.

Registrations increased by users with an institutional email address, in particular schools. Most of the students registered that way play Courses in addition to Quick Games.

Although we don't know the email addresses of users who just play Quick Games, Podcasts, or read our Blog Posts, we are able to identify which content receives the most traffic.

Travel Story Courses

Our original purpose for Gamesforlanguage was to combine the idea of learning a new language with a travel story and fun games. Being language learners ourselves, we've used (and are still using) many different language programs.

Like most people, we want to avoid getting bored while learning. One antidote seems to be using stories. You can read about that in our 5 Top Reasons for Learning a language with Stories.Gamesforlanguage.com Registration Page

Not surprisingly, it was our German courses that had the most players from registered users last year. This may also be due to the fact that we have two(2) 36-lesson German courses, as well as an active German Facebook page.

If German or any of our other languages - French, Italian, and Spanish - interest you, click on the registration page or the screenshot above, and register. (Our Course English for Spanish Speakers is still in development and has 3 levels at this time.)

Quick Games

We currently have over 300 Quick Language Games, and we are adding new games every few weeks. These can be played by just clicking on the Quick Games link on our website and selecting the language you want to practice.

Each fun game only takes a couple of minutes or so. It helps you practice a few words, a grammar point or some typical phrases.

We post one of tLearn German - A Game A Day Facebook Pagehe nearly 90 Quick German Games every weekday on our German Facebook page, Learn German -A Game A Day.

Guten Morgen is the most popular German Quick Game, while Numbers 1-20 is the favorite of learners of Italian, and Numbers 21 and beyond of those learning French.

Blog Posts

Since we started Gamesforlanguage in January 2011, we've added nearly 400 Blog Posts about language learning, travel experiences, and related topics. That's an average of over 3 posts per month.

It's always interesting to see which of the older posts have become perennials.Victoria des Los Angeles and La Paloma lyrics Our 2013 post about La Paloma Lyrics - Learning Spanish with a Song, was also a favorite in 2020. (And if you like that idea for learning Spanish, we can suggest one of our partner sites, Language-Zen.)

For those who have tried our travel-story based Courses, it's no surprise that we like stories for learning and practice. We are obviously not the only ones. Our 2016 post: Why Polyglots Also Use Stories for Language Learning has been very popular.

And, as it's quite a short post, we're always surprised to see the 2013 entry - Quick French: “On y va”, “Allons-y!” - to be on our most read list year after year!

Podcasts

We have not yet promoted and expanded our Podcasts. (Something we're going to focus on in 2021.) Most of our podcasts are the MP3 audios and chapters of each of our courses.

Gamesforlanguage:German 2 Podcast screenshot We believe that listening to the story BEFORE or AFTER playing a course lesson, helps you to internalize the sound and rhythm of the language and to memorize the phrases.

In the Podcast section, the German 2 Story “Blüten in Berlin” was the favorite in 2020. No surprise there.

We are planning to add more Podcasts about Language Learning, Culture and Travel.

We're hopeful that in the fall of 2021, we can again travel to Europe. In any case, until travel is safe again, there' s plenty of time to practice languages online, to read books, to listen to podcasts and to watch foreign movies.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

The German Separable Prefix “mit-”

Screenshot of of German prefix "mit" Quick Game German prefixes are hard for English speakers as they often seem capricious. When used in sentences, they are sometimes attached, and sometimes they're not.

And where to put them if they're not?

Mark Twain, who had a love/hate relationship with the German language, put it this way:

"The Germans have an inhuman way of cutting up their verbs. Now a verb has a hard time enough of it in this world when it's all together. It's downright inhuman to split it up. But that's just what those Germans do. They take part of a verb and put it down here, like a stake, and they take the other part of it and put it away over yonder like another stake, and between these two limits they just shovel in German."  (Mark Twain's Speeches, "Disappearance of Literature" in twainquotes.)

Our German Quick Language Game with the separable prefix "mit-" is a popular one. That's not surprising. The separable prefix "mit-" (with, along with) connects to a lot of common verbs, adding the idea of "with [sb]", "along with [sb]", "together with [sb]" etc.

When prefixes in German are added to a verb, they change the verb's meaning, sometimes a lot. But sometimes the new meaning is easy to guess, as in the examples below:

kommen (to come) - mitkommen (to come with, come along).
bringen (to bring) - mitbringen (to bring with, bring along)
nehmen (to take) - mitnehmen (to take with, take along)

What makes German prefixes often tricky is the fact that there are three types of them:

1. Inseparable Prefixes are the easiest ones.

They are never detached from the verb.
Common inseparable prefixes: be-, emp-, ent-, er-, ge-, miss-, ver-, zer-
Examples are:

befreien (to liberate)
empfehlen (to recommend)
entschuldigen (to excuse, apologize)
erkennen (to recognize)
gefallen (to like)
missverstehen (to misunderstand)
versuchen (to try)
zerschneiden (to cut into pieces)

2. Separable Prefixes are the ones that can cause trouble

And there are a lot of them. They detach from the main-clause verb in the present tense and simple past.
Common separable prefixes: ab-, an-, auf-, aus-, bei-, ein-, hin-, her-, mit-, nach-, vor-, zu-, zurück-

abholen (to call for [sb, sth], pick up)
anrufen (to call [sb])
aufmachen (to open)
ausbrechen (to break out, escape)beifügen (to add, enclose)
einladen (to invite)
hingehen (to go there)
herkommen (to come here, approach)
mitkommen (to come with, along)
nachschlagen (to look up [a word])
vorschlagen (to suggest, propose)
zumachen (to shut, close)
zurückgehen (to go back)

3. Prefixes that are Separable or Inseparable

Fortunately there are not that many of them, and we only mention them in case you encounter one of them.
Common examples: durch-, über-, unter-, um-, wider-
The stress on the verb gives you a clue, as in the one example below.

Separable Prefix: umschreiben - to write again, rewrite (literal meaning, "um" is stressed)
Inseparable Prefix: umschreiben - to paraphrase (meaning is not literal, "schreiben" is stressed)

Now, taking our three separable prefix verbs: "mitkommen, mitbringen, mitnehmen", let's look at what happens to "mit-" in the various types of common German sentences.

The Separable Prefix "mit-" in Simple Present-Tense Sentences

In sentences with one subject and one verb, the prefix "mit-" separates from the infinitive and goes the end of a sentence. It is now an independent word.

mitkommen - Kommst du mit? (Are you coming with me/with us?)
mitbringen - Ich bringe ein paar Freunde mit. (I'm bringing a couple of friends with me.)
mitnehmen - Ich nehme es gerne mit. (I'm happy to take it with me.)

The Separable Prefix "mit-" in Simple Past-Tense Sentences

Note: The simple past of verbs is not used a lot in conversational German (except with the verbs "sein" and "haben", and for telling a story or a past event).

You'll see the simple past routinely in books and newspaper stories.It looks like this:Screenshot German "mit" Quick Game

mitkommen - Du kamst mit. (You came with me/us.)
mitbringen - Ich brachte ein paar Freunde mit. (I brought along a couple of friends.)
mitnehmen - Ich nahm es gerne mit. (I was happy to take it with me.)

The Separable Prefix "mit-" as a Past Participle:

Note: The prefix "mit-" attaches to the participle of the stem word, i.e. "gekommen", "gebracht", "genommen".
Here are the same sentences in conversational German.

mitkommen - Du bist mitgekommen. (You came along.)
mitbringen - Ich habe ein paar Freunde mitgebracht. (I brought a couple of friends with me.)
mitnehmen - Ich habe es gern mitgenommen. (I was happy to take it with me.)

The Separable Prefix "mit-" following a Modal Verb:

Not much to worry about here: just use the infinitive.

mitkommen - Du kannst nicht mitkommen. (You can't come along.)
mitbringen - Ich kann ein paar Freunde mitbringen. (I can bring a couple of friends along.)
mitnehmen - Ich kann es gerne mitnehmen. (I can take it with me, no problem.)

Other Verbs with the Prefix “mit-” 

The meaning of most of these is easy to guess.

mitreden - to join in or add to a conversation
Da kann ich nicht mitreden. (I can't add anything to this conversation.)

mitgehen - to go with [sb]
Ja, meine Kinder gehen auch mit. (Yes, my children are also going with me.)

mitgehen lassen - to steal, pinch, swipe
Ich glaube, er hat einen Silberlöffel mitgehen lassen. (I think he pinched a silver spoon.)

mitmachen - to join in, take part in [an activity]
Heute hat er beim Spiel nicht mitgemacht. (Today he did not join in the game.)

mitfahren - to ride along [as a passenger]
Kann ich mit dir mitfahren? (Can a get a ride with you?)

mitschreiben - to take notes
Ich mache heute blau. Kannst du für mich mitschreiben? (I'm cutting class today. Can you take notes for me?)

mitspielen - join in the game, be involved
Willst du mitspielen? (Do you want to join in the game?)

mitkriegen - catch, get [what's been said, or done]
Das habe ich nicht mitgekriegt. (I didn't catch that.)

mithalten - to keep up with somebody
Du rennst zu schnell. Da kann ich nicht mithalten. (You're running too fast. I can't keep up.)

The more you engage with a language - by reading, listening, speaking and writing - the more familiar you become with how it works. Prefix verbs are no exception.

Practice with short sentences until you can confidently push those prefixes around.
And by the time you are able to "shovel in German" between a prefix and the stem verb, you should feel pretty good about yourself.

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