Category Archives: Learning Other Languages

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

FluentU Review

FluentU Review: Language Learning with Authentic Videos

FluentU Review: Great site for authentic videos

If you haven’t been using authentic videos with transcripts to learn languages, you are missing out on an effective way to increase your comprehension of spoken language as well as your knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical patterns. One website that offers many authentic videos and that I highly recommend is FluentU.

FluentU currently offers videos in French, Spanish, German, English, Chinese and Japanese, with Italian coming soon. As you can see in the screenshots, you can easily choose the difficulty level as well as the format of videos you are interested in: clips, movie trailers, commercials, etc.

The transcript and translation appears below the video and hovering over a word also shows the translation of that word. FluentU recently released their iPad app if you are a mobile learner, with an Android app also in development.

There is currently a free option if you’d like to create an account to check out the videos and captions. The Basic plan, which includes unlimited watching and listening with interactive captions, only costs $15 per month or $120 per year. The Plus plan costs $30 per month or $240 per year and also includes unlimited personalized learn mode, courses, flashcard sets and PDF printouts of the transcripts. Also note that you have access to ALL languages on FluentU rather than only one language so it is great for learners of multiple languages. You can change languages in Settings under Study Settings.

Learn French and Spanish Together

Learn French and Spanish Together

Do you want to learn French and Spanish at the same time (or Spanish and French together)?

I have started creating videos to help you learn these two languages at the same time.

I plan to create a comparative tutorial similar to French & Italian and French & German, but for now I am concentrating on Youtube videos. If you’d like to learn four Romance languages together, I’ve also created a basic phrases video and you can check out the Romance Languages Vocabulary Lists or Verb Conjugation Lists.

I am also planning to convert some of the mp3s from various language tutorials into Youtube videos for easier learning on mobile devices. So far, I’ve created a video on learning the Spanish alphabet:

And a few on conjugating verbs in the present and preterite tenses:

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Youtube channel so you’ll be notified when I upload new videos!

Learning German from Trashcans in Vienna, Austria

My European trip began in Vienna since I was working at the New Zealand & Pacific Studies conference at the beginning of July. Michelle then joined me afterwards and we stayed in Vienna for another 5 days. I hadn’t been to Vienna since 1999, so it was nice to refresh my memory of how great this city is. We stayed at Stanys Hotel & Apartments close to Westbahnhof since we arrived by train from Munich and would be doing a day trip to Budapest with an early morning start. (Note that Westbahnhof will no longer serve trains as of December 2015. All trains will be rerouted to Hauptbahnhof instead.)

Wandering around Vienna, I was most struck by how many people were smoking everywhere and how even restaurants did not have smoking bans indoors. It had been such a long time since I was in a place that had smoking and non-smoking sections and it was not pleasant. I heard on the news that a smoking ban will come into effect in 2018, but I can’t imagine it will be strictly enforced since Austria is unfortunately the smoking capital of Europe. 🙁

The other thing that I noticed was the trashcans with witty sayings on them (in German, obviously) encouraging people to take care of their waste and not litter. Apparently they have been around since 2009, and the sayings were decided by an internet vote. In any case, they are quite helpful and entertaining when learning German. Can you understand what they mean?

Austrian trash can  Austrian trash can

Austrian trash can  Austrian trash can

The last one should be relatively easy since it includes the name of the city and an English word…

Here are some hints:

füttern – to feed

Beifall – cheers, applause, acclaim

Abfall – waste

die Uhr – the clock

geöffnet – open

bleibt – remains, stays

Text to Speech Websites for Pronunciation Practice

Listening and speaking skills can be difficult to gain for beginning language students, especially if their textbooks provide very little audio-visual resources and they are too intimidated to use authentic resources online which tend to be completely in the target language. Most of the time my students want to work on pronunciation of isolated words and phrases so I advise them to use Larousse or Forvo if they want to hear a word pronounced. For longer texts, submitting a request to Rhinospike is also an option but there’s no guarantee that someone will record it.

Computer-generated voices can also be of help, especially in the cases of new or informal words, or even brand names and proper nouns, that are not found in dictionaries. Google Translate offers a text to speech function for some languages – just choose the language, type your text, and a speaker icon will appear if it’s available for that language.

Text to Speech Websites for Pronunciation Practice

However, if you want the option to slow down the speech, switch between a male or female voice, or hear a different accent, there are other text to speech demo websites that you can try:

www.acapela-group.com

www.ivona.com

www.ispeech.org/text.to.speech

www.naturalreaders.com

text-to-speech.imtranslator.net

Acapela Group even has From Afar, Up Close, Happy and Sad voices in European French, which are quite fun to test out.

Since my students are required to do a recording in French every week, and there’s not enough time for me to help each student individually with their pronunciation before they push record, I let them use these websites to practice. It may not be actual human beings saying the words, but it is better than nothing and it helps them remember to not pronounce final consonants which always seems to be their biggest problem in the first semester class.

EMMA: European Multiple MOOC Aggregator

If you’re looking for MOOCs in languages other than English, EMMA (European Multiple MOOC Aggregator) currently offers courses in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and English, with courses in French, Catalan and Estonian coming soon.  Some videos don’t have subtitles (in any language), while some do so it’s a bit hit and miss at the moment. Spanish and Italian tend to have subtitles in their own language as well as English, but unfortunately the Portuguese ones do not.

EMMA MOOCs

For courses in (European) French and Spanish, other options include FUN and Miríada X (as well as Coursera which has a few courses from Mexico.) For German, there are a few courses on iversity.

The platform is in beta so there are still some bugs and I can’t seem to turn off e-mail notifications for class messages. Hopefully it will grow to include more languages and courses over time.

Do you know of other MOOC platforms with courses in languages other than English? I’d be really interested in finding some courses in Brazilian Portuguese (spoken and subtitles, not just subtitles alone.)

EuRom5 - Learn to read five Romance languages

Review of EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

Review of EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

EuRom5 is a multilingual book and accompanying website for learning to read and understand five Romance languages (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and French). It is written for a native or advanced speaker of one of these languages, so there are no English translations. The book is divided into three main sections: the introduction that explains the theoretical background and research on comprehension of multiple languages, 20 short articles for each of the five languages with some words and phrases glossed in the other languages, and a grammar section with tables to show the main differences in structures among the languages. The texts are not translated into the other languages so there are 100 articles total from various European newspapers and news websites.

EuRom5 Cover

The major selling point for this book is the website which offers recordings of all of the articles that you can listen to online or download. You will need to register for an account by answering a question about the book (something like, what is the third word in the fourth Italian text?). Even though you can choose any one of the five languages for the website interface, some parts are still left in Italian. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, click on Matériel didactique or go directly to the Textes page from here. (Signing in through the Description and Textes links seems to put you in a loop that keeps telling you to log in when you are already logged in.)

You can also turn on or off various notes and translations so that when you mouse over a word, you can see translations in the other languages. If you listen to the recording online, each phrase will be highlighted in yellow so you can follow along while reading.

For some grammatical structures (in pink), you can also click on the word(s) to open a PDF of the grammar tables from the back of the book.

Since this is a European project, the articles and accents are obviously European as well. You can buy the book on amazon.fr, dicoland.com, or through the publisher hoepli.it for 25€ to 40€ (plus shipping).

If you’re interested in other multilingual books, check out a previous post on Comparative and Multilingual Books for Learning Languages Simultaneously that I continue to update.

MOOCs for Learning Languages

Free MOOCs for Learning Languages

MOOCs for Learning Languages are Finally Available!

In a post about using MOOC videos and subtitles to learn languages, I noted that none of the major MOOC providers were offering courses to teach languages. Luckily that has changed over time and there are now MOOCs for learning languages:

Although not courses specifically designed to teach the language, several courses in French and Spanish are available via the platforms FUN and Miríada X (as well as Coursera and EdX.) For German-language courses, try iversity and imoox.at

Celebrating Midsummer in Sweden

Part 2 of Vacation 2014: Sweden

We had one day in Stockholm and two full days in Göteborg / Gothenburg where we celebrated Midsommar / Midsummer on June 20. Yes, I did dance around the maypole with my Swedish friend.

Ready to dance!

Ready to dance!

Stockholm can be done in one day, but I wish we had more time there. From the ferry, we went straight to the central train station by metro – just make sure to follow the signs while you are still on the metro platforms as there are no signs telling you where to go once you get back up to street level. There are plenty of luggage lockers to store your stuff (machines only take coins or chip cards though, sorry Americans). We bought an SL Access 24 hour card for an astounding 115 SEK (plus 20 SEK for the card) and headed to the old town and Royal Palace. We also hopped on the ferry to Djurgården.

Colourful Stockholm

Colourful Stockholm

The train from Stockholm to Gothenburg was very nice, and express so it didn’t stop at all between the two cities. Since I booked three months in advance, it was nearly the same price to buy first class tickets as it was for second class tickets. In first class, you get free coffee/tea, snacks and wifi. You can also print your tickets so there’s no need to pick them up at the train station.

Gothenburg Opera House

Gothenburg Opera House

Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city, but many people say it has a different vibe compared to Stockholm. We bought the Gothenburg City Card for 355 SEK and went to Universeum, Liseberg, and hopped on the cute little tourist train the next morning before the card expired. I recommend staying at the Clarion Collection Hotel Odin near the train station since they provide free buffet breakfast AND dinner. Considering how expensive everything is in Sweden, this a great deal, and the food is quite good.

Feskekôrka (Fiskkyrkan, or Fish Church - actually a market)

Feskekôrka (Fiskkyrkan, or Fish Church – actually a market)

After Gothenburg, we headed off to Norway. The train from Gothenburg to Oslo is an NSB rather than SJ train, so you can’t print tickets or even pick them up at the station in Gothenburg. You just print out your ticket confirmation and they’ll come around to give you your ticket (which is actually a receipt). This train is a slower regional train so there are many stops, but you still have footrests and plugs at every seat, and a drinks/snacks cart that comes through the carriage every hour or so since there is no dining carriage.

Still to come… Swedish realia and Part 3: Norway!