That Foreign Language
Being fluent in seven languages, people often ask me, how I did it. If I tell them that I was a child, they react with that usual: "Oh OK!" with the assumption, that it is too late for them to learn. But, I also teach and tutor. For "some reason" my students always enjoy my classes and learn fast.
Like everybody else, I went to school too and realized, that the school system has a way of teaching languages, that does not help anyone remember much. The never ending and boring memorization of vocabulary will make it difficult to get you to be fluent in a foreign tongue.
Growing up our parents did not put vocabulary in front of us, with the expectation that we will retain it. They simply talked to us, kept repeating certain words until our brains connected the dots and started understanding. I teach the exact same way, that I learned: Making the use of all senses through entertainment. We all have been fed songs through the radio and have picked up the words without even liking it. We all remember the sentences of the most annoying commercials. Language is like a style of music. It has it's key tonality, rhythm and accent. So just like music we have to indulge it before analyzing it. Just like dancing, we have to swim in it without thinking too much, or it does not translate.
I Wish I Was...
Children's Books, Favorite TV Shows, Your Style Of Music
I look at those language vocabulary and grammar books and just wonder what the editors were thinking. Sometimes I believe, the creators have no intention to make it easy, maybe because that is the reason why we have up to 7000 different tongues in the world. The funny thing is that none of the languages spoken today was created from scratch. Remember the time as a kid when you reinvented a language and spoke in codes with your peers? The new words were always a composition of words we knew, so that our friends, who knew the rules, could understand and respond without grown ups understanding anything. Imagine if that language went around, all your classmates and other students started speaking it and kept going in adulthood. That is pretty much how all languages in the world were created or better said recycled from Sumerian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin etc.
When I teach English speaking people German, or a Latin language, they mostly come to me with the assumption that it will be difficult for them to learn, but as soon as they sit down and read a text, they start recognizing words and sentences. In the time of streaming information, there are so many free exercise sheets available, we almost do not need to buy school books anymore, but we still buy entertainment.
You remember your favorite children's book? Read it again, in the language you want to learn. You will be surprised how much you will understand and learn by just trying.
Is there a Sitcom you have watched every episode and some even multiple times? Well, go online and download it, in the language you want to learn. Watch it with subtitles.
Is there a style of music you love? The world is full with great music and I received my First Certificate Of The English Language through learning the lyrics of the greatest rappers. No kidding! I used to say stuff like: "If I would... , I would...", but passed my "conditional" test scoring 100% thinking of the Skee-Lo song: "I Wish" (Lyrics: I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller, I wish I had a girl who looked good, I would call her, I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat, and a six four Impala).
Check out my books, tv shows, movies and music suggestions here below. If you end up buying any of this stuff, please do not hesitate to give me some feedback. Meanwhile, enjoy!
My mom read LE PETIT PRINCE (The Little Prince) in Italian and gave me the book in German, then I read it in Italian and finally in French class in college. It is a beautiful inspiring story written for children and grown ups. Some people get the book in their language and simply compare the 2 when they don't understand. It is totally affordable.
"My Best Friend" is a French Movie available on Amazon with Subtitles (I watch everything possible with subtitles. You get a sense of the flow and what is being said no matter if it's a translation or just captions).
You have kids? Lean French and Human Anatomy with my favorite cartoon growing up: Once Upon a Time... Life / Il Ã©tait une fois la vie.
And have you ever listened to Celine Dion in French? Usually CD albums come with the lyrics in the cover. All you have to do is enjoy the music and read along. Next time you listen to the song you will want to sing along and automatically grab the lyrics. Learning songs you learn key sentences and grammar. Too much fun called learning ;)
This is one of my favorite stories of all time. Get the book in its original French language and in your native language so you can compare the two for better understanding.
Watch a French movie with English Subtitles. Get used to how French flows. It doesn't matter if you can keep up with it, nor if you watch it all at once, or in pieces.And by the way, "My Best Friend" is a great movie to watch with anyone.
Celine Dion's French Album is amazing. Read the lyrics while you listen to the song and translate them. There is always a song that speaks to your heart. Even if you only pick up a few words in the hook, you just learned a few words, while enjoying music. It's easier for the brain to learn, while you are having fun.
The Grimm's brothers wrote the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and many more. Read the originals (those for kids, there are plenty of other scary tales but those are for advanced German students. They are too difficult to read for beginners).
You have kids? Watch Once Upon A Time... Life with them. While they will learn German faster than you, you can have fun together learning about the human anatomy.
Run Lola Run is a German movie. If you have seen it in English, it's time to see it in German. Use subtitles and feel free to pause and look up words ;)
Xavier Naidoo should not be aloud to sing in English. He is one of the few singers I can only listen to in German. His music is soulful and deep. You must pull up the lyrics, translate and practice the songs for pleasure and understanding.
At last but not least, who doesn't know Heidi? And, it is a Swiss-German story for children. A great literature.
It doesn't matter how old you are. These tales are always a good read, but if you don't want kids tales, there is the scary version of the Brother Grimm books. It's not all about pigs and cats in boots.
I don't even like German that much, when it comes to music and lyrics, but this guy right here makes German sound like the most beautiful language you have ever heard. He will make you want to pull up the lyrics and translate to understand what he is saying. The funny thing is, that when this soulful man sings in English, he sounds like a german soldier. lol
Run Lola Run was a big hit in the US, although it's a German movie. My theory is that the Bourne movies were inspired by this one and that is why they had to bring back the actress in the first release. Yes, it's the same girl. Watch Lola Rennt with English subtitles or for advanced learners with German captions ;)
I can read the Alchemist over and over again. I read it with my students with the Portuguese and English books side by side. It is very well translated and worth it.
The cool thing about Portuguese is that it's the national language of Brazil and Brazil has the most amazing music rhythms, so there are plenty of translated versions of Brazilian Songs. A lot of the greatest Bossanova hits were written by Jobim and there are English versions around of songs like: Aguas de MarÃ§o - Waters of March; Garota de Ipanema - Girl from Ipanema and many more.
City of God is one of the best movies ever. The cinematography, the sound, the music, the story, ... I could watch this movie over and over and over again. And of course I have the dvd and met the sound re-recording mixer. A great movie to get a feel of the Brazilian language and slang.
The Alchemist is a great read that you can re-read any time. The original is in Portuguese. Get a copy and start reading and translating. If you want, you can get the English version and set them next to each other. It's like this that I got one of my students ready to move to Portugal.
Cidade De Deus
This movie is not only a visual masterpiece, but it has one of the best Soundtracks and it's one of those movies you can watch over and over again. I definitely watch this with my students wit Subtitles. If you are a beginner put the subtitles in English, if you are advanced, use the Portugues subtitle to help you read the words they are saying to practice your ear understand the pronunciation and paste, especially when dealing with slang and every day life. This is an entertaining and fun way to learn a language while learning about its culture.
When I moved to LA, I realized, that everybody knows Topo Gigio. I grew up with Topo Gigio and you can imagine what a positive surprise that was, since it's not Disney. Anyways, enjoy some childhood fun in it's original version. He is too cute.
Why not a horror movie? Dario Argento is like the Italian Steven King and my favorite horror of his is "The Phantom Of The Opera" starring his Daughter, Asia Argento. This movie doesn't have a lot of dialogue and gives one a chance to look up words while following the scary plot.
Storie Italiane is a story book with the English version next to it, made just for people like you.
Luccio Dalla is one of the best lyricists of all time. It's definitely worth it to pull up one of his songs and just go through the lyrics, translating word by word. My favorite song is "Caruso" dedicated to the opera singer Enrico Caruso who became famous in America.
Italians are also known for their comedy. Can't go wrong ending the day with some laughter. Don't worry about not understanding as long as there are English subtitles and feel free to pause and translate on your own. Usually comedy is not translated word by word but you have to get used to the fact that Italy has many different accents and dialects.
But you can always start with the Italian sign language first ;)
When I moved to the USA, I could not believe how many people actually know Topo Gigio, but some of them don't even know that he is native Italian. You can watch this entertaining your whole family. If you have kids, they will end up telling you what he is saying and teaching you Italian. Who doesn't love Topo Gigio?!
© 2014 Venus