Category Archives: Learning Spanish

Polyglot Board Game - the fun way to learn languages

Polyglot Board Game is the Fun Way to Learn Languages

Language enthusiasts, if you have ever wondered if a multilingual language learning board game exists, the answer is yes! Polyglot board game was created by Polyglot Inc. of Miami, Florida, in 1987. I don’t know if the company is still active or if they have created other language learning resources, but let’s take a look at this amazing game.

 

Polyglot Board Game

Polyglot Board Game

My game is obviously a bit faded… but at only $14.95, it was a great deal!

From the back of the box: A mind expanding educational game designed to enrich the understanding and knowledge of foreign languages. Play this fast paced exciting game of words and phrases in one or up to six languages. You’ll not only race for the win, but learn new words, phrases and better pronunciation for languages you want to improve or master. Elevate your command of ENGLISH, SPANISH, GERMAN, FRENCH, ITALIAN, and YIDDISH.

 

How to play Polyglot

Instructions are included in all of the languages, except Yiddish (though it could just be missing from my game). Read the instructions in English below. Click on the images to make them larger.

Polyglot Board Game Instructions Polyglot Board Game Instructions 2

 

Polyglot Vocabulary Cards

The two decks of cards include 1,800 words in each of the six languages plus 150 commonly used phrases. Phonetic pronunciation is included for each word and phrase. Even if you don’t have any polyglot friends nearby to play the game with, you can just use the cards to study vocabulary.

White cards are for individual words:

I’m not sure why the Romance languages are split up among German and Yiddish, as I think it’s easier to learn them side-by-side. [Take a look at my Romance languages comparative vocabulary lists if you want to learn several languages together and be able to choose which languages are next to each other.]

Yellow cards are for phrases:

 

The Polyglot Board

And the Tower of Babel board:

Polyglot Board Game board that resembles the Tower of Babel

I bought my Polyglot board game at the International Book Centre in Shelby Township in Michigan back in 2005.

If you’d like your own copy, you are in luck because there are some third-party sellers offering it at Amazon!

Has anyone else ever heard of this game or played it? Know of any other polyglot or multilingual board games?

A Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish - What are the most frequent phrases in telenovelas?

A Very Informal Corpus Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish: Pasión y Poder

A Linguistic Analysis of Telenovela Spanish, or How this Nerdy Linguist Spent her Friday Night

Ever since I discovered that Univision started including transcripts of their telenovelas online, I had been wanting to experiment with the free corpus linguistics software AntConc to analyze the most common phrases used in telenovela Spanish. I chose Pasión y Poder because it had the most transcripts still available on the website, even though I rarely watched it. It was a fairly typical telenovela, unlike El Hotel de Los Secretos or Yago, with plenty of fighting and drama and a (mostly) happy ending. Unfortunately Telemundo does not provide transcripts of their telenovelas (which tend to be better) which is a shame since I’d love to analyze the language of La Esclava Blanca, a Colombian telenovela set in the mid 1800’s.

Here’s how I created the corpus and found the most frequent phrases, if you feel inclined to be as nerdy…

How to be a linguistics/telenovela nerd:

  1. Downloading the html files was easy and quick thanks to the DownThemAll add-on for Firefox and the fact that the URL of each episode only differs by the number so I was able to use batch descriptors. (I know webscraping is possible with Python, but my programming knowledge is still pretty basic and I knew that I could get the files with the add-on in about 20 seconds.)
  2. Then I needed to find a way to extract the text from all of the <p> tags – since the transcript was the only text enclosed in these tags in all of the html code – and create text files for each episode. I managed to find some Python/BeautifulSoup code online after an hour of searching that did what I needed, after a couple tweaks, a few tears, and many error messages.
  3. Finally, I loaded the 117 text files into AntConc and played around with the Clusters/N-Grams option and N-Gram Size to find the most frequent phrases between five and ten words.

Most Frequent Phrases in Pasión y Poder

So here are the most frequent phrases used in Pasión y Poder, starting with ten word phrases and ending with five word phrases. Keep in mind that some of the phrases are typically Mexican, and some are overly dramatic because, well, they’re from a telenovela!

  • A ver, a ver, a ver, a ver, a ver. (A ver is usually translated as let’s see, but I have no idea what a good translation for this many a vers together would be in natural English.)
  • No te metas en lo que no te importa. (Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong./Mind your own business.)
  • No sabes el gusto que me da que… (You don’t know how happy it makes me that…)
    ¿No te das cuenta? ¿No te das cuenta? (Don’t you realize? Don’t you realize?)
  • Esto no se va a quedar así. (This isn’t over. [said as a threat of revenge])
    No me lo tomes a mal, pero… (Don’t take this the wrong way, but…)
  • … lo que te voy a decir. (… what I’m going to tell you.)
    Lo único que quiero es que… (The only thing I want is that…)
    No, eso no va a pasar. (No, that is not going to happen.)
    No tiene nada que ver con… (It has nothing to do with…)
    Lo que pasa es que no…  (What is happening is that … not)
    No te lo voy a perdonar. (I’m not going to forgive you for it.)
    No te voy a permitir que… (I won’t allow you to…)
    Eres el amor de mi vida. (You are the love of my life.)
    No tiene la culpa de nada. (S/he is not guilty of anything.)
    A pesar de todo, lo que… (In spite of everything, what…)
    Creo que lo mejor es que… (I think the best thing is that/to…)
    Lo que me preocupa es que… (What worries me is that…)
    Lo único que espero es que… (The only thing I hope is that…)
  • Todo va a estar bien. (Everything will be fine.)
    Me da mucho gusto que… (I’m very happy that…)
    No voy a dejar que… (I’m not going to let…)
    No, por supuesto que no. (No, of course not.)
    ¿Que fue lo que pasó? (What happened?)
    Sí, lo sé, lo sé. (Yes, I know, I know.)
    Ya me tengo que ir. (I have to go now.)
    No me importa lo que… (I don’t care what…)
    … lo que vas a hacer. (…what you’re going to do.)
    Te pido por favor que… (I am asking you please to…)
    Ya me di cuenta que… (I already realized that…)
    De una vez por todas. (Once and for all.)
    ¿No te das cuenta que…? (Don’t you realize that…?)
    Yo no tengo nada que… (I have nothing that…)
    Y lo peor es que… (And the worst is that…)

Telenovela Battle of Screams and Insults

I was also interested in finding out which words I heard yelled all the time were more frequent:

In the battle suéltame (let go of me) vs. lárgate (get out), the winner is: ¡lárgate! (59 vs. 61)

And in the battle infeliz (fool) vs. desgraciado (bastard), the winner is: ¡infeliz! (74 vs. 69)

However, the winner of them all was ¡No puede ser! (It can’t be!) with a frequency count of 151.

So what have we learned?

To sum up, Telenovela Spanish is hilarious and corpus linguistics is amazing.

If you’d like to learn more about Corpus Linguistics, there is a free MOOC at Futurelearn starting in September and the hands-on exercises in the new textbook Practical Corpus Linguistics will get you started with AntConc, plus there are tutorials on Youtube on how to use this software.

Spanish Accents Game by El País

Fun Spanish Accents Game

Play a Spanish Accents Game

Here’s a fun game to see if you can hear the various Spanish accents around the world. El País has a multiple choice quiz where you choose a country depending on which accent you hear in the video.

 

Spanish Accents Game Screenshot

 

I have no problems hearing differences in the accents from Spain, Mexico, and Argentina, but the others are still difficult for me to distinguish. Luckily the videos in the game are actually of people talking about a certain word or expression used in their country, so if you have knowledge of regional vocabulary, you can still figure out what country they are referring to even if you aren’t sure by the sound of the accent alone.

Try it out and see how many you can get!

Romance Languages Verb Conjugations

Romance Languages Verb Conjugations – now with Portuguese

Romance Languages Verb Conjugations – now with Portuguese

The tables of Romance languages verb conjugations are currently being updated to include Portuguese. The tables are arranged with the columns containing French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese – but you can easily drag the columns into whichever order you’d like:

 

The tables include present, imperfect, preterite, future, conditional, present subjunctive, imperfect subjunctive, future subjunctive (for Spanish and Portuguese), affirmative and negative imperative, gerund/present participle and past participle, and the auxiliary verb used in perfect tenses (for French and Italian; they do not change for Spanish and Portuguese).

I’ve also created some simple blank charts in .docx format so you can practice writing out the conjugations. You could type the conjugations if you wanted to, but you are more likely to remember what you write with a pen or pencil than what you type on a computer.

Although they are designed to match the layout of the online verb conjugation tables, the charts can be easily modified if you want to compare different tenses/moods of the same language (such as present indicative and present subjunctive side-by-side). I’ve also left most of the labels blank so you can change the order of the languages and tenses/moods.

 

Downloads:

Conjugation Charts – Letter – Landscape

Conjugation Charts – Letter – Portrait

Conjugation Charts – A4 – Landscape

Conjugation Charts – A4- Portrait

 

Happy conjugating!

Using Univision Telenovela Transcripts and Readlang to Learn Spanish

Using Telenovela Transcripts and Readlang for Learning Spanish

Telenovela Transcripts Now Available at Univision.com

Univision usually includes Spanish subtitles for their telenovelas online, but I’ve recently noticed that they now also include the ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT of each episode below the video. This is great for copying and pasting into other programs (think of the corpus linguistics applications!), but it also means that you can use the Readlang add-on to quickly translate a word you don’t know by clicking on it – as I have done with the word rebaños in the screenshot. This is not possible with the subtitles, which you cannot click on or copy and paste elsewhere.

This example above is from episode 10 of El Hotel de los Secretos (The Hotel of Secrets), which you must check out. It’s a Mexican telenovela, but not like the stereotypical crazy telenovelas since it’s more like a period drama. It takes place at a fancy hotel in the Mexican countryside in 1908, and it’s actually an adaptation/remake of the Spanish drama series Gran Hotel (which has been called the Spanish Downton Abbey). I’m a tiny bit obsessed with it already.

El Hotel de los Secretos Telenovela on Univision

There are lots of mysteries and (obviously) secrets to figure out, and the plot advances rapidly so you won’t get bored waiting for the obvious to happen like with so many other telenovelas. Plus there will only be 80 episodes total so it won’t keep dragging on.

If you have access to the Univision videos online, you can watch most of the episodes for free. The latest five episodes are locked unless your cable provider allows you to log in, or you can subscribe to Hulu for all of the episodes. Another option is Univision’s new subscription app that lets you watch Univision live or anything shown within the past 72 hours.

The other major Spanish-language channel in the US, Telemundo, also provides videos of their telenovelas online, but so far they only offer subtitles in Spanish embedded in the videos.

FluentU vs Yabla Language Learning with Authentic Video

FluentU vs Yabla – Language Learning with Authentic Video

FluentU vs Yabla for Learning Languages through Video Immersion

FluentU and Yabla are subscription websites for learning languages with authentic videos. Because they include subtitles (as well as English translations), the videos are a great way to improve your comprehension and learn new vocabulary. In this FluentU vs Yabla review, we’ll start with what both websites offer and then focus on the advantages of one over the other.

Features of both FluentU and Yabla:

  • currently available in six languages
  • ability to show or hide the subtitles and English translation
  • click on a word to see the translation, and add it to a set of flashcards to review later
  • play short sections in loops if you want to focus on a particular phrase or sentence
  • a large library of videos with new videos added each week
  • free videos to check them out before committing to a paid subscription
  • schools/classroom subscriptions for teachers who want to assign videos as homework and track their students’ progress

FluentU

FluentU offers videos in Spanish, French, German, English, Chinese, and Japanese. (Italian is planned but there is no exact date yet when it will be available.) FluentU costs $15/month for the basic plan and $30/month for the plus plan.

FluentU prices

The video interface is quite neat and clean, with the translations appearing when you hover over the word. Clicking on the word gives you more sample sentences and the option to add the word to a flashcard set.

FluentU vs Yabla Video Interface

If you are learning several languages, then FluentU will be perfect for you because your subscription gives you access to ALL languages. Fifteen dollars a month to learn six languages is a pretty great deal.

Yabla

Yabla offers videos in Spanish, French, Italian, German, English, and Chinese. Yabla costs $9.95 a month, BUT each language is a separate subscription, i.e. if you wanted to subscribe to both Spanish and French, you would need to pay $9.95/month two times.

Yabla prices

The video interface includes the dictionary on the right if you click on a word, as well as options to slow the video down and play a vocabulary game:

FluentU vs Yabla Language Learning with Authentic Video

Note that you can use the dictionary to look up any words, not just those that are used in the video you are watching.

How to Choose between FluentU and Yabla

I recommend both websites because they offer invaluable exposure to authentic language. So is there a clear winner in the FluentU vs Yabla competition? The best way to decide between the two basically depends on how many and which languages you are learning:

If you are learning only one language (either Spanish, French, Italian, German, English, or Chinese), then Yabla will be slightly cheaper.

If you are learning two or more languages (Spanish, French, German, English, Chinese, and Japanese), then FluentU will be a better deal especially on the Basic plan.

Of course, if you are learning Italian, your only option for now is Yabla.

Likewise, if you are learning Japanese, your only option is FluentU.

Let me know your thoughts on these websites!

 

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Free Learning How to Learn MOOC on Coursera

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Learning How to Learn is a free MOOC available through Coursera. It is a self-paced course which just started January 4, 2016, and I highly recommend it if you have trouble studying or remembering what you study. It includes valuable information about how your brain and memory work, and offers advice on how to study, take notes, conquer procrastination, etc. as well as what is NOT good for learning, i.e. constant re-reading and too much highlighting, for example.

This course is actually one of the most popular courses on Coursera, and the instructors deliver the content in a great way. While this course is broad enough to encompass learning material for various subjects, they do mention learning languages and the techniques are just as valid for learning languages as for learning math or science. One technique is the Pomodoro technique. Basically, you should study for 25 minutes (set a timer), and then take a 5 minute break – to stretch, exercise, have a snack, or just relax – and then do another 25 minute session, followed by another 5 minute break, and so on.

They also mention spaced repetition, which you are probably familiar with if you use Anki, Memrise, and other online study websites. The idea is to space out your learning and study over time rather than trying to cram and memorize everything at once. It is better to let your brain rest for a day or two and then repeat the material in order to really learn it.

The course is only 4 weeks long and new sessions start often if aren’t able to keep up with the quizzes this time around. The course is based on the book A Mind for Numbers, written by one of the instructors, Dr. Barbara Oakley. It is not required for the course, but it does delve deeper into the topic of learning math and science.

Learning How to Learn is based on the book A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Let me know if you’ve taken this MOOC and what your thoughts are on it.

Learn Spanish and Portuguese Together

Learn Spanish and Portuguese at the Same Time

Do you want to learn Spanish and Portuguese at the same time?

Or do you already speak Spanish and want to learn Portuguese?

The latest addition to ielanguages.com is the Foreign Service Institute course From Spanish to Portuguese.

I’ve just finished converting it to HTML, and I’ve included HTML5 audio players – but note that only the Portuguese words and phrases were recorded for the original course. If any Spanish speakers want to add the Spanish recordings, please let me know. I’m also planning on adding English translations of everything for those who are still learning Spanish.

Intercomprehension of Romance Languages

Intercomprehension of Romance Languages

Learning to Comprehend the Romance Languages

If you understand French and are interested in learning other Romance languages, the MOOC Enseigner l’intercompréhension en langues romanes à un jeune public might be helpful. This MOOC, or CLOM in French, begins November 10, 2015, and lasts 4 weeks. It is designed for language teachers and students or anyone who is interested in multilingualism.

The concept of intercomprehension refers to the ability of users of closely related languages to understand each other thanks to linguistic similarities. It appears that this particular MOOC will focus on the six main Romance languages of French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Romanian. Since it is developed by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the language used to teach about intercompréhension is French.

You can sign up now to join the MOOC.

 

Related:

Comparative Vocabulary and Verb Lists: Romance and Germanic Languages

Comparative and Multilingual Books for Learning Languages Simultaneously

Comparative Grammar of French, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese Available as PDF

Learn Spanish by Watching Telenovelas

Learn Spanish by Watching Telenovelas

The most entertaining way to learn Spanish

It’s quite easy and fun to learn Spanish by watching telenovelas, fast-paced Spanish-language soap operas that are as ridiculous as they are addictive. Armed with closed captioning, Wordreference, and a few other websites, you can easily learn or improve your Spanish while love/hate-watching soap operas. 

Most of the telenovelas I watch are Mexican or American, since I’m most familiar with the telenovelas broadcast on the US channels Univision and Telemundo. Many other Spanish-speaking countries produce their own telenovelas that you may be able to find on DVD, Youtube, Dailymotion, Viki, etc. However, you are less likely to be able to find closed captioning or subtitles in Spanish and the DVD versions will almost always be edited versions since most telenovelas run for over 100 episodes and that would fill a LOT of DVDs.

The good thing about Univision and Telemundo is that you do not need a cable subscription to watch their telenovelas since you can stream them online if you live in the US or use a VPN to seem like you are in the US. If you do watch on a TV, you should be able to turn on the closed captioning in either Spanish or English – if your TV has the option to change to English, that is. Closed captioning in Spanish is available for the streaming videos, though Univision’s is somewhat unreliable. The site Ark TV also has what appears to be (mostly messy and unreliable) text of the closed captioning for the Univision telenovelas up to September 10, 2015. If you want English language recaps of the four main Univision telenovelas and some discussions of the Telemundo telenovelas, head over to the blog Caray, Caray! so you’ll still be able to follow along with the plot even if you miss or can’t understand some episodes.

There are four telenovelas broadcast every weeknight on Univision, but I don’t have time to watch all of them. I started with Lo Imperdonable (The Unforgiveable) since the scenery is really pretty and I liked the juxtaposition of big city and small town. Some parts were filmed in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí near the gorgeous Tamul waterfall. Also, Ana Brenda and Ivan Sanchez make the hottest couple ever.

Lo Imperdonable

These people are too pretty to be real.

I have an intense love/hate relationship with this telenovela because there are quite a few things that piss me off about the storylines, like “Hey, I just met you and this is crazy but I think you’re responsible for my brother’s suicide so marry me maybe (so I can treat you like crap),” slut-shaming of adult women who may or may not be virgins (who cares?!), and the child abuse of a 17 year old girl. The most offensive thing about this telenovela may just be the horribly miscast 48 year-old Sergio Sendel in a role where the character is supposedly in his late 20’s. Yet I cannot stop watching!

Cascada de Tamul @ Tanchachin, SLP, Mexico

Yes, this is a real place in Mexico.

The other Univision telenovelas that I catch from time to time are:

Muchacha italiana viene a casarse (Italian girl comes to get married) – If you like Italy and want to learn a tiny bit of Italian with Spanish, check out this telenovela that has already aired in Mexico but started in the US last month. There are a whopping 176 episodes overall, but Univision is cutting out a lot of scenes for the US broadcast in order to shorten it. Two of the main characters are Italian and frequently code-switch between Italian and Spanish, so it can be a tiny bit confusing for beginning Spanish learners.

Antes Muerta que Lichita (I’d rather be dead than be Lichita) – If comedies are more your thing, I’d check out this adorable telenovela. Supposedly, it is NOT an Ugly Betty remake but there are quite a few similarities so far. Comedies tend to have much faster speech, however, with more slang and informal language so even with closed captioning, I have trouble following some conversations. There is also a hilarious telenovela-within-a-telenovela that basically exists to makes fun of telenovelas, available only on Univision’s website, called Corazón Enamorado. There are no subtitles for this webnovela though, and the main character speaks with an American accent, which you’d think would make it easier for English speakers to understand her Spanish but I actually find it harder.

Antes Muerta Que Lichita

Totally not Ugly Betty, you guys…

Some telenovelas that recently ended are still available on Univision’s website if you feel like binge-watching 100 hours or more. You can also buy edited version of telenovelas on DVD (usually between 12 and 15 hours total), but they only come with English subtitles. But at least you don’t have to sit through the filler scenes with minor characters that you don’t care about!

I mostly watch comedies, so I definitely recommend Pour Ella Soy EvaLos Tontas No Van al Cielo, and La Fea Más Bella (the Mexican Ugly Betty) – which coincidentally all star Jaime Camil as the male lead. (You should also check out the American and mostly English-language series Jane the Virgin in which he is currently playing an exaggerated version of himself, a Mexican telenovela star.)

Lastly, not a comedy, but a drama about drug-trafficking that was filmed in both Mexico and Spain, La Reina del Sur is also highly recommended by many people, although I have only seen a few episodes. You can buy the DVD set, which includes all 63 unedited episodes (42 hours!), but there are NO subtitles at all.  Supposedly there are English subtitles on the hard to find and expensive Blu-Ray version, however. Luckily, Telemundo still has 15-20 minute versions of the episodes on their Youtube account, with Spanish subtitles.

Previously on ielanguages.com blog: Ugly Betty Adaptations and Other Telenovelas for Language Learning