50+ Fascinating Language Facts You Didn’t Know [Infographic]

Looking for interesting language facts? The world is full of diverse and unique languages, from the exotic sounds of Japanese to the romantic expressions of French. How all of these languages originated is often debated.

Ideas such as the “bow wow” theory say that language began with humans imitating the sounds animals make to communicate. Others believe that language was a divine gift, but most agree that all languages developed from a single language into the thousands we have today.

How much do you know about foreign languages? Whether you’re a student learning a second language, a polyglot, or a translator, check out the graphic below. There are dozens of interesting language facts on this list that will inspire you!

50+ Fascinating Language Facts to Inspire You

Language Facts infographic

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50+ Language Facts In Detail

  • There are over 7,000 languages worldwide, and most of them are dialects.
  • Cambodian has the longest alphabet with 74 characters. Try making that into an alphabet song!
  • The Bible is the most translated book, followed by Pinocchio.
  • The English word “alphabet” comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet – alpha and beta.
  • 2,400 of the world’s languages are in danger of becoming extinct and about one language becomes extinct every two weeks.
  • The first printed book was in German.
  • There are over 200 artificial languages in books, movies, and TV shows, such as “Klingon.”
  • The Papuan language of Rotokas only has 11 letters, making it the smallest alphabet.
  • Only 23 languages account for more than half of the world’s population!
  • About ⅔ of all languages are from Asia and Africa.

  • French is the main foreign language taught in the UK.
  • Of all the language facts, this one fascinates us the most- at least half of the world’s population is bilingual!
  • Many linguists believe that language originated around 100,000 BC.
  • Basque is a language spoken in the mountains between France and Spain and it has no relation to any other known language. (They didn’t get out much).  
  • South Africa has the most official languages with 11.
  • More than 1.5 million Americans are native French speakers.
  • The Florentine dialect was chosen as the national language of Italy. Most regions in Italy primarily speak their own dialect to this day.
  • Kinshasa is the world’s second largest French speaking city, after Paris. Kinshasa is the capital city in the Congo.
  • There are about 24 official languages spoken throughout Europe.
  • Other than English, French is the only language taught in every country.

  • On average, people only use a few hundred words in daily conversation, while most languages have 50,000+ words.
  • German words can have three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Most languages only have either masculine or feminine.
  • The United States has no “official language.” Most people just assume it’s English.
  • The language of La Gomera spoken off the coast of Spain consists entirely of whistles. (…but what if you can’t whistle?)
  • Over 20,000 new French words are created each year.
  • About 30% of English words come from French.
  • Botswana has a language made up of five primary “click” sounds.
  • Spanish contains about 4,000 Arabic words.
  • German is the most spoken language in Europe. Four countries have it as their official language.
  • Physical contact during a conversation is completely normal when speaking Spanish.

  • Papua New Guinea has the most languages, at 840.
  • Italian is a minority language in Brazil.
  • Over 300 languages are spoken in London alone. No matter what, you have a pretty good chance of finding someone to speak with!
  • The languages spoken in North Korea and South Korea are different. They have distinct vocabularies and grammatical rules due to being separated for so long.
  • The English language contains the most words, with over 250,000.
  • Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world.
  • Multiple studies have shown that learning a second language can improve the memory and slow the process of aging. This is one of our favorite language facts!
  • Argentina still has a high number of Welsh speakers, due to settlers inhabiting the Patagonia mountains hundreds of years ago.
  • Russian was the first language spoken in outer space.
  • People who speak Chinese use both sides of the brain, whereas English only uses the left side.

  • Twenty-one countries have Spanish as their official language, making it a great choice for travelers.
  • Hindi didn’t become the official language of India until 1965.
  • The Pope tweets in nine languages, but his Spanish account has the most followers.
  • Hawaiians have over 200 different words for “rain.”
  • The culinary and ballet worlds use mostly French words and terms.
  • In Indonesian, “air” means “water.”
  • Japanese uses three different writing systems: Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana.  
  • The U.S. has the second highest number of Spanish speakers, after Mexico.
  • Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world. If you speak it, you can speak to 13% of the world’s population!
  • Cryptophasia is a language phenomenon that only twins, identical or fraternal, can understand.

Did these fascinating language facts leave you feeling inspired to learn a new language for yourself? Being multilingual opens up many doors from travel opportunities, to friendships, to new careers. It also helps improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

If you’re ready to get started, TakeLessons Live is the perfect resource for those wanting to learn a new language, or sample a few different languages before deciding on one. Try the online classes for free today!

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Quiz What is Your Learning Style

Quiz: What is Your Learning Style?

No matter what you’re learning, your personality plays a big role! Everyone learns differently, and the strategies that work for one person may not work for another — and that’s OK!

Whether you’re learning a new language or even picking up a new hobby, it’s smart to keep your learning style in mind. That way, you’re setting yourself up for success from the start!

So, what is your learning style? Take the quiz below to find out:

difference between Spanish and Portuguese

10 Important Differences Between Spanish & Portuguese

difference between Spanish and Portuguese

The 2016 Summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. For language-learners everywhere, it was and still is a great time to explore Portuguese, their official language!

And if you’re already learning Spanish, you’re at an advantage. There are a lot of similarities between the two languages — in fact, there’s even a name for speaking a mixture of the languages to help speakers of different backgrounds communicate (Portuñal or Portunhol, in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively).

But what about the difference between Spanish and Portuguese? You’re not off the hook if you speak Spanish; you’ll need to put in some work to learn new pronunciations, spellings, and vocabulary in Portuguese. Same goes if you’re a Portuguese speaker trying to learn Spanish!

To help you get started, our friends at LiveLingua put together a post showcasing some key things to remember. Here’s part of the article:

1. Difference between hasta and hacia. In Portuguese there is no hacia preposition. There is the preposition até, but we need to explain the difference very well so students can learn how to use it properly. In short words, hacia indicates the direction in which we move and hasta the point at which we arrived.

2. The preposition “a” after many verbs. The most common example [in Spanish] is “ir a.” I guess it must be weird for some Portuguese native speakers to use an expression even found in Portuguese, but adding an “a” in the middle. Let’s have a look at this sentence: Vou sair agora ( Portuguese), Voy a salir ahora (Spanish)

3. The position of reflexive pronouns. The rule is very simple. In Spanish, when the tense is either gerund or infinitive, the pronoun merges to the end of the verb. Otherwise when the verb is conjugated, the pronoun is placed before the verb and not joined. Example: dormirse, bañarse; se durmió, te bañaste, etc.

4. False friends or very similar words. Every language has to face this issue. We only learn this when we come across those words. There is a funny word which needs to be clarified: almóndiga. This is a Spanish slang word which means “meatball,” but in Portuguese is pronounced albóndiga. In Portuguese a vagabundo is a person who leads a bad life, while in Spanish it is someone who lives on the street (morador de rua in Portuguese).

5. Muy or mucho? In Portuguese this is easy: muito is the only word compared to those two. Muy is used before adverbs and adjectives, while mucho is placed either before a noun or after a verbs. When we want to make a comparison, we always have to use mucho. Example: Es mucho (no muy!!!) mejor que tú.

The article goes on to list five more differences between Portuguese and Spanish — continue reading it here!

Now, ready to get started learning Portuguese? Keep these tips in mind:

  • Determine your learning style and goals. Instead of blindly jumping into learning, have a plan in place. Are you learning for fun? Do you want to be fluent? How do you learn best? Knowing the answers to these will help you stay on track. Here are some guiding questions to start with.
  • Find a conversation partner. The most important part of learning a new language is understanding the context and having real conversations with others, and practice makes perfect! Instead of simply memorizing vocabulary words, make the effort to talk and listen!
  • Work with a tutor. Taking 1-on-1 lessons with a language tutor is a great way to get that conversation practice. TakeLessons offers both Portuguese tutors and Spanish tutors to help you improve.

Readers, do you have experience learning both Portuguese and Spanish? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

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30 Quirky New Year's Eve Traditions 500x300

30 Quirky New Year’s Traditions From Around the World

How much do you know about New Year’s Eve traditions?

Here in the U.S., you know what to do: gather your friends and family, turn on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in the background, and count down from 10 as midnight nears. At the strike of the clock, you know to toast everyone as the fireworks blast off, sing a verse of “Auld Lang Syne,” and sneak in a New Year’s kiss, if you can!

But outside of the United States, did you know there are some much more quirky New Year’s Eve traditions? If you’re in Spain, for example, you’ll want to get 12 grapes ready to eat with each strike of the clock. In Turkey, make sure you have a few pomegranates ready to throw off your balcony for good luck.

To start your faux travels, we did some research into some of the bizarre New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day traditions around the world. While some of them might be outdated — or more of an old wives’ tale — they’re certainly interesting to learn!

Here’s what we found:

30 Quirky New Year's Eve Traditions Around the World

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Readers, what do you think? Have you heard of these New Year’s Eve traditions around the world, and are they true? Let us know by leaving a comment below!


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How to make learning a language easier and faster

Infographic: How to Learn Languages Easier & Faster

easiest languages to learn

When it comes to learning a new language, everyone has different goals. Maybe you just want to keep your mind sharp and broaden your communication skills in general — in that case, you might be wondering what the easiest languages to learn are, and will go from there.

Other learners might have a specific language in mind, whether you’re heading on vacation and want to chat with the locals, or need to be able to communicate with business contacts or clients.

So… why do your goals matter? The fact is, learning a new language shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all process. And the way you approach it makes a big difference!

Getting Started With the Hardest Languages to Learn

German (with its three grammatical genders), Finnish (with its complicated grammar rules), and Japanese (with its entirely new writing system) are all known as some of the hardest language to learn. Don’t let that deter you, though! Benny over at Fluent in 3 Months has a great article about what actually makes these languages difficult (spoiler: it’s your attitude!).

Moreover, often the idea of the “hardest” language to learn is completely subjective.

It’s also a matter of knowing your learning style, and your personal learning goals. Once you’ve got these figured out, you can determine the logical steps and strategies you need to take (more in this later!).

Your motivation in general makes a big difference, too! Learn more about the psychology of learning a language in this article over at the LinguaLift blog.

Getting Started With the Easiest Languages to Learn

So, what are the easiest languages to learn, you might be asking? As we discussed above, any kind of classification like that can be a bit misleading. If you begin the process thinking learning Spanish won’t even take much studying, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. There’s a lot to focus on, from new vocabulary to tenses.

Instead of making it harder than it needs to be, start off on the right foot by again acknowledging your learning style and goals.

What Type of Language Learner Are You?

Now, that you know what you need to do, let’s get started! To begin, take our learning styles quiz. This will tell you what to keep in mind as you study.

Next, with your learning style in mind, read on to determine what ‘type’ of learner you are and check out Spanish tutor Joan B.‘s tips and suggestions for reaching your specific goals.

(1) The Vacationer

Do you dream of passing the time drinking sangria, exploring cathedrals, and having a late Spanish dinner followed by a night out on the town? If you’re planning a trip to Spain or Latin America, you’ll have a much richer cultural and traveling experience if you brush up on Spanish a bit before leaving.

Language-learning goals:

  • To communicate basic needs and ask questions as needed.
  • To understand signs and announcements.
  • To engage with locals, both for pleasure and learning, as well as for transactions (in a market, at a pensión [guesthouse]).

How much and what you should learn:

  • Basics: greetings, numbers, interrogative words.
  • Key verbs (for Spanish, these include ir, estar, ser, querer, and tener).
  • Key vocabulary related to traveling and places.
  • Key phrases that you’ll hear often.
  • Any special pronunciations or slang related to the country you’re visiting.

Tips to reach your goal:

  • Carve out a few minutes in your daily routine to practice through listening. You can listen to a language tape, a language podcast, a song… anything to increase your exposure to the language!
  • Keep a notebook with new vocabulary so you can keep track of it and see your progress.
  • Start learning well ahead of your departure date, and make a timeline with your tutor or teacher to reach a level of basic comprehension and speaking ability.

(2) High School or College Student

You’re taking a Spanish class as a requirement, or perhaps you’re exploring the possibility of majoring or minoring in Spanish. In a span of a few months, you’ll be absorbing a number of new grammatical concepts, vocabulary, and more in order to gain fluency and pass your class with a high grade.

What language should I learn?

Depending on your school, you may have a choice of languages, or there may be only one offered. If you have that choice, avoid selecting something just because it’s the so-called “easiest” language to learn. Instead, think long-term — where do you want to travel in the future? Will your career interests benefit from learning a specific language?

Language-learning goals:

  • To fulfill your requirement and earn a high grade.
  • To increase your marketability in another field (Spanish language fluency is in demand in many job markets!).
  • To learn a new language, and possibly have a new cultural experience by studying abroad in the future.

How much and what you should learn:

  • The goal in high school or college classes is well-rounded fluency. You want to achieve mastery at whatever level you’re enrolled in in the areas of speaking, listening, reading comprehension, and writing.
  • Focus on key grammatical concepts, thematic vocabulary by chapter, and culturally specific information as detailed in your textbook.
  • Tip: For Spanish learners, Castilian Spanish is the standard for high school and college classes. If you study abroad, you might eventually learn a different variety of Spanish, such as Argentine or Mexican, but the goal now is to achieve mastery in Castilian Spanish, which is considered “textbook Spanish.”

Tips to reach your goal:

  • Study intelligently: stay on top of deadlines and exam dates, and plan your studying so you learn a little bit each day. Language learning is cumulative, so it’s very hard (and a bad idea!) to try to cram for an exam.
  • If you’re confused about a concept, seek extra help from your teacher. Grammatical concepts also build upon one another, so it’s important to clear up confusion before it grows. If you’re really struggling, consider seeing a tutor once or twice a week to get individualized attention and help.
  • Remember the many uses for the language. Learning in a classroom setting may seem removed, but its dividends pay off exponentially as you travel, work, and have the possibility to communicate with the millions of Spanish speakers in the world.

(3) Moving Overseas

You’re planning to study or live abroad, or perhaps you’re already there. You may have chosen the country for a variety of reasons, but one thing is sure: living or studying abroad is a unique opportunity to rapidly gain fluency in Spanish as you’re constantly exposed to it in a variety of contexts.

Language-learning goals:

  • To deepen your understanding of the culture, and to communicate meaningfully throughout your stay of several months to a year.
  • To gain fluency as you’re immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment.
  • To work, study, or otherwise participate in daily life in the country in which you’re staying.

How much and what you should learn:

  • Functional fluency: you want to have a significant breadth of vocabulary, grammar structures, and colloquial language to communicate in a variety of contexts, such as in stores, government offices, at a party, or in a vocational or educational environment.
  • Appropriate registers: polite language, formal language, informal language, and phrases, as well as the ability to choose the appropriate register for each situation.
  • Vocabulary, slang, and pronunciation differences unique to the area you’re living or studying in.

Tips to reach your goal:

  • Combine your immersion learning with specific learning in a class, with a tutor, or with a language partner. You might also consider going to a class or seeing a tutor in combination with practicing conversation with a language partner.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity for interaction: don’t be shy! Locals will appreciate your effort and enjoy meeting someone from a different place and learning about you.
  • Keep a language journal, so you can remember unique conversations, new words, and your experience in general. Living or studying abroad can be a life-changing and memorable experience!

(4) Business Professional

You’re established in your field and looking to continue progressing, when you realize that knowing another language will help you in moving ahead in your career. You might even be eyeing a specific position where that knowledge is an asset, if not required.

What language should I learn?

A lot has been written on the benefits of bilingualism, but what’s the best language to learn to help your career? According to Forbes, the general consensus is that Mandarin-Chinese, German, and Spanish are great picks. Of course, the right pick for you will also depend on your location and industry.

Language-learning goals:

  • To gain and demonstrate ability in Spanish for use in professional contexts: business meetings, with clients, or with Spanish-speaking partners abroad.
  • To pass competency tests to put on your résumé as proof of your ability.
  • To demonstrate cultural sensitivity and interest as needed in your field.

How much and what you should learn:

  • No matter what your goal is, it’s important to always start with a strong foundation. Enroll in a beginning class (or an appropriate level if you already have some knowledge) to gain an understanding of the language as a whole.
  • Either concurrently or after gaining a good foundation, take a course or study privately with a tutor to learn vocabulary appropriate for your field (for example, business or medical Spanish).
  • Learn with the goal of clear and appropriate communication. You want to be able to make your point, in addition to expressing it appropriately and politely.
  • Learn cultural habits and trends to help you respond appropriately with whom you interact with: this is a very important point that can often be overlooked! Competency without cultural sensitivity can leave a huge gap in your professional interactions, as people like to feel understood and appreciated by their business partners.

Tips to reach your goal:

  • Speak to others in your field who are fluent in your chosen language, either through bilingualism or study. Ask them for help, suggestions, and information about the use of that language in your desired field.
  • Explore various competency tests and work toward a specific one with the goal of a passing score.
  • Make sure you understand the level of fluency required for your particular career. In some careers, being at a conversational or basic level is sufficient, while in others, a higher degree of fluency is necessary.
  • Look into certificate programs for working professionals at universities.

(5) Hobbyist

You’re a weekend warrior: you’re learning the language out of love and a personal motivation and interest. You might want to build new neural pathways by challenging yourself to learn a new language, or you might have always had an interest in learning it. Whatever the reason, you’re sure to discover a whole new world of possibilities and growth through your language study.

What language should I learn?

This one’s up to you! There’s no best language to learn, so whatever sparks your interest — go for it!

Language-learning goals:

  • To enjoy the process, gain new skills, and challenge yourself to learn a new skill.
  • To experience a new culture and world of communication possibilities.
  • To one day use the language in other contexts, as well: travel, study, work, friendship, or love.

How much and what you should learn:

  • Learn at a pace that is comfortable to you. Since you’re learning for fun, there’s no need to rush. You can learn new grammatical concepts one by one, and take your time seeing the various contexts in which you might use them.
  • Ask your teacher or language tutor to incorporate extracurricular activities like dining out, going to a concert, or other Spanish language activities to build your progress in a fun way.
  • Explore literature, comics, cartoons, music lyrics, or other things that appeal to you as a way to improve.
  • Study all aspects of the language (speaking, listening, writing, and reading comprehension), but if there’s an element of particular interest to you (for example, writing to one day have a pen pal, or reading comprehension to read new literature), don’t hesitate to focus in on it! You will inadvertently improve other areas of the language by delving deeply into a particular part of it.

Tips to reach your goal:

  • Join a language meetup or other social group to have fun while improving your language skills, in addition to making new friends.
  • Explore different teaching and learning styles to find the one that is most effective and enjoyable for you.
  • Consider taking a vacation to combine learning and pleasure. It can be a great way to reinforce all of the benefits of learning the language in addition to accelerating your learning curve.

(6) Connecting With Family or Friends

You have a significant other, friends, or family members who speak another language. There’s nothing quite like talking to them in their native language, except… you don’t speak it. Never fear! With some focused study, you can be chatting with them in no time!

Language-learning goals:

  • To communicate freely with your friends or family.
  • To participate more richly in this realm of your social life. When everyone else around you speaks another language, you can miss out on a rich tapestry of humor and expression of feeling if you don’t understand.
  • To better understand your friends and family. Language learning directly educates us about cultural rituals, perspectives, and much more.

How much and what you should learn:

  • Colloquial expressions and conversational vocabulary are key. You’ll be able to carry on a social conversation and understand those around you.
  • Grammar is also important, but to a lesser extent for your goal.
  • Learn vocabulary as needed, focusing on themes of vocabulary that are most useful (for example, activities and hobbies, food, etc.).

Tips to reach your goal:

  • Watch films in the language to understand native speakers. You can start by watching them with English subtitles and then progress to just listening as normal.
  • Ask your friends and family to help you learn. A few minutes of conversation every day can help you progress and get used to their accent.

Using Your Learning Style & Type Effectively

First, here’s a recap of what you’ll need to determine:

Which Language Learner Are You


Now that you’re clear on your goals and how to reach them, it’s time to get started! Need a tutor? We’ve got you covered — search for a local or online tutor here. Good luck!

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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This Fun Activity Helps Your Child Learn Languages

How Theater Helps Language Learning in Children

Did you know that participating in performing arts can help your child learn a new language? In this article, Mariella Gambardella from shows you how theater and language-learning go hand in hand…


When I moved to Spain with my family, neither my husband nor I spoke a word of Spanish. Our one-year-old daughter had not been exposed to the language yet either. Having lived in a few countries before, though, we were very aware of the importance of learning the local language as quickly as possible in order to fully integrate ourselves.

We wanted our child to be able to play with other children at the park and go to a Spanish-speaking nursery school. Besides our reasons, there are many other reasons why you should raise your child bilingual.

Our family had been fond of theater for a while, so we decided to use theater as a tool for our daughter to learn Spanish.

How Theater Helps Kids Learn a New Language

A lot has been written about the benefits of performing arts for children’s learning. Performing arts lets your child have fun while learning moral values, improving communication and social skills, and expanding their general knowledge.

You may ask, however, what is the role that performing arts play in learning languages? Below are some reasons you should use theater for your child’s second (or third) language acquisition:

1) Children need extra motivation to learn languages. A magic show, theater, or any other type of gestural activity provides participation, excitement, and surprises. These fun and relaxed environments are ideal for children to absorb and learn a new language. It allows them to internalize phrases and vocabulary without even realizing it!

2) Theater helps children learn not only the most “formal” parts of the language, but also idioms, vocabulary, intonation, and structures that don’t always appear in books. The language is typically used in a conversational manner.

3) When the actors are native speakers, children hear different types of accents and lesser-known expressions. The native speakers bring their own flair to the table and introduce listeners to different linguistic stylings.

4) Although actors are at the center of the performance, often children have the opportunity to perform in or engage in other ways with the production. Whether at a theater, at home, or in a classroom, playing, improvising, and role-playing are the most effective ways of acquiring a language, as they improve children’s communication skills.

In fact, role-play in particular is one of the most widely used techniques in classrooms to teach and learn languages. This activity allows children to become anyone for a short period of time and express themselves in a more forthright way.

5) The good thing about watching performing arts in other languages is that we can choose the theme. If it’s a theme that children enjoy, they’ll be more willing to listen and learn.

6) The availability of a variety of topics also allows us as parents and teachers to select performances that are suited to a particular vocabulary lesson.

7) The fact that the plays and performances usually represent everyday situations allows children to learn vocabulary and expressions that are used in everyday life. It’ll definitely have a lot of practical use if you’re raising bilingual kids.

The ultimate goal is making the language heard as something normal. The learning should be concealed within fun and entertainment so that children have the opportunity to learn in a dynamic and interactive environment.

Looking for additional help from a Spanish or other language tutor? Search for a tutor near you!

Guest Author: Mariella Gambardella
Mariella is co-founder of, the first online video library of storytelling, theater, magic, and puppet shows in English and Spanish for children 2-12 years old. The online platform makes performing arts accessible to all families and schools — anytime, anywhere, and from any type of mobile device.

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How to Approach Learning Music: 3 Exercises to Try

The Language of Music

Whether you’re learning Spanish or learning piano, you’ll find that both are complex languages with lots of history and unique jargon. In this guest post, Mike Lowden from Falls Music School bridges the gap between music and language by explaining just how similar they really are…


As a music teacher, I spend a good amount of time explaining to my students how learning music should be approached in a similar style to learning a language. Most professional musicians and music teachers consistently refer to “the language of music,” as this is a parallel that’s accepted worldwide.

Musicians Learn to “Talk” Music Like How Toddlers Learn to Speak

How do infants learn to speak their first words? They listen to what’s around them and do their best to copy it. As they grow older, they learn how to speak full sentences just as they’re taught. As they grow older still, they’re influenced on how to speak by friends and other social groups (e.g. a group of teenagers repetitively using the same slang) and use all of these different resources to eventually sound like “themselves.” People don’t put very much thought into it.

Listen to anyone talk; even though there might be individual nuances, language is actually a culmination of sayings from one’s parent(s), friends, teachers, and other social influences. People learn to talk by blending their social experiences together. Why do you think accents exist in certain regions and someone who moves there might eventually develop an accent? It all depends on what’s around you; we humans like to absorb what we hear.

Defining Your Musical Influences

This is exactly the same process that musicians go through; we listen to players we like and end up emulating their style. If you’re really into B.B. King, you’re going to do your best to play just like him. But maybe later you get into another player, so you learn how they “talk.” Eventually, everything you’ve learned from the music you’ve played goes into your tool belt of “self-expression.” There are many artists out there who are known for their own unique style, but all of them had influences that shaped who they became.

Put it into practice: Find a musician you really enjoy and see if you can trace back their musical history, almost like a family tree. If you have trouble tracing the history yourself, you can usually find interviews where they discuss their musical influences. Take note of some of their signature licks or musical tricks and see if they can be traced back. It’s fun just to see how far back you can trace! This can be an extremely enlightening exercise. Bonus points if you do this with your own playing.

Building Your Vocabulary

Having an extended vocabulary is extremely important when you’re trying to express ideas through both your native language and the language of music. “Bad” and “egregious” both essentially mean the same thing, but those two words have different connotations; choosing one over the other can be vital to expressing a story or idea.

Building vocabulary in music is just as important. Not only does it help culminate your overall style, as stated above, but it also can be the difference between a good solo and a great solo. Having a limited vocabulary means you can only say so much in a particular way. The last thing an artist wants is to be limited.

While one lick might fit and work well in a part of a song, there might be another that’s able to display an emotion even more perfect. Composers and improvisers agonize over these nuances just as much as poets and novelists agonize over their word choices. A musician decides on music ideas just as a poet might decide to say “glorious” rather than “cool.”

Put it into practice: Listen to the same song done by two different artists. Choosing some unexpected covers to compare is a fun idea. See what differences of “vocabulary” they each end up choosing. Often, an artist may choose to express an idea that’s exactly the same — basically reciting what the artist before them did. If you pay close attention, many artists will choose subtle differences in licks or chord voicings to show how they think the song should be played. Learn both versions and compare!

Speaking With the Right Nuances

Another thing musicians spend a fair amount of time on is contemplating the “interpretations” of composers. This means that it’s not only important to play the notes correctly, but to express them in a very specific way. Think about it — the way we say things in our spoken language can sometimes be even more important than the words we’re actually saying.

If you were speaking to your child and asked him or her to make their bed very nicely, that might get the job done. If the child still didn’t make the bed, however, you could repeat those same exact words but say them in a much sterner manner. It’s likely that this change in tone will elicit a different response.

Similarly, musicians focus on a lot of nuances with their music — how to attack each note, how loud or soft to play (dynamics), how to phrase musical ideas, and so on. The list of nuances is almost endless!

Understanding the Details

This same idea can cross over to styles of music. I had a jazz professor who would consistently tell students who had trouble swinging, “You’re saying the right thing, but you’re speaking French with a Russian accent — it ain’t right!” This meant that even though somebody was playing the right notes for it to be considered jazz, the nuances didn’t quite fit with the style, and, therefore, sounded funny.

This is exactly why someone who speaks the native tongue of a country can always tell if someone else hasn’t learned it as their first language. Sure, the words are right, but it sounds forced and foreign. It takes a lot of learning and practice to sound natural. A lot of people don’t realize that these subtleties are what make a piece of music so powerful.

Put it into practice: Start actively listening to ways people approach certain musical phrases and try to identify what makes one style different than another. If you’re a musician, try this with your own playing. What are other ways you can interpret the same phrase? Do you have trouble playing a particular style of music even though you can technically play the notes correctly? Look at what nuances you might have to add!

The Takeaway

These concepts are only the tip of the iceberg! All of the world’s best musicians are great because they have become so fluent in the language of music. If you’re learning music, use these approaches to improve your skills. If you’re a seasoned pro, you can always improve your musical fluency. Happy practicing!


Guest Author: Mike Lowden
Mike Lowden has been playing the guitar for as long as he can remember, and enjoys playing every type of music that he can get his hands on. Mike has education from the Berklee College of Music, and studied Jazz at the University of Akron. Now the guitar instructor and co-owner of Falls Music School, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, his mission is not only to teach music students at the school, but also through online content.

Photo by Nic McPhee

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3 (Fun!) Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

fun summer activities for kids

Summer is here! With school out and the temperatures rising, no doubt your kids are excited to play. But beyond the summer camps, sleepovers, bike rides, and water balloon fights, stealthy parents know how to encourage activities that can actually help kids grow and learn!

Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean workbooks or summer homework. We’ve got three fun summer activities in mind that kids will be excited to participate in, and ones that will build confidence at the same time.

  • First up? Music lessons! If your son or daughter loves to sing along to songs when you turn on the radio, music lessons are a natural fit. And there are so many different lesson types to consider, from piano to guitar to saxophone.
  • For the more introverted or bookworm types, learning a language — like Spanish or French — might be a great choice. Of course, your child won’t become fluent over the course of one summer… but it can be a fun introduction to new cultures! Plus, it’s easy to find fun games and apps that support language learning.
  • Finally, if your child can’t stop moving, sports like soccer and softball are a great way to keep him or her busy. They’ll never know they’re actually improving their teamwork and goal-setting skills!

Here’s a recap of all the surprising stats you need to know about these fun summer activities for kids.

3 Fun Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

Whether your child is athletic, musically inclined, or interested in learning another language, summer is the perfect time to enroll them in classes and nurture a new hobby. And knowing your son or daughter is also growing and learning, you can sit back and relax this summer — just as the season was intended for.

Ready to get started? Search for fun summer activities, classes, and lessons near you!

Photos by Philippe PutDark Dwarf, and l. c.


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bilingual children

20+ Reasons Why You Should Raise Your Child Bilingual

Did you know that the number of U.S. residents ages 5 and older who speak a language other than English has more than doubled in the past three decades? That’s right, more and more parents are raising bilingual children.

Today’s parents are always trying to find ways to improve their children’s future, whether it’s placing them in early music classes or sending them to elite athletic camps.

But did you ever think of getting your child language lessons?

From improved social skills to deeper family connections, learning a foreign language affords children an infinite amount of benefits. We’ve interviewed a number of bilingual parenting experts to compile this list of over 20 reasons why parents should consider raising bilingual children.

bilingual children

“Learning a language is like opening a door to an adventure.  We want to enable children around the world to be young global citizens better prepared for exploring their world,” says Amanda Hsiung Blodgett aka “Miss Panda” of Miss Panda Chinese.

bilingual children

Research from York University, titled “Bilingual Effects on Cognitive and Linguistic Development: Role of Language, Cultural Background, and Education,” found that bilingual children show improvements in literacy and literacy skill acquisition. Specifically, children were able to better understand verbal and non-verbal communication.

bilingual children

Learning a heritage language will help children be proud of their cultural heritage. I think that my son will be more connected to his cultural background. I also couldn’t imagine my child not being able to communicate with his family in France or his Spanish-speaking family members. I feel that if he learns the languages, he will be closer to his family and be proud of who he is,” says Diana Limongi-Gabriele of LadydeeLG.

bilingual children

Developing your child’s self-confidence is extremely important. Studies have proven that bilingual children have more self-confidence. In fact, scientists from the University of Windsor found that people who speak more than one language had higher levels of self-esteem compared to monolinguals or those who only speak one language.

bilingual children

“Being bilingual is so much more than speaking two languages and all the cognitive benefits that come along with that. Being bilingual gives children an entirely different way of seeing the world and stretches their minds to new realms of possibilities,” says Stephanie Meade of InCultureParent.

bilingual children

Students who take foreign languages tend to score higher on standardized tests. In fact, students who studied a foreign language for 4 or more years outscored other students on the verbal and math portions of the test, according to research from College Board titled, “College-Bound Seniors: A Profile of SAT Program Test Takers.”

bilingual children

“Today’s world is becoming increasingly borderless. It’s easy to hop on a plane and arrive on the other side of the world in a day. Or connect with someone face to face over Skype or FaceTime. Global integration is only going to increase, so a child who speaks more than one language will have more advantages when it comes to social, academic and job opportunities in the future,” says Maria Wen Adcock of Bicultural Mama.

bilingual children

Not only will your child be able to connect with others who speak different languages, but they will also be able to make friends during their language-learning studies. There are hundreds of after school language programs in which kids can meet new friends, stimulate their minds, and, more importantly, have fun!

bilingual children

Today’s companies are seeking job candidates who know how to speak more than one language. In fact, research from Korn/Ferry International found that nearly 9 out of 10 headhunters in Europe, Latin America, and Asia say that being bilingual is important for success in today’s job market.

bilingual children

“If you have the chance to give your children the gift of an additional language, please do so – it is a gift that keeps giving for many years to come. It will enable your children to expand their horizons cognitively, socially, geographically and financially,” says Rita Rosenback of Multilingual Parenting.

bilingual children

Research has found that bilingual children score higher than monolinguals in cognitive performance. In particular, children who speak multiple languages have more cognitive control and attention, according to research from Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

bilingual children

According to a study published by the American Academy of Neurology, bilingual adults developed dementia 4.5 years later than their monolingual counterparts. The study also claims that bilingualism benefits individuals with frontotemporal and vascular dementia.

bilingual children

Research from the National Institutes of Health found that bilingual children are better at switching between tasks than children who only speak one language. This is because bilinguals have to constantly switch back and forth between languages, helping them become better multi-taskers.

bilingual children

Your child’s brain is like a big muscle; the more it functions the stronger it gets. Learning a second language exercises your child’s brain, as he or she must memorize new vocabulary words and grammar rules. In turn, your child is able to boost over all memory and retention.

bilingual children

Bilingualism doesn’t just have academic benefits, but it also has societal advantages. Bilingual children have a greater understanding of other cultures and communities, causing them to be more tolerant—a characteristic that is very difficult to instill in a child.

bilingual children

Typically, children do not start learning a language until around middle or high school. Teaching your child a foreign language early in life will better prepare them for school—not to mention give them a competitive advantage when applying to colleges.

bilingual children

When children are exposed to various different languages it opens the door to more creativity. According to research from the University of Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences and Health, bilingual children are better at creative thinking and problem solving.

bilingual children

Is your child an aspiring musician? A study from Northwestern University found that learning a second language “fine tunes” individuals’ auditory nervous system, which will prove beneficial when learning how to play an instrument. What’s more, as mentioned above, bilingualism helps individuals switch between tasks, which is also a key component in playing music.

bilingual children

A child’s ability to focus is paramount both in the classroom and outside. According to research, bilingual children have more mental flexibility than monolinguals, which allows them to focus better on tasks.

bilingual children

Sure, learning a foreign language has its academic benefits, but it’s also fun! Your child will be able to explore a different region’s culture and customs and enjoy conversing with others in their newly learned language.

bilingual children

“Bilingual children develop stronger overall skills in BOTH their primary language as well as their secondary. Because they have so many ways to communicate and are exposed to a wider range of words and expressions (some unique only to the secondary language), bilinguals end up with a higher than average lexicon in their dominant tongue,” said Antonio Centeno of Bilingual Kids Rock.

22. Increases your child's appreciation

“Bilingual children develop greater brain plasticity, which makes abstract thinking easier and increases art appreciation,” said Cynthia Lopez of Bilingual Station.

There’s a great misconception that raising your child bilingual can have adverse effects. However, numerous studies have proven that bilingual children have a greater advantages over monolingual children.

Luckily, teaching your child a foreign language has never been easier thanks to today’s technology. So what are you waiting for? Help your child be the best they can be by teaching them a new language!

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ESL Learners: Are You Making These 21 Common Mistakes?

20 Words Most Misused By ESL LearnersSometimes people who have learned English as a second language confuse some basic English words — there are certainly some tricky ones! Here are the words ESL learners misuse the most:

Them, Those, and These

“Them” is a pronoun that stands in the place of a plural noun. It is commonly used as the subject of a sentence, as in: Did you see them? or Have you seen the scissors? I used them to cut the labels off my T-shirts; now I can’t find them.

“Those” indicates a group that is distant from the observer, for example: Those girls are the ones who found the missing keys.

“These” refers to a group that is near the observer: These pencils are the ones I use for drawing.

Their, There, and They’re

These three words are frequently mixed up – even by native English speakers, let alone ESL learners.

“Their” is a plural possessive, referring to something that belongs to a group the speaker is not a part of. Look at this sentence: A common characteristic of the members of the Red-Headed League was their red hair.

“There” is a location that is somewhat distant from the observer or speaker, as in: Put the suitcases over there on the bed. However, it can also be used to refer to a state of being: There are 12 items in one dozen.

“They’re” is a contraction of “they are,” as in: They are going to the store.


“Similar” is used in the objective case, whereas “similarly” is an adverb that describes function. For example: Apples are similar to pears in that they are both fruit vs. Laptops function similarly to desktop computers.


“Whether” is used when there is a decision to be made, as in: I am not sure whether or not I should mow the lawn.

“Weather” refers to an external condition, such as rain, snow, or sunshine. Here’s an example of both: I’d better mow the grass, whether I want to or not, because the weather report is predicting rain for tomorrow.

To, Too, and Two

Again, these are homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently) that are often confused by ESL learners. Here are some examples:

I am going to the store. – Indicates a desire to travel from one place to another.
I meant to do it. – Indicates intention.
If you are going to the store, I want to go, too. – Here, “too” means to be added on to something.
If the two of us go to the store, we can carry back the ice cream, and some soda pop, too. – “Two” is the spelling for the numeral two.


“Of” often gets used when the correct word is “have.” For example: I should of done it. Instead, the correct written statement is: I should have done it, which is frequently contracted into: I should’ve done it.

“Of” also gets used interchangeably with “from”: My feet felt as if they were made of/from lead.


This is a word combination that will have native English speakers reaching for a dictionary. Simply put, “to affect” something is to change it (it’s usually used as a verb), but “effect” is the result or change that has been achieved.

To affect change in the environment, everyone must work together.
Internal combustion engines have a negative effect on the air quality.


“Lay” always needs a direct object, whereas “lie” is used when there is no direct object.

Example: Please lay the suitcases on the floor, so that I can lie down on the bed.


“Sit” doesn’t require an object and refers to live things—similar to lay/lie. “Set” is used when directing someone to place an item on a surface.

Example: Sit down in the comfy chair, and I will set the tea table in front of you.


“With” is often confused with “to” – and this is made even more confusing by the alternation sometimes being correct usage. For example: Ford Rangers, when compared to/with Ferraris, are a much better buy for a working man. However, even though you might say, I will go to the store, you would not say, I will go with the store.

ESL Learners

Looking to improve your speaking or writing skills? Search for a private English or ESL tutor today!

Cari Bennette is a blogger, content creator at custom writing service Jet Writers, and ghost author. Her favorite topics are academic writing, education, blogging, and career. Feel free to drop her a line on Twitter.

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Photo by Shane Global