May 25, 2016

Language Learning Techniques: Develop your Reading Skills in Another Language

You may remember our blog post from a few weeks ago on how to improve your listening comprehension skills in a new language.  This week we give you more tips on how to optimise your language learning – this time with advice on how to develop your reading in another language.  Whether you’re choosing what to eat at a restaurant, poring over a newspaper, or following directions on a map, reading is a big part of using your target language.  Working on your reading skills can also help you develop your writing as you learn about written constructions.  Here are a few ideas to help you learn.

Reading skills 2

Read a Lot
Read anything you can get your hands on in your chosen language. Try to read at least one thing in the language you are learning every day. The more you read it, the more familiar the language will become and the easier reading will be.  Reading will help you develop background knowledge about the culture you are studying too, which will help your understanding as well.  You can also read about the culture in your own language, so it becomes familiar to you.

Choose Materials You Find Interesting
You can choose a text type you are familiar with, through your work or hobbies, and read an example in your chosen language, such as a magazine article on motorbikes or a recipe for a typical dish from the country where they speak the language you are learning.  You will know what kind of words will be used, so you will be comfortable with the task.  Choose things you would like to read in your native language. Don’t read things that are boring just because you think you should – it will put you off!  Pick your favourite novel and read the translation in the language you are learning.  You might like to try graded readers as well, as the structures are adapted to learners of the language but they pitch the story to adults rather than children so it is not boring for adult learners.  Reading for pleasure can help your learning immensely – it is not the same as using a textbook which (let’s be honest) can be a bit dry sometimes.

Develop Your Vocabulary – Gradually
The good thing about reading is that you can control how fast you learn.  You can give yourself time to think.
When you first approach a text, read for the gist – identify words you know and work out the general subject.  Look up a few words if you are really stuck on them but don’t dwell on how many words you don’t know and don’t look up all the unfamiliar words you read – it will slow you down.  Instead, underline them to look up later.  Remember, you will be able to understand a lot of the text even if you don’t understand every word.  You can look up the words you underlined when you finish reading.  You can always read the text again once you’ve done that.  As you look up words, build lists of vocabulary by theme.  For example, list everything you find about cooking, sports, the weather or politics.  If you find a verb, look up nouns that go with it, and adjectives.  For example: ‘compter’ in French means ‘to count’, ‘comptable’ is ‘accountant’ and ‘comptabilité’ means ‘accounting’.  In Italian, ‘rabbia’ is ‘anger’, ‘arrabbiarsi’ is ‘to get angry’ and ‘arrabiato’ is ‘angry’.  Most languages will allow you to do this exercise!  You can also find lists of vocabulary to learn on the internet, such as the 1000 words challenge (  Look up synonyms and antonyms of the words you learn to build your vocabulary even more.  If you are a visual learner, draw pictures associated with the words you are learning to help you remember them.  Repeat the words as much as you can so they stick in your head.
Of course, one thing to remember is that you don’t read just in order to learn words. If you read a book you are interested in, you will learn words in context and be more likely to remember them anyway.

Give Yourself Different Reading Tasks
Try different reading tasks to build your ease of reading.  You can time how long it takes you to read a text a few times – you will see how you get faster as your fluency increases.  You can decide to read fast or slow.  You can read a text aloud (this will also help with your pronunciation), in a reading group or in a pair (meet up with someone from your class!)  Come back to texts you have already read to see how much more you understand the second time round!  Listen to the text you are reading – an audiobook or a radio show with a transcript, for example – to hear how native speakers pronounce the words and what the reading aloud style is like in your chosen language.

Bonne lecture! Veel leesplezier! Miłego czytania!

Written by Suzannah Young

May 18, 2016

Careers Advice: Working as a Translator or Interpreter

When you learn a new language, one way you might like to put your skills to good use is by becoming a translator or interpreter.  Translation is turning a text written in one language into a text in another language and interpreting is conveying a spoken or signed message in a different spoken language.  In this post we give you tips about how to train for both professions.  They are both careers that can take you round the world or can allow you to work from your own home.  You will find more tips on how to work as a translator or interpreter in this webinar.

career advice--translation and interpeting 2

Training as a Translator
There are many different translation genres, such as legal translation, medical translation, technical translation, scientific translation, literary translation – to name but a few – and it is possible to specialise in one or more.

Various universities in the UK and abroad offer translation courses, including the University of Bristol, which offers an MA in Translation and the University of Bath, which offers an MA in Translation and Professional Language Skills.

The Chartered Institute of Linguistics Diploma in Translation (DipTrans IoLET) is a postgraduate diploma available for many language combinations.  You can study for it at a school or through distance learning.

If literary translation is your thing, you can go to the British Centre for Literary Translation international summer school in Literary Translation and Creative Writing.

There are also numerous events that allow you to network with other translators and improve your career prospects, including the British Library Translation Day.  You can read about the 2015 edition on the British Library website.

Training as an Interpreter
Just as translation takes various forms and translators can specialise in different genres, there are different types of interpreting that require different types of training.

To do public service interpreting, which, in the UK, means interpreting in the areas of law (courts, solicitors, immigration), healthcare (hospitals, clinics, GP practices) and local government (housing, social work, education, etc.), you can train for an IoLET Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) for one of the three domains.

To interpret for the police, you can train for the IoLET Diploma in Police Interpreting.

You can also do a BA or an MA in Interpreting (such as this one at the University of Bath) – as long as public service interpreting skills are emphasised – or a Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting.

Another type of interpreting is conference interpreting, that is used in business and government environments, which can be studied for at universities around the world.  Check here for a list of eligible schools. There is also advice on the European Commission website on how to become a conference interpreter; the European institutions are one of the main places that employ conference interpreters, alongside the United Nations, NATO, and other international bodies.

Membership of Professional Bodies
Like other professions, translation and interpreting have professional associations that you can be a member of. Membership of the Chartered Institute of Linguists gives you access to networking opportunities, professional development, a magazine subscription and other benefits as well. Membership of the Institute of Translators and Interpreters is available to individuals and organisations and includes benefits such as subscription to the ITI Bulletin professional journal, discounted events attendance, networking opportunities and access to job adverts.

Written Suzannah Young

May 11, 2016

Book Review: The Accidental Asian by Eric Liu

Eric Liu is a monolingual American whose Chinese parents emigrated to the USA and lived there for the rest of their lives. In Liu’s memoir, The Accidental Asian, he presents a series of essays on ethnic identity, assimilation and “Chinese-ness ”. He chose topics that are particularly close to him, to his experience and to his unique family and life situation.


I found the extracts devoted to the Chinese language really fascinating. Eric Liu is not bilingual; he speaks and understands some Chinese, but not fluently. In fact, he expresses his surprise in the book at how little he could understand his Chinese grandmother, Po-Po. We also learn that he is unable to read a Chinese memorial book about his father’s life. I suppose  his complete assimilation had its price: he lost this common skill binding him to his family and ancestors.

I would definitely recommend this book to any parent who is hesitating as to whether to raise their child multilingually and also to anyone who is interested in multilingualism, multiculturalism and “Chinese-ness”.

Written by Kinga Macalla

May 4, 2016

On Languages: Czech

The Czech language or čeština is a language which may look and sound difficult: the words’ endings can change, vowels with acute signs have a longer pronunciation and words are written with diacritics. BUT, it is a funny sounding language due to its soft pronunciation, with many words you may already know or which may sound familiar: e.g. muzeum, galerie, sestra, tři, robot, Pilsner, Škoda, Bat’a. What’s more, the stress is always on the first syllable and there are only three tenses: the present, the past and the future!

Osudy dobreho vojaka Svejka

The Czech language belongs to the group of Slavonic languages and if you speak Russian, Polish or Croatian, that certainly helps. But, this does not mean that non-Slavonic-language speakers cannot master the language.

In many textbooks, it is said that there are two Czech languages, the standard (spisovná čeština) and the colloquial (obecná čeština). This is a phenomenon that also exists in many other languages: the everyday language is different from the one spoken in formal situations. Yet  in Czech, the difference between the two is indeed visible. If you happen to live in the Czech Republic you can learn it fairly quickly (as you will hear how the natives speak on a regular basis) and if you are living abroad and want to learn Czech for business or to follow the news and read newspapers, then the formal language might be more useful. However, you can always learn both!
Written by Kinga Macalla