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The Language Learning Advisor Newsletter, Issue #007
December 09, 2007
Welcome to issue #007!

The Native English Advantage

Native English speakers, particularly Americans and British, have a bad reputation as being monolingual, even xenoglossophobic. While this is largely true, what's the reason?

It's mostly cultural. In fact, if we take away that impediment, I think native English speakers actually have a unique advantage when it comes to learning other languages.

For starters, English is a Germanic language. That means it shares many characteristics and core vocabulary with such languages as German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Afrikaans and Icelandic. And don't forget, for academic purposes, Anglo-Saxon, also known as Old English - Beowulf anyone?

But aren't there huge amounts of vocabulary in English borrowed from French and Latin? Why, yes, there is. And that means that all Romance languages, French in particular, share a lot of vocabulary with English and are easier to learn than many other languages. This includes Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, Romanian, Occitan and others.

But these are all languages on the Indo-European family tree, and to a lesser extent, English shares characteristics with a wider array of other languages in this family. Slavic languages (Russian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian and others), such Eastern languages as Farsi, Hindi, Urdu and Pashto and even Celtic languages like Welsh, Irish and Cornish.

Greek is a language on this tree, and due to the many Ancient Greek root words used to build new English words in technology and medcine, Modern Greek has lots of recognizable vocabulary to a Native English speaker.

And speaking of technology, virtually all new words in technology and medicine are built from Greek and Latin roots. I know, I've already mentioned those. But these words, for many decades now, have been adopted into languages around the world, after they have been coined into English. This international vocabulary has found its way into Japanese, Tagalog, Swahili and many others.

So, almost any language you learn will have something in common with English. Drop that silly cultural block and let English itself be your advantage when you learn another language!

Language Learning Tip of the Month - Movies

Watching movies in your target language is great way to immerse yourself in the language. You'll be tested by the more natural speed of the spoken language, and there will be much more colloquial speech and slang than you would get from textbooks and classrooms.

Labyrinth (Single Disc)
Obviously, look for movies that were filmed in your target language. For example, since I'm learning Spanish, El Laberinto del Fauno was a movie that interested me. Written and directed by Mexican film-maker Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth (the title in English) did not get a lot of mainstream media attention in the US, and so was under the radar for Americans and other native English speakers when the movie came out. There are lots of other high-quality movies in Spanish and other languages. Go to Blockbuster, Netflix or Amazon and search for movies in the language you are learning.

Don't forget to take advantage of extra DVD features for English language movies, as well. Often, one of the bonus features will be Spanish or French voice-overs or sub-titles. You may find them for other languages, depending on the movie and the target audience of the DVD. You may already have some of these features on your favorite DVDs, so take a look at your collection!

Recent Additions and New Resources

Not only am I always looking for new ways to promote the site, I'm also adding new ways for visitors to contribute and participate in some way. The newly-added Share This Site Page has lots of suggestions for visitors, language learners, website owners and writers to contribute to the site or help promote it. There is something there for everybody, so if you are interested, check it out!

Langhub - Thai Vocabulary Resource
This site uses an interesting way to teach Thai vocabulary. There is a collection of videos showing the text and English translation along with native speaker audio. A very visual way to learn the vocabulary and associate it with the text. There are lots of categories, sections for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners, and sections for travelers and business.

Google Books
I recently went back to revisit They have a really good and growing library of free, public domain and out-of-copyright books available for viewing and downloading. I used to visit Project Gutenberg a lot, but I think I'll be spending a lot more time browsing the Google library. Take a visit and look for books on, about or in the language you are learning.

Review of Ultimate Language Secrets

Owen Lee, author of Ultimate Language Secrets, contacted me recently and asked if I would be interested in reviewing his book. Of course, I said I would. It's always helpful to see other peoples ideas on language learning. You never know when you could come across something you haven't heard before, or read something worded in a way that just makes better sense to you.

It's a quick read, as ebooks are designed to be, and loaded with good points. To a certain extent, any book on learning languages will cover many of the same topics. This book covers them all, but does so in a style that represents a new style of learning. Language learning is leaving the classroom and getting out into the world where it belongs.

I agree with Owen on many points, but found a few things he mentions new to me and very interesting. I believe it is possible for people to study and learn more than one language at a time, if they're careful, but he goes much further. Not only does Owen not dissuade the student from learning several languages at once, he actually recommends it! He suggests getting a foundation in several languages, each a representative from several major language families to get a feel for which ones you like and don't like. Truly planting the seeds for a hyper-polyglot!

I always like to recommend to language learners of all levels to read books on language learning for motivation and inspiration. Whatever level you are, there is always something there to learn.

Read my more in-depth review of Ultimate Language Secrets

Sign up for more information on Ultimate Language Secrets at Ultimate Language Secrets

Give the gift of language

Having trouble coming up with a holiday gift for someone? How about a language course? If not for you, then for someone else. Maybe you can think of someone who might enjoy learning a language as much as you do. Read Gift of Language.

Keep practicing, reading, listening and studying. Remember to do something with or in your new languages every day. Set goals and re-evaluate often.

Hasta la vista!

"Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation."

- Noam Chomsky

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