Transforming Social Isolation into an immersive language learning environment

Mobile phones are our window to the world during social isolation – use them for language learning
  • Change mobile phone and social media accounts into the target language – our phone is a portable language learning tool in our pocket, so make the most of it by switching it into the language you’re learning. The average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media everyday according to Social Media Today, so make the most of your minutes by learning common words such as ‘like / follow / share / comment’ and informal vocab. 
  • Change your computer’s language settings – as above, but only if you’re really confident navigating and finding things.  Especially take note of how to get to your language settings so that you can change it back!
  • Set up a virtual language lunch club – many of us are missing our usual language clubs like Mundo Lingo, so why not bring the language social to you by setting up an online language lunch club using zoom or another video meeting platform.
  • Podcasts – Download podcasts and spend 15-20 minutes immersed in a foreign language, maybe whilst taking a walk or doing some DIY or tidying round the house.
  • Use Post-It notes – our brains are wired to remember things by association and in context much more easily than when we see a list of words in a textbook out of everyday context. For basic nouns and phrases, it can be useful to put the word on the object to help it stick in your mind. I find it really helpful to allocate specific colours to different genders or types of words (e.g. masculine, feminine or neuter nouns or verbs and adjectives). After 1-2 weeks of regularly seeing the word associated with that object you won’t need the written cues anymore.
Post It Notes can be a colourful tool for vocabulary learning
  • Write to friends overseas – keep in touch with friends overseas by writing letters, postcards, emails or messages in the target language. If you don’t know any native speakers of the language, you can find pen pals online at Language Forever Exchange
  • Learn with an online tutor from the comfort of your sofa – for a small fee you can spend an hour practising your languages with community teachers or learning with qualified teachers on sites like italki.  There is also the option to offer lessons for credit, so it can be a cost neutral way of learning. Sign up to italki today!
  • Duolingo – this fun app has gamified language learning and will take you through various interactive exercises and introduce a range of vocabulary, grammar and phrases you’ll need for the language you’re learning. Great for short bursts of 10-15 minutes per day. They even have High Valyrian so you can find almost any language you’re passionate about!
  • Listen to radio in another language – every morning while you’re getting ready have the radio on in the background so you can soak up the language and hear the latest news stories from another part of the world. If you have a smart speaker (e.g. Alexa or Google Home) or something similar, you could even set a radio alarm to wake you up each morning!
  • Sing along in another language – this is useful whatever level you’re at; you could sing along to and learn children’s nursery rhymes, the national anthem or whatever song is at the top of the charts in the language you’re learning, depending on your level. Keep your learning fun and tailored to your music preferences. YouTube and Spotify have plenty of songs if you’re stuck for inspiration and are great resources for international music. YouTube often has lyrics to songs embedded in videos, which is really helpful.
  • Read articles in the language online – I find it useful to follow prominent newspapers in the language I’m learning on social media so that the language regularly pops up in my feed. Alternatively, you could take out a subscription for a magazine or paper to be delivered in the post right to your door.
Listen to more music in the language you’re learning
  • Read books in the language – there are lots of language books on Amazon, at Grant and Cutler so make the most of the extra time at home to dive into a good book. 
  • Watch films on Netflix or Amazon Prime – many of us have access to hundreds of films and series on our TVs, but when was the last time you searched for the foreign language section? Take a look and discover some new series or films while soaking up the language!

Let us know if you try any hacks from our list and share your top tips for creating a language learning immersion environment during social distancing with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Spotlight on Language Skills: Reading

Reading is a passive language learning skill, and one of the best ways to understand how the grammar and vocabulary of a language is used in a range of contexts at our own leisure, with no pressure of time. 

If, like me, you’re a bit of a bookworm, reading might just be your favourite part of language learning and you’ll know it can be a really enjoyable way to develop your second language skills in other areas, such as writing.

However, if it’s not a natural hobby of yours, we’ve shared some ways to make it varied and embed it in your everyday life. We’ve also collated a range of second language reading resources for you in our Lingua Centra Language Resources hub.

There are two types of reading for language learning:

Extensive reading – also known as reading for pleasure, it’s usually longer and you should expect to understand 95% of the text (Laufer, 1989), so it’s important to pick a book / document / item that is enjoyable and something that suits your level of language study.

Intensive reading – shorter bursts of reading where you understand the majority of the text, but not every single word, so don’t be discouraged, keep going!

Below are our top tips and techniques for getting reading practice:

  1. Newspapers / magazines – for formal and informal language online, through an app or in print. If there’s a magazine you’re particularly keen on, could you get a subscription to nudge you to read more regularly?
  2. Books & novels – children’s, language learner, dual language bilingual publications, fiction and non-fiction. May highlight other tenses that aren’t used in speech (e.g. passé simple)
  3. Poems – creative use of language, flow of language and syntax. Fun, possibly more archaic use of language
  4. Music lyrics – sociolinguistic diversity, try reading a range of styles e.g. pop songs, rap lyrics
  5. Theatre and play Scripts – more conversational language.
  6. Subtitles – why not watch your favourite Netflix series or films with language subtitles on. Or with YouTube or videos shared on social media channels, flick on the subtitles to read along as you watch videos in a foreign language.
  7. Formal letters / emails – could you volunteer or work in the environment of the language you’re learning? If so, you’re more likely to be exposed to formal register language through emails and letters in a business style
  8. Social media – change your language input so you’re forced to read it. informal language, follow groups on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
  9. Change your phone language so you’re forced to read it on a daily basis
  10. Change machine language options – for example, when taking out cash at a cashpoint or purchasing a digital ticket at a train station and the machine offers language options, select the language you’re learning to navigate its functionality and follow instructions in the language. You’re likely to see more imperative, formal forms of language in this setting.
  11. Change your web browser language or search in another language for example switch to www.yandex.ru for searches in Russian (also change your keyboard input language to conduct your search)
  12. Use a monolingual dictionary when looking for definitions and synonyms (either online or print)
  13. Read instructions or cooking recipes in the language online or in a book
  14. Museums and tourist guides in the language – pick up a leaflet in the language you’re learning rather than your native language. Or pick up both to help with translations!
  15. Blogs and Vlogs – find a blog online, vlog on YouTube or influencer on Instagram that you can follow in a hobby or topic that interests you, then subscribe and follow them so you can keep up with you hobbies whilst being exposed to language in this area
  16. Change your gaming habits – switch up your gaming experience to set the language you’re playing in. Or even go retro and purchase a board game in the language you’re learning!

You can find a range of resources in our Lingua Centra Language Resources hub.

We hope you find these top tips useful – let us know if you give any of them a go and how you get on! We’d also love to hear your own tips and techniques – share them with us in the comments below!

Join the conversation on our Language Lovers Facebook Group, on Twitter or Instagram.

Spotlight on Language Skills: Listening

Foreign language hacking ideas to raise your listening game

We’re constantly listening and processing speech in our first language without giving it much thought, so to reach the same level of ease in another language takes some practice! Listening is a receptive skill and there are two main types of listening activities; extensive and intensive.

Intensive listening focuses more on the form of the language such as grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary and is often for shorter bursts of time. Extensive is when you might listen for longer and not need to understand 100% of what is being said because the focus is on overall understanding.

Whether you’re learning for academic purposes or simply for fun, it’s also important to mix up your listening practice to give you exposure to varied language and keep things fresh. So, when selecting listening sources, ask yourself if you’re getting a range of the following:

  • Intensive listening activities – shorter pieces to focus on form
  • Extensive listening activities – longer pieces to focus on overall meaning
  • Formal speech in contexts and conversations such as work, law or professional presentations
  • Informal speech in contexts and conversations such as family or friendship based interactions

Below are some sources that I use to keep my listening skills up in French and Russian and to keep things varied:

Alarm clock radios – waking up to a Russian radio chat show while I lived in Russia was a great way to start the day and get the cogs turning in Russian.

Background radio when getting ready in the morning – most of us will have around 30 minutes to an hour getting ready as part of our daily routine – try putting the radio on in the background to soak up the language while you’re getting dressed.

Podcasts on the move – how about using your commute or travel time to listen to a podcast in the language you’re learning? I use SBS radio for a range of podcasts in Russian and French because they cover a range of topics such as culture, politics and economics. Find SBS podcasts in 20 languages.

Dictations – I’ll be honest, I hated these traditional exercises or ‘dictées’ in French at school, but now I’m learning independently, I find them a great way to practise listening and spelling skills and also check in on grammar points as well. They help me to scrutinise what I’m hearing to make sure I focus on accuracy as well as listening fluency.

Watching hobby-related videos – I find this is a great way to learn vocabulary for hobbies by watching ‘how to’ videos in the language you’re learning. I often watch French cooking videos on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube to pick up jargon and vocabulary for things that interest me.

Watch a film – it’s a fun and relaxed way to discover new vocabulary and hear the language being spoken by a diverse range of speakers. I like to watch award-winning films or films showcasing the country where the language is spoken. There are regional independent cinemas and for our UK-based readers, regular film festivals in London. The French Insititute regularly screens French films in the Cine Lumière in French and there is a Russian film festival once a year in London as well.

Watch a TV series on Netflix – I’ve enjoyed discovering foreign language programmes on Netflix and have recently binged on two drama-detective style series ‘Le Chalet’ in French and ‘Метод’ in Russian. I usually watch with subtitles on in the language, but you can often select subtitles in English to make it easier to follow the dialogue. I try to watch with a notepad to capture any interesting phrases and will often rewind to catch pronunciation or new vocabulary. It can be fun to discover new actors, genres and informal vocabulary in different settings that you wouldn’t come across in everyday life.

Audible audio books – these can be great when traveling for longer journeys and serve as a great way to practice some extensive listening. Discover the Audible range of foreign language books online.

Listening to music and learning the lyrics – whatever your level, there will be songs out there to enjoy as part of your listening practice! Whether it’s children’s songs or more complex rapping or fast-paced pop, find something fun that you like to listen to as part of your extensive listening practice.

We hope you found these suggestions useful – let us know how you got on trying them out in the Lingua Centra Language Lovers Facebook Group!

Spotlight on Language Skills: Speaking

There’s something so satisfying about being able to speak confidently and making yourself understood in a range of settings using the language(s) you’re learning. You might need to request something in a shop (without having to resort to wild hand gestures), or hold your own in a heated debate at a more advanced level.

These spontaneous interactions in another language can be exhilarating, but it can also be a bit nerve-wracking to be put on the spot! So, how can you practise expressing yourself verbally in a way that improves your confidence and fluency? Below are some tricks I’ve used over the years to work on my speaking skills, even in situations where I’ve felt out of my depth. Try them out and let us know how you get on in the comments below!

Before you begin, it’s worth remembering that to be considered fluent in a language, you don’t have to speak it perfectly or without any mistakes (even native speakers can’t always manage that!) but the main focus should be on being understood in a variety of contexts, as per the Common European Framework Levels definition at C2 or ‘proficient user’ level.

1. Learn to sing a song in the language you speak – this will make learning the pronunciation much more fun and allow you to practice wrapping your tongue around the sounds without anyone listening in (depending on how loudly you sing along of course..!) Set up a playlist for the language(s) you speak and focus on basic nursery rhymes or chart topping hits depending on what level you’re at and what genre of music you’re into. It’s also a great way to discover more about the culture and will give you lots to talk about in conversations with native speakers!

2. Ask a native speaker or teacher to help with pronunciation snags – I found this very useful when struggling with the French pronunciation of the sounds ‘boule’ and ‘bulle.’ A French friend of mine spend a good half an hour coaching me how to say it properly and eventually I got it!

3. Write down some regular phrases and practice them aloud – these might be common phrases when ordering food in a restaurant, or even phrases about yourself that might come up when meeting people such as where you work, why you’re learning the language etc… Practising them like a script will help you sound more natural as you won’t be struggling to recall words or phrases, so will improve your conversational flow.

4. Use online apps and tools to practise on your ownDuolingo has incorporated speaking practice for certain sentences and this is a good way to practice and improve confidence without an audience.

5. Use online apps and tools to practice with other people – I use Lingora which is a free platform where you can record and upload clips of you speaking and native speakers offer constructive feedback within 48 hours. Discover Lingora through our recent blog post. I also use the paid platform italki for live conversations with qualified language teachers and informal discussions with native speaking language partners.

6. Speechling – this is a great website for practising speech, recording pre-set phrases and then getting feedback. You can monitor your progress and re-record as many times as you want until you feel happy with your pronunciation and intonation. Use the code ‘LINGUA’ to sign up and receive a 10% discount!

7. Attend Mundolingo or meet up groups for face to face speaking practice – Mundolingo is an informal gathering where learners of any language can meet to speak and attendees wear stickers to show which languages they speak. Discover more in our blog post on Mundolingo. There are also plenty of Meet Up Groups that focus on a specific language. Some that we’ve tried in London include a Russian pub social meet up and a French board games meet up. You’ll be sure to find like-minded people and lots of opportunities to practice!

8. Practice describing things – this may sound quite simple, but the chances are that in some circumstances you may not know the word for the item or concept you want to talk about, so you will need to find another way to convey it. For example, you might want to say ‘elephant’ but you don’t know the word in the language, so you would need to describe it as ‘an animal that is large and grey with four legs and large ears and long nose’ hopefully at this point a native speaker will step in and provide the word you need. This is a great way to strengthen your language-learning muscles as it forces you to think outside the box and use what vocabulary you do have to convey the idea you want to express. Chances are, you’re more likely to remember the word next time too!

9. Have a translation app open on your phone or laptop when conversing – when practising online with conversation partners, I often have Google Translate open on my screen so that I can quickly translate any key words I need and can’t describe. In face to face situations I have the Word Reference app open on my phone just in case there is a word that causes a stumbling block in the conversation.

10. Keep Calm and Carry On!  Being put on the spot to speak a language can be an anxious experience and it is well documented that stress can raise cortisol levels and affect memory and recall. If you’re going to be put on the spot speaking a language, the best thing you can do is prepare using the steps above and remember that most native speakers are very patient and understanding when they know someone is learning their language.

Good luck practising your speaking skills and let us know how you get on in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram !

Keep your Language Learning on Track in 2019 with Lingua Centra’s Language Practice Tracker

Have you made a new year’s resolution to learn a new language and not sure where to begin? Are you a seasoned learner, but losing momentum in your journey towards fluency?Lingua Centra logo

We know it can be difficult to keep your language learning on track while working full time or juggling professional, personal and family commitments. We had a whirlwind year in 2018 buying our first home, renovating, starting new jobs and getting married, and we noticed our language learning was taking a real back seat.

This was really disappointing for us as we are super passionate polyglots, so we tried to find a way to make it easier to work our language learning into our lives by breaking down learning into smaller, more manageable chunks. This led us to design our own Language Practice Tracker that works really well for us that we want to share as it might be helpful for you too! By following this tracker, we’re feeling more confident with our French and can see how much progress we’re making in a way that fits in around our busy lives.

So how does it work?

We found it was so much easier to break down language learning into a few fun chunks that you can embed into your everyday routine that, (when followed consistently) will give you a varied exposure to the language and help you on your way towards fluency. Check out the Lingua Centra Language Practice Tracker here as a PDF:

Lingua Centra Language Practice Tracker 2019

We created this tool to help keep up with our French, which we speak at advanced level, so you may see some of the tasks as more challenging. This is true, but some tasks can be adapted if you are just starting out with a language as a beginner. The main aim is to provide a range of activities you can complete each month to help you work language learning into your daily routine. The practice tasks we’ve included are based on key areas of language learning such as receptive listening and reading tasks, productive speaking and writing tasks, vocabulary acquisition and grammar tasks.

We’ve tried to include a real mixture of activities, with some tasks being independent and others involving communicating with others online, certain tasks being via video call or phone and some being intensive and extensively focused.

Download the chart above to kick start your own learning journey this year and use it to keep your momentum up with your language learning in 2019. Give it a go and let us know how you get on in the comments below or our social media channels!

Christmas Gifts for Language Lovers

Struggling to find the perfect gift for friends, family or colleagues this Foreign language DVDsChristmas? If they have an interest in language learning, chances are you’ll find something on our list of top gifts below they’ll like!

A Film on DVD – a film that has won an award in the language they speak or films with well-known actors that speak that language would be a good option.

Music album either on CD or itunes in the language they’re learning or speak

Subscription to a newspaper or magazine in the language they’re learning

Classic novel or their favourite book in translation – my sister bought me a first edition Harry Potter novel in translation as a gift and I was touched by how thoughtful it was

Fridge magnet poetry in the language they’re learning – we have this in French and it’s a really fun way to play with the language!

Board games that encourage use of the language such as scrabble, articulate or trivial pursuitFridge Magnets

Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler is a really interesting read as talks Trivial Pursuit Frenchabout the evolution of languages throughout history

Prodigal Tongue by Lynn Murphy is great for anyone interested in the English language as compares British and American English grammar and etymology

Mug or t-shirt printed with a quote on in the language they’re learning such as a quote from a famous film, line of a song or silly quote as in the photos featured below…

Buy them an online or overseas course – you can find lots of language schools that offer online courses on the Lingua Centra Language School Directory

Along with these we have a lot of other ideas on the Lingua Centra resources page. Let us know how you get on with your language gifts in the comments below!

Keep in touch on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Happy holidays!

 

Lingora – feedback from native speakers at your fingertips

If you haven’t tried Lingora yet, it’s definitely time to add it to your language learning toolkit. I signed up to Lingora to practise my French (advanced), Russian (intermediate) and Portuguese (beginner) and am so glad I’ve discovered this fantastic platform where a community of native speakers review my writing and speech and give feedback for free!


What does the feedback cover?
 So, there are 2 sets of criteria depending on whether it’s a written text or a spoken audio clip and native speakers can leave comments and rate your post on the following:

Audio files: Accent, fluency, pronunciation, intonation.
Written texts: Grammatical Accuracy, punctuation, spelling, style

So how does it work? It’s very simple and it’s completely free! You just:
1. Sign up on the Lingora website
2. Select the language(s) you’re learning and your level
3. Write a short text or record an audio clip of you speaking the language (there are really useful prompt topics and ideas to start you off)
4. Post your text or audio clip to the platform and wait for feedback to come flooding in from native speakers!

Watch our walk-through and review of Lingora:

Lingora is a great tool for your learning no matter your level – I tested it in French, Russian and Portuguese that I speak at very different levels and here are some practical tips and examples of how Lingora can help you improve at any level:

Beginner – post audio clips of basic sentences to get feedback on your pronunciation, intonation and stress. Or post short written sentences to get feedback on spelling and syntax (word order).

Intermediate – post written texts or audio files on specific topics to receive feedback on fluency, grammatical accuracy and style.

Advanced – find native speakers and use the chat and audio function to share more complex messages and set up tandem language exchanges.

Another fab feature is that each time you post, you earn Lingorocks that can earn you discounts on classes in the Lingora store. You can also earn Lingorocks by giving feedback on other people’s posts in your native language.

Lingora stands out from a lot of other language learning platforms because it gives you access to thousands of native speakers who can provide detailed, honest and constructive feedback for you on the written texts and speech snippets you share.

The best thing about being able to ‘prepare before you share’ any audio files or written texts is that you can check through your grammar and re-record sections until you’re happy to share the final result, unlike many live chat platforms where you can often feel under pressure to get everything 100% accurate first time.

Lingora provides a relaxed platform to improve your speaking, writing, pronunciation and grammar and you can be sure to get some really useful feedback too – within just 24 hours I had received 3 pieces of feedback from different native speakers on each of my posts!

Sign up to Lingora for free today and let us know what you think in the comments below and share with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram !

(You can discover more Lingora features like lessons, podcasts, and amazing Lingorock discounts here on the Lingora website FAQs)

Language learning laid bare – what happens when life gets in the way?

Our more regular readers might have noticed we’ve been a bit quiet recently, but don’t worry, we haven’t given up on our language learning challenges! As with so many hobby projects, the twists and turns of life have got in the way so we’ve slowed down our learning pace a bit and I wanted to share our

Learning a language can feel like a roller coaster of highs and lows, jump on and enjoy the ride!

experience with you of approaching language learning as more of a marathon than a sprint. There are lots of bloggers and language learning gurus guiding people on how to speed up the learning process and achieve fluency in just a few months, which is refreshingly daring but not always realistic for people working full time and can leave learners feeling a sense of failure when three months is up and they’re still working on conjugating the past tense!

After reading Benny Lewis’ Fluent in 3 Months last year, I was inspired to launch my own crusade for fluency in Portuguese in 3 months back in September 2017. Shortly afterwards Iain and I got engaged (cheesy photo featured) I started a new, busy full time job and then in early in 2018 bought and moved into our first home together, which needed some renovation work doing. Needless to say, alongside a full time job and trying to maintain friendships, hobbies, housework, wedding planning and sleep, my Portuguese quest has definitely suffered!

However, I want to say that THIS IS OKAY. Most of us will pick up a language at a much more leisurely pace over time through classes, meet up groups and holidays that fit in around their other commitments, in fact, that’s how I learnt French and Russian. Rather than the route towards fluency feeling like a swirling, gushing waterfall, I prefer a more meandering, smooth pace. I believe that as language learners, we should focus on the journey towards fluency and how it enriches our lives and experience of the world, other cultures and throws open new aspects of ourselves that we had never before been able to express. So, I’m here to say that whether you learn over three months or three years, the learning journey never ends and we should be more focused on communicating successfully than the time it takes to do so.

Portuguese map puzzle
Portuguese is an official language in 10 countries

I have now picked up my Portuguese studies again and am giving myself until the end of the summer 2018 to feel confident communicating in Portuguese and holding a basic conversation. I have recently bought a new grammar book and have picked up daily Duolingo sessions for fun and to maintain momentum. Duolingo has recently introduced the new club feature and levels to keep it interesting. Clubs allows you to chat with other learners, take part in mini challenges and use the language in a fun way. Opening up levels keeps

the variety interesting and also allows me to focus on particular aspects that I want to work on. Watch this space!Duolingo logo

Tell us – have you had a similar experience with language learning? Do you prefer a sprint or a marathon pace of learning? As always, share your story below and join the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages

 

Learn a Language for Less – expires 31st January 2018

Our followers are pretty special to us and we want to give a little something back for all your support over the last year, so we’ve linked up with Routledge to offer you a 20% discount on language learning books and resources!

Routledge offers a range of learning materials such as frequency dictionaries, language course books and specialist linguistic research textbooks in a broad range of languages. Iain and I have both purchased a French fequency dictionary and beginners Spanish and Portuguese course books and have been really impressed with the quality and accessibility of the content.

 

The offer expires on 31st January, so click the link below to download your discount voucher – but don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram first!

https://www.routledge.com/collections/12633?utm_source=Routledge&utm_medium=cms&utm_campaign=171010495

Hope this helps you with all your linguistic new year’s resolutions for 2018 and Happy New Year from us both!

Vocabulary learning made easy

A polyglot friend (7 languages and counting) once told me that there is no point knowing the rules of Russian grammar inside out and theoretically how to ask for a loaf of bread if you don’t know the word for bread (хлеб). I found this reassuring as personally I don’t find grammar rules absorb as naturally for me as vocabulary!

If, like me, you are a fan of vocab lists and learning quirky new words and phrases in the language you’re learning then read on as I share some other learning approaches that, if applied appropriately, can really accelerate your learning and speed up your journey towards fluency.

Chunking & Collocations

This might sound like an anti-diet regime, but it actually makes language learning a lot lighter! The idea is that words rarely exist in isolation but co-exist in quite predictable patterns alongside other words, so if you learn the ‘chunks’ of words, you will sound much more fluent. Equally, it can be useful to learn a phrase such as ‘where are the toilets’ without knowing much of the grammar of the sentence, because certain elements of language are made up of fixed chunks.  Similarly to chunking, collocations are words that frequently appear next to each other and there is usually a fixed expression such as ‘a round of applause’ or ‘nooks and crannies’ or ‘to err on the side of caution’ where if one word were changed it might sound odd to a native speaker such as ‘to err on the side of care.’ You can see some good examples of collocations here: https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/collocations.htm

Cognates

As words that share a root or similar construction to lexical items in your first language. This makes them much easier to remember as they are so similar! This can be a good place to start when you are trying to get to grips with a new language and you will find some cognates cross many languages, such as ‘taxi.’

Frequency Dictionaries 

Sometimes the colossal task of learning all the vocabulary in one language can seem a bit like trying to gather all the grains of sand on a beach into your hands; the more you try to cram in the less likely it is to stay. And where do you start? I find using a trusted and reliable frequency dictionary is a good place to start, especially when you have mastered some of the basics as it gives you focus and you can rest assured in the knowledge that you are learning useful words you are likely to encounter in everyday situations because they are based on frequency in live usage across a range of settings. 

Iain and I use the Routledge frequency dictionary series for French, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese and would highly recommend them as they are clearly laid out and very accessible for all levels of language learners from beginners to advanced. If you want a real challenge, you could even take a word a day from the book to learn to build up your vocabulary more consistently. We have teamed up with Routledge to offer Lingua Centra readers and subscribers a 20% discount on all frequency dictionaries in any language you might be learning – great for your language learning kit or to give as a gift for the language lovers in your life!

 

Post it notes

I’m a self confessed sucker for colourful things and am a visual, kinaesthetic learner, so find post it notes a great way of incorporating colour into my language learning! Think of ways you can use the colours to your advantage such as different colours for singular and plural versions or genders of nouns or topics. It is worth placing them strategically where you know you spend a bit of time each day in your home – for me this is the bathroom mirror so I can read them all through as I brush my teeth! 

Write, cover, repeat 

Probably the oldest method in the book and sometimes this works well for people. I find it useful to have a list of up to 20 words a week and read them through each day originally from the target language to English and then in reverse as I become more confident. At the end of the week make sure you test yourself or get others to test you.

Learning synonyms and gradations.

Sometimes we assume we have a concept or word all sussed out and so our learning slows and our language progress plateaus. Learning synonyms is an easy way to combat this and expand your vocabulary beyond your usual ‘safe phrases.’ Looking for alternative ways to express familiar concepts keeps your learning and speech in the language fresh and flexible. For example ‘good’ could instead be: great, wonderful, excellent, brilliant, fantastic, amazing. Or ‘hot’ might become: boiling, piping, scalding, roasting.

Hobby related jargon.

Being able to associate a word with an experience has been for me the most effective way at memorising a word or phrase. One of my hobbies is dining out and I once confused the French for pineapple with ‘pamplemousse’ (grapefruit) when ordering in a café on the Champs Elysée in Paris and I can’t stand the bitter taste of grapefruit so will never make that mistake again! Equally, if you have a hobby or a passion, why not watch tutorials on YouTube on your favourite subject as you will have something to relate it to and will be able to discuss your passions with native speakers much more easily.

Mnemonics.

This is when you associate a story with the word you want to learn to conjure up the word if you are finding it tricky to remember or recall. I was, until recently, very cynical about mnemonics as an effective way of memorising a word. That was until I created a mnemonic to remember the Portuguese word for ‘boyfriend’ (namorado) by thinking of Iain rescuing me from doing difficult sums on a computer, hence ‘no-more-add-o’ making it much easier to remember ‘namorado!’ 

Duolingo.

This is a free app that uses gamification as a language learning tool through repeated interval exposure to words and phrases so that you gradually come to recognise the word and internalise it. There is both written and spoken content so you have a chance to learn the sounds of words as well as the written form.

Using the vocabulary (writing and speaking).

For most of us, the main aim of learning a language is to communicate, so make sure you are using all the words you learn either by writing a letter, journal / diary or shopping list or slipping them into conversations you’re having with native speakers.

Good luck with your vocabulary acquisition – let us know how you get on in the comments below and keep us posted on your vocabulary successes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too!