My friend, Sanda, is a native Chinese and Hakka speaker from Taiwan. Like most Chinese speakers, Sanda has difficulties in learning English. English, being a language from different language group with Chinese, has a lot of differences, such as pronunciation and conjugation. Sanda was demotivated to learn it and she believed that learning English is difficult. However, as a Chinese speaker, it is easier to learn Japanese. Japanese is one of the languages that Sanda knows.
Sanda wishes to know English so that she can take the TOEIC exam, which is one of many job requirements in Taiwan. She also wishes to know other European languages, like the Romance languages.
Understanding the basics of language learningI helped her learn English during our first few meetings at McD (yes, we love McD!) and I found out that it's quite difficult for her to learn English because she thought in her native language. It is difficult to learn one language and think in another that is not from the same language group or have too many differences.
Chinese speakers have different ways of expressing something that could be untranslatable in English. The adverb of time in a Chinese sentence is placed either at the beginning of the sentence or after the subject.
I stumbled upon Toki Pona one day as I was reading about "constructed language (conlang)". At a glance, it looks like an extremely easy language to learn. This language has only 120 words. I know it may sound like a joke language or sound like it was created without purposes. It actually teaches simplicity. It teaches us how to convey our message in the simplest manner.
Then, I decided to teach Toki Pona to Sanda because I thought that she could learn the basics of language learning through it. It was good, she could learn fast and it wasn't too difficult for her to understand. The major improvement is that she can pronounce syllable by syllable of a word written in the Latin alphabet. The Taiwanese use a special phonetic system that isn't based on the Latin alphabet, unlike Hanyu Pinyin from China.
Toki Pona's words come from various languages, mostly European. It might help Sanda to recognize them when she learns any European natural languages in the future, although it may not affect much of her learning. The loanwords from Cantonese are also easier to understand since Chinese dialects sound similar to one another.
By understanding the basics of language learning, Sanda can improve English in a better learning method, and she also can think of it from a different perspective. Finally, she can become an independent language learner.
Have you learned Toki Pona? Share your story with us!
We have already known that, through Esperanto, we can make friends with foreigners because Esperanto is a true language of friendship. I live in Taoyuan city (桃園) which is located in northern Taiwan. Although the number of Esperantists in northern Taiwan is not many if compared with that in the southern part where the Esperanto movement is growing more vigorously, I still manage to make friends by Esperanto.
There are foreigners who come to Taiwan to teach English or work on other jobs, as well as those who study in the universities and settle because of marriage. This case makes Taiwan as one international place where you can speak multilingually and experience other cultures in an event, completely without leaving the comfort of life in Taiwan.
Among many foreign languages, Esperanto is also spoken by a small number of speakers and students. This, in fact, strengthens our Esperanto friendship because being an Esperantist in Taiwan is unique.
Sequoia is a kind person and he is a polyglot. In one meeting, I watched him talking in English, Esperanto, and Japanese. Of course, he also knows his native language, Swedish. That's amazing! He and his wife lived in Taoyuan city.
In addition, I also know Esperantists from the United States and South Korea.
This American Esperantist is Cheyenne and he is also an English language teacher in Taoyuan city. He is a polyglot that knows, apart from English, German, Chinese, Esperanto, Spanish and Dutch.
My South Korean friend is a new Esperanto learner. His name is Jack (Korean: Kim Han Bin). He is enthusiastic about languages and has already studied many languages. He speaks Chinese very well, even Korean do not believe that he is Korean.
A man contacted me on Amikumu one day, I felt that I had seen this man before but where? Well, I thought and thought, and finally, I remembered that this man went to Indonesia before and I had seen him on the pictures of my Indonesian friends. His name is Mitchell from Chicago. He had just arrived in Taiwan so he contacted me, I decided to meet him in Taipei although I do not live there, it's pretty close to me. Although it was our first meeting, we were able to interact like old friends, we talked about various topics and we have common friends as well. It's all possible because of our language, Esperanto!
Besides friends I met here in Taiwan, there is also one special person who is learning Esperanto from me. She is from Calgary, Canada. Her name is Christy.
The mentioned above are only some of my entire Esperanto friends. I am really happy to have the opportunity to learn Esperanto and to know more about the world, about other cultures, and the best is that I have the opportunity to have an international friendship. Thanks to Esperanto!
You have probably never heard of the Eurovision (the Eurovision Song Contest) if you were not raised in Europe. It did not catch my attention until the recent few years but I am not a crazy fan either. But I was hooked to it, this singing competition show is different.
It isn’t just the song sung in various languages (yep, non-English songs) but also the costumes, choreography, and overall performances that makes it different from the other singing competition.
The Eurovision began in the 1950s by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) after the destruction of WWII in an attempt to make it a positive way to foster friendly competition and national pride.
Here are three of my favorite songs. I don’t understand the language of the song but the melody makes me kinda flow with it.
Joci Pápai - Origo (Hungary)
Joci Pápai - Origo (Hungary) Eurovision 2017 - Official Music Video - YouTube
Elnur Huseynov - Hour Of The Wolf (Azerbaijan)
Elnur Huseynov - Hour Of The Wolf (Azerbaijan) - LIVE at Eurovision 2015 Grand Final - YouTube
Bonus: Elnur Hüseynov - Hour of the Wolf (Türkçe versiyonu)
Elnur Hüseynov - Hour of the Wolf (Türkçe versiyonu) - YouTube
Knez - Adio (Montenegro)
Knez - Adio (Montenegro) - LIVE at Eurovision 2015 Grand Final - YouTube
What are your favorite Eurovision songs? Share your story with us!
Foreigners’ presence in Taipei city is quite visible. Wherever you go, on the street or inside the MRT station, you will see foreign faces easily. Taipei is really an international city. There are a lot of foreign restaurants, bars, nightclubs, etc. If you have free time every day and want to get some acquaintances, Taipei has plenty of meetups that you can join. One of them is “Language Meetup” where participants gather to practice different languages. These participants come from various walks of life: expats, professionals, students, etc.
My six years of studying in Taiwan was an amazing experience that I had ever had in my life. I studied in international programs for both my undergraduate and graduate studies. The students came from many countries around this world, from Africa to Europe, Oceania to America, you name it. It is surprisingly diverse. As a non-native English speaker, I soon realized that English had become more crucial to my survival than Chinese.
The graduation finally came, it was full of joy and sorrow. I was happy because I could finish my studies and earned not just Bachelor’s but also Master’s degree, and I studied in English, which is a foreign language that I started to learn when I was a kindergarten pupil. The sad moment was when I realized that it was time to “sell” myself looking for a well-paying job, at least, enough to support my basic life needs, and to “lose” my international friends as many of them would return to their home countries.
After going through uncountable interviews and experiencing sleep disorders worrying about whether I could secure a job, finally, I was accepted at a local company as an IT Engineer. I wasn’t aware of the work culture in Taiwan and soon, I found myself facing the difficulty to adapt and to accept the local norm.
The Turning PointLong story short, life was boring. My international lively social life turned into a monolingual lonely social life. I wanted to break away.
One day I read a news article about a Southeast Asian-themed NGO which I later found out that it was located quite near where I live. This NGO is called SEAMi. It looks more like a Southeast Asian cultural center than an office. I braved myself to visit it despite not being able to speak Chinese well and I was quite an introvert.
I (standing, second on the left) laughed with the participants during my sharing session in SEAMi
SEAMi also has a library full of books in all Southeast Asian languages. I always had pleasant chat with the owner on every visit to borrow Indonesian books, and we soon became good friends. One day he offered me a chance to do a presentation in Chinese to introduce about my hometown—Medan city—because Medan is quite unknown since there is not many Medanese in Taiwan.
Medan is the third largest city in Indonesia located closer to Malaysia and Singapore than to Jakarta (Indonesia’s capital city). No wonder, I am often misunderstood as a Malaysian or Singaporean.
Everyone Likes MeetupsI have joined numerous language meetups in Taipei and I think that it is a good way to socialize and practice languages. Everyone likes meetups, they like meeting people, and they like to speak foreign languages.
I combined my passion for languages and the eagerness to introduce more about Indonesia into an idea of organizing meetups. That’s when the first Indonesian Language Meetup was started. The concept was to gather any Indonesian learners and encourage everyone to hold conversation only in Indonesian. However, the Indonesian language is not English. It still losses in the aspect of popularity. The motivation to learn Indonesian language is still not as high as that for English. Many participants that come to Indonesian Language Meetup still cannot converse in Indonesian.
Soon after that, I started English Language Meetup and unlike Indonesian, I am able to make it a full-English conversation gathering. It is easier and more interesting to many participants. One of the factors is that there is limited opportunity for English learners to use English actively in their daily life.
After gaining much appreciation and popularity, I started much more language meetups for other languages that I know, such as Spanish, Esperanto, French, Portuguese, and Chinese. I am happy because I can use these languages in real life and get to know more people that share the same passion with me.
Foreign Language Meetup
Chinese Language Meetup
Indonesian Language Meetup
You can follow my event page on Facebook to see the latest updates.
Have you joined any language meetups? Share your story with us!
1. Could you tell us about yourself, including the languages you know?Hello, my name is Manfred Sailer. I am a German monolingual. Ever since elementary school, I have been fascinated by the grammar. I still remember how excited I was when we learned what an "adjective" was. I only started learning other languages at the age of 10. I managed to turn grammar into my profession, studying general linguistics and working as a linguist in the English department of Goethe University, Frankfurt. I love learning languages, though I am quite lazy when it comes to memorizing vocabulary.
When I became a linguist, I decided I would try to learn languages of different types: a creole language, a sign language, a tone language, a non-Indo-European language, and a constructed language. I am not there yet, but I am on my way.
I am relatively fluent in English, French, Esperanto, and Dutch. With some effort, I can read and speak Spanish, Afrikaans, and Papiamentu. I also learned some Russian, Yiddish, German Sign Language, Portuguese, Toki Pona, and Modern Greek. I have started learning Modern Hebrew several times but never got to a comfortable level.
2. Why do you think languages are important for you?It makes me genuinely happy to learn languages, to speak in a foreign language, to read a text or to watch a movie in a foreign language. When I travel to a country where I have some understanding of the language, I have the impression that I am experiencing my entire visit in a more intense way.
3. Which language are you learning and how do you learn?I am currently learning Modern Greek relatively systematically. I bought a textbook and worked through it auto-didactically. I have a colleague in Athens with whom I can use some Greek when we exchange e-mail messages. She is very excited about me learning her language and takes the patience to either write her messages in both English and Greek or to give me hints on constructions and vocabulary items she is using. She is also happy to answer all my questions about Greek. In addition, I use Duolingo to enlarge and train my vocabulary. I started learning Greek because I saw a high chance of going to Greece more or less regularly, as a tourist and for work, because this would create opportunities to use the language, to get books and movies etc.
I am also learning Papiamentu at the moment. This is a creole language with tones - but not many! - whose vocabulary is based mainly on languages that I already speak (Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch). So, it satisfies two criteria of my list (tone language and creole language) and does not create too much vocabulary learning difficulties. In addition, it is spoken on three beautiful Caribbean Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) which are easily accessible by plane from central Europe. Again, I started with a textbook and a dictionary. I subscribed to the online version of the Curaçao TV station. I also took private Skype lessons, which helped me a lot to gain confidence to use the language. I was lucky enough that my wife also likes spending time on Curaçao and Bonaire, so we have been to these islands on vacation several times already.
4. Could you tell us which language is the most challenging for you to learn and why?My main difficulties in language learning are spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary. So, Greek is quite a challenge for me because of its long words that are often not related to words from other languages that I speak and because it has so many ways to spell the same sound. These are the same difficulties I have with Modern Hebrew, which is why I haven't gotten very far with it yet.
German sign language is difficult because of its phonology. My eyes just cannot segment signs fast enough. I would need a lot of practice to overcome this, but there is not enough easily available material for me.
5. Which language is the least challenging for you to learn and why?I must confess that I try to learn languages that are not too challenging for me. So, Afrikaans was a good choice because it has a fascinating grammar, but it is very much like Dutch from the point of view of vocabulary and spelling. Similarly, Papiamentu has its unique grammatical and phonological features, but the spelling - at least on Curaçao and Bonaire - is very phonological and the words are mainly cognates of words from languages I have already learned.
6. What is the next language for you to learn and why?I still have a long way to go with Modern Greek. If I manage to achieve a level of confidence that I am happy with, I might work on some of the languages that I am not that confident about yet. So, at the moment, there is no language out there that I absolutely want to learn next.
In general, I pick languages that seem to be relatively easy for me. I prefer small languages - why learn a "big" language if there are already so many speakers? However, I need access to learning material, to online material in this language (music, e-books, audiobooks, movies), and, ideally, access to some speakers for questions and practice.
7. What is your advice to other language learners?To me, a language is like a friend: you need to invest time to get to know another person. The better you know them, the more fun you can have together. However, the more time you spend with a new friend, the less time you have for your old friends. So, my advice would be to think about the effort it takes to learn a particular language and about the opportunities you have to do something, you enjoy with/ in this language. But, most of all, as with people: if a language looks interesting, try to get to know it!
Keeping one's learned languages at a good level is also an important challenge. Usually, I only focus on one or two languages at the time - Greek and Papiamentu at the moment. However, if I know that I will go to France next month or meet someone from the Netherlands soon, I will not wait for this natural opportunity to speak French or Dutch. Rather, I will stop with the other languages and try to reactivate as much of my French or Dutch as possible - reading books, watching TV etc. This helps me to have a lot of my knowledge reactivated before I really need it in practice.
8. How would you use your language skill to make this world a better place?Learning small languages helps to conserve linguistic diversity. If you tell speakers of a small language that you are learning their language, this usually makes them very happy and supports a positive attitude towards their own language. Interest in small languages promotes their study and the production of grammars, dictionaries, and teaching material for these languages. Language is a very powerful tool for understanding another person, another culture.
9. Imagine you have a linguistic superpower, what would it be?I would love to have the ability to find a speaker of a language that I am learning whenever I feel like and to always have a nice and interesting topic to talk about with them. Luckily, Amikumu is quite close as a tool to give me this power.
10. What could you suggest to encourage more people to learn languages?Learning a language takes time and practice. Therefore, I think you should try to have fun while learning the language. It is not only about reaching a certain degree of competence in the language, but also about having a good time on the way there. Depending on your learning style or your personality, this could be achieved by studying in a nice group, by combining learning and traveling, or, as in my case, by being fascinated about particular language structures.
Sometimes, I use a computer game analogy. To me, a textbook is like a computer game. On each page, I get new skills (grammar rules) and tools or items (words) that I can use. There are some challenges within the "game", i.e. the textbook exercises. However, I can also go out into the real world to face more challenges (like reading a short text or even trying to say some sentences). This analogy might help some learners to get into the right mood for having fun with learning a language.
If you have any questions or opinions for Manfred Sailer, leave your comments below. Share your story with us!
"Ripeti con me" means "repeat with me" in Italian. Repetition has always been one of many successful factors of language learning. It does not matter whichever language you learn, you need to repeat it daily, and make it part of your life to get a better outcome.
I stumbled upon an Italian course that goes by the name "Ripeti Con Me!". This sounds intriguing because rather than using any names that seem meaningless, "Ripeti Con Me!" sounds to be a request to the learners to learn together. I can imagine a language instructor saying "ripeti con me" as a patient teacher who will help me no matter how bad I learn.
Spaced RepetitionIf you have used audio courses that teach you dialogs, then you will be familiar with the method of "Ripeti Con Me!". However, it does not teach you a collection of phrases that form a dialog in a given situation, such as ordering food or asking directions. It does teach you the natural form of speaking and saying something in a daily life context. The audio courses also include phrases narrated with emotions which occur in our natural conversation so you will not sound like a robot.
From its name, you can get the message that this course wants you to focus on repetition. Your brain remembers an information easier when it stores that information more frequently. The audio availability means that you can listen to it anytime and anywhere, even when you are exercising. Sounds good? Kill two birds with one stone.
The person behind "Ripeti Con Me!" is Stefano Lodola, a native Italian from Carrara city. He earned two degrees in Engineering and Business Administration from universities in Italy and Japan. He lived in Japan for 7 years and is currently moving around in South Korea, Mainland China, and Taiwan.
Believe it or not, Stefano was raised speaking only Italian but he knows 9 other languages by now, namely English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German.
And guess what, Stefano is also an opera singer.
Does it sound appealing to you? If you want to check it now, visit Ripeti Con Me! or if you have used it, share your story with us!
1. Could you tell us about yourself, including the languages you know?Hello everyone, my name is Hanbid Kim and my English name is Jack. My mother tongue is Korean. I have special hobbies such as studying several languages and traveling. I really like to study languages because I think of languages as the versatile tools. There are languages like English, Chinese, Cantonese, etc. which are the main languages I can speak fluently. I want to know more languages around the world in my life.
2. Why do you think languages are important to you?Because languages are the only way to change my life as well as the most important tools for international communication. According to a Czech proverb, if I learn a new language hard, I can get a new soul and change my personality. I strongly believe this proverb and I realized that my personality changes when I speak Chinese.
3. Which language are you learning and how do you learn?I have studied Chinese for 8 years through Chinese media and tutor, and I’m learning Japanese, Indonesian and Thai at this moment. I need something interesting to learn these languages, for example, firstly, I write a language blog while I am memorizing Japanese words, and compare them with Korean and Chinese. Secondly, I sometimes watch Japanese media. Lastly, I learn some Indonesian language at an Indonesian language meetup every Friday.
4. Could you tell us which language is the most challenging for you to learn and why?Someone says that every language is the most challenging, but recently I found the most challenging language is Thai and I am interested in learning Thai letters. Every character is more complicated than that of other languages and there are various spellings in Thai. So, I had to make an effort to learn how to spell these for a few days.
5. Which language is the least challenging for you to learn and why?Chinese is the least challenging language because there are many chances to speak Chinese and I already passed the Chinese exam.
6. What is the next language for you to learn and why?The next language will be Spanish because although I was born in Spain, I missed many chances to learn Spanish.
7. What is your advice to other language learners?If you don’t want to be frustrated by language, set a goal, and read the culture and emotion of the language. Every natural language has its culture and emotion. If you want to set a goal, distinguish language into four parts: speaking, listening, reading and writing.
8. How would you use your language skill to make this world a better place?There are many language skills. Firstly, I would try to find my language skill which matches my lifestyle. Then, I would try to communicate with various people around the world by using my language skills.
9. Imagine you have a linguistic superpower, what would it be?To be able to find the unknown world and become a guide to this unknown world for everybody.
10. What could you suggest to encourage more people to learn languages?I suggest many people travel around the world and find the new world, it will help them set a goal easily.
If you have any questions or opinions for Hanbid Kim, leave your comments below. Share your story with us!
Besides English, which other language is more useful and gives a higher investment return? Many Korean drama fans learn Korean, Japanese drama fans learn Japanese, did you know that these two languages are only used in Korea and Japan, respectively? The chance to use these two languages in many countries around the world is low.
What is your consideration in choosing a second language? Let me show you a list of facts that can help you decide which language to learn.
1. Top 10 languages by number of speakersChinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, and Punjabi
2. Top 10 languages by number of countriesEnglish, French, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Malay, Swahili, and Russian
3. Official languages of the United NationsArabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish
These three options show you languages that are popular around the world. You need to think about your motivation carefully before you decide which language to learn. Unless you learn languages for fun, you need to pay attention to these three factors:
1. The most motivation for learning a language is to communicate with foreigners 2. Knowing foreign languages helps you while traveling 3. Learning languages used by international organizations gives more economical benefits
Perhaps, you may ask...
1. Learning a language is time-consuming and it takes much effort, what should I do?You can start with easier languages, it can be languages that are similar with languages that you already know or use the same writing system. If you are an English speaker, try Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian or French.
2. Learning a language is not cheap, are there any readily available or free resources?You can find any language centers nearby your place, a language partner or tutor. As for online resources, you can watch movies or TV shows, join forums, use language learning programs, etc which are mostly available for free or at a cheaper price. You can also learn by reading a newspaper or magazine, listening to the radio or going to the library. If you can find the speakers of your target languages, try to assimilate yourself into their community and learn naturally.
Lastly, it does not matter which language you learn, it will become an important part of your life forever. So, which language will you learn?
I got several chances for interview about my language learning recently. The topic varied from my experience of learning various languages to Esperanto and constructed languages. Besides, there were also chances for doing presentations to raise public awareness about language learning and to demonstrate how easy and fun it is for everyone.
During an interview one day, I was praised that my successful language learning does not come only from good learning technique and correct mindset but also from good communication with my language partners that come from around the world.
To have another language is to possess a second soul - Charlemagne
If you think that knowing how to speak a foreign language is enough for successful international communication, you are wrong. Knowing about foreign culture and custom helps you communicate better. You need to learn how they speak, which topic is safe and unsafe to talk about.
I like to watch documentary films in my free time. I usually watch anything about culture, society, and history in general, or of a certain country. I also like to watch about tourism. At the time of this writing, I am watching a YouTube video about tourism in Cape Verde in French language. Cape Verde is almost unknown for Asian, so I believe that there is not much information available in Asian languages. The advantage of knowing a foreign language is to be able to get information that is limited in your languages.
Keep On Reading
Reading is part of my daily activity. I like reading in various languages, and I find that Wikipedia is very suitable for my learning style. I can read the same topic in various languages. Wikipedia's articles of the same topic have different contents in different languages. So, you will find that there is much more information in certain languages. This makes reading Wikipedia articles very interesting!
On the left bottom of the article, there is a list of languages in which the article is available. I usually select the languages from the top one of the list. This is what I do every day to practice the languages that I know. It may sound like a a daunting task that require much concentration but believe me, it is a good practice for your brain too.
Wikipedia article about Cape Verde is available in more than 197 languages
I do not have many opportunities to meet the native speakers for practicing languages because they are not available here. One way to solve this problem is to utilize the internet. I can know anyone from any countries to speak any languages although minority language speakers may not be easy to find but it is still possible. Share your story with us!