Monday, August 26, 2013

Always be on the lookout for exposure to your target language

When you start learning a language, there's a pretty good chance that you're going to start noticing that language in all sorts of surprising places. If it's a more obscure language, it might just be in a handful of loan words from that language, but if it's a bit more common where you are, you very well might find it all over the place.

I'm constantly reminded of this while studying Korean in Japan.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Practice speaking English (or any language) with ready-made dialogues

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

My suggestions below are suitable for practicing any language and are given of course in addition to indispensable communication practice with native English speakers.

There are quite a lot of ready-made conversational English dialogues on a multitude of topics with authentic natural wording with useful content (and vocabulary) at all levels of difficulty from basic to advanced levels. It's hard and time consuming for learners to create such dialogues on their own, as this would require a lot of imagination about potential content of conversations in various situations and issues of discussions.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why I use flashcards (and you should too): Dealing with the lack of one-to-one translations

Randy explains his second major issue with flashcards as follows:
And the other bad side-effect of learning from flashcards is that they encourage you to believe in one-to-one translation. They make you narrow-minded and unaware of the language you think you're learning.

When you learn a foreign word and an English word together, and burn them together in your mind as a pair, you create the illusion of a world where every language is exactly the same, just with different words. But that world doesn't actually exist.
Assuming that there's always a one-to-one translation between any two languages is simply a patently false assumption. Now that you've been disabused of that notion, you no longer need to worry about flashcards "encouraging you to believe in one-to-one translation".

Now that that's out of the way, we can turn to the more interesting question: how do you deal with words that have multiple meanings in one language or the other? This is a real issue when using flashcards—and when learning languages generally—but hardly one that can't be overcome.

All you need to do is find some way to differentiate the slide of the flashcard that would become the same, and there are numerous ways to do that.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Difficulties and problems in learning English

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

Different students can have different difficulties and problems in learning English. They can make different mistakes in English pronunciation, grammar, orthography, and vocabulary usage.

There is a connection between the native language of a learner and particular difficulties in learning and using English and the kind of mistakes a learner typically makes in English pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary as there is native-language interference in learning and using English.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why I use flashcards (and you should too): Translation is not the end result of flashcard use

This week I'll take aim directly at one of Randy's main criticisms of flashcards: that flashcard users will end up being trapped in some abyss of always needing to translate from their native language to their target language.

This is just plainly false. Flashcards that use your native language to explain the meaning of a word in the target language are merely using an associative mnemonic device (namely, a meaning of the target language word in your native language) to connect the word in the target language to its actual meaning. At some point in your learning, you will rely on that mnemonic device to recall the word—that is the point of the mnemonic device, after all—but that will be temporary; as with any good mnemonic device, you'll eventually stop needing the mnemonic device to recall what you want to recall. In other words, translation should never be the end result of flashcard use.

Let's walk through this step by step with an example borrowed from Randy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Considerations before practicing a real-life topic in English

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

My ideas below may help you practice a language even on your own more comprehensively and productively.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Why I use flashcards (and you should too): Learn faster with flashcards than without

In my last post, I described how flashcards allow you to learn words to which you otherwise wouldn't get sufficient exposure to commit to memory. But what about those words that you would eventually get enough exposure to learn? Should those be excluded from flashcards?

No. And the simple reason is that you can learn them even faster with flashcards than without.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The importance of listening comprehension in English

The following is one of a series of guest posts by Mike Shelby. Mike is a former ESL teacher who has been quietly (i.e., without his own blog) disseminating his thoughts on language learning around the internet for quite some time.

The actual process of oral communication consists of two integral parts: listening and speaking.

People do not develop listening comprehension skills in English only by watching English movies (films) and other programs on video, on TV, or on the Internet, or only by listening to BBC English, Voice of America, and other radio programs and to audio/video recordings for learning English.

People also listen to and learn different accents and peculiarities of English usage in real-life settings in different English-speaking countries by native-English speakers in terms of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and style (formal and informal English). Informal English includes colloquial, slang, and dialectal usage.