How To Get Germans to Speak German To You

One of the most common questions I hear from you guys is how to deal when other people refuse to practice your target language with you. I'm excited to present some awesome advice from Anja at The Germanz in Australia.

Matching this awesome topic, I've created the new guide Make Your German Sound Amazing, featuring 26 Key Phrases For Conversations with German Speakers. Just click on the little black button here to download it and use it alongside Anja's tips.

Germans and their love for English

When you get lost in Australia, the States or the UK and ask for directions, people will most likely answer in English. When you get lost in Germany, people will most likely answer in English too. 

Studies suggest that (only) 62% of the German population is actually able to hold a conversation in English and most movies and TV shows are still dubbed into German. In fact, most German customers still prefer things the German way and speaking German is still a necessity no matter where you live in Germany (with the exception of Berlin).
 
So why is it that German learners complain that Germans respond to them in English? 
 
What if I told you that you don’t just have to take it? No doubt, you can help Germans stay on track and chat away in German for ages. 

I’m German myself and I’m going to tell you about a few easy things you can do.

Why Germans Switch To English

Germans switch to English for three reasons. 

  1. Sometimes they want to help you
  2. Sometimes they want to help themselves
  3. Sometimes they just prey on the vulnerable and make you the practice tool

But most of the time, they just don’t know any better. 

1. They want to help you

Sometimes Germans simply think it’s being polite. They want to help you communicate more efficiently.

When you ask them, “How goes you? I not finds the station train”, they will most likely help you out in English without speaking a word of German. ‘Oh, that’s cool, they tried in German. They’ll probably understand better when I tell them where to go in English!’, the efficient mind will think.

Germans love speaking English, even when speaking German. Even though many Germans learn at least one foreign language in school, some of them fail to remember that only practice makes perfect.

Additionally, some seem to forget that the comprehension skills of a learner usually outweigh their speaking abilities.

The innocently English speaking German simply doesn’t get that you may understand, that it would be polite and helpful to respond in German. It’s like they buried their teenage memories somewhere in the deepness of their minds, along with that sneaky first kiss behind the school building.

Germans will think you just want to break the ice by saying a few words in German. They will return that favour and will try to make the conversation as unconditionally comfortable as possible for you. In English.

2. It's easier for them

But Germans are not always driven by lovely innocence. Some Germans are simply not patient enough: ‘It will be quicker and easier if I just tell them in English. I’m almost late already!’
If their guesstimate places your German skills below their own English proficiency, they might respond in English.

For Germans, it’s all about communicating efficiently. No overexcited small talk, no politely beating about the actual topic, no exchange of unnecessary information, but rather direct communication, cutting to the chase and getting this question answered as accurately and quickly as possible. In English.

3. Germans want to practise their English skills

Of course, let’s face it, a few Germans simply want to practise their English on you because they know how awesome it feels to finally speak in your language of choice. 

Moreover, they want to show off how good their English is to impress you (and others). They are going to take advantage of you. 

Imagine how convenient, they don’t even have to leave their country to get what they crave. Speaking English. ‘Perfect! This guy from England gets to speak German every day; doesn’t he live here in Germany?’ 

They quickly forget that a lot of others see their opportunity as well, and this poor guy from England and his German skills fall by the wayside.

Here’s what you should do, as well as what you should avoid, to keep up the conversation in German. 

How to Make Them Speak German

How can you fulfil your dreams and get those Germans to speak in German to you? Embrace these two rules that everything boils down to:
 
1. Speak no English to Germans

And

2. Make your German sound better than it is.

These two rules are the magic tricks that will lead to a happy life in Germany. 

Let’s have a look at how to put them into practice with concrete examples and workarounds.

Respond in German

To really cash in and get the Germans speak German, you want to stay away from English as much as possible.
 
Certainly, it will take some courage especially when you think your German is not good enough. But you know what? The Germans will work it out. If they don’t get what you mean, they will ask (in English or German, it doesn’t really matter). 

But if you’re asked, you’ll get a second chance to say it. You may even get some valuable feedback.
 
More importantly, when someone starts speaking English to you, just keep responding in German. 

If your German is already good enough, try to translate the English response into German and say it back to them in German. Be patient and stick to German to get them back on track, no matter what.
 
If you don’t understand, ask them what it means, in German

Once more, under no circumstances switch to English.
 
If you can’t remember the word and you really need to know it, do the following:

Describe the word in German and ask them about the correct word.

  • Was heißt nochmal das eine Pedal im Auto? -Nein, das andere. Ach, ja, das Gaspedal. - What would you call that one pedal in the car? -No, the other one. Ah yes, the gas pedal.) or

Ask them for the translation in German.

  • Wie heißt nochmal ‘dog’ auf Deutsch? - What’s the word for ‘dog’ in German again? 

Work on your pronunciation

As Germans like to switch when they think that communicating with you might not go too smoothly, how about you make your language skills less of a problem? 

If Germans think that you’re comfortable speaking in German, they are less likely to switch.
 
One way of making your German sound better than it is, is to be amazing at pronouncing things. Just practice the proper pronunciation and know how the intonation pattern of a sentence works.

Use phrases and conversation fillers

You could also use phrases and conversation fillers to make your responses sound more natural. 

The idea is again that we want to make our German sound better than it is. It’s like saying, “Keep going, nothing to see here”.
 
To keep up the flow when speaking, it’s a great idea to have handy the vocabulary you will need. But also don’t forget that natives use clichés and filler words, and they say ‘uhmm’ a lot. 
 
Here are some examples:

  • Ach wirklich/Echt? - Ah really?
  • Cool!
  • Macht nichts!/Kein Problem. - That’s alright!/No problem.
  • Hört sich gut an. - Sounds good.
  • Ach so. - Ah yea.
  • Stimmt!/Genau - I agree./Yeah, that’s right.
  • Na ja, vielleicht. - Yeah, maybe.

Compromise

Let’s face it, sometimes there’s no way that subtle hints will get them back on track. 

Please don’t take it personally, they might not even notice. The only thing that will help here is to be very clear about your goals, about genuinely wanting to learn proper German.
 
Apart from saying “Bitte nur in Deutsch”, you can decide to blitzkrieg and offer a language tandem. Your compromise could be
 
One hour speaking in German, another hour speaking in English.
 If you see them every day, you could agree to speak English from Monday to Wednesday and German from Thursday to Sunday.
 
If the two of you agree to correct each other properly and also provide alternatives for certain sentences and phrases, you could both benefit from the language tandem quite a bit.

Make (new) German friends

As your language skills progress, you’ll be able to chat away on more and more topics. You will be developing your ‘German You.’ It may be the same as — or completely different from — the English-speaking you.
 
With your ever-improving skills, making new German friends will become a lot easier.
 
If you have moved to a German-speaking country, you’ll hit the jackpot by joining a club (der Verein) in the German countryside, but clubs can be found anywhere across Germany, even in the big cities. Similarly, you want to get involved and lend a hand at the local Tatort night, the German-speaking weekly handcraft meeting or the local climbing hall.
 
Try to maintain a healthy ratio of English-speaking and only-German-speaking friends. You have a choice among about 100 million German native speakers in the European Union alone.
 
Don’t forget, the more you get to speak German, the easier it gets. Just let Germans know you’re up for a challenge. They will be up for it as well. 

Summary

In summary, please don’t get turned off by responses in English, keep learning German and remember these two fundamental rules: 

  1. Don’t speak English to Germans.
  2. Make your German sound better than it is.

On a concrete note, you could:

  • Always reply in German.
  • Ask for missing words and explanations in German.
  • Improve your pronunciation.
  • Use conversation fillers and ‘uhm’ a lot.
  • Compromise by offering language tandems.
  • Move to the German country.
  • Make (new) German speaking friends.

You’ll find more nifty tricks on learning and speaking German on my German language blog. 

Don’t forget to tell me in the comments about your favourite strategy in dealing with English speaking Germans. 

This article was written by Anja. Anja lives in Melbourne, Australia, is originally from Germany and writes about the German language and culture on her blog when she is not busy teaching German language classes. Hang out and have a chat with her on Google+ or Twitter.

How Sia Learnt Chinese By Saying No To Traditional Methods

Today's guest post comes from a writer whose story is both motivating and challenging. Sia Mohajer learnt more Chinese in 3 months than others learn in a year. Just like me, he's a teacher who says you shouldn't always listen to your teachers. I love how Sia has shared the most important language learning points: Independence and Autonomy! Enjoy this awesome guest post - Thank you, Sia!

sia mohajer

Kung Fu, Learning Mandarin and Not Listening To My Teachers

If you ask me where I’m from, I might give you a different answer every time. The truth is I don’t even like answering this question. My cultural and ethnic roots are so mixed up, I’d rather just avoid the question than give a mini-biography. I was born in Iran, during the height of the Iran-Iraq war, fled as a refugee where my single mother and I sought asylum in Germany, Sweden, France, California before finding our “home” in Canada. 

My house was a linguist’s classroom, at any point in the day you could find people arguing or talking politely in four different languages. Multicultural wasn’t something we thought about, it was just life. So when Jackie Chan came into my life at eleven years old, I was ready for him.  

Jackie Chan's movies were a Hollywood interpretation of Chinese culture. Through him, I discovered kung fu - a whole lot of it. My favorite. My love. My reason for existing as an eleven year old. I grew up on kung fu. 

My mom had been working at a computer company and one of her coworkers gave her some bootleg Jackie Chan VHS tapes. This was during Chan's prolific rise to fame; titles included “Rumble in the Bronx” and “Drunken Master”. I watched those videos probably fifteen times. Somewhere in all that martial arts awesomeness, through crowded-Asian streets and the hustle and bustle, something caught my imagination. I decided there and then that I’d “move to Asia one day”. 15 years later, here I am living in Asia; still somehow enchanted by the adventure of living fifty thousand miles from home despite the occasional turbulence of daily life.

But this story isn't about kung fu or Jackie Chan, but about learning Mandarin.

My Escape to Taiwan

My ambition to one day move to Asia did not include mastering Chinese. The thought had never come to mind. Perhaps, I had relegated it to the realm of impossibility. 

In the summer of 2008, two months after graduating from university in Canada, I moved to the hot-sweaty claustrophobic mess that is Taipei City in the summertime. I got a job at a cram school and embarked on the usual delights of exploring a new culture. I wasn't any good at learning Mandarin, mostly because I didn't care. Almost five months passed and I had only learned embarrassing essentials: "beer", "no spicy", "more beer", "you're pretty" and "I'm from Canada". Beyond that nothing, basically I was your typical ex-pat.

In April of that year, I decided to spend a generous 100 dollar birthday gift from my mother on 10 private Chinese classes. My teachers were terrible. One was an overly flirtatious middle-aged women who taught me absolutely nothing. The other was a wizened-looking older Chinese man with a long ponytail and an office filled with Buddhist ornaments. He insisted on lightly slapping my hand whenever I made a mistake. I, of course, obliged his request - half out of amusement and half out of bewilderment. Needless to say my Chinese learning efforts weren't very fruitful and I was ready to quit.

My Language Learning Paradigm Shift

Near the end of my tenth lesson where I had learned approximately 300 words, I overheard another student talking about a website - Chinesepod. I went home and checked it out. At that time, it was an independently run website that offered free signups for podcasts and Mandarin learning material. 

I signed up, and I was hooked.

I guess I've never been one for classroom learning. I was that student who would rather stare out the window than focus on the task at hand. Chinesepod opened my eyes. I realized that language learning wasn't restricted to a classroom, a teacher and weird light-hand slapping. I could learn where, when, and what I wanted. Most importantly, I was in charge of my own learning.

Chinesepod opened the door to a host of other online language learning programs: flashcard programs, writing apps, video websites and language exchange websites. Before I knew it, I had created an a highly diversified language learning schedule which I tailored to whatever I wanted to learn. If I had a problem explaining something I wanted, I'd look up that topic. If I just wanted to be lazy, I'd watch a Chinese movie.

If I had a language learning itch, I’d scratch it. It turned out that scratching those itches were the best things I could have possibly done. 

Why Working Better Beats Working More

When we approach a problem we generally follow the status quo.

Want to learn something? Study more.

Want more money? Work more.

What this approach lacks in precision, it makes up for in workload. Instead of just studying more and more, I used the most efficient multiple learning methods while avoiding methods that didn’t work. There’s science behind this. 

In 1896 Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, discovered a unique constant in economic calculations. Later known as the 80/20 principle or Pareto’s Principle, it stated that 80% of results come from 20% of the causes. The same holds true for language learning. Finding that 20% allowed me to learn much faster than others, who were forced into methods of language learning that were perhaps not suited to her interests or personality. My 20% were podcasts, writing down absolutely every word I encountered in the dirtiest-little notepad you have ever seen, and practicing with every person I met.

Finding your 20 % is a task you alone can accomplish, but I can guarantee you will start learning faster than you ever have. 

Once I found the method that worked for me, I was studying literally all day long in a virtual learning classroom. The results showed. I was fluent in a year. Even at the three month mark I was already using such complicated grammar and vocabulary that my roommate, a full time Chinese student enrolled in a prestigious intensive Mandarin course, couldn't understand me.

My roommate had bought into the hype of her school. She actually believed the promotional material that said “our course will teach you 5000 words in 10 weeks”. She studied everyday and went home to do the assigned character writing. She was told that students who emerge from the program will have superior Chinese as demonstrated by the institute's history. The problem was her Chinese was nowhere near superior. She lacked confidence, spoke too slowly, often confused words because she knew so many and was engaged in a constant battle not to forget her 15-plus stroke-order characters. Her issues were not a result of bad teaching or her being a poor student, but rather a consequence of classroom-based language learning in general.

What They Don’t Teach You in School

I’ve been a language learner and teacher for ten years and I can confidently assert that classroom-based language learning for adults should be a supplement to real-life learning. Your classroom setting should provide you with the tools and fundamentals to allow you to go out into the world, be curious, make mistakes and have fun. Otherwise, the routines, writing assignments and pressure to learn all the material will detract from your main purpose - to communicate effectively.

Effective communication is developed when you make mistakes that you can learn fromthrough effective mistake-making. The feedback loop of the classroom is an ineffectual one because it is an artificial environment. Artificial environments are great to start off with. All variables can be controlled and you can get exactly the results you want; however, these results often don’t apply in the real world. This isn’t a criticism of classroom learning in general, but as it applies to language learning in this context, I think that self-directed independent language learning in multiple contexts trumps classroom-based language acquisition. In other words: Go to class if you like, but never stay there full-time.

Getting all this done is not impossible. It’sIt’s just a matter of effective time management.  While my roommate was spending one hour continuously writing characters I could have reviewed flashcards, written down ten new words using Pinyin ( English transliteration of Chinese) and had a 45 minute skype conversation in Chinese. 

You Live in the Best Time to Learn Any Language

My new found Mandarin ability eventually found me a great job which I am still at today. I was able to explore new parts of the culture that I previously couldn't access or was simply too scared to. My virtual learning experience led to further professional education, where I completed several distance education qualifications.

My point is this - we live in the best time in human history to learn any language. You are no longer restricted to the classroom. Creating a virtual classroom where you decide what you want to learn and when you learn, infuses your language learning with meaning. 

I can only speak for myself when I say that mastering something that is seen as incredibly difficult is a life-changing experience. It might sound melodramatic, but learning a new language, not just Chinese, might be that spark you need to get yourself going. Your language learning doesn’t need to be defined by a course or a textbook. You can be in charge and create a world you want to study in.

In the end, staying curious is one of the best ways to stay motivated. 

I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried alternative methods of language learning and had success. Drop a comment below and let me know. I’ll respond to all the comments. 

If you're a Mandarin learner, you can also find me on www.learnmandarintoday.com

14 Quick Tech-Fuelled Ideas for Starting to Learn a New Language

In today's guest post, I've got a submission from Suzy St George, a regular writer for Take Lessons. She originally contacted me after reading my Duolingo review and went on to write this post offering a pretty good overview of language learning resources. 

Over to Suzy:

I’ll admit it: I’m one of those people who took a full two years of Spanish classes in high school, along with an additional semester in college, coasting by and memorizing vocabulary words just to earn an A on the final. After all, I’d never really need to know how to describe my clothing in Spanish, right?

Many years later, I found myself living in San Diego, surrounded by Spanish speakers. And when I started working for Take Lessons, one of the lesson categories I was tasked to write blog content for — to my surprise — was Spanish. As I planned out my blog content, I was embarrassed to realize I remembered close to nothing from my studies.

Luckily I found a huge bunch of easy and fun options out there for students as I researched the state of language learning today. From websites to plugins for your browser, these tech-fuelled language learning options stood out to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you’ve tried them!

Social networks

Most millennials are well-versed in social networks like Facebook. But did you know using social networking sites can help you learn a new language? I’ve poked around in a few of the ones specific to language-learners, and it’s such a great way to learn with the help of others. These networks can clue you in on local dialects and colloquialisms (slang), and most importantly, keep you interested thanks to burgeoning friendships with others trying to learn your language as well.

Here are some websites and forums to check out:

iTalki

You know iTalki as a tutor directory but it also features an online forum for those looking to discover new cultures and languages.

Livemocha

Livemocha was actually purchased by Rosetta Stone in 2013, so they’re sanctioned by a big name. Their philosophy is delivering an experience that helps with conversational fluency, so it’s a great option if you want to brush up on your casual speaking skills. Beyond its community of teachers, language learners, and native speakers, Livemocha also offers live virtual classes, tutorial videos, with a built-in Facebook-style networking page where you can chat with others to help you achieve fluency.

Apps and Websites

Apps and websites offer an easy – and often free or low cost – way of integrating a new language into your daily life. I always have my phone on me, so I’ve found these apps to be super helpful for killing time on public transportation, on my lunch break, or just hanging out at home. No matter your learning style, you can bet there is an app for that.

Babbel

Free for iOS and Android, Babbel covers 11 languages. It offers tricks to help you remember words, as well as interactive games to play. As you learn, Babbel remember your progression, making games more challenging with fewer English-based clues and more complex paragraphs.

Busuu

Similar to Babbel, Busuu adds a bit of gamification to the language-learning process with “busuu-berry” awards as you progress. Another plus: users can submit writing exercises to others for review, helping you improve your vocabulary in context.

Duolingo

This is actually one of my favorites, and I looked into it further after one of our Spanish tutors recommended it to me. Of course, you’ll want to compare it against your own language-learning goals, as many (including Kerstin!) have argued that it relies too heavily on memorizing vocab, while ignoring the very basics of grammar. I agree with the review – games like these are not the best route if total comprehension is your goal – but for me, it does the trick as a fun activity to keep me on my toes. As they say on the Internet, YMMV!  

Anki

Japanese for "memorizing," Anki is a free flashcard-style program. It displays a word, phrase, image, or sound for you to repeat, interpret, connect with, and commit to memory. Make your own deck, or choose from one of many available shared decks and start learning in a snap.

TakeLessons

TakeLessons is a nice alternative to italki. Not every student’s language-learning goal is the same, so the site will help you find the perfect fit for your needs.

Foreign Services Institute

This site offers a huge library of free professional materials for studying, and is a great resource for lesser-studied languages.

Memrise

This is a great language learning websites for visual learners, and is a fantastic supplement to working with a tutor. Web or app-based, this flashcard style program is a fun way to aid language memorization through competition. Points and reputation are boosted as you learn and complete activities.

Games

Who doesn’t love games? If you want to use your time efficiently, ignore the Candy Crush notifications and check out one of the popular language games instead. Playing games in a text or audio language other than your own engages you in the learning process, helping you recognize and understand words over time with the help of repetition. Want more than your average solo game? Look for MMO (massively multiplayer online) games, which often cross multiple linguistic boundaries to help you better learn languages on-the-fly.

Que Onda Spanish

I’m pretty sure I spent at least 30 minutes playing “Whack-a-Word” alone when I first found this website! Once you complete a course, based on the level you’ve chosen you can then play several different games. They’re all very simple but also pretty fun! For other language learners, there are also related sites (and yes, games) for learning Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, and more.

Die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra

Check out Kerstin's review of this German language learning game, taking you through a crime-fuelled story on your iPad or iPhone.

Google Chrome plugins

Plugins, tools you can download and add to your internet browser to do various tasks, can help language learners a ton. For example, you can use a translating plugin to ease your way into new languages by helping you translate all or part of your online reading.

Language Immersion for Chrome

I use this one often when I’m browsing other blogs written in Spanish, and it’s super helpful. This plugin translates random words on websites in the language you are learning, with the ability to add more or less translation assistance based on settings.

Instant Translate

Another option for a translating plugin, you can use this tool to translate any word in a window without moving away from the page.

Lingua.ly

This plugin translates, but also goes a step further and saves words you don’t understand so you can review them later.

What Are Your Must-Have Online Resources?

I would love to find out more about what you are using to learn a language right now. Which apps can't you live without? What's the best website?

Share your ideas in the comments below!

5 Chinese Learning Resources You’re Going to Love

Eyes to the East, everyone, today's blog post is all about Chinese learning! I'm not yet trying my hand (and brain) with this approach, so to help you guys if you're interested in Chinese, I brought in an expert in the form of language blogger Teddy Nee. You might remember him from his previous article on Fluent, comparing English to Chinese on the world stage.

Today Teddy will be sharing his top 5 Resources for Learning Chinese. Enjoy his recommendations:

“China” is a word that we frequently see or hear, for example in newspaper, TV, books, etc. There might be Chinese people living in your neighborhood, your country, or doing business with you. I am also certain that you can see Chinese people almost everywhere you go, from Africa to Europe, America to Australia.

And of course, chances are you're using “Made in China” product today. China’s economic growth is massive. It is huge and powerful, so much so it cannot be ignored. China can lay claim to being world’s fastest growing major economy, a global hub for manufacturing, and the largest exporter of goods in the world.

These facts motivate many learners to learn the official language of China, which is Chinese Mandarin, or simply called Chinese. Keep in mind that there are also many dialects spoken throughout China, and spoken by Chinese descents around the world, such as Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, etc.

5 Top Resources I Used For Learning Chinese

Chinese was a mandatory course in the school I attended. It is my second foreign language and to be honest, I found it challenging to learn. I have spent many years learning it and I am staying in Taiwan at the moment, so Chinese is my daily language now. Here I want to share with you five Chinese learning resources that have helped me so much in the progress.

1.     Peggy Teaches Chinese

Peggy Lee, an experienced Chinese instructor, has so many things about Chinese language and culture to share with you in her blog “Peggy Teaches Chinese”, and her YouTube channel. She offers free online video lessons and also private tutoring.

She began her teaching career in 2008. Today, Peggy Lee’s YouTube channel has gained over 13,000 subscribers, and she has taught students from all over the world. She received Fulbright Fellowship scholarships to teach Chinese at the University of Arkansas and she is pursuing her graduate studies in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language graduate program in National Taiwan Normal University.

Her teaching style professional and interactive, so Peggy (my old university buddy, by the way) and her channel are guaranteed to bring you up to date quickly.

2.     Practical Audio-Visual Chinese

Taiwan is one of many popular places to learn Mandarin. I had a chance to be part of a big student community in Mandarin Training Center (MTC) of National Taiwan Normal University in Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei city.

We used Practical Audio-Visual Chinese, which is available from level 1 – 5. This learning material covers daily conversations followed by grammar notes. Students don’t only learn about the language, but also the culture.

Many learning centers in Taiwan use Practical Audio-Visual Chinese series as teaching material. You can also purchase them at Amazon. 

3.     Zhongwen

I like reading very much, it is one of my methods to learn languages. As for Chinese, it may be troublesome and time-consuming to draw characters stroke by stroke, and it can be more difficult if you don’t know the stroke order. Writing Chinese character strokes starts from left to right, top to bottom, and inside out.

In order to save time checking words in the dictionary, I installed a plugin in Google Chrome called Zhongwen: A Chinese-English Popup Dictionary.  It works just like the name suggests: An explanation box will pop up whenever you highlight the Chinese characters you want to understand. Zhongwen also detects whether more than one characters form a word. I am very satisfied with the service. I still use it until today, so you should definitely grab this plugin if you are a Google Chrome user.

4.     italki

If you want to learn by having language exchange, you can find your language partners in italki, a language learning website based in Shanghai. By having headquarters in China, italki is accessible by China’s huge population. Founded by American and Chinese entrepreneurs in 2007, italki is officially registered in Hong Kong.

Besides finding language partner, you also can take classes and read articles about Chinese language. There are 85 Professional Teachers and 188 Community Tutors at the time I'm writing this.

I like italki because it offers hassle-free payment process and I like the way the information is arranged on its website. Everything can be done with several clicks on your mouse. I also like its Language Challenge program, where participants learn any languages within the given period of time.

5.     Hacking Chinese

Hacking Chinese is a blog run by Olle Linge from Sweden, offering language coaching, lecturing and teaching, as well as consulting and analyzing to students.

Olle covers everything about Chinese language and culture in his posts. Despite knowing Chinese as a foreign language, he is currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language in a university in Taipei.

Besides Olle’s articles, you can also find abundant resources about learning Chinese, such as reviews on some Chinese learning platforms, podcasts, and many more. There are also Hacking Chinese Challenges to help you learn by building language skills through daily practice and friendly competition.

Have You Tried These Chinese Resources Yet?

 

How to Learn a Language with Thousands of Helpers on Tumblr

Today's post comes from a language learner I've known for about a year. Maria is based in Newcastle and first talked to me during the 50 Calls Project. I love her enthusiasm and her awesome perspectives on language learning. Recently she contacted me to offer a guest post on language learning on Tumblr - I'm not a Tumblr user myself so I jumped at the chance.

Enjoy Maria's post!

tumblr

Never heard of Tumblr?

The magical world of Tumblr might be new to you. In this case, here's a definition I saw on Yahoo Answers, where they describe Tumblr like this:

A place to "effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email, or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors to your theme's HTML.

So in essence, Tumblr another social media platform. But what separates this one from other social networks is that once you have an account, you can create numerous blogs and join a multitude of intriguing communities, from Doctor Who to interior design.

It's also different because in general on the website, people don't tend to know each other. You don't add your friends or family, but create a family of the people who share your interests! The example I'm going to talk about is, of course, the language learning community on Tumblr!

Start with a Tag

tumblr-portuguese

Sound confusing? It's really not. Anyone, any age, anywhere can join a community they like or search for whatever they like. My favourite tag is the 'polyglot' tag but I wouldn't dare call myself a polyglot at all! You don't even need to be fluent in another language. It's just a good bit of fun for people who are interested, while acting as a serious study aid - it certainly helped me get through my Spanish GCSE!

You don't even have to have an account to see the grand world of Tumblr. The website is easy to navigate and you learn more as you go on, building your page and gaining followers. Like Twitter, you can reblog (retweet) and like (favourite) different posts, adding your own comments too! You can directly 'ask' people questions and follow blogs. You can search for a tag to see all the posts under that tag, and that's where the community you want to join will be found!

For languages, you want to be looking at tags like #polyglot, #foreignlanguage, #langblr or of the language you want to see, for example #esperanto.

Tags Give You Everything

From playful jokes to help with confusing grammar from native speakers, the sky is the limit over on Tumblr. There are videos, text posts, photos, and links to other websites. You'll find a lot of relatable posts made by other people in the same position as you, which are bound make you laugh. I can't count the times I've read a post and in my head I'm thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this person is me!'.

Here are a few good examples:

Supportive Community at the Touch of a Button

But Tumblr is not just for jokes. It can be a serious resource. Users post important grammar points, language tips and expert knowledge on any language.

On one occasion, I looked at a post that finally helped me grasp how to use the cases in Latin, and the next post along I picked up some Argentinian slang. You can directly message people and ask them about your own challenges too and they're more than happy to share their expertise. They might come asking you too.

The people in Tumblr's communities offer support if, for instance, you post about having a tricky patch in a language. Everyone is super friendly! And if you've hit a bit of a barrier recently with your learning, there is motivation left, right and centre on Tumblr. All it takes is a quick scroll down a tag and you see something new and it sparks off the relationship between you and your language again! You can find weekly challenges and search for a language exchange partner, creating global friendships while learning and teaching a language.

But what if I'm learning a really obscure language?

If there's a language, there's a tag. Someone somewhere is learning that language and is posting about it on Tumblr! You might find tips about your target language or resources you've never seen before. They come in heaps, seriously. I've seen list after list of free websites to help you learn French, or specific YouTube accounts for Portuguese. These people have spent their time searching so you don't have to! And it's all at the click of a button!

You can post in foreign languages yourself and ask for corrections, or communicate with people in the community in their language. The ways to stimulate learning are endless, and a lot of the time you're doing it subconsciously as you scroll down the page. There are thousands of people in the community from all corners of the world, and to think so few people know about this language learning gold mine!

If you want to have a peek at the magical language learning world on Tumblr, start with the #langblr tag and enjoy your journey down the rabbit hole..

Okay, as I was editing this post I got pumped up. Maria, I'm on Tumblr too now! Joining the masses! Getting into the community! Are you on Tumblr too? Leave your opinion in the comments and share your favourite Blogs and Tags with us!

My Language Bucket List: Shannon Kennedy from Eurolinguiste

There is little in life that can motivate you better than a good bucket list. Write down your aspirations, imagine those situations that get you excited and share if you dare!

In today's guest post, Shannon Kennedy from Eurolinguiste has taken the challenge of sharing her own language learning dreams.

A short while back, Kerstin shared a “language bucket list” post from Angel Armstead. I thought it was a fun idea (plus I’m a huge fan of lists), so I started planning something similar in the back of mind. As fate would have it, Kerstin got in touch with me and kindly asked me if I’d be willing to share my language wish list on Fluent. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to share my long-term language learning goals and I’m incredibly grateful to Kerstin for providing me with a platform for which to do just that!

My Background in Language Learning + My #1 Goal

In the grand scheme of things, I only have a few years of serious language learning under my belt. Like many, I dabbled with studying various languages in school, but it really wasn’t until I arrived at university that it became a passion for me. Now, I can’t imagine spending the bulk of my free time any other way.

In part, I feel as though I have to make up for lost time, because of my late start. At the same time, however, I also realize that language learning is a life-long venture. So why rush it? I have many years of study to look forward to over the years.

My late entrance into the game doesn’t imply that I haven’t always loved learning languages (I even recently found a paper from when I was about 14 years old that listed “linguist” as a possible career option). They’ve always played a part in my life, so much so, in fact, that I’ve always had this one particular language goal in mind.

As far back as I can remember, my primary language aspiration was to speak eight languages fluently (I’ll define what I mean by fluent below). When this idea first occurred to me, I had my eight languages picked out, but over time, this list has slowly started to change. There were languages that I studied in the past that I no longer find any interest in, while there are others that I started studying that I originally had no intention to learn.

It took me a while to get used to the possibility of changing my list (I’m stubborn like that), but now that it has, I’ve grown more interested in other options in terms of how and why I learn languages. There is so much more out there for me linguistically beyond my list of eight languages.

My Language Learning Wish List

I’ve had a general sort of bucket list or wish list tucked away on my site for some time, but I thought it would be pretty fun to create a language specific list. And Angel’s post on Fluent Language inspired me to do just that.

So here we go.

1. Pass the HSK Exam at a minimum of Level 4

I have both personal and professional goals surrounding the Mandarin language. To successfully achieve those goals, the HSK 4 is the minimum level I’d like to obtain. If I succeed in continuing past that, I’ll be absolutely elated. I really love learning Mandarin.

For those of you unfamiliar with the HSK Exam, it is a Chinese Proficiency Test issued by Hanban, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. It became the official national standardized test in 1992 and it serves as a certificate for language proficiency for higher education and professional purposes. Like CEFR, there are six HSK levels, and so, the two are often compared. There is some debate over whether or not the comparison is accurate, and I haven’t yet taken the HSK exam to have an opinion of my own. But, if the two are reasonably comparable, HSK 4 is said to be the equivalent of B2.

2. Travel to Croatia and not speak a word of English during the entire trip

I really, really want to go to Croatia but I haven’t yet had the opportunity. Between you and me, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this next year. My heart is really set on visiting Dubrovnik.

I’m often asked why I decided to learn Croatian, and in case you haven’t yet stumbled across my answer elsewhere, my grandfather (whom I’ve never had the opportunity to meet) was Croatian and I have other family who speak the same (or mutually intelligible) language(s). It has always been close to my heart and I’d love to travel there to reconnect with my roots.

I look forward to having a glass of vina (wine) while gazing out at the okean (ocean) after a day of exploring the old grad (city).

3. Read one of my favorite book series in every language that I speak

I’m really up for any of a couple different book series I enjoy (yes, I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy nerd) and I’ve already started to collect three of them in the different languages I speak. While I would normally read the series a second time in their original language, I want to challenge myself to re-read them in different languages. This means that I need to get my reading skills up to a high level in each of the languages that I speak (the books are rather dense).

4. Get up to a good enough level to read a ton of fantasy and science fiction books in their original languages

I read science fiction and fantasy in their original languages in both French and English, but I’d like to read books by Russian, Croatian, Italian, Chinese or Taiwanese, and German authors too. If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to leave me a note in the comments below! As of today, I’m only familiar with English, American, and French science fiction and fantasy authors.

5. Speak eight languages at a high level. Minimum of B2, preferably C1 if possible

These languages are English, French, Croatian, Russian, and Mandarin, so far. I thought that German and Italian were going to be on the list because I already spent a decent amount of time learning them, but for the moment, I’ve kind of lost interest in both. I really hate to give up languages that I’ve already learnt, but I want to remain open to the possibility that there are two languages that I might just love more that deserve to be in that group of eight. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll fall back in love!

6. Go to China and study martial arts in Mandarin

For the past fifteen years I’ve studied a variety of martial arts on and off (mostly off). I’ve spent the most time with kickboxing and kung fu and it’s my favorite form of exercise. My current school makes a trip to the Shaolin Monastery every few years and I’d love to go along on one of the future trips.

7. Learn enough Japanese to play video games

This would be a reading only goal (most of the games I play don’t have spoken dialogue).

I am a fan of the Super Mario and the Zelda game series. I’d love to be able to play the games in their original languages (and I already own a few of them). I also think it would be fun to read Pocket Monsters and other Japanese comics.

I know that there are a lot of people that feel as though video games are a waste of time, but I’ve watched the English of the kids on the French side of my family flourish over the past few years just because they play games in English (both online as part of communities and standalone on their tablets/handhelds). Games are engaging enough that they (in my opinion) have proven themselves to be excellent language learning tools. I’m ready to try it out myself.

About the Author

My name is Shannon and I am the blogger/language lover/adventurer behind Eurolinguiste. I am a musician first, but an avid language learner at heart. I speak French and English fluently and I am currently working towards fluency in Mandarin and Croatian. You can learn more about me and my language learning strategies of at Eurolinguiste.

If you have a language wish list, feel free to share it in the comments below! You can either link back to a post of yours where you already wrote about it, or you can just write your wish list in the comments. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Find Shannon on FacebookInstagram or Youtube.

My Language Bucket List: Angel Armstead

Ever since I first heard about the idea of building a "bucket list" I have been fascinated by it. It's optimistic, ambitious and fun. It keeps us focused and excited about the opportunities out there. And of course, there's a natural sense of urgency to a list of "things to do before I kick the bucket".

So imagine my excitement when regular Fluent writer Angel sent me her most recent blog article. She's sharing her own language bucket list, the list of languages to learn in her lifetime. It's a great perspective, and I'm excited to be sharing more of these lists in the future.

Over to Angel..

My Language Bucket List (or things I want to achieve before I die)

There are bucket lists for almost everything you can think of. I have even made my own little generic bucket list on a blog that I eventually deleted. They seem to interest us because it's one of the few things we all have in common and that's death. Since we can't live forever there are things that we'd like to do and possibly be remembered for. I got the idea of a language bucket list from Ron at Language Surfer. I decided maybe this was the type of bucket list I could stick to.

language bucket list

Why a language bucket list?

I've tried all the other bucket lists such as a health related one, a spirituality related one and even a few based off of traveling but I always grew bored with them. Languages may be one of the few things that I can work on everyday and not feel like I'm doing work. I'm passionate about all the other stuff..just not to the length that I want to really write out my progress for the world to see.

I also love the fact that it gives me more people to speak to by learning a language. I can speak to the many natives of that language or other language learners. I love reading so it gives me more books to read, more video games to play. Language learning just opens up a whole new world for me. Other things can do that but this way has been the one that has been the most fun for me.

Here are my big language bucket list items:

1. Spend Winter in Japan speaking Japanese

I love the Japanese language & culture. It was the first foreign language I studied seriously. Since then I have even created a blog using some of my favorite games/anime to help others with learning that language. The reason for winter came up when I read a book stating that in Sapporo during winter that there are more snow-people than people. I love winter because of snow. This is probably my number one goal in language learning and I could die happy with just this.

2. Read and write in Arabic

My reasons for this are mostly religious. I consider the Arabic language one of the most difficult. I probably said the same thing about Japanese years ago but I've learned a huge amount of that writing system. It's the only language I'm learning mostly for religious reasons. But I do now also have Arabic friends and I would like to speak to them in their native language. But this was not one of the languages I had originally planned on learning.

3. Have a conversation in Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese was originally going to be my first second language. But it looked and sounded so difficult that I gave up on that goal and started studying Japanese instead. I always liked the way the language sounds. I still do. After giving up the idea of learning this language I met many people who have learned to to read, write and converse in Mandarin Chinese as their second language. It proved me to that maybe it's not as difficult as it seems. Even if it is difficult it would be worth it in the end.

4. Learn Russian and read many books in that language

My first encounter with this language was as a kid in some cartoons and the music on most keyboard pianos. Back then I wasn't as sure if I could learn another language but I did love hearing Russian. It also doesn't hurt that recently I downloaded a whole lot of books in Russian. I lost count. It's one of the things I love about my Kindle: free books. I will read them one day. In my opinion Russian is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. I had talked about learning Russian back when I was taking Japanese in college. I just need to get back to it and probably will when Duolingo releases that Russian course.

5. Read Marx books in German.

Let's get it out of the way. Marxism was not my reason for wanting to learn German. After Russian, German is one of my favorite languages to listen to. English is a Germanic language and I love seeing the similarities in English & German. According to my mother we have German ancestry. I have sometimes wondered why her maiden name means “big” in German. The Marxist book idea came much later when trying to create a political atmosphere in a novel I'm working on. I'm North American and did not want to do Republicans versus Democrats. I'm too close to that and would be biased. I looked over the languages I was interested in and decided to use a political belief that I would have to research. Authors use any excuse to research something.

What's on YOUR language bucket list?

I'm not a huge fan of bucket lists though I love the movie that inspired the idea. It sometimes feels like New Year's Resolutions. You're hyped up when you create them but they quickly fall to the side to be forgotten. I do like seeing language bucket lists though simply because I like encouraging other language learners. So if you have any language goals to do before kicking the bucket let me know.

Tell us more about the languages you must learn in this life in the comments! What do you want to achieve with those languages? What is your speaking, reading, writing dream?

Angel and I can't wait to see what you've got.

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