Category Archives: Top 5

5 Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

Everyone always says that learning a foreign language is important and will enrich your life. Of course there are the obvious reasons for studying a language, such as enabling you to travel more easily or helping you advance in your career. But what are the benefits of learning a language beyond this?

1. You will become smarter

It has been proven in many studies that learning a foreign language actually helps you become smarter. Scientists have long known that the brain is a muscle like any other – if you use it more often, it will become stronger. The process of learning a new language – learning new grammar patterns, memorizing vocabulary, and learning to switch back and forth between languages – has been shown to be one of the best known exercises for your brain. Some of the proven beneficial results include a better memory, better multi-tasking skills, and a longer attention span.

 

2. You will also seem smarter

Not only will you become smarter, but you’ll also seem smarter. While it may be superficial, knowing a foreign language is often seen as a sign of intelligence. Especially in countries where most people only speak their native language, such as the United States, being able to proudly proclaim that you know Spanish or can speak Mandarin can add significantly to your image in social situations and endow you with a certain cultural cachet. And even if the language you speak doesn’t have any connection to your career, showing a potential employer that you can speak a foreign language is an effective way to show that you know how to use your brain.

 

3. It will help stave off Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia

Recent studies have shown that knowing more than one language significantly decreases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia later in life. When you know two languages, your brain has to constantly decide which language to think and speak in. This process of switching back and forth increases your brain’s strength in a way that work as a natural resistance to these debilitating cognitive diseases.

4. You will gain insights into other cultures (and your own)

Using a language when traveling is about much more than ordering another glass of wine or asking how to get to the bus station. In speaking with people from another country in their own language, you are able to immerse yourself in the culture of that country in a way you could never do otherwise, broadening your mind in a way you never could have expected.  In our increasingly globalized world, being able to understand and appreciate differences in cultures is critically important. Additionally, in learning about other cultures you gain a much more complex and nuanced understandings of your own culture.

5. You will understand your native language better

Not only will you better understand your own culture, but you will also better understand your native language. Learning a foreign language for the first time will open up your eyes to the grammar and nature of your own language that you never knew. You’ll recognize patterns and structures that you’ve used since childhood as auxilary verbs, the present progress, or the subjunctive. Far beyond simply being interesting, this will greatly improve your abilities in your native language and help with that whole “looking smart” thing.

 

The 5 Best Languages to Learn for the 21st Century

There are a lot of languages out there and choosing the right one to learn is a big question. If you’re reading this right now, then you already know English which is undeniably the most important language to learn in the 21st century. What about after that? Of course, pursuing your personal interests is always one of the best options. But what if you want to study a language that will prove to be notably important and useful in our increasingly globalized world? What are the most useful languages to learn in the 21st century?

 

Portuguese

Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world with 220 million native speakers. Most notably known as the language of Brazil, Portuguese is also spoken by notable populations in Portugal, Angola, and Mozambique. Brazil is one of the world’s greatest recent economic success stories, with an enormous and growing middle class. The country’s image, and in turn business prospects, is sure to only improve with the coming 2014 Brazil World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Angola as has also been booming recently, with one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. Given the current positioning of Portuguese vis-a-vis Brazil in particular, there is no question that the language will become ever-more-important this century.

Keep an eye out for OpenLanguage Portugese coming soon!

 

Russian

Russian is the 8th most spoken language in the world with 155 million native speakers and is an official language of the United Nations.. These speakers are stretched out over a huge swath of land from a number of former USSR republics in Eastern Europe through to Russia which extends all the way to East Asia. In recent years, Russia and other Russian-Speaking former-USSR republics have played host to surging economies, in part due to large populations now participating in the global economy and the significant reserves of natural resources, all of which will give those with a knowledge of Russian great advantages in the business realm this century. Recent international disputes involving Russia and the Ukraine also highlight the continued strategic importance of this language in the post-Cold War era.

Try out a complimentary Russian course on OpenLanguage today.

 

Arabic

Arabic is the 5th most spoken language in the world with 295 million native speakers. Arabic is spoken across the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula and is an official language of the United Nations. The Arabic-speaking world is home to extremely disparate countries and populations, some economically vibrant and playing an increasingly important role in globe such as Qatar and Dubai and others, like Syria, embroiled in intractable warfare and the focus of international security and welfare efforts. With nations and populations in all positions between those two ends of the spectrum, it’s undeniable that a knowledge of Arabic will help you engage with what is one of the most dynamic regions of the world.

Try out a complimentary Arabic course on OpenLanguage today.

 

Spanish

Spanish is the 2nd most spoken language in the world with 405 million native speakers and is an official language of the United Nations. Spanish is the official language of Spain and the majority of countries in Latin America from Central America down to the bottom tip of South America, in addition to being widely spoken in the United States and Canada. Despite the global economic downturn in 2008, Latin American economies have continued to post strong and stable growth rates in recent years. In countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Chile, strong middle classes are emerging that are tech-savvy, educated, and ready to engage the world. The huge potential of the populations of Spanish-speaking Latin America is only now starting to show itself, and a knowledge of Spanish will ensure that you’ll be able to explore this world as it blossoms.

Try out a complimentary Spanish course on OpenLanguage today.

 

Chinese

Chinese (Mandarin) is the most spoken language in the world with 955 million native speakers and is one of the official languages of the United Nations. Spoken predominantly in mainland China, Mandarin is also spoken in Taiwan, Singapore, and throughout the Chinese diapsora. Everyone everywhere as of late has been talking about China’s economic rise of the last few decades, with the country looking to become the largest economy in the world very soon. With hundreds of millions of Chinese now looking to do business and travel in the rest of the world, a knowledge of Chinese will open up enormous opportunities in the 21st century.

Try out a complimentary Chinese course on OpenLanguage today.

 

5 Ways to Actually Learn a Language

Learning a new language is a goal many of us have but few of us ever achieve. OpenLanguage provides a highly-effective, convenient, and entertaining language learning system that will put you on the road to linguistic success. In addition to an effective learning system, however, it’s important to focus on how you approach learning a language. Here are some key ways that will help ensure that you don’t just study a language but that you actually learn it.

1. Choose a language you actually want to learn

The fundamental thing that will result in language learning success is of course motivation – you can have all the resources in the world, but if you’re not up to using them you’ll get no where. Thus to be truly successful in learning a language, it’s best choose one that you really want to learn. Maybe you have a close friend that speaks Spanish that you would like to be able to communicate with in their native language. Maybe your company also does business in China and learning Chinese will help advance your career. Or maybe you love Japanese films and want to be able to understand them in their original language. Whatever the reason, choosing a language that motivates you enough to push through those periods of difficulty is the key first ingredient in the recipe for language learning success.

 

2. Find ways to connect the language to the real world

Language learning is traditionally the stuff of classrooms, water-damaged textbooks, and endless repetitive exercises. What this method fails to acknowledge is that language is about people, not words and grammar points. And, believe it or not, the people that speak the language you want to learn do not live on page 76, exercise 3; they live in the real world, using that language to talk to parents, write work emails, and fall in love. Seek out ways to connect the language you’re studying to the worlds where its actually spoken. This could mean finding music or TV shows in that language to see what native speakers are into, seeking out versions of the websites you love to find out how they actually talk about stuff, or (of course) finding someone who speaks that language natively to chat with. In doing this, you’ll better understand how the language is used and feels when spoken by real people, which is almost always different from how it is used and feels when being taught from a textbook. OpenLanguage is unique in that it provides real language taught by real people, making this real world connection a central part of your studies. Through this real world connection, the language you’re studying will go from feeling like a fossil that you study as a specimen to being a living, breathing thing that you actually want to continue to get to know.

 

3. Try to continue studying even when you’re not “studying”

It’s easy to study for a little bit and then go on with your day without ever once thinking about what you were learning earlier. But to really internalize a language, which is the ultimate goal when studying a language, you have to bring that language with you wherever you go. You’re walking to your car – how do you say “car” in Italian? You head to the store to buy some bread – what’s the right way to say “bread” in Arabic? You just remembered that you need to call your friend – how do you say “I call my friend” in French? By teaching your brain to constantly think about the language you’re learning, it will become second nature to constantly reinforce everything you’ve been learning.

 

4. Go back

Make a point of regularly going back to things you’ve previously studied. You may be years into your studies, but upon returning to beginner topics you may be surprised to find things that you’ve been doing incorrectly all along. Often times these things that were glossed over earlier on in your studies will add a great deal to your now more advanced abilities. Most importantly, going back is an important motivational tool: remember that lesson that was once so difficult for you to understand? Go back and listen to it after a few months of studying and realize how much you’ve progressed.

 

5. Make your learning your own

People love to make big statements about one-size-fits-all language learning tricks, but the bottom line is that you have to make your learning your own. Did that trick or method of studying that you just tried work? Keep doing it. Are you learning Russian in order to communicate effectively during a month vacation in Russia and don’t care much about being able to write the alphabet? Then focus on speaking. Do you only feel like learning how to talk about food and don’t care about learning hospital-related vocabulary? Then food it is. Learning a language is about enriching your life and reaching your goals, and getting there requires initiative on your part to find the method and approach that fits your needs.

 

Top 5- Most Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

There are several mistakes that I hear all the time from English learners.  Some of these are  easy corrections to make that maybe you just weren’t aware of and the others may take more time to work on and may give trouble to even advanced English speakers.  Check this list to make sure you don’t make these mistakes!

Funny sign: Tripping Hazard

1.    Misuse of fun/funny- This is a common mistake that many English learners make.  Fun is something that is entertaining or enjoyable.  Going to the amusement park is ‘fun’.  Funny is something or someone that makes you laugh.    A comedian is ‘funny’.

2.    Articles- This is tough even for many intermediate-advanced speakers.  Remembering to use ‘a’ and ‘the’ and how to distinguish between which one to use can be very tricky for many English learners.  The trick is that ‘the’ is called a definite article, used to describe a specific thing. ‘A’ is called an indefinite article and describes something general and not specific.

“I’m going to the library.” – This probably refers to a specific library that the person you are speaking with will understand.  Maybe there is only one library or it is the library that you often visit.

“I’m going to a party tonight.” – When you say this, it most likely means that the person you’re speaking with is not familiar with the party and you are not specifying which party you will attend.

3.    Misuse of bored/boring- This is similar to the fun/funny mistake.  This leads to a lot of funny statements from people mixing up the two words to incorrectly proclaim, “I am boring!”  Bored describes the feeling of the state that you are in.  “This television show is not interesting.  I am bored.”  Boring describes a person or thing that makes you feel bored.  “This television show is not funny, it is very boring!”   When you say, “I am boring”, you are saying that you are not interesting!

4.    Gender Specific Pronouns- Most common mistakes are due to the fact that the language point doesn’t exist in the speaker’s native tongue.  For example, in Chinese, no gender is specified in the spoken language, so many Chinese speakers mix up “He/She/Him/Her” when speaking.  This is just one of those mistakes that has to be practiced, and it usually doesn’t interfere with communication; it just makes for funny and/or embarrassing situations!

5.    Singular/Plural nouns- Another common error, students often forget to put the ‘s’ on the end of words to make them plural. To create further problems for English speakers, there are other rules involving singular/plural nouns, such as whether an object is countable/uncountable, that leads to further confusion.  A general rule is that if you can’t count the object (water, information, knowledge, etc), you don’t add the ‘s’.  “There is a lot of water in that glass!”

Top 5- Commonly Used English Idioms

Living in China,I’ve had many Chinese people ask me about English idioms that I’ve never heard of and some that aren’t typically used these days.  Its tough to come up with a list of only 5, but I thought I’d start off with a list of my Top 5 Commonly Used English Idioms.  This is not a scientific list of the most frequently used idioms, but a list of some idioms that I hear and say often.  There are many more idioms out there so feel free to list your favorites in the comments!

You can’t judge a book by its cover – This means that people or things don’t always turn out to be the same as your expectations based on appearance.  I often use this when someone or something turns out to be different from my first impression based on how it looks.  You can say this when food tastes better than it looks or even when it tastes worse than it looks!  If someone looks very friendly and turns out to be mean, or if someone looks mean and turns out to be friendly, this is a common idiom that you can use.

Hit the nail on the head – This is an expression you can use when something is absolutely correct.  “You/He/She hit the nail on the head” is commonly said when a person says something that is exactly right.  When you ask someone a question that they get right, you can say, “You hit the nail on the head!”

Have eyes bigger than one’s stomach- This is something that you can say to someone that thinks they can eat more food than they can.  If you go to dinner and order five dishes for yourself, and can only eat one or two, someone may tell you that “your eyes are bigger than your stomach!”

Jump on the bandwagon- This is something that you say when someone likes something only because it’s popular.  It’s commonly used in sports when someone starts supporting a team or athlete when they start winning.  Another example is if your friend starts listening to Justin Bieber because everyone else does, you can say “He/She jumped on the Justin Bieber bandwagon!”

Once in a blue moon – A blue moon is the name of the second full moon that appears in a month, it happens once every couple years, so it is a rare event.  To say something happens “once in a blue moon” means that it is very uncommon.  For example, if you rarely go to the movie theater, you can say, “Once in a blue moon, I go to the movies.”

Top 5- Ways to Achieve Fluency in a Foreign Language

This week’s Top 5 answers the question that every language learner wants to know- how do you achieve fluency in a foreign language?  There are no magic shortcuts, but simply studying from your textbook every week probably won’t get you the results you’re looking for.  The following tips will get you out of the textbook and push your language learning to the next level.

Consume Media-  The most fluent language speakers I’ve encountered are consumers of media in the target language.  Whether its tv shows, movies, or music, regularly listening to the language will attune your ears to the sounds of the language and allow you to better understand native speakers and speak with more natural intonation.

Experience the Culture- Plunging into the culture is a great way to begin speaking more of the language that you study.  If you enjoy food, drink, dance, or other hobbies of a specific region of the world, it helps connect you to the language in a whole new way.  You’ll find yourself picking up new vocabulary and be able to converse with the natives on a deeper level.

Follow Your Interests- Turn your hobby into a learning opportunity.  Whether it’s art, music, sports, or anything else, learn the vocabulary of your interests and develop the confidence to talk about it in the language that you study.

Chat with Natives- If you are in the country of the language you’re learning, this is easy!  Walk outside and chat with people at the convenient store, chat with your cab driver, or simply order food at a restaurant using the language.  Fortunately, even if you aren’t living in a country that speaks the language you’re studying, the internet makes it easy to converse with natives through online social networks for language learning.

Immerse Yourself in the Language- This one really sums up the best ways to learn a language. And you don’t have to live in a country that speaks the language to do this. All of these things revolve around finding ways to incorporate language learning through things that you can enjoy.  Find things that interest you and find people that speak the language that you’re learning and talk about those things.  Watch movies or listen to music that you enjoy. Speak as much as you can, and don’t worry about making mistakes.  Creating an environment that revolves around the language you’re studying is the best way to truly emerge as a fluent speaker.

Top 5- Language Learning Blogs for Students

This post is going to kick off our Top 5 series, showcasing the best of various language learning tools.  Today we’re going to have a look at general language learning blogs. These blogs should be suitable for the polyglots out there as well as those of you that are simply trying to master one language.  Several of these blogs are written by guys that have dedicated their lives to learning multiple languages, and have plenty of insight to share. So without further ado, here are the top 5 blogs for learning a foreign language.

Fluent in 3 Months

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If you have ever studied a language and looked online for guidance, you’ve undoubtedly run across Benny Lewis and his  Fluent in 3 Months website.  Benny calls himself the “Irish Polyglot” and has earned this title by learning to fluently speak multiple languages and sharing his tips and adventures along the way. The site is full of language hacks and resources for learners of any language.

AJATT- All Japanese, All the Time

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Clearly this site is dedicated to Japanese, but the principles can be carried across to learn any language.  The author, known as Khatzumoto, preaches the importance of immersing yourself in a language and having fun with it.  Even though I don’t have the discipline to surround myself in a foreign language 24 hours a day, the way the author does, there is still plenty of insight to be gained from his methods.

The Polyglot Dream

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The Polyglot dream is another popular language learning blog, written by an Italian named Luca, who has been learning languages for the last 20 years. Luca explains the acquisition of language in his blog, and reiterates what nearly all of these polyglots are telling us- learning a language in the traditional classroom setting is not effective! Check out his blog for many of his tips and techniques, and look out for his upcoming book this year on his methodology- the Luca Method.

The Mezzofanti Guild

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The Mezzofanti Guild is written by a guy named Donovan, a graduate of Applied Linguistics. His mission is to pursue his passion for languages and share all that he learns in this blog.  Along with his own stories and experiences, his site attempts to bring together a community of language learners, with a forum for sharing language learnings tips and techniques.

Everyday Language Learner

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The Everyday Language Learner posts weekly tips to help you start learning a foreign language.  Their free email course, The Ten Week Journey, gives you 10 weeks of language coaching and resources to put you well on your way to speaking your target language.