Language Tips of the Week

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Hola a todos und hallo zusammen! I have a handful of tips from my learning this week which will fit neatly enough into one post: my new favourite Spanish resources, and some real bad German words (i.e. DENGLISCH).

Entonces, el fin de semana que viene, voy a viajar a Madrid! Estoy muy emocionante para practicar el idioma y, ademas, para compartir mi experiencia con vosotros. Pero al primero…

Listening
Listening is one of the hardest skills for an intermediate learner – not necessarily in the classroom, but absolutely when you turn on the radio. Since I am always listening to podcasts (in fact, this weekend I was at the 3rd annual London Podcast Festival with all the other cool kids) I’ve naturally been on the look out for podcasts that’ll help me with my Spanish.

TV can be more helpful for language learners because you have the visual aid – but at least you can listen to a podcast when you’re out walking. On top of that, several podcasts have written transcripts you can refer to or even read while you’re listening. Por ejemplo…

Españolistos is a conversation podcast aimed at intermediate learners. There is definitely a ton of podcast options for beginners, which teach simple phrases, but these presenters (Colombian and an American) speak everyday Spanish at a manageable speed. Plus, it is comforting to hear the American guy’s good Spanish but distinct American accent – I guess we all go through the accent struggle!

Radio Ambulante is a culture and current affairs podcast about a myriad of topics from Latin America. They recently became part of NPR, and each week features a different story. It is advanced Spanish – I am starting B1 Spanish next month, and it is a real challenge for me. However, the transcripts are in both Spanish and English. Given the strength of the reporting and the stories which are being told, I find it worth following the episodes and referring back to the original transcript as well as the translation. I can really push my listening comprehension and overcome some of the “oh my god” feeling you get when you hear native level Spanish.

Another Language App
I am definitely not being paid by busuu to plug them, but I saw a half-price subscription offer for this app (which is similar to Babbel) and I am really enjoying it so far, based on the structure, topics, and grammar tips. The lessons also encourage listening comprehension (entire little conversations) and get you to provide written answers – it feels like the most proactive language learning app I’ve tried so far.

Last but not least I learned a new terrible ‘Denglisch’ word this week. You might have already heard of the German word ‘Oldtimer’ – over there it means a vintage car. But, even worse than Oldtimer is the term Youngtimer. If Oldtimer is a car from the 40s or 50s, Youngtimer is a slightly-less-old vintage car, i.e. from the 1980s. It-is-so-terrible-why

It reminded me of one of the word offenders, and oldest examples, of Denglisch: der Keks (pl. Kekse). Keks is the German for biscuit (cookie). But the word comes directly from the English word cake.

Given that cakes and biscuits are very dissimilar and that one is superior to the other (we all know which one) I have always found this very disrespectful to cake.

Further reading: British biscuit vs cake drama

8 apps for language learning irl

Here are the apps I use all the time for German and Spanish:

  • The Dictionary Linguee is multilingual and lets you download whole dictionaries – more informative than simple translation
  • The Translator Google Translate is always useful for speed and translating simple phrases (and getting better all the time, as long as you have the editing skills to correct the results)
  • The Conversation iTalki gives you free access to other language learners from around the world – and has the option of paying for a Skype tutor (inexpensive and reliable)
  • The Classroom Babbel is one of the paid subscription courses which is helpfully structured (including grammar sessions) and provides a quality which is hard to find for free.
  • The Conjugator Conjugador has complete conjugation lists for every Spanish verb – the most reliable way to clear up tense confusion. Find one for your language!
  • The Flashcards Memrise is all about memorisation. For free you can choose your language, your level, and work your way through the vocab. It reminds you of the words you need to revise (often at first, and then less frequently) and keeps track of your ‘streak’. The vocabulary is focused on every day language, and provides audio and video examples from native speakers.
  • The Classic Duolingo offers quite random vocabulary but they understand gameified learning and its appeal – brings many people back to languages or introduces them to new ones.
  • The Audio Podcasts offer a mixture of real conversation and shows targeted specifically at learners, and are perfect for your listening practice.