The ups and downs of learning a language

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The 6 low moments of learning a language

The six low moments of learning a language

Your pronunciation will sound hilarious; you will mistranslate and use the language inappropriately.
During an English conversation exchange, a Mexican student translated the Spanish term for “manual labour” directly into the immortal sentence, “hand jobs are getting cheaper”. Moments later an American classmate tried to complain that she was hot. Unfortunately, estoy caliente means “I’m horny”, or “I’m sexually stimulated.”

You might participate in conversations that go faster than your brain
You understand what’s being said, and you want to join in – but by the time you formulate a sentence that sounds natural, the conversation has moved on.
The best way to get around this is to ask questions to show that you are following the conversation.

Talking on the phone for the first time
Remember that 10% of communication is verbal so understanding someone on the phone becomes more difficult, especially if in another language. So, it’s not a sin to ask for clarification or to rephrase what you understood or did not understand.
Listening seems an impossible task
 Sometimes we pretend to be listening to someone and end up saying “ok” in response to “Where are you staying?”, or “Ha, that’s so funny!” in response to “and then she passed away”.
The key is to make sure you actually listen instead of going into panic mode when you did not get that word. “What was that word? I know I’ve heard it somewhere, what was it WHAT WAS IT?!” You focus so much on the word and forget to follow the conversation.

You use an expression correctly and native speakers laugh
Believe me, you didn’t make a mistake. The fact that you use the language so naturally amazes the native speakers and hearing someone use their language so well is a pleasant surprise.

You find it hard to stay motivated.
There is so much to learn about another language – the grammar, the pronunciation and then the vocabulary: idiomatic expressions, slang, formal and informal words, etc. Covering requires persistence and awareness that it is a building process – brick by brick.

What do you see - a pile of bricks or a house?

Adapted from this motivating and frank blog post

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What's the word?

What do these three sentences have in common?

  • The ex-president offered to broker the contract between the two companies.
  • For more information, consult your travel agent or insurance broker.
  • The communist party emerged as a power broker despite their loss of seven seats in the senate in the recent elections.

ANSWER: They all use the word broker. In language, the same word can be used in different ways and have different meanings.   

To be a proficient user of a language means is to know how to use a word in diverse contexts, often with diverse meanings. 

Here are some more examples. Do you know the missing words?

Word #2
We are unable to increase salaries in the current economic ..........
The ......... of opinion is slowly changing about the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
President Bush suggested an international meeting at the White House next spring of scientific, economic and environmental officials to discuss responses to global ........ changes.


Word #3
This week we’ll be experiencing some unstable ...........
Long periods of exposure to the sun can .......... your face and skin.
It seems management is going to be able to .......... the corruption scandal. Nobody is going to jail or lose their jobs.


Word #4
It’s the peak of the holiday .........., so the roads will be busy.
Most parts of Brazil just have a dry or rainy .........
Have you seen the last ......... of Law and Order?


Word #5
The committee is going to ......... the department’s performance
I’m not interested in getting credits or a certificate for the course; I’m just going to .........
Government is planning an official ............ of transport services for irregularities.  


Find the answers below to the right.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas dinners - in some countries

Christmas dinners from around the world

But, wait, don't go yet

Since we are talking about dinners, here is a sneak peek at what my fellow Trinis eat at Christmas time:

For more examples, go here.

What's on your plate for Christmas this year?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Corruption around the world - how to move from perception to prevention?

Familiarizing myself with the work of Transparency International

Taken from the perspective of the impact it has on social order and economic growth, corruption is probably the most fatal plague we face.