Speechless in Ecuador

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Written by: Justin McCandless

I studied Spanish in class for something like six years before I found myself in a Spanish speaking country for the first time.  I would be working as the only foreigner at an NGO in a town called Loja, Ecuador.  It didn’t take me long to realize that all those years of classes were not enough to prepare me for the trip, unfortunately.  A few minutes after getting off the plane in Quito, I tried to use my Spanish to ask a knowledgeable-looking person which way my connecting terminal was.  His response, in broken English, was to ask me what I wanted.  After six years of Spanish class, this was my first lesson in communication.

The ability to communicate is something that most people learn when they are children but then immediately forget when they try to speak a foreign language.  It’s how you look someone in the eyes, speak clearly and confidently, and use body language to engage them in conversation.  It’s vital in making sure that you’re understood, and as I stared at the floor and stammered through my question in Quito, it’s everything that I was lacking.

Fortunately, communication is a skill just like anything else, and there are plenty of ways to get better at it.  By the end of my trip, I had succeeded in surviving day-to-day life in Spanish by engaging with my audience, anticipating their response, and, of course, practicing.

Engaging with your audience is all about being confident, even when you don’t know what you’re doing.  You’ll be surprised at how much is said through your body, hands, and facial expression instead of your mouth.  You might not be able to remember the correct verb conjugation every time, but you can definitely make sure that when you’re saying something positive, it looks like you’re saying something positive.  If you are working on your vocabulary, don’t forget that some of the most important words in communication might be things like “Oh!”, “Umm…”, “Er…”, “Ah!”, and unfortunately, maybe “Oops.”

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7 traits of a great language learner

Luca, Italian native polyglot, currently lives in Paris, France.
Luca, Italian native polyglot, currently lives in Paris, France.

Written by: Luca Lampariello

Hi. I’m what people sometimes call a “polyglot”, a person who speaks many languages.  I have been learning languages since I was 10 years old and I can now speak 12 languages. I’ve come into contact with many other language learners and polyglots over the years, and I’ve come to realize that people get great results despite learning in different ways.

All good learners, though, have a few important traits in common.

7 traits of a great language learner:

  1.  They ask themselves the right questions and start with the right reasons

“A good start is half the battle”, they say.

I always tell my students, who are often eager to learn “the method”,  that the very first thing to do when you start learning a language is start with the WHY. For some, I don’t need to do that. They know exactly why they want to learn a given language, as I did when I started learning Polish.

WHY do you want to learn a new language?

It might sound like an obvious question at first, but this is what distinguishes learners who fail from learners who succeed. Those who fail often start with a very vague idea as to why they want to learn language X. They start learning a language with a lot of enthusiasm, only to give up a few days, weeks or months later.

This will not happen to you if you start with the right reasons.

Continue reading 7 traits of a great language learner

Language learner spotlight: Talia’s road to Spanish fluency

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Verbling has a passion for language lovers of all ages and levels. Today we introduce a new series where we interview people living and breathing a new language. First off, we meet Talia Seehoff, an adventurous 20-something who has left America behind for the fun of teaching English abroad. Her students aren’t the only one honing their language skills; Talia herself is a student, with all of Spain as her teacher.

Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us, Talia. We really appreciate your time and hope your advice can help the current crop of aspiring language learners around the world. Before we start, can you tell us a little bit about where you are and what you do professionally?

A: Currently, I am living in Madrid, Spain and working as an English Language and Teaching Assistant. I work at a secondary school with students ages eleven to eighteen. I am learning a lot of Spanish just by being here, but living in Spain has shown me that just being here is not enough – you really need to actively immerse yourself in the language and culture you are trying to learn.

Q: Where did you grow up? Did you have more than one language in your household? If so, how much could you understand/speak/read/write? What languages can you speak now?

A: I grew up in Los Angeles, California. We mainly spoke English in our house, but I also learned a smattering of sentences of Afrikaans from my South African parents. I also learned Hebrew in elementary school but have subsequently forgotten it completely (I can read but not understand). I am fluent in English and improving my Spanish.

Q: Do you feel language learning helped your career?

A: I believe that learning a language helps you in most areas of your life. Specifically, I think learning Spanish is particularly helpful for those of us in the States who live in areas with large Spanish-speaking communities. Continue reading Language learner spotlight: Talia’s road to Spanish fluency

11 idioms from around the world that definitely shouldn’t be translated literally

 

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Written by: Alex Alpert

Idioms often don’t make sense. They do, however, reveal a lot about different cultures and the characteristics those cultures give to abstract concepts, animals, foods, or even train stations.

The list below might actually get you thinking: language learning is very legal. It’s also very cow!

Confused? Read on….

  • Spanish: Estar en la edad del pavo

Literal translation: To be at the age of the turkey

How it is used: To go through a hard/difficult time.

Apparently, turkeys have a lot of teenage angst.

  • Spanish: No tener dos dedos de frente

Literal translation: Not to have two fingers of forehead.

How it is used: He or she is not smart.

If that’s the case then people that are balding (and, hence, have many fingers of forehead) must be continuously getting smarter. My father will love this.

  • Portuguese: Isso é muito legal

Literal translation: This is very legal

How it is used: This is really cool.

I guess following the law in Brazil is the coolest thing…
Continue reading 11 idioms from around the world that definitely shouldn’t be translated literally

5 great reasons to learn Spanish

Colorful Cobblestone Street

Everyone has different reasons for choosing to learn Spanish. Many of you might be in a hurry to become a fluent speaker, but you will soon find out that the best part about knowing a foreign language is not only the destination but the journey.

If you are a member of this wonderful group of likeminded individuals at Verbling, you have already taken the biggest step towards your language adventure. Speaking Spanish not only allows you to communicate in a different lingo but also teaches you to see the world from a different perspective.

Here are five great reasons why you should embark in a Spanish learning adventure.

  1. The more the merrier

Spanish allows you to communicate to a large portion of the world. Not only are there 450 million Spanish speakers but there is a geographical distribution of 25 countries which adopt Spanish as their official or primary language. Besides, in terms of foreign learners, it is one of the most widely learnt languages and every day thousands of language lovers decide to join this ever expanding community. What are you waiting for?

  1. The world is your oyster

Being able to communicate in Spanish will open your eyes to a world of different culture and flavours; whether it’s Spanish literature, Latin-American films, South American politics, exotic rhythms, Colombian coffee, Argentine Malbec, Spanish tapas or spicy Mexican cuisine, you’ll discover these in a unique and profound manner. You will also be able to make lifelong friendships and experience first hand all the traditions and Spanish/Latin lifestyles. You will not only become more cultured, but your knowledge of the Spanish language will enhance your life in a more vibrant and colourful perspective.

    Continue reading 5 great reasons to learn Spanish

Verbling Teacher: “We all make mistakes”

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Learning English can be frustrating at times. However, don’t despair! I’m here to tell you how English people get the language wrong ALL the time.

SPELLING SUFFERING

A Spanish student mentioned something the other day that was really obvious but that I’d never thought about before. In Spanish, nobody ever says, “How do you spell that?” Spanish has a logical system of translating any vowel or consonant sound into the written word. We don’t have that in English! So if you’re struggling to spell when you’re writing, remember that English people have as much trouble doing it as you do! We even have competitions in school to see who can spell the longest words.
Continue reading Verbling Teacher: “We all make mistakes”

Present perfect: Why you can’t just use the simple past

Sagrada Familia Temple In Barcelona

Last week I was helping a student complete a worksheet using the present perfect tense when she turned to me, frustrated, and asked “Why can’t I just use the simple past tense?”

I can certainly understand her frustration; the difference between “I saw a bear” and “I have seen a bear” is small and probably not very important. But nevertheless, when she said that she had no need for the present perfect, I was concerned! Sure, you can survive in English without the present perfect. But you’ll be missing out on expressing yourself accurately when talking about your experiences, accomplishments, or anything else in the past that continues to impact the present. You’ll also risk causing your listeners some serious confusion!

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5 things to do in the morning to improve your English

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By Gabby Wallace, Go Natural English

Learning English is a lifestyle choice. Adding English to your current morning routine will provide huge improvements to your English language Skills!

The following 5 things will become habits for strong, confident English. Like brushing your teeth, they should become a non-negotiable part of your day.

Start with one or two suggestions and work your way up to doing all five suggestions.

Upon Waking

As soon as you wake up, read these phrases aloud to train your brain for learning with a positive mindset. It is important to begin with the right mindset because it will help your brain to receive information.

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5 ingredients for a delicious language learning cocktail

 

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Note: Combining the following may create a sense of euphoria—consume at your own risk. 

2 cups of time & consistency

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules” – Anthony Trollope

No excuses. Make language-learning the first thing you do every day—even if it’s only for 15 minutes—and you’ll progress much faster than trying to do everything in one or two days. We’ve known since 1965 that spaced repetition is the key to building and retaining knowledge[1], and this takes time. Your biggest friend in the process is consistency.

2 cups of tutoring with a native

Is it difficult for you move to a new country to learn your next language? Or do you want to practice so you can immediately communicate when you get there? The biggest difficulty of group classes is that individual attention is limited. Tutoring gives you personalized correction on the things that are important to you, and having your errors corrected and all of your questions and doubts fixed will help you immensely in the process. It’s also a great way to build relationships and practice conversation in a safe environment as well.

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Top 5 mistakes Spanish speakers make in English

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When learning a new language, everyone makes the same mistakes. This is the fun part of learning a language! When you make mistakes you can learn from them—taking your language learning to a whole new level.

Most articles discuss common mistakes made by English learners, but none of them discuss how to actually eliminate those mistakes for good.

Here are the top 5 mistakes Spanish-speakers make in English, why they happen and how to get rid of them forever!

Continue reading Top 5 mistakes Spanish speakers make in English