Monday, 10 October 2016

Don’t Let your Foreign Language Skills Get Rusty - Get Organised

Your office, early morning:

‘I have been trying to call them but looks like they don’t speak the language. It’s urgent. Can you help?’

You blink, gulp nervously and ask yourself, ‘Can I?’

If you build in practising your foreign language into your daily routine, it does not get rusty and you do not ask. You just get up and go for it when an opportunity to use this language comes up. Even if your throat is a bit dry, butterflies in your stomach.


The best way to keep your foreign language skills in shape is to build the language practice into your daily or at least weekly routine. You won’t skip brushing your teeth in the morning ‘cos it would just feel wrong, wouldn’t it? Make language practice a habit too.


The more time you spend practising the better of course but you don’t have to practise for hours each time, especially if you actually don’t have all this time. It might work at first but you will inevitably give it up as other priorities will take over or you will just get tired of making too much effort. So, making it bite-sized is more sustainable. After all, slow progress is better than none.

Quality over Quantity

It’s better to allocate half an hour to your language practice at a time than a whole afternoon. Limited time frame will make you more focused and resistant to distractions. And you can always have more than one thirty minutes slots at a time if you can afford it / feel like it.


To make the most of the limited time you have for language practice, you need to plan it carefully and make sure you practise all four language skills even if not in equal measure. Allocating proper time slots for tasks will help you avoid situations when you have started an hour’s task for which you have just fifteen minutes available. Consider timing and tools when planning too.


Timing is part of planning your language practice. Friday night after a busy week at the office is probably not the best time for doing an assessment for an online course you are registered for. Do some easy reading instead or just watch a funny movie. While commuting to work in the morning by train, you are probably too sleepy to digest anything in the form of letters, so why not listening to a podcast instead? And podcasts are god sent if you drive.


Tools are another part of planning. With smartphones and other portable devices it’s actually really easy now to have a tool you need always at hand. And with apps and mobile-friendly websites you can log on anywhere, anytime. But still you need to make sure the device is charged, the proper software is installed and you haven’t forgotten your earphones to listen to podcasts for example.


Getting organised by building habits, taking it in bite sizes to keep focused and make it sustainable, planning your practice to time it right and have proper tools at hand, all of it is at the core of Memoriser - your personal vocabulary learning assistant.

Once you have sent the vocBlocks with the vocabulary you would like to practise to Memoriser, it will start sending you email notifications prompting you to practise regularly, helping you to build this language learning habit.

Memoriser sessions are bite sized, just a couple of minutes per session. And you can run more than one session at a time if you are stuck in traffic for a while or happen to wait for your doctor’s appointment longer than usual. So, it's easier to allocate more or less time depending on the circumstances.

Memoriser sends you email notifications daily but if you are planning to practise, say, every other day at 1 pm during your lunchtime, you can make changes in the settings to time the emails precisely to match your practice time.

As vocBlocks is a mobile friendly website, you will have this vocabulary practice tool always at hand. Just make sure your portable device is charged, you have connection and can go online. Happy organising!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Top Tip for Developing your Language Skills

Some time ago we shared 7 language learning tips and tricks with you which covered building all four skills one needs to master to become a fully functional language user.

I am saying ‘user’ as it’s practical everyday language application you are presumably seeking, i.e. sourcing the most up-to-date information for developing your business, staying attuned to the stuff going on in the world, being that one guy in the office who fluently speaks the language when opportunities come up or just having fun watching great movies in the original and laughing at the jokes otherwise lost in translation.

So, this post is about further developing your language skills you try to apply daily. Psychologically it can be way trickier than acquiring them. Here is why…

When you just start learning a foreign language your expectations are not too high, you are a beginner after all. Just every word is unknown. Surely starting your language journey is immensely hard. Your tongue and lips refuse to move to articulate words properly, words seem the same and just noise with meaning floating away from them, refusing to stick, and grammar rules laughing in your face and making you question all your beliefs and values in life… Still, you go easy on yourself, a beginner.

But at some point after you have reached a certain level, upper-intermediate I would say, your tolerance for your mistakes and / or unknown words you come across starts plummeting. What? How could I get it wrong with my immaculate grammar? How can I not know this word having read tons of books and spent hundreds of hours practicing new vocabulary? Has it just gone down the drain?

The truth is, with grammar even native speakers get it wrong sometimes. And feel ok :) They sometimes don't even know they got it wrong. And feel ok :) They sometimes don't even know how to get it right. And yep, still feel ok :) Having studied English for as long as I can remember and having tackled the most complicated grammar rules there are, not long ago I came across an English lady who said ‘you was’ looking me straight in the eye not batting an eyelid while all my system of grammar beliefs was coming crashing down like an old shabby house hit by a wrecking ball.

As for vocabulary, the truth is, even native speakers get it wrong sometimes. And feel ok :) They sometimes don't even know they got it wrong. And feel ok :) They sometimes...Well, you get it, guys. English, for example, is quite notorious for its misleading spelling. Worcester, quay, choir, colonel are just a few of the words which spelling is not at all helpful when you need to read them out loud. (Autocorrect rocks btw as I couldn’t spell the bloody beloved Worcester myself!) And there are common everyday words adopted from other languages not long ago, for example, all those gastronomical delights like guacamole, houmous, taramasalata, tzatziki which might prove difficult to pronounce and easy to get wrong.

So. Give. Yourself. A break. And please understand that you cannot possibly learn a language to the degree that there is no room for improvement and development left. I'm sure a language professor or a good professional writer will be able to teach you a thing or two on how to use your mother tongue too.

So, the top tip is to RELAX and BREATH and KEEP LEARNING. It's fun :)

P.S. And for those who LOVE phrasal verbs and want to use them MORE AND MORE to sound like a cool native English speaker, there is our series of vocBlocks ‘Phrasal Verbs’ with over 500 most common phrasal verbs. And as we believe that a word without context is like fish out of water these phrasal verbs come alive in mini everyday situations you need to use them in. Happy learning!