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How to learn two languages at once

29 Nov 2011
Woman with textbooks on her head
How to balance your learning? Photo by Corrie

Can I learn two languages at once? Or should I only learn one at a time?

I see these questions often.

Many people have successfully learned more than one language at a time. But many, many more have failed.

Personally, I have experience both succeeding and failing!

Please read more for my advice!

Translating or native dictionaries?

15 Nov 2011

Which is better? A dictionary which translates into your native language or a dictionary which gives the definition in the native language itself?

This is an often discussed and frequently controversial topic. Both students and teachers have strong opinions on both sides of the issue. But I suspect it comes to more to personal preference than anything else.

In this article I'll tell you which I prefer and why, then open it up to your comments. Which do you prefer?

Read more to join the discussion!

How to practice speaking over the internet

9 Nov 2011
Two women talking
The art of conversation. Photo by Duncan Harris.

Nothing can replace practicing your language with a native speaker. But what if no native speakers live in your city? Not everyone has the means to travel to another country.

But that doesn't mean you can't practice speaking!

I've written about language exchange in the past.

This is where you meet with someone who's native language is the language you are learning and your native language is the language they are learning. For the first half of the meeting you talk in one language and for the second half you talk in the other.

And the best part is that this is something you can do entirely over the internet, using voice chat software like Skype!

Read more to learn how!

How to learn words with multiple meanings

21 Sep 2011
Two dragon heads
A word with two meanings is like a dragon with two heads. Photo by Art Siegel.

In all languages, there are words with several, seemingly unrelated meanings - and English is no exception.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word "get" has over 20 different meanings! It's even hard to count them all. :-)

So, what's the best way to learn words with multiple meanings?

Read more for my advice!

Is spelling easier for non-native speakers?

6 Sep 2011
Sign which reads "No Tecknolegy"
This guy clearly doesn't use a spell checker! Photo by Sammy0716

I receive lots of comments on the videos of me speaking Polish like:

"You speak pretty good Polish. But can you spell? It's really hard, even for native Poles!"

The first time I saw this, I was really surprised! The Polish alphabet is very straightforward and I have no problems spelling in Polish. In fact, I spell much better in Polish than I do in English!

Personally, I've always thought English spelling was really hard. But I've had non-native speakers tell me that spelling in English is much easier than in their native language.

So, I've started to wonder: is spelling simply easier for non-native speakers?

Read more for my whole theory!

What is grammar good for?

31 Aug 2011
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker singing "e;War!"e; in the film Rush Hour
Just ask Jackie Chan! "Grammar. Huh, yeah. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!"

Occasionally I write articles about grammar (like I did last week). I always feel a little weird writing about grammar, because, in general, I don't advocate studying grammar, particularly not in the beginning.

However, studying some grammar when you've already got some fundamentals in the language can be helpful!

Read more to find out how!

The natives won't speak to me in their language!

16 Aug 2011
Two men talking on the street
Photo by polandeze on Flikr.

Speaking your target language with native speakers is the ultimate goal of most learners. But what should you do if the people you meet only want to practice your native language?

You're not the only one having this problem! How can you get native speakers to stop speaking Engilsh (or your language) and practice their language with you?

Read more for some tips!

Heinrich Schliemann: a famous polyglot’s method

2 Aug 2011
Portrait of Heinrich Schliemann

As a language learner, it’s always interesting to hear about accomplished polyglots. One such historical figure is a 19th-century German amateur archeologist and businessman by the name of Heinrich Schliemann.

Schliemann learned at least fourteen languages during his lifetime. He claims that (after some time learning languages, of course) he could learn a new language in only six weeks!

So the question is: How could he possibly learn so many languages or learn any language so quickly? And can we learn anything from his method?

(Special thanks to skorway on YouTube - also the author of this guest post - who suggested this topic and did much of the research!)

Read more to learn about Schliemann’s language learning method and my thoughts on his techniques!

You don't need to live in a foreign country to learn

26 Jul 2011
Plane landing
Are you waiting for your plane to land before you start learning? Don't! Photo by Liliana.

One of the biggest language learning myths is that you need to live in the country to learn the language.

Or slightly differently: if you were living in the country it would be a lot easier because there you'd learn automatically, without effort.

But this isn't true! Not only can you learn very well in your home country, but the advantages of learning abroad are greatly exaggerated.

While this is a topic that has already been covered many times by other bloggers, I want to share my experience from learning Polish both in Poland and at home.

Read more to learn about my experience!

Use Lang-8 to practice writing!

21 Jun 2011
Read this text with BiblioBird!
Lang-8 front page

Writing is a skill that's frequently neglected when learning a language. People tend to focus more on reading, listening and speaking.

Writing is a skill that should be very easy to practice over the internet, but what if you don't know any native speakers? Or what if the two native speakers you do know are tired of constantly correcting your writing? ;-)

In this article, I'm going to review Lang-8: a free website where you can have your writing corrected by native speakers!

Read more to find out about this wonderful service!