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Posts posted by PashaR

  1. An easy way to improve vocabulary is by learning words that are cognates in your native language and the target language. What is a cognate? It's a word in two languages that shares a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation. Since many languages have borrowed words from others, cognates are usually plentiful and easy to find.

    For example, here are some cognates in English/Russian (I'll give you the English word; in Russian it sounds almost exactly the same): garage, master, massage, music, museum, plan, calendar, soup, salad, restaurant, park, angel, doctor, computer, Internet, taxi, dollar, picnic, menu, business, businessman, studio, oasis, crisis, university, agent, asphalt, intellect, coffee, lemon, lime, nationalism, planet, stadium, theater, television, telescope, microscope, telephone, terrorism, tourism, film, gas, radio, narcotic, cottage, festival...many more!

    Cognates are easy to learn because they sound very similar to the word in your native language. Be careful, though: a word in the target language may sound the same as a word in your native tongue, but have a completely different meaning. For example, in Russian there is a word that sounds exactly like the English word "magazine." However, it means "store" in Russian.

    What are some cognates in your language and the language you are learning?

  2.   Well, I'm certain that most of what will follow has been mentioned already, so I shall be brief.

      Speaking as a teacher, my current preference is for one on one interaction. I find the students to be more focused, relaxed, and openly curious.

      Groups can be standoffish, both with the teacher, as well as other group members.

      In the final analysis, it really boils down to where you feel the most comfortable.

      Was that brief, or what?

    Yes, I agree. (I am an ESL teacher.) The maximum benefit results from one-on-one teaching. In order to make group teaching effective, the teacher needs to consciously create the proper atmosphere - relaxed, fun, interactive. The students must want to get involved and feel comfortable doing so. When everything is "clicking" in a group class, it is lots of fun and a great environment for learning. Of course, most of this depends on the teacher.

  3. To a certain extent, it depends on what your native language is. For example, the Foreign Service Institute has created a rating system for language difficulty for native English speakers. Languages such as Danish, Dutch, French, and Italian are considered "level 1," that is, quite similar to English and easy to learn. Languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic are "level 5," that is, extremely difficult. But notice: while Russian is considered "level 4" (quite difficult) for a native English speaker, it is quite easy for a native Ukrainian speaker to learn because the languages are very similar.

    This certainly would be true for speakers of any language. This similarity or dissimilarity of a foreign language to a person's native tongue determines, in part, how difficult it would be to learn that language.

    That having been said, I think five months is a bit unrealistic. I don't know how similar Greek is to your native language of Turkish, but "writing a proper letter" in Greek requires learning a new alphabet, a reasonably good vocabulary, and an understanding of spelling, syntax, punctuation, and grammar. You may be able to write a brief, simple letter after five months, but the ability to use the language even at the level of an 8- or 9-year-old child would, in my opinion, require considerably more time.

  4. There are pros and cons to each. The success of either depends largely on the teacher and methods he/she uses.

    In a group class, each student can become an "instructor." There are various types of methods/lessons that will expose the student to the target language in ways that a one-on-one lesson cannot. These methods encourage dialogue and are fun and interactive. Games, songs, role-playing, etc., can be very effective in learning and retaining various language points. This, of course, must be closely monitored by the teacher. And for students who are more timid or shy, this may be a more comfortable setting for them.

    A one-on-one program is probably, in the end, more beneficial. The teacher can focus on the student's individual needs and identify weak and strong areas. The entire lesson can be tailored to that one student. The student will be forced to use the target language more than in a group lesson. Plus, during the lesson the student is only hearing native pronunciation, grammar, sentence structure, etc. (if the tutor is a native speaker).

    I've taught both. I enjoy teaching group lessons more because I like the fun, activity-driven environment. It's harder to maintain this type of environment in a one-on-one lesson for 30, 60, or more minutes. This is especially true if the student has a more laid back personality. A sedate, boring lesson where the teacher is doing most of the talking is absolutely the worst environment in which to learn.

  5. Yes, it is a stereotype that native English-speakers (more specifically, Americans) are monolingual and are not interested in learning another language. Often, though, stereotypes are rooted in truth. Reminds me of a joke:

    What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual

    What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual

    What do you call a person who speaks one language? American!

    Truth be told, outside of high school language classes, Americans are not exposed to foreign language very much. You can go anywhere in the US and guess what? It's all English! Go north to Canada and guess what? Again, English! Most cites/states in the US are hundreds (even thousands) of miles from a foreign country where English isn't one of the main languages. Add to that the fact that, since English is an international language, Americans can travel to a lot of different places in the world and get by fine with English. So there just isn't a lot of necessity/opportunity to learn a second language.

    The stereotype "ugly American" tourist who expects other countries to cater to him - including using English - is, unfortunately, more common than one would wish.

    So I think Americans' general lack of knowledge of other languages is due to lack of exposure to other languages, lack of necessity to learn another language and, in some cases, arrogance.

  6. I am a certified TESOL teacher, and most of my teaching now is online. However, I lived in Moscow, Russia for two years and taught English while I was there. I had private students - both children and adults - and I also taught in three different schools. Two were public schools, and one was a very exclusive private school for the ultra-rich who live in new communities just outside of Moscow. In one class, there was a small boy who was called the son of "the Bill Gates of Russia."

    I loved it, and miss Moscow every day. It was an awesome experience. I would love to return, or teach abroad in another country.

  7. Rosetta Stone will make you feel like you are quickly learning a new language. You learn new words and are able to identify proper and improper structures in simple phrases. But it does not teach grammar or proper sentence structure, and you will probably never approach conversational level if it's the only language-learning tool you use. Rosetta Stone spends millions on marketing each year. It's the biggest name in language-learning programs right now. But this isn't because it's the best system, it's simply the most heavily advertised one. The price is outrageous compared to the benefits you'll get from it.

    There is no magic bullet when it comes to learning a language. The Rosetta Stone system isn't worthless, but I really question whether it's worth the exorbitant price. When I took a TESOL course a few years ago, my instructor (who has been teaching this course for many years, has two PhD's in neurology and has learned eight languages) called Rosetta Stone "the biggest waste of money on the planet."

    Pimsleur is a great system and far less expensive. Use books, audio material (much of which is available for free at your local library) and online resources. Don't waste your hard-earned money on Rosetta Stone.

  8. Not sure if you just want to expand your general vocabulary or your specific business vocabulary. I agree with some of the above posters; the "new-word-a-day" apps and websites can be helpful, but they don't allow you see the words in context. Also, some of the words are arcane and you'll simply sound strange or snobbish if you try to use them in general conversation or correspondence.

    Reading is a great way to expand your vocabulary. Unfortunately, much of what appears online and in newspapers today is written by people who themselves don't have a great command of English. I found that authors such as Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, and O. Henry were helpful to me in this regard. Some of the words they used are now obsolete (and Dickens, of course, used British English), but on the whole these authors will help you.

  9. "A Scandal in Bohemia" is, of course, a Sherlock Holmes story. I find all of these stories enjoyable to read. Doyle wrote only four Sherlock Holmes novels (The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of the Four, A Study in Scarlet, The Valley of Fear). It's easy to find a "complete Sherlock Holmes" collection as either an ebook or a paper book.

    My favorite short story writer is O. Henry. His writing (language, I mean) is probably a bit more advanced, and for beginners in English, his stories will be quite difficult to understand. His humor is subtle, he uses slang, many idioms and colloquialisms, and he had an extensive vocabulary. But his stories are funny, witty, adventurous, and often have a great twist at the end.

  10. I have been casually trying to learn Spanish, and find that Pimsleur is a great language-learning program. It doesn't necessarily teach grammar, but you learn words and phrases very quickly because almost immediately you start "interacting" with the audio. It also uses graduated memory recall, which has been proven very effective in remembering vocabulary. Don't waste your money on Rosetta Stone.

  11. The advantage of learning from a non-native is the he/she has had to study all the mechanics of the language - grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation, etc. He is probably more in tune with the actual structure of the language. Native speakers, although speaking the language fluently, often can't explain the grammar of their own language. (Being a native English speaker, I can attest to the fact that many, many native English speakers haven't a clue when it comes to how English grammar works.) I started studying Russian with a native speaker, and he couldn't explain the grammar at all!

    However, I think learning from a native speaker is equally important. Only natives can teach exact proper pronunciation (and hear mistakes you make that you don't hear, and that a non-native speaker wouldn't pick up on), idioms, subtleties of words that you won't find in a dictionary, and conversational speech.

  12. I know quite a few families from Russia & Ukraine who are raising kids here in the USA. I think it is important for the parents to speak their native language at home. The kids will pick up English through friends, television, social media, and especially school. Even so, I have seen teens who can speak their parents' native language but have difficulty reading it.

    I know one Russian boy (he is 15) whose parents decided to speak mostly English to him from the time he was born. Since he was born in the USA, they felt it was important for him to learn English. However, being native Russians, the parents' English is far from perfect. So he has learned English incorrectly. Since they rarely spoke Russian to him, his Russian is quite poor as well. He struggles to read in both languages. I think his parents did him a real disservice; they should have spoken Russian at home. He would have picked up English on his own.

  13. Dead Ringer. it means an exact duplicate, something (or usually someone) that looks exactly like another.

    Here is the ridiculous explanation for this that was circulating in emails several years ago:

    In the 1500's, when people died, the body was not chemically treated, etc., the way they do it today. The body was just put in a coffin and buried. There was a concern, therefore, that the person could possibly still be alive. So a string was attached the the body's hand, through the coffin, and up to the the surface, where is was attached to a bell. If the "dead" person awoke, he could pull the string and ring the bell and be rescued. He'd be called a "dead ringer." (This ridiculous story has also been used to explain the expression "saved by the bell.")

    This is, of course, complete balderdash, and offers no explanation as to the actual meaning of the phrase.

  14. One I like is, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." It simply means don't throw away something valuable or desirable along with something undesirable.

    A few years ago, an email was circulating with the subject line "life in the 1500's." It contained some ridiculous explanations as to the origins of some popular idioms, and this one was included. Here is what is said:

    In the 1500's, water was difficult to obtain, so people shared bathwater. By the time the last member of the family (the baby) was bathed, the water was so dirty and murky, there was a danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater because you wouldn't even be able to see him.

    This is, of course, complete nonsense.

    There are many websites that offer explanations of the origins of idioms, and you have to be careful. Many of them contain such "spook etymologies" which just aren't true. If an idiom has been in use for many years, it is often impossible to track down the origin of it. By the time the idiom makes it into print somewhere - a book or newspaper - it has probably been around for several years already, maybe even decades. Since the people who first started using the phrase are unknown and lost to history, it's just not possible to discover the origin.

  15. I don't think there is a strict definition of the "south" in the United States, but it could be explained this way:

    During the American Civil War (1861-65), the "southern" states were in favor of slavery; the "northern" states were against it. If you look at a map of the USA, the states of Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and all the states south of them, were "the south." (This included North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.)

    Another way to define the "south" is what's called the Mason-Dixon Line. This is a little farther north and includes West Virginia and Maryland in "the south." It is still thought of as indicating the cultural boundary between the north and south.

    Usually the expression "the south" is used when speaking about states that are in the southern part of the US and east of the Mississippi River.

    Whatever the definition, "the south" in the United States certainly has its own culture, including accent, idioms & expressions, food, and many other things.

  16. The expression means that a person is holding a grudge or grievance because he thinks he was treated unfairly in some way. Because of this, the person is prone to argue or fight.

    You have to be careful with websites that "explain" the origins of idioms like this. For many idioms, you can probably find at least three or four different explanations as to its origin. Such a false explanation is called a spook etymology. The fact is, the origins of many idioms are unknown, and no amount of research will get to the bottom of it. Idioms start out as casual phrases in simple conversational speech. It is often a long time before they are "adopted" into a national vocabulary and actually committed to writing. The best that etymologists can do is try to track down the first written occurrence of an idiom, but the idiom was probably in use years, maybe even decades, before it was written in a book, newspaper, etc. And by that time, no one knows where it started. As a result, many of these spook etymologies have been proffered as explanations as to the origins of idioms.

  17. I think in most cases a private tutor is the best way to go. When learning a new language it is important to study grammar, vocabulary, etc., but it is equally important to speak the language at every opportunity. A class with multiple students, or a self-study course, will not afford you the same opportunities to do this as  will a one-on-one teaching environment. Also, language books, exercises, etc., are geared toward formal, "proper" speech. Conversational speech is very different. Conversational pronunciation, too, often differs from "proper" pronunciation. You can study and study and study and then try to have a conversation with a native speaker, and you won't have a clue what he's saying.

    A private tutor can give personal help with pronunciation, grammar, and conversational speech. And you will have much more speaking practice. There is no substitute for such one-on-one help and attention.

  18. I enjoy the sound of French, German, Italian, and Chinese. Chinese is tonal, which makes it interesting to me. I can't say there is a language I "hate" the sound of. Interestingly, though, even though Spanish and Italian are very similar, I don't find Spanish very pleasant to listen to. Italian is very lyrical, almost like singing.

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