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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Tribute to Language Love

I have thought about this for some time, and while it really makes me sad, I think it is time to admit that Language Love won't get regular new blog posts for the time being. I need time to concentrate on other things at the moment, and to find my focus again. Language Love will stay online, and there may be new posts from time to time, but I can't keep up with my former schedule.

I want to thank you, my readers and fans, for your support and your comments. I probably wouldn't have carried on for so long without you. It made me proud to see people were reading my blog, and some of you even approached me personally with questions.

One big project on my plate is to finally make a career out of my children's book writing. Another time-consuming "project" is much more mundane: earning money. And between tutoring, editing, copy writing, building Excel workbooks, translating, and looking for more freelance opportunities, it is already hard enough to find some quiet time to write, edit and market my children's stories.

Again, thank you all for your interest in Language Love!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Learning German with Miro?

Today, I need your advice. I have an idea for a book (or a series of books) for children which will teach them the basics of the German language.

Now my questions are:

Are parents (and their children) in English-speaking countries interested in foreign languages, and in German in particular?

Do you think there would be a market for such a book (or a series)?

And if yes, should it be in print, or is ebook the better way to go?

I am open to opinions, suggestions, advice, criticism.... Please leave a comment and tell me what you think! Thanks a lot!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Learning Tips ... V

Make your learning environment pleasant but free of distractions. If you feel comfortable, studying won't cause as much negativity. Get a cup of your favourite beverage, the right amount of light, and all the stuff you need to complete the day's studying goal before you start. Keep out all possible distractions and just dive into your work. You can reward yourself with any of your favourite distractions later.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

German Vowel Pronunciation

For some weeks now, I have had the opportunity to help my sweetheart in his endeavours to learn German. Apart from the struggles probably everyone starting to learn a new language faces, I have noticed one struggle in particular: German pronunciation.

For him, many of the vowel sounds I produce sound very similar or even the same, whereas they are two completely different sounds in the German language.

The bad news is: We actually have a lot of them! And each of the "simple" ones (a, e, i, o, u) can usually be pronounced either short or long. Add our weird "umlauts" (ä, ö, ü), the vowel combinations (diphtongs) and "y", which is used like a vowel, to the mix and you get complete confusion.

y (which isn't really a vowel, but used like one)

If you really want to learn more about the pronunciation of German vowel sounds, I can recommend this website about the German language, by Paul Joyce, which explains in detail the various sounds and gives audio examples (I will certainly pass on the link to my sweetheart).

Oh, and I will also try to convince my sweetheart to write another guest post, telling us his side of this story.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter in Germany

All right, I already wanted to write this post on Saturday, but my parents' internet connection broke two days ago (it's back up now, finally).

Easter is one of the major religious holidays in Germany, since the majority of Germans are Christians.

Many families colour their own Easter eggs with their children in the days before Easter. Some even take the trouble to blow out eggs (with two small holes, one on each side of the egg, and a lot of breath), colour the empty egg shells, and use them as decoration in bushes and trees.

On Easter Sunday morning, children look for hidden eggs and sweets in the garden, or in the living room (depending on garden availability and weather).

Germany is generous with bank holidays, and around Easter, Germans have three bank holidays (and children usually have Easter holidays from school for one and a half or two days around Easter): Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday.

In my family, it has become a tradition to drink "Eierflip", a mix of eggnog (the alcoholic one) and Fanta, on the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, and over Easter.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Power of Visual Help

Some weeks ago, I bought the first three of my visual dictionaries (by now, I own eight of them). They have pictures of situations or different things on every page, ordered by topics. Those pictures are labelled in two languages (the foreign language you wish to learn, and a language you know well for reference). In the case of Chinese (Mandarin), they are labelled in Chinese signs, the reference language, and pinyin (the Latin writing of the Chinese syllables).

Learning vocabulary grouped by context has already been known to be easier and more successful than just learning vocabulary lists. Now, those visual dictionaries take it to another level. By connecting new words with an image, we are more likely to remember the words. Our brain saves images and labels together, which means we have more than just one trigger to access the whole image, and with the image, the word, meaning and spelling.

This leads me to a learning tip I read some weeks ago. When you learn vocabulary, imagine to write down each word on a screen in the upper left corner of your vision (if this doesn't work for you, try the upper right corner--we look up to one of those corners of our vision when we try to remember things). When you need to remember that word, look at your imaginary "screen". You should be able to see it, thus being able to spell it (both forwards and backwards, since you can "read" it off your imaginary screen).

Visualisation can be an immense help for our studying, not only for vocabulary. You could basically transfer anything to your imaginary screen, like mathematical formulas, notes for a presentation, or simply your shopping list. I guess it takes some practice, though. Anyway, I would be really interested in hearing from you whether or not visualisation helps you.

Monday, 2 April 2012

A New Language Learning Method

Recently, I read about an interesting language learning method, and I would like to tell you about it.

It consists of four steps:

First Step
Look at an unknown text and highlight everything you already know.

Second Step
Translate all other words with a dictionary, word by word, and write the translations over the original words.

Third Step
Listen to the text while you read the highlighted sections and the translations, but not the unknown foreign words.

Fourth Step
As a last step, you finally read the complete foreign text while listening to it.

To prepare texts for this method, you should copy them. If possible, enlarge the text and leave enough room in between the lines for your translations.

The goal of this method is to take advantage of our brain's natural strengths and capacities by concentrating on one thing at a time. The first step shows us what we already know (or don't know). In step two, we connect spelling and meaning of the unknown words. Step three allows us to learn the pronunciation of unknown words and to connect pronunciation and meaning, whereas step four finally lets us concentrate on connecting spelling and pronunciation.