Monthly Archives: October 2014

Comparing digital and paper-based flashcards

I recently gave an interview for Kerstin Hammes’ book. In her book I discuss pros and cons of paper and electronic flashcards. In the book I only discuss this in a short version so I wanted to do this more in detail on this blog.

Since one of the main features of Antosch & Lin’s courses are electronic flashcards it’s no secret that I do prefer electronic flashcards to paper based flashcards.

Here are the advantages of digital flashcards:

– You can actually listen to the words on the card and there is no way to learn a language without listening a lot. Theoretically it would be possible to write down the pronunciation or romanisation of the word but it’s not the same. If you listen to the word it will stick better in your mind.

– Another great feature of a modern system is that new and old cards are shown to you automatically. You do not have to organize the cards shown to you. You simply tell the system when you want to see the card again and it will arrange the order for you.

– A good system will also allow you to choose the level of new cards. For instance you let the system know you are an advanced user and therefore only advanced words are shown to you. Our system will also let you know various statistics about the card, such as when was the last time the card was shown to you and how often in total. Not absolutely necessary but still a nice feature.

– If you want to practice on a train or a bus you can use your mobile phone. Taking a big box of paper flashcards would just not be practical.

– Our electronic flashcards offer related words, compound words and example sentences for the words you are learning. This is a decisive factor if you learn new words. Learning words without context should be avoided.

– If you are a serious language learner you will have to write thousands of paper flashcards. This seems really a lot of work to me. There is also the problem of writing it down incorrectly. On our website where you can enter your own flashcards and I see users getting the spelling and/or the translation is wrong all the time.

– Digital flashcards also allow you to practice the words in various exercises, such as where you have to enter the words, or multiple choice or sound-based exercises. The best way would be to combine all those exercises.

– Another thing I like about digital systems is that you can track your progress. If you see on a line chart how you get better and better it can give you a necessary boost to keep going, and motivation is everything in language learning.

– A electronic flashcard system will also allow you to share you cards easily. This is not possible with physical cards.

– Electronic cards can be shown automatically to you. You can just lean back, iron your shirt, do exercise, etc and words are shown to you every x seconds.

– Last but not least they are more environmentally friendly as it saves paper.

So what are the advantages of paper flashcards:

– First good thing is that you don’t need to buy an expensive computer, you can get started right away with a pen and paper.

– It might be easier to take notes or draw something on the paper flashcards. Even though a good flashcard system will also allow you to take some additional notes. So this is no longer an advantage restricted to paper-based learning.

I think I would only use paper flashcards for children who can’t use computers yet or if you can’t afford a computer. But then again tablet computers have become really cheap these days.

So all in all it’s clear that electronic flashcards have the upper hand. If you haven’t tried digital flashcards yet, why not give it a go today?

My thoughts on how to get motivated to learn a language

In the language learning blogosphere there are plenty of articles about how to get motivated to learn a language.

I’ve actually read an interesting point about motivation. It basically said that motivation is a fickle thing and you shouldn’t rely on it. Instead rely on discipline. In other words just get on with it.

Personally I would say that motivation and discipline are connected. If you are disciplined enough to learn for a few weeks you will see results which in turn will motivate you to keep going. In other words if you are not motivated from the get-go, try discipline first and later you will be motivated enough to keep learning.

Apart from this I’d say have a system in place to track your success objectively. This is why on Antosch & Lin we have progress tests which can be done on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. These multiple choice tests take around 20 to 30 minutes. The final scores are shown on a line chart, so it’s easy to see whether you are improving. And if you see some progress every month it will give you the necessary boost to keep going.

A few days ago I listened to Chris Broholm’s podcast (with Anthony Lauder). The point they made is that progress is so gradual that it seems you are standing still, but you actually are progressing, it just happens so slowly that you don’t realise it.

Another good strategy is to read books about something that interests you. If you like “Lord of the Rings” for instance read it in your language you are learning.

Personally I read a lot of detective and crime books to learn English when I grew up in Germany in the 80s. I especially liked books from the Canadian author Margaret Millar. Her books often have a twist ending. Think “The Sixth Sense”, but in book form. One really good book from her is “How Like an Angel” which I read a few times.

I also learnt English by watching a lot of Hollywood movies with subtitles. In Germany movies are dubbed into German, so it was really hard to get your hands on these films. These days we have the Internet and things are much easier of course.

Italian Basics For Easier Communication

In today’s guest post, Brendon Gleaves explains the basics of Italian.

Italian is one of the most spoken languages in the world. Italy is a country that has a rich history, with the Roman Catholic having its origin in Italy. You might want to visit the country, or maybe you just need to learn the adorable language. There might be times when you could be on a job tour in Italy or you are on a special, short visit there, for that, you will need to learn Italian basics that will keep you on track.

If you need to learn Italian more effectively, you will have to practice more of it. On your trip to Italy, you will have to know some easy to say words and phrases that will help you be understood easily. These words and phrases are the once that are called the Italian basics, which are also easy to learn. It will help if you constantly practice them, for a quicker understanding, before you advance to the next level.

The Basic Words
The most common words that you would expect to say, nearly every time you meet or leave someone are the following; Some words or phrases have their pronunciation included, for the sake of avoiding, the wrong pronunciation.
• Buongiorno, pronounced, Bohn- jyouhr-no, or the informal, Ciao, meaning Hello
• Come sta, pronounced, ko-me-sta, means How are you?
• To say fine, thank you, you will reply, Bene, grazie, which is said be-ne, grat-zi.
• What’s your name – Come si chiama, said, ki-a-ma.
• My name is… Mi chiamo – ki-a-mo
• Pleasure meeting you – Piacere di conoscerla, it sounds, pya-che-re di ko-no-shayrla.
• Please – Per favore, said, peyr fa-vo-re.
• Thank you – Grazie.
• You are welcome – Prego
• Yes – Si
• No – no
• Excuse me – Mi scusi, this is said, mi sku-zi
• I’m sorry – Mi scusi
• Goodbye – Arrivederci, pronounced, ari-ve-der-chi.
• Good morning – Buonamattina
• Good afternoon – Buongiorno, this is pronounced, bon-jyior-no.
• Good evening – Bounasera
• Good night – Bounanotte

Basic Phrases
You might be in dire need of accessing or knowing anything when in a store or the bus, for that, these phrases would help you to communicate in a more understandable way.
• I don’t speak Italian – Non parlo Italiano
• Do you speak English? – Parla Inglese, this sounds like, ing-leze.
• Does anyone speak English here? Qualcuno parla Inglese?
• Help! – Aiuto, pronounced, ai-yu-to.
• I don’t understand – Non capisco
• Where is the toilet? – Dov’ è il bagno, said ban-yo.
• I speak a little Italian – So soltanto un po’ di Italiano
• This is…. (When introducing a person) – Le presento…
• What did you say? – Che cosa hadetto?
• Could you talk slowly? – Può parlare lentamente?
• Yes, I understand very well. – Si, capiscco benissmo
• Enjoy your day, or have a great day – Buoba giornata.

There are some Italian letter C that will sound -ch-, but other uses of C will sound -kah-, but you will learn more as you advance in the language. These phrases will help you to get along with people that you might meet on the way, or at a social gathering. They might also help you to know if there is an English speaking person around, who might translate more to you, or help you learn even more. Always try to pronounce them the right way, in order to avoid confusion. Nevertheless, you should know the phrases and the words, which will give the native speaker a clue of what you might need. If you attend a reputable school that has competent teachers, learning Italian is not difficult. Within a short time, you will become familiar with the basic of this language and be in a positron to communicate.

Brendon Gleaves runs  where he discusses his best language learning techniques. Visit his website for more information.