Why Learning to Speak a Foreign Language is Like Riding a Bike

Why Learning to Speak a Foreign Language is Like Riding a Bike

Few of you probably know that long before I was “John the Language Guy” I was “John the Bike Guy.” I got my first real mountain bike in junior high school. It was a beautiful blue GT Tequesta it changed my life forever. Suddenly, my world was not limited to just the backyard or schoolyard. I could now go anywhere my 12-year-old quads could propel me! Reflecting back 22 years later, I now realize that when learning to ride a bike or speak a foreign language, the key is building robust procedural memories that you never fully forget no matter how long you go without riding or using the language. And how does one go about learning in the first place? There are 3 fundamental principles involved in all physical and psychological transformations…

Polyglot & Author Olly Richards on the Power of Mindset in Language Learning

Polyglot & Author Olly Richards on the Power of Mindset in Language Learning

With seven languages under his linguistic belt and an academic background in Applied Linguistics, Olly Richards of IWillTeachYouaLanguage.com has proven that he can both talk the talk and walk the walk. His infectious passion for all things language is a breath of fresh air in the increasingly cynical language learning blogosphere. In the interview, we discuss the under-appreciated importance of psychology in language learning, how he has had to alter his approach to language learning now that he is learning a language in country where it isn’t widely spoken (Cantonese in Qatar of all places!), his experience participating in Brian Kwong’s +1 Challenge (an approach he lovingly refers to as “crowdsourced motivation”), the role of teachers in language education, and the power of “negotiated syllabi”.

Pardon My Norwegian Founder Keith Brooks on “Dating” vs. “Marrying” a Language

Pardon My Norwegian Founder Keith Brooks on “Dating” vs. “Marrying” a Language

Keith Brooks is the man behind Pardon My Norwegian, a site dedicated to “everything cool from Norway from the eyes of a Kentuckian”. Prior to “marrying” the Norwegian language, Keith sampled a number of a potential languages in a project called 37 Languages. His “speed dating” or “taste testing” approach to choosing just the right “significant linguistic other” got picked up by PRI’s The World in 2009 (“Blogging the Love of Language“), and Keith was asked back again in 2010 to report on which language he finally chose to settle down with (“A Language Speed-Dater Gets Serious“). In our interview, Keith: 1) Shares his favorite tips and tools for learning Norwegian online, 2) Confirms that contrary to what many may expect, it is indeed possible to learn Norwegian even in Louisville, Kentucky, and 3) Compares Norwegian with other Scandinavian tongues: ”Danish sounds like Swedish, but is written like Norwegian. Swedish sounds like Norwegian, but is closer to Danish. And then Norwegian, in my opinion, is the best one of them all!”

The Global Guide to Hand Gestures

The Global Guide to Hand Gestures

While being able to understand, speak, read, and write world languages is usually the primary focus of language learners, we musn’t forget the importance of non-verbal communication cues like hand gestures. Even with impeccable pronunciation and perfect grammar, you may inadvertently offend someone using “false friend” gestures from your home culture that have wildly different connotations abroad: 1) In Japan, for example, I saw the shock on a British friend’s face when he first saw Japanese students pose for a picture. Many young Japanese think it’s cute to use backwards peace signs, unaware that it means “f*ck you” to people from the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand! 2) In Bangladesh, I made a serious gaff when trying to congratulate my team for a job well done: I didn’t know at the time that in that part of the world, a thumbs up means “up yours”, not “great job” as it does in the U.S. To avoid making a fool of yourself like I tend to do so well, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the following infographic that details many of the most common hand gestures around the world.

Why You Should Learn Languages with Lang-8

Why You Should Learn Languages with Lang-8

I’ve already written many tens of thousands of words about how to learn Japanese using modern online tools, so it’s time to let someone else share their point of view on the subject. In this guest post, Saravanaa Vijay from Lang-8 (which happens to be one of my favorite online language learning tools!) discusses the advantages and disadvantages of learning languages online, and why Lang-8 should part of any language learner’s online arsenal.

Is Learning a Foreign Language Worth It?

Is Learning a Foreign Language Worth It?

The latest episode of Freakonomics Radio really caught the attention of this language nerd. Titled “Is Learning a Foreign Language Worth It?“, the episode looks at the economic benefits and opportunity costs of learning a foreign language. At first glance (or rather, first listen), the economists they interview seem to make a pretty strong case against teaching foreign languages in U.S. schools. Fortunately, the economic arguments against language learning are based on two major false assumptions…

Pin It on Pinterest