Category Archives: Language Learning

Introducing Judith Meyer’s LearnYu system

In today’s guest post Judith Meyer, a well known member of the polyglot community, introduces her new system LearnYu. Enjoy!

By the time I was 18, I was already conversational in 8 human languages and 5 computer ones. I loved learning languages and I loved programming. I was despairing over having to choose between them for my profession, but then my history teacher told me about the wondrous new study field called Computational Linguistics, which is the science that teaches computers how to manipulate language – essential for applications like machine translators, text-to-speech apps for blind people, dictation software, spellcheckers and much more.

So I studied Computational Linguistics. During and after my studies I worked as a language teacher, a language course designer (for GermanPod101, GreekPod101, Myngle.com and other sites), a web developer and a computational linguist, always looking to combine my passion for languages with my passion for programming. I got quite good at designing language courses as well, something for which there is no formal training. At one point, I was even hired to train teachers in the art of lesson writing.

I guess it was no surprise that when I saw Khan Academy and Duolingo, I was fascinated by the implications of using machine intelligence to create language courses custom-tailored to each student’s strengths and weaknesses. I wrote to Duolingo offering to drop all projects and work for them, but couldn’t get a foot in. Now Duolingo is not perfect – I studied several languages to completion on their system and noticed a lot of issues, for example the machine voices that are quite awful for some languages, the lack of basic conversational content like “Where are you from? – I am from Germany”, the complete lack of questions outside the one lesson they dedicate to questions, the ridiculously useless phrases (“The duck eats a strawberry”).

So I decided to built a better system and using a language Duolingo isn’t going to offer for a while: Chinese, which also happens to be my favourite language. I call my site LearnYu. Here’s a graph showing you what LearnYu does better than other kinds of courses.

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I started to develop LearnYu in summer 2013, so about a year ago, and I have been spending most of my time on it since then, except for when I was organizing the Polyglot Gathering (www.polyglotberlin.com/2014), which gobbled up more of my days than I had expected.

I did a lot of the LearnYu development myself and used my own funds to hire Chinese native speakers to develop content and make audio recordings, to get a good design for the site, to have the server set up and all that. All in all, there are four people regularly involved in the project right now. It’s in beta and access is by invite only – considering that there are currently probably a million people waiting to study Chinese through Duolingo, we’re afraid of our server getting overloaded if a significant share of them decided to test our system all at once, so we’re using a waiting list [www.learnyu.com] to gradually scale up the project.

We also still have to fix some bugs and add more content before the site is ready for the big launch. At the moment, we’re running a crowdfunding campaign in which you can get language-learning materials, lifetime premium access to LearnYu, language coaching and similar rewards in exchange for supporting our project. Check it out at http://igg.me/at/chinese

How to learn a language easily

In today’s guest post, William Delgado shares his thoughts on language learning.

Learning a language is easy for some people, while certain others find it very hard to learn a language. If you are someone who finds learning a language to be a tough task, utilizing all resources at your disposal to the maximum will make the procedure of learning languages easy for you. A passion for languages and a strong desire to learn is extremely necessary for learning languages easily. Let us have a look at some tips which make learning a language easy.

  • If you want to learn a new language, select a language which you are eager to learn. You also need to be passionate about the process of learning languages. When the learning process becomes enjoyable, the learner will be able to retain most of what he has learned and the language will be learned more fully. If you are planning to learn a language which is in the same language family as your mother tongue or your dominant language is, technically the learning process will become easy for you. Languages under the same family share some common features. You do not need to learn those features which your mother tongue has all over again while learning another language in the same family.
  • Learning a foreign language will prove slightly difficult when you do not have any exposure to that particular language or to some related languages. It is better either to hire a tutor to learn a foreign language or to attend formal classes. When you interact with a teacher your ability to ask questions develops. You will also be able to pick the correct pronunciation and correct your pronunciation if it is wrong.
  • With the rapid progress in technology, language learning also should be easy. There are language software, CDs and MP3s which facilitate language learning. The theories of language immersion program favor this kind of listening tasks. Language immersion is a method of second language teaching in which the learners’ second language is the medium of instruction. By this method the learner gets to hear enough linguistic input in the language he wants to learn. It will help the learner to absorb the language to his sub conscious mind and master it.
  • Learning in a group has its own benefits. It is applicable to language learning as well. If you are learning French you should get to interact with people who speak French. You can have lunch or dinner and socialize with people speaking the language you are learning. Various nuances can be exchanged by such interactions which will benefit both the participants in the conversation.
  • Creating flash cards of words can be a great step a language learner can take. If you have set a target for yourself for a week, you can meet it by taking various small steps. The words you want to learn in a week can be written on flash cards and you keep looking at those cards for the length of the week. You can learn the meaning and pronunciation of those words at the first place. It is important to memorize what you have learned and flash cards are a great help in this regard.
  • Reading newspapers and articles in the new language is another important step in language learning. You can consult a translation dictionary as and when needed to read an entire page or article. Such reading helps you to become more familiar with the language you are learning.
  • Different people learn languages for different purposes. If you want to become perfect in a language you need to pay more attention to the grammar and structure of it. If you are more interested in communicating with people, you should start speaking a language. From the very first day you should start speaking in order to become proficient in the spoken language. Language learners stop learning a language when they think their needs are met. Therefore, most of the times their competence is not up to the mark.
  • Many people lack confidence. Even after learning a language they hesitate to put into practice what they have learned. Language learners should shed all their inhibitions and become vocal about the newly learned language. Practice makes people perfect. None is born with a highly structured language. Errors and corrections are parts and parcels of the learning process. One should take the learning activity in the right spirit and make the most out of language learning.

Author Bio:

William Delgado is a good researcher, and for the past several years, concentrated on academicals for students who require quality of service to accomplish their assignments, and they can use the best services and buy from essayguardian. This has helped William to be expertised in writing services.

7 “Deadly Sins” of Language Learning

In today’s guest post, Ray Blakney shares his thoughts on language learning.

Why do people fail when trying to learn another language? And let’s be honest most people do. And I include myself in this list. I have spent close to 25 years living overseas and have learned a number of languages, but have also failed to learn many more. So, what was different? What do unsuccessful language learners do that successful language learners don’t? These are the 7 “Deadly Sins” of language learning I have seen and committed over the years. Any one of them is enough to derail a language learning effort.

Not Starting

Seems obvious, but this is probably the most common “sin” committed by people who have always wanted to learn another language. They never actually take any steps to learn another language. There is always an excuse. I am too busy and don’t have the time. It is raining, so I will go to language class another day. My dog ate my grammar book! If you never take the first step it will never happen. Unfortunately, language learning via osmosis is still only in science fiction.

Too Much Pressure

Language learning should be fun. It does not matter if you are learning the language because you need it for work or if you just want to learn survival Italian to enjoy your upcoming vacation. Scientific evidence shows clearly that a person having fun is able to better learn the subject they are studying. Fun increases the production of dopamine, endorphins and oxygen flow to the brain. Many studies show that these chemicals are critical for long-term memory.

Tunnel Vision

We can blame advertising companies for this one. Every day we are inundated with advertisements about how X product will teach you Y language in 30 days guaranteed. We see happy people giving testimonials that Z product is the only way to really learn a language. None of it is true. In 25 years of travel I have never meet anybody who learned a language from just one thing. Language learning is a holistic process that requires multiple tools, and above all interaction with other speakers. So don’t get tunnel vision and keep trying different things on every step of the language learning process.

Laziness

I know I have committed this one before (as my French teacher in high school can attest to). We simply don’t do the work. A phrase I have always liked with regards to language learning is that “language learning is not hard, but it is hard work”. The common rule of thumb is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master anything (about 5 years of full time work). The same applies to language learning. We have to put in the work. Luckily, for most of us, we don’t need to master the language. Getting up to just communicative levels can be achieved in just a few months of hard work.

Comparison

We have all been in class with that guy or girl who seems to pick up all the information much more quickly than us. We compare ourselves to them, and if feel that we are not as good many of us just decide to quit. This is no different for language learning, and we need to avoid doing this. Everybody learns at a different pace, but the end goal is the same. Once you are fluent and French, Japanese or Zulu nobody will be comparing you to that other person.

Wanting Perfection

This one tends to be the hardest one. Especially as you get older and gain more experience you are normally used to being able to articulate what you want in a way that people will understand. But when you learn another language you sound like a small child, or worse. So, many people don’t want to speak until… they know how to speak. Don’t let this happen. Give in to the fact that you WILL make a fool of yourself and sound like a child when you are learning another language. And contrary to what we believe, most people who speak that other language will actually appreciate us trying and not care about the mistakes we make. Until you start using the language – even incorrectly – you will never actually learn it.

Giving Up

It is not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. Many people who are learning a language just give up when they hit a wall. The key is to fight through those times. In my experience language learning tends to happen not so much in gradual increases each day, but in giant leaps that come suddenly every few weeks or months. For weeks you feel like you are not getting better, then suddenly you have a full conversation – with mistakes of course – with a native speaker. Trust me, it always happens. If you need motivation to continuing, think of this. Language learning can improve actually improve your health and has specific benefits like fighting Alzheimer. It also can increase you lifetime earnings. A bilingual employee on average makes $7000.00 U.S. more annually than a monolingual one. So know that you know the largest pitfalls, you can take steps to avoid them. When it comes to learning another language you are your own best ally… and worst enemy.

Ray Blakney from LiveLingua.com is an avid world traveler and has lived and worked in U.S., Turkey, China, Philippines and now resides in Mexico with his Mexican wife. By training he is a software engineer, and by choice he is a serial language and social entrepreneur.