Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Good Advice To Help You Become Fluent In A New Language

This article was borrowed from the Spanish Language Blog:

One of the biggest complaints that I get as a language teacher is that students take classes, do their homework, but still they can’t speak fluently.

They say,

“I learn a word today, but I can’t remember it the other day.”
“Where am I going to use this?”
“I keep forgetting the pronunciation of words and verbs.”
“I’m embarrassed to speak in front of other people.”

Does this ever happen to you? Well, it did to me once and now I’m going to give you some tips on how to “mitigate these symptoms”, so to speak.

The first thing that you should keep in mind is that learning languages doesn’t happen overnight, so it does actually take time to sink it all in. Make a plan of learning five new words every day. If it’s too overwhelming, learn three. By learning I mean, practice until you get tired, it’s never enough.

Some tips for you!

1. Learning a language comes also with learning that country’s culture, so start learning about it, its geography, food, folklore, legends, etc.

2. Tag your house objects with their names in the foreign language. Start with object like faucet, table, cupboard, remote control, things that you can glue a Post-it to.

3. Don’t settle for little. So you already know how to say “brother”, “sister”, “mother”, etc., but do you know how to say “mother-in-law”, “brother-in-law”, “godson”? Why not go the extra mile and learn that too?

4. Keep it close to home. Yes, you don’t need to know about anybody’s life to learn a foreign language. Take yours and your family’s for example. Would you be able to say all the things that you do at work in the target language? Would you know how to say your brother’s occupation and what he does?

5. Create mini interviews with yourself. Imagine that you are being interviewed on a radio show about a certain topic: family, work, leisure, whatever. Make up the questions and answer them. They don’t need to be as accurate as in your native language, you can rephrase them if grammar is too difficult.

6. If you live in a place where there are native speakers of the language you’re learning, why not go and make friends with them? Let me tell you a story: I have a student from Boston who’s learning Portuguese. He’s a good student, but he keeps forgetting basic words so I told him, “Paul, there are many Brazilians in Boston [trust me, A LOT!], so why don’t you try and talk to some of them when you run into them?” As it turns out there’s a Brazilian store right around the corner from his house so he decided to go there, buy something and practice his Portuguese. I don’t know what happened yet but I’m pretty sure that the Brazilian hospitality made him feel right at home.

7. If someone makes fun of you because you can’t speak a language fluently yet, don’t worry. You are making an effort, getting out of your comfort zone and I applaud you for that. The key to when you make a mistake is to look right at its eyes and correct it. If you know you don’t get your verbs right, why not pay more attention to them? It’s very easy to complain and blame someone or something else. Take responsibility.

8. Don’t try to speak fast. Who told you that fluency equals speed? I once knew an American woman in her sixties and she spoke very slowly. She told me, “Adir, I speak slowly because I don’t like to repeat what I said due to misunderstandings”. And she is right, you don’t need to hurry, take your time and enjoy the beauty that is speaking another language.

9. Do you have foreign channels at home? Why not spend at least half an hour a day listening to the sounds of the spoken language, even if you don’t understand much? Choose a program that you like or the news, because they have imagines and current topics that you may have heard about.

10. Last but not least, set your default Internet browser page to the foreign language you are learning. For example, I’m building up my German vocabulary so I set my Yahoo page to Deutschland (Germany) – that way, when I go check my e-mail I end up reading something in German. The same words keep popping up from time to time so worst-case sceneario is you will learn some new words.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spanish Sayings

In English, we have many popular sayings when we want to paint a prettier picture.  Some of my favorite are:

  • The lights are on but nobodies home (crazy/dumb)
  • It's not my cup of tea (to dislike something)
  • Blind as a bat (can't see anything)

The bad news is that these types of sayings almost never translate very well.  Especially coming from a non-native speaker, they will be taken literally and usually lead to confusion and big mis-understandings.

One of the first things I always advise my more intermediate and advanced students is to try to avoid translating slang and expressions when using the new language.

The good news is I have found that similar expressions exist Spanish, you just have to learn them and use them.  Here are just a few:

  • más alegre que unas castañelas [happy]
  • más amarillo que la cera [yellow]
  • más apretado que guano de cabra [stingy]
  • más arrugado que una pasa [wrinkled]
  • más borracho que una cuba [drunk]
  • más ciego que un topo [blind]
  • más colorado que un tomate [embarrassed]
  • más delgado que un fideo [thin]
  • más derecho que una vela [straight - upright]
  • más duro que una piedra [hard]
  • más feo que un coche fúnebre [ugly]
  • más feo que un dolor de muelas [ugly]
  • más largo que un día sin pan [long]
  • más listo que el hambre [ready]
  • más loco que una cabra [crazy]
  • más manso que un cordero [docile]
  • más pesado que una vaca en brazos [annoying]
  • más terco que una mula [stubborn]
  • más tonto que hacerle la permanente a un calvo [useless, stupid]
  • más vago que la chaqueta de un guardia [broad, loose]
  • más viejo que cagar agachado [old - a little vulgar]
  • más viejo que Matusalén [old]
Have fun with these, and let us know if you learn any new ones!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

English Egg Idioms for Easter

1. To egg someone on - to encourage or dare someone to do something,   often something unwise
ExI wouldn’t have gone bungee jumping if John hadn’t egged me on to do it.
2. To put all your eggs in one basket - to risk everything in one venture
ExWhen investing in the stockmarket, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. You should diversify your portfolio.
3. To walk on egg shells (Br E) - to be very diplomatic and inoffensive
ExShe is so stressed at the moment that I feel like I am walking on eggshells to avoid an argument.
4. You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs - In order to do something good, you need to give something else up
ExJames: ‘We may make a lot of money if we raise our prices, but we will upset a lot of our customers’.
Tony: ‘We cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs’.
5. A chicken and egg situation - a situation where it’s impossible to decide which of two things existed first and which caused the other
ExIt’s a chicken and egg situation - I don’t know whether I was bad at Maths because I wasn’t interested, or wasn’t interested and therefore was not good at the subject.
6. To pull a rabbit out of the hat - to do something surprising (it’s often used to show a surprising solution to a problem)
ExThe Chancellor pulled a rabbit out of the hat by putting together a budget without raising taxes.
7.)  Egghead - a smart person/nerd
Do you know any other idioms and phrases that use the words ‘eggs’ and ‘rabbits’ in them? Please share them with us.
If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and colleagues.
Happy Easter, everyone!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Avoid making these errors in the Spanish language

It is important to learn how to write the Spanish language as much as it is to speak it.  A common challenge native English speakers have is with accent marks.  
Here are some very common mistakes that we often see in written and verbal communication:
Use of written accent marks in monosyllable words:
  • fui (correct) or fuí (incorrect) / vio (correct) or vió (incorrect)
  • más (adverb of quantity) / mas (adversative conjunction having the meaning of pero)
  • el (article)/ él (pronoun)
  • de (preposition) vs  (verb)

Deber / Deber de
  • Deber + infinitive: it conveys obligation.  
  • Deber de + infinitive: It conveys probability, conjecture.

Dijistes / Vinistes
The tú form of verbs end with an s in the present tense, not in the past tense.  These examples are considered vulgarisms as they are not the correct form of the conjugated verbs: Tú dijiste / Tú viniste.

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