3 June 2014

Being bilingual makes you smarter

Bilingual people are smarter, and it doesn’t matter when you learn a new language according to this recent study.

To quote the article, 

“Findings showed that those who spoke more than one language tested better on intelligence tests, regardless of when the second language was picked up.”

Now that should be motivation to get cracking on your language study.

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Here’s an extract from the article:

“Our study is the first to examine whether learning a second language impacts cognitive performance later in life while controlling for childhood intelligence,” said lead study author Dr. Thomas Bak from the Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

27 May 2014

When to Start Speaking a New Language?

One of the liveliest discussions within the language learning community is on the subject of when to start speaking. I am a proponent of letting the learner choose when to start, and my personal preference is to delay speaking. I prefer to invest a fair amount of time in listening and reading, in order to gain some familiarity with the language and acquire a decent level of vocabulary. Then when I start speaking, I have something to say, and I can understand what others are saying.

To me, speaking from day one, in other words forcing people to speak right away, is  like asking people to sing who have never heard a song, play tennis who have never seen a tennis game, or swim who have never seen a person swim. What’s the hurry? It is much easier to start speaking when we are somewhat familiar with the language. Focusing on comprehension is less stressful and more pleasant than forcing oneself to speak.

Here is a discussion on the subject with Martin Weiss, American polyglot, who has a different point of view. What is your personal opinion? Feel free to share in the comments!

27 May 2014

Can English speakers learn languages?

Of course English speakers can learn languages, but mostly  they don’t. Why? Here is a guest article I wrote on the subject recently for an interesting new blog on language learning called Lingholic. 

This blog belongs to Sam, a fellow Canadian polyglot who lives in Ottawa. He manages to combine his passion for learning languages, his blog and a full time job. With this growing army of language bloggers, the world is slowly becoming more open to the joys of learning languages, or at least I hope so!

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29 April 2014

Interleaved learning, or learning without pressure

Interleaved learning is an approach to learning that departs from the traditional block or focused approach to learning. Interleaved learning and the research behind it, is based on the idea that if we should not focus on learning or mastering one skill or set of information, such as a limited group of words in a foreign language.  Instead , we should move on to other skills and bits of information, and then come back to the first group of skills or information later.

Research shows that, in the short term, the block learner does better. In the long run, the interleaved learner retains more. See some interesting examples. 

Here are a couple of videos on this and how this relates to learning languages at LingQ.

17 April 2014

The 90-Day Challenge: A Final Review

My 90-Day Challenge has come to an end! A period of increased learning intensity brought me new momentum in my Korean, and taught me some new learning habits. I can’t say I am fluent, but I feel confident I can become fluent if I keep going. In that sense I achieved my most important goal. It was worth the effort.

Congratulations to all the participants who shared this great learning journey with me and made a breakthrough in their languages!

10 April 2014

Writing helps you notice the language

I wrote 250 words of Korean today on a rather difficult subject. Lots of mistakes, which were corrected by Korean member at LingQ.

I would rather be listening and reading, but I know the writing helps. It helps me to notice the language.  It is quite motivating to see your writing corrected so I hope to do some more tomorrow, if I have the time. Time, where to find the time…

9 April 2014

Really enjoying writing Korean

I am glad that my son nudged me to start writing Korean. I know writing is good for language learning, but I kept putting it off. Now with less than a week to go, I have to write to meet my obligations under the 90-Day Challenge. Using the iPad makes it a lot easier. I can touch the Hangul characters on the iPad screen without having to use a mouse, as on the computer. I can even dictate Korean using the dictation software that comes with the ipad, and then correct the mistakes. And writing does give you a better grasp of the language and makes it more fun to read.

8 April 2014

A glimpse of the Maidan

I don’t know how many people follow these events in Russian but the following exchange provides some insight into the dynamics of the Maidan and yet another example of how Russian TV deliberately edits video to spread misinformation.


7 April 2014

Language and politics, Ukraine and Quebec

Language and politics often go together. Language is often as much a political weapon as a means of communication.  Ukraine and Quebec are examples. For a fascinating glimpse into the tensions of Ukraine, if you understand Russian, watch today’s episode of ShusterLive.

I was treated to political debate in front of 6 students from Donetsk who had visited Kviv, and 6 students from Lviv who had visited Donetsk, on an exchange sponsored by the Donbass hockey team in the KHL. I was pleased to see Ruslan Fedotenko there, two time Stanely Cup champion  with New York and Tampa Bay, and  currently captain of Donetsk hockey team. The politicians included the first President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, and various politicians from both Western and Eastern Ukraine.

The most sensible people were the students, who said little, but made a lot of sense, whereas the politicians looked like they are quite incapable of resolving anything or finding a compromise.

Meanwhile, Quebec voters rejected the call of the nationalists, and voted for stability. I have the feeling, based on the students I saw on ShusterLive, that if the politicians and hot heads got out of the way, normal citizens in Ukraine would also prefer stability.




6 April 2014

I spoke too soon, as things heat up again in Ukraine.

Demonstrators in the Eastern Ukraine cities of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv have stormed government buildings, waving Russian flags. The scenario has some resemblance to what happened in  Crimea. I have no idea what the people in these regions think, how many want to join Russia, how many support the government in Kiev, how many just want more autonomy within Ukraine. I guess time will tell.

The Kiev government is in a difficult position, probably afraid to put down the demonstrators too harshly for fear of giving Russia an excuse to intervene. Putin has created a popular mandate with his program of stirring up patriotic feeling on the one hand, and reducing independent media and freedom of expression on the other hand.  I am following these events daily, via the international, Russian and Ukrainian media, with all of the biases and inaccuracies we usually expect from the media. But at least there is some independence of views and some genuine attempt to find out what is happening. I avoid the government controlled Russian media which is nothing more than a propaganda machine, reading from a script.