Want to Test Your Language Progress?

You’re making progress with your language acquisition and feel like you’re grasping it better. However, you’re running out of ideas to keep the learning fresh and you’re fed up of taking mini tests and quizzes.

There is a way.

Take a scene from a film you know extremely well (remembering the dialogue will make the task easier); best to use Youtube because then you can easily replay the scene. Pretend you’ve been tasked with providing subtitles in your chosen language. Grab a dictionary, grammar book and notepad: it should be challenging enough to keep you interested. If you struggle to find ways to translate, then you know you have a long way to go.

I used this scene from Suite Francaise and did well up until a certain point. It showed me that I could translate easier sentences/every day phrases but had gaps in my vocab. Then there’s the enjoyment of watching favourite scenes repeatedly (for educational purposes, of course * wink *).

Give it a go!

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The “I’ve Forgotten My French!” Survival Post

Consider this like Regaine, only instead of it stimulating hair, we’re going to re-grow your French. Regaine for False-Beginners.

The French is there still, buried inside your memory, you just need to find ways to draw it back out. There is hope. You just have to overcome the block that is making you feel like returning to your old ability is impossible. Et voila:

Music:

Je Sais Pas, Celine Dion. This doesn’t have English subtitles, but an English version exists so you’ll get the gist (although the lyrics deviate from each other, somewhat).

Mea Culpa, Enigma. A hypnotic track using chanting, Mea Culpa contains some interesting sentences that may stick.

Sadeness Part 1, Enigma. OK, so Latin features more prominently in this song, however it’s a great way to ease your way in, starting with a few repeated sentences in French. It’s a great song to relax to, so you hardly feel like you’re listening for the sake of it. This particular video contains the lyrics in Latin, French (and Polish) with the English translation.

Disney in French! Find the songs on Youtube, close your eyes, and enjoy the beautiful, stylish French lyrics. The best part is, you’ll enjoy them so much that you won’t feel like you’re trying to study.

TV/Film:

Mafiosa, 2006. For UK citizens, it’s currently available on 4OD. Set in Corsica, a female barrister becomes head of the clan when her uncle dies, which causes much discontent in the ranks. Occasionally some Italian is spoken which is a bonus. If you are watching via 4OD, subtitles are attached to the video so, if you want to test your listening skills, you’ll have to ignore them. It’s 5 series long, which is plenty of immersion.

No Second Chance, 2015, Netflix. A doctor wakes from a coma to find that her husband is dead and her baby daughter is missing. Very twisty-turny, so it’s best to watch with subtitles even though lack of subs would be beneficial.

Divines, 2016, Netflix. A surprisingly magical find on Netflix, Divines takes you on a journey of a young woman with dreams to escape her life and make it rich as a wannabe gangster.

Scout your DVD/Blu ray collection. There’s a chance that many have French either as a subtitle option or, if you’re lucky, the dub. Be brave, select French early so that your menu is in it as well. Get used to seeing French in different situations. You know the plot already, so turn off the subtitles and just get lost in the language.

Books:

The best way is to start with familiar stories, so that you can focus on testing how much language you remember. The French edition of Macbeth is free for the ebook version and extremely affordable in paperback. Or perhaps bilingual books with short stories.

The Rocket French Quick-Start Guide. Another free resource, this resource is a little heavier on the discussion side, nonetheless it does ease you in.

French Self Taught, Franz J. L. Thimm, Archive. This is ancient (OK, very ancient), but it’s free and offers endless vocabulary. There is also an audiobook version on Youtube. The book just cuts out explanations and you dive straight into sentences and verb tenses. It’s worth copying them down repeatedly in order for you to get your worth.

Online:

Memrise French Course. The most important resource because, wait for it, it helps you Mufasa Voice remember. This will drill vocabulary into you until you’re hearing the audio tracks when you go to sleep. Sessions are timed, which is excellent as it forces yourself to work harder. You’re also pitted against other users; if you’re a competitive person then this is your calling.

Duolingo French Course. Use this in combination with Memrise, as its focus on grammar and translation will complement the latter. It’s not timed so you can take your time, and the Discussions section offers further support. To really test what you remember, you can try the English for French speakers by switching. Note: this discussion.

Read newspapers like Le Monde or watch news broadcasts online. They offer short bursts of information which shouldn’t be too taxing. French radio stations are also a (daunting) way to try to tune your ears to native level speaking.

In addition, snoop around for some French-speaking celebrities. Serena Williams has a few videos of interviews on talk shows as well as the French Open. There is even a hilarious one where she’s outed as a Rafael Nadal fangirl. Because she is a learner, her pacing might be more attractive. If you’re feeling really brave, try native speakers such as Marion Cotillard and Lily-Rose Depp. At least that way you’ll be interested. If you’re feeling geeky, try to write down what they say to compose a profile on them.

Finally . . . :

Invent scenarios which stretch your vocabulary and encourage you to use everyday phrases (flashcards if you don’t feel like writing a lot). If you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, maybe even labelling furniture in your house so that when you spot them, you immediately associate the sight with the names in French. That’s if you don’t irritate the people you live with.

It’s going to take time, but with the right attitude and motivation, you can regain what you used to know.

Featured Image by Alex Borland.

Why “Punjabi Sentence Builder” by Team Indic is One of the Best Punjabi Resources Out There (Book Review)

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Punjabi Sentence Builder, Team Indic (ebook). Available from: http://howtolearnpunjabi.com/ .

Approximately 90-100 million people speak or know the Punjabi language, yet its lack of business or cultural power means there is little interest outside of the Indian/Pakistani diaspora, and the fact that it’s a tonal language doesn’t help with the appeal.

There are plenty materials on Punjabi, however most if not all are designed for the children of Punjabi-speaking immigrants on the assumption that Punjabi is their first language. Now, the generations are evolving and becoming more rooted to their countries of birth; there is nothing wrong with this, it is perfectly natural to want to belong. I can emphasise this as a child of Punjabi-speaking parents. Unfortunately, being fed a daily diet of English makes it quite difficult to assume a grasp of Punjabi. It’s no use just consuming a language: you need to know the why to be able to use it properly. It’s especially more challenging if the languages share little in common.

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Punjabi Sentence Builder is, quite frankly, a saviour. Not only does it break things down easily and concisely, it enforces retention through daily exercises and timetables to ensure you stick to them! There are also flash cards that can be printed out for daily immersion.

The book is designed to help you from an English point of view. It endeavours to help you understand how Punjabi sentences are constructed and slowly builds up your ability.

There is a little qualm. Just a little one. The ebook is thin (if the concept is possible); it’s a sinfully quick read. I found myself disappointed that it didn’t have more content, since it was so effective. If Team Indic were to create a second volume, I would happily purchase it (provided it’s a little longer).

[You can’t see this but there is an insane amount to elbow-nudging happening right now].

Anxiety and Learning Languages

It cannot be expressed enough that anxiety wrecks many things. Want to be an actor, politician, musician or philanthropist-speech maker? You can’t. You have a niggling condition where all your faculties shut down and you feel as if you’ve just sprinted 1/4 mile.

In a way, language is about performing. As well as taking on a different personality when you attempt to speak/think it, you need to engage in conversation in order to acquire it more. As much as I hate to admit it, you can’t just become fluent through muted study with books. Which was why I signed myself up for a language express course in Italian. I was doing well teaching myself, however after 6 months I ran out of steam. Despite having materials to assist with pronunciation, I still felt I needed help from a native speaker.

The first lesson was, as expected, nerve-wracking. I anticipated some speaking but was not prepared for the amount of basic conversational phrases we were pushed to use. But that’s the thing: it needed to happen. I came away from the lesson feeling like I’d gained from being forced to speak. The beauty of the situation was that we were all beginners and we were all (well, most of us) nervous about speaking. We were allowed to look at our notes for help and were allowed to tap out if we were really stuck. Now I feel confident enough to make a mistake because we’re all learning. If you think about it, this awkward on-the-spot situation is exactly what will happen when we go out into the countries of origin for our languages. There’ll be moments where you’re umming and ahing, and that may work in your favour because it alerts the native speaker that you’re a novice; they’ll speak a lot slower and more basically (if they’re not a-holes, that is).

With those points in mind, I feel liberated and free to make mistakes and continue learning. The anxiety I felt in the first lesson is dying down. There’ll always be a bad lesson where things will go wrong, but I’ll have to make my peace with that.

What drives our anxiety is perfectionism and the fear of embarrassing ourselves. Remove those using the understanding that there are people out there like yourself, and you’ll progress much quicker because you’re not allowing yourself to be blocked or limited.

Limiting yourself will not allow you to reach your goals.

Duolingo Bots

Attention language learners who are stuck in a rut!

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Introducing Duolingo Bots, a format promised to provide you with artificially-intelligent language tutors who’ll provide you with that extra practice you need on your mobile. For those who agonise over conversing with native speakers for fear of messing up, this appears an act of mercy from the language gods.

To have a format mimicking the communication we use on a daily basis can only ensure a more seamless absorption of target languages.

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“Practice without pressure” sounds perfect for people suffering from social anxiety or other anxiety disorders. Having an inanimate object interact with them removes the pressure of facing someone and reading the native speaker’s expressions whilst they struggle through their sentence. Now, obviously, to struggle is to learn, however we want to be a little more encouraging about those facing these hurdles. It just makes language practice more doable and accessible.

Does this mean that we rely on this completely? Absolutely not. We’ll be placed in moments of urgency, which this app won’t be able to prepare us for entirely. BUT. Having built up confidence using programs such as Duolingo Bots, we’ll feel more able to handle such pressures.

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Unfortunately, this targets the Apple iOS consumers; it’s sparked numerous comments on this Facebook post about excluding 80% Android users. Until Duolingo manages to construct an Android version for the various Android phones out there, those users will be in the dark from Duolingo Bots for a long time.

Furthermore, this app eliminates two further issues: time zones and security. If you want to converse with someone thousands of miles away in real time, then you’re going to have to negotiate – not easy for either language partner. Also, giving out a number online for Whatsapp is extremely risky: how do you know you’re not giving out a work/personal number out to someone trustworthy? Duolingo Bots will prevent that problem.

And now we await reviews from some (hopefully) helpful iOS users out there. Come on, Duolingo: show us some love! Peace and (free) love. *wink*

Talkalang – Quick Review

Talkalang is, in my opinion, a setting reminiscent of Facebook for language-learners. Before I progress onto its strengths and weaknesses, I must point out that Talkalang is free. That automatically means that any criticisms should be referred to that statement. It’s a free space to practice and ask for corrections on your sentence construction in your target language, whilst also engaging in a range of topic discussion. You’re basically being a language tutor for others and receiving tutors in return for your efforts.

Strengths:

  • Free (worth mentioning more than once)
  • Offers a community-like feel for language enthusiasts
  • You will come across some interesting and thoughtful opinions
  • Someone will correct your mistakes and offer explanations so that you can avoid making the same in future
  • Audio feature has been added [as of 12th September 2016]. You can now read out/speak your response in the forum to build your speaking abilities in your target language.

Weaknesses:

  • Apart from chatting on forums, nothing really else to do on there
  • No private messaging capabilities to act as a private pen pal to the user you are following
  • No way of tracking your language-learning progress on there (yes I’m aware it’s not a Duolingo-type program)
  • It’s a bit bare.


Conclusion

Keep in mind that Talkalang is relatively new and is being updated/improved. There’s a chance that my complaints could be rectified following this blog post (I’m not claiming to have that sort of influence on the internet. You know what I mean). I haven’t yet been brave enough to start posts in all of my target languages, but I have starting commenting on French posts, so I’ve made small progress.