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The Language Learning Advisor Newsletter, Issue #004
August 02, 2007
Welcome to Issue #004!

It's been far too long since I sent out a newsletter. Time constraints make it difficult to add the kind of content to the newsletter that I'd like, but I've made a few changes so that I can keep up the newsletter on a regular basis. Changes are happening fast, so I promise to keep in touch!

This issue, the Tip of the Month is on expanding the all-powerful vocabulary that we need to learn any language. Try a few of these ideas and you'll discover new ways to work on your new language!

There are new resources and new language pages on the site, so keep your eyes open for anything that may interest you. Remember, not every update to the site is mentioned here, so make sure you check your favorite pages for changes, or at least check the blog or RSS feed!

Language Learning Tip of the Month - Expanding Your Vocabulary

One way or another, when you're learning a new language, you need to expand your vocabulary. Some people start learning a language by learning some vocabulary. Others may focus on grammar first. Ideally you learn both at the same time with a comprehensive method.

In the end, whether you start with a lot or not, after learning the basics of pronunciation and the basic structure of the language, everyone has to learn large amounts of vocabulary. Expanding your vocabulary is critical to building towards proficiency and real fluency.

Knowing how to use words is important, and knowing what words to use is important - they each go hand in hand. One won't work too well without the other. But knowing the vocabulary is more basic - you can communicate basic needs with the right vocabulary but no grammar. It'll be ugly, but you'll get your point across.

So, how do we learn all this vocabulary? Word lists? Learn all the foods (vegetables, fruits, meats, drinks etc), Learn restaurant vocabulary etc. Yeah, but that's boring. Too much repetition is required for it to sink in. Trying to remember vocabulary words out of context is not very efficient . You have to put in a lot of work for a small amount of return. Learning words in groups does help but ...there are more efficient methods. And more fun.

Flashcards A cheap and effective way to learn and review vocabulary, short phrases and even grammar points. Take them with you wherever you go, and even try a software vocabulary trainer as well.

Podcasts For many languages there are podcasts for beginners and intermediate learners. These are a great way to hear native speakers, sometimes with different regional accents, speaking in a natural way, unlike the structured phrases of most language methods.

Learning Blogs There are some excellent blogs written by native speakers, advanced learners and even beginners that can help you learn your target language. And just like podcasts, you are more likely to pick up slang or at least a less formal way of speaking than you are liable to get from a structured language method.

Blogs For more advanced learners or the more intrepid beginner - blogs written entirely in your target language intended for an audience with full understanding can provide you with some really interesting vocabulary and idioms.

Audio Supplements Don't forget to listen to audio methods beyond your core learning method. The more audio you hear, the better, and many times you will hear slightly different vocabulary from one method to another.

Vocabulearn Penton Overseas makes Vocabulearn for a decent number of languages. Basically just an audio flashcard, it's a nice supplement to your core method. Vocabulearn is a good way to expose yourself to new vocabulary in a passive way.

News Whether from newspapers, magazines or websites, look for news articles on subjects you know something about or common world topics. You will see much of the vocabulary repeated over and over again. Especially look for simplified news - news in a more basic form. Sometimes there are audio examples of these newscasts as well!

Here's an example in easy French and one in simplified Swedish.

Websites When you have some of the basics down, try looking at websites in your target language, especially on topics you have an interest in. Wikipedia pages are available in lots of different languages.

Dictionaries It's obvious, but make sure you have a dictionary, both online/software and print version. You never know when you'll come across a word you need to know.

Read a lot If you expose yourself to new vocabulary, you'll always be expanding your knowledge. Read books, magazines and websites, preferably on topics you like. I'm currently reading Harry Potter in Spanish. It's taking a long time, but because I'm familiar with the story, it's fun and there is a lot of new vocabulary for me.

Music Listen to lots of music in your target language. It shouldn't be too hard to find some on the internet, even for uncommon and even obscure languages. Learn the tunes, sing along and then learn what those words mean.

There are lots of ways to expand our vocabulary beyond just memorizing word-lists. Try a few and see what sticks and works for you. Just remember - the very best way to expand your vocabulary is to just talk to people. Get some penpals or meet some native speakers and just start talking! Before you know it, you'll start hitting those milestones that mean you really are learning a new language, and someday soon you'll be conversational, proficient and even fluent!

New Resources

One of my favorite online Swedish tutorials has been down for a while. I was reluctant to remove the link, hoping the site would be back up, but the time came finally to remove it. In looking for a replacement, I found an excellent resource for learning Swedish sponsored by the Swedish government.

Learn Swedish with SAFIR

I recently studied a little bit of Dutch. I poked around the internet to find a few good podcasts or sites with audio for learners of Dutch.

LauraSpeaksDutch Podcast

Cheers to MIT

MIT provides outlines of their courses for free. The project is called Open Courseware. They have a number of courses on language and linguistics, as well as a variety of courses for several languages including Spanish, French, German and Chinese.

This doesn't include any online classes, textbooks or other instruction, but a motivated student can use the courseware as a lesson plan with lots of ideas on what and how to study. At least check it out. It's free.

The Little Unknown Languages of Europe

We all know they speak French in France, Italian in Italy and German in Germany. But did you know there are many other languages native to those countries and other countries in Europe? Now, I'm not talking about, let's say, Turks who move to France and continue to speak Turkish. Or people who speak the language of a neighboring country, like Dutch in France or Swedish in Finland. I'm talking about languages native to those countries.

Let's take France for example. Catalan, Breton and the many dialects of Occitan are all languages native to France, yet are not widely spoken (if at all) outside of their small regions. Catalan and Occitan are closely related and are similar to Spanish. Breton is actually a Celtic language, closely related to Cornish and Welsh.

There are many such languages throughout Europe. Some are closely related to other, more widely spoken languages, and still others are very different.

Frisian, spoken in the Netherlands, is similar to Dutch. It is actually the language most closely related to English. Some others are Bavarian, Romansch, Luxembourgish, Lombard, and Pontic. Basque, spoken in Spain, is unrelated to any other language.

Some of these languages are dying out, but others are actually quite healthy. If you are ever traveling to a region with one or more of these uncommon languages, make sure you learn a few basic greetings and phrases. These people more than any other would appreciate a tourist learning even a 'hello'in their own language!

Recent Additions

I have updated some of the surveys and I've added a Most Beautiful Language Survey. If you have an opinion on what the most beautiful spoken or written language is, just fill out this quick survey.

One new feature on the site is the Free Giveaway! I will periodically (probably every quarter or so) choose one visitor as a winner of a free language learning product. Any ezine subscribers and anyone who has left feedback or participated in a survey (and has included their email address) is eligible. I will announce the winner after I have contacted them and confirmed. Good luck everyone!

There are a few more language pages on the site. Polish, Thai and Occitan, the little-known European language named above, all are recent additions to the site.

I've also added an About This Site page. It's an overview of why and how I built the site. I will be adding more information on my personal experiences learning languages and more on SBI, the website solution that makes my site possible.

Upcoming Additions

Work takes a lot of time away from working on my site, but I continue to make regular additions nonetheless. There are lots of exciting things coming up for the site. I am working on a few Ebooks, there is the Free Giveaway which will be a regular feature from now on, and the interactivity on the site will increase dramatically in the near future. So, stay tuned and keep plugging away at your target language!

"Man, even man debased by the neocapitalism and pseudosocialism of our time, is a marvelous being because he sometimes speaks. Language is the mark, the sign, not of his fall but of his original innocence. Through the Word we may regain the lost kingdom and recover powers we possessed in the far-distant past."
- Octavio Paz

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