Readlang + Podclub = My Latest Language Learning Obsession

By   May 8, 2013

Readlang by Steve Ridout is a new site (still in beta) which helps you learn foreign languages by reading and translating words you don’t know. You simply import text from any website, click on words you don’t know in order to translate them into another language, and save these words so you can review them later. It  “uses a spaced repetition flashcard system to make sure you remember the words” that you’ve clicked on and has a feature to open a dictionary in a side panel if you want to look up more information on the word(s). You can read the blog to see the latest updates, such as export word lists to Anki and translations of phrases rather than just individual words.

Lately I’ve been using the transcripts from Podclub podcasts since I always prefer to have text plus audio. I imported the text of the latest episode of the Spanish podcast A mi aire, and I’m translating words into English. You can see below that I’ve clicked on discurso, it was translated into speech, and the dictionary panel on the left shows the entry in Wordreference. The word discurso has now been added to my list of words to review later.


Click on image to view actual size

Check it out and send your feedback to Steve so he knows what new features to add.

Upgrades and Updates on Let me know what to work on next

By   May 4, 2013

First, I apologize if you had trouble accessing the past week. My hosting company decided to throttle traffic and deny access from several IPs because of heavy usage while I was away last weekend. I have just upgraded to a Virtual Private Server so that hopefully won’t be a problem anymore. Everything should be transferred to the new server by now, but my pageviews are currently less than half what they used to be and the cached memory is still ridiculously high so I obviously still have a few problems to work out. Let me know if you’re still having trouble with the site (or if you’re a web developer who can help me figure out what is going on!)


In other news, I just created a Google+ page if you’d like to receive blog posts and site updates there instead of through Facebook, Twitter or RSS.

I will have more French Listening Resources soon. I’m just waiting for friends in France to send me the videos they have recorded and I’ll get them uploaded as soon as possible. I’m going to be creating videos of the original mp3s so you can read and watch at the same time (similar to videos of songs with lyrics.) Check out the Youtube channel to see which videos are available.

I plan to work on a French & Spanish comparative tutorial since I know there are a lot of people out there learning more than one language at a time, yet resources to learn them simultaneously are still practically non-existent. The French & Italian and French & German tutorials are already available, though not complete.

I would like to know what types of resources you’d like to see on the site so I know what to work on next. What is most useful for you? What do you want to see more of? (Keeping in mind that my PhD will still be my full-time job for at least the next 12 months so I won’t have a ton of free time to devote to the site…) Leave a comment here, send me an email, post on the Facebook or Google+ pages, send me a tweet, etc. I appreciate your feedback!

Holiday Weekend in Gold Coast, Queensland

By   April 30, 2013

I flew up to Gold Coast last Wednesday to meet up with one of my oldest friends from Michigan. Jessica just finished her postdoc in Melbourne and is moving back to the US tomorrow, so this was our last trip together in Australia.


View from hotel in Broadbeach


Queensland needs more beaches

Most people head to the GC either for the beaches or the theme parks. We did spend some time on the beach, but we actually spent most of the time playing with cute Australian animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.


Jessica and me on the train at Currumbin


Momma kangaroo and joey

Of the various districts in the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is probably the most well-known and popular. I definitely heard a lot of foreign languages (mostly French!) spoken there. The tallest building in Australia, Q1, is also in Surfers Paradise. You can go up to the Skypoint observation deck (though it’s rather expensive) or even climb around outside.


The Q1 in Surfers Paradise

We also rented a car for the day and drove down to Byron Bay in New South Wales, where the most easterly point of the Australian mainland is.


As close to the US as I can get on foot

Gold Coast is a great tourist destination since the airport is quite small (and resembles a food court more than an airport) and public transportation to and from the airport is incredibly easy to figure out. Bus 702 serves the airport every half hour and heads up the Gold Coast Highway. If you buy a go card from the shuttle desk in the airport (for $5) and add money to it, you will save a lot.

The rest of my travel photos are in the Gold Coast album at the Gallery.

Free Children’s Books Apps in Foreign Languages

By   April 13, 2013

There are a lot of free language apps available nowadays but many of them are not very good or extensive. They tend to include some basic words or tourist phrases in flashcard format, but very few offer connected text (such as stories) in addition to pronunciation. Lately I’ve been looking for apps that include both text and audio in foreign languages, and I’ve mostly found apps that provide one or the other, i.e. ebooks or audiobooks but not synced together so that you can read and listen at the same time. I have found a few apps designed for children, however, that mostly include fairy tales but some include original stories. Many have a “read to me” and autoplay option so you don’t have to keep swiping the screen.

Free Children's Books Apps in Foreign Languages

Both Apple and Android

PlayTales Gold : download books for free, but ad-supported and internet connection needed. Stories available in 8 different languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese (Mandarin), and Japanese. [ Apple version is only a seven day trial so not quite as useful]

Luca Lashes : Original story available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Italian.

Hao-Ming Yeh /QLL Inc. : Apple version seems to only include English and Chinese but Android also has Spanish. Two languages can be displayed on screen instead of just one.

Verlag Friedrich Oetinger : German and English stories (but in different apps)



Tri-Software : Lots of classic children’s books (in different apps) available in at least two languages. Most are available in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian and some even have Portuguese and Chinese. The free versions only include the beginning of the story.

Readalong Spanish : Only in Spanish but you have the option of including the English text on the same screen.



Vienom Kids Books : Two stories available in French & German and two stories available in French, German, and Spanish. Four different apps though, and the free versions only include seven pages of the stories.


Any other useful (and free) apps to add to the list?


I didn’t include any “free” apps that make you pay for every book.

Conferences for Applied Linguistics, CALL, Language Teaching & Learning and French

By   March 31, 2013

If you’re interested in attending or presenting at conferences on applied linguistics, computer-assisted language learning, modern/foreign languages or French studies, here are some upcoming conferences. You still have time to submit abstracts for some of them. I plan on being in Wellington this November for the ALAA/ALANZ conference and Brisbane next August for the AILA World Congress. Any other organizations or conferences I should know about? My main areas are materials design, technology in language teaching/learning and vocabulary acquisition/teaching.

Applied Linguistics / CALL

OrganizationDatesAbstracts dueLocation
Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO)May 21-25, 2013Manoa, Hawaii
Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics (CAAL / ACLA)June 3-5, 2013Victoria, British Columbia
International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT)June 11-15, 2013Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Worldwide Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (WorldCALL)July 10-13, 2013Glasgow, Scotland
Materials Development Association (MATSDA)July 13-14, 2013Liverpool, England
British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL)September 5-7, 2013Edinburgh, Scotland
European Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL)September 11-14, 2013Evora, Portugal
Applied Linguistics Association of Australia / NZ (ALAA / ALANZ)November 27-29, 2013April 8, 2013Wellington, New Zealand
Vocab@VicDecember 18-20, 2013April 12, 2013Wellington, New Zealand
American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL)March 22-25, 2014August 21, 2013Portland, Oregon
International Applied Linguistics Association / AILA World CongressAugust 10-15, 2014April 30, 2013Brisbane, Australia


Language Teaching & Learning / French

OrganizationDatesAbstracts dueLocation
International Conference on Languages, Literature and LinguisticsApril 29-30, 2013Johannesburg, South Africa
Association for French Language Studies (AFLS)June 6-8, 2013Perpignan, France
Languages & Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU)July 3-5, 2013Canberra, Australia
Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Association / New Zealand Association of Language Teachers (AFMLTA / NZALT)July 5-8, 2013Canberra, Australia
American Association of Teachers of French (AATF)July 11-14, 2013Providence, Rhode Island
International Conference on Linguistics, Literature, & Cultural studies in Modern LanguagesSeptember 12-13, 2013May 1, 2013Murcia, Spain
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)November 22-24, 2013Portland, Oregon
Australian Society for French Studies (ASFS)December 9-11, 2013August 31, 2013Brisbane, Australia
Association for Language Learning (ALL)March ???, 2014UK?
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)November 21-23, 2014San Antonio, Texas


I’ll continue to update this post if I find more conferences.

Dora will help you learn half a dozen languages

By   March 17, 2013

I often buy DVDs from the European Amazon stores to ensure that I will have a choice of at least one or two other subtitled/dubbed languages besides the original language. I’m not sure how, but I came across Dora the Explorer DVDs at the German Amazon and noticed that they offered FIVE languages, or at least that’s what the Product Details claimed. I bought Entdecke die Welt to see if it were true and I’m so glad I did! It is indeed dubbed in five other languages: German, French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch. Even without subtitles, all the repetition and visual clues in the episodes make it so easy to understand – and if I can’t quite understand something, I’ll just watch the scene in English or French, then again in one of the other languages and try to translate what was said. Five foreign languages for five euros! Amazing! I wish I had bought more DVDs, like this Geburtstagabenteur one which has German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch AND Portuguese.

I decided to check the other Amazon stores to see if I could find any other languages, or any that also had subtitles (which is extremely rare for kids’ movies; sorry deaf kids!) Not only did I find a DVD at the Italian store with the same six languages, but three of those languages are also available as subtitles!  How cool is that?!?

Dora will help you learn half a dozen languages

Dubbed in Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch with subtitles in Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch!

But that’s not the best part. I found a few DVDs at the Spanish and Italian stores that are dubbed in… wait for it… IRISH!!! Yes, Irish. Not English with an Irish accent. The actual Irish language! Whaaaaaat? SHUT. THE. FRONT. DOOR.

And it’s not a mistake or anything. This Italian one has an image of the back of the DVD where you can see that the language irlandese is really included. Wikipedia says that the Irish version actually teaches a few words of Spanish like the English version, unlike most of the other languages which teach some English.

Dora will help you learn half a dozen languages

I even underlined irlandese with a red crayon [brush in Paint].

I also looked at the US, Canadian, French, and UK stores to see if they offered other languages but it’s mostly French and/or Spanish or just English. So if you’re looking for as many languages as possible on one DVD, the German store has the cheapest shipping to the US or Australia, followed by Italian, then Spanish. But remember, the DVDs will be region 2 so you’ll need a region-free player.

P.S. Yes, I loved this and am totally geeked out for this.

Do some academics look down on other academics as well as non-academics?

By   March 12, 2013

A recent post on The Thesis Whisperer, a blog designed to help research students in Australia, has been quite popular this past month. The title? Academic assholes and the circle of niceness

Luckily, I have not personally experienced any aggressive or arrogant behavior at the universities I have attended in the US or Australia. My professors and colleagues have always been supportive and helpful. But I have seen this behavior at conferences, and I felt extremely bad for the students who had to deal with it. How are you supposed to respond when a jerk in the audience says your research is pointless? Belittling students and colleagues in front of others in order to feel better about your own research is just awful. Unfortunately, these assholes tend to be perceived as more intelligent than nice people, though it seems to me that people are deliberately arrogant in order to feel superior to everyone else in more than just intelligence. Insecure much? A lot of it is simply bragging – look at me! look at what I can do! look at what I know! – which is incredibly sad considering that academics are supposed to be mature adults and not five year olds.

The Thesis WhispererVery helpful blog for research students

However, I wanted to write about this post because of one of the earliest comments on it, which brings up the issue of academics seemingly acting like jerks to non-academics. Fiona says “In my experience many if not most academics, seem to look down on the lowly general public… Anyone mentioning personal experience or views is usually shouted down by someone demanding an official study is vital to back up the opinion. It’s not possible or acceptable to have a view on anything, it would appear, unless there’s an official study to ‘prove’ it.”

I can understand why she feels that some academics look down on non-academics. There are definitely some Sheldon Coopers in the real world. Academics can seem arrogant when drawing attention to their intelligence, but here’s the thing: academics are more intelligent than non-academics in their chosen fields. I recently posted about my frustration with people who continue spreading myths about linguistics and language learning. It is quite offensive when people who have no professional training in an area that you have been researching for over a decade act as if they know more than you. It is also frustrating when people believe things that have been proven wrong by research for no reason other than they “just do.” When I ask teachers who use the Direct Method why they choose to do so when data show that banning the first language is not beneficial to learning a second language, many are unaware of the research which proves its inefficacy or choose not to abandon it because using the target language 100% of the time “seems” like a better idea, regardless of what the research says. Maybe it is our fault for not popularizing our research more, but what can we do when people refuse to believe our data or change their behavior to incorporate the facts?

Asking what people’s opinions are based on should not be interpreted as academics asserting their superiority, or just plain being assholes. We hope that your opinions will be informed by empirical data, because if not, what exactly are they based on? You can have personal views and tell anecdotes about your experiences, but when you believe things that are not supported by research, of course we want to know why. One person’s opinion is in a separate domain from scientific research, where the conclusions are peer-reviewed, many experiments have been done, and the results can be replicated. So yes, we get quite upset when someone says “I smoked for 20 years and never got sick so smoking doesn’t cause cancer” because years upon years of research involving thousands of people proves that it does cause cancer for some people. Just because something didn’t happen to you, or something didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean you can make a broad generalization for all other people.

Fiona continues her comment: “Most of the public are these days cynical of studies proving this or that, given that so many are contradictory. It seems to me that there’s far more we don’t know that what we do; and that sometimes overly dramatic scare-monger type media releases are simply a way of drumming up more research funding (whilst eroding credibility in the eyes of the public).”

It is true that there is far more that we don’t know than what we do, and that is exactly why we need science. Yet the first sentence epitomizes how misunderstood science really is (especially in the US!). People don’t trust scientists because their results and conclusions are constantly changing, and yes, contradictory. But that is science: the facts must change with the evidence. I don’t know why people are so uncomfortable with this. Granted, there are other reasons why people disregard research in addition to its changing nature. In the case of using the Direct Method, it is easier to teach languages and more profitable to write textbooks in this way, so even with all the evidence against it, teachers and publishers are less likely to do anything differently. I hope everyone can see what an enormous insult to researchers this line of thinking is. To me, disregarding research because it is the easy or profitable thing to do is far more arrogant than what researchers have been accused of.

I am often defensive about the importance of research and academia, mostly because of how much higher education is attacked by right-wingers in the US. I am not trying to brag about how smart I am or make others feel like they are inferior because they are not researchers. I’m just trying to share linguistic research since it’s a shame that so much of it can only be found in journals that are ridiculously expensive (embrace open access, academia!), and since some of the research that makes its way into the popular press only tells one side of the story. If I come across as arrogant online, I apologize for that – but I will not apologize for trying to teach people the beauty of science.

Have any students experienced aggressive and arrogant behavior by colleagues (or even other students)? For those not in academia, how do you feel about academics and researchers?

English Teaching Opportunities in France, Spain and Germany for 2013

By   February 27, 2013

Update: If you’re looking for jobs in France for the 2014-15 school year, go here.


If you’re interested in teaching English in Europe later this year, here are a few jobs:



Added June 12:

English lecteur/lectrice positions at Université Paris Dauphine to begin September 1, 2013.


  • English must be your mother tongue or a language that you speak with the same proficiency as your mother tongue
  • You must have successfully completed one year of university studies after receiving your Bachelor’s degree.

Candidates should include the following in their application file:

  • Résumé
  • Photocopy of your university diploma and a French translation of the document
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Photocopy of a photo I.D.

All applications must be submitted via email to the following address: [email protected]

Application deadline: June 27th 2013


Now closed or no deadline was given (but you can always send your CV anyway):

Added May 11:

Maître de langues in English at Université de Lorraine in Nancy, France, to begin in September 2013. Native speaker of English and Master’s degree required. Send lettre de motivation and CV to andre dot pannier at univ-lorraine dot fr before May 31.

Added April 30:

Lecteur/lectrice in English at Université d’Evry, south of Paris, France, to begin in September 2013.  Teaching experience of English important, especially at secondary school/university level;  a Master’s (or at least a first year of Master’s) is required;  nationality of a European Union country is required, or if anglophone from outside Europe, residence/work papers must already be established; contract = 200 hours per year – extra hours possible. Please contact Frederick Goodman, by 21st May at the latest, at goodman at univ-evry dot fr

Added April 7:

Lecteur d’anglais at Université de technologie de Belfort-Montbéliard in Belfort, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be a native speaker or have near-native fluency as well as  an MA or equivalent degree. For more information about this position, contact Laurent dot Tourrette at utbm dot fr To apply, send CV and lettre de motivation to bettina dot steffen at utbm dot fr by April 26.

Added April 4:

English Lecturer position in Hypermedia Language Centre of the Faculté de langues appliqués, commerce et communication at Université Blaise Pascal, in Clermont-Ferrand, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be a university graduate and native speaker of English with training/experience in TEFL. Certification such as CELTA is a plus. CV, references and covering letter should be sent by email to Dacia Dressen-Hammouda at Dacia dot Hammouda at univ-bpclermont dot fr (no application deadline was given)

Added March 27:

Lecteur d’anglais in the Centre de Langues Vivantes at Université Pierre Mendès-France in Grenoble, France, to begin September 2013. Applicant should have minimum Bac+4. Send lettre de motivation, CV, copy of ID card/passport and diplomas by April 19.

Added March 23:

Lecteur d’anglais at Chimie ParisTech in Paris, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be a native speaker with an MA or a BA. Send CV and lettre de motivation in French to jean-le-bousse at chimie-paristech dot fr by April 30. (2 positions available.)

Added March 20:

Maître de langue in the UFR de Sciences et Technologie at U-PEC in Paris, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be in or have completed at least one year of a doctoral program. Send lettre de motivation in French and CV in English to Monsieur Bernard Frouin [frouin at u-pec dot fr] and Madame Andrée Martin [a.martin at u-pec dot fr] (no application deadline was given)

Maître de langue at IEP in Lille, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should be in or have completed at least one year of a doctoral program. Apply between March 4 and 29.



Lecteur/Lectrice at ENS in Lyon, France, to begin in September 2013. Applicant should have completed four full years of university study, or equivalent to completion of one year of Master’s degree in France. Applications due by March 25.

For more info about these types of positions at French universities, read my post on How to Become a Lecteur or Maître de Langue.



English teacher for 4 week summer programs (July/August) at Sommerschule in Wust, Germany. MA not required, but some German is. Program usually pays for airfare, housing and offers a small stipend. Apply through their website starting in May of each year.



For those who do not yet have graduate degrees and are under 30, the teaching assistant program is still open for some nationalities (for October 2013 to April 2014). You can read about my experience in France at my Guide for English Language Assistants in France. Applications for the USUK and Indian programs are no longer open for 2013 but the applications for 2014 will be available in October. If you have citizenship in other countries, you still have time to apply:



If you’re American or Canadian (under 35) and speak some Spanish instead of French, you can apply for the Spanish teaching assistantship. The deadline for applications is April 2.


I’ll continue to update this page if I find any other job listings for 2013.


Death of a language website: [UPDATED: There are at least 3 other sites with the same files]

By   February 26, 2013

UPDATE: All of the files are available at,, or, or you can use this torrent if you’d like to download everything.

If anyone knows what happened to, please let me know! It was the site that included all of the Foreign Service Institute courses in the public domain, and where I downloaded the courses in order to turn them into HTML pages for my FSI Project. For about a month the site has been unavailable with a 403 Forbidden message. There haven’t been any new files added since January 2011, but the site was still online as of this January. (Thanks Internet Archive!), where have you gone?, where have you gone?

For those who have been downloading the FSI files for a while, you may remember that was actually created when the webmaster of stopped updating the site. The files are no longer available through that original site either. I downloaded many of the courses, but not all of them, and although some are available as torrents, I don’t know of another way of downloading the materials. Were any mirror sites ever created?

If anyone has any information about – I believe the webmaster went by VagabondPilgrim on the forums – or if the files are available to download in another location, please leave a comment or email me. A lot of people spent MANY hours digitizing the books and cassettes in order to share them with other language learners, so we need to get them back online!



Try these sites (first three are mirror sites that should contain everything that is on the original site):

  1. – includes everything that was available on
  2. – includes everything that was available on
  4. – directory listings for both FSI and Defense Language Institute public domain courses
  5. – just the DLI courses
  6. Scribd
  8. Wayback Machine

If you want to download all of the FSI files that were available, Joni has created a torrent (20.8 GB) from a site rip done in January 2011. Please help seed it for others to download too!


Thanks everyone!

Non-Linguists, Please Stop Trying to Do or Talk About Linguistics Without the Help of Actual Linguists

By   February 17, 2013

Ben Zimmer has a wonderful article on “When physicists do linguistics” over at the Boston Globe, which can perhaps be best summarized by this comic from xkcd:

Joking aside, I am happy that other disciplines have an interest in language – however, I hate when other disciplines try to do linguistic research and fail because they do not involve any actual linguists in the research. I agree completely when Zimmer says that there is a “need for better communication between disciplines that previously had little to do with each other.” Communication among related fields could use a little boost too, because it isn’t just physicists who publish papers that contradict linguistic research. Psychologists, speech pathologists, and cognitive scientists have been doing it wrong for a while too, especially when it comes to multilingual and cultural aspects of language acquisition.

Linguistics seems to the be the field that everyone thinks they can do without any special training. Most people wouldn’t think of talking about chemistry or mathematics without actually having studied those subjects. Yet everyone seems to think they are experts on language simply because they speak a language (their native language) or because they have learned another language. Sorry, but those abilities do not make you a qualified linguist nor do they give you the right to talk about language without checking facts or to teach language as if you were an experienced teacher. I know how to drive a car, but I don’t go around pretending to be a certified mechanic or give advice to others on how to fix their own cars.

Robert Lane Greene’s book, You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity, is about this phenomenon. People believe, and repeat, such ridiculous things as “this language has eleventy billion words for X” or “this language is primitive but that language is logical” all the time. Even worse, respected authors repeat these myths in their articles and books, such as Bill Bryson in The Mother Tongue, and so they are repeated again and again without anyone questioning whether they are true or not. These myths are dangerous because a lot of them are based on ethnocentrism and the perceived superiority of the way we speak compared to everyone else.

Please, do yourself a favor and study language seriously instead of repeating myths. Talk to actual linguists, read books written by actual linguists or whose authors talked to actual linguists. In addition to You Are What You Speak, you can start with Language Myths (for a general overview), Vocabulary Myths (for language learners/teachers, which I previously posted about), and the “truth-squad” blog Language Log. But most importantly, always question what is written about language even if it is published by best-selling authors or academic researchers because they may not be linguists at all.

Update 26/02/13: And another one! Ugh. “Why speaking English can make you poor when you retire” about research done by a behavioural economist. Hey, that’s not linguistics! ::sigh:: At least the article quotes my hero, John McWhorter.

Update 15/03/15: So glad I’m not the only one who complains about this: If you’re not a linguist, don’t do linguistic research by @EvilJoeMcVeigh