Saturday, November 3, 2012

The App That Makes Your Smartphone a Powerful Language Tutor

One of the most powerful language learning tools is in the palm of your hand.

Your smartphone.

Thanks to the free downloadable app Google Translate, your smartphone can become an instant bilingual dictionary, a native speaker pronouncing words for you, and an instant personal translator accompanying you as you make your way through a foreign country.

Today, I tested Google Translate in English-to-Russian exercises and was astounded at, for the most part, how accurate it was. Since my grasp of Russian is elementary, I experimented by speaking into the microphone simple sentences whose translation into Russian I already knew. The accurate performance was uncanny, like something out of a science fiction movie.

The program display has a microphone icon you can press, which enables you to speak into the smartphone what you'd like to say. A translation then appears on the screen. To hear this translation as it would be pronounced by a native speaker, just press an icon resembling a speakerphone.

This program also comes in handy in testing your ability to generate sentences in your target language. You speak the English sentence into the phone, look away from the screen and imagine the correct translation, then back look at the displayed translation to check yourself.

If you use Google Translate on your desktop computer, rather than a smartphone, the program will automatically create a sound file each time the audio of a voice recording is played back. Written input sounded out with the speakerphone icon will also generate a sound file. That audio file is stored in the drive's Temporary Internet Folder, which can be accessed through this path:

C:\documents and settings\ (NAME)\Local Settings\ Temp \ Temporary Internet Files

Once located, the audio file can be transferred to C:\my music, where it will automatically be loaded into your Windows Media Player's library and turned into an MP3 file. Using Windows Media Player, you can then burn that file to a CD to be played in your car if you use drive time for language learning.

This opens up the possibility of cutting and pasting entire passages into Google Translate to be rendered into portable audio files for your language learning.

To use Google Translate on your desktop machine or tablet, go to:  

Muchas gracias, merci beaucoup and danke schoen to Google.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Parlez-vous francais? New research suggests that learning foreign languages increases the size of the brain's memory center -- the hippocampus -- as well as tissue in the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain. And, supposedly, it delays the onset of Alzheimer's.

Click here to read the Science Daily article.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ancestor of most of today's languages fanned out from Near East 8,000 years ago?

A new study published in the journal Science suggests that most of the world's population today is speaking a language descended from a small group of farmers in the Near East 8,000 years ago. This includes languages as diverse as English, German, Russian, and Hindi.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Key points for learning a language

In the following video, I summarize some key points in learning a foreign language. Your methods and your mood will spell the difference between victory and defeat.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Parallel Translations: Powerful Ammo for the Would-Be Language Learner

Are you studying several foreign languages at the same time?

One powerful technique in building reading comprehension is to peruse parallel translations of the same book passage in all your target languages.

With most books, compiling all your languages on one sheet using translation sites and cut-and-paste commands would be time-consuming. But with sacred texts, such as The Bible, the work has already been done for you – in the form of parallel translation Web sites.

Biola University, for example, has a site called The Unbound Bible -- – which offers the user a large collection of searchable online Bibles in dozens of languages, both ancient and modern. Their wide range of choices includes Manx Gaelic, Tagalog and Swahili.

The site visitor can display on the computer screen a searched Bible passage in up to nine parallel languages. For fun, I choose Modern Greek, Norwegian, Esperanto, Italian, Icelandic, Romanian, Portuguese, Russian and Czech.

Being able to instantly see parallels in related languages, such as Dutch and German in the Germanic family, or Spanish and Portuguese in the Romance family, speeds learning.