How Can I Inject Fun Into Language Learning? (Special Guest: Olly Richards)

Having fun is a key to success when it comes to most big endeavours. Surely language learning is one of those, too. But how can you best have fun when you’re learning a language? In this podcast episode, Olly Richards from I Will Teach You A Language joined me to discuss how you can love learning languages and have fun with it.

Read More

Top 5 Photo Spots in the Mosel Valley, Germany

When you travel to a location as outstanding as the Mosel valley, it would be a shame to forget your camera. I recently headed home to spend a week preparing for the Fluent German Retreat, and on my trip I collected a few top tips to share with you.

The following sites are not to be missed and can be visited in a day or two. But wie alles an der Mosel, it pays to take your time and slow down to find a relaxed pace.

photo spots mosel

Top 5 Photo Spots in the Mosel Valley

1) Porta Nigra, Trier

Where would Trier locals be without their beloved Porta? This old Roman city gate stands proudly on the West End of Trier. It may not impress you with its beauty at the start, but this location is unmissable as the city's Wahrzeichen - our flagship building. This is where Germany's oldest city meets for coffee.

Insider Tip:

The inside of the Porta Nigra is fascinating, and during the summer you can take guided tours with a Roman centurion.

Eiscafé Calchera, just a few steps away from the Porta, is the city's finest address for Italian ice cream.

2) Straußwirtschaft im Weingut

Straußwirtschaften are the traditional German cousins of microbreweries, run in the wineries of wine country and open only a few months per year. Let yourself be spoilt with local foods and fresh wines right from the cellar. It might be true that we export all the good stuff.

You can find them in every village and know them by a bunch of ribbons, stray or branches (the Strauß) displayed on the outside the house.

3) Altstadt Bernkastel-Kues

Bernkastel-Kues is an absolute Mosel classic, visited for centuries by everyone from convalescent kings to US Army staff looking for a relaxing weekend. This town has everything you could want from a German photo spot: a castle ruin high up in the hills, a traditional market square second to none other, and a romantic bridge across the river to boot.

Bernkastel is bustling, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable for visitors at any age. It's most incredible during the Weinfest der Mittelmosel, crowned with stunning fireworks that reflect in the river on a warm September night.

4) Weinköniginnen

At most German wine, beer or shooting festivals, you are in the presence of local royalty. In the Mosel valley for example, young ladies (usually between 17 and 25) represent their villages, towns and even the whole winemaking region. This job is coveted, and can even lead to a career travelling the world to represent German wine.

5) Moselschleifen

So obvious that it's nearly forgotten, the Mosel river is an absolutely breathtaking sight. Winding its way through ancient slate hills, lined by vineyards, it looks every bit as wonderful as it sounds. The Mosel valley has something beautiful on offer around every bend. Sometimes your eye will be drawn to an old castle, vines on a steep slope or a boat peacefully making its way down the river bends. The Mosel is a unique experience - drive or hike up one of the hills and you'll be spellbound.

Insider Tip:

Look out for the word Moselschleife in a guidebook, and do not let fear of a steep vineyard put you off. My favourite locations are the Brauneberg and the hills above Kröv and Minheim.

Where To Find Out More

This post covers just a few of the beautiful locations in the Mosel valley, and obviously there are hundreds more spots to discover. For example, I love the Josefinenhöhe in Veldenz,

This place is popular with travellers all around the world, yet undiscovered by the big tourist hordes, so prepare to discover your own private trail.

Are You Ready to Speak German?

If you want to experience these wonderful places and speak German with the people that live there, you are invited to discover the Fluent German Courses. These courses offer easy, straightforward explanations and examples to get you talking as fast as you can.

Learn to speak Dog in 6 weeks: The Top 5 April stories for Language Lovers

Back in 1957, eight million astounded Brits gathered around their television sets to learn about a magnificient cultural spectacle. The popular BBC programme Panorama was showing exclusive footage of the epic Spaghetti Harvest in Switzerland. They had been enjoying tinned spaghetti from the greengrocer's shelves and relished learning more about how this exotic dish was made.

In fact, the BBC has a long history of bringing us groundbreaking news like that. Just think of their discovery that penguins can fly!

What the What?

Okay, by now you may find yourself wondering if I've gone completely crazy and let me assure you I'm not quite there yet! These fascinating news stories are part of the worldwide tradition of playing pranks on April Fools' Day, the world's joke day. To celebrate this crazy tradition, I thought I could either tell you that Fluent is turning into a Chemistry blog (HAH!) or make myself useful by counting down my favourite linguistic jokes. So here we are:

The Top 5 April Fools' Jokes for Language Lovers

1. German Grammar Reform coming up

On 1 April 2015, Deutsche Welle's German Teaching blog reported groundbreaking news. They announced a radical simplification of the German language's grammar. In the new system, the genders of different words would follow strictly logical rules - anything feminine is feminine, anything masculine is masculine, and all the other stuff is neuter. They also announced that the conjugated verb will no longer confuse you by jumping to the end of sub-clauses. And best of all, the four cases would be reduced to just three. Who the heck needs a Genitiv anyway?

2. New Zealand has a new official language

The most significant claim to fame of New Zealand has been its recent role as the site of Tolkien's fabled land of Middle Earth. In a radical move, the country has now accepted its key role in fantasy and changed its official language to Elvish.

Here's a video where you can check out how beautiful the new weather reports in Elvish sound.

3. Netflix admits that English is a foreign language

In 2013, video service Netflix finally admitted that English is not the easy world language it's renowned to be. In a revolutionary move, they introduced the category Movies that are in English but still need subtitles, which features facets of the English language that you might have missed out on so far. How about learning Irish Traveller English or just Scottish?

4. Learn a new language: Dog Barking Online Course

If you have always wondered what it is that your dog really wants, now you finally have the means to open the door to communicating with them. Groupon is offering an exclusive 6-week course that will get you fluent and conversing with native dogs in their own language.

5. English. It's the only language you need.

And finally, here is a post from my friend Alex Gentry that I bet a lot of you will relate to ;)

Russian is the MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE ON EARTH! I can't take it anymore! It's too much for my poor little brain to handle. Also Hindi! I am tired of Hindi because everyone in India DEFINITELY speaks English anyway, so why need that? Why can't they just translate Bollywood movies into ENGLISH??? Also what's the use of Indonesian? Why can't I learn a USEFUL language like Chinese or Spanish? Also I'm going to stop with Portuguese and German and Spanish and even Chinese because as I know from experience, EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH ANYWAY! So I'm not going to learn anymore languages and I'm going to forget them all! I want to be a monolingual English speaker again! And these foreigners! They can leave me alone unless they SPEAK ENGLISH! WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE JUST SPEAK IN ENGLISH????? IT WOULD MAKE THINGS SOOOOOO MUCH EASIER FOR ME, RIGHT???? Like learning a foreign language, that doesn't benefit me in any way. I just want to be stupid and ignorant of the rest of the world again besides AREN'T FOREIGN LANGUAGES LIKE IMPOSSIBLE TO LEARN???? TWO LANGUAGES IN ONE HEAD??? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?????? From now on the only language I will ever speak again is English, because this post is just the most serious post ever that it completely reflects exactly how I feel about learning foreign languages. Or maybe I might have just wrote this to shock people and make them wonder if something was wrong with me. Or maybe this might just be a March Fool's joke. No! Wait! That's the wrong month! March is over! You know.... Oh wait......:-P

Oh, and did you know that Germans will let you get away with pranks on April 2 and 3 too?

How I Got Back Into Language Learning

Today our regular writer Angel Armstead is back - she's gone through a busy time and had to take a break from language learning. Busy being the key word - this lady is rocking so many projects! Like I have found myself, sometimes we need to cut to progress. Ouch. So how did Angel get back on the wagon?

Always Good Intentions

I started my language learning like most people with good intentions. I had good intentions of learning multiple languages and traveling to those countries and meeting the people. I could imagine myself speaking multiple languages and traveling to multiple destinations. I have not let go of that dream but good intentions can only take us so far.

Never Enough Time

When I first decided on Japanese, Russian and Mandarin at the same time I had what seemed like limitless time. Ideas kept flooding in: I decided I would get back to work on my novel after becoming great at my languages. Then I found a way to create my very own video game. During all of that I decided to sell coffee in my own home business. And I went ahead and worked on these projects! Before all these projects, spending time in three languages seemed easy. My time is going to be even shorter when I go back out to college. But of course I need to be able to fund that dream somehow if I'd like to live it.

Sometimes You Have To Let a Few Things Go

I am not giving up learning Russian or Mandarin Chinese. For now I shall focus on Japanese and the blog that I'm working on to help people in Japanese. I will re-add Mandarin and Russian to my currently studying languages in time, but I will not add them at the same time when I do. There are a few things I still need to learn in Japanese before I can move on to another language. I did make it to the Intermediate stage in Japanese in college. Intermediate level can sometimes feel like the worst level to be at. I understand a lot and there's still a lot that confuses me. I want to move on to Mandarin or Russian only after I take a trip to Japan. I plan on doing the same for any later language I work on learning. Letting things go to focus on a specific subject can also help with interests outside of language learning.

Intermediate level can feel like the worst level to be at - I understand a lot and still get confused!

Click to tweet this: Tweet: Intermediate level can feel like the worst level to be at - I understand a lot and still get confused! (via @fluentlanguage's language blog)

Failure Can Be A Learning Experience

I don't really consider having to focus on one language a failure in my language learning. It does show me that time can be one of the biggest factors in how many languages you can learn. Some people do have the time and motivation to learn three or more at a time and that's great for them.

How I Got Back Into Language Learning

For some people language learning is a fun activity and it is for me too. But I think at times I don't take it seriously enough. I thought of other things that I have been able to learn and realized one of the things I could utilize to keep me going.

  1. Set Aside a Time to Learn/Listen to Your Target Language

This one is probably very obvious to most experienced language learners and it's what helped me with other things I learned. I now set aside time at midnight to either listen to a language lesson or watch a Japanese film/anime. I picked that time because I'm not the partying type and it's the time for the least amount of interruptions. It works very well because of that. Anytime the clock hits midnight I should be doing something in my target language. You have to be strict at times with your own self and maybe even friends and family. Maybe tell a close friend or family member so they can encourage you to stick to your goal. Remind yourself on why you wanted to learn that language in the first place and then get serious about and figure out when is the best time to work on it.

  1. Rediscover Sources You Love

There are a few other things that I used to do a lot that I've just gotten back into again. I've re-added using YouTube. There is a lot of bad stuff on YouTube but it's also a good resource for free language lessons. I've gone back to playing my games in Japanese and posting on my Japanese blog. I try to listen to Japanese music any chance I get. I also take flashcards everywhere I go. Since my language learning is done so late I have a lot of time during the day to glance at flashcards. YouTube is also a good resource for music from other countries.

Conclusion

I wrote this post for myself and because I've met many people who have started learning a language, then found that their career or education limited their time to learn. The problem was that they never got back to learning the language they wanted.

Sometimes when you get back to your language learning it means starting over to give yourself a quick refresher. I think many dislike that but it is sometimes the same in real relationships to feel that you have to start over if time has passed between the two of you. I will try to blog once a week my progress on getting back up to speed in Japanese, even though my blog was quiet while I focused on other things.

But even if you've procrastinated for years you still have time to make that decision to pursue that interest whether it's language, music or anything else you have an interest in learning.

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!

Four Secret Weapons of Practice

Ah, learning, so hardwired into us and yet so difficult! The OED tells us that there are three ways to learn: by study, experience, or being taught. I think there's one thing that they've forgotten. The key ingredient to any new knowledge and skill: practice.

Gets you fit if nothing else.

Gets you fit if nothing else.

I hope that the word "practice" doesn't sound disheartening to you. You're not meant to feel like you are rolling that rock back up the hill endlessly like Sysiphos. To me, effective practice means finding a safe environment to try something you've not tried before and then repeating your new trick until it feels effortless. No doubt this can become more than a bit tedious, but you can cut down on boredom by using a few smart techniques

1) Respect Frustration

Sorry! Hope you didn't think I was going to pretend there's a technique that eliminates irritation. Frustration is an unavoidable part of getting better. If you want to succeed, you need to become very aware of points at which you are frustrated. Perhaps make a little note of what it was that really made you feel stuck. Frustration can be such a killjoy that it's caused more than one great learner to just quit the whole endeavour, and no one really wants that! You have to respect that annoying feeling enough to know when it's not worth fighting against a setback.

No need to abandon the practice session, but you can minimise disappointment by repeating the things you're good at. Just give it a day or two and settle the foundations of what you have learnt, and you will find that problem you were facing before has shifted into perspective while you were away. Take a fresh look at things, perhaps get an expert's view or a new demo to bring back the inspiration, and hopefully you'll be right back on your way. And sometimes, there's nothing but a day off that will help you back onto your tracks.

2) Surprise Yourself

Morning! Time for être in the conditionnel, come on!

Morning! Time for être in the conditionnel, come on!

Mastering a new skill is about becoming so familiar with it that you could do it "in your sleep". I remember our French teacher always talking about how she wants us to be able to rattle down those verb tables even if she wakes us up at 2 in the morning. It's got to get into the head somehow, so make sure that you are really surrounded by your learning material. The easiest way of making this happen in language learning is to write a sentence or two on a sticky note, make 10 copies and stick them everywhere. My favourite places are in the shower (with a plastic wallet), on the bathroom mirror, on the door of your washing machine, in the chocolate drawer and right in the middle of the cork board.

3) Find the Rhythm

The link between music and learning has been explored by researchers and polyglots alike. Music is a very popular teaching tool in kids at primary/nursery school age, but you can also exploit it for your own benefits. If you build a few songs into your learning routine, you'll very soon realise how much more fun it makes it. Don't laugh, but I learnt at least 3 new Russian words from this. You can find examples of musical practice online, for example through Fluency MC or a language hack advocated by Benny Lewis. There are so many advantages to putting music in your learning, for example it makes it more fun, brings you closer to real life use of the target language, helps you remember things through melodies and rhythms and sticks in your head.

4) Get Physical

Movement is another great memory aid because it engages more than one part of your brain. The easiest way you can build this into your learning is to simply sit down with pen and paper (remember my love of the notebook..) and write out those verb tables and vocabulary lists. Maybe write the difficult ones in a different colour, or in capitals. If you want to take it a bit further, why not try and associate the word or sentence with a gesture, like in sign language? It works from "If you're happy and you know it.." to acting out whole bits of dialogue in your book or favourite show.

Get started with really easy exclamations, for example what would you do to illustrate these French expressions:

Au secours!

Je m'écrie! (Je chuchote.)

Je marche.

All of these ideas are designed to help you repeat what it is that you are practising without getting too bored. You may not find that each method works for you, but hopefully you'll have a laugh along the way. It would be great to hear if you guys have found any other ways of building fun repetitions into your learning.

For some other ideas and thoughts, you could these links.

*note use of speechmarks here because I have no clue how that even works