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“La pela es la pela“ or “Money has no smell“

Tools for language learning for free

Who does not know it: You want to do something, but you cannot for financial reasons. For example, it can be that it is January

Tools for language learning

Tools for language learning for free

at the moment and you have spent all your money in December for parties and gifts. Or it is possible that the holidays will soon begin and that is the reason why you have to save your money. Sometimes, you are just broke. Learning of a language rather belongs to the things we give up, if we have to save our money or if we cannot spend too much money. Usually, you learn languages for fun or because they are one of the good resolutions which you have set at the beginning of the year and which you will abandon later bit by bit.

There is a large number of diverse tools for everyone who knows this type of daily problems. They are available for us although we often are not aware of it. For example, if we have not yet determined a holiday destination for our next holidays, it would be helpful to choose a country whose official language is the language we want to learn. To do this, we need to have money, of course; so, we must not be in a very critical financial situation. Beyond that, it should be noted that you are not to go on holiday in this country in order to be able to speak the language perfectly, when you will return. It is rather important to get used to the environment, to surround yourself with the language, to read timetables and posters and to listen to native speakers. That means that we will get to know the foreign language in its natural environment, which is very important.

But there are also learning tools for those who cannot afford to go on holiday. Here, the “tandem” service or rather the linguistic exchange should be mentioned, which is completely for free and offered by amalgamations of native speakers or schools like Lengalia. The latter was founded to teach Spanish completely for free with the only goal to bring humans together. That you meet a native speaker does not mean that he will quickly teach you to master his language. The goal of these meetings is rather to train and to develop the oral competences like linguistic expression and interaction. As in a “barter”, both dialogue partners will learn and gain from each other. This does not only refer to the language, but also to the culture. Through such services, it is possible to establish social contacts and maybe also a lasting relationship.

Beyond that, on websites like the one of Lengalia, you can find videos in Spanish about restaurants and the Spanish cuisine as well as about Podcasts to learn Spanisch, which deal with Spain and Latin-America. The latter make it possible to listen to native speakers, when they are talking about culture and important aspects of life and of the language in their own dialect. Also on websites like youtube we can find videos which orientate themselves towards reading books, which have different competence levels, and with whose help we can train our linguistic abilities.

Although I do not like stereotypes, I want to mention one, which is very popular. It says that the Catalans (Catalonia) are the most meanest Spaniards. This stereotype has caused the proverb which is mentioned in the title of this article: “La pela es la pela” (Money has no smell). True to the motto, this proverb calls for saving money or at least not to spend much of it. Even if acquisition of languages can surely be expensive, we wanted to show you some learning tools which are completely for free. We will continue to follow this approach also in future, so that you do not have to count every “peseta”!

Although I am of course against stereotypes, I want to mention that there is one regarding the Catalans, which is very popular. This stereotype says that they are the stingiest Spaniards. This prejudice led also to the proverb which makes up the title of this article: “La pela es la pela” (Money has no smell). This proverb emphasizes the importance of money and it stands for the opinion that you should not spend too much of it (according to the motto: “The less the better”). Although, it surely costs much money to learn a language, we wanted to present you with this text some tools which are completely for free. We will deal with this topic also in future, so that we do not have to count every penny.

“Movie-like“ learning with the help of movies

learn spanish with movies

“Movie-like“ learning with the help of movies

Movies are only used for a short while as didactic tools in the lessons. The main reason for this is, as you can imagine, that it has “recently” become more and more popular to integrate multimedia teaching material into language teaching. This includes for example the use of projectors, computers and much more. At first glance, this seems to be very simple because in principle, you only need a television and a video recorder for the presentation of a video. But in fact, it is not that easy. Many schools do not have these materials or they have too little of them and they cannot often be used by a class because they should be available to all teachers. That concerns the technical aspect. From a didactical point of view, the presentation of a movie demands a good preparation of the teacher because he has to search for and to choose suitable material.

When all of this is done and all of these more or less important difficulties are overcome, you will be rewarded with a large number of teaching material and many possibilities. The use of audiovisual media in class – so also of videos to learn spanish – is really enriching and motivating because they make it possible for the students to get to know learning from another perspective. Regarding the movies, it can be, on the one hand, of course exhausting, if you do not understand everything, but on the other hand, this medium represents a good possibility to train the listening comprehension. What do I want to say with that? The videos show real communication – of course only within the scope of fiction.  But through these videos, you can improve your communicative competences. Beyond that, it is possible to develop the listening comprehension and much more, if the right scenes are shown.

Even if you have already watched movies in class, the student can also improve his oral competences at home through this type of teaching material. But how can you use videos and movies to learn languages? The foreign language student who is reading this will think at first glance that this is very easy. But usually, we watch movies at home to relax. Contrary to that, to deal with a movie whose language we do not speak can be very exhausting. I do not want to deny that at the beginning, you have to get used to it, you have to be more concentrated and maybe, you should start with a movie with subtitles – if you want in your native language and later, you can go on with subtitles in the foreign language. When you have passed this “training phase” in favour of the development of these competences (especially the training of the listening comprehension, but also of the oral expression and of the interaction), the success will be considerable. And you can even learn while you are having fun. The use of this medium for children is also a good idea because the language which is used is mostly not very complex. The clever (or trained) ones can also just go to the cinema and watch movies in foreign languages. Like this, you can connect learning and a popular leisure activity.

Movies and videos show the language in a charming and completely other way than they seem to be for most students in class. The learning process, which is stimulated through this, is effective. The conversations and situations, which are shown, are authentic, and beyond that, the movie is also a teaching material which motivates. The reason for that is that it is freed from all the negative things, which are always associated with teaching in class or with autonomous learning.

With other students, you can learn more! Internet forums as tools for language acquisition

With other students, you can learn more!

With other students, you can learn more!

There are some for old people, young people, specialized or not, about video games, gardening, gossip, everyday life, studies, art, stamps, tourism… and of course also about the topic language teaching. Internet forums are today a popular tool for many users and in fact regardless of the education level, possible interests or the profession. Moreover, there is a wide-ranging offer in the Internet, which satisfies the needs of every internet user. In this way, you can even talk about common hobbies, problems, interests and much more with people who live very far away from you.

As I have already said, there are also forums whose goal is the support of language learning. And in this text, we want to deal with these forums in  more detail. If a student uses this type of forum, for example in order to learn, to practise or to perfect his abilities, that will have a very positive impact on his linguistic competences. A forum gives a foreign language student the possibility to train a language which he has already begun  to learn. In such a forum, you can also dispose of the numerous doubts, which can appear, because the forums are a place where you can support each other in the professional as well as in the moral field. This may seem like nonsense, but it is not. In this way, you can train teamwork because, in fact, we do not learn autonomously, but everyone learns from everyone. Due to the fact that the entries appear chronologically and remain saved, they will not disappear immediately and they will not be deleted like chat conversations. So, the user of the forum has the possibility to find the forum again and again in order to read old entries. This is an advantage because these old conversations can help us, if we have exactly the same question as other users before. If you do so, you can avoid to always ask questions in the forum yourself; maybe, another has asked the same question and already an answer.

The learning tool “forum” makes it possible to work in a group with the help of the Internet, and not every group member has to be online at the same time. The entries from everyone just appear, everyone can read them and give his opinion in order to finally find a good solution together.

Although, it is necessary to be careful when you are using this tool because the language is sometimes impaired by the influence of the new technologies. Some words are shortened and many people do not pay very much attention to their spelling.

In the Internet, there is a number of forums which can help you to learn Spanish. Among them, it has to be emphasized especially those which have been created by language schools like Lengalia. Here you can find many exciting contributions to questions about the Spanish language as well as the Spanish and Latin-American culture. The forum is not only a meeting point in order to discuss linguistic questions, but also to exchange practical information. If you do this, you can find out interesting things about the lives of the Spaniards or you can ask to what you have to pay attention if you want to travel to a country, where Spanish is the official language. All these things are just as important as the learning of the Spanish language.

The exchange of experience is a motivating thing and it makes learning easier because during the learning process, there can appear thousands of questions and doubts, which can be solved with the help of the forums in a practical, fast and effective way. Beyond that, the Internet forums enrich us because teamwork is always better.

Test your abilities with the help of a language test!

Test your abilities with the help of a language test!

In the field of the modern pedagogy, people are talking much about how important it is to evaluate the learning. But it is still discussed in an argumentative manner how the learning check has to be. As far as language teaching is concerned, one talks about the so-called “classification tests”, which are to stream the students or to find out in the run-up of a language course, which course could be the right one for the student. The development of these tests is complex and quite lengthy because you have to determine important factors and to check to which level of competence they belong. For this reason, there are only few experts who attend to this task, although they are, as mentioned above, very important for language teaching.

Besides these tests, there are, moreover, final tests, which the students have to do at the end of a language course and which prove that the students have achieved the goals which have been set at the beginning of the course. The development of the tests are here also complicated because the tasks have to be adapted to the course contents.

There are so-called official exams, as in Spanish for example the “Diplomas de Español como Lengua extranjera” (DELE), which verify in an officially acknowledged way the linguistic competence and the learning level of the students.

But why is it that important for the student to participate in this type of test? The answer is simple. The exams make it possible to increase the probability to find the right language course. The right choice is in turn very useful for the student. For example, it is wrong to think that you have achieved a high linguistic level only because you know complex grammatical contents. People who think like this are wrong because you can also learn grammar by heart like mathematic formulas. You can have a high level of grammar knowledge, but still be unable to understand basic information, as for example timetables. That is the reason why it is, incidentally, very important that an exam , which is good, tests with the help of the individual tasks the different linguistic skills. These exams give a good, extensive overview of the abilities. That helps to find out which problems the students still have and in which field they have to be more supported.

As far as the online lessons are concerned, there are many schools which offer a classification test before the choice of the course. These tests are a basic precondition, if you want to profit  most from your courses and your own way to learn.

Although many students think that they have achieved a lower score in the classification test than they have deserved; you always have to try to keep in mind your real linguistic knowledge. But we must not only concentrate on grammar, but also on the real acquisition of abilities. The goal of the learning process is to use the language in real context and not just to use a number of formulas which you have learned by heart.

If you want to test your own linguistic level, you can also fall back upon the thousands of Placement test Spanisch.

which the Internet offers. They can give you a first impression of what you already know. So, test your abilities!

Production or interaction or both?

Production or interaction or both?

Besides the reading comprehension, one of the skills concerning the writing has always been the text production. But today, you talk more and more about the so-called “written interaction”; a development which is also reflected by the current official language test. The existence of this written interaction is connected with the emergence of the “interaction” as fifth competence regarding a foreign language. In this way, we can distinguish between written texts which are essays and those which are intended for the written communication, as for example chat conversations or postcards.

In the traditional language teaching, this competence was only seen as a proof that the student has understood the grammatical contents or rather that he is able to translate. That is the grammar translation method. At that time, the people assumed that the ability to write only depends on the fact that the student knows the grammatical rules and structures. Of course, these contents are also important for the writing process, but we rather assume – and it could often be shown that this is true – that still other aspects are important for the text production, which are not only grammatical, but also textual.

But which are these elements we have to pay attention to? They are surely not numerous, but very important. We take the view that the text has to be understandable and appropriate to the context of the communication. It has to be coherent regarding its structure and that can be achieved by linking the ideas with so-called connectors in a way that makes sense. If you want to write a text, you have to take care that you will emphasize various contents and subordinate others. But that are only some examples. All of these aspects have a place in the category I have mentioned.

Today, we all know that already for a long time, the oral has not been enough anymore in our globalized world to occupy certain positions or offices. A large number of the necessary communications either take place by correspondence or by the Internet; but the former is becoming more and more rare. The communication with the help of the Internet forces to write e-mails and to have chat conversations. That is the reason why it is that important to train this ability, if you learn a foreign language. The messages and chat conversations, which we write and have respectively in the second language, must not fail in their goal because they are very important for our image, which we want to convey to the other person.

This change of rhythm in the world we live in is responsible for the fact that everything is becoming more and more globalized, computerized and faster. This speed forces also us to write many messages in a very short time in order to interact in writing and for example to write reports or something like that. The world of the Internet has become a part of our everyday communication and in many cases, it renders unnecessary to talk to each other face-to-face. The difference between the face-to-face conversations

and the chat conversations is the certainty that we will not be interrupted when we are talking; because that is not possible in written medias.

We will still talk about these questions in future. You can distinguish very clearly between that what one has seen for a long time as written expression and the new concept of the written interaction. The latter is much closer to the communication and the necessities which the new era involves.

If you keep order, you can achieve more

If you keep order, you can achieve more

If you keep order, you can achieve more

Why is it important to keep order? Are we less efficient regarding to what we are doing, if we do not do it according to a certain order? Why is it better to work orderly? In this article, we will ponder about rituals and about the reason, why they are that important for learning in general and language acquisition in particular.

On the one hand, there are of course students who have decided to not keep order concerning the organization of the learning. On the other hand, there are also such students who keep order either out of habit or out of laziness. But the latter do it rather unconsciously. The fact that you choose a particular colour to underline, that you draw a sketch after you have read a text, that you sit at a particular desk while you are learning or that you choose the appropriate desk lamp for this purpose, is important for the learning process. Nevertheless, the aspects often do not get the attention they deserve. But “rituals” are important to organize the learning process and to ensure a certain constancy, if other things interrupt.

On the one hand, it is fundamental to choose the right place where we want to perform our “ritual”. That can be, for example, a library, our bedroom or a study room with all the objects which surround the place. It is important because we get used to this place. On the other hand, it is important that everyone ponders about the right moment for learning or exercising. It should be the most productive moment – in the morning, at noon, in the evening – and it should be chosen depending on the task which you want to do. For example, it may be better – I say “may be” because it depends on the personal preference – to repeat vocabulary in the morning because you are fitter at that time. Moreover, you can test the new vocabulary the whole day. But there are also students who prefer to do this while they are using public transports because, if they do this, they can make good use of that time.

It is about making clear our learning goal. It is important to know what we want to learn in order to be able to concentrate on that. A good learning ritual comprises an effective time management (so also regular breaks) and necessary elements as for example a dictionary or learning materials (pieces of paper, Biros, the books, etc.). Another important element is a glass of water or a cup of tea. During the learning process, it is also important to set oneself some partial goals: What do we want to manage today, when do I want to finish it? As far as that is concerned, it is essential that the goals are realizable. It can be frustrating and it can take you several valuable working days, if you set yourself impossible or rather unachievable goals.

This order is fundamental, especially if you learn with the help of the internet because you do not have to take a shower, to leave your house or to get dressed in order to proceed to a place where the lessons take place. So, you are on your own concerning the organization of the learning process. You have to arrange it just as you want. If you fail regarding this organization, the whole learning success can be endangered.

All of these aspects can decide whether you will be successful in learning or not. That is the reason why we will also attend to these topics in future and we will make our advices, opinions, experience and much more available to you!

Reflections on the topic “reading comprehension“

Reading

Reflections on the topic “reading comprehension“

Today, we attach, without doubt, a great deal of importance to the reading comprehension. Reading is to introduce the human being into the world which has been created by the human being himself; into this system of devised letters whose goal is communication. This world communicates, broadcasts knowledge, experience, instructions and much more; it broadcasts messages. The script and the reading make also possible that this world created by the human being presents itself to us in several languages. And every language means a new “reality” and a new culture. So, the access to a new language turns at the same time into an access to a “universe” of knowledge, point of views and culture. In order to be able to grasp all these things, you do not only have to be able to read (in the sense of recognizing and of the ability to reproduce phonemes), but you have also to be able to “read well”. This means that you have to be able to understand the meaning of what is written as well as the idea behind the text.

The reading comprehension is a part of the communicative skills. It is very important because a large number of the texts which you have to read and understand are essential for the life with a language. As for the second languages (L2) or rather the foreign languages (LE), the effective comprehension is very important because on the one hand, it can concern the reading of literal texts, but on the other hand also the comprehension of important information as for example the of arrival and departure times on a timetable. Here, you can distinguish between reading for pleasure and reading out of necessity. The reading can also be crucial for the comprehension of culture.

The typical exercises which are given to develop this skill are especially texts which the students have to read in order to receive certain information from them. But when one is choosing the texts,  it is important to take the level which the students have into consideration. The exercises train in general the reading process, the comprehension of the current text as well as the ability to discern and to filter out certain elements. The texts are often used as a premise to confront the students with yet unknown contents of grammar. For example, new verb forms are introduced in the text. These texts can belong to the genre of the “realia”, so they can be taken directly from the reality. But they can also be adapted or even exactly written for this specific purpose. In this context, it is important that the teacher choose the texts with pedagogical farsightedness because his choice will determine whether the students are successful or not. That is the reason why the choice will also decide indirectly on the value of this teaching unit per se.

Beyond that, it is absolutely important for the teaching and for the comprehension that the texts are interesting and attractive for the students. Besides, they have to be exactly adapted to the needs and the insecurity of the students. In this way, they will work more effectively with the text and they will be more motivated. And apropos of nothing, they will develop their linguistic abilities.

To travel with the Spanish language (Language holidays)

To travel with the Spanish language (Language holidays)

For tourists, it seems to become more and more attractive to do a language course during a journey in a foreign country. This is a good opportunity to combine on the one hand fun,  relaxation, the beach and the sea as well as big cities of this world with the learning of a language on the other hand. If you do so, the learning process will happen in the culture and the environment in which the language is resident. According to many theories to language teaching, this context, in which the courses take place, is optimal for language acquisition. You say also immersion. Here, the students get authentic and realistic stimuli. You could say that this is the perfect symbiosis of language teaching and language acquisition. On the one hand, you participate quite normally on a theoretic course, as you would also do, if you were in your native country. But the language courses in foreign countries are even better adapted to the current needs of the tourists. On the other hand, you live in the language because you do all the other activities except for the lessons in the foreign language, too. You can even assume that you do still more activities during the holidays than in everyday life, because, for example, you have to deal very often with the service sector. In this context, language teaching is the first point I have mentioned, and language acquisition the second.

In the holidays, you have very close contact with the language, because it is outside the language lessons omnipresent. Contrary to that, in the native country, the “Spanish world” confines to the course. So, in the latter case, you do not profit from the unlimited contact with the Spanish language in contrast to the first case. If you live together with a Spanish family in the holidays, the difference is even still stronger.

But it also depends very much on the choice of the holiday country, because the student gets to know the dialect of the region. He encounters both the special intonation and the regional culture. The student has to deal with the Spanish language as it is used on TV, on the radio, in the literature and in the street. While doing so, he will also hear the colloquial language and the slang. Depending on the personal linguistic level, this can be a great opportunity to experience with your own eyes the differences in the mode of expression. Then, it becomes evident how much the people’s mode of expression depends on their age or on the job they do. But you always have to remember, how extensive the Spanish-speaking world is and how complex its cultural reality is. The language always reflects of course also this cultural wealth.

Another important aspect of a language course in a foreign country is the fact that you often are in multilingual and multinational classes. So, the majority of the classmates comes from many different nations, what represents a unique and enriching opportunity. This is not only a great experience regarding the culture, but it also forces to talk in Spanish because the Spanish language is the only tool to make oneself understood and it is available to everyone. You  cannot avoid to train and to cultivate constantly your linguistic competences. That is why such a language holiday is also a good thing regarding the idiomatic view.

You can conclude that such a language holiday represents not only a great alternative to any other holiday plans, but it is also an incomparable possibility for the student to train his linguistic skills in a natural way. Besides, you can show yourself like this that you are able to live in another culture and language. All of this make the language holiday an experience which enriches your life in the professional as well as in the personal field.

The importance of the pronunciation

The importance of the pronunciation

Why does Spaniards have the impression that a not-native speaker has a higher linguistic level, if he has a good, natural pronunciation? In this question, you can find the key to the importance of the acquisition of a natural pronunciation.

At the moment, there are surely many controversial discussions on the question if grammar is more or less neglected in language teaching or if one should pay more attention to a few types of exercises because of their importance for the acquisition of communicative competences. But what nobody would deny is the fact that the pronunciation is more and more excluded from the lessons, that it represents one of the most marginalized competences. Today, everyone seems to agree with this point of view, but only a few people do something to change that. Of course, it is true that some schools stipulate topics, which have to be treated in a limited period of time. Because of that, the pronunciation suffers in many classes, because there is not that much time to deal with it intensively.

Spanish is a language which is very syllable-oriented, and that is why it demands a considered, not theoretical learning of phonetics, especially for students from a country of which the language differs a lot from Spanish. In the latter, the rhythm of the language is characterized by the syllables. That means that you have to pronounce every syllable in every word. In this respect, the Spanish language differs from other languages, for example from English, which is accent-oriented; the accents of the words are here important for the rhythm, their syllables not that much. The most plausible example for the phenomenon just mentioned is the difference in pronunciation between Spanish and English: In English, there are syllables which you virtually never pronounce – you have the impression that the intonation curve is falling -, whereas in Spanish, you have to pronounce all the syllables in order to not change the meaning of what has been said. For this reason, in the Spanish lessons, we have to treat tasks which deal with questions of the phonetics and which work with this characteristic aspect of language.

Beyond that, it is important to become aware of the application-oriented value of the pronunciation in a language like Spanish. The student has to keep in mind that the tone of voice is more higher and that the Spaniards make clear with it the intentions in a conversation. Besides completely phonetic elements, others like gestures, the expressions on the faces as well as other nonverbal aspects play a big role. They emphasize the meaning of what has been said.

Now, let’s return to the question from the beginning: Why do you equate good pronunciation with a good linguistic knowledge? – Because without a good pronunciation and a feeling for the phonetics, the learning process is not completed, even if all the other linguistic competences are very well developed. For this reason, it is important to further this ability from the beginning, so that the progress will take place as quickly as in the field of other skills. The students who achieve a higher level in the field of pronunciation are able to give the person they are talking to a better idea of their linguistic knowledge. In addition to that, the nonverbal and situational factors are, of course, also important. If you keep all of that in mind, the student will achieve a good linguistic level and he will be able to manage everywhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

Comments to literature and language teaching

Comments to literature and language teaching

Many institutions, advisers as well as experts separate language teaching from literature teaching. They view both as disciplines completely separated from each other, although nobody would surely question the close relation between the two. Literature consists of language, and one of the possibilities to express language are literal texts. Nobody would deny the meaning of language for art. Especially in textbooks of the secondary school level and the Abitur (equivalent to the British A level and the American SAT exam), the two topics are treated separately. The table of contents offers on the one hand topics to language and on the other hand some to literature. This continues up to the academic degrees of Philology; there are literal subjects and linguistic subjects. That is the reason, why also many language teachers assume that a literal text can only serve as an “ornament” and as an “embellishment” to the real language teaching.

Although many people  have always thought that it is “almost” impossible to introduce  literature into language teaching, the trend is moving exactly in this direction. Surely, it will be a lot of work because some people are of the opinion that only very advanced students could dare to attempt literal texts in a foreign language. Exactly in this regard, the point of view has to change.

Of course, the teacher has to choose appropriate learning material and documents and he has to adapt them to the student. But also literal texts can be suitable, if you want to use them at all. Particularly noteworthy is the genre of the so-called “realia”, which are more and more often treated lately. These are texts which show the reality and which also appear in this form in the lives of native speakers. They serve the class as perfect examples and teach a lot about language and communication. The idea is that the use of these “realia” should not only be limited to the advanced level, but also beginners should be confronted with that. Literature, whether in the form of the “realia” or not, should be treated at beginners’ level. The key to that is in what I have written above: The suitable, appropriate choice of teaching material. If you select the texts cleverly for the respective levels, literature offers an unbelievable wealth for everyone who wants to teach and learn something about language and culture. On the one hand, we can train with the help of literal texts the reading comprehension (the reading as such), the prosody, the pronunciation, the listening comprehension (by reading aloud), and the text production (by support of the creativity with the help of source texts). On the other hand, the cultural aspect is supported, which is not less important. Literature is part of a language and the language itself is culture. Literature, in turn, reflects the culture. If you deal with literature, the comprehension for both language and culture is strengthened at the same time. Besides, the dealing with literature has also an emotional value, because in the course of it, you can mention and discuss about many different topics. Even the very reading of literature already implies affectivity for many people, because it is a type of art.

Literature is a useful tool for language teaching because it is motivating and attractive for the student. If it is not, it is in our hands to change it. Beyond that, literature is very helpful in dealing with linguistic and cultural problems, which appear in language teaching.