The Icelandic Struggle : An Adventure in Weak and Strong Adjective Endings

An Icelandic puffin. Image from freeimages.com

The struggle is real. Icelandic adjective endings can be a real pain. Granted, declining adjectives is not an exclusively Icelandic trial. Adjectives that decline for gender, number – and, where applicable, case – crop up in many languages. French, Italian, Russian… Continue reading

Anki custom note types for complex morphology flashcards

A spreadsheet containing German verb information.

If you use Anki, have you ever felt like the the out-of-the-box templates are a little basic? The default card has just two fields for back and front. Of course, this is instantly relevant for simple vocabulary learning. You can… Continue reading

Building linguistic muscle memory with Duolingo

An owl. Probably not the Duolingo one, but I'm sure they're friends. (Image from freeimages.com)

I achieved not quite a lifelong dream this week. Let’s call it a months-long dream. I finally reached level 25 in German on Duolingo! When the moment of glory came, it was more with a fizzle than with fireworks. As the… Continue reading

À la modal : how these little nuancing verbs can fix your fluency

Modal verbs can lend colour to your speech (image from freeimages.com)

I have a nerdish love of verbs. For me, it’s where it all comes together in language. They are sentence glue. Conjugate them, and you can hang the rest of the sentence from them like on the branches of a… Continue reading

DIY mass sentences technique : self-made repetitions for grammar mastery

A vast array of colourful baubles, as varied as your own mass sentences can be. (Picture from freeimages.com)

I’ve talked about the utility of mass sentences previously, including the vast resources at Tatoeba and Glossika. It can be particularly helpful in drilling language patterns through high exposure to model content and multiple repetitions. However, it’s possible to replicate… Continue reading

Bilingual books: tips and tricks for free online reading material 📚

Books on a bookshelf

Thanks to a recommendation from another polyglot friend, I’ve been exploring bidirectional translation as a new language learning method lately. It involves working with parallel texts in your target and native languages to strengthen vocabulary and grammar. The only snag: it… Continue reading

Grammar on a budget: CGP French handbook [review]

The French flag flying in front of a town hall

I’m a big fan of school revision materials as cheaper alternatives to expensive language textbooks. CGP’s foreign language GCSE revision guides are a case in point. The publishers may be targeting teenage students, but the material is just as effective for… Continue reading

Course books for linguists: save cash with revision guides

Study material for a course

When you commit to learning a foreign language, it’s not unusual for a first step to be seeking out good course material. There are plenty of very well established courses, the best including audio material. The staple Teach Yourself series, for example, was… Continue reading

Sentence building: Go beyond words with Tatoeba

A dictionary won't always help you learn words in their natural habitat: the sentence.

Learning and assimilating vocabulary in a foreign language isn’t simply a case of learning lists of words: context matters. Just like a careful zoologist observing animals in the wild, it’s important to study words in their natural habitat: the sentence. Conversely,… Continue reading

Spanish Grammar Bites: The personal ‘a’

Spanish flag

I love language quirks. Little things that your foreign language does, well, just differently. The Spanish personal ‘a’ is the perfect example of that for me. Learning these little foibles isn’t just a case of speaking correctly – it sets you… Continue reading