How to learn a foreign language?

Language learning
A language class

How to learn a foreign language?

A lot of nonsense is spoken about how to learn languages mostly by people with an ulterior motive such as selling some sort of language course or academic people who are too involved in abstract theories with little experience of the real world. It is almost impossible to do scientific experiments to find out how we learn languages, maybe in the future when we fully understand how the brain works it will be possible but until then all we can do is observe people learning languages to see if we can gain insights into the sort of conditions which lead to successful language learning. I believe that my own opinion is worth listening to mainly because of the amount of time I have spent both as as language learner and as a teacher. I have spent the last 26 years learning Spanish and I spent about 14 years teaching English to Spanish people. I was mostly a private one to one teacher so I have spent thousands of hours observing how people learn in close proximity.

It is interesting to consider how we learn our own native language. By the age of 5 most children have good communicative ability and have learned a very complex system of grammatical rules. This happens as if by magic. Nobody has made any grammatical explanations and nobody has consciously acted as a teacher. Nobody really understands how this happens. All we can say is that there is some sort of mysterious language acquisition device which enables us to learn languages. Many people refer to this as the LAD. It is widely believed that the LAD which helps us to learn our native language so easily becomes much less effective during the teenage years. In most cases to be completely bilingual you would have to have learned both languages before the age of 14. However, in my opinion the LAD never completely ceases to function and as long as we can expose the LAD to the correct input in the right circumstances, language acquisition is possible at any stage of life. In my opinion the best way of learning a language would be to expose your inner LAD to the right environment for about 80% of the time but also have some more formal training in grammar to help you understand how the structure of the language works.

Maybe the most rapid way of learning a language would be to fall in love with someone who is a native speaker of the foreign language, then go and live in their country and have no contact with your own language. After 6 months of such a total immersion most people would be very proficient. This is impossible for most people but if you try to find out why such a method is so successful and then replicate some of the factors it will lead to good ways of learning a language.

The most important key to success in language learning is motivation. If you have no real reason to learn a foreign language you will need incredible willpower and it is unlikely that you will ever succeed. If you consider that learning a language is a tedious chore then give up now, don’t waste any more time. Do something you like doing.

So, which is the best method of language learning? If ever you read some publicity for a language course that says their method will make you fluent in 3 weeks you can be certain that it is a lie. It is like trying to lose weight permanently by eating a diet of cabbage soup or getting fit by using a slendertone machine. It is best to use a mixture of methods which suit you personally and meets you own personal needs. Any method must be enjoyable or it will fail very quickly. In my opinion it is not a good idea to have too much faith in just one method of language learning you should do a whole range of activities which will help you learn.

One of the slowest most inefficient ways of learning a language is in a classroom full of people. School children often spend 10 years learning a foreign language with almost no result. This is probably because at school the teacher has to stick to teaching grammar because that is the only way to keep control over a classroom full of children. The results from adult education classes are a little better but only if the teacher is very good and if you also study outside of the classroom.

Here are some activities and ideas which can help you learn a language.

Attend language classes but don’t expect to learn very fast unless you do a lot of supplementary study.

Use vocabulary learning systems based on flashcards – for example duo lingua.

Watch films in the target language but with subtitles in your own language. (you can now do this with netflix)

Use the immense amount of free online courses available on internet.

Sign up for the “word of the day” offered by many sites.

Do anything to make friends with people of the target language. Go to pen friend sites. Participate in online forums and interactive discussions on topics that you are interested in.

Become a couchsurfer host and have visitors in your own house from the target language. With couchsurfing you don’t actually have to put people up in your house you can just arrange to go out and show them around your city. couchsurfing.com

Use the target language version of websites which you use. eg in online banking, facebook and email accounts.

Volunteer in community programs where many people speak the target language. You can kill two birds with one stone, help people and learn their language.

If you spend time commuting in your car, listen to one of the many language learning courses designed for the car. Better still do car pooling with someone from the target language.

Do online dating and have romantic liaisons with people from the target language.

Read books which have specially reduced vocabularies designed for language learners.

Don’t be too scared of making mistakes.  The most important thing is communication.

Go to online chatrooms which use the target language.

Read parallel texts which have your native language on the left and the target language on the right. You can glance over if you don’t understand something. example

Wake up in the morning by setting your alarm clock or internet radio to listen to the news in the target language.

If you have enough money get a private native teacher to come to your house.

When you have a conversation  with a native speaker constantly monitor what they say.  For example if you learn Spanish there are 2 forms of the verb “to be”.  Until you are familiar with how to use them you should continuously question why they are using one form or the other.

If you look on internet you can find linguistic interchanges for people who want to meet up in a bar and have cultural interchanges.

I have no experience of one to one skype classes with a native but this is probably worth investigating.

I don’t want to advocate heavy drinking but drinking a small amount of alcohol will make you feel less nervous and inhibited when you try to speak another language.

Note that Jehovas’s Witnesses will give you hours of free conversation classes if you invite them into your house to speak about religion.

Facts about Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism

Growing vegetables
Growing vegetables

Vegetarians are people who limit their consumption of animal products. There are many types of vegetarian and the principal ones are as follows.

Ovo-vegetarian: eggs but no dairy products

Lacto-vegetarian: dairy products but no eggs

Ovo-lacto vegetarian: can eat both eggs and dairy products

Pescetarian: fish but no other meat

Fruitarian: only eat fruit, nuts and seeds

Vegan :  excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, beeswax and honey. Some vegans also avoid animal products such as leather (and possibly silk).

Flexitarian: people who eat meat only occasionally

There are many reasons for being vegetarian.

Ethical reasons:

Some people are vegetarian because they object to modern factory farming which tends to keep animals in crowded living conditions with little regard to the dignity and happiness of the animals. Confinement at high stocking density requires the use of antibiotics and pesticides to stop the spread of disease. There is growing concern that the overuse of antibiotics will lead to resistant strains of bacteria. Some people believe that industrial poultry practices lead to the creation of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu and that factory farming may provide the conditions for the mutation of other diseases which may eventually affect the human population.

Health Benefits:

The most striking benefit is the decrease in ischaemic heart disease, non-vegetarians have a 24% lower mortality rate for this condition. According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians are at lower risk for developing:

Heart disease

Colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers

Diabetes

Obesity

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Many studies show that a vegetarian diet increases the metabolism, causing the body to burn calories up to 16% faster than the body would on a meat-based diet for at least the first 3 hours after meals.

Environmental benefits of vegetarianism.

Growing crops to feed to animals is very inefficient. Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and growing feed crops) now uses around 30% of the land mass on Earth. In the United States, 70% of the grain grown is fed to farmed animals. To produce one kilo of animal protein vs. one kilo of soy protein, it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water. The problem is that farm animals are inefficient converters of food to flesh. Broiler chickens are the best, needing around 3.4kg to produce 1kg of flesh, but pigs need 8.4kg for one kilo.

It has been calculated that if the grain fed to animals in western countries were consumed directly by people instead of animals, we could feed at least twice as many people.

Famous vegetarians:

There are hundreds of vegetarian celebrities for example: Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton, Billie Jean King, Boy George, Brad Pitt, Brigitte Bardot, Charlie Watts, Diane Keaton, Gwen Stefani, Chris Evert, Alanis Morissette, Sir Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osborne, Sinead O’Connor, Pamela Anderson, Russell Brand. It is very surprising to discover that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, he did not eat meat for the last 8 years of his life. It is even more surprising to discover that members of the Nazi party were supporters of animal rights and conservation. Heinrich Himmler made an effort to ban the hunting of animals. Göring was a professed animal lover and conservationist. In 1942, Hitler told Joseph Goebbels that he intended to convert Germany to vegetarianism when he won the war. It is incredible that such evil people had an affinity for animals but no regard for their fellow humans.

More info
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/18/vegetarianism-save-planet-environment

Vegetarian Recipes:
http://cortijoblog.com/category/recipes/vegetarian/

Facts about Football

A free kick
Free Kick

Football (aka soccer) as we know it today came from a set of rules invented primarily in Britain. Various forms of football existed with very different rules that were created within the  British “public school” (private school) system. For example, Rugby School in Warwickshire created rules for their version of “football” that would become the foundation for the modern game of Rugby. However, it was Cambridge University who created the rules that were used by the Football Association when it was created in 1867. Cambridge rules were designed to be simple and focus on skill as opposed to force and heavily restricted the use of the hands for controlling ball.

Football is the most popular sport in the entire world. More than 715 million people tuned in to the FIFA World Cup final in 2006 in Germany and there were more than two billion viewers of all the matches in total. If the viewers of the final formed a country, they would be the third most populated country in the world with the total viewers being almost two times the population of China.

Unsurprisingly, football players make a lot of money and are some of the best paid sports-people in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid FC is the highest paid player in the world, earning £292,000 (after tax) a week. David Beckham is one of the most recognisable football players in the world and has created a brand around him, he currently has a net worth of $350 million. The world’s most expensive player is currently Gareth Bale who Real Madrid FC bought for £85 million in September 2013.

The largest crowd of any football match was between Brazil versus Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. 199,854 people watched the match in the Estádio do Maracanã  to see Uruguay win two goals to nil against the host nation. This match shocked Brazil as many of the country’s newspapers had already proclaimed Brazil to be champions before the final.

Sheffield FC is the world’s oldest football club that currently still plays. The club was founded in 1857 after two members of a local cricket club wanted to make their casual football matches more formal. Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest founded the club and they initially used their own rules (Sheffield Rules) until later adopting formal Association Football rules. Both men heavily influenced amendments to the rules of the game and made the game what it is today.

The football club with the most supporters in the world is Manchester United, with 354 million fans worldwide; the club has been very successful winning the English Premier League 13 times. The next two most supported teams are Barcelona and Real Madrid from Spain. Both teams are fierce rivals and matches played between these two sides are called “El Clásico” with Barcelona currently winning 108 matches to Real Madrid’s 96. The biggest win was by Real Madrid who beat Barcelona 11-1 in a “Copa del Rey” match in 1943.

Click here to see football vocabulary in English Spanish and French

Sources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_ruleshttp://en.wikipedia.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheffield_F.C.
http://www.sheffieldfc.com/
http://www.independent.ie/sport/wayne-rooney-and-the-top-10-highest-earning-players-in-world-football-30033217.html

Highest Paid Footballers – Richest Footballers


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependencies_by_population
http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/worldcup/index.html