Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bad Practices For Language Learning

We love how many paintings there are of people writing!
Yesterday we looked at some good practices for language learning. Today we'll be warning you of the things to watch out for and avoid, thus naming and shaming some of the bad practices when learning a new language.


It's very unlikely that the language you're learning sounds like your native language. Even in your own language, we doubt that everyone has the same accent, so why would someone in France speak with an English accent? Make sure you realise that words are unique and even if they look exactly like one in your own language, don't pronounce it the same!
Not knowing whether this is miles or
kilometres could land you in a lot of trouble.

Even if you think you know the language inside-out there's always something you might miss. Many of the Romance languages use a full stop (period) in numbers where an English speaker would use a comma. 1,000 in French and Spanish is 1.000 since their usage is different. Make sure you know all the conventions that come with the language.

Though not necessarily a linguistic feature of a language, knowing which measurement systems they use in the country is very important as well. Telling someone in France you stayed in a town fifty miles outside of Paris will mean nothing to them. For Americans, don't tell Spaniards that it's 70 degrees in the summer in Miami else they'll be scared of going.

Diacritics, commonly known as accents, can be very important in other languages. Just because English uses them very rarely does not mean that they're useless. In many languages that have diacritics, ignoring them can change the entire meaning of a sentence. In French the diacritics can change pronunciation or just the meaning of the word. Parle is not the same as parlé nor is sur the same as sûr.

Google Translate

We just can't say this enough! Machine translation is bad! Stop using it as a shortcut to actually learning a language! We even did a whole post on why you shouldn't use Google Translate!

Would it be rude to ask for a fork? Probably...

Part of learning a language is communicating with other people. If they don't like you, don't expect them to help you practice their language. Make sure you know whether or not you should be addressing someone formally or informally.

Japanese, for example, has a complicated system of honorifics that you shouldn't avoid. Being culturally aware is a great way to avoid making an arse of yourself (or ass if you're in the U.S.).


Just because you put words in a particular order in your language does not mean you can use that same order in another language. Word-for-word translations will often sound horrendous and may not even not make any sense. We remember someone saying "en mi padre's casa" in a Spanish class... we can assure you that everyone laughed derisively.