Saturday, 17 October 2015

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 6

Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

It might not be too good for your neighbours who are already putting up with your TV blaring out movies in an unknown language (yep, the louder you have your telly on, the better you understand what's being said sometimes) but it's good for your language acquisition as rhythm, rhyme and melody help you retain sung words and whole sentences in your memory.

Tricks

As very often singers do not think of spelling it out for poor foreigners who use their musical masterpieces for their own little needs of learning a language, you will most definitely need lyrics for the songs you love and would like to sing yourself. These can be found easily on the Internet. Otherwise you might end up singing something completely different from the original text! And Madonna's virgin will turn into 'touched for the thirty-first time' instead of 'touched for the very first time.' Oooh, those Freudian slips!

If you struggle to remember particular words no matter how catchy the tune is, drop them into a vocBlock and run some Memoriser sessions so that next time you need to sing the word 'extra-terrestrial' picturing yourself as Katy Perry you could actually pronounce it properly.

And make sure you truly understand the meaning of the lyrics. Well, at least if you are inserting famous quotes here and there. This can be real tricky at times and even with the text in front of you, you might have no idea what it's all about. 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds?' What the hell?

Also, try to use the vocabulary acquired this way appropriately and don't tell your macho mates that you (have) got (to) kiss yourself you are so pretty just because Bruno's song is so damn catchy!

Don't miss the next tip in the upcoming post, the things are about to get serious ;)

Feel free to post your comments below - we would love to hear what songs you are humming to learn the language you are learning!

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 5

Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

If you want to understand what's being said in the language you are learning, just practise listening to it being spoken! As easy as that (not that I'm saying that it's easy ;) And movies and comedy shows are fun too!

Tricks

Make sure the movies, TV series and comedy shows you choose have subtitles which can be switched off. Subtitles are useful if you discover you don't understand a damn thing. That was me discovering Scottish accent for the first time with 'Trainspotting' - 'So that's English? Seriously?' And that was before I learnt that the comedian guy Kevin Bridges speaking weird English is actually Scottish too! So, thank god for the subtitles!

Subtitles are also useful at the start of the movies or shows when you are still tuning your ear to the cast. Well, only at the very start if you are lucky! It took me a good couple of episodes to tune my ear to Lee Mack from the TV series 'Not Going Out'! But once I got there, boy, this guy is hilarious!

Also, subtitles are good for capturing words and phrases you don't know at the moment but would love to learn and use yourself. Just make sure you add them to your vocBlocks so you don't lose them and actually learn (and use!) them later.

Subtitles are better than no subtitles but don't let reading them turn into a habit - switch them off if you understand most of what's being said.

Also, at the beginning you might want to choose action movies where you will probably understand the plot without much language anyway or might not need to at all! 'Expendables' for example can be watched with no sound on and you will still get the most important bit - it's cool to be big and strong! Or did I miss some deep meaning there?

As you progress with your language skills you will gradually learn to decipher dialogues from psychological thrillers if you want to watch them and, unlike me, a wimp, have nerves of steel and sleep well at night after it. The toughest one I have managed to get over so far is 'The Devil's Advocate' with my favourite Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves. Though I still get flashbacks with Mary whimpering, 'Kevin, I'm not crazy!' Brrr, something a bit more cheerful for me please!

Don't miss the next tip in the upcoming post if you fancy adding some tunes to your language learning ;)

We want to hear about YOUR experience with watching movies, shows, etc.! Feel free to post your recommendations of what to watch in the comments too!

P.S. I am not the only one struggling with the Scottish accent. And here is proof:

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 4

Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Reading them will make sure your language vocabulary is varied as you won't find, for example, a lot of popular science terms in fiction books. Well, not in that concentration anyway.

Tricks

You might want to choose articles and/or books which will educate you for your particular needs, be it your career or hobby.

Career

Once upon a time education path was simple - school, university and happy ever after. Today you have to be your own sat nav to get the job you want to have as when you were at uni this kind of job might not have even existed!

And education is becoming more and more accessible via MOOCs. And if, for example, you decide that to get to your next destination you need some accounting knowledge then you stop over at Coursera and pack your bag with this intangible asset before continuing your journey.

Even if you prefer a more clear and straight way in your career and love your current job, you will still need to keep upgrading your knowledge before you realise that you are way behind your more nimble and agile colleagues. For example, if you are in marketing may be it's time to throw in some new digital marketing tricks to shake things up?

But all work and no play...

Hobby

If you are like me and are crazy about cooking then you can discover new recipes in the language you are learning. With learning English, BBC good food is a fab resource which we used while putting together our ready vocBlocks "5 A Day".

And if you love cooking and are learning Italian...Good luck with that diet of yours! By the way to boost your Italian or any other language vocabulary just copy the existing vocBlocks with fruit and veg names, add Italian or any other language translation from the built in dictionaries, record sound if you need it and you are good to go.

News

For Top Gear fans out there...Keep an eye on the news not to miss the next episode! It is coming back! But you probably know already if you read papers. So, why not reading them in the language you are learning? It’s so easy with news websites (e.g. BBC, CNN) ) and newspapers available online. Obviously domestic news will not be fully covered but you can always split your news reading time between two languages and read on international affairs in the language you are learning.

One more bonus from this kind of read is that you will always have what to talk about with your foreign friend(s). Or you might just discuss a movie you have recently seen. But this will be the topic of our next tip. Don’t miss it!

In the meantime feel free to share your experience of reading non-fiction in the comments below.

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 3

Get some fiction books you would love to read

Reading is one of the most effective means of learning a language. There won't be any output (your writing and speaking) without any input (your reading and listening). Since writers' means to create a fiction reality in its every detail is through language alone (no video or audio to help out!) reading is a pretty powerful means for you to acquire all necessary and even detailed vocabulary. You might even end up creating another Marcel Proust's lilacs!

Tricks

Make sure these books are not too difficult for you to read, i.e. only about 5% of all the words are unknown as the idea here is to 'allow the words to wash around you, like music' as R.Dahl once put it in his famous 'Matilda', so that you learn to dance, I would add. And you don't want to keep stumbling over unknown words and difficult phrases all the time, do you?

Some people might not even think about reading, 'Books? There is no way I can read books with my elementary level!' That's where you are not quite right as British would put it, i.e. completely wrong! It will not be easy at the start of course but the earlier you do start reading books the better. And yes, there are books for elementary level too! If you study English, check out Penguin Books. Some of their adapted books come with CDs for you to entertain yourself while driving, for example.

But what about those 5%? you might want to ask. Do I just ignore unknown words? Or do I look them up? Do I learn them?

Well, I wouldn't worry about looking up and learning every unknown word you come across. Let the words wash around you, enjoy the music of the language, let the story capture you and find if Perry will beat the triangles invading his body or they will eat him up alive.

But if an unknown word is a key word and you cannot understand what's going on without knowing it, or if you have come across a word several times and would love to know what it means then I would say definitely look it up. Or even better drop it into one of your vocBlocks, which means you will kill two birds with one stone, i.e. look it up in the vocBlocks' built in dictionary and capture this word for learning it later.

Learning it will actually be easy-peasy as you will recall the context in which it was used. Capturing it in vocBlocks will make sure you are making the most of your time spent reading a book, as there is nothing more frustrating (and unproductive!) than to keep bumping into a word the meaning of which you still cannot remember or into a clever/useful phrase you have sworn you will be using yourself but still cannot recall when you need it.

And if you are a control freak like me and like things in life to be filed, colour coded and shelved in strict order based on a certain system which works like clockwork, then you might find it exciting to expand your vocabulary topically. Say, you have come across a name of an animal which is not already in the ready vocBlock 'Wild Animals', so you add it to your copy of this ready vocBlock and learn it along with other words on this topic.

And one more thing, please PLEASE try to choose modern authors if your reading time is limited! Even if you are Charles Dickens' fan (which I am with no doubt) please understand that no one speaks this language any more and the reality described is a little bit different now too! So, if you have just read Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Niggers' I wouldn't shout the title out loud as the n-word is socially unacceptable and you can get into trouble as did Top Gear guy Jeremy Clarkson!

But you wouldn't have read about the incident with Jeremy Clarkson in a book so next post is about non-fiction. Don't miss it!

Let us know about a great book you would recommend to a BFF in the comments below.

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.