Category Archives: Website

New mobile layout on

By   August 17, 2015

If you’ve checked out over the past 24 hours, you should have noticed a new layout and navigation bar. I am now using Bootstrap to make the site more mobile-friendly, though with all the tables, some pages might not look perfect on smaller screens. I still have lots of code to check over as there are hundreds of pages on the site so please let me know if there are any major problems.

Audio players for the rest of the language tutorials that have mp3s will be added shortly, and the multilingual comparative lists now have a pretty great feature where you can move the columns around. Now you get to choose which languages are side by side!

I will be working on filling in the missing vocabulary of the multilingual lists (especially Danish), finally uploading more realia (I think I’ve got 7 new languages to add!), and getting the photo albums back online over the coming weeks/months. I am also taking 4 classes online and working 2 part-time jobs while finishing the final version of my thesis, so if someone could add more hours to the day that would be great. Long(er) term goals include expanding the bilingual tutorials (updating French/Italian and French/German, adding at least French/Spanish) and recording more authentic listening resources in a variety of languages.

I’m also looking for a new VPS hosting company since I am experiencing too many 503 errors due to scripts getting automatically killed by my current host. I have followed all of their advice to optimize the PS but nothing seems to be working so I’m thinking it’s time for a change to find something better. If you have any recommendations, let me know! Says Goodbye to Flash

By   April 23, 2015

You may have noticed small changes to the mp3 players on the languages and exercises pages. I have finally updated all of them to HTML5 so they should work on mobile devices.

HTML5 Players in various browsers (source:

I am still adding the players to the language tutorials, but for now all of the tutorials have players on at least the first page.

Let me know if the players are not working for you or if a file does not play. (I’ll need to know which operating system and browser you’re using.)

Basic Phrases with Pronunciation: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Swedish Available

By   June 19, 2013

If you’d like to study basic phrases for French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, or Swedish, I’ve created new pages with the list of phrases and mp3s for each phrase (instead of one mp3 for all the phrases together). Now you can listen to each phrase individually before trying out the audio flashcards to test yourself.

Basic Phrases with Pronunciation: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Swedish Available



Dutch and Danish will be coming next, and eventually I’d like to have audio on the Romance Languages Phrases and Germanic Languages Phrases pages as well.

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!

Adding Subtitles to Online Videos with Amara for Language Learning

By   February 8, 2013

Listening while reading a transcript of what is said is the best way to improve overall comprehension as well as pronunciation. Extensive listening and reading also contribute to vocabulary acquisition. I have previously talked about TV series and movies that may include subtitles, but what about online videos? Youtube does have an automatic closed captioning feature (that is notoriously bad) but you cannot add subtitles to videos that you did not upload. Luckily, Amara and crowdsourcing exist to fill that gap.


Amara, formerly called Universal Subtitles, is a tool for subtitling videos found on Youtube, Vimeo or coded with HTML5. You simply paste the video URL to add it to Amara, and then you and/or anyone else can add subtitles in any language. You can also link your Youtube account to Amara so that the subtitles appear on Youtube itself without having to use the embed code provided by Amara. (If the owner of the Youtube channel hasn’t synced to Amara, then the subtitles are only available through Amara.) You can also download the subtitles in many formats – SRT is the most common – through Amara, which is useful if you download the video and watch it through VLC Player.

For example, here is a video on my Youtube channel with subtitles that I added in Amara. You can watch it through either Amara or Youtube, and either way the subtitles appear.

Now here’s a video that I helped add subtitles to – but since the owner of the Youtube channel to which this video was uploaded has not synced to Amara, the subtitles are only available if you watch the video through Amara rather than Youtube. Usually this doesn’t pose a problem as long as embedding is allowed through Youtube.

Amara is a great tool though it does have a few minor problems. I can’t seem to delete any videos that were added automatically from my Youtube channel (such as travel videos that are silent) or videos that I added only to find out embedding was not allowed. The subtitle sync tool is a bit buggy and hard to use. The search feature is not very good, and it is not possible to simply browse videos in a certain language. You can choose to sort by spoken language and subtitle language, but you must also type in a search term. Sometimes people have identified the video incorrectly. I came across some English and German videos even though I sorted by Dutch for both spoken and subtitled language. One video had numerous misspellings and typos though, as if the subtitler didn’t speak the language well. (This is one of the major problems with crowdsourcing: quality control.) Finding videos that include subtitles of the spoken language can be a pain, but I do believe that Amara will get better over time as more native or advanced speakers help to add subtitles.

Amara emphasizes the need to make videos accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as reaching as many viewers as possible by translating and subtitling into other languages. Yet they don’t seem to emphasize how extremely important subtitles are to language learning. And it isn’t simply watching/listening and reading at the same time that helps language acquisition. Adding subtitles to videos can also be a language learning exercise.

First, request a transcript of a video on Rhinospike. Once someone has provided the transcript, you can then add the subtitles to the video on Amara by copying and pasting. You must listen a few times to make sure the subtitles are synced correctly to the video, so it’s a way of making sure you repeat the material over and over. As a bonus, you are making more resources available to other language learners AND helping out the deaf population who truly need subtitles.

I’ll continue to try out Amara for subtitling the French Listening Resources videos. I am also requesting transcripts of videos in other languages on Rhinospike so that I can add subtitles in Amara and create listening resources for Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch.

Making audio on iPad and tablet-friendly

By   January 17, 2013

I am currently updating the mp3 players on the many, many pages across so that they will work on Apple products or any other tablets that do not support flash. Hopefully most browsers will be able to play the audio files from now on as I am using the HTML5 audio tag with both mp3 and ogg files in addition to the original flash player.


If you use an iPad or other tablet to view and to listen to the mp3s, please let me know which pages you need updated first. I have already updated the French Listening Resources pages (listen & read plus cloze exercises) as well as the French Phonetics pages, including the Hot Potatoes interactive exercises, thanks to user requests. As there are hundreds of pages across the site that use the flash player, it will take some time for me to replace the coding and ensure that everything is working correctly.

New language tutorial on Danish / dansk

By   October 28, 2011

Thanks to Anders, we now have the 20th language tutorial on Danish / dansk

Tutorials I to III are available, though some grammatical explanations and sample sentences still need to be added, especially in the last part. Anders plans to record mp3s to go along with the tutorials and I will be adding the vocabulary to the Germanic Comparative Lists alongside the Swedish vocabulary that is already available. Any Norwegian speakers out there who can help add to the Norwegian tutorial or comparative lists?

Danish Tutorial Index

Danish I Tutorial

Danish II Tutorial

Danish III Tutorial

Copenhagen, Denmark

Catalan Tutorial, Affiliate Program, and Australia Photos

By   July 31, 2011

Thanks to Jonathan, we have another Romance language tutorial on Catalan!

Catalan is spoken by 11.5 million people, mostly in eastern Spain (Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic islands) as well as in southern France, Andorra, and Sardinia, Italy. Barcelona is the largest Catalan-speaking city, and Catalan is recognized as a co-official language with Spanish in the regions where it is spoken in Spain. The first page of the tutorial is now available.

Another piece of news about the site is that I have started an affiliate program for sales of my French Language Tutorial e-book. If you have a website or blog related to French, languages, linguistics, etc. and would like to earn 50% commission for each sale, then click here to sign up to be an affiliate at e-junkie.

Last, I have finally uploaded photos from Melbourne and Adelaide to the Travel Photos Gallery. Follow the links below to see the beauty (and adorable animals) of Australia:

Melbourne, Australia

Adelaide, Australia

New Language Tutorial on Latin

By   June 18, 2011

Thanks to Brandon, Latin is now featured on!

The Romance languages derived from Vulgar Latin, the major spoken language(s) of the Roman Empire. Classical Latin is what is taught at universities and written in books today since most of Vulgar Latin was never written down. The Appendix Probi is an interesting list from the 3rd/4th century CE that shows the changes between the two (and encourages people to use the Classical Latin words instead of the more common Vulgar counterparts.)

The greatest extent of the Roman Empire:

If you’re not interested in Latin for religious purposes and don’t ever plan to visit Vatican City, where it is the official language, you can still read plenty of Latin at the Latin Wikipedia, which does include 20th century topics.

Latin I Tutorial

Latin II Tutorial

Six Countries in Fourteen Days: Vacation 2011

By   June 6, 2011

I had a great time on my vacation this year. We visited six countries – Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece & Turkey – and I took over 600 photos! This was also my first time on a cruise, which was a neat experience that we will definitely be doing again.

I started by taking the train to Milan to meet up with Michelle, and we continued directly to Slovenia for the first weekend. Then we headed back to Italy to get on Royal Caribbean International’s 11 night Greek Isles & Turkey cruise aboard The Splendour of the Seas ship.

The ship tendered in the Bay of Kotor

There were eight ports of call for the cruise:

  • Venice, Italy
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Athens, Greece (Port of Piraeus, which has free wifi!)
  • Kusadasi, Turkey (Excursion to Ephesus, the 2nd largest city of the Roman Empire)
  • Bodrum, Turkey
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Mykonos, Greece
  • Split, Croatia

The great thing about these ports is that almost all of them are relatively easy to just walk off the boat and find your way around the city. In Venice, there is the People Mover (1€) which connects the port to the Piazzale Roma, which is just across Constitution Bridge from Santa Lucia train station. It was a bit of a walk (about 25 minutes) to get from the port in Piraeus to the train station that brings you into Athens and directly to the Acropolis, but 1.40€ for the metro and being able to wander around the city on your own is how we travel. The only place we actually booked an excursion for was Ephesus, which was a 25 minute drive from the port in Kusadasi. You can easily get there by bus or taxi as well, but we figured we should try at least one excursion to see what they were like.

The Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens

The villages on the island of Santorini are all up at the top, so you have to either walk up the footpath, ride a donkey (5€) or take the cable car (4€).  We took the cable car up and walked down, which actually took forever because my shoes were slippery on the marble steps and because the donkeys were everywhere! Some stand in your way and it can be difficult to get past them, especially if you’re afraid of getting kicked or accidentally stepping/falling in something… Most ships tender in Mykonos, but we actually docked further away from the town at the port which is about a 20 minute walk along a narrow road with no sidewalk. There were even spots along the way that had no barrier between you and the cliff so if you don’t like walking less than a foot away from falling to your death and being passed by huge buses going a bit too fast, it might be better to just wait for a local bus or rent a scooter or car to visit the island.


Everything else went pretty smoothly until I tried to return home, which I think is proof that I just should stay on vacation forever. The train between Milan and Chambéry is only four hours, but we got held up at the last stop in Italy because of passport checks (the concept of the Schengen area is a bit pointless these days…) and some man who had neither a ticket nor a passport was throwing a fit. As soon as we got across the border in France, we had to get our passports out again for the French police and then the train stopped in Modane because of “technical problems” and we all had to get off and wait for another train to arrive to finish the journey. When the new train arrived, we discovered it was the TGV from Paris heading to Milan (the opposite of our train) and everyone on that train had been instructed to get off and switch trains as well! It was a bit ridiculous – and of course the order of cars were reversed so we all had to dodge tons of people walking to the other end of the platform instead of directly across – and I still do not understand why we were told our original train had a problem when it took off just fine from Modane to head back to Italy. Luckily Chambéry is the next stop after Modane and I was only an hour late getting home, but I was thoroughly annoyed by the phantom problem with the train.


I have already uploaded examples of real language use to the Realia section. I will work this week on adding more travel tips and advice, especially for train travel in Italy and cruising out of Venice.