How Language Works?

Journalists say that when a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog that is news. This is the essence of the language instinct: language conveys news. The streams of words called “sentences” are not just memory prods, reminding you of man and man’s best friend and letting you fill in the rest; they tell you who in fact did what to whom. Thus we get more from most stretches of language than Woody Allen got from War and Peace, which he read in two hours after taking…
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Teaching Children Different Languages

It is clearly understood that children learn languages faster and better than adults, but how many languages can children learn simultaneously? How does that affect the rest of their learning curves and development? As an American who has lived a significant portion of my life in other nations, and who continues to live outside the United States, languages are important to me. The choices I will make in teaching my children languages will have the ability to shape their lives in massive ways. All of their future interactions, cultural experiences, travel, and job opportunities will…
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Learning Grammar Effectively

You can’t learn how to replace direct and indirect objects with pronouns if you don’t clearly understand what a direct or indirect object is in English. The same will be true with relative pronouns or the passive voice or the subjunctive. Fewer English classes seem to really teach grammar so you may have a knowledge gap. Some language instructors teach the English grammar at the same time, but others assume you know it. If you don’t, then you need to either teach yourself or get your instructor to help. Grammar is the structure on which…
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Vocabulary Acquisition

If you can’t remember vocabulary words, try these strategies: Flashcards, word association, memory tricks (make up your own association), learning from the target language to English first and then from English to the target language, making up vocabulary sentences. Flashcards This is not a new trick but can be effective when used correctly. Get different colored flashcards. If your language has gender then use pink or red cards for feminine nouns and blue cards for masculine ones. Pick another color for neuter if needed. At the beginning of each chapter, put each new word or…
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What Does Bilingual Mean to You?

If we look up bilingual in a dictionary, it says that being bilingual is “the ability to speak two languages with the facility of a native speaker.” I don’t think anyone would argue much with that definition. But strangely enough, that is not always what businesses have in their minds when they ask for bilingual speakers on applications. I had a conversation the other day and was speaking to a member of the military, who was originally from Texas, but spent some time overseas in Russian speaking areas. During his time overseas he had the…
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Considering Learning a Language (Part 2)

Ear Training In your native language, you don’t have to listen very well. You only actually hear some of the words being said and your brain fills in the rest. You can’t do this when you are first learning a language. You may have to train yourself to listen. If you are musical, you probably already have. This is why your language class almost certainly asks you to listen to cds or watch videos. Do this in small amounts at a time not for an hour straight. Build up your listening time just like you…
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Considering Learning a Language (Part 1)

Repetition Although repetition in learning a foreign language can be boring, it is key to your success. Many studies on language acquisition show that very high numbers of repetition are necessary for a word to become truly owned and in your long term memory. This is why so many language classrooms require choral repetitions. Repetitions can be verbal, aural, read or written. So, when you study, hit the word or verb conjugation as many times as possible. Hit all our senses (except smell) You will retain new vocabulary better if the repetition includes as many…
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