When learning a new language there are a variety of supplementary ways to help you on your way. The teaching network section of The Guardian posted an article (which can be found here) that reveals different approaches that school teachers take to teach languages. One teacher suggests music as a way of making languages more fun.
Music videos are a great way to introduce students to the culture of French-speaking countries and develop speaking/writing projects.
This got me thinking about the recent global success of Psy’s song Gangnam Style. The vast majority of the lyrics to Psy’s song are in Korean yet people all around the world are humming along to the song, even learning the words, despite perhaps never having considered learning Korean. Below are some musical suggestions for you to listen to. Try to learn the words to one of the artists songs and any words you do not know make a note of and look them up.
Korean: 2NE1, Psy, Wonder Girls and Big Bang.
Spanish: Mala Rodriguez, La Casa Azul, Chimo Bayo and Miguel Bosé.
French: Yelle, Raï’n'B Fever, Edith Piaf, and Sylvie Vartan.
Japanese: Perfume, L’Arc~en~Ciel, Ayumi Hamasaki and Hikaru Utada.
Polish: Kasia Stankiewicz, MIG, Daab and Halina Frąckowiak.
I came across a fun word game on Word Dynamo that is intended for American students studying for their SATs. As I read English at university I fancied my chances of attaining a perfect score but a few words managed to stump me. I managed to get 44/47 on the quiz and I thought I would include the words that eluded me and their definitions below.
Assiduous – Showing great care and perseverance.
Perfidious – Deceitful and untrustworthy.
Querulous – Complaining in a petulant or whining manner.
Online word games are a fantastic way to enhance your vocabulary and I am going to try and commit these words to memory so I can use them in day to day speech. The quiz I completed can be found HERE. Why not give it a go and see i you can beat my score.
The London 2012 Olympic Games draw to a close tomorrow, with Team GB having won a record medal haul.
The Olympics have been a great success for their host country, with one minor exception: people have been baffled as to why announcements are made in French first, followed by English. In an English-speaking country, why is this?
Well, it’s because French and English are the official Olympic languages, with French being the official language of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is a French-speaking city. French is also used in honour of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a Frenchman who is considered the “father” of the modern Games.
So, if you’re watching the Closing Ceremony tomorrow night, listen out for those French announcements.
An interesting post and discussion over at the Guardian’s Teacher Network blog is on using social media for language learning.
The blog post is aimed at school teachers, but language learners can pick up some tips too. Their “five ways you can start to engage with your pupils on social media” are useful, particularly number 4, on Pinterest.
4. Create a Pinterest account. Take some pictures of prompt cards, post-it notes or even objects with their description in another language and ‘pin’ them on your boards. You could even look for photos of the country, or infographics about languages in general, to help your pupils understand more about why they should learn it. (Source: Guardian)
Pinterest is still relatively new – you can ‘pin’ web content to boards. Language learners could use it to create their own boards with visual hints and prompt cards. Have you tried this?
A security guard in Henley can greet people in 49 languages, according to the Henley Standard.
John Bowman works for a security company in Maidenhead and calls himself a “walking phrase book”. Despite only having been abroad twice, he can greet people in 49 languages and is semi-fluent in seven, including Russian and Italian.
Mr Bowman works next to a university, and so comes into contact with people from all over the world. These people teach him some of their language in return for his help, but his leaning secret?
He writes words on paper and recites them until he’s able to do it from memory.
Twitter is now available in languages written right-to-left, including Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu.
Work began earlier this year via their Translation Center, which crowd-sources translations to make Twitter available to people around the world. Almost half a million people contribute to the Center, and have so far made 28 languages available.
Around 13,000 volunteers worked on the project to make right-to-left language available. Twitter had to create new tools to ensure Tweets, retweets and hashtags work properly for users who may send tweets with both right-to-left and left-to-right content.
To suggest a new language for Twitter, you can file a language request.
We’ve all made mistakes in our target languages, some of them embarrassing. The Johnson blog at The Economist asked readers to share their most depressing moments on the path to fluency – here are a few gems:
Hydriotaphia - I also have a Japanese story. Having just returned from a year of intense language study, my girlfriend, two other Japanese-proficient friends and I decided to order in Japanese at an Izakaya in NYC. Of course, having been served our oden (if I recall correctly), I tried to ask our waitress whether there was any spicy mustard (karashi) available. Unfortunately, I in fact asked her whether she had a boyfriend (kareshi). Neither my girlfriend nor the waitress were pleased with me.
Faedrus - One of the more famous mistakes English speakers make when learning to speak Spanish is to use the term “embarasada” – which means “pregnant” – when trying to say “embarrassed”. I had been speaking Spanish for about 15 years when I actually made that mistake at a dinner party, although I certainly knew better. I was – to say the least – embarrassed after I said it. But actually I just felt like an idiot.
My most embarrassing moment so far was in Spain, when I was buying something in a clothes store. The transaction went well until the assistant asked me in Spanish if I’d like a bag. I had no idea what she asked (although I suppose I could have guessed in the context) and my brain went completely blank – I couldn’t even say “sorry, I don’t speak Spanish”! The pressure really got to me as there was a queue behind me. Eventually the assistant guessed that I spoke no Spanish and waved a bag at me whilst repeating her question. As soon as I’d paid I escaped from the store very quickly!
Like Johnson’s writer and many of the commenters though, I find that native speakers often appreciate you making an effort in their language. Try not to take yourself too seriously, and laugh with the locals if you make a mistake!
Quite some time ago on this blog, I admitted to not being completely au fait with apostrophes.
Nothing much has changed in the intervening time, mostly because I don’t have the time to sit down and memorise the rules. I still have no problem with contractions (“it is”, “it’s”) but struggle sometimes with possession.
I have a feeling that this will change though, as I’ve discovered an excellent new resource. This comic from The Oatmeal is both handy and amusing – the best kind of reference tool! An example: “I saw two kittens riding a goat. Goats are great for transportation.” Very cute illustrations too. Take a look!
Learning by rote seems an old-fashioned idea, something that was done in the Victorian era, when canes were used liberally.
But it is still used in schools today, if in a different way. Part of the education process is learning how to remember chunks of information, whether for an after-school play or an exam. Some argue that in our information age, there is no need to remember anything as the answer is just a few short clicks away.
This misses the point though. Whilst information is more easily accessible today, nothing quite beats having the answer to hand, an automatic response from the depths of your brain. When you’re in a conversation in your second language, there is no time to stop and look up a word you don’t have. It would break the flow and you may lose more words.
So how do you keep those words in your brain? London black-cab drivers are a good example – they need to learn ‘The Knowledge’:
London black-cab drivers need a detailed knowledge of a six-mile radius of Charing Cross station. They learn 320 routes, and all the landmarks and places of interest along the way. The process can take three to five years, and dropout rates are said to be around 80%.
Nick O’Connor, from Essex, is making good progress after 22 months of study. He says: “It doesn’t need a specific person or a specific brain. It’s just about being structured and having the motivation to get up every single day and go out on the bike [to research the routes]. I’d say anyone could do it.” (Source: BBC News)
Structure and motivation. Learn a little bit of your target language every day. Make sure you put some time aside to do it. Soon you will have ‘The Knowledge’!
Having written previously of the benefit of songs when learning a language, I was interested to come across this blog post about why songs should be used more in the classroom for young learners.
The writer, Devon Thargard, opens with an anecdote about his first day teaching kindergarten and how he engaged the children through a simple song. He then goes on to explain some other benefits of songs as teaching tools. One benefit that particularly interested me is:
Songs create a positive atmosphere.
Just as we take great care in decorating our classrooms to make them warm and conducive to learning, we should think about how we are decorating our classrooms with audio. Learning a foreign language can be stressful for anyone, especially young learners. Fun, simple English songs playing as students enter the classroom help create a welcoming environment. (Source: OUP ELT Global Blog)
My class takes place on a Monday evening. Most people come to class straight from work so, depending on how their day went, they are pretty tired and ready to sleep. We often go straight into learning new vocabulary – perhaps if we had a song to walk into class to, we would start in a more positive mindset, which would also help us learn more.
Does your teacher use music to set the tone for your class?