Tag Archives: learn

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.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

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

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

MexicoX MOOCs

Free Spanish MOOCs at MéxicoX

Learn Spanish with MéxicoX Courses

If you are learning Spanish and/or want to improve your level of comprehension, check out the free Spanish MOOCs at MéxicoX by the Secretaría de Educación Publica. A few courses just started on Monday, September 21, with more starting in a week or two. There are many subjects available, ranging from science to education, as well as some courses concentrating on Mexico such as México multicultural; Literatura y cultura tradicional de México; México, sus grandes retos y oportunidades; and De México al mundo, los ingredientes (which looks delicious, btw.)

About half of these courses are also available through EdX, or you can create an account on MéxicoX’s platform which is powered by Open EdX. Most importantly, the courses I’ve checked out so far do have transcripts of the videos so you can read while you listen.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

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!

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

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

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

MOOCs for learning French

MOOCs for Learning French at France Université Numerique

Using Free MOOCs for Learning French

France Université Numerique (or FUN) is finally offering MOOCs for learning French as a foreign language!

For those who have reached A1 level, Cours de français langue étrangère by Alliance Française runs October 5 to November 22, 2015, and requires 2 hours of work each week.

For those at level B1, Université de Nantes is offering Paroles de FLE (Français langue étrangère) from November 2 to December 18, 2015, and requires 2.5 hours of work each week.

For those who have a higher level in French, the MOOCs offered by FUN are also a great way to improve or maintain your level as well as learn about new subjects from programming and public health to eco-tourism and history. There are even some courses offered in both French and English so you can compare the content if your level is too low to understand everything in French.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.

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.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.