Archive for the ‘Spanish’ Category

Tips To Help You Learn

Posted on November 7th, 2012by jake
In Education, French, Hints and Tips, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

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.

Automatic email translation

Posted on May 12th, 2012by Michelle
In Spanish, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Do you use Gmail for your email? They’ve just updated their service to include automatic message translation, meaning that any emails you receive in a different language will automatically be translated to the language of your choice!

Google have included a number of different options for this – you can choose to have messages auto-translated, pick which messages are translated, and also turn off the translation option for certain languages. So if you want to test your Spanish language skills, turn off the translation option for the language and see how far you can get through the email!

More information on these options is available over at the Gmail blog.

Why do foreign language speakers talk so fast?

Posted on September 11th, 2011by Michelle
In Spanish, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Something that has always struck me about Spanish speakers is that they talk so fast in their native language. I’ll normally catch the beginning of a sentence, but the rest of it is lost as they talk at what seems like a million miles per second.

I’m not alone in thinking this. An interesting study just published in the journal Language has attempted to answer the question of why some languages sound faster than others. Researchers from the Universite de Lyon recruited native speakers of seven common languages – English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish – and one uncommon one, Vietnamese. The speakers were recorded reading different texts, and the recordings used to analyse language.

What they found was that some languages have a higher “information density” than others. English has a high information density and is spoken at an average rate. Spanish has a low density so is spoken much faster (about a syllable per second). Japanese is even faster. The differences mean that in the same period of time, each language will convey around the same amount of information.

“A tradeoff is operating between a syllable-based average information density and the rate of transmission of syllables,” the researchers wrote. “A dense language will make use of fewer speech chunks than a sparser language for a given amount of semantic information.” In other words, your ears aren’t deceiving you: Spaniards really do sprint and Chinese really do stroll, but they will tell you the same story in the same span of time. (Source:

The study is fascinating, but it doesn’t make spoken Spanish any easier for me to decipher!

Schoolgirl interpreter

Posted on April 20th, 2011by Michelle
In Education, French, Mandarin, Spanish, Translation | Leave a Comment »

A girl aged just 10 has become an interpreter for the European Parliament… although just for a day.

Alexia Sloane has been blind since the age of two, and is fluent in four languages – English, French, Spanish and Mandarin. She is currently also learning German. Her mother is half French and half Spanish whilst her father is English, and Alexia has been trilingual since birth. By the age of four, she was reading and writing in Braille.

After winning a young achiever of the year award, Alexia chose to visit the European Parliament as her prize. East of England MEP Robert Sturdy invited her as his guest and Alexia worked with the head of interpreting to get hands-on experience of life as an interpreter.

She continues to harbour ambitions of becoming a full-time interpreter, revealing: “The trip was more than a dream come true. Unfortunately, I have to wake up to reality now.

“I am now more determined than ever to become an interpreter in the future and to return to Brussels in the not too distant future – to see all the wonderful people I met.” (Source: Digital Spy)

What incredible ambition from someone so young!

Two languages can co-exist in the same society

Posted on March 6th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Spanish, Welsh | Leave a Comment »

New research has shown than two languages can co-exist in the same society. Previously it had been thought that the ‘stronger’ language would overtake the lesser spoken one, until it died out.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, mathematical models were created to show that levels of bilingualism can lead to the steady co-existence of two languages. The research analysed patterns among populations speaking Castilian, the main language of Spain, and Galician, a language spoken in Galicia (north-west Spain). The results could be used to inform other bilingual countries such as Wales.

Joseph Winters from Londons Institute of Physics said: Older models only took the number of each languages speakers and the relative status of each language into consideration, concluding that eventually the most dominant language would kill off the weaker; the decline of Welsh is often cited as an example of this.

The researchers used historical data to show how you can predict the continued existence of a language when you also incorporate a mathematical representation of the languages similarity to one another and the number of bilingual speakers, into the calculation.
If a significant fraction of the population is bilingual in two relatively similar languages, there appears to be no reason to believe that the more dominant language will inevitably kill off the weaker, Mr Winters added.

Researcher Jorge Mira Pmrez said: If the statuses of both languages were well balanced, a similarity of around 40% might be enough for the two languages to coexist.

If they were not balanced, a higher degree of similarity above 75%, depending on the values of status would be necessary for the weaker tongue to persist. (Source: Wales Online)

The benefits of a second language

Posted on February 6th, 2011by Michelle
In French, Language acquisition, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

There’s an interesting opinion piece in The Observer today about the demise of the study of French in universities in the UK, and why this should not be allowed to happen.

A lot of the writer’s arguments could also be applied to other languages. French isn’t just spoken in France, it’s spoken in countries as far apart as Canada and Senegal – Spanish is an example of another language whose speakers are spread all over the world. So just as the French of Senegal won’t be the same of the French of Quebec, so the Spanish spoken in Spain isn’t the same as spoken in Peru – different cultures and different meanings.

I also like what Hussey has to say about the benefits of studying another language:

What studying French has really done for me is to provide me with a new mental landscape. French writing, from Voltaire to Sartre to Houellebecq, has a hard, confrontational edge to it, driven by big ideas, which does not exist in the same way in the English-speaking world. This is why French literature has appealed to English writers of a certain “outsider” stripe, from George Orwell to Will Self. This is a political phenomenon as much as anything else. For a working-class intellectual (which was how I rather cockily fancied myself as a student) to speak and understand French is to short-circuit many of the stupidities of class prejudice in the UK.

Studying another language not only enables you to connect with speakers of that language, it allows you to “access the world beyond the Anglosphere”. You may learn something new – you may start to see the world in a different way. So what are you waiting for?

Google Goggles helps you translate

Posted on May 20th, 2010by Michelle
In English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

goggles_translationA cool new application from Google will soon be able to help you translate from written words.

Google Goggles users can point their phone at a word or phrase they wish to have translated, and then fine-tune their onscreen selection to a smaller area. Using the phone’s camera, the application will recognise the language and give you an option to translate it. This makes the application perfect for globetrotters – whether you need a menu or sign translated, you can do so without the hassle of searching through a guide book or dictionary.

The application can only translate languages based on the Latin alphabet such as English, French, Italian, German and Spanish at the moment, but once the text is captured it can be quickly translated to other languages. Google are apparently confident that other languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Hindi will soon be added to the app.

Whilst the app is free, you’ll need a mobile device running Android 1.6 or higher. I’ll definitely be giving this a try on my trip to Italy next month!

Scrabble rule change

Posted on April 7th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Language acquisition, Spanish, Swedish, Words | 1 Comment »

Scrabble tilesHot news for all Scrabble lovers: the makers have announced they are changing the rules to include proper nouns.

Proper nouns include place names, brand names and people’s names, all of which will count under the new rules. The game with the new rules will be available from July, and the makers hope the change will encourage more younger players.

A spokeswoman for the company said the use of proper nouns would “add a new dimension” to Scrabble and “introduce an element of popular culture into the game”.

She said: “This is one of a number of twists and challenges included that we believe existing fans will enjoy and will also enable younger fans and families to get involved.” (Source: BBC News)

Scrabble is a great way of increasing and practicing your vocabulary when learning a new language. It’s available in 29 different language versions including English, Spanish and Swedish. The use of proper nouns may encourage players to soak up some culture along with their language.

What do you think about the Scrabble rule changes? Are you a purist, determined to stick to the original rules? Or will you embrace the use of proper nouns when going for the maximum word score?

Top 10 internet languages

Posted on March 28th, 2010by Michelle
In Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Research, Russian, Spanish, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Graph of Top 10 languagesThe internet is a great resource for language learning, but only if you can find the information you need.

Good news for English speakers and language learners as English is the language most used by internet users. According to research by Internet World Stats, English is the language used by almost 30% of users. This is quite closely followed by Chinese and then Spanish. Japanese, French, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Russian and Korean round out the top 10.

Keeping this in mind, try out this game to see if you can guess the world’s top 20 most spoken languages. I think the number one will surprise you!

International Mother Language Day 2010

Posted on February 21st, 2010by Michelle
In Arabic, Chinese, English, Events, French, Russian, Spanish | 1 Comment »

Today is International Mother Language Day, designated as such by UNESCO in 1999 and first celebrated in 2000. Observed yearly by UNESCO member states, the day aims to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The day has its origins in Language Movement Day, which was first commemorated in Bangladesh in 1952. Each year has a theme, with this year being the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Previous themes have included International Year of Languages (2008) and Linguistic Diversity (2002).

This year, in conjunction with International Mother Language Day, the UN will launch a new initiative called UN Language Days. These seek to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, two of the aims of Mother Language Day. It also aims to promote equal use of all six of the UN’s official working languages – Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic – through six new observance days.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova noted in her message for the Day:

“Languages are the best vehicles of mutual understanding and tolerance. Respect for all languages is a key factor for ensuring peaceful coexistence, without exclusion, of societies and all of their members,” she said. (Source: UN)