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Posts posted by SirTenenbaum

  1. From an American English perspective, both the past tense and the present perfect sound correct. Neither one sounds more natural than the other. In American English however, rather than saying "to study at university" we would most likely say "to go to college." Therefore the sentence would be: "It's been a long time since I went to college" or "It's been a long time since I've gone to college" from an American English perspective.

  2. I tried DuoLingo, and I must say it was awfully boring for me. I couldn't stick with it. It also has some shortfalls, since you have zero opportunities for using the language spontaneously and creatively as you would in a real-world conversation. Successfully translating nonsensical sentences like "My horse drinks wine" from English into the target language is a far cry from functional, spontaneous and creative language use. Nor does DuoLingo provide much contact with language above the sentence level. Trying to comprehend a news article or a chapter from a novel are very different from translating "the glass" into the target language.

  3. This could be good, but I can see at least one possible pitfall. The biggest problem would be if nobody is a native-speaker of Spanish and everyone speaks English as their first language. What often happens in this kind of situation (in my experience) is that people start feeling awkward speaking in Spanish and then just end up talking in English.

    If it works out using Meetup, then great! But what I prefer to do is to talk with native speakers through Skype--half hour in Spanish and half hour in English. I guess you're speaking in English for half the time, but it's for a really good purpose and you have access to a native speaker of Spanish. Not only is that great for the language itself but for all sorts of cultural elements American speaking partners wouldn't know so much about, if any.

    If you go, Hardison, make sure to write about what it was like.  : )

  4. Para contestar la pregunta, diría que depende de las metas del estudiante. Si el estudiante quiere estudiar en España, debe tener contacto con las variedades españolas--si el estudiante va a vivir en Argentina, debe familiarizarse con el español de Argentina.

    Si uno no tiene planes específicos para el futuro, yo sugeriría que estudiara un poco de muchas variedades para evitar limitarse a una sola región. Sin embargo, ya que el español de México es importante en los Estados Unidos, creo que estudiar el español de México sería útil.

  5. There's basically an infinite amount of material on the internet. :)  You can just type in "google noticias" to get a look at a wide range of different articles on different subjects from Google's news pages in Spanish. Google news in Spanish has pages for different Spanish-speaking countries like Spain, Mexico, and Peru.

    Reading is a wonderful thing to do to learn a foreign language because it allows you to achieve an enormous amount of meaningful contact with the language in a really convenient way. If you enjoy reading, definitely read as much as you can in the target language whether it's news, novels, comics, commercials, or whatever.

  6. This does seem interesting and there are probably some benefits to it, but a one possible weakness jumps out at me. The biggest thing is that the learner is largely reduced to the role of a parrot repeating words and sentences fed to him/her (from what I understood in the article). Nearly all language use in real-life situations is spontaneous and creative. With Shadowing, the learner doesn't get any chance to practice creating his/her own language for a given situation. Jumping from blindly repeating things to saying something off the top of one's head would certainly be a big shock.

    A good thing is that the learner is aware of the meaning of what he/she is saying since the translation is given, although there might be better ways of establishing meaning (with activities like matching, multiple choice, etc. in the target language). It's also nice to have the model of a native-speaker to imitate. Shadowing is definitely better than nothing, and it would probably be a nice element in an eclectic approach to learning a language.

  7. Hi all. In the future I might be interested in studying Japanese. A resource for learning Kanji that I found was a book called "Remembering the Kanji" by James Heisig. I read some positive reviews about it. Has anyone here tried, and if so what was your experience? Thanks!

    PS There is a pdf section of the book online for free (legally) if you want to check it out.

  8. Make sure not to make the mistake of thinking "Ok, I want to be friendly with this person I don't know, so I'll use ." If you want to ask a question to a middle-aged person in Latin America you don't know, use Usted and not . You can offend someone by addressing someone as and not Usted. (Remember, that both these words translate as "you" in English.)

    There are regional differences however. In the majority of Spanish-speaking Spain, the use of Usted is much less common than in Latin American countries. And in different regions (especially throughout Central America), the distinctions are complicated with the use of vos in addition to or in place of and Usted. I believe in some areas of Colombia, everybody (even young people talking to each other) addresses everbody as Usted. If you travel, don't be surprised to encounter things that are very different from what you learned.

  9. Hang on a second though. The only form of "haber" in the preterite tense is the third person singular "hubo" (although many native-speakers also use the third person plural "hubieron"). No one ever says "hube", "hubiste", etc.

    Remember "hubo" means "there was" or "there were". For example: "Hubo una tormenta." -- "There was a storm."

  10. I think the original poster meant "just reading" or "only through reading" when she said "reading only" as in "Only through reading one can learn a foreign language."

    Reading for pleasure in the target language is an excellent activity a person can do to increase their vocabulary and to make their grammar more sophisticated. But while reading is excellent, reading alone isn't enough. If somebody wants to improve their speaking, speaking cannot be absent from a person's involvement in the language. Listening to the language is also important, especially if the target language has a very nontransparent orthography like English (compare the pronunciation/spelling of words like head, meat, meet, bed, bread, bead, deed). If one is reading the language and understanding it but pronouncing the words incorrectly in his or her head, there are going to be lots of problems when he or she needs to use the language in a real-time conversation.

    Again, reading is great, but it's not enough unless your goal is specifically just to read the language well. The helpfulness of reading alone also depends on the spelling/pronunciation of the language. For orthographically transparent languages like Spanish it's great, but with a language like English you're going to need some extra help with pronunciation and listening.

  11. I don't think you need to buy Rosetta Stone--it's a lot of money, and I'm doubtful that it's worth it. I would recommend finding a speaking partner online to skype with and buying a few novels to read in French.

    If you need something structured, the University of Texas at Austin has a free online French textbook that's called "Francais Interactif" (with a cedilla of course). I've used the textbook in conjunction with reading novels in French, and it is quite enjoyable and much cheaper than Rosetta Stone-it's only the cost of some used novels in French. Heck, you could maybe find some at a library. And honestly, do you really need to practice the sentence "The boy jumps" dozens of times like you do in Rosetta Stone? The only thing I'm lacking is a speaking partner, but I'm not really interested in that right now. I'm happy with reading French.

    Also, whatever you do, you have to enjoy doing it.

  12. I'm learning French on my own right now too. I think the best thing to do is to go through a French textbook while at the same time having authentic contact with the language. The University of Texas at Austin has a free online textbook called "Francais Interactif" (pardon the lack of the cedilla) that you could use to help with building familiarity with grammar and vocabulary to support your other more authentic uses of it. Finding a speaking partner or watching movies in French would be good, but it can be discouraging. If you watch movies but only understand 2% of what they're saying, I doubt that's a good investment of time.

    What I like to do is read Harry Potter in French. The language (vocabulary and grammar) is a little easier since it's meant for young adults. I'm also familiar with story, which helps along. The enjoyable thing about reading is that you can go as slow or fast as you want.

    The bottom line is that whatever you do, it has to be meaningful contact with the language, but more importantly, it has to be fun. If it's not fun, then you'll give up rather quickly. So have fun!

    Re: Rosetta Stone--My advice is to not buy Rosetta Stone. It would be boring and not worth the price. There are plenty of free resources or authentic sources you can use. And remember, learning a foreign language is a slow process, and there is simply no way around that. But that's what also makes it so rewarding.

  13. I might have a helpful tip for pronouncing the French "r". The sound is produced by vibrating your uvula, which is exactly what you do when you gargle water. Act like you're gargling water in your mouth without the water, and you've pronounced the French "r"! I agree that it is difficult to handle, but with some practice you can get more control over it.

    What I've done in the past that has helped is to practice syllables with "r" in isolation. For example I would practice saying ra, re, ri, ro, ru and ar, er, ir, or, ur with the French "r" of course and French vowels. Doing these little exercises once in a while made it easier when I needed to speak spontaneously.

    Anybody else?

  14. I'm about to finish my master's degree in Spanish linguistics, but I will move to Mexico next June to teach English there as my career (my secondary concentration is in foreign language pedagogy). I studied abroad in Mexico in 2009, and it was amazing to see the difference in my abilities after I came back. The difficult things is that it often seems like you're not improving your language abilities while you're there if you compare yourself to native speakers, but when you compare yourself to yourself you can really see the difference.

    My biggest piece of advice for anyone is to not erroneously think any native speaker of English can teach English as a foreign language. Not only do people need an understanding of basic theory in foreign language teaching, they also need some awareness of the English language from the perspective of it as a foreign language. As an example with theory, do you know what "input" and "output" are, and why they are important? Can you think of examples of activities that provide "meaning-bearing input"? For an example with the English language, do you know what "third-person singular s" is or how negation works in English?

    Training is very necessary. I cringe to think what I did when I tried to teach English at a community center with zero training. Of course, I didn't have a textbook and tried to make my own materials, but at least having a textbook to follow is very necessary if you're beginning.

  15. I have always wanted to learn French since I was a child. I am currently taking courses on a different language, but I have heard from some of my classmates that French is one of the most difficult to learn. Having read your explanation, I am beginning to feel discouraged in attempting to learn more about it haha! Discouraged, but challenged at the same time. I have to say, though, that this information was definitely interesting.

    Every foreign language is going to have things that seem impossible. Generally, it just takes time and study to get the hang of most things. French has certain things about it that make it more difficult compared to other foreign languages and certain things that make it less difficult compared to other foreign languages.

    For an example comparison with Spanish, although pronunciation and spelling is more difficult in French than in Spanish, French completely avoids the immense difficulty of having two verbs for "to be" like Spanish does: "ser" and "estar" in Spanish but only "être" in French. The subjunctive is also generally more complicated in Spanish than it is in French.

    Gaining proficiency in ANY foreign language isn't a cake-walk, but if you're really interested in studying French (or another foreign language) you can certainly give it a shot and see where it takes you.

    P.S. The initial example in the first post about asking questions in different ways isn't really that confusing once you have some contact with the language for a while.  :)

  16. I have to respectfully disagree with the previous poster, MyDigitalPoint. Spanish conjugations are much more complex than in English. In fact, they basically do not exist in English.

    Compare: I went, you went, he/she went, we went, they went

                yo fui, tú fuiste, él/ella fue, nosotros fuimos, ellos/ellas fueron

    You should focus on learning regular verbs first, and you will inevitably struggle with those (not to mention irregular verbs). Acquiring regular verbs generally comes before irregular verbs in the natural order of acquisition. However, common irregular verbs (such as "ir") are important to be familiar with. Mastering preterite conjugations in real-time in a conversation is a process that takes years (and I mean years) of lots of contact with the language, especially if Spanish is the first foreign language you're studying. Many people who have their bachelor's degrees in Spanish make mistakes with preterite conjugations, not to mention differentiating between the preterite and the imperfect.

    My advice would be to study the verb endings as much as you like, but the best thing to do would be to do something that gives you immense exposure to the language. Reading for pleasure in Spanish is a great way to do that. (I love to read Harry Potter in French.) There will be many things you don't understand completely, but many things you will. Also try to review grammar explanations often in order to better understand what you encounter while you read. It's astounding how much you forget.

    And remember, learning a language is a slow, gradual process. But it is really rewarding.  :)

  17. I think Paolo is correct with "Creo que es ridículo que los gatos sean más populares que los perros."

    You are correct that "creer que" does take the indicative, and that's why it is "Creo que es ridículo..." and not "Creo que sea ridículo..." Then of course, "es rídculo que" takes the subjunctive with "es ridículo que los gatos sean...".

    "Creer que" has a subordinate verb in the indicative ("es") and "es ridículo que" has a subordinate verb in the subjunctive ("sea").

    This wasn't a stupid question at all--it was very perceptive.  :)

  18. It depends on what your goals are. If you want to be able to understand authentic language in newspapers, magazines, books, advertisements and/or be able to speak it conversationally with others, I don't think reading a dictionary would be effective because it's not the way the language is used in communicative contexts. What would really help your vocabulary/grammar acquisition is reading a novel or news articles in the target language where you understand the majority of what you encounter. Through that process your brain absorbs lots of information in ways the language is actually used. The good thing about reading a novel is that you can often not understand a whole sentence or even a whole paragraph and still be able to follow along with the plot.

    A tip I have is that you have to do something you think is fun. If it's not fun, you'll most likely quit doing it rather soon. Also, if you don't have a speaking partner, you can literally talk to yourself throughout the day in the target language. Writing something and then reading aloud is pretty much reading aloud rather than speaking (since speaking, as most people mean with foreign languages, is spontaneous).

    As a final tidbit, it can take up to 15 different encounters with a word in context (sometimes more) before it's stored in the brain for retrieval. I'm afraid there aren't any shortcuts. (Sad, I know.)

    Anyway, what of the system where you read a dictionary from cover to cover? Can the mind store up some of the words and extract them for you when you badly need to use it [or them]?

  19. From my experience, the word "Castilian" is just the name given to the predominant Spanish accent in Spain (coming from the name of the region "Castilla"). Castilian is one of the many accents of the Spanish-speaking world. Learning "Castilian" is simply learning "Spanish" I believe. It's important to note that some people prefer one word to another for political reasons.

    As far as the speed, I've always thought that Spanish-speakers from Spain generally speak faster than in Latin America. I don't know if this is actually true or not; it could just be my relative unfamiliarity with the Castilian accent. It's also good to remember that there are many individual speaking styles and differences.

    Anybody else?

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