Monday, August 31, 2009
Then today up pops this article on the New York Times, which takes my one further step of letting learners pick whatever they want in languages and applies it back to literature (with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it subtitle of "The Future of Reading").
After the jump, let's strike out references to literature and replace them with references to languages, just to see how well these arguments work in both realms.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Lang-8 is designed to help you get your writing corrected, but with a little help from a tool called Snapvine, you can also get your speech corrected.
How to do it, after the jump.
Вы получили сообщение от Катрина со следующим содержанием:I studied a year of Russian back in high school, but the only word I could remember was the first one, вы, which means "you". A couple of free online dictionaries quickly got me this translation:
You have received a message from Katrina with the following contents:Knowing what it meant was a good start, but I also wanted to hear what it sounded like; although I can read the letters, I have no idea how close my imagined pronunciation is with the actual pronunciation (ultimate result: not so close). Without a Russian speaker anywhere nearby, and without feeling like spending the time to find one online willing to humor me via Skype, I googled about for a text-to-speech solution online, and quickly found one.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
[T]he state Department of Human Services (DHS)… ruled that Baltazar Cruz was an unfit mother in part because her lack of English "placed her unborn child in danger and will place the baby in danger in the future."Wow. That's not too far away from sounding like an article on The Onion, but it is in fact real.
A quote by Mary Bauer, the legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which helps people like Baltazar, points out the ridiculousness of this rather nicely:
Bauer points out that children have been raised safely in the U.S. by non-English-speaking parents for well over a century. Had they not, thousands of Italians and Russians would have had to leave their kids with foster care on Ellis Island.Indeed, such a rule would have resulted with my own father ending up in foster care.
Luckily these cases seem to alway get overturned and the children reunited with their parents, but to subject anyone to this in the first place is absurd.
Links: Can a Mother Lose Her Child Because She Doesn't Speak English? [Time]
- Como é que vocês chegam neste site? Não conheço nenhuma ligação a este site dum site brasileiro. É tudo por Google?
- O que é que vocês querem de mais neste site? Eu gostaria muito se ainda mais brasileiros viessem, e por isso dou pra vocês o que vocês querem!
The same is actually true of LingQ as well. I do think that if Livemocha and Lang-8 get Wikipedia pages, then there's no reason why LingQ shouldn't have one. However, let's let that one cool off for a little bit and focus on Steve's entry for now.
Here's how I started it:
Steve Kaufmann is a Canadian polyglot linguist, author, award-winning blogger and the founder of the language-learning website LingQ. He currently speaks twelve languages to varying degrees of fluency: Cantonese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.I modeled the text after Michel Thomas' Wikipedia entry. I made lots of citations, but as the article's not so long, I marked it as a stub in the hope that you guys would step in and expand it.
To keep this from getting deleted, remember to cite! cite! cite! Steve's book is up on the web completely for free, and it's full of good, citable information (Wikipedia loves citations to books). And feel free to dig up any information that might be floating around the internets, especially on official sounding stuff (wasn't there an NPR interview a while back?).
Also, Steve, you're not allowed to edit your own entry, so please don't! But if you've got links to media coverage, that'd be helpful. And, of course, if "anonymous" comes along and edits the entry, hey, who's the wiser?
Professor Fish found himself surprised that he was nodding along with many of the conclusions of this right-wing group.
I think they all missed the boat on language learning.
We are very happy to announce that our FREE language learning website www.hello-hello.com is available in Beta!!!!The bold emphasis on "Beta" is in the original, and rightly so; I kicked the tires today and they are definitely still in beta.
Also, they're completely free for now, but they'll be doing the same freemium model that's on Livemocha or Busuu; a good chunk of the content is free, but to get the very best stuff you'll need to shell out a bit.
So go ahead and kick the tires for yourselves, tell them where the bugs are, and let us know what you think in the comments below!
Links: Hello-hello.com, Livemocha, Busuu
Friday, August 28, 2009
Where you can find them, after the jump.
Foreign students are always welcome in English-speaking business schools. Most programs love to accept diverse groups of applicants to simulate real-world scenarios in the classroom. To be considered for acceptance, however, you must be able to speak and write English relatively well. Fortunately, there are quite a few English-learning tools online that can help you brush up on your skills before you apply to your program of choice.
Five free tools that work particularly well for business school applicants, after the jump.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
How to use the Character Palette to look up characters by their radicals, after the jump.
I'd've probably went with the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today—the Latin alphabet—that's been happily applied to languages from Turkish to Vietnamese to Indonesian to the vast majority of Polynesian, Amerindian, and African languages. Not only would that have facilitated them learning Latin-based languages (including all of those in Indonesia), it would have also facilitated others understanding their language. Now everyone's gotta jump through the hangul hoop before that happens.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The BBC, among others, are reporting that Shanghai is looking to get rid of its Chinglish (crappy English composed by native-Chinese speakers) that can be found on signs all over Shanghai (it incidentally can be found everywhere else in China too, but it seems that no one else in China has done enough lately to get the media in the U.K. to write about them).
The persistence of Chinglish has been a puzzle to me for years (and Japanglish, perhaps better known as Engrish, as well, but let's leave that for a later post). There are all sorts of native-English speakers floating around China (take a look at just about any college, and you'll probably find a bunch). Many of them would probably be happy to correct the English for free. Slap "internship" on this correcting role and they'll come in droves.
And, yet, Chinglish persists.
Now, however, you don't need to bother to seek out an in-situs native speaker because there's an even easier way to get native-level English on all the signs in China: the Chinese speakers tasked with making these signs can make use of websites where you can get your foreign-language writing corrected for free.
So, Shanghai (and the rest of China), if you're listening, save yourself a few bucks—and perhaps some embarrassment—and throw the text into one of these sites the next time you need a sign in English.
If Chinglish truly goes the way of the dodo (I have my doubts), we native-English speakers will of course miss its unintentional hilarity. So, in honor of the Chinglish we have grown to love, I give you even more Chinglish, after the jump, including photos of a masterpiece of a Chinglish sign that I took myself, plus links to much more (warning: involves an obscenity or two).
Sound like something you'd be interested in? A comparison of the websites on which you can do just that, after the jump.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The dictionaries, after the jump.
And this here marks Street-Smart Language Learning's 100th post.
A few factoids about this blog, and the addition of a co-author to the book, after the jump.
This feature seems to have been originally designed in mind for going the other way—you can also speed it up to 2x—for people who wanted to get through podcasts or audio books more quickly (it unfortunately does not work with songs).
But they threw in the 1/2x speed as well, and that's good news for us language learners. If there's something in a podcast or that you don't quite get on the first pass, you can back it up a bit and slow it down to half speed, or if you're just getting started in your target language, perhaps you'll want to listen to everything at half speed.
How to do it, after the jump.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
The video, which tosses out a couple of interesting things for language learning, after the jump.
Probably the most interesting fact they toss out in respect of language learning is this (at 1:00 in the video):
2009 US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction... 1 in 6 higher education students are enrolled in online curriculumSo, if you've run into a language teacher who's skeptical about your use of eduFire, Lang-8, LingQ, Livemocha, or any of the rest, hold your ground because you've got some good statistics on your side.
At 2:00 in the video, it points out a language-learning resource that has certainly not gone unnoticed by language learners:
Wikipedia has over 13 million articles. Studies show it's more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica. 78% of these articles are non-English.That means there's a pretty darn good chance that you can get materials in your target language on Wikipedia (and, of course, for you English learners, that means that 22% of the articles on there are in your target language).
With no further ado, here's the video:
Monday, August 17, 2009
Well, as far as I can tell, there's a Japanese emoticon in which I can see nothing but our dearly disarmed Mr. Baba:
(´ω｀)Japanese people apparently see happiness in this emoticon (1st column, 7th from the top), but I don't know what's happy about losing an arm.
And wait until you see what chaos emoticons bring us after the jump.
Autism is a spectrum of medical conditions where people have a lot of difficulty in forming social relationships and in putting themselves in other people's shoes, to imagine other people's thoughts and feelings.Or, in other words, they struggle with being empathetic.
But, still, autistic people demonstrate language-learning skill:
Tammet’s particular developmental disorder is Asperger’s syndrome, a mild, high-functioning form of autism. … People with Asperger’s often have normal to high IQs and good language and learning ability.While this certainly doesn't prove anything definitively regarding empathy and language learning, and it doesn't address directly the issue of accents that was at issue previously, it does raise another question mark about just how important empathy really is in language learning.
My days are, predictably, dominated by Japanese and English. I try to maximize my use of Japanese because of my need to use it at work, but there are two places where I use English as a matter of course. The first is with my kids; I only use English with them, and my wife and I speak English to each other whenever we're in earshot of them, in order to maximize their exposure to English. This is of course a direct trade-off between my Japanese and their English, but one I'll take to prevent them from speaking Engrish. The other place I use English regularly is of course at work when I need to do any of the various things a lawyer might need to do in English.
My language-learning day gets kicked off with my morning alarm; I awake to the sound of Japanese podcasts giving me today's news. Breakfast with the fam is largely in English, although my wife always speaks to the kids in Japanese and the nanny speaks to all of us only in Chinese, so that'll be floating around as well. My mother typically joins us for breakfast via video chat, so once in a while she and I will use some Italian when we don't want anyone else to understand.
Daniel was recently profiled in a British documentary called “Brainman.” The producers posed a challenge that he could not pass up: Learn a foreign language in a week - and not just any foreign language, but Icelandic, considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn.The actual video referred to is here (starting from 41:15).
In Iceland, he studied and practiced with a tutor. When the moment of truth came and he appeared on TV live with a host, the host said, "I was amazed. He was responding to our questions. He did understand them very well and I thought that his grammar was very good. We are very proud of our language and that someone is able to speak it after only one week, that’s just great."
Now if you give me a week of complete immersion and a good native-speaker tutor, I could make a great start in any language, but I don't think I could even come close to what Daniel was able to do. So what's the magic sauce and where can I get some? Well, it's unfortunately not quite as simple as all that; Daniel is a high-functioning autistic savant, so his brain works quite a bit differently from yours and mine.
If you've seen the movie Rain Man,that's a savant. Savant syndrome is a developmental disorder "characterized by one or more areas of expertise, ability or brilliance that are in contrast with the individual's overall limitations". In Daniel's case, his limitations are very few (for example, he's not a big fan of crowds and has trouble recalling faces), and his abilities are impressive—with his skills in language learning, memorization, and making complex calculations standing out as particularly impressive.
While I'm not putting any money down on anyone coming even close to Daniel's abilities (he's one of perhaps 50 in the entire world with skills like his), Daniel himself thinks that his learning strategy doesn't require his brain. Daniel's magic sauce, after the jump.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The video that started the controversy and how Rosetta's mixed up in it all, after the jump.
[A] team of scientists in Switzerland is claiming that a fully functioning replica of a human brain could be built by 2020. … They are using one of the most powerful computers in the world to replicate the actions of the 100 billion neurons in the human brain. It is this approach - essentially copying how a brain works without necessarily understanding all of its actions - that will lead to success, the team hopes.While this raises all sorts of fun things—like confounding ethical dilemmas and the singularity—let's see what this might do for language learning.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This seems to be a pretty common method. Is everyone just playing follow-the-leader (i.e., following Rosetta Stone), or is there actually some science to back up all this fervent picture clicking?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My initial reaction is that, no, there aren't, because going slower helps you absorb better, but I suppose there could be some argument to covering quantity.
Links: Repeat "A-E-I-O-U" to Read Faster [Lifehacker]
ThatWhichMatter Delivers Grammar Tips in Tweets [Lifehacker]
ThatWhichMatter, a Splendid Twitter Feed on Grammar and Usage [Daring Fireball]
“I didn’t know anything about China,” said [Joshua Arjuna Stephens, who graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies]. “People thought I was nuts to go not speaking the language, but I wanted to do something off the beaten track.”So there you have it: two years.
Two years later, after stints in the nonprofit sector and at a large public relations firm in Beijing, he is highly proficient in Mandarin . . .
After two years of living and working in China, [Sarabeth Berman, a 2006 graduate of Barnard College with a major in urban studies,] is proficient in Mandarin.
Links: American Graduates Finding Jobs in China [New York TImes]
The site appears to have been actively largely in the early 2000s, but is still kept up by the person who was behind it, Tim Gally. Here's how jeKai describes what it's there for:
In May 2000, a group of volunteers throughout the world began creating an open, free, online Japanese-English dictionary. The form and content of the dictionary are decided by the participants in the project. Among its features are the following:My guess is this little Web 1.0 project fell into disuse as Web 2.0 wiki-based sites made this kind of effort a lot easier, but the fact that it's still coming up in Google hits demonstrates its ongoing relevance.
- Definitions that explain the meaning of words as completely as possible
- As many examples as possible of each word in real contexts
- Photographs and other illustrations, especially for entries about uniquely Japanese things
- No restrictions on the type or range of vocabulary
- No restrictions on the length of entries
It seems to have a lot of things that aren't adequately explained elsewhere, one of course being ～かねる -kaneru, but another you might find of interest is their list of Japanese baseball terms. There's a whole bunch of other stuff up there as well, so I'd recommend you Japanese learners to have a looksee.
Monday, August 10, 2009
“I don’t believe that charters and vouchers are the threat to schools in Orange County,” ... said [William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County schools]. “What’s a threat is the digital world — that someone’s going to put together brilliant $200 courses in French, in geometry by the best teachers in the world.”I'll bet we can come up with a few "brilliant" online courses in French—and probably for a lot less than $200.
Well, Ramses has made it a little easier for you Spanish learners with this database of Spanish sentences and their English translations (hat tip: Babelhut).
There's nothing quite like context to help you learn a language, whether for vocab or catching grammatical rules in practice, and sentences give you bite-size chunks of context good for just that. They won't be quite as useful for you as they were for Ramses (who got them from their original context), but the database can save you some work if you're looking for a ton of sentences that already have translations conveniently located nearby.
My one request at this point is a way to easily incorporate these into a spaced-repetition system. Currently, as far as I can tell, you'd have to pluck out the sentences one by one, but hopefully that is something that will change over time as it continues to be a work in progress.
However, I'd say a lot of follow-up is needed before this can be considered a "conclusion".
Sunday, August 9, 2009
This list is for users of LingQ.com to identify sources of language content consisting of both audio and text.Listening to audio is great, but it's even better when you can refer to a text to find that word you didn't quite get.
I'm currently working on setting up a bunch of podcasts that I can regularly listen to so that I can keep languages I'm not using so much moving forward, and this list has some good leads for me. I've been able to dredge up some thing that aren't on this list, so I'll be dropping LingQ a line to add them in. If you know of any similar content sources that are not yet on the list, I encourage you to do the same.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Here's how the site sells itself:
LEARN a new language anytime, anywhere with online, interactive lessons that will develop all the skills you need.That sounds a lot like Livemocha to me.
TEACH other members your language and learn from native speakers.
COMMUNICATE with native speakers and make friends all over the world.
Strangely, the simple site is designed primarily as an image (that image above is a screen grab), as if to avoid Google bot detection and stay off the radar for the time being. On the other hand, they do have a perfectly searchable Facebook page.
One thing I'm curious about is the Men's Health article they got some coverage in. Keep in mind that this is an unreleased product:
[R]einforce your lessons by signing onto social-networking sites that let you interact with native speakers. "They use functional language that you'd hear in conversation," says Marty Abbott, director of education for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Her favorite is hello-hello.com.So how exactly does an unreleased site become someone's favorite tool? I smell something fishy! (Or perhaps a rational explanation that's just escaping detection, but I digress...). [Update: Yup, there was a rational explanation that was escaping detection. See the comment below.]
So... what do you know about Hello-hello.com? Drop a line in the comments below or send an email to tips at this domain name. (And I welcome comments from you, Hello-hello.com, because I know you're keeping an eye on those Google Alerts!)
Win the Mind Games [Men's Health]
So far, it looks like Anki's solution for an unbroken iPhone, iAnki, is the best option available, although it's far from ideal. The software is testy, something of a challenge to get working, and syncing with Anki on the desktop can be a headache, but its core study functions by and large work fine and, in the end, you do get two-way syncs with Anki's desktop application.
Let's get into the nitty-gritty, after the jump.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Pretty much every day at work I make use of Japanese Law Translation, which is pretty much what it sounds like it is, but it's got a few neat tricks up its sleeve.
The website is maintained by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, with contributions from various lawyers (including those at my firm), legal academics, and others (more about its genesis is available here). It is in effect the official translation of legal terms in Japanese.
It has a basic bilingual dictionary, where you can look up words in English or Japanese. (And there are rumblings of later expanding it to include Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese as well.) It then gives you a list of the definitions that contain the word plus links to the laws it's found in.
However, not all terms that have been translated can be found in the dictionary, so another very useful tool is the ability to search translations of the law for the word you're looking for. That will get you both the English and the Japanese text and you can figure out how the word was translated.
As the website is a work in progress (and will need regular updating as laws change), not all laws and regulations are included yet, and as mentioned above not all terms have been added to the dictionary, but it is a very useful tool if you ever have a need for legalese in Japanese.
It's got separate lists for all four levels of the test (1, 2, 3, and 4, with 1 being the hardest), or you can view the vocab all together. The list was made in 2005, so it may be a little out of date, and it was made in Taiwan, so you'll probably get that variety of Chinese.
One thing I like about this list (and that I'd like to see in other such lists) is that it notes on which syllable the stress falls in the Japanese word. My wife often says I use stress in Japanese words where there isn't any. This chart seems to back up her criticisms, given how many words are marked as having "0" (i.e., no) stress and thus should just be read flatly.
When you look up the Japanese for the English noun "pattern" on ALC, you get (deep breath, now) 傾向 keikou, 模様 moyou, 型 kata, 原型 genkei, 型紙 katagami, 柄 gara, 形態 keitai, 構図 kouzu, 模範 mohan, and パターン pata-n (as if they didn't have enough ways to say it with Chinese characters, they had to bring in a loanword from English as well). Let's see if we can figure out what to use when.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Before I do, however, I'd like to put a call out for any of the free, online dictionaries that you might like. I've found before that sometimes the best dictionaries don't turn up easily in searches, so I thought I'd see if a little crowdsourcing might be able to find me some new and interesting hits.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Here's the play-by-play. In my earlier post on the best age at which to learn a language, I wrote:
Kids often get corrected by the adults around them...Steve replied:
[I]t is not my experience that infants are corrected in their use of language.And I elaborated:
Although some people correct children explicitly (we do), the usual route is that they're corrected indirectly when the adult repeats the phrase in some way back to them. Think something like a child saying, "Eat apple!", and the adult saying back to them, "Oh, do you want to eat the apple?" It's more subtle than directly correcting, but it's correcting nonetheless.After I posted this comment, I went back and read Steve's earlier comment where he wrote "[kids] hear it and they imitate it", and began to wonder if this was a to-MAY-to / to-MAH-to thing where I'm calling it "being corrected" and he's calling it "imitating".
And that sort of thing is absolutely helpful when learning a language. When I'm not quite getting my point across, then finally I manage to grudgingly do so and the person says the equivalent of, "Oh! So you mean that you want to eat the apple!", I've got the correct way of saying it right there for the taking.
In any case, Steve continues:
I simply do not buy it. You cannot possibly correct enough errors to make a difference. Children and most good learners correct most of their mistakes on their own. The brain gradually corrects itself as the patterns of the language become clearer.OK, I'll draw a line in the sand in response to that. My position, after the jump.
I was interning that year in Japan's legislature, and he wasn't exactly strongly supported there either. So it came as no surprise when the legislative-office rumor mill brought wind of an alleged interaction between Prime Minister Mori and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the G-8 summit that was held in Okinawa in July 2000, several months before my internship began.
Basically it went something like this. Mori, not very good at English, got some coaching from translators to help him at least get a basic greeting down for when he was to meet with Bill Clinton. But, instead of starting with, "How are you?", Mori forgot how it was supposed to go and blurted out...
One particular utterance that came directly from my own mouth demonstrates the point neatly. Some of my more-or-less inebriated non-Japanese colleagues were chugging ramen. Slurping vigorously would be a more accurate description, but we settled on "chugging" to describe the action. When a bowl of ramen was passed my way, I declined, saying, "I ain't chuggin' no noodles!"
The linguistic dissection, after the jump.
I haven't logged into Livemocha for a few weeks. When I did so today using Safari, I was greeted with this (click on the image to see a bigger version):
So I've got to use either Internet Explorer or Firefox. Despite Safari working fine up until now, it looks like something won't be working quite right if I continue using it.
Argh. I hope this is another of what I would like to believe are temporary growing pains. Let's hope they start growing out of their growing pains, rather than introducing new ones like this.