10 tips on how not learn a language

Are you tired of learning a language? Tired of the same advice about language learning?

Don’t worry, I have the solution!

Hownot

  1. Study only grammar

Why waste your time talking, listening, reading the language when you can just study grammar? Study only grammar and you will, probably, have more knowledge of the language grammatical structures than any native speaker will! And, who doesn’t want to know more than a native? Continue reading

Confessions of a Polyglot: demotivation

I don’t know about the other polyglots, but I can’t keep myself motivated all the time while learning a language.

In June, I had a big problem to keep me motivated to study German. Like everyone else, when I start to learn a language I get very excited, I search for thousands of information about the language, materials and methods.

Learning a language is to know a new world. Despite the difficult task ahead of us, every little step is a big step forward. By learning a word, you have improved 100% in your language. Every word learned is a victory. The feeling of understanding for the first time a word in a sentence and after a sentence in context is indescribable. However, the better you get, the lower the returns.

Suddenly, to understand a phrase is normal, to read an article is no longer difficult. You are not fluent, but manages to get by in the language. The language is no longer a novelty for you. Your curiosity fades, you become fascinated with some other language, focused on some other task, goal or challenge of your life and gradually abandon the language. The result? Days, weeks or even months without studying the language.

pexels-photo-66143 rollercoaster

Continue reading

Confessions of a Polyglot: Introversion

Students with different personalities have one thing in common, whether learning a language alone or in a classroom: shame/fear of speaking. The reason for this is always the same: shyness and/or introversion.

Well, I have a confession to make; I am shy and introverted. But, what these words mean and what is the difference between them?

introversao

Introversion

Introversion is closely related to energy. An extrovert feels energized around other people, an introvert feels drained, so often he/she prefers to be alone. Introverts are more sensitive to external stimuli, so when he gets too much of it, he needs to be alone to recover.

Shyness

Shyness is the fear of being judged negatively, it is a kind of social anxiety. In the head of a shy person, everything is going to be bad. This fear happens not only around strangers; a shy may become anxious even with friends or relatives. Many shy people like to socialize (probably more than introverts), but fear prevents them from doing it. In cases of extreme shyness, treatment for anxiety is necessary, since extreme shyness can have catastrophic consequences in personal and professional relationships.

Everyone has moments of shyness and introversion. Even the most friendly, outgoing and confident people are afraid of being judged and need occasionally a quiet time to recover. Continue reading

Top 10 books to polyglots

When you are a nerd polyglot, you like to learn languages, but not only that. You want to know more about the differences between languages, the effects of learning a new language, how regular people learn languages and the role of languages in the human history. Therefore, today I am presenting a list of ten books for curious polyglots.

Babel No MoreBabel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners by Michael Erard

One of my favorite books. In this book, Michael Erard investigates the lives of great polyglots, from the past and present, to discover the secret of a hiperpolyglot. What makes someone learn fluently six languages or more? There is a common denominator among these great learners? What science has to say on the subject? Book available in English, Russian, Arabic, Korean, French and Chinese.

<a href=The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker

Language is a human instinct, is part of us. In this book, Steven Pinker shows us how the human language works, addressing various topics, such as the acquisition of language by children, how the brain understands it and how it evolves. The book received the William James Award of the American Association of Psychology and Public Interest Award of the Society American Linguistics. Continue reading

When to study grammar?

Those who follow my blog know I’m not a fan of studying grammar, but that does not mean that I ignore the grammar completely, I just don’t make it my priority, especially at the beginning stage.

When I think about grammar, I remember my English classes at school. I remember hating the classes and not learning anything. Twelve years of English classes and I was not able to speak it. For me, the explanation of this phenomenon so common around the world is simple: teaching methods based on grammar. A person can know all the grammar rules of a language and still not speak it. Unfortunately, this is the experience of several students around the globe.

After I started studying languages, I understood that grammar is not the first thing a student should learn, but the last one. For me, the first things that a language student must do is learn vocabulary, pronunciation and begin to understand the language. Only after that, he should start studying grammar. Of course, if you like grammar you can begin to study it before. I prefer to give priority at the beginning of the understanding of words and phrases (understand the context). Therefore, I usually choose courses that do not explain grammar explicitly or do not give priority to grammar, such as Assimil and Pimsleur. Continue reading

Polyglot Nerd Dictionary

When I write articles, I assume that people are interested in languages ​​like me and sometimes I end up using a specific vocabulary. To resolve this problem, I made this little vocabulary compendium on the world of language learning. Of course, not everybody will agree with these definitions. If you think I should change something, write a comment below.

PNdictionary

Accent: a characteristic pronunciation, determined by the region, country of someone. Continue reading

My story with the Spanish language until the C1 level

So far, Spanish was the only language I made a proficiency test. I decided to attempt the C1 level and I got the diploma.

How I learned Spanish

I learned Spanish in a language school when I was 13. My parents wanted me to take English classes, but as I had a great passion for Spain at that age, it was my dreamland; I managed to convince them to let me do the Spanish course. As I was so interested in Spain, learning the language was something that came very natural to me; in addition, the similarities between Portuguese and Spanish helped me a lot.

I attended the course for one year and stopped at the intermediate level, after that, I only had contact with the language again at the age of 21, when I went to US – yes, the United States – and met a lot of Hispanic speakers. So, I had the opportunity to practice a little of what I had learned years before.

Then, I practice again occasionally at age 23 while working with foreigners. When I was 24 I spent a week in Peru and with 26 years I spent 10 days in Spain. At 27, I finally decided to take the proficiency test, but as you can see my contact with the language was not constant and definitely, it wasn’t fresh in my head, so I decided to take intensive classes.

So, I spent three weeks’ vacation studying in Arequipa, Peru. That was about 4 hours per day. The classes were focused on grammar and conversation; and a little writing. Basically, the book we used in class was “Preparacion DELE. C1. Libro + CD (Spanish Edition)”, as mentioned in this post.

The book simulates the exercises of the exam, but I found them a little easier than the real exam. My vacation was in September, the test was only in November, so I continued to study at home using books, as grammar books and the “Preparación al Diploma de Español” book- but the C2 level, to get something more challenging. I also heard podcasts in Spanish and read the newspaper “El País”.

The C1 level

According to the Instituto Cervantes website of the C1 diploma level certifies that:

1. Understand a wide variety of long, quite demanding texts, as well as recognise implicit meanings in them.
2. Express themselves fluently and spontaneously, without any obvious effort to find the right words.
3. Use the language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.
4. And be able to produce clear, well-structured, detailed texts on topics having a certain level of complexity, with correct use of mechanisms for organising and articulating a cohesive text.

The exam

First day

The exam lasted two days. On the first day, the evaluation was oral.

First, they gave me the option to choose between two themes, I don’t remember the theme I’ve chosen, but I had 20 minutes to read the text and take notes. After a few minutes, the evaluation started. First, the evaluator introduced herself and we started the conversation. She asked me to make a summary of the text and my opinion on the matter. The whole time there was another person evaluating the conversation.

After, she showed me a hypothetical situation with some possibilities. My theme was raising money for graduation students. I do not remember very well the options, but if I remember correctly, two of them were making T-shirts or to organize a party. When choosing your option, you have to justify the reason of your choice. The evaluator makes some interventions and gives some opinions. The oral evaluation lasts 20 minutes.

I did not do very well in the oral test, because I was very nervous. It was my worst skill and I while leaving the Instituto Cervantes I was feeling very discouraged. I thought I had finished with my chances of getting the diploma.

Second day

The second day of exam was much longer. We started by the reading comprehension test.

Reading comprehension test

1. We had two long texts and we had to answer questions about them, some about the text itself, others about grammar.
2. In the second exercise, we had to put in order disorderly excerpts from a text. Yet, there is a false extract between them, so one had to be careful when doing this exercise, which was my favorite.

c1 - lectura - tarea 2

Model of the exam

3. In this exercise we had to relate numerous reviews with phrases about them. Some reviews have more than one sentence to describe them.
4. The last exercise is a bit more focused on grammar. It is a basic fill the gaps, for each gap there are three options.

The reading comprehension test lasts 90 minutes

Listening comprehension

Then we did the listening comprehension test. The exercises were also basic and before we start doing them, we had one minute to read the texts. All audios are repeated twice.

1. In the first exercise we heard an audio and we had to fill blank gaps in a text. They give 12 options to fill these gaps, but there are only 6 gaps.
2. In the second test we heard several small dialogues without pause. And in the text we have to answer what the person did or wished.
3. After that, we heard an interview and we had to choose the correct answers about the interview. For me, this was the hardest exercise.
4. The last exercise is the most interesting. We heard dialogues of few seconds with idioms and we have to select the correct option about it.

The listening comprehension test lasts 50 minutes.

Listening comprehension and written expression and interaction test

In the written part of the test we had two exercises.

1. In the first exercise, we heard an audio on some subject and we had to do a little text with our opinion on the matter.
2. In the second part, we had to produce a text and we are presented with two options. We can write a letter or an argumentative essay. In my case, I choose to do a report to a magazine about child nutrition. The written test lasts 80 minutes. It seems like a great amount of time, but in the end I had to write super-fast in the official test sheet, that is, at this stage you need to plan your time well.

At the end of the second day I left very optimistic about the exam, despite the pain in the neck (literally, for sitting hours in a non-ergonomic chair), I knew that I had done well in this part of the exam and I was right. I almost aced the reading comprehension test, with an average of 24.38 points of 25.

Result

After waiting for a few months, I was able to see the test results online. And, after almost a year I got my diploma at the Instituto Cervantes.

My final result was APTO, the minimum number of points to be considered APTO is 60, I made 75.34 points out of 100. It wasn’t a great result, but good enough to be approved.

DIPLOMA DELE

Everything I did helped me in the exam, especially taking private classes. But the book “Preparacion DELE. C1. Libro + CD (Spanish Edition)” and hearing podcasts were also essential and without these resources, I don’t think I would have succeeded in the exam.

For more information and to better understand how the test works you can access the website of the Instituto Cervantes and see examination samples.

And you? Did you take the exam? How it was for you?

Resources for beginners in language learning

Learning a language is one of the most common resolutions in the beginning of the year. And, I always get emails from people asking for advice. To help these people to learn a language in 2016, here are the resources I recommend.

Assimil

Aslogoassimilanimesimil is always the first course feature on my list; Assimil took the first place on my list after I finished the French course, see the review here. The course is simple; the lessons are short and progressive. Grammar is explained, but it is not the focus of the course and the vocabulary is fairly extensive.

FSI

All FSI courses are alike, but some are better than others. They are old, some more fitted to diplomatic situations. The courses are dense, sometimes difficult and boring. Take a look at my review of the FSI French course here and decide whether to use it or not. For me, is the perfect complement to Assimil. Here you can find the courses for free.

Grammar book

Grammar is part of a language, and to speak and write well you need to know at least the basics. There is a wide range of books; I made a post about the books that I know here. But don’t overdo it. One grammar book is often enough.

Language partner

italki

There are several websites that offer linguistic exchanges. The most famous of them is italkiVladimir Skultety who was interviewed here, created another option the website SharedLingo.

Vocabulary & Writing

Use an application for learning vocabulary, as Duolingo, Anki or Memrise. Each has its own style and you can customize your own phrases with photos, audio, etc. Moreover, what about to train your new vocabulary writing a bit? Two good options are Lang-8 and again, Italki.

There are many more resources. But to get start and achieve a good level (B1, maybe B2) these resources are more than enough.

Review Radio D Course – Deutsche Welle

I believe that the Radio D course is the most basic and easier course between the various courses available in the Deutsche Welle website. Officially, the course is designed for students with little or no knowledge of German, that is, for students who are in the A1 and A2 levels. And, is focused more on basic listening.

Characters

In the course Radio D we follow the routine of Phillip, a young reporter who starts working at Radio D. He works with the reporters Paula and Ayhan. But these are not the only characters. In the course there are also others important characters: Compu, a talking computer that does researches; Eulalia, a curious and talkative owl; and, Josefine, the woman responsible for cleaning the office. In the second part of the course, Ayhan no longer participates and another character enters the scene, the new intern in the editorial room: Jan Becker.

Radio D-2 Continue reading

Christmas gifts for polyglots

We are almost a month away from Christmas and polyglots, like everyone else, love to receive Christmas presents, but in a more nerdy way. Check out some tips to give a present to a polyglot friend, son, partner or even yourself.

  1. Assimil

Assimil is one of my favorite methods; you can check my review of the French course here. The course focus on dialogues with few grammatical explanations. All dialogs are translated in the other side of the page. Each course has its own dialogues. For Francophones, there are over 70 languages courses available, so it is probably the reason that Assimil is the most popular course in France. For English speakers, there are only 12 languages ​​courses available, for Spanish speakers there are 13 courses and for Portuguese speakers there are only 5 courses. Continue reading