3 Techniques To Overcome Obstacles To Learning A Foreign Language

As everyone already knows, knowing a foreign language can be so beneficial especially when touring foreign countries. Not only would you be able to absorb more of the culture but you would also be able to reduce the chance of getting taken for a ride by unscrupulous people.

Moreover, studies have shown that the elderly who are able to converse in a second language are sharper than those who are not able to do so.

The only thing better than knowing a foreign language is knowing a few foreign languages. However, there are many obstacles to learning a new language especially when you are an adult.

Proper Mindset
The main obstacle to learning a new language is the mindset for a person. Many have the idea that they are too old to learn a new language. Though it is true that children, especially those under the age of five, pick up languages faster, it is never too old to learn another language.

Some people can pick up a foreign language just after 6 months while others may take a year or so before they can comprehend and speak a new language fluently.

The important thing is to make sure you have the correct mindset before trying to learn another language. A defeatist attitude never did anyone any good.

Appropriate Classes
Though there are many cases of people learning a new language via tools such as foreign language software alone, it is advisable to attend foreign language classes. If you attend a class, the teacher can point out mistakes and help you improve your language skills faster. It is also a great place to meet other people who you could practice speaking your new language with.

Mind you, there are times when you might find the class either too fast or too slow for you. It is not too bad if you find the class to slow but problems could arise if the class is too fast. If the class is too fast for you, do not give up. Try to find a class which would allow you to learn at a comfortable pace for you.

I once read an interesting comment from a famous guitar player. He said it does not matter how fast it takes you to learn a certain technique as long as you are able to play it in the end. The same would apply to learning a new language.

Additional Tools
To help you on your way to learning a foreign language, it is important to use easily available tools such as foreign language software. All these tools will help you familiarize yourself with the languages and how it is used in different situations. Hopefully, you will end up mastering new languages faster.

Foreign Language Software – Use It And Other Tools When Learning A New Language

Learning a new language can sometimes be tough especially if are required to learn it because of school or work. Those who learn a new language on their own accord find the process much easier. So the first trick in learning a new language is having a positive attitude about it.

I always say tell people who are interested in learning a new language to always start by getting a good teacher or attending a language class. This is because having a good foundation is always important in learning anything.

However, if for some reason you are not able to get a language tutor or attend classes, there are still many tools you can use to learn a language.

Watch Foreign Movies

Watching foreign movies or soap operas are a great way to kick off learning a new language. I actually know someone who picked up Mandarin by just watching Mandarin soap operas with English subtitles while she worked on Singapore for two years. Although she can now speak Mandarin, she is unable to read or write it.

You should start with foreign movies because it will help you familiarize yourself with the new language. This might be a stretch but think of it as getting used to a new accent.

In addition, watching movies is fun and when you do something that is fun, it does not seem like a chore. And this helps the learning process greatly.

Foreign Language Software

The next tool you should get is good foreign language software. The latest foreign language software is quite advanced. There are even some that are utilize the cloud or internet databases to recognize speech.

Although not yet perfect, this feature can help you improve your language skills to a certain extent. When you do not have a human teacher, this could be the next best thing.

Most foreign language software also come with fun and interactive games which not only help you speak, but also read and write in a new language.

Play Language Learning Games

It is more fun learning in a group and a great way to get people to participate in a group is by playing games. There are so many types of language games available. There are board games, card games and, of course, the foreign language software based games as mentioned earlier.

These games address basic everyday words and phrases you would probably use in your daily life. They would also help build you vocabulary and verb conjugation over time.

Read Foreign Books

Once you have got the basics covered, try reading elementary foreign books. Elementary foreign books are easily available on the internet and are quite affordable.

You can move on from elementary curriculum to coffee table foreign books once your reading improves. Be sure to have a dictionary near you as you are bound to come across new words.

The 3 Most Important Web Languages to Learn

I have often been asked which web languages someone with no prior experience in coding, scripting, or programming should learn, and in what order. So I’ll start by giving the three most important web languages in use today, and then go on and introduce other languages that would be helpful to know once you have the basics down.

1. (X)HTML. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the primary markup language of the web, and is used to build and structure web pages. Everything you see that is not styling or animation is primarily built using HTML. I’m referring here specifically to text, tables, and forms.

There are several forms HTML can commonly take: HTML 4.01 Strict or Transitional, XHTML 1.0 Strict or Transitional, and HTML 5. XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language) is really just the union of HTML and XML, and is very similar in its markup to HTML, but is designed with XML’s extensibility (and strictness) in mind. As a small example, while an HTML 4.01 image or break tag would not need a trailing slash, an XHTML image or break tag would need a space and trailing slash before the tag is closed. This is because in XHTML, every tag that is opened must be closed, even if it is an empty tag.

The difference between using Transitional or Strict for both HTML and XHTML depends largely on how well you write your code. If it is written using strict rules (and no legacy HTML from the olden days) and validates under this configuration, then it can be Strict, and will be more compliant and standardized. Otherwise, if it’s imperfect or contains some legacy HTML, it would be Transitional, so it can still be validated and the browser can know how to handle it.

At some point in the evolution of these web markup languages, there was a question of what form the future would take: XHTML 2.0 or HTML5. HTML5 was being developed by individuals from Apple, Opera, and Mozilla, while XHTML 2.0 was being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Somewhere along the way, HTML5 won out on being the next standard for the web. Today, HTML5 is not yet fully compliant (not until about 2014), but it is where the web is heading.

So with all these choices for HTML, what should you choose to learn first? I would suggest learning either (or both) HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0 first, and then go on to HTML5 if you want all the exciting new features it has. Be warned, however, that HTML5 is not fully compliant, and older browsers, especially Internet Explorer, don’t like it.

2. CSS. CSS (cascading style sheet) is a style sheet language that gives an HTML document good looks. It defines the presentation of a web page. When we refer to CSS, we’re referring to colors, background images, text fonts and sizes, and element positioning and size. Well-written web pages use HTML for structure and content only, and CSS for presentation. It allows different stylesheets to be used on the same web page for different reasons: accessibility (screenreaders), mobile devices, print media, and many other reasons. One web page can look very different depending on which stylesheet is used. Have a look at CSS Zen Garden to see this aspect of CSS in action; the HTML remains the same but the design changes depending on the stylesheet selected.

Like HTML, there are a couple of different forms (called levels) CSS can take: CSS2 (and 2.1) and CSS3. Both are very similar at the core, but CSS3 goes hand-in-hand with HTML5. Thus, though it has some great new features (like rounded corners, gradients, and shadows), some of these features are not fully compliant. Therefore, choosing what to learn in CSS is less about choosing a level and more about choosing rules and properties that are compliant to the browsers of your target audience, and Internet Explorer or older browsers are usually a large part of that audience.

3. And now we get to #3, where I must ask you why you want to learn these web languages. The third web language to learn depends on whether you want to build dynamic web pages and web applications (and become a web developer) or whether you want to design web sites (and become a web designer). Whichever path you choose, you’ll need HTML and CSS. If you wish to be a designer, and put web development on the back burner for now, I would suggest moving on to JavaScript/jQuery. But if you wish to develop dynamic sites, I would suggest going on to PHP and catching up with JavaScript/jQuery later; just know that if you go the PHP route, you will probably want to get around to JavaScript/JQuery at some point. So on to #3.

3a. JavaScript/jQuery. JavaScript is a client-side scripting language that allows animations and user interaction with the web page. Think gallery slideshows, form validation, annoying popups, tabs, tooltips, etc. You need HTML and CSS for all this, of course, but JavaScript gives it life.

JQuery, on the other hand, is not a language, but rather a JavaScript library. It’s simply a way to simplify client-side scripting. What would take JavaScript lines and lines of code, jQuery does in a few lines of code. Their motto, “Write Less, Do More”, is very true. Depending on how much you want to do or how thoroughly you want to understand JavaScript, you could easily learn just jQuery and forget all about JavaScript. There are also many tools and plugins for jQuery that simplifies the process even more, and makes learning a whole new language a less daunting experience.

3b. PHP/MySQL. When you get into PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, originally stood for Personal Home Page), you’re no longer writing client-side code; you are now writing server-side code. PHP is a server-side scripting language that allows a user to no longer just interact with the web page, but now allows him or her to interact with the server. Coupled with MySQL, PHP allows communication with a database, where records can be created, stored, and retrieved. PHP is embedded in documents with a.php extension, but is used within HTML. So even though a file may have a.php extension, it could still work like an HTML page without PHP, or it could be used as an HTML page with embedded PHP.

Like HTML and CSS, there are different versions of PHP. Which version you choose to use depends mostly on which version the server supports. PHP5 is currently the best version, though some code that was allowed in older versions is not allowed in PHP4 or PHP5, though it’s just as well since most of these codes were security weaknesses.

There are also a couple of different ways of programming PHP: OOP (object-oriented programming) and procedural. OOP programming (introduced in PHP3 and improved in PHP4 and further changed in PHP5) borrows object-oriented methods used by other programming languages (like Java, Perl, and C++) and uses them in PHP, and helps to cut down on the amount of code used (by making code reusable). Procedural programming is mostly old-school since it is less efficient, but it may be a little easier for beginners to understand.

And what’s next? If you took the route of JavaScript/jQuery, the next language to learn would be PHP; and if you took the route of PHP, the next language to learn would be JavaScript/jQuery. After you have all of these languages under your belt, then it would be time to fuse JavaScript/jQuery and PHP with AJAX (Asynchonous JavaScript and XML). AJAX is not a language, but rather a set of technologies or methods that use JavaScript to interact with PHP, allowing a user to interact with a web server without using page reloads. AJAX is used in searching (such as when a list of suggestions appear when you’re typing), forms (again, suggestions, or checking with the server if a username is taken, or populating a dropdown list depending on previous user choices), and many other applications. It’s simply a really cool way to bring all of these languages together to create a dynamic, user-friendly application.

So those are my suggestions as to which web languages to learn when starting out, and in which order. It may seem like a lot, and for some people it may seem like too much, but I have found that learning a web language is just like learning a foreign language. Fluency comes with practice and usage, and the more languages you know, the easier it is to learn another one.

Language Translations for Real Life Series Expats Have Translation Needs Too!

When people think about translation services, the first thing that usually comes to mind is global businesses and brands that have conquered the international landscape. No matter where you go in the world, I bet you will find at least 10 people with an iPhone – with displays in the local language. Or if you’re thirsty, you can rest assured that a Coke can be found in a localized can or bottle. That’s a good thing for tourists and travelers who seek comfort in the familiarity of home brands abroad. But what about the person who just lives in this world… not a tourist nor a traveler, but an expat or an immigrant living in another country?

Of course, if you were born and raised in the same place, where your parents lived, and your great-grandparents lived, and your entire family tree is rooted, and you never meet anyone from anywhere else, and all of life’s adventures were right there, maybe language wouldn’t matter…

Let me tell you about a story about a young girl, who led that life, in the same place in a small village, where her family tree was deeply rooted for generations. One day as she was walking home from school, through an Asian countryside, and she saw an old monk under a tree. The old monk beckoned her to join him under that tree…

Being a girl raised to respect elders, she obediently kneeled beside him under the tree. He told her to pull out her palm, and he began to read her life lines. He told her a story about her future, that she would one day move far away across a big ocean and settle in a foreign land, marry a foreign man, and raise a foreign family… and embrace a new life. Well, needless to say, the young girl was shocked, never having fathomed a life outside her village, she thanked the old monk and continued on her journey home.

Ten years later, that girl grew up, and married a man, and shortly later found herself on a plane to a foreign land, as the old saw predicted. Upon her arrival to her new home, she realized that not only could she not speak the local language, but the locals couldn’t understand her either. How was she to make a life without any English skills in America?

Fast forward thirty-five years ahead, and she is bidding her daughter farewell, as her only child boards an airplane to cross yet another ocean to another land with her foreign husband to embrace a new life in a new country, where she also cannot speak the local language.

The life of an expat is less about expatriating from your home, but more about embracing another. It’s about learning to conquer language barriers to achieve basic needs like making friends, buying food, returning merchandise, consulting with a doctor, talking to you child’s school teacher… It’s about ordering dinner at a restaurant, and hoping that you didn’t accidentally order bull testicles.

One tends to see the value of translating from one language into a local language, or translating for a tourist market, but how about translating in a local market for a person who simply doesn’t speak the language but lives there – an expat?

In the 2000 census, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that over 47 million people (18 percent) reported that a language other than English is spoken at home. Spanish is perhaps the non-English language most commonly spoken at home with 35 million speakers. Chinese (2 million) is the second most widely non-English spoken language at home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California has the highest percentage of non-English speakers around 40 percent. New Mexico is a close second, followed by Texas, New York and Hawaii.

Sure, many of these people can understand or speak some English, but life would be much easier to embrace if one had confidence, that he/she really understood the “fine print” when purchasing a product, or that you truly can communicate with doctors and teachers about personal issues.

There’s a reason that the State of California’s DMV provides driver license exams in several languages. Besides English, the written driver license exam is also available in Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Persian/Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, and Vietnamese.

The Social Security Administration provides its official website in 15 foreign languages. The U.S. government appreciates the importance to communicating to its residents and constituents in foreign languages.

Don’t underestimate the growing international demographics at home. In order to be recognized by the global community, make sure you are meeting the needs of your local community. If you want to engage your customers or constituents, then break down the language barriers, including those that may even be in your own backyard. Many people expatriate to the great melting pot, not to leave their own culture behind, but to embrace a new one.

For many people, no matter where they live, and no matter which language(s) one learns to live with, it’s always comforting to be able to at least conduct some basic life feats in their mother tongue. Even if it’s just getting directions from Google Maps in your own language to get to the DMV for a CA driver’s exam in your own language! Passing it is tough, but that’s another story…

The Benefits Of Learning Languages At Primary School

There has a been a renewed drive in recent years to see foreign languages being taught at primary school level, with ministers and educational professionals arguing for the need to expand provision. This is because learning another language at an early age is seen to bestow a wide range of benefits to young learners, in terms of their cognitive development and cultural awareness, while foreign language proficiency is seen as an increasingly valuable professional skill later in life. But with many teachers, parents and pupils apprehensive about the challenge of learning a another language so young, what are the specific benefits that have been identified by those who believe passionately in its utility?

For a start, it’s a widely recognised fact that children learn languages more effectively than adults and older children, having a greater capacity to absorb new vocabulary and grammatical concepts. They’re also perceived to be more receptive to language learning and possess a natural enthusiasm that older kids with entrenched habits and preferences lack. The primary school environment is also seen as uniquely suited to the process of foreign language teaching. Because primary school teachers have responsibility for a single class all year round, they are able to integrate an additional language teaching with the teaching of other subjects, helping to shape an holistic approach to language learning. While it’s acknowledged that many teachers presently lack the necessary proficiency to pursue such an integrated approach, it doesn’t change the fact that primary education offers a uniquely supportive environment for the young language learner.

In terms of cognitive development, learning a second language has been reported to help children inhibit the recall of irrelevant information while boosting the focus with which they approach their learning. Furthermore, some studies have suggested that laying the foundations of language learning at an early age leads to more effective learning at secondary level, meaning greater proficiency and comfort with the language. While the evidence for this effect isn’t conclusive, it is true that introducing additional languages at an early age increases the child’s comfort and confidence with a second language, which can help to overcome some of the apprehension experienced further down the line.

Finally, language learning is valuable for its contribution to cultural awareness. Learning another language acts as a gateway to a new culture, helping to broaden horizons and improve children’s receptivity to new ideas and values. This kind of early cross-cultural understanding is an important attribute in today’s globalised world. Proficiency in a foreign language is also a valuable skill that can improve job prospects in later life, meaning an early start could be exactly the right move to give children a helping hand on their path to future success.

In conclusion, it’s difficult to make a case against the teaching of foreign languages in primary schools. The educational, cultural and economic benefits are such that kids will gain immeasurably from early contact with a different way of speaking. While wider provision poses some challenges, the possible gains make this a goal worth pursuing.

Language Translations for Real Life How to Raise Multilingual Kids

In my last segment I discussed how being multilingual makes one a better multi-tasker, a great problem solver, very creative, emotionally controlled, able to fight the effects of aging, and more… The benefits of being multilingual are compelling enough to make parents consider the notion of trying to foster an environment of “multilingualism” for their offspring…

One might find it odd that I refer to children as “offspring”, but in the whole scheme of things, we humans are driven – like all creatures that have the capability to reason – to nurture an environment that allows every possible opportunity for the successful advancement of our own offspring – survival of the fittest…

  • Male lions kill the offspring of competitive males in the pride.
  • Humans pay for a spot on the waiting list of the best of best preschools for their toddlers.
  • Mother pigs only feed the piglets who are strong enough to get to the breasts first, showering her resources on the more stronger aggressive piglets, allowing the remaining to starve.
  • Humans enroll their children in Healthy Start programs, and send their kids to Harvard.

So naturally, many modern parents want to foster their offspring’s abilities to be bilingual or multilingual. How do you raise multilingual kids? I’ll share some tips, but before I go there, make sure that’s what you really want, because it is not always a walk in the park having multilingual kids… there are some perils:

Peril #1: If I had a dollar for every time my kids corrected my communications… I’d be a gazillionaire! You have to get used to your 6 year old and your 4 year old correcting your pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Spanish is not my language; I’ve only learned it recently. While I can get by, I am far from fluent.

This summer, I created my son’s birthday party invitations. My 6 year old daughter read the invitations and made 3 comments:

  1. Instead of saying “traje de bano” change it to “banador”… she reminded me the difference between South American Spanish and Castilian Spanish
  2. You don’t have to use the formal “usted” verb tense when talking to kids, use the informal “tu” verb tense
  3. Next time, ask me to proofread your invitations!

Peril #2: When your kid swears in another language, find out the meaning. One day, I noticed my kids saying “ho-pay“, when they were expressing discontent. I didn’t think much of it until one day, I was in my own Spanish lessons, and I heard a guy running down the hall shouting what sounded like “ho-dar“, now I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded close to what my kids say so I didn’t think much of it.

So I asked my Spanish friend, who told me the real meaning. I was shocked! My kids are saying what? Well it turns out that “ho-pay” is actually not bad, they say it on Dora the Explorer, “Oh Man“. The Spanish equivalent for the kid’s expression of “darn it” or “Oh Man” is “ho-pay“. But what I heard that guy saying down the hall was really an adult swear word… I dread the day that an innocent kids’ expression transforms into the other expression.

Peril 3#: It doesn’t take long, but when it happens, at first you’ll be sad, then you will laugh. My older child is embarrassed when I sing songs in Spanish. Many American songs played on the radio are translated in Spanish. I like it when I hear an American tune on the radio, sung in Spanish. I like it even more when I understand the lyrics, so I sing it, in Spanish… “si fuera un chico… ” and my girl says:

  1. I’m pronouncing it wrong,
  2. I don’t sound cool,
  3. Stop it!

So what do I do? I sing it louder, so her friends can hear!

Now that you know some risks, you still want to raise multilingual kids?Here are 6 tips to help foster an environment for bilingual or multilingual kids.

1. Move to a multilingual country. Luxembourg, Israel, Switzerland, Canada, the Philippines… Maybe not so easy, but if you have the opportunity, why not have a real multicultural experience for the entire family? Guaranteed to have a multilingual kid.

2. Send your child to a school that teaches in another language. If you live in the US, why not send your child to a French or Chinese school. They will surely learn the language; the curriculum will follow the same general academic material, just in another language. It is a great way to immerse the child in another language for 6-8 hours a day. Believe me, the child will still learn the local language, because all the kids will speak the local language on the playground and outside of the school.

3. Speak in tongues. If you or your spouse speaks another language, then go ahead and speak in your native language to your child. The child will learn fast. In our home, the kids speak English with me and French with their father. It has been like that since the day they were born.

4. Get Help. Hire an au pair from another country or a nanny from abroad. This is a fabulous way to expose your family to another language and culture on a daily basis. If the au pair speaks in his or her native tongue to the child, the child will pick up the language. The concept of one adult one language will work in this case because the child will be accustomed to only communicating with the au pair in the foreign language. As parents, you may want to speak English or the local language with the au pair, to help inspire the culture exchange spirit of the au pair program, but the child and the au pair can stick to the foreign language.

5. Study Abroad. If your child is adventurous, why not let him or her have a summer or semester or year abroad? There are many academic and cultural exchange programs that allow the opportunity for kids of all ages to experience international life. When I was growing up, we often had foreign exchange students at our school. My friend’s child is involved in a Summer Space Camp, sponsored by the European NASA equivalent where kids age 8 and above go to another country for a few weeks and learn all about science… how cool is that?

6. Summers with Aunt Sophie or Grandma Sue. If you have a relative or friend living in another country, why not let your child spend some quality time abroad? I know a family here in Spain, who exchanges their kids for a few weeks every summer with another family in France. Each family has two kids, one takes one of each, so that each kid has a playmate and a cultural experience. It’s a great opportunity to live abroad and be in an international environment with a relative or someone you trust. Godmother Judy, here we come!

I am continually impressed with children. They are like little sponges, there is really no limit on what they can absorb and learn. When my children were younger, people said that my kids may be “confused” and have verbal impediments or would be slower to speak. I was often told that it was actually “wrong” to confuse them with too many languages – back then my girl was exposed to 4 languages daily, true she was a little shy and less verbal to strangers.

But we stuck with our instincts, and today at age 6, she speaks three languages fluently and understands a fourth one. Living in a multilingual and multicultural environment, I asked her, how does she decide which language to speak with others. She responded, “Well, it depends on which language the person first speaks to me.” Pretty clever for a kid!