Archive for June, 2013

It´s All About Italia!

Posted on June 30th, 2013by Melanie
In Culture, Italian, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

ItaliaWhat springs to mind when you think of Italy? Their delicious handmade pizzas of funghi, quattro stagioni and capricciosa. The fresh pasta dishes such as cannelloni, spaghetti carbonara, gnocchi and ravioli. Or perhaps it´s their famous ice cream, gelato.

Their beautiful artwork by inspired artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo is breathtaking. The magnificent ancient architectural sites such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Baths of Diocletian, the Trevi Fountain and the Leaning Tower of Pisa can´t fail to impress.

The warm climate certainly appeals as does the warmth and passion of the Italians themselves. Then there´s the romance as told in tales of old such as Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you´re struck with their flare for fashion from famous fashion designers and labels such as Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Fendi and Versace, or crave a luxury Italian sports car such as a Ferrari, a Maserati or a Bugatti.

With so many positive attributes, it´s hard not to fall in love with Italy and everything about it. Why not take it a step further and start having Italian lessons in London or a city near you. While you´re dreaming about all of the places you´re going to see and about everything you´re going to do when you get the chance to go to Italy, you can hone your Italian language skills and get ready to impress the locals with your linguistic capabilities! Buona fortuna!

Educating in English to Expand in Enrolment

Posted on June 27th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, English, French | Leave a Comment »

Welcome bienvenueThe French are proud of their language, just as they are of their country and culture. Their language is their identity and they protect it quite vigorously. And why wouldn´t they? The melodic language is soft and romantic and, to the French, it holds links to its traditions and history.

The Academie Francaise continuously sweeps for foreign words that have been introduced into the French language, usually from immigrants and the influence of their own native languages. It strives to substitute them with French alternatives in order to preserve their beloved language from devolving into a modern mixture of languages as others have done in recent years. English words in particular have a habit of cropping up. And despite their best efforts, it looks as though the English language is about to encroach on them even more.

The French parliament has settled on a debate over the teaching of lectures at French universities in English. Only elite universities and business schools have previously taught courses in English but these new proposals will allow all universities to do the same. This has caused a lot of opposition in France. The arguments are not against the learning of foreign languages – linguistics are promoted and encouraged from an early age – but of academic subjects being taught in a language other than French. The reasons for promoting this, though, are to encourage foreign students to study in France, and this new proposal is seen as an obvious progression if France wants to boost its intake of foreign students. The minister for Higher Education, Genevieve Fioraso, has backed this proposal completely and is adamant that these changes will be a positive change for France and its universities.

If you´re as passionate as the French people about preserving their language, these French classes in Manchester will have you speaking it fluently in no time!

Leading the Way

Posted on June 23rd, 2013by Melanie
In Chinese, English, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Spanish, Chinese, EnglishIt seems as though the race is on for the top spot of the most spoken language in the world. The two main contenders are English and Chinese. Mandarin Chinese has the highest number of speakers, however, the majority of these are native speakers and the language is mainly concentrated in China, Taiwan and Singapore. China has become the second largest economy in the world and the need for others to learn the language is becoming more apparent. A new interest in the language has emerged and, in particular, businesses are starting to appreciate the need to address this issue for the future. Relations between the Unites States of America and China are gradually increasing and the US are making a concerted effort to promote the learning of the Chinese language.

English is the most widely spoken language throughout the world. It´s usage can be found almost all over the planet and it is the official language in at least one country of every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. Historically, this is inevitable due to the extent of the reign of the British Empire. It is the foremost business language and is compulsory in many countries as the first foreign language.

Is any other language in the running to compete with these two hugely popular languages? Spanish has gradually been creeping up the ladder and is now a major international language, being rumoured to overtake English as the most widely spoken in the world. It is spoken across four continents and is the official language of 21 countries. It´s becoming increasingly common in the US due to the rise in immigration, where the number of Spanish speakers is said to have reached 30% of the total population. As a rapidly expanding market, Spanish as a business language has also become more prominent. It´s an official language of the European Union and one of the official languages of the United Nations.

So make sure that you´re ready for the future and don´t get left behind. Start learning Spanish with these courses in Bristol to increase your standing in today’s linguistic society.

Lazy at Learning Languages?

Posted on June 19th, 2013by Melanie
In English, German, Speech | Leave a Comment »

LazyWhen speaking with people of other nationalities, it´s very noticeable how fluent they all seem to be in English, with usually another couple of languages tucked under their belts as well. They have a firm grasp of the language and are confident when speaking it; there are no embarrassed looks or pauses, no awkward moments, they can joke around in English and have a vast knowledge of the vocabulary. And then you have the Brits….

Whilst not wishing to stereotype people, Brits on the whole seem fairly content at just belong able to speak English. They may have learned French or German at school, some may have tried their hand at Spanish, Italian or Russian, but those who take it further and become fluent in a second or third language are fairly rare in comparison with their European counterparts.

So why is this? Are Brits just lazy at learning languages, or maybe just reluctant? Is the British educational system letting them down or is the curriculum just not promoting the benefits of language learning enough? Or are the British just complacent, being satisfied with just speaking English with no need to have a knowledge of other languages?

Well, perhaps it´s a mixture of all of them. English is so widely spoken around the world that you´d be hard pushed to go to an area where someone didn´t speak it. Even in countries where English isn´t commonly spoken, there always seem to be people around and to hand who can speak it, if only a little, who always seem willing to help if need be or eager to strike up a conversation.

In 13 member states of the EU, English is compulsory as the first foreign language and is still usually chosen in those countries where it´s not compulsory. Whilst languages are included in the UK´s national curriculum, not as much emphasis is placed on their necessity as is in other countries and pupils aren´t actively persuaded to choose languages over other, more academic subjects. Learning a foreign language in school is not actually compulsory in the UK or Ireland. The benefits of being able to speak more languages aren´t highlighted to pupils and the options this skill could give the pupils later on in life are not necessarily promoted.

The attitude of many Brits is that there is not as much need to learn a foreign language as there is within other countries as English is such a widely spoken language anyway and that, being British, that automatically holds an advantage. Historically, English became the spoken language in many parts of the world and people needed to be able to converse in it to be able to advance in society. Nowadays, it´s an internationally recognised business language.

Despite this lack of foreign fluency, British schools actually offer the highest range of languages available to learn in the EU. Further education establishments, independent language classes and adult education language centres offer an extremely diverse selection of languages, particularly minority ones, and these classes are on the rise. As more people travel or meet new people from other countries, the interest in learning new languages is increasing. More and more people are enrolling in language classes in their spare time, whether it´s to learn the more “common” options such as French, German, Spanish or Italian, the increasingly popular language of Mandarin Chinese, or more obscure languages such as Polish, Danish, Turkish or Russian. This escalation in foreign language learning in the UK will only increase more as people discover a love of other countries and more opportunities for language learning become available to them.

You, too, can join the ranks of linguistic masterminds by taking part in some German lessons in London, or a city near you, and demonstrating your flair for foreign languages. This enthusiasm for linguistics, post-school education, just goes to show that the British aren´t lazy at learning languages after all!

Can´t Learn, Won´t Learn!

Posted on June 16th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Italian, Research | Leave a Comment »

Can´t learnEveryone can learn a new language! That´s not just an optimistic line aimed at someone later on in life who is groaning at the thought of having to start to learn a language, or someone  who never did well in school and thinks they don´t have the ability to learn. According to research, it has been scientifically proven that, with the correct learning techniques, a new language can be learned by anyone at any time.

How? When someone has been out of an educational environment for a long time or doesn´t have a knack for learning languages, this may seem very unlikely. It´s simple! They just need to listen to a word 160 times over a period of 14 minutes according to neuroscientists. The brain may struggle to recognise the new word being introduced initially but, after this amount of exposure to the word, it suddenly recognises the word as indistinguishable from those they are already familiar with. Findings also showed that it wasn´t necessary for any active participation of the volunteers in the study to try to learn the language; there were no memory tests or repetition exercises, just listening and their brains did the rest of the hard work.

But let´s face it, with such busy lives, who has either the time or inclination to learn new words 160 times, whatever the time period they can be learned over? The study has proven that everyone has the ability to learn a new language, no matter what their age or learning capabilities but, in real terms, the findings aren´t really feasible or practical. The interesting part of the study is that no active participation was needed, just to listen. This is already a teaching method used widely nowadays, where teachers are doing away with the traditional schooling methods of using books and writing tasks, and are concentrating on speaking the language with the onus on the pupils to listen and tune into the new words without questioning the structure and meaning as they would normally.

To relax and enjoy the lessons is also said to enhance the learning process and helps to increase the level at which the new language is absorbed. To make something a difficult task makes it a chore and can act as a hindrance as the brain can “switch off” and therefore not take in as much information. Whereas, if a subject is enjoyable and is practised in a relaxed atmosphere, the brain is more “switched on” and receptive to taking in new information.

So if you´re ready to learn a foreign language and eager to do so without the tediousness often associated with lessons, then it´s time to explore the more modern teaching methods available to you. Using innovative training techniques and by combining language learning with a fun approach, you can easily be at a conversational level in your chosen language in no time at all.  If you´d like to speak a Romance language, for example, then immerse yourself in some lively Italian lessons in London for fast results in an entertaining way!

Make the Most of Your Memory

Posted on June 12th, 2013by Melanie
In French, Language acquisition, Research | Leave a Comment »

BilingualResearch studies have shown that learning two or more languages can improve your memory later in life. Learning another language and being able to interchange between the two of them exercises your mind, making your brain more flexible, which helps to protect your memory.

Cognitive research has shown that learning more languages can actually delay the onset of dementia by a number of years. By exercising your mind and by challenging your brain, you build up a reserve of extra brain power that helps to combat memory loss. Normally, average people may begin to suffer from symptoms of dementia in their mid-seventies but bilingual people are able to stave off the symptoms until their eighties.

Being bilingual is said to boost a part of the frontal lobe of the brain known as the ‘executive control system’ in that it controls language, learning, reasoning and memory. This area becomes stronger as you learn a language, particularly from a young age, but there are still benefits to learning languages later in life as it keeps your brain active and resistant to damage. Symptoms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s can be delayed for up to five years.

If being bilingual has significant health benefits, then multilingual speakers are in an even better position. Individuals with the ability to speak three languages are three times less like to develop memory problems compared with bilingual people. Speakers of over four languages are five times less likely to suffer from memory issues. Researchers believe that increased fluency levels in these languages is more effective at boosting memory but it´s not essential; it´s purely the extra usage and stimulation of the brain when learning languages that seems to act as a protective element against cognitive problems.

It´s never too late to start learning a new language so face your future head on; master another language and improve your memory now. Kick start your brain training with some French classes in Manchester or a city near you!

From the Beginning

Posted on June 8th, 2013by Melanie
In German, Language acquisition, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Nature vs NurtureIt has long been debated as to whether language acquisition is innate (something we are born with) or learned. Are we all born with the genetic capability of speaking our own language? Do we recognise speech patterns immediately? Is it possible to begin structuring language compositions in our brains from such an early age? How can we separate language from other external audio stimuli when we are babies? Do we tune into the most commonly spoken words around us and gradually learn them subconsciously? There are many questions on this subject matter with the aim of discovering whether language is an innate or learned skill. The answer is it that it’s actually a bit of both.

Our brains have the innate ability to comprehend, interpret and to produce language. Several studies have shown that infants, from birth until six months old, can distinguish between the phonetics of all languages. They hone in on the most commonly spoken words and sounds used by others around them, resulting in them being able to choose their native language. After six months old, however, they can only detect the phonetics related to their chosen language. Young children of just a few years old have a grasp of the grammatical rules of language without having been taught them. A child progresses though different stages of learning their native language until, usually when they reach puberty, they are able to learn a foreign language. The ability to learn a language is innate, but actually speaking a specific language is learned. These specific languages are learned from the environment and from experience.

For example, you have the innate ability to learn German, but that doesn´t automatically mean that you can speak German. To do that, you would need to actively learn the German language. So now that you know you have a natural disposition to learn languages, book some German lessons in London or whichever city is nearest to you and put your linguistic skills to the test.

A Means to an End

Posted on June 5th, 2013by Melanie
In Language acquisition, Spanish, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Employment officeRob and Julie lived in Spain with their two kids, Becky and Sam. They´d emigrated from the UK when Sam was just 18 months old and Becky was born in Spain three years later. Julie, a qualified teacher, was lucky enough to get a position in a local school teaching English to Spanish children, while Rob was a plumber by trade and set up his own plumbing firm. For a while, they did very well and settled into the Spanish lifestyle with ease. But after the recession hit Spain, work was harder to come by for Rob as he had to compete for business against his Spanish competitors.

After a while, things took a turn for the worse financially and the family had to consider their options. Julie´s job at the school was still secure and the kids, who were now much older, were both doing very well in school. So Rob made the heart wrenching decision to go back to the UK to work for a while until things got better, leaving Julie and the kids in Spain.

Once he´d got on his feet back in the UK, one of the things Rob did to try to bridge the gap was to learn Spanish. Julie had already picked up quite a lot of the language at the school, and the kids both spoke it fluently. Already feeling too far apart from them, he thought that he could at least try to keep up with his lessons so that he didn´t drift further away from them in that aspect. He opted for some group Spanish classes in Bristol so that he could practise his conversational skills with like-minded people.

Whilst being apart was hard, they all had to make the best of a bad situation. In Spain, Julie and the kids carried on as normal and looked forward to Rob´s visits. In the UK, Rob worked as much as he could and squirrelled his earnings away to build a pot back up for them to use in Spain. His lessons were something to look forward to each week and each one was a step closer to him returning back to Spain and being reunited with his family for good.

Cherished Memories of the French Countryside

Posted on June 2nd, 2013by Melanie
In French, Speech, Words | Leave a Comment »

French villageBeth and Michael both had a love of France that went back to their childhoods. Beth had spent her early childhood years living there after her mum had emigrated there from South Africa. It was a very free time with happy memories of playing in the surrounding countryside with her brothers. Michael, on the other hand, had spent many holidays there with his parents when he was a child and he too had a strong connection with the country.

As a married couple with kids themselves, they had bought a villa in the beautiful French countryside and used it as a holiday home for many years. Their dream was to one day retire there, away from the rat race in England, and relax in the calm and peaceful surroundings of their second home. Their daughters were already grown up and would soon be having families of their own, and retirement wasn´t too far ahead in the future. Whilst Beth and Michael both had a basic knowledge of the French language, they weren´t fluent by any stretch of the imagination and felt that it was about time they took their linguistic skills up to the next level. Once they were actually living in France, they would need to be able to converse fluently and get by on their own, especially considering their remote location where there were no other English inhabitants to ask for help. So they set aside some time each week to learn French in Leeds and began practising their vocabulary in earnest.

As each class passed by and as their conversational skills progressed, Beth and Michael became one step nearer to fulfilling their French dream!

Immersing into the Italian Lifestyle

Posted on June 1st, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Italian, Speech | Leave a Comment »

ItalyLouise was desperate to learn Italian. She´d been on family holidays to Italy numerous times and loved it; she loved the country, the people, the sunny climate, the food, everything about it, and especially the melodic language. But for Louise, learning a foreign language wasn´t as easy a task as it might seem. She suffered from a learning disorder and, unfortunately, learning foreign languages was considered an unachievable task by her teachers. She was used to the stigma; she´d always been teased about seeming to be slower than her classmates to grasp things but was still determined to learn a second language one day, despite her teachers´ views. They believed that, due to the nature of learning disorders which directly affect language capabilities, the acquisition of a new language when she often struggled with her own was an impossible undertaking which would just cause Louise undue stress and disappointment.

Luckily, Louise´s parents disagreed with this and backed her enthusiasm and determination to learn a foreign language. They´d conducted a considerable amount of research on the subject and had contacted organizations related to both learning disorders and languages. They discovered that it was often the traditional teaching methods that actually inhibited the learning of languages rather than a student´s ability to learn. This is because the reading and writing skills typical of a normal classroom lesson often presented problems whereas learning conversational techniques could be extremely beneficial and produce excellent results. One of the organizations contacted Louise´s parents to advise them of an immersion programme which placed students directly into family homes abroad. This technique had produced excellent results and the experience meant that students learned real life conversational skills as opposed to basic sentences that were the norm usually taught in schools. This was a dream come true for Louise! Not only did she get to live in Italy for a while, but she would be learning the language from a genuine Italian family and living the Italian lifestyle she´d hankered after.

That was then. Now, Louise, who blossomed in Italy under the tutelage of the hospitable family, can speak a great deal of Italian and her confidence has increased no end. The lessons she learned in Italy of how to control her speech and pronunciation have helped her to overcome problems she has when speaking her own language. Not wishing to lose her newly acquired language capabilities, Louise is keen to improve her speech by taking conversational Italian classes in Newcastle. She is coming along in leaps and bounds, much to the admiration of her very proud parents!