Feeding the Pidgins : Perfectly Imperfect Communication

Pidgins - or pigeons? Picture by Lozba Paul, freeimages.com

One of the language learning lifelines that has kept me going during lockdown is our little Gaelic chat circle that meets weekly on Zoom. We started off as an in-person pub chat group back in January, but as normal life… Continue reading

Building Blocks for Faster Fluency

Building Blocks. Image by Jeff Prieb, FreeImages.com.

The highlight of my language learning week was a short, spontaneous dialogue in Swahili. Before I get too big for my boots, I should add that it was about buying bananas, and wasn’t based on fact. Rather, it was invented on… Continue reading

Phonetics Mismatch – Why We Mispronounce Foreign Languages (And Why It Doesn’t Really Matter)

A picture of a mouth articulating. Accurate phonetics gets us close to sound native. Image from freeimages.com

This week, I had the great news of an offer to study towards an MSc in Linguistics. And, keen on preparing well for a good start, I started working through a couple of the set texts. First up: phonetics and… Continue reading

Social Bookending : Scripting conversation start and end points for better flow

A row of old books. Image from freeimages.com

Tim Burton tells us that every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or was it Jean-Luc Godard – or even Aristotle? Anyway, whoever – and whenever – it was, they had a pretty solid, if obvious,… Continue reading

iTalki Isolation Blitz? Here’s how to make the most!

Three plush monkeys in the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil poses. Image by freeimages.com

Armed with a bunch of loose ends and a clutch of free evenings, I have been spending quite a bit of time on iTalki over the past few weeks. In order to avoid bankruptcy, I tend to go for community… Continue reading

Learner Isolation : Rethinking Language Strategies in Difficult Times

A picture of a window taken from inside. Two houseplants sit in pots on the windowsill. Isolation needn't be limiting. Picture from freeimages.com

What a week. It is no longer a distant item on the evening news. Everybody is starting to feel the impact of Covid-19 containment and delay measures. And as language learning can be such a social activity, the isolation blues… Continue reading

Time for some adverbs – fluency hacks for fast-paced chat

A pocket watch with the time showing as quarter past three. Image from freeimages.com.

I’m a big fan of the speaking bingo sheet for conversation prep. I try to make use of them whenever I have an iTalki lesson, for example (as well as the time to prep one beforehand!). One of the most… Continue reading

Great accent, shame about the rest!

Accent - sometimes you can be too good! Image by Betty Miller from FreeImages.com

How is your accent in the language you’re learning? I’m pretty pleased with mine. In fact, I think it might be a little too good. Before the eye-rolling starts, let me explain. This isn’t an embarrassing lapse in modesty and perspective.… Continue reading

Speaking without foundations (and putting it right)

Speaking is like a skyscraper. Aim high, but watch your foundations too! Image by createsima on freeimages.com.

As I sit at the station tapping away at Anki, I’m impressed at the level of the vocabulary I’ve reached: interactive, futurism, equality… All those lovely advanced words! I enjoy a moment of language learner pride, before I remember that… Continue reading