Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Strategies For Language Learning

This is a useful read. I believe in the motor-mouth style. People who actually practice what they learn. Here is my formula for you:

1. Get Pimsleur CDs if it is available for the language you are learning and get a phrase book with some tapes (the Teach Yourself series from McGraw Hill is fantastic and I highly recommend it).

2. Read the phrase book, listen to the tapes over and over and over. Forget about detailed grammar studies in the beginning just listen to those basic phrases and repeat them. learn them well.

3. Use 'every' opportunity to listen and learn. I listen to my tapes in the car, while I work out and sometimes even while I am visiting with family. Use every spare moment.

4. Realize you will not learn overnight but if you are persistent your efforts will start paying off within a year.

5. When you feel that you know the basic vocabulary well start reading websites written in your target language. Get a good dictionary and read, listen, listen, listen.

Learning Styles And Their Effect On Language Learning
by: Frank Gerace
Learning Spanish!

How can you best learn Spanish? It depends on your particular approach to learning. Take a look at the following approaches to learning Spanish. But if you already know where you are, you can skip the following reflections and go back to see what is available for your level ( beginning, intermediate, or advanced ) in Spanish, to sort and search for your specific needs, as well as to read reviews and summaries of the books that strike your interest.


Non-Virgins: Those who studied another language should use the skills they acquired with that language. They know what a conjugation is. They know that verbs are different from nouns. Their previous study gives them some mental hooks to help with their Spanish. They should not throw away their advantage by working on Spanish in a completely conversational manner. They should try to get an overview of some commonplaces in the language. They should get an "old fashioned" grammar and lean heavily on the tables to organize their thought. This type of learner should "invent" Spanish on the basis of what they know of the other language. They will remember a little of the structure of the other language. For example, what is the relation between adverbs and adjectives in Spanish? What is the most common way to express what happened yesterday (past tense)? If the other language is a Western language, they should observe the possible similarities. If the other language is non-Western!

, the very differences can be their starting point to learn the counterparts in Spanish. In short, they should study "the wrong way". This is not for everyone. The learner should know his or herself.

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Brains: These folks will operate much like the Non-Virgins. They will progress better by concentrating on the little points that intrigue them such as the difference in usage between the prepositions "por" and "para" and the verbs "ser" and "estar". To master one or two of these elements so characteristic of Spanish will help the learn build on their conquests to go on to master other things. This analytical approach will be of great utility to the persons with the cerebral learning style.

Motor Mouths: The persons who are not afraid to try out their Spanish will progress very rapidly. These folks probably have a little genetic edge over the rest of us. However, we all should try to put together the pieces as we learn them. If there is no opportunity to talk with someone else, then we can tape our attempts. There are two parts to this early talking practice: confidence and pronunciation. The most important thing is to gain confidence or to be thick-skinned enough to speak your piece, knowing that the exercise will pay dividends. However, we should not put off working on our pronunciation until it is too late and we have given up on acquiring a valid accent. There are too many people who after living years in a Spanish speaking country are perfect in their grammar but who have a typical or even stereotypical English accent. There is no need for that. Spanish is perfectly regular in its phonetics. Motor mouths should also work on their accent!

People People: Anyone who likes being with people and who has a need to communicate will progress quickly in learning a language. Many outgoing, friendly people learn language in the "motor mouth" mode. However, other people without the gifts of the motor mouths can gain valuable exposure to the language by just following their social instincts. These folks, however, should not overlook the need to speak correctly. Although they are not interested in traditional grammar in the same way the "brains" are, they must work at speaking correctly. We all know people who learned English years ago, but still say things like, "I am interested to go with you". You don't want to spend your life in Spanish with a similar easily corrected error. Learn it right as soon as you can. The people people have to stay curious about the language.

Learn-while-doing People: I was told once that the only way to learn French was to sleep with a French woman. The idea behind this is that we learn the expressions and words for the activities we are interested in. People who learn like this try to get their Spanish-speaking friends to accompany them as they cook or fix their car. They find that they learn better when their whole body is involved in learning the new words and phrases. For example, the person who learns the word "serrucho" while sawing a board will remember it better than the person (see the "word collector") who just learns the vocabulary from a list.

Word Collectors: This person may be great at crossword puzzles (Crucigramas) in Spanish but rarely gets to speak it. If you find yourself learning words and not getting any further, break out of it! We once had a houseguest, a young man from Spain who came to learn English. There were times when our family would be talking Spanish, and he would echo all the Spanish words with their English equivalents. He had a great vocabulary but never got around to talking English. This kind of learner should alway make sure that they make up sentences to practice using the new words they learn. They can combine their ability with vocabulary with the "divide and conquer" tactic. They should not only invent sentences to use the new words; they should run through diferent grammatical constructions as the setting for their vocabulary.

Divide and Conquer People: Every learner of a foreign language has to learn to incorporate the learning style of dividing and conquering into their own style. If they are "brains" they should concentrate on one grammatical turn of phrase, such as conditions contrary to fact, (If my grandfather hadn't died, he'd be alive today!) until they can handle it.

The people people should repeat in the same conversation the new expression that they just heard. The same goes for all the others. The only way to learn a language is by following the "swiss cheese" method, nibble away at the things you don't know, and master them until they are all gone.

Lost Latinos: This person should try to remember the nursery rhymes that they might have learned in Spanish. They should run over the names of their cousins and uncles. All of this will loosen up their rusty language skills. They should listen to how others speak "spanglish" and try to figure out the proper way to say things. They should make a game of trying to spot the influence of English in the Spanish they hear at home or in the barrio. This detective work will make them more aware of correcting whatever bad habits they have picked up. However, don't think that these persons have all the advantages. The person learning from scratch will probably spell Spanish words better than those who know a little Spanish. I'm not sure why.

What works for EVERYONE… There are two activities that will help everyone, no matter what their learning style, move forward rapidly: They are: 1. Passive Listening, and 2. Pattern Response Drills.

1. Passive Listening. Everyone should keep the Spanish radio on as much as possible. Keep the radio or TV on while you doing other things. It has to be the sea of sound that you swim in while you are beginning your study of Spanish. You don't have to concentrate on it; you are not listening to try to understand. After a while you won't hear it but it will be affecting you. Little by little you will begin to anticipate the rhythm of the language, even before you understand everything. You will also begin to recognize certain words. You will begin to hear "beyond" the differences in pronunciation of different people and recognize the underlying word. Once you clearly hear a word or phrase, you can look it up and progressively expand your vocabulary.

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2. Pattern Response Drills. You have to run through all the permutations of the new expressions that you learn. For example, suppose you just learned to say. "Pedro tiene cuatro a os" rather than translating from the English incorrectly, "Pedro es cuatro". Now to make this new element of the language stick with you, you should go on substituting different ages and the names of different people. You have to be able to say comfortably, "Mar a tiene cuatro a os." "Juan tiene ocho a os." "Yo tengo treinta a os." " Cu ntos a os tienes t ?" "Nosotros tenemos cuarenta a os." This type of drill is necessary for all the different learning styles.

Prince Harry To Learn Arabic

Prince Harry is joining his troops in Iraq to fight and is going to learn Arabic. That is very intriguing. He will probably be the first monarch to learn the language.

Britain's Prince Harry, the 22-year-old grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, will be sent to fight in Iraq, the British media reported Sunday. The prince is reported to be due to start special preparations with his regiment for combat in Iraq which is to include Arabic language training, according to the British tabloid newspaper, The News of the World.

The prince, the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, joined the Blues and Royals elite regiment after completing his officer training at Sandhurst military academy last year.

Harry has himself said that he wants "to fight alongside" his men.

A spokesman for the palace confirmed that the prince was to take part in the training, but said that this did not mean he was going to Iraq, the newspaper reported.

The prince has always said he is determined to do battle with his 100-strong unit, A Squadron of the Blues and Royals, part of the Household Cavalry.

They begin a six-month tour of Iraq in the spring. Before that, they are expected to take part in war games and exhaustive preparations for conflict.

E-learning Curriculum For Your Mobile Device

This is a new trend in the industry. I have been trying to use my iPAQ with my Farsi language PDFs for the past couple of months but it is not the comfortable. It is a great tool though for sound files and I enjoy listening to my Farsi sound files on it. I would be happy for now with a PDF reader that can read Farsi and display the files correctly.

Atlantic Link's ground breaking rapid e-learning authoring tools have taken a hugely significant leap forward. The software now allows courses to be designed specifically for the small screens of Windows Mobile devices. This means that courses are not only able to be run directly on Windows Mobile devices, but also look superb as all the functionality of the ground breaking authoring tools can be applied to small screen design.

UK (PRWeb) January 26, 2007 -- Atlantic Link's ground breaking rapid e-learning authoring tools have taken a hugely significant leap forward. The software now allows courses to be designed specifically for the small screens of Windows Mobile devices. This means that courses are not only able to be run directly on Windows Mobile devices, but also look superb as all the functionality of the ground breaking authoring tools can be applied to small screen design.

MD Mike Alcock explains, "The traditional problem with courses on mobile devices is that they've never been designed for the smaller screen and are essentially shrunken versions of courses designed for viewing on PC screens. To tackle this we have enabled our software to author at the native screen size of a Windows Mobile device. Because the output of Content Point is Flash, the courses still contain all of the high quality and interactivity of Atlantic Link's usual output, but with the benefit of small screen design. Quizzes, games, activities, audio, video and Flash animations are all supported and play back perfectly, giving users the richest possible course experience."

The courses can be deployed locally (from the hard drive of the phone) or from the Internet, giving users a true mobile learning experience. Authoring is undertaken with the same software that is already delivering the fastest e-learning authoring for major companies across the globe.

Mike Alcock continues, "The potential applications for this technology are huge and almost mind-boggling. Tourist guides, language training, product training and updates, maintenance guides and training, medical training, interactive museum guides, schools training, the list is almost endless. With the government focusing on 'personalised learning', we believe that we are at the forefront of the next wave of e-learning. Because our rapid e-learning software is so incredibly quick at producing courses, content producers now have a method for producing huge volumes of highly interactive content for mobile devices in hours instead of weeks. Needless to say we are enormously excited about the possibilities."

Atlantic Link are demonstrating the new software on Stand 14 at next week's Learning Technologies Exhibition at Olympia 2.

If you want to see a simulation of the course running on a mobile device, visit here.

If you have a Windows Mobile, view a sample of Atlantic Link's mobile e-learning here.

Atlantic Link Contact
Mike Alcock, +44 (0)115 906 1375
Media Contact

Andrew Third, Integra Communications, +44 (0)115 906 1377

Using Skype And The Internet For Language Instruction

This is a great article on using Web 2.0 technology for language learning. I have been aware of people using Skype for Korean and other languages for the past couple of years. The only requirement I think should be there is a set of curriculum and method of instruction that fits the medium and a way to measure progress otherwise it is a great medium to use for language learning.

Skype as a language-learning tool
Prerna Rao
Hatchet Reporter
Posted: 1/29/07

Most GW professors would rather hear nails scraped across a blackboard than allow their students to talk on the phone or connect to the Internet during class, but professor Richard M. Robin lets his students do just that.

Starting this week, students in Robin's Intensive Basic Russian, course will be making some long distance phone calls from the classroom using Skype, the free Internet phone service, to talk to Russian students on the other side of the world.

"In a classroom setting, a lot of the Russian that students hear will be from teacher-talk or student-to-student conversation, which is basically fake," said Robin, who began using Skype as a classroom tool almost two years ago. "This enables (students) to make their Russian communications and conversational skills better."

As the Russian Language Director at GW and the author of the best selling first- and second-year Russian textbook in the U.S., "Golosa," Robin takes Russian language education to a whole new level by using the free Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) during the spring semester of the academic year-long course.

"This only starts halfway through the year because only then they will be able to carry on a conversation beyond 'Hi, how are you?'" said Robin, who has been teaching at GW since 1981.

Robin said the free price tag of VoIP programs like Skype and ICQ Audio/Video is what makes all these real-time international conversations possible during class time. With a microphone, Web cam and Internet connection, Robin's students are practicing Russian with native speakers. Robin said he believes new technologies like Skype will play a key role in the future of foreign-language programs.

"Right now Skype is a very hot commodity, almost exotic, so a lot of (professors) don't use it. Twenty years from now when I retire, it won't be so exotic, so I'm sure it will be in use like this in many more classrooms," Robin said. "Foreign distance education will be a much more common thing."

This week, Robin's students will get to speak with a former Russian exchange student from the Plekhanov Institute of Economics in Moscow, who lived with Robin's family two years ago.

Senior Alexandre DeAguiar, who took Robin's intensive Russian course last year, said using free Internet phone programs to speak Russian with native speakers made learning the language a more realistic experience.

"When we're in a classroom environment, we're locked into grammar learning and things like that," he said. "But once we get to talk to someone, it becomes spontaneous and we get to hear and say things that we have never before."

"I feel that it actually makes our thinking and language skills much better," he added. "I remember how not-ready to talk I was, we all were, and after later conversations I was able to detect improvement in my ability to produce language."

Although Robin acknowledged that speaking to people in Russia won't give his students a "linguistic breakthrough" by itself, he calls the program "motivational."

"The kids like it way better than communicating (just) with each other," he said. "I find that they are more enthusiastic, and the conversation is just better."

In the past, Robin has set up international conversational exchanges using his contacts with Russian students, families and professionals.

"How I choose the people who will be talking to my students is that they are mostly personal connections, like friends I have in Russia or their families," he said. "I plan on keeping it at my own personal connections. There are also lots of little bureaucratic issues to deal with if I wanted to expand it, but what I'm doing now is effective."

Robin said that despite the program's advantages, the eight-hour time difference between D.C. and Russia "makes finding people in Russia willing to do this very difficult."

Broadband connectivity there is also an issue, he explained.

"There, the economic situation is reverse. Here (in America), students go to school and expect to get and receive awesome Internet connections through campus and in their dorms," he said. "There, it's the opposite. Russian schools want students to have the better connections at home."

DeAguiar said he appreciated the experimental nature of Robin's class, and recommends its usefulness to all foreign language students.

"Every other language should get involved in something like this," he said. "Professor Robin's class helped me more than anything else when I studied abroad last semester in St. Petersburg, Russia. He really likes what he's doing and is serious about it."

© Copyright 2007 GW Hatchet

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Problem Is In Human Resources Not The Military

The situation of language training in the military is far more complex than this article suggests. The military has done lots of great things to train its soldiers in the different languages that are needed. The military produced hundreds of new curriculum , books, learning management systems, great content. The US Military today has all the tools that it needs to train.

The main problem that the US military has, and that any army would have for that matter, is a human resources one. There is a severe shortage of skilled language teachers , and I emphasize on teachers, who understand what the military wants and who understand how to utilize the tools that DoD has made available during the past 5 years. Academic linguists care about research more than teaching, and when they teach in a military setting they assume that you need 4 years of college to master the language. I mean, there are literally some Arabic classes out there where 3 months are spent learning the alphabet, script and a few basic words. That is a waste of time and resources!

Outside of academia there is a lack of language speakers educated in the target language country who have the skills to teach language.

So the problem in a nutshell, as I see it, is lack of skilled teachers, who are skilled in the different methods of language training, who are available to serve. that is why we see that companies like McNeill Language Services for example use native speakers whose profession was driving a cab. Nothing wrong with cab drivers, but that would be like me driving a cab (I know nothing about it).

That is why at Global Language Systems I have developed methods by which we train native speakers who were educated in the target language country (college education minimum, high scholl for some rare languages). We also use language training methods that are suitable for the needs of the military based on customizing courses down to the mission level and also make sure that they acquire the language within the shortest period of time possible. For example, it takes the US military right now about 400 hours of initial training to get a soldier to level 0+ or 1 in Iraqi Arabic. We do that within 120-160 hrs of classrom time, almost one-fourth the time the military needs.

One company like mine cannot solve the problem but what is really needed is for the DoD to start focusing on training their instructors and establish a base-line training methodology, or a template, that is applied throughout the military whether internally or by contractors. That template should focus on methods that have been proven to help students acquire language in a short amount of time. Such a template is lacking in the US military and its language schools. Teachers control the teaching methods and even the curriculum most of the time. Superb curriculum that has been developed by the DoD goes ignored.

Bottom line is, fix the human resources problem and you fix a great portion of the language training problem in the US military. I don't think that you can snp your fingers and get Arabic speakers (as Tony Snow said in his press briefing today) but I believe that the problem can be solved within a very short period if the human resources were steered in the right direction.