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3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Feeling Lost in Conversation? 3 Helpful Tips for Language Learners

3 Things to Do When You’re Lost in Conversation

Whether you’re practicing conversational French, Spanish, or another language, chatting with a native speaker can be daunting. Here, language tutor Jinky B. shares some tips to keep in mind if you’re feeling lost…

 

Congratulations, you have been taking language classes and diligently studying all that you have learned on your own time. Now you’re ready to go out and have a conversation with a native speaker. The conversation is going well and everything is flowing when you suddenly realize that, well, you’re lost! You feel as though you’re hearing a completely foreign language.

First of all, breathe! Here are three things you can do when you are starting to feel like you’re at your first language lesson, unable to understand anything the other person is saying.

1. Listen for context clues.

Think about what you are finding difficult to understand. Is it a single word? Is it a whole phrase?

Some languages are filled with homophones, words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. Once you hone in on that, think about the context of the conversation. If you’re talking about weekend plans to go to a picnic, think through everything else that was said prior to the misunderstanding.

  • In French, la mer (the sea) and la mère (the mother) sound nearly exactly the same. Think about whether the speaker is talking about a trip to the beach or describing his family.

If it’s an entire phrase, it might be an idiom, one that is more common knowledge to the native speaker so it might not make sense to a language learner.

  • In French, the idiomatic expression Il pleut des cordes does not actually mean that it’s raining rope, but that it’s raining a lot.

Regardless of whether it’s a word or an entire phrase, try to determine the meaning based on the conversation.

See also: French learners, take a look at these additional tips for translating French to English.

2. Ask for repetition.

When in doubt about what you have heard, ask the other speaker to repeat the word or phrase in question. Sometimes hearing the specific word might bring an epiphany to the unknown word(s). Below are some phrases in our most popular languages to ask “Repeat, please.”

Spanish: Repita por favor.
French: Répétez, s’il vous plait.
Japanese: もう一度おねがいします。 (Mōichido onegaishimasu)
Korean: 제발 반복합니다. (jebal banboghabnida)
Italian: Ripeti prego.
German. Bitte wiederholen.

repeat_please

See also: Check out additional Spanish phrases to use here

3. Relax and be honest.

Take a deep breath. Politely let the other person know that you are having trouble understanding. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you’ll find it difficult to follow and participate in the conversation.

And if you aren’t honest with your language partner, they will continue the conversation. Below are ways that you can use to indicate to the other person “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

Spanish: Lo siento, no entiendo.
French: Je suis désolé(e), je ne comprends pas.
Japanese: ごめんなさい。わかりません。(Gomen’nasai. Wakarimasen)
Korean: 죄송 해요. 이해가 안되는 데요. (joesong haeyo. ihaega andoeneun deyo)
Italian: Mi dispiace. Non capisco.
German. Es tut mir leid. Ich verstehe nicht.

im_sorry-_i_dont_understand

See also: 11 Tips for Improving Your Conversational Spanish [Infographic]


Language learning is the same across all languages. You build a foundation of vocabulary and grammar. You learn to put those words together to form sentences. You perfect your accent and comprehension skills. Then, you venture out and practice what you have learned.

Don’t stop at your first obstacle. Just relax and remember to listen for context clues, ask for repetition, and be honest with yourself. Most importantly, have fun! The best way to learn is to enjoy the process.

Want more conversational Spanish or conversational French practice? Sign up for one of our online group classes, or check out our other blog tutorials

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature, and Psychology from Florida State University and has more than five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

Photo by Brian Roberts

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What If I’m Not Any Good? 4 Reasons We Put Off Learning New Skills

Vocal coach Terry Wood (left) works with 2010 Operation Rising Star winner Melissa Gomez during recording session at Firehouse Recording Studios in Pasadena, Calif. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs

Learning a new skill, exploring a new hobby, or working toward a big goal can be both exciting and nerve-wracking.

The cycle is all-too-common. Maybe you buy a brand new guitar or a bunch of books in another language, and you’re pumped up to start learning! You noodle away for a while or thumb through some pages… and then the doubts start to creep in.

What if I have no musical talent? What if — after months of practicing Spanish — I still get nervous talking to a native speaker?

Those self-doubts can get the best of you if you let them…

… but you’re stronger than that, right?

We recently surveyed our readers to find out some of the common worries when it comes to taking lessons. Is it nerves? Is it fear that you won’t be any good? Do you feel clueless about what instrument to buy, or which supplies to invest in?

Here’s what we found out, followed by advice straight from current students for overcoming the most common concerns.

1) I’m worried I won’t be talented at my instrument, target language, etc.

This was one of the most popular responses in our survey. And we totally get it.

But here’s the brutal truth: you probably won’t be any good… at first. So here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • If you’re a total beginner, remember that teachers are used to this! As long as you’re motivated and excited about learning, that’s what your teacher wants to see.
  • Your teacher is also there to give you real-time feedback. If you’re trying to learn from prerecorded videos or books, you’ll miss out on that one-on-one help. With the right guidance and practice, you’re bound to improve your skills.
  • Learning just for fun? Even better! Try to think positively, and remember that even if you’re learning slowly, you’re still making progress.
  • Setting small and specific goals can help immensely. And don’t forget to celebrate when you reach them!

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2) I’m worried formal lessons will make learning boring.

Did your parents force you to take piano lessons as a child? Did you take a language class in high school or college to fulfill a credit requirement?

Here’s a little secret: even if you disliked these lessons or classes back then, making the decision to learn something on your own is a totally different experience.

Now is your chance to set your own goals. Are you learning a language for an upcoming vacation? Do you want to learn an instrument for fun, to keep your mind sharp? Take some time to think about your motivations.

Next comes the fun part. The great thing about working with a private teacher is that your lessons will be customized exactly for you. If you’re clear about your goals, your teacher will work with you to keep you motivated — so if you’re feeling bored, speak up!

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3) I’m worried I won’t have enough time to commit to learning, practicing, etc.

Ah, the common excuse: I don’t have time for lessons!

In reality, it’s just a matter of reorganizing your time to make room for your hobbies. We like to compare it to budgeting your money — and that starts with setting those specific (and realistic) goals, taking advantage of practice time you may be overlooking, and following the “pay-yourself-first” rule (learn more here).

Moreover, taking private lessons can actually keep you on track. Instead of wasting time on confusing online programs or watching tutorial videos out of order, your teacher will have a plan to ensure you’re making progress at the right pace.

no-musical-talent-quote-3

4) I’m worried my teacher won’t be a good match for me.

Yup, we get this one too. Working with the right teacher can play a big part in your learning experience.

Maybe you need someone who’s great with kids, if you’re booking lessons for your son or daughter. Maybe you want to work with a teacher who specializes in a certain genre, dialect, or style. Thousands of private teachers have joined TakeLessons, so you’re bound to find a great one.

So take a look, browse around, and let us know if you need some help. And don’t worry — you’re always covered by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.

More tips here: The 7 Types of Learners & How to Find the Best Teacher For YOU

no-musical-talent-quote-4

 


OK, ready to take the next step?

You might still feel nervous — that’s OK. Even our pro teachers were in your shoes once. Heck, even Kurt Cobain, Misty Copeland, Mark Zuckerberg, and anyone else who inspires you was once a beginner. And look where they are now.

For the aspiring musicians out there, we’ll share one last piece of advice from Belinda M., one of our guitar students:

Learning to become a great musician is like the lottery… You can’t win if you don’t play!

How can you argue with that?

Photo By U.S. Army

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How to Use Your Smartphone for Language Learning

10 Genius Ways to Use Your Smartphone to Learn a Language

How to Use Your Smartphone for Language Learning

Can your phone help you learn a language? Absolutely! Check out these tips and ideas from Spanish tutor Joan B. and start exploring…

 

You’re addicted to your phone (join the club) and love everything it offers you — access to friends, amazing deals through apps, and up-to-the-minute news. But did you know you can also use it to help you learn a language?

It’s true: your smartphone is one of the best tools you can use to strengthen your language skills — especially when you use your phone to supplement your learning in between regular language lessons with a tutor.

Ready to get started? Try these tips to transform your phone into a portable language-learning console!

1. Visit fun sites.

You now have permission to play games and fun apps as often as you’d like on your phone — as long as they’re in another language. Here are a few language-learning apps and websites you can explore:

Tip: If you’re working toward a specific goal, ask your language tutor for their recommendation for an app to use or a game to play based on your strengths and challenges.

2. Watch YouTube videos.

Try watching music videos in your target language! Often you can find the lyrics in the notes below the video to read along if you need extra help. You can also watch how-to tutorials on any subject that interests you (chess, yoga, etc.), or you can even go for language-learning videos.

Tip: Browse through our recommendations for YouTube channels for learning German, learning Italian, and learning French.

3. Listen to foreign music on Spotify.

You can also discover new artists and reap the benefits that come with listening to music in your target language. You’ll get a feeling for the culture and sentiment in addition to learning new vocabulary and pronunciation.

Tip: Check out tutor Christopher S.’s recommendations for 5 New Musicians Who Can Improve Your Spanish.

4. Message friends on WhatsApp.

This is my favorite way to communicate with friends abroad, since it’s secure and free for everyone (no surprise fees here!). You can send each other jokes, ask how their day is, and get in a little language conversation practice all at the same time.

Tip: Choose from one of these conversation starters in Spanish and start chatting!

5. Snapchat in another language.

Create snaps with language from your target language to practice, or watch snaps from the country or language you’re interested in to get a taste of what’s happening locally.

Tip: Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages offers some great tips for using Snapchat here.

6. Try the WordReference App.

This handy dictionary is actually way more than a dictionary. It also includes threads from native speakers who share the true meaning of confusing phrases and word usage. It’s exhaustive, and in the unlikely case that you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can start a new thread and receive helpful advice.

Tip: Word-a-day updates like the one from SpanishDict are another great way to continue learning.

7. Keep lists of new vocabulary using Google Keep or Evernote.

Retaining new vocabulary is key in language learning, and keeping it in a list on your phone will allow you to review it frequently. You can also share the lists with others, like your teacher or tutor, or other friends learning the same language.

Tip: Struggling with remembering the vocab you’re learned? Check out my advice for memorizing French words.

8. Talk to Siri (or Google).

Did you know that if you change your settings on your phone to your target language, you can have long, deep conversations with Siri? You can ask her various probing questions (“How was your day?”; “Tell me a story, please?”) that will provoke long answers. You can listen to her pronunciation and read her words. Even better, she will test your pronunciation. If it’s a little off, she won’t understand; you’ll become much more precise and accurate thanks to her insistence.

Tip: Here’s a cool post from author Mike Boyle about how iOS 7’s Siri can help you learn a language.

9. Change your language settings on a few apps.

If you don’t feel ready to switch your whole phone to your new language, try changing it on just a few apps, like Facebook. Spanish learners, for example, will intuitively understand that “me gusta” means “like,” even if you’re brand-new at Spanish language learning. And by switching languages, you’ll absorb all kinds of new vocabulary and key phrases.

Tip: Learn how to change your language settings on Facebook here.

10. Join communities to get more conversation practice.

The best way to learn a language and speak colloquially is to get in more conversation practice! Try browsing through Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks to see how native speakers interact casually. Or, join one of our live, online group classes to chat with tutors and other students at your level.

Tip: More ideas for using Facebook here, via AlwaysSpanish.


Feeling better about your smartphone addiction? With these tips, you can use your phone to improve your language skills and learn something new. There’s so much to explore! Get started today, and watch your skills grow and thrive.

Readers, how do you use your smartphone for language learning? Leave a comment and share your best tip.

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Tips for Teachers How to Gear Up for the Holidays & Get More Students

[Teacher Tips] How to Supercharge Your Profile & Get New Students this Holiday Season

Tips for Teachers How to Gear Up for the Holidays & Get More Students

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… the holidays will be here before you know it! In this post, Keenan R. from our Teacher Support team will show you how to maximize your time and efforts — and find new music students, language students, and more.

 

With the holidays just around the corner, there will be tons of new students looking for the perfect instructor to help them achieve their personal goals (and New Year’s Resolutions!). Wouldn’t it be nice to close out the year with a roster full of new students? Of course it would!

Throughout my tenure as a Teacher Support Representative with TakeLessons, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with thousands of teachers and tutors. The question that I receive the most is: “How can I leverage the TakeLessons platform to get more private students?”

I can assure you, it’s easier than you think! And it’s more important than ever during the hectic holiday season.

What Trends Do We See for Private Lessons?

The holiday season is an exciting time for our partners! TakeLessons has been around since 2006, so we’ve worked through enough holiday seasons to notice the trends.

Yes, you may have to deal with reschedules or canceled lessons as people travel and take time off. But we also see a lot of students taking extra lessons to gear up for holiday recitals and semester-end final exams. And behind the scenes, we’re helping parents and loved ones pick out the perfect gift, setting up our top teachers for a busy (and lucrative) January.

So, want to improve your chances of getting new students during this time? Here are my tips to ensure you’re making the most of your time and efforts.

1) Teach Online

The best way to get new students and keep your roster full? Be accessible to more students! When you offer online lessons, your profile shows up for students searching from all over the world — one of our instructors just taught an online lesson to a student in Dubai! With online learning, students are no longer bound by time, space, or transportation. This means they have a better chance of finding the perfect teacher who best matches their needs and goals. (And who knows… that could be you!)

Not only that, offering online lessons adds value to your current students. If you or your student is traveling for the holidays, you can continue your lessons through the TakeLessons Classroom, no matter where you are.

2) Keep Your Availability Updated

With finals typically falling in December, it’s a prime time for tutors. To reduce snags, make sure your available timeslots are up-to-date.

But even if your teaching schedule is slowing down, it’s just as important to maintain your availability calendar. You never know who might be checking out your profile! Around the holidays, we sell a lot of lesson packages as gifts — so you may get inquiries or bookings early on, though the student won’t actually start until after the New Year (after they’ve received the gift!). Again, ensuring your calendar is correct will make for better matches and fewer scheduling issues when they do start up.

3) Spruce Up Your Profile

Attracting new music students, language students, and other private students begins with a quality profile. If you have extra down time due to reschedules, take some time to review your profile, update anything that’s outdated, and ensure that you’ve completed all available sections of your profile. Then, take advantage of the resources TakeLessons has to offer. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Curate more reviews: Our research has shown that students are more likely to book instructors with a minimum of 7-10 reviews. Remember, reviews are not limited to TakeLessons students. They can come from previous students, current private students, and even colleagues. Request more reviews and you should see an improvement in your profile views.
  • Update your profile picture, if needed. Your profile picture is your personal brand and it’s the first impression that a student gets. Make sure the picture you’ve chosen conveys a sense of professionalism and reflects the quality of your lessons. (Check out more profile picture tips here.)
  • Improve your subject details: This may be the most underrated section of your profile. If you haven’t taken the time to write a thoughtful entry for each subject that you offer, you may be missing out on some great opportunities! Explain your unique value propositions for each subject and avoid information that is already listed on your profile.

4) Respond Quickly to “Ask A Question” Inquiries

Prospective students and parents typically browse through several profiles before booking lessons — so you’ll need to stand out from the crowd! While your profile will display your rates, available timeslots, and lesson details, students sometimes have additional questions. That’s why we created the Ask a Question tool, allowing you to communicate with prospective students before they book lessons.

The student-teacher relationship begins here, so it’s important to remain patient, friendly, and accommodating when responding to these types of inquiries. Thank the student for contacting you, and tell them how excited you are to get started! You can also provide instructions for purchasing lessons, to help move them along the process.


Now is the perfect time to focus on your TakeLessons profile, and the tips above will help you gear up for the New Year and increase your chances of getting new students. Still have questions? Check out the Teacher Support Center for help with profile settings, teaching tips, and more.

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side jobs for language lovers - teach abroad

10 Ways to Make Money as a Language Lover [Infographic]

Do you speak multiple languages? Maybe your linguistic love affair started in high school, when you took your first Spanish class. Maybe you were born into a bilingual family, exposed to the beauty of languages at an early age. Or maybe you even caught on later in life, after taking language classes just for fun.

Whatever the case, we applaud you! Being bilingual is an awesome skill, and one that can lead to higher-paying jobs, a sharper brain, and an expanded network of friends and colleagues. But beyond the pride and goal-achieving side of learning, did you know there are ways to make money with your skills?

Check out the infographic below for 10 perfect side jobs for language lovers…

10 Ways to Make Money as a Language Lover

Share this Image On Your Site

For a deep-dive into these tips, check out our guest post on FluentU, 10 Ways for Savvy Language Learners to Make Money on the Side (While Keeping the 9-to-5).

How to Make Money With Your Language Skills

1. Become a tutor.

Teaching part-time is one of the easiest side jobs for language lovers. Some companies may have you sign on as an hourly contractor, working specific hours at a specific location. Other companies offer more flexibility — with TakeLessons, for example, you can set your own prices and availability, as well as offer convenient online tutoring.

2. Work as a freelance translator.

Another popular option for language lovers is working as a freelance translator. Online translator jobs are plentiful and can be found through marketplaces like Upwork.

3. Grade/score standardized language examinations.

Many universities and testing centers outsource their grading for tests like the AP Spanish Exam. You can search for these jobs on the ETS website and HigherEdJobs.

4. Do some freelance writing.

If you’re a strong writer, why not combine that with your love for languages? Consider creating your own language-learning blog (you can then monetize it with ads or affiliate links once you’ve established an audience), or get paid on a per-article basis through Upwork or Zerys. (Tip: If you’re already a TakeLessons tutor, you can also get paid to write blog articles for us!)

5. Create language videos on YouTube.

If you’re a natural on camera, creating a YouTube channel might be right up your alley! Similar to monetizing a personal blog, once you’ve built your audience you can make money through ads that play before each video. This is a really flexible side job, since you can create videos in bulk and then release them whenever you want.

6. Sell your (original) content.

Many schools and companies will pay tutors to create quizzes, worksheets, posters, and other course materials. Check out sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and TeacherLingo. See also: 15 Platforms to Publish and Sell Online Courses via Learning Revolution.

7. Create a language app or game.

Are you tech-savvy? Creating a language app or game can end up being one of the most lucrative side jobs for language lovers — if you have a great idea, that is. Make sure to do your research, since your app will need to be better than the competitors (and there’s a lot of them!). See also: How Much Money Can You Earn With an App? via Fueled.

8. Teach at a museum, library, or community college.

Museums and libraries are sometimes open to hosting events, talks, and even mini-courses, if you know how to market yourself well. Or if you’re willing to commit more time, consider looking into community colleges in your area — some hire instructors for language courses based on expertise, not credentials.

9. Lead a trip to a foreign country.

Did you study abroad in high school or college? Most people look back on their experience fondly; immersion truly is one of the best ways to learn a language! Many study abroad programs hire trip leaders and coordinators, if you have the time to spare. Look for programs that fit your availability, whether that’s leading a short-term excursion or a longer trip.

10. Teach English abroad (great for a gap year!)

Teaching English abroad is another very popular option, if you’ve got the time! Programs include a range of locations, contract lengths, and pay. Check out sites like TeachAway and GoAbroad for opportunities. See also: Teaching English Abroad: Are You Qualified? via GoOverseas.

Additional Resources – Do Bilingual Workers Earn More?

If a side hustle isn’t your thing, consider using your language skills within your 9-to-5. Although it’s yet to be determined whether bilingualism increases income on its own, there are tons of benefits that come from learning a second (or third) language. Here are some additional resources:

Readers, how else have you made money using your language skills? What other side jobs for language lovers do you recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know!

JasonNPost Contributor: Jason N. offers online tutoring for English and Spanish. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here! 

Photo by teflheaven

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learning a language as an introvert

How to Survive (and Thrive) as an Introvert Learning a Language

learning a language as an introvert

Are extroverts better at learning languages? Au contraire! Learn how to survive (and thrive) as an introvert with these tips from Alexandria, VA tutor Elisha O...

 

 

There’s been a lot of hype lately about introverts and extroverts. And no matter which side you identify with (or if you’re a little of both!) there are definitely advantages and strengths on both sides of the spectrum.

As an introvert myself, my most productive and creative time is the time I spend alone. However, I’ve found that there are also many skills that simply cannot be done alone — and learning a new language is one of them.

Sure, you can stay home and read, study, and watch movies in your target language. But in order to really improve, communicating with others needs to be part of your learning strategy. While some extroverts jump at the opportunity to go out and socialize in a foreign language, the same idea leaves many introverts shaking in their boots.

So, does that mean that extroverts are better at learning languages? Not at all. But introverts may need to try different strategies along the way.

Here is a list of the most common obstacles introverts face when learning a language and how to solve them.

Problem: The thought of a “language meetup group” makes you cringe
Solution: Ease into learning from the comfort of your home

If you’ve never felt like your best self at networking events or mixers, your instinct will probably be to avoid group language meetups. Walking into a building and breaking the ice with one person after another in your first language is scary enough, let alone doing it in your second or third!

Well, there’s good news for us introverts. These days, the internet offers opportunities to connect with others no matter where you are — even from your own home. This makes a lot of students feel more comfortable, since you’re not in an unfamiliar location. Technology provides just the right amount of distance to feel comfortable and secure. 

I recommend easing into a new language with online, private language lessons with a tutor, and then progressing to online group classes to get conversation practice.

Problem: You’re good at reading, writing, and listening, but struggle with speaking
Solution: Practice speaking without people around

While this may affect introverts and extroverts alike, introverts are less likely to seek out speaking opportunities and get out of their comfort zones, which furthers the gap.

Before you delve into a new language (whether for the first time or after a long hiatus), try listening to music in your target language and singing along as best you can. You’ll get a feel for vocabulary as well as how to pronounce the words, which can help you feel a lot more confident the next time you speak out loud.

You can also try talking to yourself throughout the day in your target language. For example, try narrating what you’re doing as you get ready for work or school in the morning. The trick to overcoming your nerves is often just practicing speaking more!

Problem: Breaking the ice is not your forte
Solution: Prep yourself with conversation starters

“You mean I have to… think of stuff to say?”

No! Not necessarily. As introverts, we often prefer for others to set the tone and pace of the conversation, at least at first! If starting conversations isn’t your cup of tea, and talking to strangers makes you queasy, consider requesting more structured classes from your teacher.

My ESL students also enjoy the seasonal book clubs that I coordinate. With this format, students don’t have the pressure of responding to small talk questions or improvising. The book provides a context in which they can frame the conversation, and they can even prepare responses to discussion questions ahead of time.

Problem: You’re afraid of looking “dumb”
Solution: Find a tutor you feel comfortable with

If there’s one thing I hear from students the most, it’s this. Sure, learning would be so much easier if we could travel back in time and return to being children, when our brains are like sponges and our pride could never be hurt! But learning a language as an adult can be a totally different experience. We often fear that we will appear less intelligent and articulate than we really are when we speak another language.

My advice for these students is to find a tutor who has actually learned a second language or lived in a foreign country. These teachers get it. They know first-hand the courage it takes to learn a new language, and will support and encourage you every step of the way!

Introverts, what other tips have you found helpful for learning a new language? Leave a comment below and share it with us!

Photo by uoeducation

ElishaOPost Author: Elisha O.
Elisha teaches English, ESL, Essay Writing, and Grammar in Alexandria, VA, as well as online. She earned her degrees in Psychology and Spanish from Western Washington University. Learn more about Elisha here!

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books for language learning

Here’s Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Learn a New Language

Even if you’ve been out of school for many years, back-to-school season is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby and learn something new. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, why not start now? Read on for tips from tutor Joan B

 

Remember going back to school as a child? Or perhaps you have children now that you’re sending back to school? It’s an exciting time for all ages. And if you want to learn a new language or resume your study, the back-to-school season is an ideal time to do so!

Here’s how to make the most of this time of year:

1. Use the season change to set a new schedule or routine.

language learning in the fall

Now that you’re well-rested from lazy summer days, you can focus and choose a new routine for the fall. Learning a new language requires consistent practice, so you’ll need to carve out time for it in your new routine. Commit to a minimum amount of practice or study time (it doesn’t have to be a lot – just make it doable), and then get to it! As you work toward your goal, you’ll feel energized, capable, and efficient.

2. Motivate yourself by creating your own syllabus.

Back-to-School the Best Time to Start Learning a Language!

This tip is especially effective if you studied the language in high school, or if you have some previous experience with it. You probably have some goals in mind, whether you’re learning for business opportunities, an upcoming vacation, or just for fun. Work with your language tutor to write up a simple syllabus, based on those goals. Taking control of your learning will keep you motivated and excited to learn. (Struggling to stay on track? Check out these tips for a busy schedule.)

3. Search for back-to-school specials for supplies you need.

french dictionaries

Most stores have back-to-school sales around this time, so take advantage of the specials. Remember how you used to love picking out erasers and pencils, and notebooks with cool covers? You can still enjoy the back-to-school frenzy by shopping for any supplies you need or keeping your eye out for money-saving deals on lessons and classes.

4. Make studying fun.

conversation partner for language

Just like children form friendships and find study buddies at school, adults need to form a community for learning. Working with a private language tutor ensures you’ll get weekly conversation practice, but practicing beyond that lesson time is also important! If you don’t have a conversation partner already, try attending an online class to e-meet other students.

And if you have kids who are in school, study alongside them! As they complete their homework, you can catch up on your language learning time. Not only will it be effective, you’ll be an inspirational model of hard work and integrity for your child(ren).

5. Check out your local library.

Harry Potter in Spanish

Did you enjoy the smell of books as a child, or the hours in the library with a cup of coffee as a college student? You can relive that nostalgia by going to your local library to study or check out new materials. Libraries are an incredible source of information and materials for foreign language learners! You might find CDs with audio, foreign music and films on DVD, online resources, and much more. Using the library is a frugal and enjoyable way to learn your new language.

6. Plan a trip.

travel to learn a language

Fall doesn’t have to be the end to vacation time! Consider taking a trip to jumpstart your language learning. Scheduling it midway through the fall will allow you time to learn conversational phrases, so you can speak to the locals. Fares are often cheaper in the fall, too, after the summer rush. Examples of convenient trips include Mexico, Cuba, or Puerto Rico for Spanish learners, and Quebec for French learners. Practicing with native speakers is only a skip, hop, and a plane ride away!

I hope these tips will inspire and motivate you to get started today. May the fall be a rich time of learning, growth, and improvement for you in the language of your dreams!

Photos by Tim GreenKatie Armstrongjpmatth

Joan BPost Author: Joan B.
Joan B. lives in Carmichael, CA and has been teaching high school Spanish for more than 18 years. A lover of language, she’s studied French, Arabic, and Italian and spent time living in Spain. Learn more about Joan here!

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efficient language learners

8 Characteristics of Successful Language Learners | Language Tips

efficient language learners

What do the most successful language learners have in common? Find out eight common traits in this post from Spanish tutor Jason N

 

When you first start learning a new language, it might seem frustrating. There are tons of new vocabulary words and new grammar rules to learn, and listening to native speakers may make your head spin.

But don’t give up! You successfully learned one language well so far (or you wouldn’t be understanding this post!), so you can clearly learn another. And the fact that you’re even reading this article shows me another important factor — that you’re motivated to learn!

Outside of that, though, some people seem to learn languages faster than others. More often than not, it’s because they possess certain traits and characteristics that help them along the way. I’ve been tutoring for a while now, so I started thinking about what these traits are.

Here are the characteristics I see in my most successful language students:

1) Observant

The most effective language learners spend time and energy outside of classes and lessons trying to understand the language’s clues, patterns, structure, and organization. Along with this, you should keep notes to monitor what you’ve learned, and come prepared with questions for your tutor, teacher, or professor.

Learning Tip: As you learn, immediately apply new words and grammatical concepts/rules by writing or speaking. You’ll likely already be doing this with your tutor, but continue practicing in between your lessons, too. Pay attention to contextual clues as you speak with others, and write down any patterns you notice.

2) Pragmatic

My best students know what works and what doesn’t for their personal learning style. This includes an active approach in tailoring your personal preferences and needs in all learning situations, so you don’t waste time on what is ineffective for you.

This characteristic also involves thoughtfulness, including picking up on the objective of a given in-class exercise and why it’s important to your overall language learning.

Learning Tip: Figure out your learning style, and make sure your tutor knows it too.

3) Dedicated

Super-learners believe they can always learn something, even if they dislike or struggle with a given concept, topic, or rule. They steadfastly seek learning environments that facilitate their unique needs and goals.

They also know there are no shortcuts when it comes to learning! Efficient language learning requires a combination of a great teacher or tutor, the right learning resources, and a commitment to practicing on your own time.

Learning Tip: Supplement your lessons with other ways of interacting and learning. This could include taking an online group class, playing a language-learning game, or listening to a podcast during your commute to and from work or school.

4) Fearless

My best students frequently seek out opportunities to chat with native or experienced speakers, with the aim of communicating and understanding before accurateness. Down the road, while temporarily prioritizing communication, super-learners know they will learn to balance communicating with accuracy as they improve.

Learning Tip: Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone! Seek out opportunities to chat with others, whether they’re native speakers or another student learning the same language. If you get nervous, check out these conversation tips.

5) Patient and centered

Research has shown the best way to learn is with a relaxed, yet alert inner-posture. In my five years of experience as a tutor and 12 years as a Spanish language learner, I have seen that one’s attitude, including patience with the process, can be more important than your initial skill level and intelligence!

Learning Tip: If  you’re feeling frustrated with your progress, take a step back. Learning a new language takes time, and some concepts and rules may seem easier than others. Let your tutor know if you’re struggling with something, and spend extra time on that.

6) Realistic

Most languages are highly complex. Efficient language learners are realistic, systematic, and goal-oriented in their approach. The involves an active long-term commitment, effective organization, and knowing that it’s unrealistic to aim for perfection.

Learning Tip: Think about your short- and long-term goals, and write them down. Make sure they’re realistic and reachable! If you have a busy schedule, you may not have a ton of time to set aside — and that’s OK. Just make sure you’re noticing consistent progress, no matter how small.

7) Personable

As trait #4 mentioned, consistent contact with experienced and/or native speakers is key. Super-learners have the social support needed to continually practice the language, in all types of settings.

Learning Tip: Get as much practice as you can speaking in your target language! Chat with other students online, find a language exchange partner, or teach a family member what you’ve learned so far.

8) Worldly

Lastly and most importantly, efficient language learning requires embracing the culture of the new language! They know that a language is much more than vocab and grammar; it’s an entirely new way of conceptualizing and seeing the world.

Learning Tip: If you have the resources, consider traveling to a country where the language is spoken. Immersion is proven to help you learn faster, as you’ll get real-life practice.

Recap – 8 Characteristics You Need for Effective Language Learning

8 characteristics of effective language learners

As you can see, there’s nothing inherently special about these students — these traits can all be mastered throughout the learning process.

Getting started is the first step. Find a language tutor today and you’ll be on your way to speaking a new language!

Photo by Nazareth College

JasonNPost Author: Jason N.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Athens, GA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here!  

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are language lessons worth it

How to Stop Wasting Your Money & Time on Language Lessons

are language lessons worth it

Are language lessons worth the money, or should you learn another way? French tutor Jinky B.  shares her tips here… 

 

Thinking about taking a language class or working individually with a language tutor for French, Spanish, or another language? With so many resources available these days, it can be a daunting task to pick the right way to learn. And it’s no secret that signing up for private language tutoring is usually one of the pricier options.

Aspiring learners often ask, “Are language lessons worth it, or are they a waste of money? Do they even work?”

Here’s the thing: while private lessons can be more expensive than using a free app online, the benefits of individual lessons can pay back tenfold.

Yes, those language lessons can be a waste of money — if you’re not taking learning seriously.

Language lessons and classes work — if you put in the effort.

In order to reach your language learning goals, here are five things you can do to better maximize your progress and not waste your money.

1. Determine your objectives and goals.

Let’s take a French student, for example. Why do you want to learn French? Do you have an upcoming ski trip to the French Alps? Are you moving to the south of France for graduate school? Do you want to perfect the French accent?

Decide the reason for your language lessons. Saying that you want to become fluent is too broad of an objective. Narrow down the specifics. When you’re on the ski trip, would you like to be able to talk to the ski instructors about une piste (a ski trail)? For your move for graduate school, would you like to be able to carry on a 30-minute conversation with a colleague about the lesson?

With your final objective in mind, this is why private lessons are so much more effective than other learning methods. Together with your tutor, you can break your objective down into manageable (and measurable) goals. Then, he or she will know exactly how to organize your time together. Reaching your goals and seeing the direct outcome of the money you’ve spent will help you understand that your lessons were worth it!

2. Practice every day.

Most students take language lessons once a week, but you’ll also need to commit to practicing on your own — every day. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to take up a ton of time, and you can even incorporate it into your daily life. If you like to drink a cup of coffee every morning, for example, use that 15 to 20 minutes while drinking your coffee to go over any new words or phrases that your teacher introduced that week.

If you’re not setting aside this time each day, you risk forgetting the information you’ve learned, which can set you back. Make the most of your money by committing yourself to at least 15 minutes every day. At your next lesson, your tutor will review your progress — and you’ll get direct feedback and corrections so you stay on track.

3. Make that practice time efficient.

Many students balance language lessons with work and other responsibilities — so the trick is to make sure the time you are spending on practice is efficient! For vocabulary in particular, the best way to learn is through rote memorization. Flashcards are a great way to do this: each week, create new flashcards using the new vocabulary words you’ve learned, with a picture on one side and the word on the other side. With this method, it’s best to not write out the English translation on the card, so that you’re training yourself to recognize your target language. Here’s an example for a French vocabulary word:

Apple Flashcard - French vocab

4. Talk out loud.

Another one of the biggest benefits to working with a tutor is having someone to talk to in your target language, who can also correct any mistakes you’re making. Staring at vocabulary words alone isn’t going to make you fluent. Instead, you need real-time conversation practice, and that’s what your language lessons and classes are for.

However, you should also be talking out loud when you’re practicing on your own. Pronounce each word as you review your flashcards, and with longer words, tap each syllable out. The more you actually speak the language, the better progress you’ll make.

Also, try to start conversations in your target language when you’re out and about! Here are 20 conversational Spanish phrases, and 25 conversational French phrases to get you started. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also find a local or online language learning group to practice with!

5. Review and prepare for your lessons.

Lastly, to really make the most of your language lessons, make a habit of properly preparing for them. During the week as you’re reviewing what you’ve learned, note items that you have difficulty mastering (pronunciation, grammar rules, translations, etc.). This way, you’ll have a list handy to go over with your tutor during the next lesson — which is exactly what they’re there for!

Your tutor will prepare lesson plans with your objectives and goals in mind, however, it’s important to communicate any obstacles that may be hindering the learning process. In the end, you’re the one in charge.


So there you have it: five tips for NOT wasting your time and money on language lessons. And in the future when you’re speaking in your target language with others — whether you’re on vacation, at your job, or meeting with new friends and family — you’ll realize that was money well-spent!

Make the move and commit to learning with a trained and experienced tutor who not only speaks another language, but wants to share their love for languages. Good luck!

Photo by Luka Knezevic – Strika

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French and ESL in Jacksonville, FL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature and Psychology from Florida State University and has over five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

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learning a foreign language like a kid

4 Ways to Learn a Language Like a Kid (and Why It Works)

learning a foreign language like a kid

As an adult, learning a foreign language can be tough. But it’s certainly not impossible! Check out these tips from French teacher Carol Beth L. to bring out your inner kid and make learning easier…

 

Last week, we shared how learning a language as an adult is different from what you may have experienced as a high school student (or even earlier on, if you were raised bilingual).

While recognizing the challenges and advantages is a great first step, it’s also important to put things into action. If you’re interested in learning a foreign language, whether it’s just for fun or for career prospects, you’ll need to put in some time and effort — there’s no way around that! In this article, I’ll share a few actionable tips to try, but with a twist.

It’s time to let out your inner kid, and have a little fun!

How to Learn a Foreign Language Like a Kid

First, let’s address the common question: Is it really true that kids have an easier time learning languages?

Early on, it probably is. Many psychologists and educators speak of a critical window during a child’s life (usually between birth and age 12) when it is easier for them to learn a foreign language. Generally, the earlier the child learns the language, the better the chance at complete mastery.

So, why is that?

During the early stages of life, children are able to recognize and distinguish the sounds that make up their native language or languages, and their brain is primed to acquire new words and grammatical structures. In short, a large part of what contributes to a child’s ease in learning is developmental. Provided the opportunity for exposure to a second language, the child will learn to make sense of what they hear.

As we grow older, however, the brain develops and “weeds” itself out. It adjusts to use the knowledge we have within a certain framework, rather than to quickly intake knowledge as it did previously. The way in which many adults learn is thus in many ways fundamentally different from the way children learn.

We can still learn from children in their approach, however. Instead of getting frustrated, why not try out a child-like mindset? You may feel silly, but these strategies can really help. Here are my tips to make language-learning both easy and fun.

1) Incorporate humor.

Children love to laugh! And in fact, neuroscience research has shown that laughter and humor can help you remember things better. Learning a foreign language doesn’t need to be all serious; in fact, it’s often best if it’s not. Learn silly phrases in French, tongue twisters in Spanish, and funny songs in Japanese. Amuse yourself. Look for the bright and cheerful side of life!

2) Incorporate play.

When children play, they find a topic or activity that is relevant to them, including when they play make-believe. Adults may not typically play in the same way that children do, but we can imagine, and we do have activities we like to do.

So when you practice talking in your target language, imagine real-life situations that you might find yourself in. Or, take a class in something you enjoy — cooking, playing music, sailboarding, etc. — entirely in your target language. In some cases, this is easier to do abroad. In other cases, you may be able to find a teacher locally or online who speaks your target language and teaches the activity you enjoy. This type of “play” can even help stimulate your mind and boost creativity.

3) Immerse yourself in the language.

Children are surrounded by their native or target language. So for this strategy, you’ll need to create a similar environment of immersion. This could be through an immersion program, or a trip to a country that speaks your target language. It could also be by surrounding yourself with friends, classmates, colleagues, and acquaintances who also speak or are learning the language.

4) Learn with stories and songs.

Find children’s songs and books in your target language or that are bilingual. This could be something super simple, or even a series like Harry Potter, which has been translated in 74 different languages. If it’s something you’re familiar with, you’ll find it easier to pick up new words from context.

Children also love to read or listen to stories again and again… and again! Doing the same as adults allows us the opportunity to reinforce what we’ve learned, so we can better understand the story and remember new vocabulary with each repetition.

 

Children are natural learners, but given the right tools, adults can be, too. Some of the most accomplished people are life-long learners, continually seeking out new knowledge. Learning a foreign language later on may sometimes be more difficult, but age certainly never puts it out of reach.

Photo by woodleywonderworks

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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