Is Cello hard to learn

Is Cello Hard to Learn? Read THIS Before Taking Lessons

Is Cello Hard to Learn

Many beginning musicians wonder, “Is cello hard to learn?” The process of learning the cello is not difficult, but it’s important to keep in mind that the cello is not an instrument of instant gratification. It does require focused, daily practice time and a good teacher to guide you along the way.

How far you progress with cello is a direct result of the amount of quality time you put into practicing the instrument. Even someone who puts in just 30 minutes a day will notice a significant improvement after a few weeks, regardless of their age.

A student who continues to take cello lessons and practice beyond their first year has the potential to develop into a talented amateur, and a young student with the right dedication could continue their studies all the way through to a rewarding professional career.

Is Cello Hard to Learn?

When learning how to play the cello, very little is spoon-fed to you by the instrument. Keyboard and fretted instruments (such as the piano and guitar) are a little easier to learn the basics. Simply putting your finger on the right key or fret will allow you to produce the note you want to hear.  

With the cello, you need to have a teacher guiding you through the early stages to ensure you’re learning in a healthy way. This will lead to a lifetime of enjoying the instrument. If you have the right teacher, anyone can learn the fundamentals of playing cello.

As with most instruments, the cello will come more easily to someone with experience reading notes and rhythms. Most of cello music is written down, rather than transferred aurally from teacher to student. But with a little patience, students of all ages can learn the musical language without prior knowledge or exposure.

Does Age Matter?

Young students make great beginner cellists. Often with youth comes unbridled enthusiasm for learning a cool new instrument and a mental elasticity that helps them absorb new information like a sponge.

These advantages can carry a student a long way. The excitement encourages them to practice more on their own and their ability to retain information helps them progress quickly in their studies.

One difficulty that young students face though, is the challenge of critically analyzing their playing. As a result, they need an outside observer to help them identify things that cause them trouble, whether it is posture, intonation, tone quality, etc. Young beginners are also generally less coordinated than their adult counterparts and will remain that way until well after puberty.

Adult beginners have their own set of advantages. Firstly, they’re better in control of their bodies which helps them make changes to technique and posture more quickly. They also have a strong ability to critically analyze their own actions, and better sense of how they want to sound.

As a result of their ability to critically analyze their own playing, adult learners can sometimes go straight to the criticizing part. This can lead to discouragement when they don’t immediately sound the way they want. However, the student is probably playing at a level appropriate to how long they have been studying.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing in between lessons is another necessity that makes learning the cello much easier. Without daily practice times, you will find your teacher going over the same concepts week after week during your lessons. Make a commitment to find a small chunk of time each day to practice playing the cello and you’ll set yourself up for success.

If you only have five minutes, play some open strings for tone quality. Have a little more time? Add in some scale practice. If you have even more time, pick apart the challenging sections of your newest solo piece. There is always something you can practice, but focus on the most important concepts with the time that you have.

Start Learning Cello Today

You no longer have to wonder if the cello is hard to learn. With a teacher guiding your technique, regular practice times, and a willingness to learn, you too can become an excellent cellist.

You won’t have to worry about twisting your left arm into an uncomfortable position like violinists, or pushing air through several yards of tubing using only your lungs like a brass player. Instead, you’ll get to enjoy the comfort of the relaxed seated position for the cello.

Overall, the cello is an incredible instrument with a wonderful depth of sound and breadth of repertoire. To get started now, sign up for your first cello lesson right here at TakeLessons with one of our many talented instructors.

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How to Learn German Fast

How to Learn German Fast: 10 Learning Hacks & Shortcuts

How to learn German fast

Want to know how to learn German fast? Different sources say it could take anywhere from 400-1200 hours to learn the language.

A number of factors will affect the amount of time it takes you to reach fluency in German. Your native tongue, your availability to practice, and your method of learning are just a few.

Do you plan on taking German lessons with a private tutor? Are you trying to learn with simply an app to help you? Or, are you immersing yourself in the German culture? Whatever your learning style, there are a few tips and tricks that will undoubtedly speed up the process of mastering German.  

Here, we’ll share 10 learning hacks that will show you how to learn German fast. Follow these tried and true shortcuts and you’ll be fluent before you know it.

How to Learn German Fast – 10 Learning Hacks

1. Play Charades

If you were dropped by parachute without any resources or local knowledge into a random city in Germany, you would quickly find that the most important skill for your survival would be the game of Charades.

You can learn any language simply by using gestures to get a native speaker to say the words you’re looking for.

Stephen Krashen, leading expert in the study of language acquisition, argues that perceiving meaning is the most important and effective way to acquire any language. When you use gestures in association with words, you are doing this in its purest form.

Next time you’re practicing your language skills with a German speaker and you don’t know the right word or phrase to say, use body language. Point to things or do descriptive motions to get them to say the words you want to learn, and you’ll find yourself naturally learning much quicker.

how to learn german fast

2. Get Real Immersion

The best way to get complete immersion in the German language is to move to a German-speaking country, but making friends who speak German near you can also create very real immersion situations.

Don’t be shy about asking people in your social circles to help you have German-only conversations. Find Facebook groups for German speakers or use sites like Meetup to participate in language exchange experiences near you.

There are also dozens of places to find a language exchange partner online, such as italki. Any of these sites would be a valuable resource for learning German quickly. 

3. Find a Language Tutorhow to learn German fast

Working with a German tutor will not only help you learn faster, but it’ll ensure you’re learning German correctly. Your language tutor should be someone you feel comfortable speaking in front of. Here are some more of the key characteristics to look for in a tutor. Your German tutor should…

  • Be invested and excited to help you learn.
  • Encourage you to speak more in your target language.
  • Be available to meet up on a regular basis.
  • Hold you accountable to reaching your goals.

TakeLessons language teachers are an excellent resource for learning German fast. Teachers are available for both online and in-person German lessons.

4. Go on a Language Adventure

There are a few everyday activities that lend themselves extremely well to learning a new language. Some examples are cooking, coffee runs, grocery shopping, and watching sports. The vocabulary required to do any of these activities “in German” is fairly elementary.

Choose one of these language adventures to do with a friend and make a commitment to only speak in German. If you’re not at that level yet, keep 90% of the talking to “charades.” This will help you acquire fundamental language skills in an easy and fun way.

5. Make a Plan

how to learn German fast

Having a plan, although it takes some time and mental energy to create, will greatly increase your chances of success at speeding up the process of learning German.

Ask your language tutor to help you make a plan for how you’ll master the German language. Understanding the learning process is what tutors do for a living, and the right tutor will be able to help you focus your goals into a realistic plan of attack.

Keep in mind that fluency will take 400-1200 hours of practice depending on your learning methods and how much effort you’re able to put in.

Sit down with your instructor and make a plan that you can accomplish in 6 to 12 months. Aim for a plan you’re excited about and one that you believe in!

SEE ALSO: 50+ Fun Facts About Germany You Didn’t Know

6. Use Mnemonics

Studying mnemonics accelerates the learning process immensely. Here are a few of our favorites for learning German.

  • “Est Ten Ten” helps you remember the endings when conjugating regular verbs. Ask your German instructor to explain how it works! Trust us… it’s magic.
  • Word visualizations. Come up with quirky explanations for why German words sound the way they do. For example, the word for “deer” is “der Hirsch.” You could say that “deer” are very quiet, so if you want to “hear” (or “Hir-” them) you have to say “shh” (for the “-sh” ending). This may take a little longer in the beginning, but will increase your recall dramatically in the long run.
  • Gender symbols. When you learn German nouns, you must learn the genders that go with them. Pick an image or symbol to associate with each gender and picture it in your mind. For example, the masculine pronoun “der” is pronounced much like the English word “deer,” so you can picture all masculine nouns with deer antlers on them. This little trick is an excellent memory aid.

7. Play Some More Games

how to learn German fast

To learn more vocabulary in a fun way, find a game that you like and play it with some other German speaking friends. Here are a few ideas.

  • Apples to Apples. This fun game will help you learn essential nouns and adjectives. You can buy the German version known as “Äpfel zu Äpfel” or you can make your own cards for any set of words you want to study!
  • 20 Questions. The word order of German questions can be a little confusing since it differs from English and there are several different types of questions. Have your language tutor explain how to phrase a certain type of question, then write 20 questions using that sentence structure for some extra practice.
  • The Wikipedia Game. Play this intermediate-advanced game alone or with a friend. Go to Wikipedia and choose the German language option, then use the Random Page tool (called “Zufälliger Artikel”) twice and try to go from one article to the other only by clicking links within the articles. No translation tools allowed!

8. Know What you Need to Knowhow to learn German fast

In language study, it helps when you know what you need to know in order to accomplish your goals. Your language goals will differ from other students depending on why you’re learning German.

Whether you’re learning the language for business or pleasure, try to focus on one topic at a time. Here’s one way you can prioritize the skills you’ll need to learn.

  1. Gesticulation – being comfortable talking with your hands
  2. Nouns and verbs relating to topics you care about
  3. Glue words – prepositions and conjunctions
  4. Essential grammar – tenses and word order of special phrases like questions
  5. Grammar details – word order, declension, special tenses, etc.
  6. Accent

Some would argue that accent is actually the most important since it affects how you hear the whole language. But if you’re in “emergency mode” and you need to learn functional German ASAP, start with #1 on this list and work your way to the end.

9. Digitally Immerse Yourself

In the digital world, it’s easy to immerse yourself by changing the language settings on your computer’s operating system, your phone, your email account, and all your social media pages.

One key recommendation: only convert platforms that you are very familiar with and don’t have to perform important functions on a regular basis. Making the switch can really slow some processes down, so if you’re already trying to tackle a new project and you have to deal with a language barrier as well, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.

If, however, you’re pretty familiar with a program and you want to learn all its vocab in German, switch it over and keep a dictionary app open so you can look up the words you don’t know.

10. Hit the Books

how to learn German fast

Books are the best way to learn new vocabulary and grammar. They’re inexpensive and extremely valuable for increasing your understanding of German.

Get advice from your language tutor on an appropriate book for your level. It can also be fun as an adult to pick up a German picture book for kids. It’s amazing how much you can learn from them, even after you’ve reached basic fluency.

The “Kleiner Bär” is a really good series to start with. Another great novel for students is “Monsieur Ibrahim und der Blumen des Koran.” It’s a really interesting story with a lot of good reading challenges.

Now you know how to learn German fast with these 10 shortcuts. Mastering any new language can be a challenge, but if you’re not afraid to jump into the deep end and ask for help when you need it, you’ll learn much more quickly.  

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Violin or Cello

Violin or Cello: Which Instrument Is Right For You?

Violin or Cello

Choosing whether to play the violin or cello can be difficult, but this article will help you consider the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

The violin and cello are two of the most well-known and commonly studied instruments in the string family. Each one is central to the makeup of the orchestra we know today. Becoming familiar with the pros and cons of these two instruments will help you decide whether the violin or cello is a better fit for you.

Violin or Cello – How to Decide

Pros and Cons of the Violin

The violin’s most commonly cited advantage is that it’s practical. The violin is (on average) significantly less expensive than the cello. It’s also smaller and more portable. In addition, many people appreciate the violin’s range and tone, which is similar to that of the human voice.

Because the instrument has been popular now for around 400 years, there isn’t a shortage of repertoire to keep both budding and experienced violinists challenged. Within orchestras, spaces for violinists also tend to be the most numerous, so in that sense violinists have an advantage (especially over winds, brass, and percussion).

Compared to other string sections however, violin can also be more competitive because so many people play it. It might not be too difficult to earn a spot in the second violin section, but earning a place among the upper ranks can be more difficult.

Pros and Cons of the Cello

The cello is often cited for its practical disadvantages – mainly its size and expense. But for students who enjoy the sound of the cello more, hauling around a larger and more expensive instrument is well worth the care and effort.

The cello’s low register and tonality resonates with many musicians far more than the violin’s higher register.

Both the violin and cello have a unique range and repertoire that tend to draw different people. While violin repertoire is probably more extensive, the cello also has a well-established and diverse repertoire, including significant solo works.

Fewer students study the cello than the violin, so cellists are usually in higher demand than violinists. This tends to hold true even when taking into account the typically lower number of cellists required to create an orchestra or chamber ensemble.

Which is Harder to Play: Violin or Cello?

Many students wonder, which instrument is more difficult: the violin or cello? People who have tried both instruments tend to say the cello is less difficult due to its more natural position. The position of the violin can feel awkward at first, however advanced violinists insist that it becomes natural over time.

Many experienced musicians say that both instruments have their own difficulties. For example, although a cellist’s playing position is easier to learn, the thumb position on the cello is difficult for many students. Advanced cellists also must learn three clefs instead of just one.

SEE ALSO: How Easy is it to Switch Instruments? [Infographic]

Making the Choice Between Violin or Cello

Music students and their families can do a number of things to help them in their decision between the violin or cello.

  • First, consider what opportunities are available at school or in the community. Keep long term goals in mind.
  • Make sure the student has exposure to both instruments. This can include videos, CDs, or local concerts. Local colleges and conservatories often perform concerts for the general public and many of these feature the violin and cello. Local symphonies also put on free concerts in the park.
  • To be sure you’re making the right choice, it’s always a good idea to sample each instrument and take a couple lessons. Check out this directory of violin teachers, and this directory of cello teachers. Lessons are available both in-person and online all over the country.
  • Above all, the student should love the sound of whichever instrument they choose, whether it’s the higher and more cheerful violin or the deeper and rich cello.

What are your thoughts on whether the violin or cello is a better instrument? Let us know in the comments below!

Carol
Post Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in Sacramento, CA. She currently plays viola in the Rancho Cordova Civic Light Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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Language learning games

Top 10 Language Learning Games for Students of All Ages

language learning games

No matter what language you’re learning, games make the journey to fluency more fun and exciting! Board games, apps, and group activities also help you practice your skills more efficiently in between private language lessons.

For memorizing those vocabulary words and mastering your grammar, here is a list of the top 10 language learning games available today.

Top 10 Language Learning Games

Language Learning Games to Play on Your Phone

language learning games for your phone

1. Languages By Lyrics

  • Cost: Free, with a Pro Version available for $9.99
  • Student Level: Beginner to advanced
  • Requirements: OS X 10.11 or later

Memorizing phrases in your target language is easier with the help of a little rhyme and rhythm. With this fun app, you get to select songs in the language of your choice, see the lyrics translated, and learn to sing along. The Pro Version of the app comes with more advanced exercises.

2. Star Languages

  • Cost: Free
  • Student Level: Beginner to advanced
  • Requirements: Windows 10, OS X 10.8 or later

For more comprehensive practice, this app allows you to choose from a variety of learning games such as spelling tests, crosswords, and hangman. Each game tests a different skill, so you can apply your knowledge about spelling, vocabulary, sentence structure, and more.

3. Vocabulary Games

  • Cost: Free
  • Student Level: Beginner
  • Requirements: Works best on Chrome web browser

These vocabulary games are another great way to boost your memorization skills. Choose from several games including Letter Blocks, Unscramble, and Slang Game. You can play on a computer at home, a tablet, or a mobile phone.

SEE ALSO: 30 Incredibly Effective Tips and Tricks to Learn a New Language

4. MindSnacks

  • Cost: Free for one lesson, with 50 lessons available for $4.99
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: iOS 6.0 or later

With its addictive quests and challenges, the MindSnacks app helps you practice vocabulary, grammar skills, basic verb conjugation, and spelling. This game is available in multiple languages and will keep you motivated as you learn.

5. Lingo Arcade

  • Cost: Free for one level, with more than 150 levels available for $0.99
  • Student Level: Beginner or intermediate
  • Requirements:  iOS 8.0 or later

If you’re a visual learner, this app is perfect for you. Lingo Arcade will help you with word identification and sentence structure using over 3000 visual aids. The app is currently available in Spanish, French, German, and English.

6. Drops

  • Cost: Free, with optional in-app purchases
  • Student Level: Beginner
  • Requirements: iOS 9.0 or later

How much can you learn in five minutes? With this app, you get the chance to test your vocabulary knowledge by matching words and swiping as you learn. As you increase your speed and accuracy, the game will “drop” more new vocabulary words.

Fun Board Games for Language Learning

language learning board games

7. Kloo

  • Cost: Retails for around $16
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: Kloo deck of cards and 2 or more players

Practice how to build sentences with these unique color-coded cards. To play the game, you’ll match cards with different words until you create a grammatically correct sentence. Each card correctly matched is worth one point.

8. Scrabble

  • Cost: Retails for around $18
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: Scrabble board game and 2 or more players

Scrabble is a fantastic way to practice your spelling and vocabulary skills. Have a friend join you for this fun game where small, lettered tiles are placed onto a board to form new words. Scrabble is available in multiple different languages.

Language Learning Games for Groups

language learning games for groups

9. Bingo

  • Cost: $5-$10
  • Student Level: Beginner
  • Requirements: Bingo cards, game chips or coins, index cards, and vocabulary words

To make your own Bingo game in the language of your choice, create a set of vocabulary-themed Bingo cards in a 6×6 pattern. In each box, include the vocabulary words you want to practice. Next, write the vocabulary words on a set of smaller cards. Choose a player to call out the words. The person who completes their card first wins the game!

10. Jeopardy

  • Cost: $5-$10
  • Student Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Requirements: Poster board with 4-5 columns, markers, and buzzers or bells

To play Jeopardy with a group of others who are learning a language, choose 4-5 categories you’re familiar with such as food, people, places, and animals. Each of these categories will be its own column on a board with five rows. Fill in the boxes with the answers to a set of predetermined questions. Remember, one player will need to be the host.

Each of these interactive games will help you improve your language comprehension skills. You can play these games in between language classes to review and reinforce all you’re learning in a fun way.

 

BarbaraSPost Author: Barbara S.
Barbara S. has been teaching Spanish since 2011 and is a native speaker from Argentina. Her teaching style is flexible, cooperative, and understanding. Learn more about Barbara here!
Japanese Dialects

The Ultimate Guide to Major Japanese Dialects

Japanese dialects

If you live in the United States, you’ve probably noticed that someone from New Jersey doesn’t speak the same way as someone from California. This is because of dialects, or forms of language developed and used in specific regions.

These dialects differ not only in accent but in vocabulary, grammatical structure, and slang (from “y’all” in the South to “hella” in Northern California).

The same is true in Japan. A majority of Japanese students are familiar with the type of Japanese spoken in, and north of, the Kanto region which contains Tokyo. But there are several other Japanese dialects to learn, each with many subsections.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan soon, don’t get caught unprepared! Here are some of the major Japanese dialects you can expect to encounter.

5 Major Japanese Dialects

Standard Japanese (Eastern Japanese, Tokyo-type Japanese)

Spoken in: Most of Japan (Hokkaido, Tohoku, and Kanto region; much of Chubu region)

Soon after Japan opened its borders in 1853, the country went through the Meiji Restoration, which united the nation as a major world power. Along with other advancements in society, a standard Japanese dialect was chosen—the one used in Yamanote, a district of Tokyo. Once technology brought about radio and TV broadcasts, this dialect spread quickly throughout the country.

Western Japanese (Kansai-ben)

Spoken in: (Kansai, Chugoku, and Shikoku regions; part of Chubu region)

Eastern and Western Japan have long been separated by differences of culture and dialect, similar to the Northern and Southern United States. Because of the geographical separation, a different type of speech developed over time in the old capital, Kyoto, and surrounding areas.

Western Japanese is known for its shortened words, much like southern American English – think of the southern drawl. Here are some examples:

Meaning Standard Japanese Western Japanese
Look Miru (見る) Mii, miyo (見い,見よ)
Wide Hiroi (広い) Hirō (広お)
Dropped Otoshita (落とした) Otoita (落といた)

Western Japanese also includes many words with modified syllables, as you can see here:

Meaning Standard Japanese Western Japanese
Paid Haratta (払った) Harōta (払おた)
Will not do Shinai (しない) Senu (せぬ)
To exist Iru (いる) Oru (おる)

Unique dialects within Western Japanese include Osaka-ben (spoken in Osaka) and Kyoto-ben (spoken in Kyoto). These two dialects are very similar, which makes it fairly easy for people from Kyoto and Osaka to speak to one another. The cities are only half an hour apart by train.

Kyushu Japanese

Spoken in: The island of Kyushu

Kyushu has long been an important part of Japan, especially as an ancient center of relations with China and Korea. Since it’s separated from the main island both culturally and geographically, it makes sense that a new dialect emerged here.

The Kyushu dialects differ so much from each other that it’s difficult to identify specific congruences between them. As a whole, there are many modified conjugation types, shortened words, and alternate words.

There are three unique dialects in Kyushu: Satsugu/Kagoshima, Hōnichi, and Hichiku. Each of these include their own sub-dialects.

  • Satsugu/Kagoshima: Southern Kyushu, mostly Kagoshima province
  • Hōnichi: Eastern Kyushu, including most of Oita prefecture
  • Hichiku: Western Kyushu, including Fukuoka (Hakata-ben) and Nagasaki (Nagasaki-ben)

SEE ALSO: How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese?

Okinawa Japanese

Spoken in: The island of Okinawa

Some people joke that Okinawa isn’t really a part of Japan, and its controversial history (including annexation by Japan) implies as much. The island is home to several languages that UNESCO now considers endangered as Okinawans lean toward standard Japanese.

Okinawan Japanese borrows many words from standard Japanese, but they have different meanings. For example, “korosu” means “hit” in Okinawan Japanese and “kill” in Standard Japanese. Okinawan Japanese also borrowed some words from English ever since the Battle of Okinawa.

Whether or not Okinawan Japanese is actually a Japanese dialect is often debated, so comparing it to Japanese can be quite difficult. It might be safer to think of the two like Italian and Spanish—similar in many ways, but distinct.

Mixed Dialects

Spoken in: Parts of the Chubu prefecture

Since the borders between Eastern and Western Japan are superficial, the dialects tend to mix. This is most evident in areas of Chubu, where two dialects have meshed into something new.

Let’s look at Nagoka-ben, as Nagoya is Chubu’s largest city. Differences are subtler than those between standard and Western Japanese, but they are still obvious to anyone who speaks either dialect. This mostly manifests itself in slight contractions or conjugation modifications.

Meaning Standard Japanese Nagoya-ben
It gets smaller Chiisakunaru (小さくなる) Chiisanaru (小さなる)
I don’t sleep Nemasen(寝ません) Nesen (寝せん)
It was fun Tanoshikattayo (楽しかったよ) Tanoshikattani (楽しかったに)

Tackling Japanese Dialects

Considering the dizzying array of Japanese dialects, do you think your current Japanese skills are enough to get you through a trip to Japan without a hitch? If not, consider working with a Japanese tutor to study the dialects of the specific areas you’d like to visit. You’ll be glad you did when you’re able to understand Kansai-ben and Kagoshima-ben!

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Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches singing in Ann Arbor, MI. She earned a Master of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan. She is also proficient in multiple languages and speaks Japanese, English, Italian, and German.  Learn more about Elaina here!

The 8 Best Language Learning Apps To Boost Your Progress

Best Language Learning Apps

Whether you’re an intermediate to advanced student, or are just beginning the journey to fluency in a foreign language, congratulations! Picking up a new language is great for your career and mental health. It’s also a fun way to make new friends.

With advancements in modern technology, it’s never been easier to speed up the language acquisition process. Here are some of the best language learning apps available for download today. To set yourself up for success, try combining any of these apps along with private tutoring sessions for a fun and effective way to get fluent faster!

The 8 Best Language Learning Apps

1. TakeLessons Best Language Learning Apps - TakeLessons

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free!
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play

With the TakeLessons language learning app, you can access private, one-on-one lessons with an experienced language tutor, or online group classes to work on your conversation skills with other students at your level. The app not only helps you find a language tutor or class, but it allows you to connect through a virtual classroom – so you can learn anywhere, any time. 

2. Memrise

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free!
  • Levels: Best for beginners
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play

The Memrise app boasts accessibility to over 200 languages. It combines audio, visual, and chat features to help students memorize vocabulary faster and tackle grammar more efficiently. It can also be used offline, which makes it an excellent way to keep your language skills sharp while you’re off the grid – perfect to use when traveling!

3. Busuu

Best Language Learning Apps - Busuu

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free!
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play

Busuu calls itself a social network for language learners, and that is its biggest draw. It offers 12 languages including Russian, Chinese, and Arabic. You can use this helpful app to connect with a native speaker for a quick chat and put your speaking skills to good use. You can also ask questions and get feedback on your accent and pronunciation! All skills levels can benefit from this hands-on practice.

4. MindSnacks

  • Supported Devices: iPhone
  • Cost: $4.99 – $19.99
  • Levels: Beginning to intermediate
  • Available At: Apple App Store

If you love to play games on your iPhone, MindSnacks may be the perfect app for you! (An Android version of the app is reportedly in the works). With its bright colors and cartoon characters, the MindSnacks app makes language basics like grammar and vocabulary fun and easy. Replace Candy Crush with MindSnacks and impress your friends with all you’ve learned!

SEE ALSO: 9 Great Places to Practice a Language with Real People

5. FluentU

Best Language Learning Apps - FluentU

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free version available
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: fluentu.com, Google Play, Apple App Store

Are you a visual learner? FluentU sends you to entertaining YouTube videos in the language you’re trying to learn, complete with subtitles and translations. Language immersion is key to advancing to fluency faster! If questions come up as you’re watching videos, write them down and ask your TakeLessons language tutor about them in your next lesson.

6. Anki

  • Supported Devices: Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android
  • Cost: Free for computers and Androids; $25 for iPhone
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: apps.ankiweb.net, Apple App Store, Google Play

To learn a language, your memorization skills need to be sharp. Anki is an excellent tool for learning anything that requires memorization. It allows you to make over 100,000 flashcards using audio, video, and images, so no matter your learning style you’re set up for success! Flashcards synchronize across devices, so you can access or edit your decks using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

7. Tandem

Best Language Learning Apps - Tandem

  • Supported Devices: iPhone, Android
  • Cost: $19.95
  • Levels: All
  • Available At: Apple App Store, Google Play, Windows Store

Like Busuu, Tandem puts you in touch with an international community of people who are willing to chat with you in whatever language you’re trying to learn. While anyone can benefit from this, it’s especially valuable for intermediate to advanced students who need to practice speaking in real time. This is a great way to become more confident and comfortable in your conversational skills.

8. Babbel

  • Supported Devices: Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android
  • Cost: $6.95-$12.95 per month
  • Levels: Beginning to intermediate
  • Available At: babbel.com, Apple App Store, Google Play

This app is designed to focus on useful phrases and vocabulary that you would use in everyday conversations, such as at a restaurant or social event. If you’re planning to take a trip where your target language is spoken, use Babbel to practice forming some common sentences and phrases. Babbel is an effective tool to supplement private tutoring sessions and can help you practice in between lessons.

It’s fantastic that some of the best language learning apps aren’t just fun to use, but they can help students expedite their language endeavors as well. In addition to using apps to boost your progress, never underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction. Nothing beats practicing your language skills with another person (such as your TakeLessons language teacher) to learn the nuances of a spoken language!

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Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, MI, and is also available for online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

 

Tips for traveling to France

20 Insider Tips For Traveling to France [Infographic]

Tips for traveling to France

From the smell of freshly baked baguettes from the local bakery, to views of the romantic châteaux (castles) in the Loire Valley, to the diverse array of masterpieces displayed in the museums of Paris – France has so much to offer!

If you’re taking a trip to this beautiful country soon, keep reading to learn how to plan the perfect itinerary so you can enjoy France at its best. We’ll share about the weather, what to order when dining out, a few little known sites, and many more helpful tips for traveling to France!

20 Game-Changing Tips for Traveling to France

1. Keep French Fashion in Mind

Pack clothes that are versatile and chic, keeping in mind that the French are simple and effortless when it comes to their style. The saying “less is more” works well for the French.   

One of your goals should be to blend in with the locals – not stand out as a tourist. For the ladies, bring a scarf! In the summertime, light scarves can add a touch of class, or be used as an extra layer at nighttime without the bulk of a jacket.

2. Pack Comfy Shoes

Bring a pair, or two, of comfortable shoes to France. When traveling, you should always expect to be walking quite a bit, whether it’s through the cobbled streets of Le Vieux Carré (the Old Quarter) or through the vineyards in the South.

So leave the stiletto heels at home and opt for a pair of comfortable sandals or sturdy boots. Your feet will thank you later!

3.  Learn the Language

Locals love when visitors attempt to speak the native language. Even if your French is a little rusty and you can only muster up a polite “Je voudrais un café, s’il vous plait” (“I would like a coffee please”), the French will greatly appreciate the effort.

The best way to learn French before your trip is with the help of an experienced tutor. If you’re interested in building up your French vocabulary quickly, try out the online French classes at TakeLessons Live. Classes are completely free for your first month!

4. Check the Weather

Regions along the three coasts of France have a more temperate climate, unlike areas in central France, where you’ll experience more variation between seasons. Paris can also become fairly hot in the summer, so be prepared by packing light-colored clothing made of loose material.

The summer months in the south along the Mediterranean have very little rainfall, but the rest of the country experiences rainy months throughout the year. Paris has quite a bit of rainfall from April through August. Whatever the season, it’s always a good idea to check the forecast prior to your visit to France!

5. Travel in Spring or Fall

If you’re on a budget, the most cost-effective times to travel to France are during the spring and fall months. Keep in mind that if plane tickets are purchased at least three months in advance, you will be able to find some better deals!

6. Try a Bed & Breakfast

Relax in the many charming bed and breakfasts that France has to offer! While there are many options for lodging available to visitors, the more intimate bed and breakfasts in France are superb. Many of them offer home-cooked meals of the region, and the locals’ take on must-see sites.

7. Eat Like a Local

The French are known for, and proud, of their cuisine. Wherever you are in the country, be sure to try the local delicacies. If you’re traveling to Bordeaux, try the cannelé – a small pastry made of vanilla and rum.

Take in the view of the Mediterranean while dining on a traditional seafood dish of the region. You won’t regret trying the bouillabaisse (seafood stew) in Marseille, or the delicious quenelle in Lyon!

SEE ALSO: 50 Useful French Phrases for Travelers

8. Enjoy an Apéritif or Digestif

In France, sometimes the best drinks come just before or after a delicious meal. An apéritif (pre-meal drink) is usually enjoyed among friends before a plat de fromage (cheese plate) is served.

One common apéritif is the kir, which is a mix of white wine and blackcurrant. A common digestif (post-meal drink) is an espresso. Or you can try the “eau de vie,” literally translated “water of life,” which is a popular fruit brandy.

9. Check the Prix Fixe Menu

When you’re unsure about what to order, the prix fixe (fixed price) menu will be your best friend. Selected by the chef, it includes several dishes from the entrée (appetizer) to the plat principal (main dish) to the dessert.  

10. Shop at Outdoor Markets  

One way to save money without sacrificing the French experience is to shop at the outdoor markets. Most towns have an outdoor market or “marché en plein air.” Here, you can find vendors selling the region’s best at a more affordable price. Just be sure to check the local schedule, as some markets are only open on specific days of the week.

11. Enjoy Local Wines

As with the food in France, it’s usually best to go with the regional wine. While there are many options for wine, opting for the local wine is the best choice if you want to fully experience and appreciate the specialties of the area.

12. Travel by Train

Another way to save money on travel expenses while visiting France is to take the train. For the best deals, book three months in advance if you already have an itinerary set. If you’re under 25 and visiting France for a study abroad program or internship, signing up for a “Carte Jeune” offers reduced train fares!

13. Follow the Tour de France

Are you a fan of cycling? If not, would you like to follow a route that takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of France? Follow the cyclists at the Tour de France! This annual event takes place in July with a route through several notable cities and sites.

14. Celebrate La Fête Nationale

Also known as Bastille Day, the French independence day is well-celebrated in this country. If you’ll be in France on July 14th, you’ll get to witness fireworks shows and join in on the festivities. In Paris, go to a ball after the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower! The music and dancing begins around 9 PM.

SEE ALSO: What to Pack for France [Infographic]

15. Check out the Museums

The Louvre is one of the most popular museums in France, but there are so many other inspiring sites to add to your travel list! In Paris alone, there is the lesser-known Musée d’Orsay that boasts of numerous Impressionist paintings by Monet, and the Centre Pompidou that features contemporary and more interactive art. Both have slightly shorter admission lines!

16. Visit Luberon

Don’t forget to bring your camera to the picturesque lavender fields in France. The lavender that blooms in the South of France is a scent that is truly unforgettable. In Luberon these fragrant flowers bloom anytime between late June to early August, with the peak of the season being in early July.

17. Learn About History in Normandy

If you’re interested in historical events, head north for Normandy. Along the coast you’ll find the infamous Normandy and Omaha beaches where you can see remnants of WWII bunkers and memorials to those who fought during the war.

18. Stop by the Castles

France is home to many beautiful and unique châteaux (castles) in the center of the country. Relive the grandeur of the châteaux in the Loire Valley. Villandry is famous for its gardens that are exact replicas of the medieval gardens, while Chambord includes a grand central staircase in the main entrance.

This area of the country is less crowded than Paris or the beaches in the South, so it would make an excellent addition to your itinerary if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle.

19. Make Your Way to Île de Ré

At the mention of French beaches, most people think about the beaches along the Mediterranean Coast. Bask in the sunshine on Île de Ré instead. Located just off the western coast of France, Île de Ré is a unique and lesser-known beach that is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

20. Enjoy the Moment

While planning a trip to France often includes many preparations, it’s important to remember to savor the moment and not get too caught up in your itinerary. Enjoy the food, enjoy the wine, and enjoy the sites. But most importantly – enjoy the journey from one destination to another! Check out the infographic below for a visual reminder of each of these insider tips!

 

20 Insider Tips for Traveling to France

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Please include attribution to TakeLessons.com with this graphic.

 

Keep these tips for traveling to France in mind and you’ll be able to plan the perfect vacation! Enjoying all the food, drinks, and sites that France has to offer will make your visit one that you’ll always remember. Don’t forget to check out TakeLessons Live before you depart to brush up on your French language skills!

 

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL in Jacksonville, Florida. She has her Bachelors in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and over five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!
What is a capo

What is a Capo? Everything You Need to Know Here.

What is a capo

A capo is a helpful device that allows you to easily change the key of a song while using the standard “open position” chords that every guitarist knows. With a capo, you can play those same chords in any fret position along the neck of the guitar. Keep reading to find more answers to all of your capo-related questions!

What is a Capo?

A capo (pronounced “cape-oh”) is a small clamp that you can attach to the neck of the guitar at a specific fret. What does a capo do? It keeps all of the guitar’s strings depressed at that specific fret, all of the time. The parts of the capo that squeeze the strings against the fret board are made of rubber, so they don’t damage the wood on your guitar. 

Let’s say you attach the capo at fret two. It will squeeze down all of the strings at fret two and keep them pressed down. So it’s like you’re playing a note at fret two with your finger, but on all six strings simultaneously.

If you were to lay your index finger across all six strings at fret two and press down hard enough so that all the notes at fret two sounded clearly on each string, that technique would be called a “barre.” This barre technique is used by guitarists all the time, but if you are just beginning you may not have tried it yet and when you do, it will take a few weeks to master.

Attaching a capo is a much easier way to achieve the same result. You could say that the capo produces a permanent barre at a specific fret. Now let’s look at what exactly happens when you have a capo attached to your guitar.

How Does a Capo Work?

Let’s use the capo attached at fret two as an example again, although you can put the capo across any fret. Once the capo is on, when you play your strings open, the notes that sound are not E, A, D, G, B, and E (the notes of open strings six through one). Instead, they are F#, B, E, A, C#, and F#.

We say these notes are “one tone higher” or a “whole step” higher (the distance of two frets) than the normal open string notes. If you think of fret three as if it were fret one, and form a C chord as you normally would (but above the capo), it will sound as a D chord.

If you played a song with Am, G, and C chords (which would be in the key of C major), you will hear Bm, A, and D chords (which would move the song to the key of D major). Every time you move the capo one fret higher, you have raised the music by one key. The most common reason for changing the key of a song is to make it easier to sing in your vocal range.

To hear the sound of a guitar with a capo on, listen to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. The capo is on fret seven and it gives the guitar a bright, mandolin-like quality. The chord progression would be in the key of D major, but with the capo on, it comes out in A major.

Who Should Use a Capo?

For beginners, using a capo means that you can play more songs with a limited knowledge of chords and delay learning those difficult “barre chords” you may have heard about. But capos are not just for beginners.

Many songwriters use capos so they can play chords in the style they’re accustomed to anywhere along the neck of the guitar. By moving the capo, they can easily try singing a song in different keys until they find the one that works best for their voice.

In fact, flamenco guitar players routinely use a capo in the first few frets for two reasons – to play songs in the traditional keys, but also for the way the capo tends to push the strings closer to the neck, making chords and fast melodic runs easier to play. Try this if your guitar is a beginner model that is a bit more difficult to play.

SEE ALSO: 5 Guitar Gadgets That Will Change Your Life

Which Capo is the Best?

There are a few different capo designs. One of the best capos is the Shubb, which retails for about $16 on Amazon. It’s made of rugged steel and clamps on very securely. This is handy because if you accidentally bump the capo while playing, it won’t pop off and ruin your performance.

If you’re on a budget, one of Amazon’s best sellers is the UGY plastic capo which retails for about $7. This capo uses a spring action and can be attached or moved very quickly by squeezing two levers together. There are many manufacturers making capos in this style.

A third option is the Dunlop elastic capo, starting at around $3. It uses a stretchy elastic cloth that attaches to a rubber coated, pole piece. Several holes are provided along the elastic to allow for different tensions, as the neck gets wider the higher you go.

Whatever style you prefer, you need to make sure you order the right one for the type of guitar you have. If you order the wrong one, it won’t squeeze the strings correctly. A “steel string” guitar capo has a slight curvature to the part that lies across the fret board, as the fret board on a steel string guitar is slightly convex. A “nylon string” guitar capo is wider and very flat.

Many beginning guitarists often ask their instructors, “What is a capo?” Now that you know what a capo is and how to use one, you’ll be on your way to playing more songs than you thought you could! You’ll also be able to more easily play and sing along at the same time.

Although the capo can be a very helpful tool, try not to rely on it too much. It’s still very important to expand your knowledge of different chords on the guitar. Need some help mastering some of the more challenging chords? Check out TakeLessons. Our expert guitar instructors can help take your skills to the next level!

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MikeJ.

Mike J. teaches acoustic guitar, bass guitar, blues guitar, classical guitar, as well as country guitar in Ogden, UT. He received his Applied Music Degree from Mohawk College and has gone on to receive many certifications and awards since then. Mike is a full time music instructor with over 30 years of experience teaching, performing, and writing music. Learn more about Mike J. here!

Health benefits of playing an instrument

17 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument

Health benefits of playing an instrument

Playing an instrument has many benefits – learning self-discipline, strengthening mental capacity, and spreading the joy of music, just to name a few. And research shows that these benefits aren’t just for kids. Musicians of any age can take advantage of the physical and emotional health benefits of playing an instrument.

It doesn’t matter what instrument you choose to play, either! Keep reading to discover how the act of playing music can drastically improve your overall health.  

Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument

Physical Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Deep Breathing – Most of the time our breathing is very shallow, but activities like singing or playing a wind instrument require deep breathing from the diaphragm. This strengthens your lungs and respiratory system. Playing the harmonica can even help with pulmonary disease!
  • Immune Response – When we learn to play an instrument, we often become inspired to create our own music. According to an article by Live Science, making music “enhances the immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses.”
  • Stress Relief – Playing music brings your energy and focus into a positive activity, which can help alleviate stress. Those reduced stress levels can help get your blood pressure and heart rate down to a healthy level.
  • Fine Hearing – Learning music refines your hearing skills by training you to isolate sounds as they occur. Studies have even shown that musicians are better at picking out specific voices and sounds in a noisy environment.
  • Exercise – Playing an instrument naturally leads to increased physical activity. Whether you’re playing the piano, guitar, strings, or a wind instrument, you’re using your arm and back muscles to play and/or hold up your instrument. And if you play the drums, you even get to do some cardio!
  • Posture – Any good music teacher will correct your posture during lessons. This can help you get into the habit of sitting up straight and having proper alignment even when you’re not playing. These are all great ways to alleviate neck and back pain.

Mental Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Mental Performance – Playing music is like doing a workout for every part of your brain. It helps improve your mental performance and memory. There’s even evidence that music can help a patient’s brain recover from a stroke, as well as slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Coordination – Using your fingers, hands, and feet in a rhythmic manner for a sustained amount of time, while also being conscious of playing the correct tones, can be a challenge for even the most coordinated people. Over time though, playing music refines your motor skills that go beyond the hand-eye.
  • Time Management – Learning an instrument requires practice, of course! But more specifically, it requires consistency and routine. Figuring out how to fit practice into your busy schedule and really stick to it helps you develop better time management and organization skills.
  • Reading Skills – Reading music helps strengthen your ability to process information by creating new connections between the synapses in your brain. As a result, reading and absorbing information from other sources becomes a lot easier.
  • Listening Skills – Learning music doesn’t just improve your ability to hear details; it also makes you better at listening. Whether you’re practicing on your own or playing with other people, you have to listen for timing, expression, and whether you’re in tune. This can make you a better listener even in everyday conversations as well.
  • Concentration – Focus is a necessary part of learning an instrument. Improving your musical skills forces you to use all the parts of your brain involved in concentration, making you better able to concentrate in other life situations. This is another reason why music is beneficial for those with disorders like ADD.
  • Mathematics – Learning music is all about pattern recognition, which is mathematical in itself. But even more than that, learning about how music is divided into equal measures and beats, and how those beats are in broken up, can help improve your math skills!

SEE ALSO: The 5 Easiest Instruments Perfect for Adult Learners

Emotional Benefits of Music

Health benefits of playing an instrument

  • Self Expression – Whether you’re writing your own piece of music or playing someone else’s, music allows you to express yourself in new ways. You also get to be creative when choosing your own unique style and genre.
  • Therapy – Playing music can help with stress, insomnia, and depression because it acts as an outlet for difficult emotions. It can be a form of self-soothing in tough situations, and a healthy distraction from a stressful day.
  • Achievement – There’s nothing like the feeling of finally mastering one of your favorite songs! Setting a goal, putting in the work, and eventually reaching that goal gives you a strong sense of achievement. It will improve your confidence in other areas of life in the process.
  • New Friends – Whether you use music as an icebreaker when meeting new people, or as a way to actually meet new people – playing in a choir, band, or orchestra, for example – music is a great way to make new friends.

These are just a few of the remarkable health benefits of playing an instrument. To begin reaping the benefits of music in your life, check out the online group music lessons at TakeLessons Live today.

You can access hundreds of live classes on a variety of instruments – completely free for your first month. Start playing that instrument you’ve always wanted to, and your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

JasmineTPost Author: Jasmine T.
Jasmine T. teaches piano, academics, yoga, and more in San Diego, CA. She has her Power Yoga Level 1 200-Hour Certification, as well as a Certificate of Merit for Piano and Theory from the Music Teachers’ Association of California. Learn more about Jasmine here!
Best apps to learn Italian

7 Top-Rated Apps to Learn Italian Like a Pro

 

Best apps to learn Italian

If you’re looking to pick up some basic Italian or advance to the next level of fluency, there are many useful apps that can help you achieve this goal! The flexibility and convenience of downloading an app on the go makes learning fun and affordable.  

It’s important to keep in mind though that apps shouldn’t be your sole method of learning a language. No technology can beat the personalized instruction and guidance of an experienced language teacher. (Apps aren’t a substitute for real-life conversation practice either)!

With that in mind, here are the 7 best Italian apps to supplement your learning.

The 7 Best Apps to Help You Learn Italian

1. Mondly

Best apps to learn Italian

With a 5-star rating, Mondly allows you to study Italian vocabulary and phrases through interactive games and graphics. The app is free for In-App purchases and also available for the Apple Watch!

Mondly allows you to collect points and compete with other users from across the globe. Students who face challenges learning Italian verbs can also benefit from the app’s 3D conjugation tables.

2. Busuu

Apps to learn Italian

Of all the apps to learn Italian, Busuu was the first one to allow users to have verbal conversations with native speakers from all over the world. The app offers students direct communication with new pen pals right from their phone or iPad.

Busuu also teamed up with McGraw-Hill to enable students to obtain an official learning certificate. The app has a  4+ star rating and allows for family sharing!

3. Learn Italian, Speak Italian

Italian apps

This helpful app was rated by Google as the “Must have app for Android.” Lessons are created by a team of language experts and teachers, with over 150 topics and over 3,000 vocabulary words.

If you’re a beginner, tourist, or business traveler, use this app to test your knowledge with fun quizzes. The Android app also allows you to record yourself so you can keep track of your progress!

SEE ALSO: 10 Podcasts for Learning Italian

4. Italian by Nemo

Italian apps

This app allows for hands free interaction, so you can practice your Italian skills while you walk, exercise, cook, or commute! Italian by Nemo is the perfect companion for busy students who only have a minute or two to spare throughout their day.

You can download the app for free in either the Apple store or Google Play. It has a 4.3 star rating from users.

5. Learn Italian by Bravolol

Italian apps

Learn Italian features a friendly, animated cartoon parrot guiding you on your way to mastering Italian. With engaging and interactive flashcards, this app will help you pick up commonly used Italian phrases and words.

An awesome perk of the app is that it can be used without an internet connection! If you are traveling to Italy, make sure to bring this fun app with you on the plane to brush up on your skills. It’s available in the Apple store and Google Play.

6. Easy Talk

Apps to Learn Italian

The Easy Talk app comes with an Italian travel phrasebook, sample dialogues based on real life situations, and multiple search functions to select and keep track of your favorites.

Another perk – there aren’t any drills or boring grammar exercises! The app can also be used as a personal, pocket translator. It’s available for Android phones for a purchase of $3.99.

7. TakeLessons

Apps to Learn Italian - TakeLessons

For easily accessible Italian lessons on the go, the TakeLessons app is the perfect resource no matter your skill level. Find experienced Italian teachers in your area, or connect with one digitally via the app’s video chat feature.

With the TakeLessons app, you can learn Italian from a professional no matter where you are. You can also join in on free, group classes for your first month as a new student. The app is available for both Android and iPhones.

It’s often said that when learning a new language like Italian, practice makes perfect. Any one of these apps to learn Italian would make an excellent tool to help you practice your skills!

Impress your language teacher and your friends with how quickly you’ve learned. Ready to get started with private lessons? Schedule a one-on-one lesson with an Italian teacher today to start speaking, writing, and reading Italian!

Need Private Lessons?

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LizT
Post Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches Italian, ESL, as well as a variety of musical subjects! She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal Performance and she currently performs all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!