Learning a language through music

Monday, April 15, 2019

Music is a powerful language learning tool in so many ways. You can learn about culture in an entertaining way. It improves your communication skills. You can incorporate music into life almost anywhere. Besides, it’s so fun.

1) Do you play a musical instrument? If so, playing a musical instrument has great benefits for language learners. According to a 2014 study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, children who took music lessons for two years not only became better at playing an instrument, they became better at processing language. A double bonus!

2) Music is motivating, and you can learn more comfortably and faster. I love singing along with my favorite artists but, first, I need to know the words (the lyrics) to the song. Then I can understand the song. Listening really helps with pronouncing words correctly too. I listen to my favorite songs over and over.

3) Sometimes it’s difficult to memorize new words. The tone, rhythm, and modulation help us with the memorization process. I also make it a point to write down every word I don’t know to study and improve. It’s important for fluency to learn and understand new words.

4) There are so many everyday opportunities to be exposed to the language if you listen to music in that language: while exercising, going to and from work, shopping, singing in the shower, dancing, going to concerts, cooking, doing household chores, and more. Keep your ears open. Stay in contact with the language by regularly listening to music and you will increase your fluency faster.

Improve your English at home

Friday, March 15, 2019

There are several ways to strengthen your English skills at home. Some people don’t like classes and prefer independent study. Others lack time or a language community to support them. Whatever your situation, try the following different methods for good results: 

  1. Most important: Enjoy what you are doing! If you don’t like it, you won’t practice…and you must practice every day. 
  2. Establish your goal and focus on it (ex: improve listening comprehension, reduce accent, know all the irregular verbs in the past tense, increase vocabulary, etc.)
  3. Practice reading out loud. This is a great way to understand English sentence construction, learn word placement, and verb conjugation. Hearing yourself saying English words out loud is also helpful for improving conversation and writing skills. First try reading simple English texts to increase your fluency and confidence, and move on to more advanced material. 
  4. Speak online and practice with native speakers on Inter Pals. It's free and you can strengthen your skills while making new friends. 
  5. Writing is a valuable way to reinforce spelling, sentence construction, verb conjugation, prepositions, vocabulary, and so much more. Keep a journal, write English sentences in an exercise book, translate a passage (without any help) and see how you do. Good English speakers aren’t necessarily good writers, so work on this skill and you will benefit in many ways. 
  6. Watch a film that’s easy to understand in English to improve listening comprehension. 
  7. Listen to music lyrics. If you’re a music lover, you can do this anywhere. You’ll be surprised at how much you will understand when words are put to music. 

Practice every day, do what you like, and make measurable goals to improve your English at home. 

Book Recommendation: A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life

Friday, February 15, 2019

Reading an English novel is a big achievement in the processing of mastering a new language. The thought of committing to a book (a novel!) may be a little intimidating but the feeling of satisfaction you will have after completing it will motivate you to read more books in English. 

A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen is a best selling book and true story about James, a struggling street musician in the UK, and his friendship with a stray cat named Bob. The English text is easy to follow and you will quickly learn how Bob makes a positive impact on James’s life. 

This is a complete novel, not simplified in any way for English learners, and I encourage you to try it. I hope that reading more books in English will open new worlds for you.

Clozemaster: learn language in context

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

So you have a great vocabulary but you still don’t feel automatic when speaking or writing. How can you overcome this lack of fluency? Try Clozemaster.

Language learners sometimes run into trouble with sentence construction. The sequence of words in sentences is often different from your original language and this can be a learning barrier, especially if you’re directly translating.

Clozemaster is an online language learning tool that performs double duty: you rapidly expand vocabulary in context. By seeing specific words in sentences, you learn how they are used and also how to construct sentences correctly.

By learning one sentence at a time and one word at a time (and there are thousands of sentences in Clozemaster) you can become a more knowledgable and confident speaker, reader, and writer. You'll be ready to read that English language novel!

Using new vocabulary

Friday, December 28, 2018

Learning new vocabulary is a never-ending goal. It may sound too easy, but one of the best ways to increase your vocabulary is by learning 1 to 5 new words each day. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced speaker, you’re never too old or too fluent to learn new words. 

Overloading yourself with long lists of words to memorize is an overwhelming task. With languages, it’s more efficient to absorb and use new vocabulary slowly, so limiting yourself to an average of 5 words per day is ideal. After one week, that’s 35 new words, and 1,825 new words after one year!

You won’t struggle to form sentences and express your ideas, thoughts, emotions, and processes as your vocabulary increases daily. 

Reviewing old vocabulary and adding 1 to 5 new words each day will have you expressing yourself more accurately and confidently. You'll be amazed at how much you can accomplish!

Down in the Dumps

Monday, November 5, 2018

Psychiatrist Carl Jung stated that “the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

It’s a fact of life that we all experience sadness every now and then, and the idiom down in the dumps is one way to describe that unhappy feeling.  

Down in the dumps means to be in a discouraged, depressed, or sad mood. The expression down in the mouth is similiar. 

- Carlo felt down in the dumps after he failed his driver’s test. 
- Kim has been feeling down in the mouth because of recent money problems.

The noun dumps has been used for "a state of depression" since the early 1500s, and down in the mouth, alluding to the downturned corners of the mouth as a sign of misery, dates from the mid-1600s.*

The more you use idioms and phrasal verbs, the better your fluency will be. I will be happy if you add down in the dumps to your vocabulary :)

*This is according to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. 

Adult Treehouses

Saturday, October 6, 2018

When I was a child I lived in a neighborhood with many big trees. I tried to climb them if the branches were low enough but my biggest dream was to have a treehouse, which is a structure built in the branches of a tree. Treehouses can be secret forts or just special places to be in touch with nature and enjoy privacy with your friends.

Treehouses are very rudimentary and simple in design because they are typically built by children (hopefully with adult help). Usually support beams or floor platforms are bolted directly into the tree and then you access your treehouse with a ladder or staircase. 

Nowadays more sophisticated adult treehouses with modern luxuries seem to be the current trend but the reasons to build one are no different from when we were children: to have a small elevated sanctuary. There are spectacular adult treehouses all over the world and I can’t think of any better place to unwind (relax).