Archive for the ‘Speech’ Category

Leave Learning Disabilities Behind and Become Fluent in a Foreign Language

Posted on May 12th, 2013by Melanie
In French, Pronunciation, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Learning difficultiesStudents with learning disabilities might be dismissed as being unable to learn foreign languages, but this is simply not the case. Many people with learning disabilities have trouble isolating the sounds of words and distinguishing between vowels. They may mispronounce words that have a similar sound. Learning a new language will emphasize these issues but it doesn´t mean that it will prohibit the learning of a second language. Studies have shown, in people suffering from dyslexia, that those with less phonemic awareness in their own language may find it harder to learn a foreign language whereas those with a better phonemic awareness will be able to converse in a foreign language more easily and may find the writing and grammar aspect harder. Or, conversely, the reading and writing component may not present any difficulties but it may be harder to speak it. By using a systematic approach to learning that involves a multisensory structure, students with learning disorders can overcome any inhibiting factors and have the ability to learn foreign languages. People with dyslexia can be particularly good conversationally, so more vocal orientated lessons in foreign languages are recommended.

As the need for a knowledge of foreign languages is on the rise, it´s no longer necessary for people with learning disorders to be made to miss out on these linguistic opportunities. As awareness of learning difficulties has increased and new teaching methods have evolved to cater for these needs, there´s nothing to stop students from learning the new language they desire. So, if you have a learning disability and have always felt that you´ve been held back by being told you can´t learn a new language, then think again! With courses that are specifically tailor-made to your needs, you can learn French in Leeds and show that you have what it takes to learn a foreign language.

Speak Up for Lower Learning Costs!

Posted on May 10th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Spanish, Speech | Leave a Comment »

University graduatesThe cost of education has often been a bone of contention with students, parents and teachers. Parents of children in primary and secondary education have to continually shell out for school uniforms, books, lunches, extra-curricular activities, school outings, term fees and summer school costs. It´s never ending! Students in higher education are facing continually increasing term fees; last year in the UK, university tuition fees rose to a maximum of £9,000 a year. This led to a decline of 15,000 applicants who just couldn´t afford this high price for their education. More increases are on the horizon for university fees again this year. In Spain this week, demonstrations have occurred throughout the country during a one-day strike against the government for proposed education cuts. Children and teachers in primary and secondary schools were not in attendance, just as students of higher education and faculty members chose to attend the protests instead of their classrooms, in a bid to change the government´s plans and instead promote the need for a proper public-funded education for everyone.

Don´t get caught out with crippling costs

One way to ensure you don´t get caught in this money trap is to arrange your own private tuition. You choose the subject you want to study, where you´d like to have your lessons and who you´d like to study with. One-to-one tuition is great for an intense course but studying in a group is much more interactive and you´ll find that the group rates are much cheaper. There´s no need to sacrifice your education when such competitive prices are available. The courses can be tailored to meet your requirements and you can choose how long you´d like to study for, so there are no hidden surprises! So if you want to brush up on your linguistic skills, for example, what better way than to learn from a native speaking teacher in your local area. You could book some great value Spanish classes in Bristol for some personal tuition that won´t break the bank!

Striking Up a Conversation in Sorrento!

Posted on May 4th, 2013by Melanie
In Italian, Speech | Leave a Comment »

As a child, Sarah had many penfriends from all over the world: New Zealand, Japan, Turkey, Ethiopia, France, America, Germany, Sweden and more. She wrote and received colourful letters every week and often got sent photos, stickers and little tokens from her penfriends to resemble their countries. One of her penfriends was an Italian boy, Domenico, and Sarah actually got a chance to meet him on a family holiday to Sorrento in Naples when she was 13.

Domenico arrived at her hotel with his entire family in tow, and both families sat down to meet and greet each other. The hotel manager very kindly offered to spend some time with them translating between the families. As Sarah and Domenico already communicated each week by writing in English, this was the easiest option for them, as well as making basic attempts at miming things to try to get their messages across to each other. Considering they had been penfriends for a couple of years, they were both extremely shy at having actually met each other and Sarah felt quite nervous and silly in her attempts at trying to ‘speak’ to Domenico. After a little while, Domenico´s family left with the promise of returning shortly. And sure enough, not long afterwards, they returned with the lovely gesture of a gift from their family to Sarah´s family. It was a beautiful mosaic plate with a brightly coloured peacock on a golden background that glistened in the sunlight. Touched at such a thoughtful gesture, Sarah´s family hugged Domenico´s and thanked them for such an exquisite gift. And that was the last time Sarah saw Domenico…until now.

25 years later, she was going back to Naples and had arranged to meet up with Domenico again. Never having forgotten her embarrassment at not being able to speak to him properly the last time they met, she had enrolled in some fun conversational Italian classes based in Newcastle where she quickly picked up the basics she needed to be able to have a general chat with Domenico. Competitively priced and at a venue to suit her, Sarah was very pleased with these bargain language classes that allowed her to be taught by an Italian speaking teacher. In a very short time, she felt confident that she would be able to hold her own in a one-to-one conversation with Domenico.

With her flight ticket in her hand, Sarah grabbed her passport and suitcase as the cab pulled up outside her home and excitedly closed the door behind her. In just a few hours, she´d be back in the sunshine meeting her lifelong friend, only this time she planned to surprise him by showing off her newly acquired speaking skills. This was going to be the best Italian experience she could ever imagine!

Security guard helpful in 49 languages

Posted on March 19th, 2012by Michelle
In Hints and Tips, Speech | Leave a Comment »

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.

The linguistic power of young women

Posted on February 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Speech, Words | 1 Comment »

A great article in the New York Times reveals that young women are linguistic trendsetters.

The use of “like” and uptalk (“pronouncing statements as if they are questions?”) is often seen as a sign of stupidity or immaturity, with women being compared to “Valley Girls”, like Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless. Linguists have refuted this however, saying that girls and young women popularise vocal trends and slang, and use embellishments in more sophisticated ways than previously thought.

“If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry, it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional or even stupid,” said Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. “The truth is this: Young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.”

The idea that young women serve as incubators of vocal trends for the culture at large has longstanding roots in linguistics. As Paris is to fashion, the thinking goes, so are young women to linguistic innovation.

“It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people,” said Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, “and women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average.” (Source: New York Times)

Take a look at the rest of the article – it’s fascinating. And women, never again feel ashamed of using these social cues!

Science of sarcasm

Posted on December 20th, 2011by Michelle
In Research, Speech, Words | Leave a Comment »

Scientists have found that the ability to detect sarcasm is a really useful skill.

Over the past 20 years, researchers have found that exposure to sarcasm increases creative problem solving; brains have to work harder to understand sarcasm, possibly increasing our mental abilities; and children understand and use sarcasm by the time they start attending playschool.

There’s also a geographic divide between those who find sarcasm funny and those who don’t.

A study that compared college students from upstate New York with students from near Memphis, Tennessee, found that the Northerners were more likely to suggest sarcastic jibes when asked to fill in the dialogue in a hypothetical conversation.

Northerners also were more likely to think sarcasm was funny: 56 percent of Northerners found sarcasm humorous while only 35 percent of Southerners did. The New Yorkers and male students from either location were more likely to describe themselves as sarcastic. (Source: Smithsonian Magazine)

For more fascinating insights into sarcasm, take a look at the full article from Smithsonian Magazine.


Posted on November 20th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Britney famously sang “oops, I did it again” and now Rick Perry, a US Republican presidential candidate, has brought the word back into the popular consciousness.

Perry’s “oops” came as he couldn’t remember the name of a third national agency he would close if he was made president. It’s unlikely he has an idea of the origins of the word, which started to appear around the 1930s. Whilst the exact origins are unknown, it’s thought it may come from the phrase “up-a-daisy”, which has been used since the 18th Century.

And oops isn’t just confined to the English language:

An Italian found in error might say, “ops!” while a Frenchman who’s made a faux pas might say, “oups!” In Spanish, one can say opa, but just as common are huy and ¡ay! A Russian who’s made a goof might exclaim, “ой” (pronounced oj), while a German blunderer might blurt out, “hoppla!” (Source:

What do you say when you’ve made an error?

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!