Peace, Words 'n Harmony (Podcast Episode 49)

Hey everyone, welcome to episode 49 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast. This one is perfect for you if you have ever wondered whether language learning is the way to change the world.

Topic: Language Learning Can Bring World Peace

Language is a beautiful caress that can make strangers melt into friends, but la gusgen is also a verbal door that can be closed in the face of outsiders. (Eddie Butler)

We went for deep stuff, and discussed the many ways that language learning can improve the world. From individual peace of mind, via tolerance in your everyday life, to changing the outlook of your country.

We found it felt wrong not to talk about moving abroad. Considering what's happening in Britain this year, the discussion turned to migration. Do people miss out when something foreign is added to the community? Our discussion might surprise you, because as always all isn't quite what it seems. And yes, we did say the B-word: Brexit.

And what about language education in schools? If we believe that language learning creates world peace, should we make everyone learn as many languages as possible?

The Power of Language

Finally, we only need to give you one word that shows something very interesting: migrant. Even when you're not learning a foreign language, the way that people and media around us use language to shape opinions affects everyone's life.

We touch on the idea that language can send signals about all of us, and make or break peace.

In our discussion, Lindsay and I got as close as you can get to saying horrible words. But not all the way there.

We hope you have a listen to find out more, and get in touch to tell us where you stand on language and world peace.

The Good, The Bad and The Struggling

Routines lapsing for the summer, looking forward to September, and permission to half-ass online courses in this week's catch-up with Lindsay and Kerstin.

What's your Good, Bad and Struggling?

We'd love to hear from you guys on this one. If you want to share what's good, bad and difficult in your languages right now, send your feedback to us. We read every one and your language news could make it to a show intro in the future.

Simply do one of the following:

1) go on Skype and leave a voice message for fluentlanguage
2) or email us at - include a voice memo from your phone if you can, so we can feature your voice on the show

Fluency Masterclass, Part 3: Listening

Welcome to the next part of the Fluency Masterclass. These four articles feature my best tips on how to boost your proficiency in the four core skills of language learning. I believe that balanced core skills are the best way to become fluent and confident. These Masterclass articles are designed to give language learners of any level new inspiration, and a focus on the core skills

Language Learning Core Skill: Listening

I'll let you in on a secret: My listening skills aren't really world famous. I have a tendency to guess ahead in conversations and get excited, cut in, intterupt and so on. Hey, it keeps life interesting! But as with all weaknesses, it's good to work on them a little. So my tips are in fact good advice for listening in any situation. I have found them helpful for improving my attention span and communication skills.


1) Listen from Day 1

Listening is so important in language learning. It's closely connected to the learner's comfort level and pronunciation skills, and in addition to that it presumes NO language knowledge at all! There is no pressure on learners to respond or produce language, no rule that says you have to pay full attention all the time, and it can be pretty entertaining too. So my advice really is this: Listen from day 1. In fact, make that day 1 about learning your new alphabet and copying the sounds you're hearing. The BBC, for example, has some excellent alphabet resources.

2) Make notes, repeat and summarize

This is such a simple and effective exercise. I recommend you start working on it in your native language before moving on to foreign language situations. Next time you find yourself listening to someone talking at length, especially in a face-to-face situation or on the phone, get out the notepad. Make notes of the most important points of what they are saying, and ensure you don't miss any. If a real notepad and pen are likely to come across just a bit odd, try and make mental notes.

This technique is in fact part of a communication approach called active listening. It emphasizes that it is important to identify the message. In language learning, this means: Don't get stuck on words you don't know. As long as you know what the main message is, stage 1 is complete. Repeat the audio a few times to fine tune every word.

3) Use a transcript - or make your own


A big part of language learning success is in recognising which sounds correspond to which letters on a page. Click to Tweet this

Remember that we are not focusing on one core skill in order to block out the others. Listening is easily combined with other skills. You can read along using a transcript. Or in order to improve your writing skills, write your own version of the transcript and then compare it with an official one. You'll be training your spelling, listening comprehension and speed all in one go!

4) Bring back the music

I wrote about the many benefits of making music a part of your language learning on the Fluent Language blog last year. If nothing else, it's fun! Music is such a great and obvious place to start for learning a language. You can work with specific materials aimed at language learners like the Teach Me Everyday series, or just get right in there and work with songs. Why not read up on how to do it on this blog article.

5) Use a really wide range of sources

Your target language has many sub-sets of language groups, and in real life situations you may never know which one you are going to encounter. So especially when you work on listening skills, it's important to cast the net wide. Take turns listening to the news, rap songs, local dialects and whatever you can get hold of. To get you started, note that many news services do a simplified language version of their own news casts, for example DW in German, RFI in French or Sveriges Radio for Swedish.

There is a wealth of further materials out on the web all about this topic, for example the following articles:

Got more tips? Comment away, I want to hear it!!

And while you're here, don't miss what's new on my blog by joining the Fluent Language Learning Newsletter.

Guest Post: How to stay positive when you don't understand

Today, I played a little listening exercise to some of my students. They only started learning German a couple of months ago, and have come along really well. One of them told me "I can tell that I'm making progress - I didn't even freak out when I didn't understand a word, I just listened out for the next one I know!

Listening comprehension can be one of the most frustrating things about language learning - not understanding knocks your confidence a lot, but how do you get over the hurdle? To help us get to the bottom of this, I've enlisted help from Diana Tower, headmistress at Diana is an English teacher out in sunny Spain, and runs her website part-time. She's dedicated to tutoring and knows an awful lot about it. Diana allowed me to share this great article on staying positive here on the Fluent Language blog. So without further ado, over to her...

CC licensed thanks to  y3rdua  on Flickr

CC licensed thanks to y3rdua on Flickr

How to stay positive when you don't understand

Do you know how to stay positive when you don't understand? First of all you need to remember something...

...not understanding is normal, natural, necessary and probably one of the most annoying parts about learning English.

But what should you do when you do not understand? It's like riding a horse or a bike. If you fall off, YOU GET BACK ON! That is the key. Here are 6 ways to help you stay positive.

Distract yourself

If you are at a party, dinner or watching a movie and you suddenly realize that you are missing EVERY word being said, disconnect for a minute. When you turn off your mind, it gives you a chance to recharge your batteries and get back into the conversation with a clear head. If you keep trying and trying to understand for 5 hours you are going to exhaust your mind and become extremely frustrated.

Don't worry. Most people understand that you can't be concentrating 100% of the time. Just reassure them that you are just resting your mind.

Focus on what you understand

Easier said than done, but once you master (perfect) this idea you will be able to understand much more than you realize.

When you start to miss words and ideas you can still usually get the general idea. When you focus on the 4 words you don't know and the joke that you missed, you are no longer listening to the conversation and therefore missing much more.

Stay positive and try to focus on the words that you DO understand. With time and practice you will understand more and more. Trust me, it is hard, but you need regular exposure and practice to become a fluent speaker, no matter if it's German or Korean.

Ask questions!

This is the hardest advice to follow because even I don't do it all the time. Imagine that you are having coffee with four friends and the conversation starts to speed up. You still understand the general idea and you can still contribute your opinion.

Suddenly they start talking about something new, using a word that you don't know. If you don't ask for clarification you might sit there not understanding and getting frustrated. This can all be avoided by taking 5 seconds and asking "sorry, what does _______ mean?" Those 5 words and 5 seconds are going to save you a lot of frustration and confusion. 

Note: My main excuse for not doing this is that I don't want to interrupt the conversation, I feel stupid and I don't want to annoy people by asking questions about vocabulary.

Don't assume the worst (stay positive), people are usually happy to help. In my 2 years of living abroad NO ONE has ever reacted negatively to a question that I have had.

Get involved!

I think this is the best trick to understand more and to fight frustration. It's simple. If you are involved in the conversation you understand more and can contribute more as well. When you are active it is much easier to stay positive and fight negative feelings.

There are two ways to use this idea.

    • Keep yourself involved in general. Try to make comments, ask questions and keep speaking periodically.

    You want to keep yourself involved so that you don't end up sitting there looking at your coke and making a mental list of what you have to do tomorrow. Worrying about tomorrow does not help you understand right now!

      • If you stop talking then people will stop talking to you. It sounds harsh but people will more likely speed up and forget that you are not a native speaker.

      If you keep talking, they remember that you are there and they will speak more slowly and usually explain expressions that they think you don't understand.

      Practice makes perfect!

      It sounds like a cliché, but it is true. The more you put yourself into conversational situations the better you are going to get at having a conversation.

      Try to start having one to one conversations. When you are confident speaking to one person, start trying group situations. The key is to stay positive and keep trying.

      Don't be so hard on yourself

      Most of us are quick to criticize ourselves but we don't look at the situation. All we see is that we didn't understand someone.

      We forget that the room was noisy (with music and other people), that in a group it is harder to hear people and that learning a language is hard in general.

      If you incorporate these suggestions and stay positive when speaking in English, I promise that with time and practice you will notice a big improvement in your understanding.

      Happy Learning!
      Diana :)

      Article appeared first on, where you can learn lots more about learning English!