Tag Archives: Chinese

How do you become a polyglot?

This week we are really blessed to have an exclusive interview with a man who speaks at least twelve languages, Dimitrios Polychronopoulos. I hope it inspires your own language learning journey.


Could you tell us about your language learning journey?

When I was growing up, I dreamed of travelling the world and learning languages to speak to the people I would meet in the different countries I would visit. My first languages were English and Greek. I’m a Greek citizen and I grew up in the United States.

While I’m grateful for the lessons in the evening at the Greek Orthodox Church, where I learned to read and write in Greek, my ability with Greek wasn’t very strong when I was growing up. This is a common problem in many parts of the United States where children often lack peers with whom to speak their heritage language on a daily basis.

One solution to this was offered by Eithe Gallagher who presented at the Polyglot Conference in Thessaloniki in October 2016, and makes a case of promoting home languages in the classroom and I hope that soon we will see this kind of activity spreading to schools worldwide.

As a teenager, I was offered a choice of French, German or Spanish. For the university I wanted to attend, a foreign language in high school was required. Some people told me to protest that rule and say it shouldn’t be necessary in my case because of Greek. Because I was interested in language and culture anyway, I went ahead and enrolled in French courses without really thinking why I should choose this language and not one of the the other two.

The year after I started French, my parents took me to French Polynesia. People spoke fast when I tried to ask questions in my broken French. Despite my mom insisting I switch to English when speaking with the locals, I persisted with French to see how we could manage to communicate.

When two exchange students from France showed up at my high school the next year, they became my best friends and we learned a lot from each other. My French improved so much that I was able to be the first person from my high school to pass the Advanced Placement exam for university French credit. They invited me to France and I eventually earned a scholarship to study in Angers, France.

As I was finishing high school, also I started with my fourth language: Italian. Russian came next when I was 20 and I spent three months on a people-to-people exchange in the Soviet Union.

My sixth language was Spanish, which I added the next year after I was in the Soviet Union. It was amazing to read about the collapse of the Soviet Union in Spanish while visiting Costa Rica.

After university, I started to study Mandarin Chinese and began work in Taiwan as an English instructor.

So in my early 20’s I was up to seven languages to various degrees of competency. From my experience, Russian and Chinese are the most difficult languages I’ve ever studied. I can still converse in both languages and use LingQ and ReadLang as two methods of continuing to practice and improve on them. My Russian is rather basic though and I’m always making mistakes. Russian is difficult in terms of grammar and learning the rich vocabulary, but the alphabet was rather easy to pick up because I already knew the Greek alphabet.

My Chinese is modest, shall we say. It is difficult to learn the idiomatic expressions and the writing system. The first week of study, I also focused only on the tones. Unlike most learners of Chinese, I began simultaneously with the reading and writing. While learning daily conversation, I was also studying the Chinese radicals. After I finished my lesson book and cassettes from Audio Forum, which brought me to a basic conversational level after four months, I began to use children’s school books and learned the Mandarin Phonetic Alphabet to help read texts alongside the complex characters that five-year olds and then six-year olds and then seven-year olds would read at school.

From Taiwan, I moved to the Philippines where I completed a Master of International Studies. The time I spent living in Taiwan and the Philippines, over a span of five years, allowed me to easily enjoy visits to other parts of East Asia and I had the opportunity to explore a lot of the region.

In Manila, I had the chance to practice several of my languages while living at the university. I also began to study Tagalog and then Bahasa Indonesia. Fortunately there was a student from Greece there. My Greek was out of practice, but she helped me get it up to scratch. I also enrolled in advanced Spanish conversation and tried Portuguese for the first time but withdrew because the pace was too slow and boring. There were individuals who knew French and people from Mainland China and Taiwan, so I had lots of opportunities to use these languages, too.

After completing my studies in the Philippines, I moved to Greece and enjoyed my work there as a tour director. When I was on tour, I would also lead groups to Turkey as a part of their two-week journey to the region, so I began to study Turkish as well. In Turkish, I never reached the point of understanding the TV news or reading a newspaper, but I could communicate at the rudimentary level of taking taxis, handling issues with the tour driver and with the hospitality staff.

As for Greek, to reach a level of Greek more like people who grew up in Greece, I enrolled in courses at the Greek American Union in Athens and was placed in advanced classes with foreigners who had been living in Greece for a long time. It was also wonderful to live close to my family in Athens and I really enjoyed the time there.

A few years later, I moved to the Peloponnese and also began to take on tour assignments to Italy. The amounts of work in Italy allowed my Italian to improve a lot. Later I also began assignments to Spain and Costa Rica, which helped boost my Spanish.

One of the activities I enjoyed in the Peloponnese was kite surfing. One of my instructors was Brazilian and invited me to kite in Praia do Laranjal in southern Brazil. So I spent a couple of our winters in Brazil, which are their summers. I had ‘Teach Yourself Portuguese’ audio lessons and although I arrived and spoke Spanish to most people, I was able to switch to what they call Portuñol and eventually to Portuguese with a few Spanish word in it.

The year before I started hanging out in Brazil, I had been in Montevideo at La Herradura Language School. Ever since the day I began to study Spanish in 1991, every time I was in a Spanish environment, my Italian would disappear. Likewise, whenever I was in an Italian environment, my Spanish would disappear. Finally in 2008 I became capable of shifting between Italian and Spanish without much interference between languages. Then I moved to Spain and my Spanish continued to improve and I have fortunately been able to maintain my Italian.

In 2012 I started to study German in Hamburg with colon.de , and then later started to study Dutch on my own and then Norwegian up to A2 level in Oslo with language power and then continued Norwegian on my own after that.

Now I live in Norway where I completed an MBA recently and last year I worked on a tour a few times from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and on to Finland. I’ve dabbled with all four of these languages as well, using material such as Teach Yourself, LingQ and Routledge.

In May of 2016 at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin I introduced my new language website yozzi.com, which aims to become the lang-8 (lang-8.com) for advanced language learners where people submit texts and receive corrections. The point is for people to practice writing entire articles in their target languages, not just sentences and paragraphs which is what lang-8 offers.

In June 2016, I became the congress coordinator for the Society of Intercultural Education Training and Research Europa (SIETAR Europa) sietareu.org for the congress in Dublin in late May 2017. Currently I’m dabbling with Irish.

Now that I’ve fulfilled my dream of travelling the world and learning languages, I’d like to use my languages in new ways, such as encouraging people to improve their writing skills as Yozzi aims to do, and in building intercultural understanding and awareness and to encourage language-learning.


Do you think learning languages is important and why?

Learning languages is a great way to build empathy. When a person has experienced the humility of trying to speak a different language and not being understood, of having a thick accent, bad grammar and limited vocabulary, it can make people who are otherwise in comfortable positions think about the struggle immigrants go through when they move to a new country in hope of improving their lives. Language learning also helps with educational opportunities as one can study in universities in different languages and also with career opportunities.

Do you have any new Language Learning challenges on the horizon?

My biggest focus is to reach an advanced level of Dutch and Norwegian. When there is a sense of urgency, I will likely bring one of the languages I’ve dabbled in up to a higher level. Motivation is the key when it comes to language learning. When motivation isn’t there, it’s hard to push beyond the A1 material. Another thing I have experienced is that if I reach an A2 level in a language but then don’t use it for a long time, the language drifts into a fog and that’s what has happened with Tagalog and Turkish. My main focus is with my twelve strongest languages and if circumstances arise to bring another language up to an intermediate level, then I will likely do so with an intense three-month language challenge, which I find very effective, such as with Brian Kwong’s Add One Challenge.

If you’d like to stay in contact with Dimitris check out these links
to Yozzi on:

twitter @LanguageYozzi
Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/yozzilanguage/

If you’d like to share your language learning journey on our blog we’d love to hear from you.

Mondly -a review

I’m a great fan of gamified learning. As I’m trying to keep making progress in German, French and Spanish as well as being a busy self employed mum it needs to be fun!
Mondly is a gamified app available I Phone, I Pad , Android and and online on Mondly.com. It costs $47.99 for a year giving access to 800 lessons and 33 languages.
I came across Mondly about two months ago. I was fascinated by idea of the chatbot. Cat Spanish app had a conversation section but not one with so much freedom.
I’ve been testing it out for six weeks and a really enjoying it. My hubby and children have been enjoying it too. My nine year old enjoyed it but found it challenging. The learning is split into themed chapters 8 units to build on and a conversation at the end to use the vocabulary learned. It has a fairly comprehensive range topics so lots of vocubulary you can learn.
The website has an amazing number of languages(34). It includes Finnish, Croatian, Hindi, Greek, Farsi, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Afrikaans, Czech, Romanian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean and even Chinese. Of course you can learn the popular languages like German, Spanish, French and Italian. Great for a compulsive Polyglot like me.
What is unique about this app is the chatbot. Here’s what Alexandru Iliescu, co-founder and CEO of ATi Studios said “The best way to learn a new language is to build your confidence with practice. We’ve taken chatbot technology and combined it with a speech recognition platform then added our own object recognition system. The result is that we’ve created something that is fun, useful and unique for language learners. This new feature is truly a revolutionary new way to learn a new language and we’re proud that Mondly is the first to do it.”
So what did we think? I’ve listed the pros and cons below to help you make your own mind up.

 

Pros
The site uses native speakers and the voice recordings are excellent.
lt is a mixture of hearing and speaking to learn in different ways.
As a busy mum I really appreciate the short lessons so I can fit language learning into the small pockets of time I have.
As I have four languages to keep going games which allow me practice French from Spanish, or French from German are a huge advantage to me.
I like that the progress made transfers from the device to the computer so it can be easily used on both devices, not something I’ve come across before.
I love the daily quiz to keep you coming back and a notification that comes up each day to remind you to play.
The chatbot is a lot of fun I found myself giving none standard answers to catch it out which is great for your language practice.
I like the to see daily progress on a chart. I like the way the different chapters are shown as a journey. It makes me feel I’m progressing so encourages me to keep going.
My initial thoughts were that it is good as part of a language learning plan, but not enough on its own.
I was not convinced that there was enough spaced repetition but I seem to be learning so maybe I was wrong about that.

 

Cons
It would be much better if it showed the gender of words. English speakers often forget about these. I did not see the value myself at school. Difficult to learn in addition later. (maybe colour code like flash sticks)
Was doing it on a train in London it was fine at stations but cut out inbetween Does not work without wi fi so not great to use when commuting!

Unlike some other gamified learning you have to pay if you want to have all the features. However it is not expensive when you bear in mind all the languages offered.
In my opinion there is not one way to best learn a language. It is a combination of things you can play, watch, read and sing along too which builds your language learning. I think Mondly fits well into that. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think! https://www.mondlylanguages.com/

 

Disclaimer:
I was given free access to the site in exchange for an honest review.

What Chinese phrases you should know before you visit China?

FotoLuciachinaThis week we have a guest blog from Lucia from Lingholic. She is an inspirational polyglot.She is Portuguese and has a degree in English and German. At the moment she is curently taking a Master’s degree in English as a second language for young learners. She is also improving her Spanish and French!

So over to Lucia…

China, the world’s second biggest economy and home to over five thousand years of unique history and culture. Since China opened its door to the world in 1978, it has become one of the top business and leisure destinations in the world. Although traveling to a foreign country is always exciting, but it can also be difficult, especially when you don’t know the language. Of course, you don’t have to learn Chinese for months to become fluent and enjoy your time in China, but there are definitely some key phrases that will be very helpful for your experience. What Chinese phrases you should know before you visit China? I think these phrases are a good start for your trip preparation:

1. Hello
你好 [nǐ hǎo]
The world famous “Ni Hao” is likely the most well-known Chinese word, and for good reasons; in just about every language, you almost always start a conversation with “Hello” or “Hi”, which is why this is likely going to be the most frequently heard and said Chinese word for you during your time in China. As much as a smile is a universal language, it never hurts to also say hello. And if someone says it to you first – Don’t panic, the proper response to a “Ni Hao” is simply another “Ni Hao”.

2. How much (is this)?
多少钱 [duō shǎo qián]
Regardless if you’re the shopping type when you travel, there is no doubt that you will, at some point, have to ask “How much is this?” , it could be at a train station, Bus stop, or a small local restaurant. So make sure you are fully prepared when it comes to money matters.

3. Where is the toilet?
洗手间在哪里? [xǐ shǒu jiān zài nǎ lǐ]
No matter where you are, it’s always good to make sure you know how to find the nearest toilet. Let’s break this sentence into two parts; the first part is the word “xǐ shǒu jiān”, which means toilet, and “zài nǎ lǐ” literally means “at where”. You can replace the first part of the sentence with other words to find out where other things are, for example, “where is the ATM” would be “ATM zài nǎ lǐ” in Chinese.

4. Thank you & Excuse me
谢谢 [xiè xie] &不好意思[bù hǎo yì si]
Good manners never go out of style, even when you’re traveling. Saying thank you in Chinese when you’re in China is a great way to show your appreciation, and if nothing else, you will almost always receive a genuine smile in return!

Of course, having good manners isn’t just about saying thank you. In fact, being as polite as you can be when you’re asking for help is perhaps even more important. Before you ask someone where is the toilet, you can start the sentence with “bù hǎo yì si”, which works like “excuse me” in English. You can also use it to apologize when you accidentally bump into someone, or when you need to get someone’s attention.

5. My name is… I’m from….
我叫 (Your name),我是(country)人 [wǒ jiào (Your name) wǒ shì (country) rén]
There is no better way to experience a foreign country than to talk to the people! Even with the language barrier, you’ll still likely to learn a thing or two about the country and its culture. Start with a smile and “Ni hao”, then follow up with a little something about you!

Last but not least, you should definitely know how to say “No”.
6. I don’t want (something)
我不要[wǒ bú yào]
As a tourist or visitor, you will inevitably become a target for street vendors, or simply receive offers of services and products you may not need. To get yourself out of this type of unwanted situation, you can just politely, but firmly say “wǒ bú yào” or just “bú yào”, followed by the service or product offered.

In addition to a few common phrases, there are also a handful of things you should keep in mind for your trip to China, such as taking off your shoes before entering someone’s home, and always have your hotel’s business card (with Chinese characters) with you at all times.

Are there any other phrases you think are really important to know?