203 USEFUL EXPRESSIONS

Attention Spanish language learners!

I would like to share with you this web page ( http://elblogdeidiomas.es/203-expresiones-ingles-coloquiales/ ) with 203 everyday english expressions and thei translation into spanish.

If you are going to do your co-op or your Erasmus semester in Spain , it will be really worth it to have a look at them. They are working very good for me. Sometimes we tend to learn complicated expressions, idioms and vocabuary and we foget about the everyday language, since we believe that we will pick it up once we are in the country where our target language is spoken. And it may be like that, but trust me a little bit of help won’t  do any harm !

We have to be careful and persistent with our language learning once we are in the country, since it would probably happen to you to, as it is happening to me, that once you realised that you are fluent in the language and that you can express yourself without any problem, you will become lazier, you won’t learn that much vocabulary because you can already say everything you need to say.

But that is not our aim! Our aim is to be as accurate as possible when speaking in our target language, and having as much vocabulary as possible in different genres. Therefore even if we are able to communicate perfectly with the other we have to keep on working hard and picking up as much vocabulary as we can while talking to native, but also working at home as idependent language learners!

Couchsurfing

Hi language learners ,

I have been reflecting about the different ways in which we could practice our target languages in a fun and innovative way. I obviously  came across the ideas of watching movies, reading books, watching series in ur target language. Those are really good practice, but I was looking for something more interactive, activities that allow us to produce speech and communicate with native speakers.

Then I started reflecting about the things I like better and how are they related to the language learning. One of my favourites things in the world is to travel, but as a student there is not much money left to travel around. However, some years ago I was got to know a web page called Couchsurfing, where you can host people or be hosted by then without paying anything. I have already had some Couchsurfing experiences and they have been amazing, I have met some really nice people with who I still try to keep in touch.  Obviously the language we use to communicate with each other is english, one of my target languages, but we could also use French, German, Italian, I got the opportunity to meet people of all over the world thanks to this web page.

Up to now, I have seen Couchsurfing just as a page where I could find accommodation wherever I wanted to go and where I could meet a lot of interesting people. But I have never thought about it as a tool that could help me in my language learning. So, as I most of the times use english to communicate with other couchsurfers, I will from now on pay more attention to how I write, to the structures and vocabulary that people use in the messages they send me.

That’s the point of it, look at the tools you usually use from another angle, and make them into language learning tools!

Personalising the language learning

1) How to personalise your language learning

In order to be an efficient learner it is necessary to personalise our learning. After years of studying different subjects and languages we already know which ones our weak points and strong points are , taking that into account we will personalise our own learning. In my case , to personalise my language learning I would use a lot of different materials , but I would  try to compare and connect the information as much as possible. I consider myself a verbal learner, however I often need an outline to connect different topics, that is really helpful when studying grammar, history or culture for example.

Nevertheless, for the vocabulary I use a completely different method, which is to use flashcards, that makes the learning more practical. I writte the word in the foreign language in the front and the translation in the back part; that way I have to try to remember the word and that makes the learning easier. Other trick to learn vocabulary is to write down when and where did you heard it so as to connect it to a situation and a person and that way it would be easier to remember it.

My personal language learning would require a lot of practice to, even if I find it hard sometimes I try hard. Continuing with the example of the vocabulary I try to use as much as possible the new vocabulary I have learnt so as to integrate it.

2) How personal should our language learning be ?

It is helpful to personalise our language learning, focussing it in our skills so as to be efficient leraners, but we shouldn’t forget about our weak points, otherwise we will miss a lot of it. It is important to focuss on what we like while learning a language but we also need to oblige ourselves to try new methods. In my opinion, it is also important to compare our language learning methods with others and see if we are missing something, if we can improve our personal way…etc.

3) Advantages and disadvantages of personalising our language learning

If we want to personalise our learning we have to think through it a lot first, because we have to take into account a lot of different facts, so as the learning to be efficient and complete. Because we could personalise our learning just focussing on what we like but that wouldn’t be enough, that would be a disadvantage. On the other hand, personalising a language could be an advantage, since we would have to reflect about the way we learn and we could improve a lot by reflecting about it.

Personalising our language learning may take more time that we would like to, but I find it helpful. Sometimes our aim is to finish our works as soon as possible, so it without realising how we do it and what are we suppose to learn out of it, but actually the time we will spend on this activity may be a lose of time, since we won’t make the most of it.

 

Academic writing

 

Let’s go deeper in the language learning !

 

As an Erasmus student we would notice that language is not just about social engagement, of course we have to deepen in the socioculural practices of the country we are living in but there are some issues that we won’t learn out in the streets. I’m talking about academic writing.

This is a very important area to learn about in our target language, because we usually learn faster what our collegues say in class, or what our new friends say when we hang out with them, even if it is more difficult than academic language , since it is constantly changing and it will be different depending on where our friends are from.

Academic language however, is a more generalised area and it is actually easier to understand. Usually, academic language contains a lot of latinism, so it is easier for foreing speaker to remember and to understand them. The tricky thing is that as foreing speakers we don’t realise the different registers of the language, we usually know less vocabulary and it is difficult to differentiate if it is academic or informal. Therefore the following tasks could help us to learn more about academic writing.

Task 1: Informality Replace the phrasal verbs in the sentences with a more appropriate verb from the list below.

1.  Researchers have been looking into the problem for 15 years. : investigating / examining/ exploring

  1. This issue was brought up during the seminar. : discussed / highlighted / adressed
  2. It is assumed that the management knows what is happening and will therefore step in if

there is a problem. : intervene / interrupt / act

  1. Schools cannot altogether get rid of the problem of truancy. : eliminate/ erradicate
  2. The number of staff has been cut down recently. : reduced
  3. It was very difficult to find out exactly what happened. : discover / ascertain/determine
  4. House prices have a tendency to go up and down. : vary
  5. A potential solution was put forward two years ago. : proposed / suggested/ presented
  6. The locals could not put up with the visitors from the city. : stand / endure/tolerate
  7. The decline was brought about by cheap imports. : caused
  8. The university is thinking about installing CCTV. : considering to
  9. Sales are likely to drop off in the third quarter. : declaine
  10. He went on speaking for over an hour. : continued to speak
  11. The meeting was put off until December. : delayed/ postponed
  12. The cinema was pulled down ten years ago. : demolished
  13. People have cut down on their consumption of beef. : reduced their

 

Task 2: Informality

Use a more formal word or phrase to replace those in bold.

  1. The reaction of the officials was sort of negative. :slightly
  2. The economic outlook is nice. : positive
  3. Car manufacturers are planning a get together to discuss their strategy. : a meeting
  4. The resulting competition between countries is good. : favourable
  5. The economy is affected by things that happen outside the country. : factors
  6. She was given the sack because of her poor record. : fired
  7. The examination results were super. : outstanding

 

Nevertheless , we shouldn’t just be careful with vocabulary, but also with the structure of our writing and we should also take into account that the academic writing is more nominalised, that means that we should use more nouns than verbs. All those little details would make our results in academical writing outstanding and we won’t have any problems to write our essays in our target language.

 

Language Corner

Some moths ago, preparing a project for my university back home, in Granada, I came across this web page about language learning methods. I find it really useful for independent language learners. Steve Kaufmann who speaks 11 different languages gives us the keys to the successful language learning.

According to Steve there are 7 keys to the sucessful language learning: 1. To spend time in contact with the language; 2. To do what we like during learning a language; 3.To learn to notice ; 4. To focuss more in the vocabulary rather than in grammar; 5. To be patient; 6. To get the neccesary tools; 7. To become an independent language learner.

Even if we may not agree with all of them, I think that those are really good piece of advices. If you are interested and want to know more about the successful language learning here I add the link to Steve’s blog :

http://www.youtube.com/user/lingosteve

 

Hope you’ll enjoy it !

 

Corpus linguistics

A corpus is a collection of texts or part of texts that help us to analyse them.  Using a corpus we obtained the presented list of english words , in which  we have a reference to the spoken language as well as a reference to the written language. We can notice some differences between the most frecuent words in the spoken and in the written language.

The most used word in both spoken and written is the english article “the”. However, the second more used is not the same, in the spoken list we have “I”, which shows us that the spoken language is much more personal than the written one, since in the written language the second word is the preposition “to”.

On the other hand, another big difference between the spoken and written list is that in the spoken one we have language markers as “mm” , “well” or “like”, words like ” yeah”, or even laughs,that we wouldn’t find in the written list. In the written list we find more preposition, since the written one is a more organised discourse with longer sentences and richer structures.

But a corpus linguistics doesn’t allow us just to analyse the words itself but also the meaning of the words, as we can analyse them in different context. Sometimes we are expecting a word to have a specific meaning and once we have looked it up in a corpora the different examples show us that it has more meanings.

In the examples we have been given the word we are going to analyse is “dead” , at first what we think when we heard the word dead is something negative because that is the real meaning of dead and most of the times we forget about the ironic meanings or the slang language, in which  the words are used in different contexts.

The word dead is used as an intensifier, as in the example of “dead sexy” or as in “Dead sure” , ” you’re dead right” which means completely sure, it is also used meaning stopped: ” the wind has been dead”, in the example ” dead of the night” means in the middle of the night , the quiet night. As we can see the corpus shows us all the different meanings of a word in context, it doesn’t provide us a definiton of the word we are analyzing but we can perfectly know how it is used by the different examples.

Games for language learning

– Games with learning purpouses : Bussu.  http://www.busuu.com/enc/

Bussu is a very good language learning tool. It consits of different levels the user has to pass, that way he feels the pressure to improve. When you pass a level you get a strawberry, the more strawberrys you get the better. It’s a very interactive game, since you have to learn vocabulary with flashcards and then grammar by constructing sentences and different structures. Once you have learnt the basic theories of that level you’ll have to interact with other users. You’ll send them a short text using your new knowledges and they will correct it, in the same way you will also have to reflect about your own language because you’ll have to correct other peoples texts. If you want to make your learning even more interactive you can use the chat.

You have to keep your bussu updated , because otherwise your garden will run out of strawberrys and your language won’t improve !

 

 

– Games without learning purpouses :

Some games haven’t been disegned with the purpose of language learning, but we could rethink those games and use them with a new aim. If we enjoy those games we will learn easily and we won’t feel that we are doing something we have to do , but it will be actually something we want to do. The important point is that we have to realise that those games that originally are not thought to language learning could help us to learn for example vocabulary.  Some examples of those games are: Footbal games as FIFA online or another sports games online, since we an learn a lot of expecific vocabulary about that particular sport. But if you don’t like sports there are a lot of other options, as the Sims, Computer games of current Tv series as The walking Dead, etc. We just have to find what we like better and try to take advantage of it, noticing the new vocabulary it provides us.

 

Every game is an opportunity to learn !

 

Erasmus experience

As an Erasmus student I wanted to share with you some tips that are currently helping me. I see that most of my fellow students are going on a Erasmus or exchange year next course, everyone could tell it by their faces, I can see fear and excitement, so I thought that my tips would be helpful for everyone.

First of all, it is completely normal to feel fear when you are going abroad, but really you shouldn’t feel that way because you will find what you are looking for wherever you go if you know how to search for it.  However, I found it really helpful to have a friend you can trust from the beginning, someone who would show you around, that way you won’t get lost,  you also should ask him or her to show you different cultural issues, as  famous bands, the most popular newspaper or magazines,radio stations, etc, so as you to be completely integrated in the society of that country.

On the other hand, and as a language learner each one should have his or her own tricks to make the most of this experience. Those are some of mines:

– To have a good language exchange partner . Having a good language exhange partner is really important, since you will probably be able to express yourself in the native language in a few weeks or in a week but our aim is beyond that, what we want is to really master the language we are learning. Therefore we should ask our language partner to show us as many useful expressions as possible, more specific words, etc. Because at the end, the only way to really learn vocabulary is calling thins by their own name not just trying to explain what we mean in a roundabout way.

– To note the new voabulary we learn. While being abroad we will be learning new vocabulary every day, but trust me, even if in the moment that you listen to a new word you think that you will remenber it and that you will star using it, you won’t , because you will come across new words every single day. Therefore I think it’s worth it to spend some time every day trying to summarize the new words we have heard that day. In my case, I have a terribly bad memory, so one of my methods to remember words is to  associate them to a particular situation. What I do is to write down the word, where did I listen to it or who said it to me and a clear example that explains what it means.

 

Those are little tips that are helping me in this amazing experience that is the Erasmus at UL, I’ll try to share more of them with you !

 

Personalisation

Personalisation is about knowing ourselves, is about knowing what kind of learners we are, which ones  our difficulties are, what do we like most and why do we like it.

Personalisation is a concept we could use in almost every area of our lifes and most of the times we do it without even noticing it. But now we are going to concentrate in the personalisation on the learning proccess. Sometimes we’ll personalise our learning environment without noticing it, but in some areas of the learning environment we will need more effort, we will have to reflect and invest some time on personalising our learning.

The best way to personalise our learning is creating a model of PLE ( Personal Language Environment). A PLE is a concept, it is a system that allows the learner to organise, manage and of course personalise their own language learning. Those PLEs consists of different tools as blogs, social networks, wikis. There are  loads of pages that explain how to create a PLE as this one : http://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/how-to-create-a-personal-learning-environment-to-stay-relevant-in-2013/ .

The PLE requires a high self-awareness and continuity, the student has to be independent. All in all the PLEs are thought for independent learners that want to improve their skills with little or no help of teachers or tutors.

 

Blogging, Tweeting, web 2.0 … for SLA

Everyone has his own way to learn a language, so what is working for me may not work for you. Therefore, we have to continually reflect about the tools we are using and consider if they are working for us or not.

In my case, I’m trying a new tool which is a blog. I’ve been using the web 2.0 for a long time now, I’ve also tried different tools as social networks, online dictionaries and newspapers, etc. which have worked really well for me, but I’ve never try to blog myself before.  To be honest, I’m finding it difficult to keep my blog updated, since I don’t want to write random thing without sense, I want to offer my readers interesting information and advices. Too achieve this aim I have to be critic with what I’m writting, moreover there is another difficulty for me, since english is a second language for me.

But blogging is getting easier every week, I’m getting used to it and I can feel how my english is improving day a day. So I would say that blogging is definetely working for me!

What I find very helpfull is to read my fellow students blogs, I’m learning a lot of new vocabulary and expression while reading about their tips and tricks to learn languages. I’m also trying to compare the different stiles they use and try to consider which one is the most appropriate for a blog, because I’m still not sure is the register I’m using is the best one in these context, I would hesitate in my own language, so imagine in a foreign language!

On the other hand , I think that it could be interesting for other students to read my  posts, since I’m trying to share tips to learn a language as an Erasmus students, so as to make the most of this incredible experience. Being in a country where   the language you are studying is the official one is  obviously incredibly helpful, since we are learning in an unaware way, but if we also do some easy  activities every day it would be even better and our improvement would be huge.

 

So, I really think that blogging is helping me with my english improvement and is showing me a lot of different ways to learn languages that I didn’t know before. I’m enjoying it, because even if at first was something I must do, now is something that actually I want to do.