Tag Archives: spanish

“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.

Reflections on the topic “reading comprehension“


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.

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.

The learning of grammar

The learning of grammar

Grammar plays an important role in linguistic debates as well as in theories of language teaching, and it will never lose its topicality. Over the years, the view of grammar has gone through various stages: Over many centuries, it was the most important aspect in learning of foreign languages, until it was sometime completely ignored and forgotten. This chapter has been followed by the renaissance of grammar, as a result of which the grammar has received the value which it never should have lost.

Many pupils think that the learning of a language only depends on the comprehension of the grammar rules, but new theories of language teaching say that grammar represents in fact a basic competence, but it is not the only one. Grammar is therefore rightly one of the so-called linguistic competences.

The main objective of language acquisition is communication. Concerning this matter, grammar plays a very important role. It makes sure that the communication is of good quality and not only communication for communications sake and without formal importance. The following is interesting: Over the time mentioned above, in which grammar played no role in language teaching, the pupils fell into a certain ignorance. That has proved that the assumption that grammar is not important, was wrong. The pupils want to have a fixed constant to which they  can orientate in speaking and which offers them security and gives them support.

As for Spanish, grammar is what frightens the pupils the most. Although there are little complex subjects like gender and number which are very regular, there are others which are very complicated. To the second group belongs, for example, the high number of past tenses, which do not exist in this amount in various other languages (see the difference between “pretérito indefinido” and “pretérito imperfecto”). The subjuntivo should also be mentioned. In other languages in which it even exists, it is not as often used as in Spanish. Other complex subjects are the pronouns, the difference between “ser” and “estar” as well as the indirect speech. In this cases, it is important to focus the communication and not only the learning by heart, because grammar does not consist of  mathematic formulas. The learned rules are to be internalized by systematic exercises.

We give answers to grammatical questions and help, if someone has problems. Regarding this, we also orientate toward the levels of the European Framework of Reference for Languages. That can also be interesting for native speakers. We find it extremely important to give useful, clarifying and interesting assistance to the reader.

Words, words and still more words!

Words, words and still more words!

Numerous are the words which make up the lexis of our language, but that should not frighten us, because they enable us to understand the sense of the messages which we formulate and receive every day. They form groups, distinguish from each other, change, form syntagms, speeches, statements, texts, speech acts, literature and art. They do whatever they want (, which is like this, of course, not true, because we decide in the end which words we use and what we want to express). For this reason, we will, in this category of the blog, talk about the lexis of the Spanish language as well as about its oddities and peculiarities in this. We will also specifically talk about how to learn the lexis.

Many people think that the grammar is the basis of the language and of the learning process, but that is not true. Like studies about the so-called “lexical approach”, founded by Lewis in the 90’s, prove, language can rather be seen as “lexis structured in grammar“ than “grammar structured in words”. That means that a person who approaches a text of a does not have to know exactly the grammar. The comprehension depends rather on the number of the words which the person understands. Concerning this matter, it should also be noted that in a speech, there are many more lexical than grammatical elements.

It is not that important for the communication (and here the reading comprehension) to know the rules which determine, how the speech is composed of the words.

If you comply with the “lexical approach”, the learning has to base on an attractive input which should consist of oral and written tasks and which is adapted to the different learning levels. In this way, the pupil discovers the language which he is to learn, but especially much new vocabulary. The latter helps him in a particular way to learn the foreign language and to add it to his linguistic knowledge.

Which is the best way to achieve that? – The enlargement of your vocabulary with the help of much, much new words. The learning of new vocabulary can be simplified by classifying certain words into word families or interesting, attractive subjects for the pupil. In this way, you can form a network of connections between the new words, which helps the pupil to internalize with minimal effort words, words and still more words. This process will be the subject of the next chapter.