The benefits of learning a new language and playing tennis

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In Cambridge the special partnership between the sport organisation Cambridge Tennis Academy and the European language school La Dante in Cambridge

Whatever your age, the health benefits of playing sports and learning a foreign language dramatically improves your quality of life and slows any age-related cognitive decline.

This is an established fact and is what inspired the special partnership between the Cambridge Tennis Academy and the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge.

The CTA run by Rob Ellis since 2015 delivers tennis for everyone: quality groups and individual coaching, tennis camps and fun competitions all year round.  The organisation is mainly based at Chesterton Sports Centre and delivers coaching at many more venues across Cambridge, working in partnership with Cambridge City Council, Head UK and park-tennis too. Its main aim is to help children and adults play and enjoy their tennis through a fun and inclusive programme for all ages and abilities which also includes free Fridays and Saturdays Social tennis for children (for more info visit the website https://clubspark.lta.org.uk/cambridgetennisacademy). The very special benefit of playing tennis is that this sport challenges your mind and your body at the same time: the game keeps the players’ mind occupied while the entire body gets an excellent workout. As a matter of fact, tennis can be as effective as jogging or an aerobic class (just consider that playing tennis for one hour burns about 600 calories.) Here are some of the benefits you might not know. It lowers blood pressure and body fat, improves metabolic functions, and increases bone density. It also improves muscle tone, strength and flexibility. It helps reduce stress and keeps your mind attentive. Other than its great physical advantages, tennis is also a good way to meet people and to spend time together, and being a non-impact sport makes it suitable for every age.  Do you know that physical activities improve learning a second language tooRecent studies* have shown that working-out enhances learning a completely unfamiliar L2 vocabulary. It is well known that according to the research learning a new language is very beneficial for brain health regardless of when you start. This might be one of the reasons why the partnership between the Cambridge Tennis Academy and the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge works so successfully.

 Learning a foreign language, in fact, boots brainpower because it makes your brain absorb new complex patterns, it improves your thinking and decision-making skills, and it also increases networking skills. One of the most positive aspects is that it keeps the mind sharp for longer preventing dementia and Alzheimer (according to many studies for monolingual adults, the mean age for the first signs of dementia is 71.4, for adults who speak two or more languages, the mean age for those first signs is 75.5). Your memory and your first language improve as well.

As well as the CTA, La Dante in Cambridge offers services for the good of the community and its members (more info at ladante-in-cambridge.org). The European centre, a cultural association not-for-profit, runs languages courses with native teachers (English, Italian, and Spanish) for every level and for every age (the youngest student is 4 years old and the oldest one, Margaret, at the age of 90 has never missed a lesson at school). Founded by Giulia Portuese-Williams 12 years ago, La Dante shares with Rob Ellis’s organisation the same philosophy offering to its members free side business activities, such as seminars, bilingual lunch, and language contests. From the partnership, an interesting project focused on this winning combination has arisen. The English language courses at La Dante in Cambridge will be accompanied by tennis courses at the Cambridge Tennis Academy to permit the students to immerse themselves in the true British culture and socialise with native speakers while playing.  Learning a new language in Cambridge and playing tennis have never been more enjoyable and effective. So why do not invest in yourself and get started with sport and a new language?

For more info  01223315191 – ladanteincambridge@gmail.com – ladante-in-cambridge.org

Advantages of learning English via Skype – Great for professionals

by Alexis Loizou for La Dante in Cambridge

Most business English students want to learn English because it is the most common language spoken in business. It is the main language of the Internet, Conference call meetings and Skype calls … and many technical manuals are written in English too. Other students want to learn the vocabulary that is specific to their industry (Ai, future technology) or their department (accounting, finance or marketing).

Whatever your reason, learning English via Skype is a great way to increase your vocabulary, improve your fluency and listening ability and create better conversation.

Skype lessons have a number of advantages:

  • They are highly convenient, just one hour during the day (no travel time involved)
  • They are one-to-one, not big classes: just you and a teacher!
  • You focus on the subjects that improve your English most
  • You spend the whole lesson engaged in conversation
  • The topics of conversation can be about work/projects, news or world events

Lessons tend to be based on a mixture of topics that include: work related vocabulary, speaking skills, grammar focus, subjects of personal interest and discussion. Students learn as much from lessons about sports and cooking as they do about writing business emails. The emphasis is on keeping the lessons interesting and engaging while working on speaking issues like syntax and pronunciation.

What previous students have said about Skype learning with La Dante:  

“This particular approach has noticeably improved my comprehension of spoken English as well as my fluency in speaking. Particularly I’d like to mention the stress put on the coverage of phrasal verbs: for a foreign learner to be able to use a high amount of phrases that vary their meaning according to context, it is perhaps the greatest challenge and most successful achievement.”

CLIL: Interviewing La Dante’s teacher trainers

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Mary Spratt and Helen Baker have run our two weeks’ CLIL course for a group of secondary teachers from Zaragoza, who taught a variety of disciplines from PE to Music and Art. We’ve interviewed them after the end of the course.

Mary Spratt, teacher trainer and course writer 

  • How was your experience teaching CLIL at La Dante? I think it was very positive. La Dante is a small school and because of it everybody is able to meet, everybody supports and gives ideas to everybody else and you just get this great feeling of collaboration. I think this kind of setup is quite special.
  • What were the highlights of these two weeks? We’ve been working for two weeks with three Spanish teachers who teach Art, Sport and Music in a school in Zaragoza. I think that the highlights of these two weeks were hearing them talking about their own lessons and their own students. Some of them had great ideas about how they could create programmes for their classes and how to turn their classes into CLIL classes. These teachers were just so very motivated and it has been a pleasure teaching to them.
  • What is the most important message you would give to teachers who would like to apply for a CLIL Course at La Dante in Cambridge? I think that a lot of subject teachers are quite frightened or worried about teaching CLIL and similarly a lot of English teacher trainers are worried about teaching CLIL. CLIL is a challenge, I agree, but I also think that CLIL is a great deal of fun and experiments: one of the Spanish teachers this morning said: “teaching CLIL is an adventure”. Some people probably think “I do not want an adventure, I want a recipe”: it’s difficult to find a recipe for CLIL, but there are guidelines and within those guidelines, you can do lovely adventurous things. It’s true that when students learn both content and language together it helps them to get motivated for both and to make very good progress in both.

Helen Baker, teacher trainer and Cambridge examiner

  • How was your experience teaching CLIL at La Dante? I’ve really enjoyed the experience of teaching CLIL here at La Dante, I had some very motivated students who were really keen to apply their teaching knowledge to the CLIL situation. The best thing for me has been seeing them develop their ideas and putting the theory into practice over the time. We also had a relaxed working atmosphere with treats and celebrations along the way.
  • What is the most important message you would give to teachers who would like to apply for a CLIL Course at La Dante in Cambridge? I’d recommend that they come with an open mind and be prepared to learn a lot, perhaps in a short time, and to adapt their knowledge of teaching – which should already be extensive – to the CLIL situation. I hope that more students will want to join during the next years and have this experience seeing how CLIL can really enrich their teaching.

For more information on our CLIL courses, please enquire: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

CLIL: practical tips for teachers

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Is there a recipe for CLIL?

Much has been written on what CLIL is and why to do it but there is very little practical guidance on how to plan and teach CLIL lessons. If you are a subject teacher who has been asked to teach in English or a language teacher who has been asked to help teach content, you are probably looking for the best way to do it. In our opinion, CLIL is not only about finding the perfect recipe but rather an adventurous journey that you can embark on – but not without some essential guidelines.

CLIL: where to start?

There are some things you should definitely keep in mind when you start planning a CLIL lesson. First of all, think about who your students are – their level of English (or whatever the second language is), their previous knowledge of the content you are going to teach them, and what they expect from the class. Once you know that, you can start to outline the programme you want to follow, matching your students’ language level to the content and selecting the materials to use.

Here are two examples to underline the impact the language level of your students could have on your course. During a CLIL course, we ran in Italy in a secondary school, we were teaching students that had quite a high level of English. This allowed us to focus more on the content side (in that case Arts and Science) and the English language was just the means we used to deliver the classes. With these students, we were able to adapt material designed for native English pupils. Then we had another experience in a school where the students’ English level was quite weak. This forced us to choose a more language-oriented approach, focusing on the particular vocabulary related to the content areas (in this case PE and Music). With these pupils, native English textbooks were linguistically too hard, so we adapted and created our own materials a) to teach key concepts and vocabulary regarding PE and Music and b) to develop their language skills, with the goal of allowing them to be able to use real English content textbooks by their last year of school. lesson. First of all, think about who your students are – their level of English (or whatever the second language is), their previous knowledge of the content you are going to teach them, and what they expect from the class. Once you know that, you can start to outline the programme you want to follow, matching your students’ language level to the content and selecting the materials to use.

Here are two examples to underline the impact the language level of your students could have on your course. During a CLIL course, we ran in Italy in a secondary school, we were teaching students that had quite a high level of English. This allowed us to focus more on the content side (in that case Arts and Science) and the English language was just the means we used to deliver the classes. With these students, we were able to adapt material designed for native English pupils. Then we had another experience in a school where the students’ English level was quite weak. This forced us to choose a more language-oriented approach, focusing on the particular vocabulary related to the content areas (in this case PE and Music). With these pupils, native English textbooks were linguistically too hard, so we adapted and created our own materials a) to teach key concepts and vocabulary regarding PE and Music and b) to develop their language skills, with the goal of allowing them to be able to use real English content textbooks by their last year of school.

How to select the right material?

An important factor to consider when selecting materials is to avoid overloading students with too much information that they will not be able to process. This can be done by choosing a relatively simple content area or by using an area that you have already covered in L1 and doing the CLIL course as revision and extension.

Teachers could find useful to work on English textbooks designed for native English primary schools. This has advantages for both teacher and students: these books’ content level is not too hard but provides an authentic context for the vocabulary that the students will need later on. As for the teachers, they can use the ready-made exercises to test content knowledge, while focusing on the development of further activities to consolidate the second language skills of their students.

Online resources for CLIL

The internet has a lot of resources for teachers: for example, the British Council and publishers like Pearson offer free content online. You can also have a look at a sample of a CLIL lesson about Induism here. You will also find further ideas on this page.

It’s very important for language teachers and content teachers to be working together as a team. Sharing ideas and observing each other’s lessons would really boost your CLIL skills.

For example, content teachers have a huge amount of materials which you may be able to find equivalents of in English, and language teachers probably have ideas as to how to exploit those materials for language purposes.

Material analysis and how to use it at its best

Vocabulary is definitely one of the first aspects to consider – is there any technical or specialised vocabulary that your students need to know for the course, or to understand the text? If that is the case, make sure to explain it beforehand by getting students to match words to definitions or pictures, through gap-fill exercises or helping them to guess the meaning from context.

Practical ideas: your lesson will probably focus on the general comprehension of one main text – make it more interesting by using comprehension activities such as information gapsjigsaw reading tasks and jumble tasks. Follow-up activities can work on reinforcing the vocabulary taught earlier and developing both language skills and comprehension of the topic. These activities can include group discussions, individual presentations, making posters and writing about the topic.

For more information on our CLIL courses, please enquire: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

 

The mayor George Pippas unveiled a commemoration plaque for the 10th anniversary of La Dante in Cambridge

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The event marked the significant contribution the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge has had in the community promoting and disseminating language learning and culture

Cambridge – On 24th April 2018 a commemorative plaque was unveiled  outside the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge during a ceremony that took place at the centre in the heart of the city to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The Mayor of Cambridge, Councellor George Pippas, to mark this milestone said: ‘Cambridge is a great city made up of unique people. We have a strong community of Chinese, Italians, Greeks, Bangladeshis, and Europeans. So it is like a patchwork in which everyone contributes to the success of the city of Cambridge. I am the first European Mayor elected here in Cambridge and I understand the importance of teaching first of all our children how to communicate, but also the adult people. I fully support what the European Cultural Centre is doing and I am fully impressed. I am also impressed to see so many adults. In Cambridge the Educational establishment is well known in the world and we endeavour in working hard to keep these standards very high. I am pleased that La Dante is developing not only a remarkable language experience where people learn Italian and Spanish and English, but has a weight in the cultural impact they have in our community’.

The main aim of the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge is to promote knowledge and enjoyment of Italian, Spanish, and English language and culture. Since 2008 when the Director Giulia Portuese-Williams founded it, La Dante in Cambridge has played a major role in language learning through its unique communication approach, and combining language and cultural traditions. Over the years, it has established partnerships with the most important cultural educational establishments in Cambridge, such as the University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Art Language Location, UKTI, Italian Chamber of Commerce, Italian Consulate and Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce to support the community in language learning provisions.

The Director Giulia Portuese-Williams said: ‘When I thought of La Dante, back in 2008, I dreamed of a European Cultural Centre where people of any background came to enjoy language and culture in Italian and Spanish as well as offering English to European students. “We all know how important it is to communicate in a language and how this facilitates understanding and integration in Europe thus improving mutual respect. At La Dante we have young and adult students who are passionate about learning Italian or Spanish and come to our regular film clubs, seminars to keep up their language and discuss modern issues with us. We also run for them a trilingual radio show, Radio Dante, thanks to the help of Cambridge 105 Radio and its facilities. Our oldest student, Margaret, at the age of 90, still enjoys reading in Italian and joins our classes as well as our youngest little student Joseph at the age of 4 playing with every day toys, singing songs in Italian. After all, that dream, back in 2008 became a reality with the support of our wonderful team, students and trustees to whom all my thanks go with all my heart.”

La Dante in Cambridge celebrates its 10th anniversary on February 24th and on April 24th

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Cambridge – The European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge, a not-for-profit cultural association recognised by Dante Alighieri Society in Rome (Italy), is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. For the special occasion there will be an Italian Opera Concert on 24th February 2018, and an official unveiling of a commemorative plaque on 24th April 2018 with the Mayor of Cambridge, George Pippas. The concert, in partnership with the Cambridge University Opera Society, “L’ Elisir D’amore” by Donizetti, will take place at West Road Concert Hall, at 7.45pm (tickets available online at  adcticketing.com/amore  or by telephone at 01223 300085); whereas the official Ceremony with the Mayor Pippas will be held at the European Cultural Centre La Dante, in Hawthorn Way  (The Lodge, Hawthorn Way, off Chesterton Road CB4 1BT) at 12,30pm.

As part of the international organisation La Società Dante Alighieri, which has 500 offices worldwide, La Dante in Cambridge is one of the most prestigious centres in Europe. Its main aim is to promote knowledge and enjoyment of Italian, Spanish, and English language and culture. Since 2008 when the Director Giulia Portuese-Williams founded it, La Dante in Cambridge has played a major role in language learning through its unique communication approach and combining language and cultural traditions. Over the years, it has established partnerships with the most important cultural educational establishments in Cambridge, such as the University of  Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Art Language Location, UKTI, Italian Chamber of Commerce, Italian Consulate and Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce to support the community in language learning provisions.

When Giulia Portuese-Williams thought of La Dante back in 2008, she dreamed of a European Cultural Centre where people of any background could come to enjoy language and culture in Italian and Spanish as well as offering English to European students.  “We all know how important it is to communicate in a language and how this facilitates understanding and integration in Europe thus improving mutual respect,” said the Director, Portuese-Williams, “We have young and adult students who are passionate about learning Italian or Spanish and come to our regular film clubs, seminars to keep up their language and discuss modern issues with us.  Our oldest student, Margaret, at the age of 90, still enjoys reading in Italian and joins our classes as well as our youngest little student Joseph, 4yo, who likes to play with everyday toys and sing songs in Italian. After all, that dream came true back in 2008 with the support of our wonderful team, students and trustees to whom all my thanks go with all my heart.”

 

The benefits of learning English and tennis

When learning becomes a great language experience deepening yourself in tennis, friendship and enjoyment of the language

 

 

 

 

 

There is something special about having a group of talented and keen teenagers from Imperia who enjoy a special English experience in Cambridge. A unique one indeed as this summer 2017, they were learning English in the morning and have tennis coaching in the afternoon with other British teenagers. Filippo Rapone, already a keen tennis player from Pisa had a ‘great experience with British coaches from the Cambridge Tennis Academy’ his mum says. The teacher also introduced tennis vocabulary and sport techniques in their lessons, they talked about volley, serves and deuce to say just a few. The energy that tennis gave the teenagers inspired them in discussing matches and comment on short championships with their heros from British Andy Murray to Spanish Rafael Nadal.

English and tennis, language and sport gave our teenagers great confidence in their body language and expressivity, enhanced their skills and strategies that will also serve them well in life off the court. Tennis is mostly a singular game and because teenagers are out on their own and competing, they learn to

accept responsibilities for their own actions. They have to learn to deal with adversity as well as success and to adapt to different situations and environments. Tennis fosters work ethic, discipline and sportsmanship in teenagers and builds up their strategic and problem solving skills.

Tennis also develops:  a good work ethic discipline
skills to accept responsibilities, a way to cope with stress, physical and mental plans and strategies on how to beat an opponent problems solving skills.

Tennis also teaches sportsmanship at an early age, it teaches teenagers to cope and understand defeat as well as how to deal with success. It builds teamwork in the case of doubles and  skills to communicate effectively with a partner.

Double and single games were played with local teenagers from a secondary school as well as Rounders. Sophie Stamford and Isabella Pellegrini both studying at Hills Road College in Cambridge gave seminars on the British Education system, meals at the school, the school curriculum. Sophie and Isabella (both bilingual Anglo-Italian students) organised cultural outings with the students at the Fitzwilliam Museum and Archaeological Museum, the funny thing was that only at the end of their stay, our Italian students found out they were bilingual at a game of Rounders, it was truly hilarious.

So learning a language at La Dante is not just about studying in a classroom but it’s a continuous, creative, evolving development: through friendship, games and tennis.

This year was such a success that we’ll be running more English and tennis summer camps at La Dante next year in 2018 from July 23rd to the 17th June. 

Find out more: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

English for children: learning through games

Learning English for children aged 5-11 years old, their approach to learning through games

When looking for full immersion for kids in Cambridge, look no further as this year with our English teacher Sima Shimi we had a programme that enhanced the confidence in which our children learned in a fun and effective way. This summer we were fortunate to have kids from Greece, Spain and Japan at La Dante. The parents chose us as we have small classes and English CELTA qualified teachers who use a communication method, use realia and lots of role-play. This summer, as the courses were intensive, we decided to get the children involved in interactive video games from the British Council, Learn with Kids site that allowed them to practice memory games, flash cards, tongue twisters, short stories and a lot more. It was such a good feeling to see Shoichiro Todoroki (Japanese) and Javier Villamayor (Spanish) aged 6 learning so fast: they learned numbers in lots of ways from the small ones 1-10 that they learned going up the steps at the school every day to big numbers that they used with British Council games.
As for Claudia (Spanish) and Sakiko (Japanese) aged 9, they were challenged in the group with memory and shopping games from the British Council Learn with Kids. The younger kids got involved too and learned the vocabulary really fast.

 

The shopping game was very popular of course, they had to use a till to buy toys as well as practicing it with the video game from the British Council Learn with Kids. The involvement of the actual till in the classroom, the toys they liked to buy, the numbers and interactive video games made sure that the kids loved coming over to the lessons, in fact they weren’t lessons in the traditional sense but games, songs and fun based activities with real situations.

In the afternoon, the children spent time at a local Cambridge British school, attending a playscheme where they play action games, do sport activities like rounders and football with British children of the same age. The scheme has been running for the past five years and the results are amazing. The children make friends, build their social skills in English with other children, choose their games as the Playscheme uses a Montessori approach: the children choose what they want to do in the afternoon, who they wish to play with guided by leaders through the day. There are some international children within their groups. All in all it was a successful summer programme this year too and thank the teachers, the kids and the parents for collaborating, see you next summer!!!

What the parents think:
Javier Villamayor:
…what a wonderful time Javier and Claudia had at La Dante in Cambridge! Thank you so much for making possible this wonderful experience for my children!

Atsuko Todoroki:
Sakiko and Shoichiro enjoyed their English class very much, fun based English, nice friends and their teacher was very kind to them. Thank you very much!

English for children: video

Dante in Europe in 2016 … towards 2021 at Clare College

On the 15th November 2016 a special seminar Dante in Europe in 2016 … towards 2021 was held at the Latimer Room in Clare College in Italian and English and was attended by over 40 people, including many students of our Cultural Centre and representatives of the Cambridge University Italian Society. Dott.ssa Giulia Portuese-Williams, our director and founder spoke about the role of our Cultural Association as part of the Dante Alighieri Society which actively promotes Italian language and culture in Cambridge and the UK. This important event had high visibility: on our social media pages, a radio show entirely devoted to the seminar on Radio Dante with Euridice Comuzzi and Alessandra Icardi. You can listen to the podcast on www.cambridge105.fm  and watch an interview during Business Focus on Cambridge TV with journalist Alina Trabattoni.

The Roman writer Raffaela Cavalieri  presented one of her publications ‘Italy through Dante’s eyes: Traveller’s Guide’. She gave an interesting account of the journey Dante had during his exile with detailed maps, enriched by images and interesting stories like Paolo and Francesca at the Gradara Castle, the journey of exile endured by Dante one he was exiled from Florence due to the war between Guelfi and Ghibellini. A journey that goes from Florence to Ravenna where the poet’s bones rest in a tiny church next to a monastery.

Dott.ssa Anna Bonazza, from Ravenna Festival, presented the prestigious Ravenna’s Festival programme, with a rich array of performances held during May and July 2017.

‘Young Artists for Dante’ appeals to a new generation of artists and lovers of Dante (the majority of the members of the group must be under 30) to create shows which are no longer than 40 minutes . The selected proposals will run every day at 11 am, from May 25 to July 2, at the Franciscan Cloisters.

Dubois, director of the Centre Choréographique National de Roubaix / Ballet du Nord, is back with Les mémoires d’un seigneur (Palazzo De André, June 8). Thanks to the meeting on the stage between a dancer (Dubois’s favourite Sébastien Perrault) and 40 amateurs selected through a workshop, this work explores the notions of power and temptation, turning into a Caravaggesque portrait of inferno. An entire civilisation is reflected in Dubois’s seigneur and explored through the protagonist’s solitude as well as through the ever-shifting mass of bodies – which are the very raw material and ‘living scene’ of the choreography – the same way Dante’s journey is human and universal. Almost an epic of the solitude which develops between struggles and triumphs through three epochs (The Glory, The Fall, The Farewell) the three-part tale of Les Mémoires acts as a prologue to a project dedicated to the Commedia that will accompany the Festival toward 2021 with Dubois’s contribution.

The second part of the seminar was about the Parchi letterari, with a special focus on Le Terre di Dante. Mr Moroni presented the various itineraries the tourists can visit with an accurate description of the beautiful landscapes in Tuscany and Emilia Romagna through audio-visual images, songs and stories. The seminar concluded with the viewing of the silent monochrome film Inferno (1911).

The successful event was thanks to the partnership with the Cambridge University Italian Society  and in particular with the help of their Vice-President Michelangelo Chini and the Ravenna Festival. La Dante in Cambridge thanks Attilio Moroni for his promotion of I Parchi Letterari –Le Terre di Dante and La Società Dante Alighieri for their wonderful efforts in promoting Italian culture abroad.

Non posso che rinnovare i nostri più sentiti ringraziamenti per l’opportunità offerta. Mi sembra che ci sia stata una buona risposta di pubblico e devo farvi i nostri complimenti per l’impegno e l’efficacia con cui avete saputo costruire una bella comunità di appassionati e studenti della lingua italiana. La tua accoglienza è stata impeccabile e il lavoro di promozione dell’evento ottimo, non avremmo potuto chiedere di meglio (anzi, ringrazia tanto anche i tuoi collaboratori!)
Anna Bonazza, Ufficio Marketing, Ravenna Festival, Italy

Video about the seminar: https://youtu.be/9oGdK6Vd7LEraffaellacavalierigiuliamoroniannabonazza

Thinking in a Foreign Language: How to Do It and Why

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Thinking in a foreign language

Thinking in a foreign language is an important step in the long road that is fluency in a foreign language, but it’s a step that, for some reason, many language learners tend to ignore. Thinking in the language you are learning is not necessarily easy, but it’s something you can practice at any time of the day. Chances are you will NOT wake up one day thinking in a foreign language just because you’ve been learning it for X amount of months/years. Well, it can happen eventually, but I’d like to suggest an alternative that is a bit more, shall we say, efficient, and that will both jump-start your vocabulary acquisition and your fluency. What I’m proposing is that thinking in a new language is a decision you can make, and that you should make from Day 1.

Why Would I Do It?

You might be wondering why anyone would go through the discomfort of trying to think in a foreign language, especially during the early stages or learning. Well, for starters, thinking in the language you’re trying to learn is one of the easiest ways to review the vocabulary and grammatical patterns you’ve recently acquired. Plus, by actually forcing your brain to think in a language it is not used to think in, you’ll also help activate the newly-acquired information by giving you a real-life use for it. This, in turn, will speed-up thepassive-to-active vocabulary transition. In a nutshell, passive vocabulary includes the words stored in verbal memory that people partially “understand,” but not well enough for active use. So you might know the word for “vocabulary” in Spanish (vocabulario), for example, but you might not be able to plug it in a sentence of your own yet if you’re a beginner. Your active vocabulary, on the other hand, includes the words that you canreadily use when speaking and writing.

Another great reason to practice thinking in a foreign language is that, according to a study conducted by University of Chicago psychologists on how language affects reasoning, you will make decisions that will tend to be less biased, more analytic, and more systematic. Why is that? “Because,” according to the study’s lead author Boaz Keysar, “a foreign language provides psychological distance.” So by thinking in a foreign language you will not only be jump-starting your skills in that language, but you’ll also make smarter decisions. Talk about a no-brainer!

How Do I Do It?

So how can you actually start thinking in a foreign language? Is it something that will magically happen after having gone through your 10cm thick textbook? Chances are that won’t happen, unless you make a conscious effort to make it happen. So here are a few tips that I’d like you to try to implement in your daily life.

Language bubbles#1: The first thing that’s really important to do is to create a language bubblearound yourself, especially if you’ve reached an intermediate level or anything above that in your target language (but really, the sooner the better). I’ll go a bit more in detail into this in the “Making the Language a Part of Your Life” section just down below, so don’t stop reading just yet!

#2: The second step is to start making a conscious effort to describe things around you in your target language. One easy way to start when you have a very limited vocabulary is to just look around your room, your neighborhood, and your workplace/school and mentally label whatever you can. If you know colors, scan whatever is around you and think the word for the color of each item you see. If you have recently been learning about furniture, adjectives, or moods, try the same thing with those. Whatever vocabulary and grammatical patterns you are currently learning at the moment, make a conscious effort to think in your target language using those newly-acquired tools. See it as a game, something to enjoy doing.

As you begin to increase your vocabulary little by little, start gradually increasing the complexity of your thoughts by making phrases and by describing what’s going on around you. Don’t jump steps and try expressing complex thoughts that are in sharp contrast with your current level, though. For example, don’t try to say “I wish I would’ve been there” if you are still a beginner in your target language, because the grammar involved is too complex. Instead, simplify what you want to say. You could say something like “I want to go there,” or “I wanted to go there but I couldn’t.” Don’t worry, in due time you’ll reach a point where you’ll be able to say more complex things, there is no rush!

#3: If you are a bit more advanced in your target language, as you go about your day try to think through some typical conversations you would normally have in your native tongue. As you’re leaving your apartment, your neighbor greets you. What would they have said and how would you have replied in your target language? On the way to work, you stop to buy a cup of coffee. How would you order that in your target language? If there are some common words and expressions that you find yourself unable to express, especially on repeated occasions, write them in a small notebook or in your smartphone, and in the evening find the translations. That’s an extremely useful way to quickly gain useful vocabulary that you know you are likely to use in everyday situations.

#4: The last tip here is to speak to yourself or to a camera. If you are ready to put aside your shame, and especially if you don’t have roommates or family members nearby to eavesdrop on you (!), it’s also quite useful to talk to yourself. Aside from being useful in organizing your thoughts, it also allows you to practice pronunciation. If you don’t like the idea of talking to yourself, why not make videos of yourself talking to track your progress? You can organize your videos around themes. For example, in one you might try to talk about the weather, and in another one you might tell your real or fictitious listeners how you began the study of your target language, or which methods you’re using at the moment. Countless language learners and seasoned polyglots do exactly that and regularly post their videos on YouTube. If you do the same, you’ll kill two birds with one stone and be able to connect with other members of the language learning community.

Making the Language a Part of Your LifeBengali computer keyboard

In short, if you want to start thinking in the target language you’re learning, you have to get out of your comfort zone and make the foreign language a part of your life. Don’t be afraid, I promise nothing bad will come out of it! It’s something we all hesitate to do because we are all afraid of the unknown, and we are all afraid of having a feeling of discomfort. Staying in your language bubble and in your comfort zone are easy options, but they are unfortunately not what will bring the best results in terms of foreign language fluency development.

Many people—in fact most people, it seems—approach language learning in a very, how should I put it, “confined” manner. What I mean by this is that they see language learning as something to be “studied” or “learned” during a certain period of time during the day/week, and then everything else they do is somehow totally unrelated to the language they are learning. I often ask my students what they do outside of class to improve their language skills. Nine cases out of ten, they either do nothing or study a bit through their textbook. They basically pat themselves on the back for paying for language lessons, and as soon as the lesson is over they somehow turn a switch in their brain which means they can totally forget about the language they are learning. Many students later wonder why they aren’t somewhat fluent after studying the language for years upon years.

I’ve thought about it and I think that the reason why many people recommend to go abroad to learn a foreign language is that it kind of forces yourself to step outside of your native tongue bubble (although many expats still manage the amazing feat of staying inside their native tongue bubble for years, despite living in a country that speaks an entirely different language). If you go to Spain, for example, you’ll be forced to hear Spanish on the streets, to read signs in Spanish, and perhaps even to listen to Spanish TV and, who could’ve imagined, meet Spanish people who speak Spanish.

But that is still not enough. And, frankly speaking, one doesn’t have to go abroad to immerse oneself in a foreign language (Benny the Irish Polyglot learned Arabic in the middle of Brazil, making use of great websites such as italki to get speaking practice online). “Okay,” you say, “so how can I do it?” Well, here’s a second list of tips that I encourage you to implement in earnest:

#1: Start reading the news and/or blogs in your target language. To get into the habit of doing so, make your homepage (when your browser starts) a page that is in the foreign languageFacebook in Spanish you are learning. For example, every time I open Firefox, I get to see the news in Korean. I just can’t avoid it. I also try to avoid watching the news in English. Or what about Facebook? YouTube? Movie players? These are all websites or programs that have a changeable language option.

#2: If your phone has a “language” option, change the language of your phone to the language you are learning. At first it will be really uncomfortable, but the necessity to understand your phone’s function will soon be strong enough so that you’ll have no choice but to remember a whole lot of new words and become proficient in using your cell phone in a foreign language. I’ve recently switched my phone to Korean and frankly, I don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier.

#3: Watch movies in the target language. When you watch movies in your own language, try to watch them with subtitles in your target language. For example, if you are learning Spanish but decide to watch an American movie, either try to find the same movie dubbed in Spanish, or get the subtitles for it in Spanish. As you listen to the movie, you’ll be reading the entire time in Spanish. This will also tremendously help to increase your reading speed.

#4: The next time you need to install Windows on your computer, ask somebody who speaks your target language to download the version in their language. Just as with a cell phone, it will be really uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it eventually. The same can be done whenever you download programs such as movie players, etc. If you’re still a beginner, that’s not necessarily recommended, but for intermediate learners and higher, it’s worth giving it a try.

#5: Watch YouTube videos in your target language. We all have the urge to do something completely unrelated to the task we have at hand. This is called procrastination. Kill two birds with one stone byprocrastinating in your target language. You’ll be watching stupid videos, but at least they’ll be in a foreign language. Watching stupid stuff in a foreign language is cool.

#6: Listen to music in a foreign language. Not only you will discover new, awesome music, but you’ll be getting used to the language’s flow, intonation, and rhythm. If you feel like it, get the lyrics and sing along your favorite songs. By the way, I’ve recently written a guest post about Korean music on Susanna Zaraysky’s blog. If you’d like to discover new music, check it out here!

Korea Indie Music

#7: Meet friends who speak your target language. Visit a website such as meetup.com or Couchsurfing, join a local club, volunteer, make a language exchange partner online. Whatever you do, remember you have dozens of ways to get to speak in your target language. No excuses.

Couchsurfing Logo

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What do you think? Have you ever tried to force yourself to think in a foreign language? How much are you willing to get out of your comfort zone? What steps are you actively taking to make the language you are learning a part of your life?

By implementing only a few of the many tips I’ve given you today, I am confident that you will see, within a short period of time, a dramatic change in your fluency and in your ability to think in your target language. See it as a game, and as a way of pushing yourself and making language learning more than something that needs to be “studied”. Remember, it’s all about having fun and challenging yourself!

By Lingholic