Tag: Language learning

7 Tricks To Learn Languages… When You’re Bad At Languages

Having trouble with your Spanish? Check out these easy and useful tricks from Babbel:

1) Memory:

Create connections between topics that interest you and the language you’re learning. How are you going to use the subjunctive in Spanish to express your desire to see your team avoid relegation? “¡Deseo que mi equipo no baje a la segunda liga!”

2) Pronunciation:

Perfect pronunciation isn’t fundamental to communicating in a language, but people will understand you more easily if you can train yourself to avoid the most common pronunciation errors. […] Fortunately, there are always tricks to elevate you from pronunciation purgatory to enunciation ecstasy. There are specific tricks for every sound — I picked up the German r by gargling progressively smaller amounts of water while saying trinken — but it’s most important to pay attention to the way native speakers talk, and then imitate them.

3) Speak, speak and… you guessed it, speak!:

Get speaking and get familiar with the music of the language. Have you ever noticed how people who speak more than one language seem to have more than one voice? Sometimes they even seem to have a whole different personality. Don’t be afraid of playing with the sounds and intonations of your new language. Imitate the music of Italian, the conspicuous consonants of German, and the gentle lisps of Spanish or Danish

4) Face your fears:

Take a deep breath, remember that empathy exists and […] afford you the time necessary to collect your thoughts and deliver your response. Recognize also that learning a language is a humbling experience. Learn to laugh at yourself now and again, and you’ll learn even more quickly.

5) Apply your skills from other fields:

Are you good at math? Programming? Cooking? Craft work? Now’s the time to identify your strengths and apply them to the world of languages. Personalize your learning techniques. For example, if you’re good at math, you may want to focus on grammar. […] More in favor of learning by doing? Write out your shopping list in your learning language, head to the supermarket, and follow your foreign language recipe. Verbalize the steps as you execute them.

6) Read and understand, and concentrate!

If you read a Spanish novel in bed, you’ll probably find it especially taxing in the morning and detrimental to staying awake in the evening. When starting out, it’s important to set aside some quiet time — free of distractions and at a time of day when you’re alert — to read. Select a topic which interests you, or an author you like, and read.

7) Don’t fret!

There’s no need to impose pressure upon yourself, nor rush toward unreachable goals. Accept from the beginning that you’re in it for the long haul, and organize your learning so that it can become as integrated into your daily routine […]Be sure to recognize and reward your progress, and you’ll soon see what you thought was impossible becoming possible.

Source: Babbel Magazine

To read the full article, click here.

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Resiliencia

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Word of the Day: LA GUAGUA

Maybe you have heard of the word guagua. This word has different meanings in different countries, but there are also some Spanish speaking countries that don’t use this word at all.

In Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and some other Caribbean countries, guagua is how they call the bus. Some people say that this word comes from the English word: wagon, but there are others that state that it was because Wa Wa and Co. Inc. were the ones that provided Cuba with their first buses. So if you hear the expression: “¡Apúrate que nos deja la guagua!” It means that you need to hurry up or you’re going to miss the bus.

Also some Puerto Ricans call the airplanes “guagua aérea” Why? Well, there is a famous movie in that country with the same name that narrates the constant trip that the people from San Juan took to New York looking for a better life and the so-called American Dream.

In other countries like Chile, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia and Argentina, guagua is how they call babies or little kids. So if you hear someone saying “¡Cómo llora esa guagua! That means that there is a baby crying a lot, maybe nearby and not a big bus making a lot noise.

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Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel

Como agua para chocolate es una novela rosa escrita por Laura Esquivel, publicada en 1989, que trata acerca de la vida de una mujer (Tita), sus amoríos y la relación de esta con su familia, todo relacionado con la importancia de la cocina y las recetas típicas mexicanas de la época en que está ambientada su vida. En la novela se puede apreciar un estilo particular, en el que se emplea un realismo mágico con el fin de combinar lo sobrenatural con lo mundano. Fue incluida en la lista de las 100 mejores novelas en español del siglo XX del periódico español El Mundo

BOOKLa historia está ambientada en Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México. Situada en la época de la Revolución mexicana (Pueblo oprimido, representación ambiental de los personajes: Tita y Pedro: Oprimidos; Mamá Elena y Rosaura: opresores; Gertrudis: Revolución (cambio – libertad)). Tita es la menor de tres hermanas. En su familia existe la costumbre de que la hija menor no debe casarse; sino que debe hacerse cargo de sus padres en la vejez. La conjugación comienza a complicarse cuando Tita se enamora de Pedro Muzquiz, lo cual es inaceptable para las costumbres de la familia de Tita, integrada por su madre “Mamá Elena” y sus dos hermanas: Rosaura y Gertrudis. De esta forma se le prohíbe a Tita relacionarse con cualquier hombre, incluyendo Pedro, su novio de la niñez. Pedro, no obstante , pide en matrimonio a Tita, acción que importuna a Mamá Elena; finalmente ésta encuentra una “solución”: ofrece en matrimonio a Rosaura, hermana mayor de Tita, para casarse con él y hacerle olvidar, según Mamá Elena, su obsesión por Tita. Pedro acepta escondiendo un ardid: casarse con Rosaura para mantenerse cerca de Tita. Todo el relato utiliza la gastronomía mexicana como nexo y metáfora de los sentimientos de los personajes; así las cebollas serán el motivo de lágrimas, las codornices negras de fe, los pétalos de rosa despertarán pasiones incontrolables. Cada capítulo inicia con una receta, la primera presentada por la sobrina-nieta de Tita, quién es la que relata la historia. Esta obra se destaca entre una de las obras principales pertenecientes al movimiento literario “realismo mágico”, realizando una fusión de lo mágico y mundano/ realidad. A lo largo de la obra, se puede apreciar también la gran variedad de temáticas que la componen y, además, la relación que éstas tienen con la obra en sí: intentan demostrar el contexto histórico de un momento determinado, incluyendo sus costumbres, tradiciones, etc

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Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

Hablar dos idiomas es útil, práctico y a veces puede ser un reto, pero ¿sabías que también hace que seas más inteligente? Lee este interesante artículo del New York Times para saber cómo es posible.

Here are some key excerpts:

But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

[…]

“Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

And the benefits are not only for young people, since recent studies have shown that bilinguals “were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.”

Lee el artículo completo aquí: Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

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Say NO to translation

Removing the translation component from your language studies and habits is crucial to gaining proficiently in any language. Word-to-word translations from one language to another prohibit a truly stream-of-consciousness thought process that allows for seamless communication between individuals and groups. Switching back and forth between two languages isn’t necessarily the most productive thing to do when you’re learning a new language, as you are simply translating and at the core still utilizing your native language. Some students develop this translation habit and have a very hard time kicking it. Here are some basic reasons why you should stop translating from English to Spanish or vice versa.

  • Translating consumes almost all your brain power and there is very little energy left for actual language learning.
  • The translated word is put in temporary memory not in long term memory. Next time you want to use it, it’s gone or misplaced somewhere in your gringo brain. Word retrieval becomes a painful experience!
  • Translation makes listening comprehension almost impossible. Please, put down your Duolingo program and try to infer the meaning of words from the context.
  • Translating word-to-word hinders the natural communication process. You sound robotic, disengaged and repetitive.
  • Translating turns you into an “ask-hole”! You’ll be constantly interrupting the person you’re speaking with for the meaning of the word in your native language.

That said, here are some practices we suggest you incorporate into your routine immediately!

Start acquiring new vocabulary without the interference of your native tongue. Make your first language a tool, not a means to learn new words. A simple way to do this is by creating flashcards using Spanish text on one side and images that illustrate the text on the other. There’re many applications that allow you to do this. This method is so effective because you’re essentially cutting out the middle man. After your brain learns a new word it recalls it as an image, not a group of letters needing to be processed. Studying this way feels effortless compared to the old-fashioned way, as you’re able to recall words much faster in much less time. This recall process will help your listening skills and eventually will have an impact on your speaking skills.

Another problem to tackle is that of translation and grammar, an exercise akin to sticking a square peg into a round hole.  Some students get very hung up in this area, twisting and turning word order and sentence structure as they stutter and hesitate through conversations. A great way to move away from this practice is to study and absorb intuitively the basic constructions of grammar and then move directly to applying it to the language itself. Make the target language (Spanish in this case) a more essential part of your life! If you’re studying Spanish, you might want to try getting your news from Spanish outlets, reading newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. all in Spanish, or simply listening to Spanish music just for fun. Repeated exposure to real-world applications of these concepts will allow you to let go of the word ordering, after all, the idea that you’re trying to express is much more important than the order of the words. And by the way, Spanish-native speakers have a huge tolerance for grammar mistakes but not so much for phonetic mistakes. So concentrate on how you pronounce words, not on the grammar structure.

Don’t expect to be perfect! Vocabulary, grammar, exceptions to the rules and cultural idiosyncrasies are so vast that you’re going to make a ton of mistakes. Embrace them and stop feeling embarrassed! Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and become a better language learner. Don’t be that person in your Spanish class making the same mistakes over and over again, the last thing you want is to be labeled a “perpetual beginner” in the minds of your teachers and peers!

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Want to Be Smart? Learn a Foreign Language

Need any more motivation to improve your Spanish? Este interesante artículo de BrainBlogger describe algunos de los beneficios de  saber varios idiomas. Here are some key excerpts:

The scientists found that the Spanish-English bilinguals had greater volumes of gray matter than the other two groups. According to the researchers, managing two spoken languages—switching from one to another seamlessly—gives the brain a workout and increases neural flexibility. Bilinguals who are fluent in two tongues have to constantly process two languages and instantly choose which language to speak in to best express their thoughts.

In fact, this is the reason why bilinguals are also better at filtering out irrelevant information and processing greater volumes of data than monolinguals.

The positive changes in the structure and functionality of adult brains indicate that there are anti-aging benefits of learning a new language. Learning a foreign language imparts a protective effect on memory. One study have shown that, after taking into account factors like education, occupation, gender, and where the subjects resided (urban vs. rural), bilingual subjects with dementia manifested symptoms about 4.5 years later than monolinguals with dementia.

In a study carried out on 24-month-old children, it was found that those toddlers who were exposed to a second language during infancy had greater cognitive abilities along with bigger vocabularies in both languages than their monolingual peers. These findings turn on its head the traditional belief that exposing infants to two languages confuses them.

 

Click here to read the full article: BrainBlogger.

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Siele: Un único examen de español para todo el planeta

A pesar de que el español es uno de los idiomas más estudiados alreadedor del mundo, no existía un examen internacional que evaluara las habilidades de los estudiantes de español como segunda lengua. Sin embargo, esto cambió con la creación del Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española (Siele): una prueba con un concepto panhispánico que reune las distintas variedades del español.

El Siele ha sido creado en conjunto por el Instituto Cervantes, la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México y la Universidad de Salamanca, y comenzará a implementarse a partir del próximo curso académico. Estará disponible en los cinco continentes y se cree que habrá aproximadamente 300.000 candidatos anuales, que aumentarán a 750.000 en cinco años.

El certificado se podrá obtener en cualquiera de los cinco continentes, pero el mayor esfuerzo se concentrará hasta 2018 en tres gigantes: Brasil, que tendrá 120 centros de examen; Estados Unidos, con 100, y China, con 60. Más de 15 millones de personas estudian ahora mismo español en esos tres países.

El Siele constará de cuatro pruebas: Comprensión lectora y Comprensión auditiva, cuya calificación será inmediata, así como Expresión e Interacción escrita y oral, que serán evaluados mediante escalas por expertos acreditados. Los candidatos podrán elegir si se enfrentan a la prueba de una sola vez o por partes. Los resultados se conocerán en tres semanas, y en caso de reclamaciones, un segundo calificador llevará a cabo la revisión de los textos y los audios. Superado el examen se obtendrá un certificado con una validez de dos años.

 

Haz click aquí para seguir leyendo este interesante artículo de El País. (English version here.)

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La conversación vence a la gramática

De acuerdo a este interesante artículo de El País, los expertos están de acuerdo: practicar con nativos es esencial para poder hablar un idioma con naturalidad y confianza.

“Aunque la metodología que emplean difiere en algunos aspectos, en algo están de acuerdo: la conversación se ha impuesto a la gramática. La comunicación unidireccional de profesor a alumno y las horas destinadas a memorizar ingentes listas de vocabulario y tiempos verbales ha pasado a un segundo plano para dar protagonismo a la destreza oral. El alumno debe ser proactivo y lanzarse a hablar. Equivocarse es una virtud.”

Haz click aquí para seguir leyendo.

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