Tag: language

How Kindle Helps You Learn a Second Language

I was skeptical about Kindles. I liked the feel of a book. The smell. I didn’t want to read on a small computer screen. No. Well, not until I discovered that my Kindle would help me improve my second language, Spanish. Now I would recommend ANYONE who is learning a language to get one. Here’s how a Kindle can help you improve your language. When you are reading a book you can click on any word that you don’t understand. A dictionary appears with the definition of the word. Cool, right? Even cooler: you can download bilingual dictionaries and...

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10 Signs You are 100% Fluent in a Language

Fluent is a relative term. I don’t know if I consider myself fluent in French, even though I’ve got a degree in it and spent 5 months living there. I still make stupid mistakes and I often tell people ‘he’s crying’ when I mean ‘it’s raining’. French people think that it’s adorable. And if someone thinks your French is adorable, then you can’t really be fluent, can you? There are varying definitions of fluent- some people measure fluency in number of words and grammar structures you know, others use a more qualitative method; can you hold a conversation? Can you ask for directions and write a formal letter? For me, fluency is not what you can or can’t do in a language, it’s about your attitude towards it. Here’s my list of signs you’re fluent in a foreign language; 1) You stop looking for opportunities to ‘practice’.  For me this is the most important sign of being fluent; that you can have the same conversation in both languages and you don’t feel the NEED to practice any more. If you need to practice, you’re still a learner. 2) You can have a meaningful relationship with someone who doesn’t speak your mother tongue You can talk to that person without the safety blanket of your first language to fall back on. You also stop looking for foreign friends just because...

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Guide to Language Levels: What level of English do you have?

Here I explain the official levels of language learning with examples of each level. There is also a quick test you can do to see what your real level of English is. This is the Common European Framework. Although not all schools or countries use it, I think it is the most accurate system and the easiest to use.  There are 6 levels. Level A1: Beginner Understands and communicates using basic vocabulary (e.g. food, names of countries, numbers). Frequent errors in grammar and pronunciation. Example Text “Mark is 12 years old. He has red hair and green eyes. His favourite sport is football.” A2: Pre-Intermediate Can complete routine tasks such as asking where the bathroom is in a restaurant. Can describe very simply where they are from, their likes and dislikes etc. Can use all simple tenses (I go, I went, I will go) Frequent errors in grammar and pronunciation Example Text: “Sarah and Tom went to the lake. It was a warm day and they took a picnic. There were lots of ducks swimming in the lake. The children decided to give the ducks some bread.” B1: Intermediate Students can use all simple tenses as well as continuous and perfect tenses. Students know the 1st conditional and some modal verbs. They can recognize the most common phrasal verbs (e.g. to get on with, to look after etc) Students...

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Why Students Need to Read More

Many students focus too much on speaking English. They become obsessed with speaking and often ignore reading. Maybe they find reading boring, or they think it’s not as useful. This is a huge mistake and actually slows down their learning. It also stops students reaching the highest levels. This is why: 1) You need to know words before you can speak them Reading in a foreign language is the best way to learn new words. In spoken language people use the same vocabulary again and again. You have no time to think, so you automatically use the simplest, most common expressions (I like James Bond films, I like you, I like penguins). People are often more adventurous with their vocabulary when they write  (I’m really keen on James Bond films, I adore you, I’ve got a penchant for penguins). Reading expands your vocabulary which you need for all parts of language learning. Speaking, listening and writing will only improve when you have the vocabulary. And reading is the easiest way to get it. 2) Your grammar improves People have more time to think and plan before they write than before they speak. You can also edit it. So you’ll find a wider variety of grammatical structures  in written English that you don’t usually get in spoken English. You also see words in their ‘natural habitat’; you can see how words fit together and...

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How I Became Fluent: 7 Tips on Learning languages

I was not brought up bilingual; I didn’t start learning a second language until High School.  But I have become fluent in 3. I studied French and Spanish academically and I have taught myself Portuguese without ever entering a classroom. I now teach English as a foreign language. I know from experience that classes only get you so far. Less than 50%. If you want to be truly fluent, most of the effort needs to come from you, not from books or teachers. This is how I did it: 1) Keep a small vocabulary book. A small notebook you can carry with you everywhere. Write all the new vocabulary in the book that you learn. Physically  copying the words down on paper makes you twice as likely to remember them. Also write the type of word and an example of how to use it in a sentence. The more information you have about a word, the more you will remember it. Reading the book for five minutes before you go to sleep is ideal. The book is guaranteed to be extremely boring so you will get sleepy quickly and your brain will remember the vocabulary while you sleep. Win-Win. This is my Spanish vocab book; it’s also a good idea to write down all of the meanings of the word. Yema in Spanish can mean three different things in...

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