Tag Archives: language learning

My big fat Greek adventure

Greek inscription on an exhibit at the British Museum

This week we have a guest blog from Maik my hubby so here goes, his big fat Greek adventure.

Well, or it may also have been “Greek – An unexpected journey”. But let’s start right at the beginning. The beginning in this case was a family visit to the British Museum at the beginning of 2016. As a family we’re incredibly lucky to live near London, which means a day trip to amazing places such as the British Museum is no problem for us. Among the breathtaking range of artefacts from around the world and different eras, my personal favourites have always been the ones from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and it was in Room 78 containing classical inscriptions from the 6th century BC to the 2nd century AD that it all began. Being a polyglot family, of course my children expected Dad (me) to be able to understand each and every inscription – dads know everything of course! While I didn’t have too many problems with Latin (thanks to five years if learning it in school and a recent refresher with uTalk), I didn’t really know where to start with Greek. I decided then, that Greek would be one of the languages I wanted to learn this year.

Fast forward a few weeks into May to the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin.I had not yet made any firm plans for learning Greek, as I had been working on Esperanto. However, as luck would have it the first talk I attended at the Gathering was about Greek, with the lovely Lilia Mouma from Mango Languages giving a talk on Greek history and language ranging from the Ancient to the Modern. This was also when I found out two more important bits of information: First, that the Polyglot Conference later in the year would take place in Thessaloniki, Greece; and second that Mango Languages where running a competition to learn Greek (the modern variety) for 20 weeks learning with their app and weekly 1:1 tutoring. Well, I entered the competition, and a short while later found an email in my inbox informing me that I had won! OK, so language learning resources for Greek were sorted.

I have to admit that Greek has been one of the more difficult languages for me. Learning the alphabet took a week or two, but internalising it well enough to be able to read semi-fluently or even write took many more weeks. However, it has been an immensely rewarding experience. What I liked most about the approach taken by Mango Languages was that it was quite different to my normal approach. For one thing, at least in the app, grammar is not explicitly taught, everything is taught in the context of a conversation. Secondly, sentences are spoken at full speed by native speakers rather than the slowed down conversations I have come to expect. Yes, this makes things more difficult to begin with, but with invaluable once I actually got to Greece as (unsurprisingly) real Greeks don’t exactly speak slowly! Of course, having the weekly support from top notch online tutor Vasiliki Baskos helped as well. Although my focus was on Modern Greek, as I had been given access to all of Mango’s language courses, my inquisitive nature led me to sneak a peek at their offering of Ancient and Koine Greek as well. I was pleasantly surprised that they use authentic texts from the very first lesson – the Iliad and the Greek New Testament respectively. I may well end up subscribing once I lose my free access. The range and quality of resources are a language lover’s dream come true … I was able practice my Greek at a restaurant in Germany.

The white tower at Thessaloniki

So,moving forward in my big fat Greek adventure, how well did it work? When I finally arrived in Greece for the Polyglot Conference at the end of October, I managed a basic conversation with the taxi driver who took me to the hotel, I ordered food at the restaurant in Greek and I bought bus tickets, water bottles etc. etc. in Greek. Road and shop signs actually made sense to me, adding to the sense of achievement. It was a special treat to be able to meet Lilia (again) and Vasiliki, my online tutor, in person for the first time. I absolutely loved Thessaloniki, and being able to speak and understand Greek definitely helped at lot. I must go back with the family sometime!

So how did my My big fat Greek adventure end? Coming full circle, back to the British Museum. Despite the Greek language having changed a lot from ancient to modern time, the alphabet has remained the same across thousands of years. So when our family returned to the British Museum for the spectacular exhibition “Sunken cities – Egypt’s lost worlds”, or course I just had to pay another visit to the Ancient Greek galleries. Given that inscriptions tend to contain a lot of names (Alexandros = Alexander the Great for instance), I could now work out a lot of what was written, and the children were suitably impressed. Result!

Are you planning to learn a new language in the new year? Let us know in the comments below.

The worlds most stolen painting and flemish family frolics

Having seen a BBC programme about Renaissance art  in Europe, we simply had to stop off in Ghent on our yearly trip to Oma’s home in Germany. So this post is about the worlds most stolen painting and Flemish family frolics It is a very long drive from the UK, so a stop-off on the way is very welcome. familysmall

As a family of five it is often tricky to find a room for us. We found a brilliant room at the Hotel Onderbergen as it had a six bed room. The bedroom was really modern, with a double bed and two roomy bunk beds. We chose the bed and breakfast option for our one night stay. There was lots of local food on offer as well as a full Irish breakfast. It was really easy to find the hotel when we finally arrived in Ghent it and has secure on site parking which was perfect for us. The location was brilliant. It was only a two minute walk from the old town centre.

During our overnight stay in Ghent we visited the three main churches: Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, Saint Nicholas Church and Saint Michaels Church all with amazing architecture and decoration.

The main reason for our visit was to see the world’s most stolen piece of artwork. It is now protected by bulletproof glass and in a secure room: the altar piece by Jan and Hubert van Eyck  It is named the 1045_pp_ghent_overallAdoration of the Mystic Lamb, and better known as the Ghent Altarpiece of 1432. It  is an amazing work of art which illustrates Christian teaching for both the literate and illiterate. It shows people from all nations and backgrounds coming together to worship the lamb who was slain. It was awe-inspiring, simply by its size. The amount of detail was phenomenal. The longer you looked at it, the more there was to see. It kept the attention of my seven and nine year olds for ten minutes, which says a lot. We talked together about what we could see and bought a sticker book of the painting for the children do on the journey home.

In the other churches we looked at very ornate silver and gold chalices and articles used during communion. There was also a beautiful display of very ornate vestments made by very skilled craftsmen and women. The churches in Ghent were a display of the best work by those who were the most skilled of their time in many different fields.

We could not visit Ghent without trying the food and the language. As you need to speak to order food, these go well together. I was so pleased my Flemish is now good enough to order a coffee or two!
“Twee koffie alstublieft”

Although understanding how much money I owe them is still a challenge.

We attempted to order a children’s meal, which resulted in a LOT of hilarity! fritjes

„Een kiddie alstublieft.“

Other useful words

alstublieft            please (polite)

dank u   thank you

waar zijn de toiletten, alstublieft?             where are the toilets, please?

spreekt u Engels?             do you speak English?

ik spreek een heel klein beetje Nederlands          I only speak very little Dutch

For more basic dutch phrases check out https://www.speaklanguages.com/dutch/phrases/basic-phrases

We really enjoyed our short trip to Ghent. Have you visited Ghent? Did we miss any must-see places?

Black Friday deal on a brilliant language learning resource

As you may know Santa is THE most multilingual person on the planet as he reads letters from children all over the world.
As a fellow polyglot he also was the first to get his hands on our brand new Mostly German CD and I’m sure he’d like to put one in your stocking.

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Three years this month we held our first ever class. We’ve been celebrating by running a giveaway of our CD.

We’ve sold a few copies so far and had some brilliant feedback.

This has been our school run sound track for the past two weeks. It’s packed with catchy tunes in “mostly” German but there’s a bit of French, Spanish and even some Chinese too. We’re getting quite good! – Kate Eccles

I loved recording the CD and it really comes through in the recording.

Singing is a really powerful tool in language learning, research is now showing. In singing you pick up the sounds of a language and quickly join in yourself. By bypassing the analytical part of the brain, you quickly acquire a good accent. This works for grown ups as well as children. When singing, you are no longer limited by grammar tables and vocab lists, free to enjoy the language and learn along the way.

For little ones, it’s an amazing foundation in language learning and the start of a bright future. We’ve seen this time and time again in our classes and now you can enjoy it at home too, with the most popular songs from our German classes. Most of these songs have not been translated into English before. We’ve also included verses in French, Spanish, Mandarin and Esperanto. Contrary to popular belief this does not confuse language learners (big and small) but actually helps language acquisition. Though these songs may be children’s songs, adults will enjoy singing along too.

Santa has his copy and I’m sure he’d like to put one in your stocking. If you want to help Santa along we have a great deal for you! 50% off when you order your copy for the first 20 customers so, get in quick as this offer closes at midnight on Monday 28th November.

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Get yours at www.Lingotastic.co.uk/shopLingo_web_CD

What has an Armadillo got to do with homophones?

A few months ago I met Guy Moore. He has created a fun educational app to help with language learning, inspired by his grandfather. I was so intrigued by how story told to a young boy could in time become a learning tool for many, I’ve asked him to share his story on our blog. So here goes, over to you Guy… grandfather

This project all began because of my grandfather Clifford Frost who loved to tell me stories, and one day he told me a story when I was just six years old, and it has stuck with me all these years.

He sat me down and said
‘When I was a little boy Guy I was locked in a tower that was so high it went into the clouds. There was only one window with metal bars and I wondered how I was going to get out. Well I thought and I thought until my head grew sore, and with this/ saw I escaped from the tower. I was miles away from anywhere so I shouted and shouted until my voice grew hoarse ‘Help Help’, and on this horse I rode away until I reached an endless wall. Well I found half an orange, and a little bit further along I found another half of an orange. Two halves make a whole, so I climbed through the hole.
Even though it was quite short, I found it absolutely fascinating, charming, engaging and very educational.

Even at such a young age I realised how helpful it was.

We have also created a lovely back story film called “Aarchie. Where it all began’.

It was his creative use of the English language which was one of the reasons I decided to get into advertising.

So eventually 44 years later I decided with my writing partner Tony Malcolm to take it to the next level and create an interactive edutainment book. The Tales of Aarchie was born.
My granddad lived to the ripe old age of 103 and was overjoyed that Archie would be his legacy, and be passed down from generation to generation.
Working with a fantastic team of developers in Cardiff, and my best friend Les the illustrator, who is a veteran in the games industry including working on Angry Birds with Rovio, we wanted to create an educational story that makes learning for children fun. What has an Armadillo got to do with homophones?
The Tales of Aarchie is a funny, charming animated story that explains that quirk of the English language, the homophone.
Homophones are words that sound the same but mean completely different things like witch/which, horse/hoarse, plane/plain and so on.

The interactive app encourages children to press the homophones to move the story on, and therefore literally highlighting the play on words.
The benefits of this are pretty simple.
65% of people are visual learners and take in a lot more information when they are having fun.
We have created two versions.
An animated interactive app while reading, or a ‘read it to me’ mode.
Plus we also have a digital e-book.

The interactive story is aimed at children between the ages of 5-9, but we have seen other children who aren’t English be a little bit older.
At the moment it’s only available on an i-pad, but we are currently working on an Android version too.

There is a Lite version of the app which is free, and then there is the full all singing and dancing version which is £2.99.
Both versions are available on The Apple Store.
The one thing we all really believe in and as a team feel very strongly about are in app purchases. Well, with The Tales of Aarchie there are none and never will be.

However, he haven’t stopped with the app and book, we also have Aarchie…the Puppet.
Aarchie has been magically transformed by a brilliant puppeteer called Phil Fletcher.
So we acquired a YouTube channel just for Aarchie and we want it to be a brilliant edutainment channel that children and parents will enjoy, and refer back to again and again for new episodes.
With our gorgeous puppet and blue screen technology we’ll create broadcasts of funny stories and facts about English presented in both short 20-30 second bursts or longer formats.
We have yet to start filming, but this will hopefully start in the very near future. How much fun can be had with homophones?

Want to try the app for free? Guy has kindly provided two free passes for our readers. The two lucky winners will be chosen at random on Monday 12th November

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

Language Show Live fun

Language Show Live

language-show

This weekend we had a lot of fun as a family at Language Show Live. We found some brilliant resources and met some lovely people along the way. Check out our (rather crazy) video of our visit.

Here are links to get in touch with the people featured.

Confucius institute

European Schoolbooks

Apple Languages

Superstickers

Hekayatona- Arabic resources for children

Rockalingua

uTalk

FlashSticks

One Third Stories

Tutor Ming

Bonjour Grammaire

Did you visit Language Show Live 2016?

What was your favourite part?

It’s Lingotastic’s birthday

It’s our birthday!

This week we celebrate Lingotastic’s third birthday!

I can hardly believe my dream of encouraging and supporting family language learning would come so far!

Here are the photos of our first ever class in the newspaper

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  • Thanks to our weekly Lingotastic classes:
  • A number of children have started school already able to communicate simply in four languages.
  • Parents have grown in confidence in their own language skills and ability to pass on these skills to their own children.
  • Bilingual families have found others to share their journey together.
  • Families have found books, songs, toys and simple activities which they can use day by day in their family language learning journey.
  • Families have experienced the joy of singing together (whatever the language)
  • Children have had their eyes opened to other languages, cultures and traditions which leads to a greater acceptance and understanding of others. (So needed at this current time)
  • Children are able to sing in many languages with almost a native accent!
  • My own family have also been learning the songs and sharing the stories from the classes and are really progressing in their language learning.

Lingotastic provide weekly language classes, school lunchtime clubs and private classes in German, French and Spanish. We simply make, play, sing and have fun with languages together and it’s amazing to see the results.

Classes run in Bucks, and Herts.

To help with your language learning at home we’ve produced as CD of songs in German, English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Esperanto. Available on www.Lingotastic.co.uk/shop

To celebrate our birthday, we have three copies to giveaway. Do you want to win your own copy? Enter in the rafflecopter below. You can get up to 12 chances to win. Good luck!

It’s our birthday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Is that the mummy of Kleiner weißer Fisch?

kleiner-weisser-fisch

This weeks book is Kleiner weißer Fisch by Guido von Genechten published by ArsEdition

I’d love to tell you about my favourite German picture book. I first came across it in our local library who had it on loan from bright books. It is a beautiful, colourful board book written for native German speakers over two years.

The story follows the adventures of a little white fish who has lost his mummy. The text invites you get involved in the story “Is this the mummy of the little white fish?” No spoilers but it has a happy ending!

It has lots of repetition so it is quickly understood. I’ve used this book in a library setting and none native German speakers quickly joined in with ja and nein.

Through the story you will learn the names of the sea creatures in German, colours and yes and no. You will hear how questions are asked in German. My daughters learned their colours in German with the help of this book and bath fizzers (but that is another story)

I’ve used it with children up to eight years who have no previous knowledge of German. As you can see I use lots of props so the children can match the animal to the one in the story. I made my own little white fish. It is a really fun interactive story when can be enjoyed again and again.

This book was originally written in Dutch and I’ve also found a translation in French if these are your target languages.

I hope this blog has inspired you to share stories with your little one, however young or old they are.

You can buy your own copy here.

If you’d like to hear me reading the story in German. Have a look here.

If you missed the last picture book review have a look here.

Do you have any picture books you would recommend and why?

Do you want to study languages?

new_building_music1Are you looking for a place to study African and Oriental languages?

 

I first came across  the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the Language Show. I was amazed by the number of languages they offer both for undergraduates, postgraduates and distance learners.

Here are the languages offered:

Afrikaans

Amharic

Somali

Swahili

Tigrinya

Twi-Fante

Yoruba

Zulu

Chinese, inc. Cantonese

Mongolian

Tibetan

Uzbek

Japanese

Korean

Arabic

Hebrew (Modern)

Kurdish

Pashto

Persian

Turkish

Bengali

Gujarati

Hindi

Nepali

Panjabi

Sanskrit

Sinhala

Tamil

Urdu

Burmese

Indonesian

Khmer

Malay

Thai

Vietnamese

Tagalog

French

Portuguese

Russian

Spanish

 

For someone who loves languages, this is a veritable smorgasbord. An unparalleled range of non-European languages, all of which may be studied without prior knowledge. Additionally, the school was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2009 for the excellence, breadth and depth of its language teaching.

As well as the language study on campus, many courses offer the chance to spend a year abroad studying your chosen language intensively in a partner institution. Many students also undertake a time abroad through the Erasmus scheme.

I would say that language cannot be studied without understanding the culture it is embedded in and these cultures. The faculty is actually language and culture so offers both.

If you want to study topics concerned with the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, SOAS offer the largest concentration of specialist staff of any university in the world (More than three hundred). Though there is a high emphasis in languages, the research conducted and published by the academic staff of the Faculty focuses on a wider range of topics.  The languages, literatures, and cultures (both classical and popular) of Asia and Africa.

As you may expect with an institution who offer so many languages, all students at SOAS have the option to study a language alongside their degree and, supports the short (twenty hour) language courses run by the specialist Language Centre.

 

SOAS Precinct

SOAS Precinct

 

Student life at SOAS

The intake is pretty multicultural too. SOAS has more than five thousand students from 133 countries on campus, and just over fifty per cent of them are from outside the UK. SOAS is an exceptionally cosmopolitan and diverse place to study. There are many mature students so all ages should feel welcome.

Resources

The SOAS Library has been recently refurbished and now had as more than 1.5 million items and extensive electronic resources for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Their specialist resources attract scholars from all around the world.

 

SOAS Library Images,View from levels A and D

SOAS Library Images,View from levels A and D

 

If you are not able to study on campus, join the 3,600 students worldwide in taking an online or distance learning course with SOAS.

As this is a centre of excellence, the Language Centre caters to the needs of non-degree students and governmental and non-governmental organisations. It has a huge array of courses, including year-long diploma programmes, weekly evening classes in about forty different African and Asian languages as well as French, Portuguese and Spanish and tailored intensive one-to-one courses.

 

Teacher training

SOAS also offer a recognised post-graduate qualification (Certificate and Diploma) in teaching Arabic or Chinese as a Foreign Language to help you gain a head-start in your teaching career.

 

Anyway, don’t just take my word for it find out for yourself .

The undergraduate open day is 22nd October. More open days are available for postgraduate and students abroad.

 

In this article I’ve only referred to the languages and culture faculty but they also offer courses in the faculty of arts and humanities as well as Law and Social science.

 

Disclaimer this blog has been written to promote knowledge of SOAS. These are however my own thoughts and opinions

My daughter ate an Octopus!

Adventures in Greek.maik-greek

If you follow our blog you may know my husband, Maik is learning Greek (Modern Greek) I’ve picked up a tiny bit just from hearing him practice. When we traveled to Germany to visit his family he decided it was the perfect opportunity to practice his Greek, and booked a table at the local Greek restaurant, aptly named Zorbas! Maik was so excited he had the menu printed before we even left for Germany so we could choose what we were going to eat.
Maik does choose the most strange times to practice his Greek, giving me directions in Greek whilst I’m driving in Germany (on the OTHER side of the road) is my least favourite. #polyglot problems!

napkin

In the restaurant, he had many opportunities to practice his Greek with actual Greek speakers which is always great for language learning.
We were very pleased that the napkins had some very basic Greek on (transliterated into latin alphabet) I hope it helps you get started in Greek. Even the children had a go at pronouncing the Greek
As we arrived we were given Ouzo to try (only the adults), which I would say is an acquired taste. It has an aniseed flavour and is VERY strong! We were offered it again on a few occasions as is common in Greek culture.

The menu was in German and Greek so good for us to learn both languages. The children were a bit baffled but we worked it out together.
We allowed the children to choose whatever they wanted and, can you believe my my seven year old really wanted Octopus! When it arrived it was an octopus salad. She really enjoyed it. I’m very surprised at how adventurous she is in her tastes. The rest of us were not quite as adventurous. The Greeks must like meat, as there seemed to be a lot of it! The food was really POLI OREO.

The only downside of our visit to Zorba’s was we did not to hear Zorba’s dance whilst we were there. I’m sure with the name of the restaurant they must play it a lot!

As we all left we said KALINYCHTA to the owner. We only learned a little Greek but is was experience we won’t forget anytime soon.

Are you learning Greek? Do you like to eat octopus? Let us know in the comments below.napkin

Learning OR playing, why choose?

games

At Lingotastic we love languages and always on the lookout for resources that will help with language learning. My daughter was over the moon to be asked to review a game.

We were sent two of the products from the Pic’n Mix range, Little Fashionista and Smart Watch.

 

Packaging

They are in good solid packaging so much less likely to get damaged than in a cardboard box. The cute carry handle lends itself to a take out toy for the times a quiet toy is needed, like parent’s evening for the older children  or quiet church service. The toy  is made of durable plastic  pieces which stick together with velcro. A multilingual instruction booklet is included, the translations are likely not done by a native speaker, but on the whole is understandable.

Play of game

Little fashionista is a simple doll dressing game which can either be played by matching the pieces on the game card or dressing the boy or girl as you wish.

Smart Watch is a clock face with numbers, countable pictures and scenes from daily routine to match to times.

Educational use

As we played together with the Little Fashionista game we talked about what we saw and named the clothing in English, we talked about the weather that the clothes were suited for and moved on to naming the items of clothing in German and French. We talked about the colours of clothes in English, German and French.

 

As we played the Smart Watch game we started by assembling the clock face and identifying the numbers. I put the counting pieces on the clock face in random places and my  daughter swapped them for the correct numbers , we  then moved them to the correct places on the clock. We played in English and German. We talked about daily routine and put the pictures on the clock to best match her routine. We used the clock handles to tell the time in English and German.

The game has many opportunities for learning together through play, whatever the language. So learning OR playing, why choose?

 

I asked my daughter what she thought and  she said “I think they are really good and I liked to play with them.”

My thoughts as a mum and teacher are “I like their simplicity and versatility. I may have to borrow the games for my one to one classes.”

Would you like to get them for your little one?

Here are the links

Let us know how you use them to learn together.

We were sent this games by Pic’n Mix to review. The opinions in this article are our own.

 

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