Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Learn Languages with Super Mario

Since I love both games and languages, I've often tried to bring the two together. When I was teaching English, I always ensured that my classes played as many games as possible. In this article, I'm going to talk about how games influenced how I planned my lessons and how Chinese poetry influenced these games.


Let's start with Kishōtenketsu. This is a type of narrative structure mainly used in Chinese poetry which includes four parts: Introduction (ki), development (shō), twist (ten), and conclusion (ketsu).

In the first part, you introduce the characters, setting, and any other important information. This information is developed in the second part without introducing any major changes. Something unexpected happens in the third part of the narrative before the conclusion wraps everything up with the ending or resolution to the story.

Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World | Nintendo

Kishōtenketsu's narrative structure was highly influential when it came to level design in Super Mario 3D Land, which was released in 2013 on the Wii U.

The game's director Koichi Hayashida stated how he'd used Kishōtenketsu to influence how levels were designed in the game. Every time a level included something a player had never seen before, they'd need to learn how the mechanic worked. However, Hayashida didn't want to explicitly tell the player what they needed to do with boring text boxes and tutorials, he wanted them to learn what to do. Games are supposed to be fun, after all.

In short, a level introduces a new mechanic to the player. The player then gets to play around with the mechanic in a risk-free environment. After all, you don't want to punish a player for doing something wrong when they don't yet know how to do it!

Once the player is familiar with the mechanic, they're given a chance to prove they understand it with a challenging twist before finally given a chance to reach the flag and generally show off their new skills.

If you'd like to see how this applied to the game, I'd recommend watching this video on it:

Language Lessons

When I heard this, I was inspired by the method they used to teach players and thought I could apply it to how I taught my classes. There were two main rules that I applied to the lessons based on this design philosophy: focus lessons on one concept and always follow the four steps.

The first rule ensures that students have a clear goal that they can be tested on at the end of the lesson. Never introduce multiple grammar points in a single lesson! You can still use grammar points and aspects from previous lessons, though.

The second rule means that students are introduced to a new concept, can then play around with it (without any risks), are tested on the concept, and then given an opportunity to show off what they've learnt before they go home.

Here's an example of how a lesson would go:

1: Introduction: Quickly establish what the focus of the lesson is going to be. While you can explicitly tell the students what it is, I preferred giving students an example and letting them identify the focus of the lesson themselves.

2: Development: This is when the students are given an activity to practice the new grammar point. I often enjoyed doing this with pair work where students are free to make mistakes in a safe environment and don't feel pressured about getting it wrong.

3: Twist: Now's the time to test the students. This doesn't mean that you actually have to give them a test, though. As I said earlier, I loved playing games in class which can be just as effective at challenging students to think about the objective as well as verifying whether or not they've assimilated the new knowledge.

4: Conclusion: As the class finished, things became more relaxed. This was our "flag" moment. I'd give the students opportunities to use what they'd learnt in the lesson just before they left the class. This was great because it would boost their confidence and have them leaving with the objective they'd just achieved fresh in their minds.

I guess all that time spent playing Mario wasn't completely wasted!

Monday, November 13, 2017

5 Reasons You Have to Learn French!

While I've never stopped loving the French language, a recent trip back to Paris has has made me somehow love the language even more. If you're thinking about learning to speak French, here are my 5 reasons why choosing to study French is a decision that you'll never regret.

1: It's a Beautiful Language

While this isn't the reason that French is known as a Romance language, it definitely should be! Searching for "the most beautiful languages in the world" will very show you pages and pages of results in which French tends to come out on top.

Furthermore, the French language is made to sound beautiful. When you ask French speakers why there are certain grammatical rules and exceptions, they'll often tell that it's because it would sound "ugly" otherwise. They're seemingly obsessed with ensuring that their language remains number one!

2: It's a Popular Language around the World

French is only the 18th most spoken language in terms of native speakers but it jumps up to 10th place when you account for total speakers. This means that by learning the language, you're opening up a whole world of francophones to speak to in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Additionally, there's a wealth of French-language cinema, music, and literature for every budding francophone to sink their teeth into. You'll never be bored on rainy days with French!

3: It's a Popular Official Language

While learning to speak the world's 10th most popular language mightn't appeal to you, you should never underestimate how widely French is actually spoken. French remains relevant in the modern age thanks to just how many groups and organisations with French as an official language. The French just love setting up clubs!

In addition international union organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, every sporting federation seems to have French as an official language. If their name begins with an "F" like FIFA (football), FIBA (basketball), FIA (motorsports), FIDE (chess), expect to see French as an official language!

If you decide to learn French, you'll be creating opportunities to work at so many different companies and organisations!

4: It's a Language that's Widely Taught

Since French is still one of the world's most popular second languages, there are classes almost  everywhere. In the UK, for example, it's still the most popular language at GCSE. However, fewer and fewer students are opting to study it. This means that if you're from the UK and you decide to learn French, you'll be joining an increasingly exclusive club!

Furthermore, there are French language resources almost everywhere! It's not hard to find websites and books for learning French and there are plenty of places where you can get classes, too!

5: It's an Important Language

While some people may disagree, there are plenty of indicators that the French language is still important and will remain to be for the foreseeable future. The British Council sees French at the 3rd most important language for Britain's future (after Spanish and Arabic). Learning French could do wonders for your career, too!

What do you think? Do you have any other reasons you should learn French or do you think there's another language we should be learning? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Our 5 Favourite Ways to Learn Languages Outside of the Classroom

Lessons can be a great way to learn a language. However, if you're like me, you may struggle in traditional learning environments such as a classroom. This doesn't mean that you should just give up on learning a language altogether. There are plenty of ways to learn a language outside of a traditional classroom environment and in this article we'll have a look at a few of our favourite methods.

1: Self-Study

Even if you struggle to learn in a classroom, you can still use all of the resources you'd find in one. You could always sit down with a grammar guide and go over the rules of your new language without the pressure or stress some students can feel when surrounded by other students. You might respond better to using the resources in the comfort of your own home or in a cafe you like.

2: Apps, Websites, and Games

If you're looking for a different way to learn languages, apps, websites, and games are an interesting approach. While it's unlikely that you'll become fluent just by using these types of resources, they can be useful for learning the basics and gaining enough language skills to start conversing with real people.

3: Language Exchanges

Language exchanges are when two people that speak different languages meet up to help each other learn a foreign language. A native English speaker who'd like to learn French could meet up with a native French speaker who wants to learn English, for example.

You can go for lunch, a coffee, or even a beer (if you're old enough!) and spend half your time speaking the language you want to learn and the other half speaking the language your partner wants to learn.

4: Private Tuition

You can hire a private language tutor to help you learn a new language. There are many students who struggle while learning in a normal classroom alongside other students but excel when given one-on-one tuition.

You're much less likely to feel silly asking a question when you're the only student in the class. A private tutor can also customise every lesson to your needs and will work with your strengths and weaknesses in order to get the most out of your potential.

5: Immersion

Our final and favourite method for learning a language is probably the most obvious one. If you're constantly surrounded by people speaking the language you want to learn, you'll inevitably pick it up. Rather than studying for a few hours a week in a classroom, you can turn every minute of every day into an opportunity to improve your language skills.

Do you have any suggestions for learning a language outside of the classroom? We'd love to hear them! Tell us your favourite methods in the comments below!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Languages Online: The Best of October 2017

Let's have a look back at the best stories from around the month of October.

Why is Argentine Spanish seemingly so different to a lot of the other dialects of Spanish? It might have something to do with Italian. Find out more in this article.

If the first article in this list whet your appetite for learning Italian, you should have a look at this article on learning Italian. The article covers the different approaches to learning Italian and the best ways to tackle it.

8: 6 Epic Translation Fails on BBC

We can't stress enough how important getting a good translation is. However, if you feel like having a laugh at when it goes wrong, you should read this article.

7: Why We Hate the Word 'Moist' on SciShow Pysch

This video on psychology has a look at the reasons behind most people's aversion to the word "moist" which regularly tops lists of the most hated words in English.

6: Mimic Method Review: Will You Sound More Like a Native Speaker? on Fluent in 3 Months

If you're thinking about trying the Mimic Method, you should read up on it on in this article. It comes highly recommended!

5: Professional translators aren't worried about Google's language-translating headphones on Business Insider

Following the news that Google's pixel buds can translate between a number of languages, it turns out that most translators and interpreters aren't starting to look for new jobs.

4: An argument over the evolution of language, with high stakes on The Economist

There are plenty of linguists who agree on when human languages developed. However, there's one who completely disagrees and says that languages evolved at the same time as humans did around 1.9m years ago.

For those learning French, this is an article you have to read. There are plenty of tips and tricks for those wanting to improve their accent.

2: Google’s translation headphones are here, and they’re going to start a war on The Guardian

With Google's new translating headphones, there's the risk of translation errors cropping up. What's the risk when this happens? This opinion piece on them has the answer.

1: 30+ Blogging Vocabulary Terms in French on Eurolinguiste

Our most popular language piece of the month comes from Eurolinguiste. If you're into French and would like to learn more about the terms they use for blogging, you should definitely give this article a glance.

If there are any other articles or links that you think we should have included, feel free to tell us about them in the comment below.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Five Secrets to Speaking Any Language Fluently by Louise Taylor

We’ve all listened (with varying degrees of envy, depending on our own linguistic abilities) to those who’ve been raised bilingual switching effortlessly between two languages as they converse with friends and family members. Perhaps they can flip from without a moment’s notice from Japanese to English. Perhaps they’re even good enough to offer professional English to French translation services (or translation to and from any other language) and build an entire career out of their linguistic ability.

Whatever the language, fluency in two or more tongues is a wonderful thing. Sadly, for most of us – in the English-speaking world, at least – it doesn’t come naturally as part of our upbringing. 

For most people, mastery of a second (or third, or fourth) language involves a great deal of time learning endless lists of vocab and spending countless hours practicing conjugating verbs – two areas of language that those raised in bilingual homes barely have to give a second’s thought to as they grow up and naturally absorb the languages they hear. 

Grammar and vocab are two essential elements of speaking any language proficiently. However, they’re not the only relevant factors – they are simply two of five items that one must master in order to achieve fluency. As such, we here explore the five secrets of speaking any language fluently, to help speed along your studies and sharpen your linguistic skills. 

1. Grammar

Mastering grammar is essential if you are to speak a language fluently. It is the cornerstone of being able to communicate with any degree of sense. As such, painful though it may seem at times, getting to grips with those dratted irregular verbs is an indispensable part of the process and one that you need to ensure you commit sufficient time to. 

2. Vocabulary

There’s a reason that teachers assign their pupils lists of words to learn, in their first language as well as any other – it’s another essential component of language mastery. The more words you know, the closer you are to fluency. It’s as simple as that. 

If you’re learning another language, therefore, make sure your brain is as exposed to as many new words as possible. Write a list of food items and stick it on the fridge. Read through it every time you open the fridge. As soon as you’ve learned the list, replace it with a new one. Do this in every room in your house, so that you have plenty of opportunities to learn. Bite-size chunks like this should help you to absorb new words every day, particularly if the words are relevant to the room that you’re in, so your mind can build associations to help it remember. 

3. Accent

This is where language learning can be really fun. Accent is a core part of learning to speak another tongue. A superb accent will allow you to do justice to all those hours spent learning lists of words and grammatical quirks. However, attaining the right accent isn’t always easy. 

Babies are born with the ability to speak with any accent imaginable, but lose the skill as they grow up. Studies have shown that part of that loss relates to the way in which we hear sound. Somewhere between six months and a year old, children lose the ability to distinguish between similar sounds that we don’t hear very often. Those exposed regularly to the sounds can still tell them apart, but those with limited or no exposure lose this skill (the English sounds ‘ra’ and ‘la,’ the Chinese ‘shee’ and ‘chee’ sounds and the Spanish pronunciation of ‘p,’ ‘b,’ and ‘v’ all fall into this category). 

As children lose the ability to distinguish between sounds they aren’t exposed to, it becomes harder for them to recreate those sounds. If you didn’t grow up being able to roll your Rs, you’ll have a harder time learning to do so than those who have done it since childhood. 

Research has shown how strong the link between hearing an accent and imitating one can be. If you can imitate an accent, you’re more likely to be able to understand the person speaking to you with that same accent – the brain attunes itself to understanding faster. That’s why practicing your accent when language learning is so important. 

When it comes to accent practice, anywhere will do. Pop in a language CD or tune in to a foreign language radio station whenever you’re driving and chatter along with it. Train your ear to listen to each distinct sound and repeat those sounds over and over. Practice whenever you’re alone, whether it’s in the bath or while you’re making a sandwich. Teach your mouth and your ears to feel their way around the language you’re learning. And if you can’t quite pronounce a particular sound, don’t give up and settle for an approximation – keep going until you’ve perfected it!

4. Immersion 

If you want to speak a language fluently, immersion is key. Textbooks are a great resource, but learning is about more than reading books. Look around you and consider all of the ways in which you are presented with your first language. Then try to recreate that with the language you’re learning. Whether it’s the songs you hear or the videos you watch of the recipes you use to cook your evening meal, try to do as much of it as possible in the new language. 

Linguistic immersion of this nature is a wonderful way of seeing a language from another angle and picking up information that you will struggle to find in books. Does your new language use imperial or metric measurements, for example, when it comes to ingredients? And in either case, how are the measurements abbreviated? Understanding this level of detail is all part of achieving fluency, but it’s an area where vocab lists are of only limited use. You need to experience a language from multiple perspectives in order to understand it fully. 

5. Culture

Culture, too, is a key part of learning a language. This is particularly true when it comes to keeping up with languages as they evolve. In English, ‘corporation pop’ has just been added to the dictionary as slang for ‘water.’ It’s not a term that you’re likely to find in any textbook that teaches English. Most of those who teach English to speakers of other languages probably don’t include it in their syllabus either. To appreciate why ‘corporation pop’ refers to water, you need to understand the office culture of chatting by the water cooler for a few minutes and the social role this plays within companies in the UK.

Understanding the popular culture references and idioms in any language means having a feel for its culture, from ancient traditions to current trends. Magazines and newspapers, both online and offline, are an extremely useful resource in this respect. Keeping up with current developments can reveal a great deal about a country’s culture, morals, standards and more. A decent delve into its history can also be extremely revealing.  

So there you have it – the five key elements of learning to speak a language fluently. If you’re currently studying another tongue, make sure that you incorporate all five of these components in your studies if you want to achieve fluency faster.

Louise Taylor is the content writer of the Tomedes Translation Blog.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Best Word Game Apps 2017 by Michael Gorman

Word games are a perfect fit for today’s crazy lifestyle. They sharpen your vocabulary, train your brain, and provide entertainment whenever you feel like exercising your mind. Because of these great benefits, there is no shortage of word games for both Android and iOS.

If you are new to word games, you will find something interesting in the list of word games below. All of them are free and you can play advanced levels without having to pay anything.

1. Word Cookies

The first game on our list challenges players to create a number of words from a set of letters. They are contained in a special pot below the screen and you have to swipe around them to create solutions. If a player exceeds the number of words in the task, the game rewards them with coins. These helpful items can rescue in difficult situations by providing hints.

Word Cookies are available for both Android and iOS

2. WordBrain

An awesome word game with a 4.4 rating on Google Play. WordBrain has pretty simple rules that frequent players will certainly recognize: a set of words is provided which should be used to compile a word. As simple as it sounds, higher levels in the game are difficult enough to keep you playing for hours. People working with words often find them awesome for training.

The player’s development system in WordBrain is also amazing. A user starts with an ant with the smallest brain weight and ends with a unicorn with the heaviest. Additionally, the players can choose to play in different languages (15 languages with 700 levels per language).

Get WordBrain on Google Play Store or App Store to begin becoming a brainiac!

3. Wordscapes

If you have a nature-themed wallpaper as a background on your computer, you will want to grab a few from this game. Every level is played on a stunning nature background to help the player relax. The rules are simple: crossword-style structures on the top of the screen need to be filled by words which you put together by swiping a box on the bottom. The bonus system rewards the player with hints that help to complete more complex levels.

Wordscapes has in-game ads but they are unobtrusive and displayed only between levels. So, if you are ready to challenge yourself in this game, get it for your Android or iOS device now.  

4. SpellTower

This app was named the best by 148Apps' 2011 Best App Ever Awards, and for a good reason. The main idea is to create words from a jumble of letter tiles to clear the entire screen before a complete refill. This task is pretty addictive and SpellTower has confidently survived the test of time to become a true classic of the word game genre.

Five modes for are available for single player including puzzle mode, extreme puzzle mode, rush mode, debate mode, and tower mode. If you feel like playing against your friends, switch to the multiplayer battle mode and let the game begin!

SpellTower is available for download for both Android and iOS as well. 

5. Wordfeud

The first truly multiplayer word game on our list deserves special attention. Wordfeud is played by more than 30 million people all around the world which makes it one of the most popular in this genre. The purpose of the game is to create and place words on the 15 x 15 tile board and earn as many points as possible.

To try your skills against an opponent, a player can challenge them in a mini-competition. You can also play against your friends and even chat with them! Wordfeud has a high rating (4.4 on Google Play Store and 4.8 on App Store), so it will definitely become one of your favorite word game.

Install it for Android or iOS to begin playing.

6. Word Search

The last item on this list is another true classic of word game genre that many people love. The title of the game pretty much reveals the task: the players need to find words hidden in the board. Hundreds of puzzles will keep you playing for a lot of time and enjoy this great game. If you’re stuck playing a difficult level, the app gives you hints to make sure you advance to the next level.

Also, you will love Word Search for a lack of in-app purchases and little obtrusive ads between levels. If you have an Android device, you can get it on Google Play Store for free. iOS users are welcome to download it from the App Store.

Any Favorites?

Are you interested in trying some of these games? Well, have fun playing and training your brain! All of them are free and available for both Android and iOS, so you can download them today!

Michael Gorman is high skilled editor and proofreader who currently works at Awriter. He is proficient in blog writing and online freelance networking. Feel free to contact him via Facebook .

If you have any word game apps to recommend, tell us about them in the comments below.

Monday, October 9, 2017

How To Develop Speaking Skills Through Reading by Adela Belin

Learning to speak the another language can be an extremely rewarding process once you get the hang of it. People who've just started learning a language tend to get nervous when they have to speak. This can hamper their abilities when it comes to speaking. While a lot of people in the world can read another language, many struggle when it comes to speaking.

While reading and speaking are often seen as different skills, you can improve your speaking through reading. The more you read, the better you will speak. Here are a few ways in which you can improve your speaking skills through reading.

Read Aloud

Reading aloud is a "classic" way to increase your speaking skills. Since every writer has their own tone and rhythm, if you pick up a book and read it aloud, you'll inevitably pick up this rhythm. If you keep doing this with different kinds of books from different kinds of authors, you'll get a feel for each author's rhythm. This can help you speak the language in a more natural and expressive way, rather than like a robot.

Make a Note of New Vocabulary

Reading is the best way to build vocabulary. Avid readers have a broader vocabulary and therefore are therefore better at expressing themselves. When you read, keep a notepad next to you. You can use this notepad to jot down the new words that you come across and their meanings. You should also go back over the new vocabulary once or twice a week.

Join a Book Club

Reading together in a book club is a great way to build a community of language learners. Join a club (or start one yourself) where you sit together for a few hours, read a few chapters, and then have a discussion. This will not only enhance your speaking abilities while reading but also let you practise speaking.

Reading is one of the best things in the world. In addition to being fun, it can help you master a language.

Adela Belin is a private educator and a writer at Writers Per Hour. She shares her teaching experience with colleagues, students, and writers. Feel free to contact Adela on G+.

Do you have any techniques for improving your speaking? Tell us about them in the comments below.