Posted on by Peter Rettig

Foreign Language Learning While You Sleep?

Sleeping woman with earphones- language learning? (Updated 9/22/2017)

Have you dreamed about leaning a foreign language during your sleep? I certainly have.

Just imagine, a few electrodes attached to your head will infuse your brain with a new language while you sleep. Unfortunately, it's still science fiction stuff: A nice idea, but clearly not yet realistic at this time!

On the other hand, Swiss scientists have proven with a number of tests that you can indeed enhance your vocabulary retention during sleep. At least it's a start. I first found this on PsychCrunch's podcast Episode 5: How to Learn a New Language, which includes an interview with Professor Björn Rasch from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

I contacted Professor Rasch and he was kind enough to send me three articles, the latest one titled: “The beneficial role of memory reactivation for language learning during sleep: A review,” authored by him and Thomas Schreiner. (The article is available now on Elsevier.com's “Brain and Language” and can also be obtained via ScienceDirect.)

Language Learning Stages

I found the Schreiner/Rasch article fascinating because it examines the close tie between language learning and the basic processes of memory. As you learn words in a new language, you go through three core stages: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval.

Encoding

When we first hear new words (also called labels) for objects, activities, human brain encoding imagefeelings, etc. in a foreign language, our brain has to encode them. That means, we change the information into a form that our memory can cope with.

There are three main ways in which information can be encoded:
• with a picture (visual)
• with sound (acoustic)
• with meaning (semantic).

For example, to learn the German word for “dog,” you could use an image of a dog plus the audio and/or written text “Hund.” That's the encoding.

The authors remind us that, “during encoding, new and initially labile memory traces are formed that are still highly susceptible to interference.” Nevertheless, such “memory traces” are no longer just conjecture. They can be made visible today with MRI brain scans.

Consolidation

During this stage, the newly encoded memories are “stabilized and strengthened” and “gradually integrated into pre-existing knowledge networks on the cortical level for long-term storage.”

This must be the stage where practice and interactive learning comes into play. Whether by associations with images or feelings, repeating and saying aloud, spaced-recall exercises, writing, or other drills - consolidating new memories is essential for learning a foreign language.

It's especially at this stage that sleep is key. Before reading the article, I was not aware of how important sleep is for memory functions. Schreiner/Rasch note: “While encoding and retrieval are clearly tied to wakefulness, sleep plays a crucial role in the consolidation of newly encoded memories. There is a vast amount of research that documents the beneficial effects that sleep has on memory.

Retrieval

dog cartoon with big bone In this third stage, memories can be accessed and are available for active use. We know what that means when we start practicing a foreign language: We not only understand the meaning of the foreign words, we can also use and apply them when listening, reading, speaking, or writing.

Understandably, the memories stored in our brain are more like a collage, or even a jigsaw puzzle, than a series of lists. And thus, associations (helped by context, specific questions, or other cues) play an important role in the retrieval of information. 

(I was recently made aware of an article, 4 Crazy Things We Misunderstand About Human Memory, which is quite relevant to this subject. In fact, many of the article's conclusions - how to better remember things - we also advocate and can help your language learning: writing words down, making audio recordings, creating visual prompts with Post-It notes, associating things with imagery. )

Sleep/Language Study Set-up

A group of Germans was given 120 Dutch-German word pairs to study before 10 PM. Then, half of the group, the “Sleep Group,” slept for three hours, while the other half, the “Control Group,” stayed awake.

The Sleep Group heard a portion of the words - referred to as “cued” words - during their sleep, but during their “Non -rapid eye movement” (NREM) sleep, which typically occurs during the first few hours when you do not dream.

The same words were replayed to the Control Group. After three hours both groups were given tests. The Sleep Group had better recall of the (“cued”) words they had heard during sleep than the Control Group who had listened to them while awake

Schreiner/Rasch Test Setup

The image A above shows the set-up and when the Sleep Group heard the “cued” Dutch words.

Graph (B) shows that in the Sleep Group, recall for the German translation Schreiner/Rasch Graph B of the cued Dutch words (black bar) was significantly improved when compared with uncued words (white bar).

In the Control Group, there was no significant difference between the recall of cued and uncued words.

There are more study details and observations by the researchers than can be discussed here (including the cueing timing and intervals).

The study seemed to confirm that verbal cues – e.g. replaying during sleep a list of foreign words that had been learned earlier – can reactivate the memory of those words.

In other words, hearing vocabulary during our sleep could greatly enhance the “consolidation stage” of our memory and thereby the language learning process.

Conclusions

The authors note that “the findings reviewed above demonstrate the crucial role of sleep in language and specifically word learning.

It has been shown that sleep promotes divers aspects of language learning, from word learning to the abstraction of grammar rules (Batterink et al., 2014; Henderson et al., 2012) and possibly constitutes an ideal state in order to facilitate and accelerate distinct learning processes.

In this vein, evidence that foreign vocabulary are capable of inducing such reactivation processes and thereby enhance subsequent memory performance critically broadens the scope of cued memory reactivations during sleep.”

Open Questions

Schreiner/Rasch also acknowledge a number of open questions. Among them:
• What would be the consequences when the word cues were heard during REM sleep (vs. NREM sleep)?
• Do closely related languages (e.g. Dutch/German) make cueing during sleep more effective?
• Does cueing affect sleep quality?

We would also ask:
• What is the optimum timing sequence?  
• What is the optimum audio volume level?
• What about phrases and sentences vs. individual words?

There is clearly still more research needed to determine how best we can take advantage of these findings in language learning practice at home.

One Practical Take-Away

After reading the study and understanding more about the importance of sleep for the “consolidation stage” of our memory, I have set myself a new goal: Play one of our Spanish lessons or Quick Games before turning off the lights.

Finding a way to “cue” the right words at the right time at night, will certainly be a little more difficult. But it may also be the next frontier that language learning companies will want to cross.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

References: Schreiner, T., & Rasch, B. The beneficial role of memory reactivation for language learning during sleep: A review. Brain &Language (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandl.2016.02.005

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Gamesforlanguage: Understanding “gammeln” und “vergammeln”...

Det gamle Hus on Danish houseTraveling has the added benefit of opening your eyes to both new and old things.

Sometimes you even learn to understand words and expressions in your native language that you heard and used - but never thought much about.

That occurred to me recently during our travels through Denmark when I saw “Det gamle Hus” on a house in Gilleleje, Denmark. (see above picture)

In German, you have the words “gammeln” and “vergammeln”. The etymological roots of these words suddenly became clear! And with that, I have an excellent memory crutch for the Danish word. 

Das vergammelte Haus?

A quick look at a dictionary clarified that "gammel" means "old" in Danish, and the sign “Det gamle Hus” just means “The old house.” (“Das alte Haus.”)

The German cognate “vergammelt” also means that something is old. In addition “vergammelt” suggests that it's in bad condition, decrepit, run down, etc.

Obviously, if I had looked up the etymology of “gammel”, I would have found an entry such as this:

"Via German Low German from Middle Low German 'gamelen', from Old Saxon (attested in the past participle 'gigamal'). Cognate to Old English 'gamolian'. The verb pertains to an adjective meaning “old” attested in Middle Dutch 'gamel', Old English 'gamol', Old Norse 'gamall' (whence forms in all modern Scandinavian languages)". (Wiki)

The German verb "gammeln"

• third-person singular simple present "gammelt"
• past tense "gammelte",
• past participle "gegammelt", with the auxiliary "haben"

The same Wiki entry lists 2 meanings:
1. Gammeln: to become old; to rot [of food or figurative]
As in: Das Brot von letzter Woche gammelt im Schrank. (Last week’s bread is rotting in the cupboard.)

This Wiki entry also provided a second etymological explanation: "Originally a southern German dialect word. Derived from Middle High German 'gamel', variant of 'gamen' ('amusement'), from Old High German 'gaman'. Related to English 'game'."

2. Gammeln: (informal) to bum around; to do nothing productive; to be idle; to live the life of a hobo
As in: Nach der Schule hab ich zwei Jahre nur gegammelt. (After finishing school I didn't do anything productive for two years.)

“Gammeln” and “vergammeln” may not be words you learn in a German course. But if you ever come across them in Germany (or their cousins in any of the Nordic countries), you now you know their meaning. 

As an added benefit for me: I will probably never forget that "old" in Danish is "gammel", and as pointed out above, in all modern Scandinavian languages: Swedish "gammal", Norwegian "gammel", Icelandic "gamall".

So, cognates - such as the Danish “gammel” and the German “gammeln” - are an easy way for learning and remembering vocabulary: You just have to pay attention as you are walking around and try to decipher signs, posters and advertisements.

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

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

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.

Readers' Comments

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 "twofer" ... you'll get healthier and stronger, and your language memory will improve.

Posted on by Ulrike 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 habit - like doing your morning exercise, or brushing you teeth, or having your coffee -  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. Even if your trip will be sometime in the future, imagining yourself going can be a huge motivator. It's been that way for us: 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. Do baby steps, but do them steadily.

3. Set a modest goal.
Make it an attainable, short-term goal, for example 15 minutes a day for 21 days. The idea is to set a goal that you can reach and feel good about. Once you're there, you can always set a new goal, if you want.

4. Schedule a daily reminder.
Put your reminder on your PDA, Phone, Laptop, Mac/PC for a time when you can actually spend those 15 minutes. We're all busy, so is a great way to not have to worry about forgetting.

5. Identify the skills you need to work on.
Focus especially on the skills that need attention. 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.  Focusing on a couple of specific skills makes it easier to notice progress.

6. Trust yourself.
You know you can 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! Be patient with your own language learning journey, persistence is key.

7. Push your limits.
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 with Having 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”

Berlin towerEnglish 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. someone whom2 business people shaking hands 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.
• Anyone 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”.
• Classmates
• Students and colleagues that you're on amicable terms with
• Children up to their late teenage/early adult years
• Members of sports clubs and political parties typical use “du” (although there again are hierarchical and age differences that may create exceptions).
• Clearly, for animals, pets, inanimate objects, etc. you use “du” as well.

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 done 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.

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.

“Sie” and “du” 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:

• Nouns: das “Duzen” (saying “du” to each other) and das “Siezen” (saying “Sie” to each other)
• Verbs: “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's what you could say in navigating the move from “Sie” to “du”:
• 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?)
• 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.)

If you would like to set the level of familiarity during your conversation, here are some useful phrases:
• Du kannst mich duzen. (You can address me with "du".)
• Ich glaube nicht, dass wir “per du” sind. (I don't think we'vebeen using "du" [with each other]).
• Ich möchte nicht geduzt werden. (I don't like being addressed with “du”.) 

Frequently Asked Questions About “sie” and “du”

By now you probably have a good idea how to use “Sie” and “du”. 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 “Sie” vs. “du”, 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 beach Recently, 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 videos in French are a great resource. YouTube button

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 kitchen If 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

Here's
a more recent one that gives you translations: Modern French Practice with Minecraft, Ma maison et Subjonctif

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

Wildly Popular French 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 couple of 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.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Language Learning With Songs: From Traditional to Pop in French, German, Italian and Spanish

colorful song signIf you love music, songs provide a wealth of language learning possibilities for you. But not only that. Each culture has its own tradition, which makes it all the more interesting.

A simple word like the English “song” is a good example of how various languages may differentiate among alternative meanings (or not) for a basic concept.

And, as you get more familiar with the culture of the language you're learning, you'll also begin to appreciate different traditions of "songs".

When you google for the translation of “song” in the four languages of our Gamesforlanguage site, you'll get the following results:

French

English “the song” translates as “la chanson” (music with words) and “le chant” (song-like piece of music, song-like poem), from “chanter” (to sing).

The English language uses “chant” as a synonym for “song” or “singing,” often in connection with spiritual or religious singing. We talk about Gregorian chants, not Gregorian songs, and it's the same in French.

France has a strong tradition of “art songs,” which include not only beloved arias from operas by Bizet, Fauré, Gounot, and Massenet, but also poems, by Hugo, Verlaine, Baudelaire, set to music by Debussy, Fauré, Ravel, and others.

While the English “song,” may or may not include any lyrics, the French “chanson” is typically a lyric-driven song.

Singers that we enjoy include Edith Piaff, Jacques Brel, Mireille Mathieu, Charles Aznavour, Joe Dassin, Georges Moustaki, and Québec's “chansonniers” Félix Leclerc, Claude Léveillé, Raymond Lévesque, and more.

The traditional French “chanson” has a long and colorful history, dating back to the Middle Ages. “Chanson” differs from other French “pop” music by reaching back to French traditions of lyrics and music (rather than following British or American trends).

French Hot songs 2017Songs in French are a wonderful way to acquire the sounds and the rhythm of the French language, and to learn words and idiomatic expressions.

By listening over and over to a French song you really like, you'll even pick up some typical grammar structures.

We are especially fond of Edith Piaf's Non, je ne regrette rien, which let's you pick up a number of grammatical clues.

Check out the “Chanson française du moment” and see if you can find one that you like. If it gets into your head, your French will surely improve.

German

The German translation of “the song” is “das Lied.” This may be a little confusing as the verb “to sing” translates to “singen,” and for “the singing” and you'll get “das Singen” and “der Gesang.”

“Das Lied” is similar to the French “la chanson,” and “Gesang” is the equivalent of the French (and English) “chant.” In German, for example, we talk about the “Gregorian Gesänge” (der Gesang; pl: die Gesänge).

German music lovers will also be familiar with “Lieder” (das Lied; pl: die Lieder). These are often poems put to music by composers such as Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, etc.

German Hot songs 2017An English translation for “Lieder” may be “art songs,” as these are poems set to classical music. Their tradition goes back to the 12thCentury and the German “Minnelieder” (courtly love songs). 

From the 1960s on, German singer-songwriters liked to call themselves “Liedermacher” (makers of songs).

In modern German, “songs” may also translate as “Schlager,” the popular German songs of the Hit Parade.

Songs performed by Marlene Dietrich and Lale Andersen (Lili Marleen) went around the world; Peter Alexander, Catharina Valente, Freddy Quinn, Udo Jürgens, and many others all had “Schlager” hits in their time.

One of our favorites is Jürgen von der Lippe's  Guten Morgen liebe Sorgen.... It topped the Hit Parade list for several weeks in the 80's.

Every week, the Offiziellen Deutschen Party & Schlager Charts are updated. Take a look and see if you can't find a song that you like, and – by memorizing the lyrics - you will improve your German.

Italian

The Italian translation of “the song,” is “la canzone.” “The singing” translates as “il canto,” derived from “cantare” (to sing). All Romance languages trace the equivalent for “song” back to the Latin word “cantio” (singing).

The Italian “canzone,” (which derived from the Provençal “canso,” a troubadour's love song) traditionally referred to a song of 5 to 7 stanzas with a particular rhyme scheme. The form was later made famous by the Italian Renaissance writers Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.

Italian Hot songs 2017Italian opera, born in the 17th century and fashionable in the 18th and 19th centuries has been a rich source of “art songs” that are popular to this day.

Just think of the great Luciano Pavarotti singing exquisite arias from the operas of Verdi, Rossini, Donizetti, or Puccini.

In the late 1950s and 1960s emerged the “cantautori” - the singer songwriters, who wrote and sang their own songs, often in protest against the more traditional “canzone.” This was an interesting and important development.

Starting out as an imitation of sorts of the French “chanson” at the time (Brassens, Brel, Ferré, etc.), the Italian “cantautori” soon succeeded in creating songs about Italian everyday life and reality. It's a trend that's strong even now. 

A smash hit from 1962 that has 55 versions is “Quando, quando, quando.” We featured it on one of our  blog posts, "Dimmi quando..." - An Italian Song for Language Learning. Italian Pop and Rock music is often characterized as “musica leggera” (light music).

Songs by contemporary singers such as Eros Ramazzotti, Mina, Ligabue, Javanotti, Laura Pausini, and many others are good for learning and practicing Italian because the lyrics are relatively simple. The music is great and many of the songs get under your skin, which boosts language learning.

Check out the Canzoni del momento and see whether there is one you can memorize. It will certainly help your Italian.

Spanish

The Spanish translation of “the song” is “la canción” (music with words, song-like music) and “el canto” (song-like poem). “To sing” translates as “cantar.” Spanish music combines a wide range of cultures that were part of Spain's past, most notably Arabic culture.

During the 17th and 18th century a Spanish form of light opera, or operetta, called “zarzuela” developed and became popular. It was a kind of music theater that combined spoken and sung storytelling, and included regional and folk elements. The Spanish full opera was much slower to develop.

Well-known Spanish “art songs” are by the composers Manuel de Falla, Enrique Granados, Fernando Obradors, though this genre did not become quite as popular as its French and German counterparts. 

But we shouldn't forget Sebastián Iradier (later Yradier), who wrote “La Paloma” after he visited Cuba in 1861. “La Paloma,” which has been translated into many languages, is arguably one of the best-known Spanish art songs. (See also La Paloma Lyrics – Learning Spanish with a Song, or La Paloma – Carmen – Cuba: Spanish Language Connections.)

After the Spanish Civil (1936-1939) and during Franco's repressive government which followed, regional culture and its music were banned. Rock and roll and pop music found its way into Spain only towards the end of Franco's regime.

After Franco's death in 1975, and as part of the new countercultural movement Movida Madrileña, there emerged a new, energized style of music. It resembled the British new wave and the Neue Deutsche Welle, but added flamenco passion and rhythms.

Since then, the Spanish music scene, with its centers in Madrid and Barcelona, has been nothing but innovative and exciting.

Spanish Hot Songs 2017Latin Music opens a new world of diverse and beautiful sound. Check out this Latin Music History. Croonersinclude Jose Jose and Juan Gabriel, Mexico; Jose Feliciano, Puerto Rico; Leo Dan, Argentina; Jose Luis Rodriguez 'El Puma', Venezuela.

Click on Latin Music: Top Latin Songs, (see above left)  and find YOUR Spanish song to practice and learn with.

Maybe you'll also like “El Perdón", the subject of a recent post. And, if you like to learn Spanish with songs, Language Zen, has a number of Spanish songs with lyrics to do just that!

If music turns you on, songs are a fantastic tool for getting the sound, the rhythm, vocabulary, and grammatical structures of a new language lodged deeply in your mind. And singing along in a foreign language is just fun and a pleasure – so why don't you find one in the language you are just learning?

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

Posted on by Sean Patrick Hopwood

5 Practical Tips for Improving Your Italian

Parli Italiano written by woman's hand: Do you speak Italian?Italian is a language that is relatively easy for native English speakers to learn, because it also has Latin roots like English.

The sentence and grammar structures of Italian are not totally similar to English, but they are not difficult to understand and remember.

Plus, English and Italian share many cognates. If you're thinking of working in a translation services company, Italian is a great language to learn and master.

Italian used to be widely spoken in the U.S. Until the year 2000, there were more than one million Italian speakers in country, but the language is losing ground. In 2010, the number of speakers went down to just over 700,000. Other languages such as Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese have overtaken the Romance language.

Based on the latest data from Ethnologue, there are 63.4 million first language (L1) speakers of Italian in 13 countries around the world. Italian is still a favorite among language learners. In fact, according to the British Council, it is the fourth most studied language in the world.

According to the General Assembly of the Italian Language in the World, the number of foreigners studying the language in the academic year 2015-2016 is 2.2 million, compared to the previous academic year's 1.7 million.

The United States, Australia, Germany and France are among the countries where the increase in Italian language learners is most remarkable.

While British citizens are known for their lack of foreign language skills, the British Council stated that Italian is very important for business. According to their study called Languages for the Future, it is the fourth most requested language by employers from prospective hires.

Now, if you're one of those students who are learning Italian and you want to improve your speaking or reading skills out of the norm, here are a few tips:

1. Listen to Italian Music

Much of Italian music is timeless. Italian songs are romantic and beautiful just like Italian culture.

Italian Music PosterLearning a language through music is advantageous because in this way the brain retains the words quicker and longer.

Pay attention to the lyrics, or better yet, download the lyrics so you can sing along and learn the pronunciation as well. It will help you greatly to remember the words and enhance your Italian accent.

There are several amazing singers from Italy. Who can forget Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti? Listen to the songs of Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, Mina, Patty Pravo, Umberto Tozzi or Laura Pausini.

They actually make good language teachers because they are trained to enunciate very well. You'll not only enjoy some great songs, you'll boost your speaking abilities as well. (See also "Dimmi Quando..." - An Italian Song For language Learning.)

2. Use Phone Apps

Phone apps cartoonSupplement your formal Italian language classes with an Italian language app for your phone or tablet. Besides free language apps, there are those that you can buy. Apps can help you learn the basics – expressions, phrases and words that are commonly used by travelers.

It's like having a phrase book, something that you can take with you anywhere.

The good thing about a language phone app is that it lets you practice the language you're learning wherever you are, at a time that's most convenient for you.

There are also programs that you can download on your PC or laptop; or you can just visit and bookmark a language learning website, where you can read lessons and listen to recorded audio at the same time.

A fun way to learn is by signing up for Duolingo. Or, check out these crowdsourced software recommendations on alternativeTo: MindSnacks Italian, the game-based Learn and Play Italian, Learn Italian (Hello Hello), Learn Italian – Molto Bene, 10,000 Sentences, and the game-based app, Xeropan.

3. Listen to Podcasts

Whether you're a beginner or at an advanced level, you can improve your Italian young man listening to Italian podcastwith dedicated podcasts in the language. Here are a couple that are quite popular and helpful:

•  News in Slow Italian. This is wonderful for beginners as the hosts speak very slowly while reporting international news.You learn about the nuances of the language and how it's used in the context of regular speech, while getting up to date in what's happening around the world.
  Italiano automático. This podcast is for intermediate, or B-level studies. Earlier episodes are available on iTunes. You can also visit their website if you favor watching videos on a larger screen.
Italy made Easy. Interesting podcasts that specifically designed as a learning tool and come with a downloadable PDF file.
Veleno. A real life crime story set in Italy, in seven episodes.

4. Find a Language Buddy

young men discussing Another way to improve your Italian is to find a language buddy, someone else who can share the journey of fumbling about the language, especially when you're just starting!

Preferably, team up with another student who doesn't speak your native language, as this will force you to speak in Italian and improve your fluency. You'll also feel that the pressure to speak faultlessly in Italian is reduced, because you'll both be making mistakes and improving your skills together. 

5. Watch Videos in Italian

Learn and enjoy. That is what you get when you watch videos in Italian. young woman watching videoYou can find Italian channels on YouTube or go to movie streaming sites to look for Italian movies, dramas and other shows.

Turn off the subtitles so you do not get distracted from listening to the words, phrases and sentences.

Of course, the actors may speak with a regional accent, but the main point is you're listening to the dialogue in Italian.

You can also watch the films again with subs, just to check if your understanding of the dialogue is right. When learning a language, the most important things to remember are patience and dedication.

You should love and have particular interest in the language, otherwise you'll not strive to fully learn it when you encounter difficulties. You have to listen, practice, talk and make it a part of your life.

Write down unfamiliar words you encounter when listening to podcasts and music and when watching videos. Review what you've learned at the end of the day and think in Italian as much as you can.

Author Bio: Sean Patrick Hopwood, MBA, is founder and President of Day Translations, Inc., an online translation and localization services provider, dedicated to the improvement of global communications. By helping both corporations and the individual, Day Translations provides a necessary service at the same time as developing opportunities for greater sympathy and understanding worldwide. You can follow Sean on Twitter.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Auditory & Visual Language Learning: Our Danish Experience

Language learning child with mother Language learning experts continue to discuss the relative benefits of auditory versus visual learning. This is not about "learning styles", the theory - debunked by cognitive psychologists - that you're born with a way of learning that's best for you.

Young children learn their first language(s) by listening to and repeating the words, phrases and sentences they hear their parents, caregivers, siblings and friends speak.

They can't read and write yet, but they do get a lot of feed-back from others in the form of explanations, corrections, etc.

In most cases, foreign language learning by older children and adults occurs somewhat differently. They already have a native language which they can read and write. This gives them an additional learning tool that can, however, both help and interfere.

Clearly adults can learn a new language just by listening. At the beginning it helps to hear the translation in their native language.

This is the method used by audio-only programs such as Michael Thomas and Pimsleur, the latter being the one we are most familiar with. (See also our reviews of Pimsleur German and Russian)

Language learning also occurs visually. One way is by using a combination of images and written words. Language books and dictionaries are the backbone of that approach. Apps and online learning programs typically combine audio, images, and words in written form. Some use a “teaching language,” others don't (such as Rosetta Stone, Lingualia, and others.)

Most other programs, including Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, GamesforLanguage, etc. rely on reading (and writing) the foreign words, sometimes also together with images.

This works well when the foreign and teaching language use the same alphabet and have similar pronunciation rules. Language learning becomes more challenging when those are different.

Different Alphabets

For English speakers learning to read and write languages that don't use the Latin alphabet is quite a challenge.

scriptures-in-cyrillic-alphabetA few years ago, in preparation for a trip to Japan and China, we used the Pimsleur method to learn some basics. Learning Chinese characters was not even one of our goals.

As we reported elsewhere, we did not progress much beyond the usual greetings, please, thank you, etc. However, we drilled the Chinese numbers quite a bit and found knowing them very useful.

Learning other alphabets, e.g. Cyrillic (see picture above), Arabic, and others is easier for English speakers, than learning Asian writing systems.

In either case, you have to know the new writing systems before you can acquire “comprehensible input” through reading. Until then you can only learn though listening (or using transliteration, as is often done with Japanese, Chinese, and others).

Different Pronunciation Rules

English speakers sometimes forget how difficult it is for foreigners to learn the often inconsistent pronunciation rules of the English language.

Even children learning English as a native language have a tough time. We see it with our young grandchildren, as they are sounding out words like “through,” “though,” “tough,” “eight,”“height,” “weird,” or try to spell them.

French Girl speaking On the other hand, German, Spanish, Italian, and French (the other four languages on our GamesforLanguage site) do have rather consistent pronunciation rules, or as linguists may call it, more or less "phonetic spelling."

This is certainly true for German. Once English speakers can get past the American “r” and “l”, get the vowels and umlauts correctly, figure out the “ch” and end “g”, there is not much mystery remaining in German pronunciation.

Among the Romance languages, Italian and Spanish may be even easier, as long as you remember the spelling of the “k” sound at the beginning of words, and a few others.

For example: “when?” translates to “quando?” in Italian and “¿cuándo?” in Spanish; but “what?” is “che cosa?” in Italian, and “¿qué?” in Spanish. Aside from that, there's a strong correspondence between sound and spelling in both languages.

And yes, French has a lot of accents and letters that are not pronounced, which may make writing more difficult, but reading not that much.

Once you learn a few of the basic rules, you can figure out how to pronounce the words, even if you may not always succeed. In our experience to date, this is not at all the case with Danish.

Our Danish Language Learning Experience

In preparation for a trip to Denmark later this year, we have started to learn Danish. Because it's a Germanic language, we thought learning Danish would be quite easy.

Danish - dansk signFor the last few weeks we have been using Duolingo and Memrise (and lately also Pimsleur). On Duolingo, we are on a 52-day streak doing between 2-4 lessons every day. Peter's fluency is shown as 41%, and with Ulrike ahead in the lessons, her fluency lists as 49%.

But we both don't feel at all even close to those percentages and don't feel that we have made much progress in understanding and speaking Danish. Why? Because we have not (yet) figured out most of the correlations between written and spoken Danish.

Different from the four languages (besides English) on our GamesforLanguage site, the Danish pronunciation rules are not so obvious to us.

While we are continuing with Duolingo and Memrise at a somewhat reduced speed, we're experiencing something interesting as we're doing the Pimsleur Danish course. Again, it's not about the persistent myth of learning learning styles.

Simply, with Pimsleur, we can concentrate fully on listening, understanding, and speaking – without having to also consider the correlation between spelling and pronunciation.

Language Learning Insights and Conclusions

The experience with Danish gave us a few insights into the difficulties language learners can have with different pronunciation systems (in addition to different writing systems).

Growing up with or learning German, Dutch, English as children, later adding French, Italian and Spanish, (and trying a few other languages), we had never experienced such a disconnect between the written and spoken language as with Danish.

We both don't find it difficult to do the Duolingo and Memrise lessons and exercises. However, remembering the pronunciation AND spelling of Danish words remains a hit-and-miss affair.

We now find we are making more progress with Pimsleur. Maybe because we only have to remember the translation and pronunciation of words and phrases. Our Danish language learning experience is giving us this important insight: There are clear advantages to focusing on listening/understanding FIRST, when sound and spelling systems are different from the ones we are used to.

Once we have mastered basic vocabulary and with it the Danish pronunciation system, we'll then go on to consciously work on our reading and writing skills.

Have you had similar experiences learning foreign languages with spelling systems quite different from the one(s) you're familiar with? And if so, what tips can you give us?

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

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

French Travel Memories 2 - Daniel in Aix-en-Provence

Cours Mirabeau sign surrounded by wiresVisiting the South of France? Then try to include Aix-en-Provence and make your own travel memories there - maybe in the Cours Mirabeau.

As you play our travel-story based language courses, you'll follow a young traveler through several main cities in each country. And – if you visit these cities yourself – you'll discover that the travel-stories' street names, places, restaurants, hotels, etc. all exist. We visited many of them and took pictures.

Our French traveler Daniel flew into Paris, which was the topic of our first French Travel Memory post. After Paris, Daniel's next stop is in Aix-en-Provence, a picturesque city located in the south of France, about 20 miles north of Marseille. In Aix-en-Provence, Daniel looks up a French friend he had met earlier during his studies in Boston.

In our travel-story course, you learn daily conversational language. The vocabulary listed here is a combination of some words taught in the course as well as other useful terms. Often referred to as a city of art and history, Aix sports beautiful gardens, picturesque fountains, historic buildings, and the remains of Roman baths.

You can find specific events for your travel dates on the Tourist Office website, and more information in books and travel guides. We'll just mention a few quick facts and list some basic terms in French that will help you in your travels.

A FEW QUICK FACTS ABOUT AIX-EN-PROVENCE

Aix-en-Provence is a city-commune (or, incorporated municipality) located in the region of Provence, in the department of Les Bouches-du-Rhone. In 2014, it counted a population of 142,149.

The region of Provence gets its name from the Romans. By the end of the second century BC, the region of Provence was part of the first Roman "province" beyond the Alps. Aix-en-Provence had its beginnings in 122 BC as a Roman town. During the breakdown of the Roman Empire and beyond, the town survived numerous battles, periods of occupation, and repeated plundering.

From 879 until 1486, Provence was a semi-independent state ruled by the Counts of Provence. During that time, Aix-en-Provence became its capital and an artistic and intellectual center. In 1487, Aix-en-Provence passed to the crown of France, together with the rest of Provence.

1. Useful terms for Travelers

• le Midi - the Midi, South of France (colloquial)Fountain at La Rotonde in Aix-en-Provence
• les jardins - the gardens
• les fontaines - the fountains
• les ruines romaines - the Roman ruins
• la commune - the town, municipality
• la capitale - the capital
• ville d'art et d'histoire - city of art and history

RUE MAZARINE

Daniel's friend Pierre lives in the Mazarin district on rue Mazarine, a street that runs parallel to the popular and lively Cours Mirabeau (more below). The "quartier Mazarin" was developed in the 17th century by the then ruling archbishop Michel Mazarin.

Located in the south of Aix-en-Provence, this elegant neighborhood is known for its numerous "hôtels particuliers" (grand townhouses), built for the nobility, army officers, politicians, and the newly wealthy merchant class.

FRENCH TRAVEL MEMORIES WITH PAUL CÉZANNE

Paul Cézanne monument in Aix-en-ProvenceThe painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was born and grew up in Aix-en-Provence. His father, co-founder of Banque Cézanne et Cabassol, was a successful banker. For several years the young Cézanne studied law and worked in his father's bank.

At the same time, however, he was also enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix and envisioned a career in the arts. At age 21, Cézanne left for Paris and for the life of a struggling artist. Read more about Cézanne's struggles and artistic development.

Throughout his life, Cézanne came back to Aix frequently and finally settled there again during his later years. Café Clément, where Cézanne often went to meet friends, was at 44 Cours Mirabeau.

The bank Cézanne's father founded, Banque Cézanne et Cabassol, was on 24, rue des Cordeliers. It is now the location of a property management company.

In Aix-en-Provence, you can visit Cézanne's atelier: 9 avenue Paul Cézanne. It's about a 30-minute walk to the north of the town. That's where he worked every day from 1902 until his death in 1906.

2. Useful terms for Travelers 

• l'atelier - the atelier, artist's workshop
• le peintre - the painter
• le tableau - the painting, picture
• la peinture – the paint, painting
• la banque – the bank
• le banquier - the banker
• travailler - to work

LE COURS MIRABEAU

Cours Mirabeau tree-line avenue in Aix-en-Provence The Cours Mirabeau is a wide boulevard built in 1649 along the southern ramparts of the city. To the south of this lively street lies the quartier Mazarin (see above). The Cours Mirabeau is lined with restaurants, cafés, stores, bookshops, movie theaters, and beautiful fountains. (see picture)

The popular café "Les Deux Garçons" - frequented by the writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, the philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as Paul Cézanne - is at number 53 Cours Mirabeau. It was built in 1660 and is the oldest café in Aix-en-Provence.

3. Useful terms for Travelers

• le cours - the long avenue
• l'écrivain - the writer, author
• le cinéaste - the filmmaker
• le philosophe - the philosopher
• le dramaturge - the playwright

CATHÉDRALE SAINT SAUVEUR

Main entrance of Cathédrale Saint Sauveur in Aix-en-ProvenceThe cathedral in Aix-en-Provence was first built in the 12th century on the site of a pre-Roman pagan temple and later Roman temple of Apollo. In the following centuries, the cathedral underwent several more phases of construction.

Now a national monument of France, the building is an interesting combination of Roman, Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-gothic architectural styles.

Noteworthy are the Gothic portals, the Bell Tower (started in 1323), the Romanesque Cloister, as well as the interior of the church.

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT

Besides strolling through the streets of old Aix-en-Provence with its stunning architecture, its markets and shops, the Hotel de Caumont centre d'art is worth a visit (located in a "hôtel particulier").

Also of interest are short tours into the surrounding countryside. First on the list may be the neighboring Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a frequent subject of Cézanne's paintings.

And, if you are visiting during the summer months, don't miss a tour to Provence's lavender fields.

SOME ADVICE

As you're making your travel memories, you'll notice that Aix-en-Provence has an atmosphere that is reminiscent of Paris. 

In the summer you may enjoy "Musique dans la rue" or one of the many "Festivals" and art exhibitions; or join the fashionable Aixois sipping an expresso or an apéritif on one of the terraces of the Cours Mirabeau cafés.

The old town center of Aix-en-Provence is now a pedestrian zone with large parking lots around the perimeter. So, if you travel by car – use one of those lots and don't even try to drive into the town center!

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 travel memories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact or below.

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