Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Approach Language Learning - 3/4

Number three of four posts on language learning for free. This one is on the area of reading.

Books, Stories, and Poems
I've been reading more and more fiction and poetry in the languages I speak (Besides English: Spanish, French, Italian, and Japanese) as of late. This is a great strategy because it's challenging and yet something, with time, you can overcome and get better at. I'm currently reading Cien anos de soledad by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I recommend reading foreign language books digitally because you can get the definitions to words in the target language (if you're using a Kindle, for instance). Or if you read online, you can get instant translations by downloading the Google Dictionary extension for Google Chrome, which is an instant dictionary but also does instant translations. This is a lot faster than turning the pages of a print dictionary every other word. Yes, books cost money, though ebooks are often not very expensive at all. But you can access free books in other languages via Project Gutenberg or Google Play and even on Amazon (check out my public wish list: Free Foreign Language Kindle eBooks). One strategy I like is to reread books I've already read in English in the original language (e.g., reading Madame Bovary in French after reading it in English), preferably a few years apart. Because you already know the story, you will understand more, have to look up less. For stories and poems just search for them online. They're very often free, especially if they're old. If you don't know any titles off the top of your head, try Poetry International Rotterdam. On the site, you can read quality poems from around the world, choose from a wide variety of languages, and have the translation on the right and the original text on the left as you read.

There are lots free newsletters you can subscribe to. I like this option because the newsletters arrive in my inbox so there's no need to remember to go to any Web site. Often times you can just Google your language plus "newsletter" and find something. I'm a big fan in particular of word of the day newsletters because I don't want to spend too much time each day going over lessons. I have apps and books and videos I already use, read, and watch. Some good word of the day newsletters I use can be found at: (just search for your language or type "Spanish," "French," "Italian," "German," "Mandarin," or "Japanese" and ""), Innovative Language, and Transparent Language. Each has its pros and cons. Try them for yourself. also has weekly lessons. Innovative Language has podcasts and multiple phrases. Transparent Language has one phrase per day, sometimes doesn't have the transliteration, but probably has a larger number of words than Innovative. All have the audio.

Likewise you can read articles, online or in print, in your target language. You probably know that. But the trick is, how do you incorporate it into your life so you don't have to think about it? Well, on the Web you can read that article you just read in English on Wikipedia in your target language. Look on the left under "Languages." I know you've seen that before, right? This time, use it. There are also Google Chrome extensions that immerse you in the language without much effort from you, such as Flewent, which replaces text on the Web as you browse with words from your target language, and Duolinguo, which asks for you to translate sentences, according to your level, giving you hints if you don't know. The Google Translate extension is good, too, since after it translates the Web page, you can still see the original text and compare. Take it one sentence at a time. Warning: the translations by Google Translate, if you didn't know this already, aren't exactly 100% accurate. Like the BBC? Choose a language at BBC News in Languages and read the news in your target language. You get news and language learning! Two birds, one stone! (As far as print goes, if that's your thing, you will likely have to spend some money, unless you have access to foreign language magazines, say, at the dentist's office while you're waiting or at the discount store. You can always read for free at the library or book store, as well. Otherwise, check out International Newspaper Subscriptions, which allows you to search by language, country, or title, as well as from weekly, monthly, or yearly subscriptions. You get them shipped to you. It's like the country comes to you!)

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