July 27, 2016

Language Learning Techniques: Develop your Speaking Skills in Another Language

We hope you found our post on writing skills useful.  This is the last post in the skills development series – and it talks about the most active skill of all, speaking.  Speaking is what most people want to do when they learn a language – it is how you interact with people, and it is the most natural mode of communication. It takes practice but it is very rewarding when you start to speak well in your new language. Here are a few tips to get you speaking fluently.

Speaking 2

Be Patient and Practise
Like babies, when we learn a new language, we start to understand the language we are learning before we start to be able to speak it, and long before we are able to speak it well. It will probably take you longer to master speaking, an active skill, than it does to master the other, receptive (or passive) skills. So remember that speaking takes practice, and the more you do it, the easier it will get.  Don’t be discouraged, and speak as much as you can, to as many people as you can! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – people do that when speaking their own language, so it is perfectly fine to do it in a language you are learning. You can correct yourself just as you do in your first language.

Read Aloud and Get Active
If you are reading a text in the language you are learning, try reading it aloud.  You will get used to making the sounds and how the language works without having to think about the words first – this is good practice for when you have to speak. This is an exercise children do at school too – but you can make it less daunting by doing it in the comfort of your own home!  You don’t need an audience, unless you are a fan of theatre or slam poetry!  In fact, joining a theatre club that performs in foreign languages is a good way to practice speaking in a fun environment. Joining a multilingual choir is another idea.

Copy What People Say
We learn by imitation, and you can put this into practice in the language you are learning.  Listen to the radio or, better, an online broadcast that you can pause and play back and repeat what you hear people say. This works even better if you have a transcript of what is being said. Then you can hear the word, repeat it and check what it is if you didn’t quite catch the meaning. Time how long it takes you to read the whole transcript and see if it takes the same amount of time as the presenters.

Think of a Topic to Talk About
We speak better when we know what we are talking about, so choose a topic you are familiar with, such as your hobbies or what you did at the weekend, and practice talking about it, gradually saying more each time.  You can look up vocabulary first or draw a mind map to get your brain ready and then speak for a minute to start with and then gradually build up the time you talk for. Try this with different topics until you have built up a good conversation repertoire.

Written by Suzannah Young

July 20, 2016

Travelling Corner: The Sub-Tropical Archipelago of the Isles of Scilly (Part 1)

I decided to fulfil my dream and visit the British sub-tropical archipelago, the Isles of Scilly, located around 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall. The weather was beautiful and warm (sometimes even hot!!!), despite the not-always-optimistic weather forecasts.

St Mary 2

The archipelago of Scilly Isles is formed of 5 inhabited islands and 140 or so uninhabited. I stayed on St. Mary’s which is the largest and best connected island. Even if you stay just a week or so, you can easily bump into the same people throughout your stay and it takes only minutes to feel safe and like a local. People leave their unlocked bikes, boats and open-windowed cars on every corner and there is even a luggage storage room which nobody supervises (and it’s safe!). Even though St. Mary’s Island is the largest, I mainly walked everywhere, with one exception of the old-fashioned local bus no 664 which goes around the island (there are no bus stops and the driver announces each stop).

St Mary 8

St Mary 1

I also visited Tresco Island with its famous, spectacular Abbey Garden and beautiful white sand beaches (and quite warm sea). I also went to St. Martin’s and had a quiet and more relaxing time there.

Scilly Gardens

The archipelago of Scilly is a charming place which one could easily call a paradise. I know I could.

St Martin

I am planning to write two more articles, one on all the practicalities and the second on my reading recommendations. To be continued…
Written by Kinga Macalla

July 13, 2016

Book Review: My Reading Companions to Cornwall

I enjoy reading and learning new interesting (arte-)facts about Cornwall. Even though I try to pack my days with as many steps to walk and as many places to visit as possible, there is always time for reading and time to discover new publications on this topic. Below are my essentials:

book review--os maps

I am usually equipped with OS maps which help me to locate myself, measure distances, or check if a beach disappears under a high tide. I find them very useful, but I also follow my own desires if I find an interesting path or if I just go for a walk without a precise destination in mind. Many years ago in a local charity bookshop I bought the walking guidebook called The Big Walks of the South by David Bathurst. Each path (the book includes The South West Coast Path, The Cotswold Way, and The Pembrokeshire Coast Path amongst others) is divided into manageable shorter walks and described with great precision. There are also mentions of places worth visiting. I rarely carry it with me, but I often read the relevant section before leaving home.

book review south walks

Sea + Food + Sleep
Cornwall is the land of many beautiful and secret beaches which I would not have been fortunate enough to discover without these two guidebooks: Wild Swimming. Explore The Secret Coast of Britain by Daniel Start and Wild Guide. Devon, Cornwall and the South West by Daniel Start, Tania Pascoe and Jo Keeping. The latter can also take you on a voyage of discovery of hidden places, local food and campsites. Both guidebooks are very easy to follow and contain many beautiful photos, maps, road directions and short descriptions. Even though they are quite heavy to carry, they are two of my most useful essentials when it comes to travelling to Cornwall.

book review hidden beaches cornwall

Book review wild guidebook cornwall

Art + Science
My most recent discovery is Sea and Shore Cornwall. Common and Curious Findings by Lisa Woollett. The book combines science and art and the result is breathtaking. There are beautiful descriptions, poems, Cornish words, micro- and macro-photos. I enjoy reading its inspiring content on the beach (and trying to identify some of my findings!) and then looking at its lovely pictures when I get home. Here is one of my favourite discoveries/quotations from the book:

equinoctial tides
If we exclude the influence of the winds, the biggest tides of the year come after the full and new moons closest to the spring and autumn equinoxes. There are times when the Earth is the closest to the sun and so the combined pull of sun and moon together is strongest. They are known as equinoctial tides”
[Lisa Woollett, Sea and Shore Cornwall. Common and Curious Findings, Zart Books, 2014, p. 74.]

Book review sea and shore cornwall

Written by Kinga Macalla

July 6, 2016

On Languages: French

One of the most widely-learned and widely-spoken languages in the world is spoken by England’s neighbours across the Channel. Many of us will have learnt some French at school.  The chances are we mostly learnt about France in our lessons.  However, French speakers can be found all over the world, in many countries and on all five continents. With 274 million speakers, French is the 9th most widely spoken language on the planet.  Of those 247 million, 96.2 million are in Africa, making it the continent with the largest number of French speakers, in countries as diverse as Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Rwanda and Morocco.  Many African countries use French as their main international language, as do Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  In Europe, French is the 2nd most common mother tongue, and is spoken in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland, and by some speakers in Italy.  In North America, it is the first language of 7.2 million Canadians and nearly 2 million people in the United States (primarily in Maine and Louisiana).  It is also spoken in Lebanon, and in French overseas territories like Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Polynesia.

French also has an important place in international institutions.  It is one of the official languages of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union (EU).

On Languages--French 2

Apprendre le français – Learning French
French is a Romance language.  As such, it is similar to Italian, Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese in its vocabulary and grammar.  Its spelling is slightly more difficult than those other languages though, as it has many homophones (words that sound the same but are spelt differently) and silent letters, and it has a some irregular plurals: plurals usually end in ‘-s’ but they can also end in ‘-eux’ and ‘-aux’ (watch out for ‘cheval’ (horse)-‘chevaux’ (horses) vs ‘cheveu’ (a hair)-‘cheveux’ (hair)).

Grammatical differences between French and English are that French uses gendered nouns, so there are nouns like ‘la voiture’ (the car) and ‘le bateau’ (the boat).  Sometimes, the gender of the word changes its meaning, so ‘la tour’ is a tower and ‘le tour’ is a trip around something (like Le Tour de France).  Adjectives take the same gender as the noun, so ‘the blue boat’ is ‘le bateau bleu’ and ‘the blue car’ is ‘la voiture bleue’.

French verbs take different forms depending on the speaker – these are called conjugations.  English only changes its conjugation for the third person (he, she, it) (I walk, you walk, he/she walks, we walk, you all walk, they walk) but French does this for every person (je marche, tu marches, il/elle marche, nous marchons, vous marchez, ils/elles marchent).

French has some different past tenses compared to English, and two auxiliary verbs, avoir and être, which are used to form the past.  The gender of the person has to agree with être verbs.

Parler français – Speaking French
Because French is found in so many different places, there are inevitably many different varieties of the language. There are differences in words, expressions, pronunciation and even grammar.  This page has some videos that show you the differences. You can choose which variety you would like to learn and find examples of it online to help you practice, or you can watch films or listen to the radio.  A good place to listen to different varieties of French is Radio France Internationale, which has presenters and callers from around the world.

If you want to speak like a native French speaker, the chances are you will need to work on your pronunciation.  The French language has quite a few sounds that do not exist in English, such as ‘ʁ’, the guttural ‘r’, which means that you pronounce ‘r’ with your throat rather than at the front of your mouth, and ‘y’, a ‘u’ sound made with your lips pursed.  You may also notice that French people move their mouths a lot when they speak – this is because it is important to articulate when speaking French.  Practise doing this in front of a mirror – and don’t be embarrassed to do it when speaking in public too!

S’ouvrir sur le monde – Embrace the world
Speaking French gives you access to an array of culture – literature, film, music, history, food, philosophy, art, fashion – from all the different places where French is spoken and allows you to travel the world (all five continents, remember).  It also gives you an insight into international politics and, who knows, might even land you a job in one of the European or international institutions!

Written by Suzannah Young