Tag Archives: German

Victoria’s language learning, and teaching story.

Could you tell us about your own language learning journey, at home and school as a child.

 

I remember being interested in languages from an early age.  I was lucky enough as a child to go on family to holidays to France quite a lot (living in Kent made it fairly easy to pop over on the ferry) and I loved trying out phrases my parents taught me.  Normally, buying sweets or asking for ‘frites’ on the campsite.  I was also fascinated with the Netherlands as we have family friends there and I remember dressing up as a Dutch girl for a school summer fayre with the theme of European countries.  When I was in the last year of primary school, a

German lunchtime club was offered which I loved going to.  Moving on to secondary school, I enjoyed both French and German lessons, taking both for GCSE and French for A level.  Following this, I decided to study French at university and start Italian alongside. (I think the incentive of a year abroad was one of the deciding factors for this!)

 

 

What inspired you to love languages?

My teachers at secondary school were very inspiring and I enjoyed all their lessons.  We went on two trips to France with school which were great fun.  I also just enjoyed finding out and learning new vocabulary and for some reason I loved learning French grammar!

 

 

What led you to pass on your love of languages to others through teaching?

 

I have mainly taught in schools located in areas of high deprivation where children don’t often get the opportunities that others would. I think it is really important to widen their horizons and show them there is a world out there with which they can communicate.  I love it when they find out something new about a country or learn a phrase to use.  The children are on a level playing field when learning a language so it gives everyone a chance to shine which is really important, especially for those who may struggle in other areas of the curriculum.  I ran two trips to France at my previous school and the majority of children had never been out of the East Midlands.  It was wonderful to see their fascination when arriving in a different country.

 

Could you tell us about ALL  

 

The Association for Language Learning or ALL is a small charity which promotes language learning and supports teachers in the teaching of languages.  We work closely with a team of volunteers and cultural institutes to provide support and help to anyone teaching a language.  For example, through CPD events, resources, our magazine and research articles.  I think it is important, with the workload of teachers being so high at the moment, that there is good quality support and materials out there to make everyone’s life easier!  I still teach, alongside my role in the office, and the resources and ideas I use from ALL are brilliant. I would urge anyone involved in the teaching of languages to get on board.  We would love to have you as part of our association!

 

Language learning is a Superpower

We have been going to the Language show since 2013. Our whole family have been coming with us for the last  three years. Taking our kids to language show proved a real eyeopener this year. Jasmin is now 10 and Emily 8. They have finally realised Language learning is a Superpower.

Here are their thoughts on the day.

 

Jasmin

I liked language show because I did not know that I know Mandarin so I was surprised.

I also liked the Chinese singing and dancing because they had amazing costumes.

I liked the language taster session for Icelandic which was quite hard to understand.

I liked the food stalls as they provided food from many different countries.

 

Emily

I enjoyed the Chinese dancers with their magnificent costumes.

I liked the Spanish for babies stall because they had the most delicious sweets.

I tried a Mandarin learning game for secondary school age and I found it pretty easy.

I went to an Icelandic taster class to learn Icelandic. I learned the word velkomin which means welcome.

I asked my dad to buy me some Assimemor cards “Corps et Vetiments” en Francais.

I choose this as I already know my colours and numbers in French.

 

The girls were happy and confident to try other languages this time they said” Arigatō” to the Japanese stall holder and “Gracias” to the Spanish man who gave them some sweets, “xie xie” to the Mandarin lady who gave them a book mark and “danke” to the lady on the Goethe Institute stand who gave them a sweet. As a parent I was overjoyed to witness this. They have often battled us about using languages other than English as home. They saw a stand about some online language learning games, Language Magician and were keen to try them out. The game was a mix of vocabulary and grammar in German. They enjoyed a lot and are keenly waiting for the full version to be released next year. Emily played with the u talk app and decided she wanted to learn Arabic! That’s my girl!

The girls were keen to visit the Speak like a native stand. A lady taught some simple Spanish to them whilst we chatted to the others on the stand. They simply played connect four together in Spanish and my girls picked up some Spanish.

As we passed a translation stand, the girls were chatting about the languages they could translate to and from. They them started to think about careers that languages would open for then. I think at 8 and ten to be thinking about that is so encouraging.

As we passed the Army Careers stand Emily aged 8 asked us “Why do the army need languages?”

We approached them to ask the question, they explained that the army serve all over the world and so need lots of languages, what they are really looking for are people, who are able to learn languages rather than able to speak them now.  As a mum I was so proud as this was exactly what we have done with our own kids they are bilingual German and English but as regularly exposed to different languages and encouraged to have a go speaking them.

My youngest Em enjoyed learning Mandarin in a taster class and joined in with the adults. After the class she looked down the list to see which language she could learn next!! I love her attitude to languages.

 

The highlight of the day for the girls was the bcc mandarin stand. The ladies on the stand started to demonstrate the mandarin learning game they have developed for secondary school age. My ten year old quickly picked it up and was correctly identifying mandarin characters. The ladies who had developed the programme were blown away by how quickly and easily they were learning Mandarin. My Jasmin came away speaking to us of how she was going to study GCSE Mandarin at school. We now need to investigate how we can make this possible for her. We came away with the amazing character cards developed by  teaching characters in a pictoral format , as well as a simple description to aid memorisation. We’ll be writing a full review on this soon.

 

As parents of children learning languages at home it is sometime surprising to see how this is progressing for them. Often it is only in a different setting they use the skills they have and show you how much they actually know. I was most excited to see their current attitude to languages as we have had a few years of them only wanting to use English and not be seen as different.

 

I would love to hear about your family’s language learning journey either let  us know in the comments bellow or get in touch and we can feature your story on the blog.

 

Hey Diddle Diddle- the fiddly business of song translation.

Twenty days ago, we were asked if we would translate 36 English Nursery Rhymes and Songs into German. We said, “Yes of course!”.

We started to translate songs when we first met 21 years ago, as it was a fun thing to do. For our last album “Mostly German”, we translated some traditional German nursery rhymes into singable English versions
As we looked more into the English nursery rhymes, we realised that many were hundreds of years old and did not have a good German translation. As we wrestled with them to match meaning, rhyme and rhythm we realised why! Songs like “Hey Diddle Diddle” and “Mary Mary Quite Contrary” make no sense at all in English, so where do you start with translating them into German? Many of the songs could be political commentary I have heard, but this does not make translation any easier.

Here’s an example from “Three Blind Mice”:
“They all ran after the farmer’s wife
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice”
It has four consecutive rhymes to be translated and still rhyme, as well as the words being sung at the speed of a tongue twister. Absolute nightmare!

We started off by plugging the text into google translate to start ideas flowing. Some of these first translations are hilarious.
Once I caught a fish alive became
Eins zwei drei vier fünf
Einmal habe ich einen lebendigen Fisch gefangen

It is German alright, but there is no way those words will fit with the rhythm. The other major difficulty with this song is that nothing much rhymes with “fünf”, except Strümpf’ (socks) or Schlümpf’ (smurfs). So, we had to change to structure of the song to still convey the original meaning. Here’s what we did:

Eins, zwei, drei und vier
Ich hab’ ein kleines Fischlein hier
Fünf, sechs, sieben, acht
Jetzt hat er sich fort gemacht

We found some German translations for a few of the songs but that just served to give a few ideas..
Maik and I had a lot of back and forth, and middle-of-the-night bright ideas in order to pull this project together. So now we have 36 nursery rhymes with singable German translations, a really intense project but well worth it for the finished product.

And we eventually did find a way of rendering the “three blind mice” into German. It’s one heck of a tongue-twister even for a native speaker, but it rhymes while still conveying the meaning of the original English. Here it is:

Drei blinde Mäuse, drei blinde Mäuse.
Sieh, wie sie laufen, sieh, wie sie laufen.
Sie liefen hinter der Bauersfrau
Die wollte ihnen die Schwänze abhaun,
Mit ‘nem Messer, ja das glaube ich kaum,
Drei blinde Mäuse.

We translated and recorded some songs in 2015 for our Lingotastic “Mostly German” album. We took some traditional German Kinderlieder and translated them so they were singable in both German and English to help learn German. We also included verses in French, Spanish, Mandarin and Esperanto. In singing along language learning happens without even thinking about it. Get hold of your own copy here.

We are failing as multilingual parents.

OK a major revelation from me…
We may be bringing up our children multilingually, but the aspirations and reality are often very different.
My children all hit an age time for where they refused to speak German unless it really suited them (when they wanted sweets or chocolate for instance). As a bilingual parent this is a nightmare. We did a lot of soul searching as to where we had gone wrong, but just had to let it ride. My middle daughter Jasmin is almost ten and now starting to answer our German by speaking German herself. She made a friend whose parents speak German and who has a German Au-Pair which helped her confidence a lot. Jasmin has even started to ask “How do you say … in German?”

The highlight of my week was when we saw some Apple Strudel on a stall in town. Jasmin said “Apfelstrudel!” and the Hungarian lady on the stall continued the conversation in German. We ordered and bought what we wanted in German and Jasmin followed our conversation and said Danke and Bitte in the correct places.

She finally wants to speak German! We were in the Polish shop recently and she said goodbye in Polish: Dziękuję

The whole exposure to other languages and cultures we have been doing since she was tiny, is finally paying off.

My eldest son is 17 now and I will finally admit he dropped GCSE languages (huge shame for me to admit this). However, if he hears French he continues in French, he learnt some Dutch with Duolingo, he has an awesome accent and knows more Dutch than me and his dad. He learnt some Polish with UTalk and joins us in Polish conversations. Languages are such a part of his life he actually forgot to put them on his CV!

As a multilingual parent, there are no failures, just learning experiences for you all. No parent does a perfect job, our personal parenting goal is not to make too much of a mess of parenting.

So, I’ve finally admitted I’m not a perfect parent or a perfect multilingual parent either and it’s not going too badly. How is your family language learning journey going?

Casper’s inspiring language learning story

This week we are really lucky to hear Casper’s inspiring language learning story.

When I was a kid, I always woke up very early on Saturdays and Sundays to watch TV with my little sister. We used to watch Cartoon Network for hours! The cartoons were in English but (luckily) there were always Dutch subtitles. I honestly believe that subtitles are the main reason that most Dutch people speak English at a sufficient level. Also, when me and my sister weren’t watching English spoken TV, we would listen to English music.

When I was about 10 years old and went to elementary school, to my delight, me and my classmates were introduced to English class. Another great way of learning English!

In high school we were also taught English. Furthermore, we could choose between French and German – I picked German because it is similar to Dutch. Easier to learn, I thought… I thought wrong! German is a difficult language to learn, but so is French… If only we could choose between French, German and Spanish!

In 2016, I completed my bachelor course ‘International Business & Languages.
The program consisted of a number of marketing-related subjects and three languages: English, Spanish and German. A very broad study program which, in my opinion, is not a bad thing at all. I learned a lot about many different aspects of marketing and languages.


I spoke English and German before I started the 4 year bachelor study, and I learned Spanish in these 4 years. It was a very intensive program; I spent 7 months in Spain to improve my Spanish and three months in Australia to use my English. I also have a Spanish friend who lives in Germany (very convenient in order to maintain both languages!)

Many people, including myself, think it is an absolute must to maintain your language skills by practicing. If you master a language, and want to keep it that way, you should keep practicing. You can do so without traveling; listen to the radio, watch TV with subtitles, write your ideas down in another language and, most importantly, interact with people in the desired language!

I personally learned a lot in class, the basic knowledge for example. But it’s when I actually had conversations with people who were native speakers of Spanish, German or English, that I started to apply my previously learned knowledge and really picked up the language skills.


Fun things when learning a language:

You automatically develop an accent – there is nothing you can do about this. I spent seven months in Zaragoza, and when I speak Spanish with a Spaniard, they often tell me I speak with the accent of a “Zaragozano”.

Also, I found out that, when you’re not a native speaker of a language, you will never reach the same level as a native speaker; even if you really want to. Think of expressions and proverbs. In Dutch, which is my mother tongue, it is very difficult for non-native speakers to use the correct preposition. I know some people who have lived in the Netherlands for over 40 years, their Dutch is nearly perfect, but even they sometimes use the wrong preposition.

Not too long ago, in February 2017, I launched “Your International”.
A small translation company with experienced translators all over the world. What makes the company unique is the fixed fee of € 0.07 per word. Also, when we feel like it, we translate documents as an exchange service. A while ago we translated a promotional text from Dutch to English and Spanish: in exchange, we received two bottles of wine… Delicious wine, I should say! We’re always interested in new assignments, whether as an exchange service or as a paid service. Head over to www.yourinternational.com or find us on social media!

https://www.facebook.com/YOURlNTERNATIONAL/

https://twitter.com/yrinternational/

Want to share your language learning story? Get in touch in the comments below.

Games for Language Learning? For Children and Adults!

This week we have a guest blog from Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Games for language. Like us they are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. Over the them…

 

When you watch young children at play, you know: children love playing games. For them games are a way to explore the world around them and to try out how things work.

 

Indeed, many parents help their young children acquire their first language in a playful way. Who hasn’t imitated the sound of a cow or a dog for a child and matched it with the picture and/or word of the animal?

 

As young children learn to speak, they start to identify objects, learn letters and numbers, spell simple words, sing songs, etc.

 

Parents and caregivers often turn such a learning activity into a game they play with children.

 

Also, many children now play games on toy tablets or their parent’s tablet or phone. Some of the games are language based and improve a child’s native language skills.

DIGITAL GAMES

For digital language learning games, the rules are often simple. The player gains points or advances for making the right match, and loses points or has to replay for getting it wrong. Graphics, sound, and gamification features add fun and excitement.

 

Games for very young children often match a picture or sound with a letter or word. Games for preschoolers teach them to recognize words, how to spell them, and how to sound them out. For school children, games can get more complicated. These often involve sentence building, spelling races, and grammar searches.

CHILDREN LEARNING A SECOND LANGUAGE

It’s clearly not difficult to introduce children to different words for various objects. Whether a “dog” is labeled a “Hund” (German), “chien” (French), “perro” (Spanish) or “cane” (Italian) will not matter to a child. Children remember a new “label” easily and correlate it to its picture or sound, as long as they hear the foreign word often and consistently.

 

Children that grow up bilingually have no problem retaining both languages, as long as they continue to use them.

Research has demonstrated the benefits of learning more that one language as a child. One important benefit is that the foreign sounds children hear in their early years are retained by them, even if they stop using the language.

 

Thus, exposing children to the sounds of a foreign language as they grow up will make it easier for them to relearn that language later on.

SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING GAMES FOR CHILDREN

More and more language games for children are being developed, both as web apps or as native apps, available from App stores.

 

Typical ingredients of second-language games are:

  • Flashcards
  • Fun graphics and sound
  • Simple rules, involving hit and miss
  • Rewards, in the form of advancement, points, trophies
  • Lots of repetition
  • Interactive play

 

Figuring out how a game works is all part of the learning.

 

Children as young as 2 1/2 or 3 can start with simple games, matching pictures with the audio of foreign words.

 

When children learn to read in their native language (ages 5-8), games can include simple words in their own language, plus audio of the foreign word.

 

Once children can read quite well (ages 9 and up), the games can be more challenging and include longer texts in the foreign language.

 

GAMESFORLANGUAGE

Although our Gamesforlanguage courses and Quick Language Games were originally developed for adult learners, we have found that many school-aged children have started playing them.

 

This French Quick Language Game, for example, shows some of the games included with our free courses. (Click on the link above or the picture to play it!)

 

Through feedback, we have learned what works for young players:

 

  • The courses and games are interactive
  • The travel story appeals to older children (4th grade and up) who travel with their parents
  • The story sequel format with 36 (or 72) Scenes also works well for children
  • Text-based games practice individual foreign words, phrases, and sentences, as well as English reading and spelling
  • Foreign spelling is practiced with simple words
  • Story podcasts advance listening skills

MANY DIFFERENT ACTVITIES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

It ‘s clearly a good idea for children to engage in all kinds of different activities to learn and practice languages. Digital games are just one tool.

Other favorites are songs, easy books, audio stories, board and card games, not to forget conversations with family and friends, at home or on FaceTime and Skype.

Our 3-year-old granddaughter, for example, is taking French Skype lessons with a tutor several times a week. She loves to sing “un deux trois” and is very proud when she can surprise us with a new French word from time to time.

 

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

How do you do languages at home with your children?

Let us know in the comments below.

Knight’s school and Chaucer -the Canterbury Tales Experience

We were so excited to be asked to review the Canterbury Tales Experience. It was a brilliant introduction to ‘Olde English’ culture.

We had only vaguely heard of Chaucer prior to our visit to Canterbury, so we took out a few books from the library to help familiarise ourselves with the story (Yes, I am uncultured!). The books which were most helpful were: Illustrated Canterbury Tales (Illustrated Story Collections) , Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales by Marcia Williams (4-Feb-2008) Paperback, and The Canterbury Tales in Modern VerseChaucer in Modern Verse. This meant we were familiar with the stories, and had talked about them with the kids, before we got there.
As we toured, we realised this preparation was not necessary as the stories were told really clearly, with lots of illustration from the set.

The multilingual audio guide told the stories as you reached each set. The guide was in English, Dutch, German, French, Japanese and Italian, as well as a less bawdy kids-English version. At the start, children​ were encouraged to choose a medieval costume to wear as we joined in the pilgrimage to Canterbury and listened to the stories along the way.

The guides begun the story in the Tabard Inn in London, where we joined the pilgrims on their journey to Canterbury. The experience lasted about forty minutes, with a combination of live interaction and audio guides. It was really cleverly done: our favourite of the five stories was the one where the lady showed off her bottom (The Miller’s Tale).
medieval clothing, swords and helmets, and, surprisingly, mead for an authentic medieval experience. We had to take a bottle of locally produced mead home, of course!

After we had visited, we went into the churchyard, which had been transformed into a Medieval Story Garden complete with Knight School, herb garden, storytelling tent and Maypole Dance tuition. We spent an hour there and the kids loved it. Emily liked the Knight School best. As a mum, it was great to see my 16, 9 and 8 year olds all training to be knights together, though they did need reminding a few times not to fight each other. The guide was brilliant at keeping it under control and safe, which with children and swords is no mean feat!

Our amazing guide taught us all about medieval medicine in the herb garden, and we played a brilliant ‘match the herb to the illness’ game. My girls liked it so much they played it three times.

My favourite part of the Story Garden experience was the maypole dancing. It took a lot of practise and co-ordination to get the final effect to work. There was a lot of hilarity as we got tangled up along the way, chatting to other families we had only just met.

My middle daughter loves books, so the story tent was just her thing; full of medieval stories – including one by JK Rowling, which we promised to buy a copy of for her later.

When I checked my watch, I was surprised to see that we had spent over an hour in the Story Garden – my youngest even restarted the Knight School with another family, as she enjoyed it so much.

The Canterbury Tales Experience was suitable for all our family, aged from 8 to 42

If we’ve convinced you to join in the fun, there are a few special events to add to the overall enjoyment.

Monday 1 May, 11am – 3pm
Medieval Story Garden: Mystical Beasts
An assortment of Mystical Beasts will descend on The Canterbury Tales’ Medieval Story Garden for May Day, with themed activities including a Mystical Beasts Hunt, Longbow talks with our costumed character and the opportunity to practice some beast-slaying skills at Knight School!

Saturday 27 May – Sunday 4 June, 11am – 3pm
Medieval Story Garden: Magical Patterns
The Canterbury Tales team will be exploring the magic of patterns this May half term with a variety of activities in the Medieval Story Garden. Have your hair beautifully braided, marvel at the magic patterns in kaleidoscopes, try your hand at maypole dancing and enjoy a demonstration of Astrolabes, ancient instruments for determining time and the position of stars, which Chaucer himself was fascinated with.

Saturday 22 July – Friday 1 September, 11am – 3pm
Medieval Story Garden: Summer
Venture to The Canterbury Tales church yard this summer for a selection of medieval activities, all included in the visitor attraction’s admission price. Split into four zones, the church yard will be transformed into a Medieval Story Garden, offering younger guests the chance to try Maypole Dancing, hone their dragon slaying skills at Knight School, observe Medieval Medicine demonstrations and be enthralled by a tale in the Storytelling tent from a costumed character.

Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 December
Artisan Christmas Gift Fair
FREE ENTRY
A special festive market with a medieval twist. Shoppers will be able to step back in time to the streets of 14th century England and browse gifts from a host of talented Kent artisans and crafters.

Saturday 16 & Sunday 17 December
Magical Medieval Christmas
Enjoy a magical medieval Christmas at the award-winning Canterbury Tales attraction. Serenaded by carol singers, guests will meet Santa’s elves, write a Christmas wish to post in the special mail box and visit Santa’s grotto where there will be a gift for every child.

Disclaimer

We were given free admission to the experience in exchange for a review. These are our own thoughts and opinions.

Language tuition from Lingotastic

Preparing you for language learning success!

Preparing you for language learning success!

At Lingotastic we believe that language learning can and should be child’s play. You’ll probably know that traditional classroom learning does not work for many learners in the real world, and as research shows, the best way to learn any language, is the same way you learnt your first language: as a natural, fun part of everyday life.

For this reason, we are very excited to offer language tuition, making our unique approach available to a wider age range, and combining it with the best elements of traditional language teaching.

It’s all about helping you become the best learner you can possibly be. Based on our own language learning experience, having learned around a dozen languages to various levels of fluency, we can help you discover how you learn best. Our tuition is delivered by an experienced tutor with secondary MFL teaching experience.

We will get you ready for that exam or holiday!

 

Get in contact today to discuss options.

 

language-books-229x300Languages offered:

  • French
  • German

More to come, please inquire.

 

Pricing:

The price for a 60 minute 1:1 tutoring sessions, within a 10 mile radius of Chesham (Bucks.) is £30.

We may charge extra to travel further.

Tuition is available for all the following:

  • Primary (KS1 & KS2)
  • Secondary (Key Stage 3)
  • GCSE (KS4)
  • A-Level (KS5)
  • Adult Learner

Group tuition is also available to help you spread the cost:

  • Small Group (2-5 students): £40
  • Large Group (6-10 students): £50

Online tuition is available at a reduced rate of only £20 per 60 minute session

Contact Mike@Lingotastic.co.uk to find out how we can help you achieve your language learning goals.

 

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.

Meet Darren: Not bad at really simple foreign phrases.

I’m delighted to introduce you my inspirational linguist friend, Darren, who is not bad at really simple foreign phrases 😉 I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey?
My language learning journey began at about 7 years old when my teacher at the time came back from holiday and decided to teach the class some Italian phrases. I found I was able to remember them after just reading them a couple of times and I thought it was very exotic. The big trigger was from the most unlikely of places, though: the Heinz Invaders Fan Club. Heinz released a range of spaceship-shaped pasta dishes in the early 1980s and started a fan club, which my parents let me join. I waited a few weeks for the promised goodies, only to be told that the club wouldn’t run due to lack of interest. However, Heinz did send me an Invaders pack, which contained, among other things, an Invaders secret language decoder. And that was it. I was hooked on the idea that I could read a language that no one else could, and I started looking for more secret codes everywhere I could. Unfortunately, this was in the days before the Internet, so I was limited to what I could find when the library van came around.
Real languages didn’t enter my life until I started secondary school. I started learning German at 11, then added French at 13. I found German easy but struggled with French so I never really enjoyed it. I passed both my GCSE exams and then didn’t think about languages until around 2005, when a friend asked me to help her study Latin terms for her nursing exam. I was able to break each term down so that she could link it to something in her life and remember it all easily and I again felt the rush of having this “secret knowledge” again. Luckily for me, there were a lot of Polish girls at work who couldn’t speak English, so I started helping them in exchange for them helping me learn Polish. In no time I was using basic phrases and even managed to get myself a Polish girlfriend (now my wife) though she personally didn’t have any desire to teach me Polish. I decided to take lessons and enrolled at Bristol University for a year. After the first term, I was able to help the more confused students and found that this basic form of teaching really agreed with me. After finishing Polish (the course was sadly discontinued at the end of that year), I trained to be an EFL teacher. Once I’d completed my courses, I started teaching at Bristol Language School. I only taught for a single term as we had two very small children at home and I didn’t want to miss anything, but it made me realise what I eventually wanted to do. After that, I started learning foreign phrases as many languages as I could get hold of: Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Hungarian, Greek…
2016 was the best year for me so far. I copy edited the 2nd edition of “Endangered Alphabets” by Tim Brookes, completed the Esperanto course on Duolingo, and discovered the Utalk Challenge – completing all 12 of my chosen languages. Let’s see what the rest of 2017 brings…

 

How does your family join your language learning journey?
My wife Aneta is fluent in four languages; English, Russian, German, and Polish, so we sometimes mess around, changing languages mid-sentence or testing each other on random words. Our oldest son, Robert, is autistic and has always been amazing with languages – he could read and write the English alphabet before he started nursery, could write basic Russian words, and could say “Hello”, count, and say handfuls of words in Spanish, Polish, Swahili and more. Sadly, he lost interest at around 4 and now will only speak in English. Alex, our youngest, speaks English and some Polish. He also loves to practise languages with me.


I see you teach languages. Could you tell us a little more about that?

I give free exchange lessons: English for any other language, and I also run Esperanto and Italian study groups once a week. It enables me to keep myself surrounded in languages.


Where can we find out more about your classes / teaching?

I prefer face-to-face lessons as it allows me to form a bond with my students/language partners that you don’t really get through Skype or other platforms, so I tend to only see people in Bath/Bristol. I can be contacted through email or Facebook for anyone that is interested in language exchange sessions, or those who need help with learning another language.

I’m sure our readers are really social, where can we connect with you on twitter, FB, Insta etc?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lingo78

Instagram: omnilinguist

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rosomakx

Nasza-Klasa: Darren Cameron

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