Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | November 9, 2012

New technologies can no longer be ignored…

English teaching in Lyon is getting tough. Prices are going down, budgets are being cut, and new technologies are being used more and more to replace traditional teaching techniques. Here are just a few of the new technology options out there that are available for free:

http://www.verbling.com

I logged on to this website last night and, at the click of a button, was able to link up with Javier in Spain for free. Half an hour of speaking my native language against some time for his Spanish, and, using a roulette system you can find other partners too.

http://www.livemocha.com

This is not free, but it is a good way of learning a foreign language.

http://www.busuu.com/

I think this one is free.

In Lyon, on a Wednesday and a Friday night you can go downtown, get yourself a drink and hook up with native speakers and non-native speakers at different tables wtih different people speaking different languages.

On the internet, you can download authentic English conversation on various websites (particularly elllo) and listen to English radio on the bbc and other radio stations depending on what you want (American, Australian, South African, Indian…)

New technologies can no longer be ignored.

So what am I doing here ? What can I teach you to do ? 

I can teach you how to assimilate language. I can teach you how English people use phrasal verbs, modal verbs, imperatives, linking words (like ‘even though’) – in short, how to converse in English. I can teach you strategies to use at varying level of langauge skills. I can teach you techniques on how to assimilate and use langauge better. The most part of the vocabulary work you can do on your own, but, you can, it just takes time. I can give you guidance on what is important in learning a language, I can direct you on what to do and give you assignments to better assimilate the English language (I’m sorry, I’m only qualified to do English, I can’t do Japanese or Chinese)!

The silent method has been advocated since it was first put forward. It’s a method that you could use, especially with all this technology. Don’t put pressure on yourself to speak too soon, the time will come, and when it does come, you’ll be ready 

So, what do you say, if you need lessons/coaching: drop me a line: paul@lyonlingua.com

 

 

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 27, 2012

39 mots pour dire ‘vert’ en zoulou

(Extrait d’un livre: When Cultures Collide: http://www.amazon.fr/When-Cultures-Collide-Leading-Across/dp/1904838022)Si vous croyez que la notion de fair play est abstraite, on va utiliser un autre exemple où un concept très élémentaire est considéré comme étant distinct par deux personnes avec des origines différentes. Mon exemple est basé sur un Anglais et un Zoulou. Tandis que l’écart culturel est clair, c’est le facteur linguistique qui m’intéresse dans cet exemple.

Dans la langue zoulou, il existe 39 mots pour dire “vert”.
Je voulais savoir comment les Zoulous avaient construit dans leur langue 39 mots pour “vert” tandis que l’anglais n’en a qu’un seul, et j’ai posé la question à un ex-chef d’une tribu de Zoulous qui avait obtenu un doctorat en matière de philologie à l’université d’Oxford. Il a commencé par expliquer pourquoi les Zoulous avaient besoin de ces 39 mots. À l’époque où les transports automobiles et les autoroutes n’existaient pas, le peuple Zoulou faisait souvent des voyages à travers la savane. Il n’y avait pas de panneaux ou de cartes et il fallait décrire la route à suivre (cette tâche était réalisée par ceux qui avaient déjà effectué le trajet). La langue s’est adaptée aux besoins des Zoulous. L’anglais doit gérer d’autres concepts, mais la langue anglaise (pour les lecteurs de ce blog, ceci pourrait aussi bien s’appliquer à la langue française!) est considérée comme pauvre et inadéquate par des Africains et des Indiens d’Amérique du Nord dont les langues sont pleines de descriptions méticuleuses de la nature (et d’autres notions qui n’existent pas en anglais).
“Donnez-moi des exemples de mots différents pour dire “vert”.” – j’ai demandé à mon ami Zoulou.
Il a ramassé une feuille “C’est quelle couleur?” a-t-il dit.
“Vert.”, j’ai répondu.
Le soleil brillait. Il a attendu le passage d’un nuage. “Et quelle couleur maintenant ?”
“Vert” j’ai répondu, mais je sentais déjà que ma réponse n’était pas celle qu’il attendait!
“Mais ce n’est pas le même vert ?”
“Non!”
“Nous avons un mot distinct en zoulou.” Il a trempé la feuille dans l’eau et il l’a ressortie. “La couleur a changé?”
“Oui!”
“En zoulou, nous avons un mot pour dire “vert-brillant-mouillé”!”
Le soleil est ressorti de derrière son nuage, et j’avais besoin d’un autre mot: “vert-brillant-mouillé-avec-soleil”!
Mon ami a reculé de 20 mètres et il m’a montré la feuille “La couleur a changé de nouveau?”
“Oui”, ai-je consenti.
“Nous avons un autre mot.” il a dit avec un sourire.
Il a poursuivi son explication pour me dire que les verts zoulous pouvaient décrire des couleurs des feuilles d’arbres, des feuilles de buissons, les feuilles qui vibraient dans le vent, des verts pour les fleuves, des étangs, des troncs d’arbres, des verts de crocodiles… Il en est arrivé à 39 sans aucune difficulté!
Il est évident que mon ami Zoulou et moi-même nous voyions le monde à travers des yeux différents.
Et pourtant ce n’était pas une question d’yeux!
Je voulais être international, multiculturel et accepter la différence, mais il n’existait pas de façon simple de percevoir ou considérer la nature de la même façon qu’il le faisait, parce que je n’avais pas le langage pour le faire.
Il ne s’agissait pas seulement de me familiariser avec les habitudes culturelles, les préférences et les tabous de sa tribu ou même d’adopter sa religion ou ses philosophies. Je pouvais seulement expérimenter la réalité de la même façon qu’il le faisait en apprenant sa langue et m’échapper (en termes de ma capacité descriptive) de mon propre carcan.

Paul

http://www.lyonlingua.com

paul@lyonlingua.com

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 24, 2012

Towards a frequency index

Wow! What a posh sounding title! It’s not that complicated really!

Today, my student and I were on the subject of the word ‘nice’. He didn’t like it – not the first time, I’ve had that experience. In fact, I don’t like it myself. But that’s another matter. 

He was searching on his i-phone for alternatives and came across friendly, of course, and congenial. He seemed to like it. I liked it too.

But it’s not exactly common, is it ? I mean, it’s not every day you’re going to hear someone come out with it in every day conversation.

The conversation was also revolving around how precise French was (it is!) and how vague English can be sometimes with words like stuff. 

So, I suggested (I’m an English coach/trainer) that he use a frequency index to see which word was more common. I mean, take a listening exercise, or several listening exercises and see if ‘nice’ is more common or if ‘congenial’ is more common. 

This student of mine doesn’t like English. Well, it’s not that he doesn’t like English, he doesn’t like the way English is ‘globalizing’ the world. I posted on this a few weeks ago and I haven’t got a problem with the way English is being spoken in more and more countries and in more and more business contexts. But that’s enough of that.

So I said: “shall we carry on ?” (with what we were doing). My student didn’t know the meaning of ‘carry on’. But carry on we did, and, after I’d explained the meaning of the word, he then proceeded to explain to me that it was much easier for him – and he was much more likely to learn the word ‘congenial’. 

Congenial, however, is much less common than ‘carry on’. I suggest he look for the more frequent words first, a bit like the corner bits or the side bits of a jigsaw puzzle. Congenial can come later. Congenial can come once some kind of ‘English’ base is in place. He may not like the way the English tend, on average, to have a less precise way of speaking than the French but he’s gonna have to lump it!

So… to your frequency indexes!

Paul

http://www.lyonlingua.com

paul@lyonlingua.com

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 22, 2012

More on labels

In French, there are two words: fleuve and rivière, in English, only one: river.

The result of this is that most English people consider these two things to be synonymous whereas you speak to a French person and they will insist that there is a big difference, and, then – most likely, go on to explain what that difference is (they learnt it at school).

So, the way you label things with words, and what language you speak, affects how you see the world.

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 21, 2012

Cognition in another language

What do we mean when we say: Can you think in another language ? What we are talking about is, does the cognition in your head happen in another language ? I mean, when you are thinking about what to buy next from the shops, or what to do later on this afternoon, do you think about it directly in another language or does it happen in your mother tongue: i.e. you don’t think about it in another language. 

Lots of my students have reported being able to think in another language after some time in the country. Few have been able to report thinking in another language whilst being in France. There’s too much French around. Turn on the radio, it’s in French, turn on the tv, it’s in French, nip down to the local baker’s, you buy your baguette in French.

However, I believe it is possible for cognition to happen in English, for example, whilst not being in the country but there is a necessary condition for that: repeated exposure to the language, and, probably, repeated acid-testing of this capacity to speak, and as a prerequesite to natural speaking, naturally thinking in that language.

Make no bones about it*, this process takes time. How much time ? 1-3 years or more, providing that the conditions are right. Techniques, resources and tools can help to speed up this process and make it more efficient but the development-over-time factor is also key.

Paul

http://www.lyonlingua.com

paul@lyonlingua.com

* For the benefit of French speakers reading this post: make no bones about it = to state a fact in a way which allows no doubt.

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 18, 2012

Think, think about, penser, réfléchir…

Today, I was in a lesson and we came across the subject of “think” and “think about…”. These two verbs are different in English, one is a phrasal verb, the other not and they have different meanings.

For example, you can say:

What do you think ? 

or 

What are you thinking about ? 

In French too, penser is different to réfléchirPenser is a shorter action whereas réfléchir (think about) takes longer. However, for my French students it was very clear to them that penser was different to réfléchir because the labels are different – I mean, the words are different. Research has been done about this recently. It seems to me that language acts like a lens on how we see the world. In French, the difference is very clear but in English think and think about don’t seem very different because they use the same word.

I hope I made you réfléchir!

Paul

http://www.lyonlingua.com

paul@lyonlingua.com

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 18, 2012

Giving a meaning to language learning

Whatever your reasons for learning a language, there must be one.

Some of the reasons you might want to learn a language are:

  • for your work
  • for travel
  • because someone in your family is getting married to a foreigner
  • because you have friends in another country

Here is a place you can go in Lyon to speak foreign languages for free:

http://polyglotclub.com/france/rhone-alpes/lyon

Firstly, you can acid-test your progress, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you can find friends which will perhaps add meaning to your language learning.

Paul

http://www.lyonlingua.com

paul@lyonlingua.com

 

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 18, 2012

Merci pour votre réactivité

This one comes up over and over again in business e-mails. It is not translated by “thank you for your reactivity”. 

I received an e-mail the other day from someone and here is the text. Here’s how to do it:

Hi Paul,
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.
All my days are very busy at the moment but I’m free over lunchtime on Fri between am & pm lessons.  Would 12.15 at my office in the Lyon be OK for you?  Also, could you email me a copy of your CV?

Kind regards.
Michelle

No, you can’t say “reactivity”.

Paul

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 18, 2012

Learning a language is an investment

You might find, when you first start learning a new language and listening regularly that at first you’re not understanding much. Don’t worry – it’s an investment. In fact, you might not understand much for the first 3 years (maybe you won’t need so much time if you already have a prior knowledge of the language and this also depends on how similar the language is to your language or the languages you already know). 

However, after that time once you start understanding properly, the investment will start to pay off. It will be worth it, after acid-testing your progress in a real situation a few times, you will start to feel the rewards. The thing is, if you’re in the situation a lot of people are in, I mean, having learnt English at school for years and not really got far in terms of speaking, its worth trying something different. I mean, you must be doing something wrong. 

Try learning the set phrases that are important for conversation for example: He said, he told me… Don’t learn to conjugate the verb in all it’s forms, just learn to conjugate the verb in the most useful forms that you hear everyday and that you’ll need when it comes to speaking. The rest of the grammar will fall into place later. 

Paul

http://www.lyonlingua.com

paul@lyonlingua.com

 

Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 14, 2012

Learning languages is not like learning mathematics

I was talking to a guy today after playing badminton the other side of Lyon.

He was actually the owner (I think) of the badminton place where we were playing. He said he never focused on history or geography at school, because he never found any interest in it. He was interested in maths, because he said it was useful, but he certaily wasn’t interested in languages. In fact, he said he’d never really been much further than 10 km from where he lived. 

He told me a story about how he was training people in how to use ‘paint’ – the computer programme but never became interested in it until someone told him, it was actually quite easy, all you have to do is copy ‘n paste.

That’s kind of how languages are, they’re actually quite easy. Too many people think that languages are hard – they’re not hard, you just have to know how to approach them. If you get caught up on grammar (as many a commentator on the web will tell you), you might get stuck. But if you focus on learning vocabulary, listening and speaking, you’ll be just fine. Really, you will. 

Get familiar with the language first, and then use it. English is the same, except that it’s at a different frequency from French, but it’s possible to tune your ear to it, I’m convinced of that. In fact, lots of people do.

So, here are my top tips:

  • enjoy the language
  • listen and read to a variety of material
  • try and listen to authentic material as much as possible even if it goes quickly at the beginning
  • do intensive listening sessions (download material from websites like: http://www.elllo.org and listen several times a week on your mobile phone, .mp3 player or computer)
  • regularity is key
  • long-term learning is key
  • once you’re familiar with the language, speak regularly
  • be confident: you’ll get there in the end, it may (no, it will) take some time but you’ll get there
  • try to use typical expressions

Learning languages is easy, really, it is… it just takes time, and some effort. And it’s not like learning mathematics – in mathematics, you only have one right answer most of the time, in languages, there are many different ways to speak and learn. 

Paul

paul@lyonlingua.com

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