I’ve written a lot about trying to listen to as much language as you can, whether it be in real life, or (even better) in a format that you can listen to more than once, and hopefully read along with.
I’m lucky to have a language teacher who has a very pleasant voice and manner of speaking, so when she records texts for me, it’s never a chore to listen to (although I do sometimes have to talk myself into listening to lessons rather than music or podcasts in English). However, I’ve heard a lot of people whose recording voices are almost painful to listen to, and I would struggle to make it through the few minutes it would take to listen to an article.
One particular example was an audiobook version of a book I’d already read and liked. The narrator had a grating accent and manner of speaking that emphasised all the wrong parts of the sentence and set my teeth on edge. I had to stop listening after less than a chapter.
I’ve found that I am more judgemental of speakers of my own language, though. I tend not to notice accents so much with foreign languages, and I’m not advanced enough yet to know if they are pronouncing things wrong. I haven’t found a foreign language speaker that I can’t listen to yet, which is probably a good thing!
Have you ever had to switch audio off because of the reader?
I’m reading a collection of essays by David Sedaris called Me Talk Pretty One Day. Some of the essays, including the title one, are about his struggles as an American visiting a small town in France and trying to pick up some of the language (there, in Paris, and in New York City). His partner speaks French, so that leaves him as the only non-French speaker in the town (something that I can relate to, though not so much with French).
He starts off pretty much only knowing the word for bottle opener, which he uses with all the local merchants. He proceeds to type all of his new words (using an old-fashioned typewriter) onto index cards, which he then keeps in a box. His progress is quite slow, and with example words like exorcism, slaughterhouse, and sea monster, I can sort of see why. However, his choice of vocabulary doesn’t stop him from trying to use it with the locals, which I can respect.
His method of keeping new words together allows him to state that at the end of his sixth trip to France, he had learned 1,564 words, which he held all together in a box. I rather liked this statement, and the concept of knowing precisely what your knowledge was.
I don’t know how many foreign words I know, but I would kind of like to. Do you keep track of your progress in any countable way?
I’ve seen my fair share of awful translations into English, which I forgive because most of the time they are hilarious, and I imagine that the people who commissioned them probably don’t have much more than an online translator available to help them.
Sometimes, though, I come across words that look like legitimate English words, but I have no idea what they mean. Sometimes I can glean a fair idea from the context, but there are times when I just have to look up the word to see what they are talking about. I don’t know why, but people seem to pick the most obscure or out-of-date words they can when doing formal translations.
I was editing an English translation of a Chinese document and one of the sentences said that there was no disporting allowed in the office. The word sounds like the opposite of porting, whatever that might mean. Or does it have something to do with sport? Teleporting? Apparently it means “To amuse oneself in a light, frolicsome manner”. Like, to frolic. I guess the sentence wanted to say ‘no jacking around’ or ‘no horseplay’.
I remember once reading a placard in a museum that said that the museum’s city was aiming to be refulgent. This one I had no idea about at the time. There’s something about the F that makes me think it might be a negative word, but the context was completely positive. I had to satisfy my curiosity later and looked it up. It means “to shine brightly”, which I guess is a fine ambition for a city.
Have you found yourself learning new words in your own language through the efforts of non-native speakers?
Recently, I dipped into the Chinese microblogging world, ruled by 微波 (wēi bó). Like Twitter, it can be completely overwhelming to the uninitiated, especially with the millions of users and the Chinese interface. I wasn’t sure how much time or energy I wanted to spend on it, and how much benefit I would end up getting out of it. So here I sit at the edges without throwing myself in.
On one hand, there is a wealth of information out there, and so many people to interact with. I know some non-native speakers who rave about the service, and about how you can say so much more with Chinese characters than with English in the 140 character word limit.
On the other hand, there is a lot of slang and language shortcuts to navigate through, which is very intimidating for the average language learner.
Have you had any luck learning from foreign language blogs or microblogs? Would you recommend one over the other?
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games are being held in Sochi, Russia. With English being announced as the official language of the games, organisers and staff are scrambling to learn enough of the language in time for the games.
The organisers have announced Education First (EF) as their official language education provider. EF has already organised an online learning centre for the 70,000-strong Olympic support staff, which will offer online language classes and support, especially in English relating to the Winter Games. Because online and distance learning are still not common in Russia, this will be an interesting exercise. I hope that the time pressure and excitement of the games will actually affect the national view on online learning.
EF has already trained thousands of people in advance of big sporting events, including 60,000 for the Asian Games in Guangzhou last year, and 80,000 in English and Spanish for the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
Full article: Guardian.
With the ease of online translation these days, it is hard for me not to get lazy sometimes and just run text through a translator to get the gist of what it’s saying. Often this is enough for me, but sometimes it’s just so I know what the text is about before looking at it more closely. Usually it also helps with speed (I read and comprehend slowly sometimes).
The other day, I threw some text through a translator, but what it gave me was tantamount to rubbish. The original text was mostly phrases that didn’t have much context, and so the result was even more garbled. I had to struggle to work out exactly what was happening. Then, when I looked at the original text, and looked up a few words, I was better able to work out the intended meaning on my own.
It was a bit of a wake up call for me, both to tell me that my skills were a bit better than I thought, and to tell me that I shouldn’t take the easy way out all the time. No matter how difficult translation may be for learners, it is beneficial as a teaching tool, and may also be the more effective method!
At the beginning of your language learning, trying to learn a lot of vocabulary might not be that helpful or easy. If you can’t actually use this language in real sentences and constructions, it will be even more difficult to remember. But at some point in your language learning career, you are likely to feel that you don’t have enough vocabulary. You will have enough sentence structures to want to fill them in with useful (and/or random) words. This is when the word lists and the flashcards will come in handy.
It may feel like you’re back in primary school, but reviewing flashcards is a good way to get more exposure to your words and help you remember them. If you go the old fashioned route and make them yourself, the actual process of making them will help reinforce the knowledge. Try to keep a pile of flashcards with you at all times, so if you have a few minutes to spare, you can go over them.
If you are doing electronic flashcards, again try to keep them mobile. If you can put them on your mobile or other portable device, all the better. Just remember to keep looking at them!
Supposedly if you see and use a word 9 separate times, you will have no problem remembering it forever. See how much of your spare time you can use adding extra views to your vocabulary lists!