How to Fluently Switch From One Language To Another Language

Imagine you're on a train in Belgium. A woman on the train is speaking French on the phone when the ticket conductor comes in. She asks him a question in fluent Flemish. No one bats an eyelid.

Switching effortlessly between languages is a dream for many language learners. But how do you achieve it? Is it a realistic goal? In this article, read and hear my best tips for switching languages.

Read More

"It's Hard Work But It's So Worth It": Everything You Need To Know For Raising Bilingual Children

Have you ever wondered how bilingual parents do it and what the life of a bilingual family looks like? Are you excited about passing on language skills to your kids, but not sure how?

In this episode of the Fluent Show, you'll get an incredible amount of support. 

Marianna du Bosq, bilingual mother in a bilingual family and host of the Bilingual Avenue podcast, talks about how to raise bilingual children. And she knows her stuff.

Read More

Tips for the Bilingual Job Hunt from Jobcoconut

I'm excited about today's guest post for you guys. If you've listened to my podcast with Peter Rodway, you know that I am completely convinced that languages are your way into the most beautiful careers. Today we'll be hearing from the team over at Jobcoconut, a global jobs site offering amazing appointments all over Europe. These tips are about how to show off your language skills to make sure you walk into that job you want.

No TPS Reports required in YOUR amazing career, kid! (img ©office space movie)

No TPS Reports required in YOUR amazing career, kid! (img ©office space movie)

Over to the Coconuts:

So if you are based outside your home country and you are fluent in more than one language, then you’re more likely to land a top language job as HR departments and recruiters are always seeking job seekers with language skills.

In particular, if you speak a hard to source language such as the Nordic, Scandinavian or Eastern European languages then you will be in high demand, which means you can easily land yourself a well-paid job in top European cities. Language jobs across all European countries also seek Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch speakers. So the opportunity is there for all bilingual job seekers.

Studies carried out by the recruitment companies clearly show that candidates who speak two languages earn a lot more than non-bilingual speakers. Another advantage for having language skills is it can allow you to form a vital part of a company’s growth strategy. Whether it’s trying to enter new markets on a national level or expand to other countries, having a second language makes you a valuable part of any organisation.

But wait…

Are you actually bilingual?

The term “bilingual” has had a few different definitions over time, and this is one we can all agree on: Bilinguals “can communicate just as easily in one language as you can in the other”. Your language proficiency should be measured in terms of your speaking, reading, writing and listening abilities in each language.

Many people exaggerate on their CV about their level of proficiency in a language. It is important that you are entirely confortable in a business environment using both languages. There's no cheating: Bilingualism not only demands a command of the structure of the language but an understanding of the other language’s nuances such as its sense of humour.

How can you prove that you’re bilingual to an employer?

The best way to prove it is during the interview. If bilingual language skills are important the employer/recruiter will communicate to you in both languages. They will be able to tell straight away if your language skills are right for the position. This is common amongst recruiters as they require assurances they have got the person for the job.

What should you put in your CV?

If you want to promote your language skills on your CV (and you so do!), the most important thing is to be honest about your level of knowledge and comfort in both languages. This will save you and the recruiter embarrassment and time, otherwise you will have to explain why your language skills aren’t up to standard. Imagine you end up in the job and have to give a presentation or write a report to important clients. Your language skills should handle that easily.

Handle terms like “bilingual” or “fluent” or even language scales such as the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) with care. Judge your language skills in terms of your confidence in working using that language. Here is a handy framework (see below), but we encourage you to put your own stamp on it by coming up with your own self-evaluation of your language skills!

• Limited working proficiency – able to satisfy routine social demands and able to handle limited work requirements but would need help in handling complicated tasks

• Professional working proficiency – can discuss a variety of topics with ease and almost complete understanding of what others are saying

• Full professional proficiency – can participate in all manners of conversations with ease and only rarely make grammatical mistakes

• Native proficiency – native speaker/ mother tongue.

Develop Your Skills

Language skills are one of those things that employers cannot develop in 90 days, so they are excited to find you as a candidate. Or if you're looking for a total linguist job

By the way - I want to help you guys with your language careers. Soon I'll be posting an exciting summary of all my jobs on my mailing list, but before that why not participate in my 50 Calls Project to talk about languages at work?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

Top 5 Hot Bilingual Hollywood Stars

When I was a little girl, I wanted to become an air hostess. The sleek uniforms, beautiful make-up and obvious intelligence of those women was one of the most attractive things I'd ever seen. These ladies truly had it all. They got to travel the world and speak all these cool languages (English!), all in one of the most glamorous industries around.

Guess I was not living in a feminist world, and I was pretty naïve about the airline industry, but I did become a traveller and language lover. Role models matter! Just like Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Lean In, we need to see more of what we are aiming for in life. When influential people show us how accomplished they are in speaking other languages, it shows that more than one country matters in the world. This list of Hollywood polyglots is just a little start, but I want you to find your own role models and see how far language learning can take you. Each of the stars I am listing in this article have found work in more than one country and fame in more than one culture - so it goes to show that bilingualism is not just a "nice to have", it's actually a real source of success.

top 5 hollywood bilingual.jpg

Here are 5 smokin' hot multilingual Hollywood stars.

Mads Mikkelsen

He is oscar-nominated for the harrowing thriller The Hunt, but you might know Mads Mikkelsen from his fabulous acting in recent James Bond movie Skyfall. Mads Mikkelsen speaks Danish, Swedish, English and German - a classic combination for Scandinavian actors. He's a great symbol of international success, even if you're from a small country. And pretty hot too. Godt gået, Mads!

Annet Mahendru

Annet was nominated as a multilingual role model by Fluent reader Javier, and admired around the world for her acting in The Blacklist and The Americans. She now combines her Indian and Russian heritage while forging an acting career in the USA. Annet stands out from the crowd because she is not only bilingual but a true polyglot, speaking six languages altogether.

Daniel Brühl

I can never see enough of Daniel Brühl - this stellar actor grew up bilingually with Spanish and German. He is one of Europe's finest young actors, and most recently impressed all of us as a chilling Nazi officer, speaking flawless French in Inglourious Basterds.

Daniel Brühl in Inglourious Basterds - son Français nous a impressionné.

Audrey Hepburn

We don't have to go back 30 years in time in order to find a truly beautiful, inspiring, multilingual role models in Hollywood but of course Audrey is the queen of them all. There is this quote that I have seen about her, which sums up plenty of things I believe not only about languages, but also about feminism.

Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the Nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts. And history remembers her as pretty.

Check out this video on Jennie's blog to see Audrey in action.

Jodie Foster

Hollywood star, successful director, Yale graduate and bilingual. Yes, there is a lot more than just a pretty face to Jodie Foster. You can watch her speaking her flawless French in Elysium.

Bonus Mention for Poor Matt Damon

I want this guy to have the highest credit of all - credit for trying! Matt Damon spoke quite decent French in The Monuments Men and got mocked for it throughout the whole film. Shame on you, Hollywood! We all know that speaking out does not have to be done in perfect tones, and in my eyes Damon's character deserved a lot of credit for using his language skills.

So here I want to celebrate the effort Damon made as an actor, and let's hope he aspires to more bilingualism.

PS: If you also wanted to become a flight attendant, join me in listening to one of my favourite podcasts - Betty in The Sky With A Suitcase!

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

It's Good to Be Bilingual! 8 Reasons you Should Learn a Second Language

Do you speak any other language apart from your mother tongue? This question is becoming more and more popular among professionals aged 20-40. Why should we learn a different language from ours? Is it trendy? Would we get more chances to find our soul mate? Or is it just a reason to become more competitive in the job market? Being bilingual has hundreds of benefits; however the most important reason to learn a new language is that you desire to learn it. In this sense, motivation seems to be the key to the whole process - and in this multilingual world, here are eight truly persuasive reasons to become a language learner.

img © Berto Garcia

1) You´ll Become a Multitasker

Studies have shown that multilingual people have better task capacities. According to a study from Pennsylvania State University, bilingual individuals become smarter as they get used to working in two different language systems. In this sense, learning another language is also a good way to improve your memory (Bilinguals are better at retaining shopping lists and names). This is because the brain is like a muscle that works better when it gets exercised!

2) Learning a Third Language Gets Easier!

This is very simple. Once your brain has started working in a foreign language (which involves getting used to different constructions and memorising rules), it will be ready for a third one! This means that you will be more aware of language and you could even develop a better ear for listening. Several experts said that the action of learning a new language can make you better in speaking your mother tongue. It´s all about advantages!

3)Free Access to More than One Culture

This is one of the most beautiful treasures hidden behind languages. Who doesn't want to find out more about other cultures and traditions? If you become fluent in another language, you will have the chance to get close to people. You can make new friends and maybe you can find love. But it's not only about the people, it's also about the pleasure to read a book in the author's language and forget about the translations (You can actually feel what he or she felt while he was writing the novel). And of course, you'll be able to watch a film without subtitles and hear the actor's real laughter. And yes, that is priceless!

4)You’ll Become Someone Else

It is said that people change personality when speaking another language. Have you ever thought how would you sound in Spanish? This language, for instance, is often related to warm people and physical proximity. This is because once you learn a language you also learn the social procedures of that culture and may find yourself picking up a few new social habits outside the constraints of your usual circles.

5)Bilingualism can Delay Alzheimer's

Several studies have revealed that for monolingual adults, the mean age for the first signs of dementia is 71.4; however, for those who speak two or more languages, the mean age for those first signs is 75.5. If bilingual brains can better resist dementia, I guess it's well worth it to give it a go!

6) It Can Open Doors For You in The Job Market

As companies become more international, there is an important need for employees that are fluent in different languages. People with language skills are more valuable in the global job market. The knowledge of more than one language is necessary in most sectors. For instance, the travel sector is one of the most attractive, especially for young professionals. International companies such as Expedia offer different types of careers with languages all over the world. Remember: Try to offer what others don't have.

7) Travelling Will Be Even Better!

We all know that English is considered as “the international language”, however we also know that it's not the same going to Italy and speaking to the locals in English as if were to do it in Italian. Wherever we go on a holiday, if we don't speak the official language of the country we are visiting, we'll be missing all those little things and secrets that make that destination so fun. Speaking Spanish, for instance, is today incredibly useful for travelling. Have you ever thought of how many Spanish speaking countries you could visit in the world? There is no doubt: You speak the language, you win.

8) You´ll Become More Tolerant

Last but not least: Being able to speak another language will make you more tolerant and can encourage people to cut down racism. In other words, it will encourage you to be more open to others. And don't forget that once you can communicate in another language, you will also be able to bring new perspectives to other groups of nationalities and help them to be more tolerant.

After reading this, I hope you are now curious to learn a second language and discover the great fun that there is behind it.

It's good to Be Bilingual! by Marta Lopez Garcia was first published on Fluent, The Language Learning Blog. Join our newsletter for more language learning tips and a free copy of the Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources.

The Special Needs Child and the Foreign Language (by Sally Holmwood)

Sally Holmwood, tutor at Indigo Languages is establishing herself as a regular and always very welcome guest here on the Fluent Language blog. Her experiences working with young people of all ages, both inside and outside the UK school system make her views so profound, and Sally has a real passion for her languages to share with you. Today she is discussing a special group of people, often forgotten in the language learning world: Special needs children.

One Tongue, Two Languages

As well as working with languages, I support individuals with special needs in a wide range of settings. There is a wealth of information, on the internet and beyond, about teaching languages to children with special needs – and plenty of resistance from parents and school staff alike!

special needs learners.jpg

“My Child Struggles to Communicate in English - Why Teach Them a Foreign Language?”

Many parents I know of children with severe learning difficulties would argue against teaching a foreign language to a child that experiences considerable difficulty in speaking their own. I know two mothers of non-verbal autistic boys, for example. For the mothers, English is not their native tongue. They live in England and so speak to their sons in English. They believe that, as their children hear English all day, wherever they go, it might confuse them to hear a different language spoken at home. Such apprehension about introducing a child with a learning difficulty to a foreign language is not uncommon. Some parents and staff believing pupils’ time might be better spent focussing on building independence skills.

Using Language-Learning as a Stepping Stone

At Languages Without Limits, the rationale that we are all different is reason enough to introduce pupils with special needs to a foreign language. Seeing the variation between people from different cultures showed pupils that it is acceptable to be ‘different’. There is scope for revisiting useful basic language concepts when learning a foreign language too. The teaching of social and other core skills can be integrated into foreign language lessons, shifting the focus just slightly. (Read this twice because it applies to all learners, not just special needs ones. -ed.)

“But This Child Can’t Speak!”

We may believe the non-verbal child does not benefit from learning a foreign language - but can we really be sure? If you haven’t heard of Carly Fleischmann, the Canadian teenager with non-verbal autism, now’s the time to look her up! Watch her video below to see for yourself the stark contrast between her father’s assumptions about her understanding and what she herself wants to communicate! Carly, like many other non-verbal youngsters, now has an electronic communication aid – many of these can even be furnished with foreign language software!

David R. Wilson has compiled a list of resources that include guidelines on making foreign languages accessible to pupils with a number of special needs, who may need to learn in a different way to their peers.

A Time and Place for Everything – Including Traditional Teaching Methods!

Rudyard Kipling once said

The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it!

We know that there are three learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic (tactile) – and certainly some pupils with special needs learn better if they can ‘get stuck in’. Videos, games and songs and plenty of opportunity to get up out of their seat to act things out will enhance their learning experience – the more tactile, the better!

Take fruit. Teach the names – and even the signs – not just by showing a simple photograph or cartoon image as a visual aid. Embrace the wonder that is ICT. Even better still, bring actual pieces of fruit in for pupils to try and allow them to feel, smell and taste it. Make the most of stories like Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" – just think how this could be used to combine simple vocabulary with a brilliantly multi-sensory experience for children with special needs!

The Higher Functioning Special Needs Child

Let’s not forget the high functioning autistic learner either, who, like any of us, is highly motivated by things they really like. It may be the rigidity of maths or science that appeals. To others, like one young man I know, it is foreign languages. Excelling in school at French and German, he taught himself Russian at home. Foreign languages come complete with strict, non-negotiable grammar rules and a clear right or wrong answer for many questions. This can play to the high-functioning autistic pupil’s thirst for rigidity of routine. They may find such things easier to grasp than confusing abstract concepts found in other subjects.

Is the Special Needs Child the Better Language Learner?

We know that the pupil with special needs learns in a very different way to one without. We may have concerns that a child with special needs may not understand a foreign language, particularly if they are non-verbal, but that shouldn’t mean we exclude them altogether from the opportunity to learn. After all, Carly Fleischmann showed the world just how wrong people could be about the level of understanding of a non-verbal child.

The question of whether the special needs child makes the better language learner is a tricky one that brings me back to the diversity of all pupils, so much so that I am inclined to sit on the fence and say simply that we are all motivated by the things that interest us! We all deserve to be offered the same experiences and to receive support, where necessary, to make the most of them.

Learn One, Learn All!

The language learner with special needs may need to approach language learning in a completely different manner. Yet amongst the vast technologies that exist today, there are certainly many ways in which to offer them an experience of learning a foreign language that is meaningful to them. Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves from now on is not simply whether individuals with special needs should learn a foreign language, but rather how they should be doing so?

About Sally Holmwood

Sally lives and works in West Sussex, England. She splits her working week between individuals of all ages with special needs, and languages (specifically German and French). Sally loves to make time to travel the world when she's not working - sometimes Europe, sometimes even further afield! Furthermore, she is a big fan of great television: SherlockBonesThe Big Bang Theory and Doctor Who. Stay in touch with Sally on Twitter or Facebook.

**Note from Kerstin : Like Sally, I also believe very strongly that language learning should be open to everyone who wishes to do so. This is not an easy path for anyone, and her ideas of the learner with autism finding comfort in rigid grammar rules, or the tactile learning styles, should be an inspiration to us all. How do you bring more adventure into your learning styles?** 


Do bilingual kids have it better?

I have been doing a bit of thinking about bilingual children. Not having had the experiences that the blog writer Olga Mecking has had, it can be hard to imagine what it takes to have a kid in a bilingual environment. Are you a parent - and how many languages do you have your child surrounded with? If you've ever felt the little pang of guilt at the international environment your toddler could be thrown into (but isn't, because most of us are in monolingual couples), why not learn a new language WITH them? No one ever said that you have to be better than your baby when you are teaching them something. In fact, most of the time you just assume that you are - so language learning is no exception here!

If you aren't sure why bilingual might be good for you.. 

You know I love a good infographic here on the blog, and the fab creation I am sharing today lists all those fab reasons why there is more than just prestige to be gained when you go bilingual. Have a look..


Grass = always greener

For me, the most surprising new fact was the point that bilingual countries like Belgium actually encourage monolingualism in schools. That's pretty much the opposite of the UK's strong push towards any kind of exposure to other languages at an early age. The interesting picture that emerges is this: Monolingual environments lack inspiration and motivation for students to pick up a language, so the schools try to create them.

In countries which promote several languages as routine, the thing that's considered missing is a push towards focus and vocabulary - so the opposite becomes true and students are actually encouraged to work in just one language. How nice to see that each of the cultures appreciates the strengths of each other's main a way.

Learn a language for your health

I also liked the often-quoted link between brain youth (or absence of Dementia) and language skills. Like dieting (a comparison I am pretty partial to), I can't imagine that the health benefits of multilingual life are a particularly hot motivator. But just look at the picture this bunch of fact paints when you put it all together: Being proficient in another language means higher earnings potential, more job opportunities and better health.

May I add that it's fun, too? 

If you enjoyed this article and you would like to hear more, why not sign up to my monthly newsletter or follow my Top 25 Twitter account?