Archives: November 15, 2015

The Beauty of German

Another guest post from user Robert Dupuis about the beauty of German. Enjoy! 🙂

When I began studying German I was simply overwhelmed. Accustomed as I was to lightly inflected languages such as English, French and Spanish, heavily inflected German was comparable to quicksand ― constantly in motion. There are six indefinite articles ― ein, eines, einer, einem, einen and eine ― and six definite articles ― der, das, die, den, dem and des ― which are declined differently according to the nuclear, gender, and case of their nouns. Add to them a few short words that begin with ein- and whole passel of short d- words, and I felt lost. It’s therefore essential that you, if you’re determined to master German, learn the articles upside-down and maybe even backwards, especially since the declension of adjectives depends on which articles they follow and the grammatical role of the nouns they modify. Find a table of declensions on Internet, print it out, and affix it to a wall that you often see. That is Step Number One.

Step Number Two is learn the word order. Most German main clauses begin with the subject followed by the verb, as in English, but then things get crazy quickly. What follows may seem backwards because it is backwards, at least to us Anglophones. While we would say “Erik is coming home on the train today,” a German would say “Erik is coming today on the train home.” Time-manner-place, TMP. So much for main clauses. In subordinate clauses the verb no longer comes in the second place but is sent packing to clause’s very end. The words that introduce most subordinate clauses are während, bis, als, wenn, da, weil, ob, obwohl, and dass. Put a list of them on the oft-seen wall too.

Step Number Three: Pay close attention to noun genders, otherwise using the articles correctly will be impossible and reading a guessing game. There are masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, some endings of which tell you the gender. Those that end in –keit, –heit, -schaft and –ung, for example, are invariably feminine, -ler, -ner and –ismus masculine, and –lein and –chen neuter, but there are many others whose genders simply have to be memorized. To help me do this I put everything in one of three locations: the masculine Platz (“square”), the feminine Straße (“street”), or the neuter Stadion (“stadium”). In the stadium I put only neuter objects: horse, car, baby, room, water, book, rope, bed, house, girl, etc. I’ve even created a surreal mental painting: The horse, ridden by the baby, is rope-towing the stuck-in-water car, driven by the girl. In this room too is a bed in which a deer with huge antlers and a yawning hippopotamus lie side by side. Through the window by the bed is seen the roof of the neighbor’s house and the inside of the curving stadium beyond it. The horse, by the way, is reading a book entitled Horse Sense splayed open on a portable podium extending from its chest. The nouns, all neuter, in order of mention are Pferd, Baby, Seil, Wasser, Auto, Mädchen, Zimmer, Bett, Reh, Geweih, Nilpferd, Fenster, Dach, Nachbarn, Haus, Stadium, Buch, Gefühl, Podium, Brustkorb. I’ve filled the street with feminine nouns and the plaza beyond it with neuter nouns. “Personalizing“ otherwise dry information using this or similar devices is very useful in language learning.

Am I saying that taking the above three steps will make learning German easy? No, not at all. German, at least in my opinion, is a very complicated language ― perhaps the most complicated. But to me it’s worth the effort. Why? With the exception of Dutch there is nothing similar, and Dutch is so much easier that its similarity to German may be less apparent than its differences. It’s much less inflected ― highly inflected languages such as German, Russian and Greek tend to be more syntactically flexible, therefore more specific and expressive. But there are two features of German that lighten the load, and one of the two make it creative and playful. The first is the capitalization of all nouns. Before you know a language fairly well, a text seems like a sea of swelling words, correct? What’s this? What’s that? Ai, just look at that thing over there!! Reaching the text’s end may seem as difficult as swimming from New York to Lisbon. In German, however, the nouns stand out and up like concrete pillars that make it much easier for you to identify the other elements in the sentence. And since the location of verbs is predictable, you can put them (the nuts) together with the nouns (the bolts) to get the gist. Noun capitalization is so handy that I recommend you do the same to your nouns in whatever language you use. I honestly think that world peace would come shortly.

Noun capitalization is proof that the sadist who invented German kissed puppies.

The other feature that makes German special is compound words. We have them in English too ― football, underground, without, hedgehog and undercut are examples ― but, perhaps because they aren’t capitalized, they lack the punch of those in German and are much less numerous. Many compound words are shorter than their translations. Verschlimmbesserung may at eighteen letters seem long, but compared to its translation is wonderfully short: “an intended improvement that makes things worse.” Good luck finding them in the dictionary since many of them seem to be and undoubtedly are made up on the spot by the Puppykisser or his Wordartistbuddies. Analogous to how explained jokes never provoke laughter, you either “get” compound words or you don’t ― if you don’t, it’s off to the dictionary for a Wildwordchase. Translation, however, consists of much more than denotation; connotation is usually untranslatable and phonetics always is: Sitzpinkler is comic while “a man who sits when he pees” is Dictionaryflat. Here’s one that might come in handy if you ever land a job in a German insane asylum: Unterhosenbügler ― “a man who irons his underwear.”

German is especially attractive in that it’s a great intellectual challenge. All languages are of course, but German is high up on the list. To use it very well will require a huge amount of blood, sweat and tears. At times that day of fluency may seem impossibly distant, but don’t give up. Remember that the longest journey begins with one step so, not only with language learning but with everything you set out to do, toss out the self-doubts and just keep walking. Just keep walking. Just keep walking…

What makes a good translator?

From our own experience finding the right translators for the LearnWithOliver project was always essential to offer a good flashcard site. Today’s guest post from Language Reach discusses this topic.

Translation Services

In today’s globalising world, language translation and interpreting services are one of the fastest growing industries in business. In 2012 the estimated size of the industry was an astonishing $33.5 billion, and as the international business is continuously growing, consequently the demand for translation services is also increasing and it is expected to reach over $37 billion worth only within the next three years!

Of course, due to some free translation tools such as Google Translate which are now widely available, translation has become somewhat ubiquitous. Nevertheless, any person who is professionally involved with multilingual publishing, marketing, legal, medical or any other niche specific documents which require a language translation, simply cannot underestimate the importance of human translators. Regular users of translation services are aware that the logic and reasoning skills that humans are capable of bringing to their documents and projects,  simply cannot be matched by computer software.

Finding the right translator who is suitable for the job isn’t however always a straightforward task. Can about anyone who speaks two languages fluently translate an official medical document or will a document translated by a person who isn’t certified be authorised in court? Indeed, there is a number of factors which can contribute to choosing the appropriate candidate for translating your project.


Of course, there are no rules which state that the longer someone works as a translator the more accurately they will be able to translate a document. Like any other profession however, the majority of translators will become more proficient with time. An inexperienced translator, even if extremely talented, will most certainly come across situations where talent simply isn’t enough and a deeper understanding of the given subject as well as specific knowledge may be essential for an accurate translation.


If you have never worked with a particular translator before, and you aren’t too sure whether the person is suitable for your project, websites such as the chartered institute for linguists, ITI, Language Reach or may help you in making a decision. These are professional bodies in the UK for translators and interpreters which set and maintain high standards of entry and “protect both members and the public”.

Field Expertise:

Let’s face it, due to a specific lingo or jargon, majority of people would most likely not be able to fully understand a conversation between two lawyers or doctors. Now, imagine working with a translator who although speaks your target language, is similarly to you not aware of, for example, any specific medical terms. When working with documents or projects from a specific sector, it is vital that you choose a translator who is not only capable of fluently speaking the language, but also has a first-hand experience within that particular business area, so that any nuances can be accurately interpreted.


Finding a reliable translator can be perhaps most important and essential for persons who translate projects regularly for business or professional reasons. In many cases, for example the legal sector, punctual delivery of the translated documents can be simply fundamental. The safest way of finding a reliable translator for business purposes is working with a professional translation agency such as Translation Services 24. Not only can such agencies guarantee that your documents will be delivered on time, but also accuracy and field expertise.


Yet another important aspect to consider when hiring a translator are one’s references. Has the person worked on similar projects before? If so, how did they do? Asking for a CV or a short free sample (although can sometimes be frowned upon by experienced translators), especially when working together for the first time, is always a good way of making sure that the person you choose is capable of delivering an accurately translated document on time.

As you can see, finding the right translator for the job can be, in fact, quite difficult. A number of factors must be taken into the account. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that alike any other profession, or perhaps even more so, translators value their time, knowledge and expertise and so choosing someone based entirely on their price can be a huge mistake, which may save some of your budget in the short term, but can be disastrous in the future.

How to Engage Your Classroom in Studying With These 11 E-Learning Resources

Today Julie Petersen from introduces 11 E-Learning Resources.

elearning websites

Long gone are the days when kids sat in a library and carefully searched through the stacks to find the resources they needed. Today, students rely on computers and the internet for their study needs. This can be a tremendous resource for teachers, since the internet contains a wealth of study tools to help your students succeed.

Whether your students need help with time management, organization, writing assistance, or help creating more in-depth projects, you can be sure there is a helpful website that can assist them. But with so many tools available, it can be difficult to know which sites are worth your time and which are not. These 10 E-Learning tools will help your students learn better study skills, create gorgeous interactive digital media presentations, and earn better grades.

1. Learn With Oliver

Learn With Oliver is an online language learning website that suggests flashcards, newsletter games and texts for reading exercises for over than 250 000 students. You can easily sign up for both free and premium accounts: just choose the language you would like to learn and sign up. Use the following website in your classroom to make language learning exciting and interactive for your students.


How To Study does exactly what its name promises. It teaches kids helpful study skills like time management, test taking tips, various learning assessments, and tips for procrastinators. It is a one-stop fix for many common study issues. As a bonus, it has a section for “Teaching Tips,” where teachers can learn methods to help students with specific concerns or limitations.

3. ThingLink

ThingLink allows students to take digital projects to a new level. The easy to use platform lets users upload images, videos, and text into a complex, interactive presentation. Why use a simple Power Point when you can dazzle their class with a Thing Link?

4. Ninja Essays

Ninja Essays is an online writing advisor, where professional writers provide students with online writing, editing and proofreading advice. The company’s blog offers helpful writing tips and infographics to make information more accessible to students. Don’t forget ot check website’s free Wordcounter and Citation Generator tools.

5. Quizlet

Quizlet offers a broad selection of flashcards, quizzes, and games to make studying genuinely fun! The website has over 10 million flashcards, so you are bound to find something to help your students!

6. iPiccy

iPiccy is like Photoshop, but much easier to use. It allows users to edit photos. Students can crop, resize, and rotate photos with one click. It is easy to add filters and special effects. The completed photos can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms that a class might be using to display their finished products.

7. is a beginner’s guide to creating infographics. For students who may not be very technologically inclined, provides a template to create digital media for the classroom. For example, students can make graphs or maps with notations on important locations.

8. Padlet

Padlet is a virtual board that allows users to create a board with sticky notes that can be moved and embedded on the board. Students can organize notes and share their boards with other students. Teachers can start boards, and the entire class can log in individually to contribute to the board. It is a great resource for sharing information on a safe platform.

9. WeVideo

We video turns video editing into a simple, fun activity, rather than a tedious time sucking process. Students can upload a video, mute parts of the video, and record their own voice to narrate over the film. The smallest file size is free to use. Students might actually get excited about video projects!

10. StudyBlue

Similar to Quizlet, StudyBlue offers the largest collection of study materials available online. The site has over 350 million user generated flashcards. The site has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. With topics varying from algebra to zoology, you are sure to find a topic to assist your students.

11. Help.Plagtracker

Plag tracker allows students to run their work through an online portal to check for any instances of plagiarism. This is especially helpful for research paper or other large projects. It can be easy to miss a citation or not realize that one is needed. Plag Tracker will assure students that they will never inadvertently take credit for another’s work.

Web-based learning tools will continue to become more prolific over time. Teachers who adopt the use of these tools are able to reap the benefits of being early adapters. Students are naturally more adept at technology. They have been raised with it. It is second nature to use the internet and online tools. By incorporating these tools into the classroom, you can provide more opportunities for your students and more chances for them to collaborate with one another. It will also teach them new skills that they can use later in their careers.