Published on Feb 11, 2013
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Improve your fluency and confidence in understanding and writing English with this interactive multimedia course. Part 1 of the Pre-Intermediate English course introduces vocabulary related to talking about yourself, your job and your hobbies. This course lets you practice giving advice and directions while helping to increase your understanding of the past and present tenses.
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Published on Feb 12, 2013
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Practice and improve your understanding of English with this free online English language course brought to you on ALISON by the British Council. This interactive learning experience uses native English speakers to improve your understanding and fluency. On completion of this course you will understand how to greet people in English, change money in a bank, take a ride in a taxi. After completing this interactive course you will develop a good understanding of English grammar.
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Published on Jun 26, 2013
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English is the international language of business and opens up many opportunities to non-native speakers. Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) instructors provide a valuable service to immigrants in English-speaking countries. This free online course introduces the essential learning theories and practices needed to be a TESL instructor. The course details the needs of adult ESL learners, the learning styles of students, and how to facilitate intercultural communication in the classroom. Following this, it describes the activities and exercises that increase student comprehension of the English language. Finally it explains how to prepare for and conduct a lesson including creating a lesson plan, classroom management,
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Published on May 14, 2013
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Standard Arabic is the first language of hundreds of millions of people in 26 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. The Arabic language has a great history and heritage in the fields of literature, theology and science. In this free online course you will be introduced to the Arabic language and you will gain a clear knowledge and understanding of important facets of the language such as the Arabic alphabet, pronunciation of Arabic words, the use of verbs and nouns, and how to read and write simple sentences in Arabic. You will also be introduced to basic vocabulary such as days of the week, numbers and colours, which will give you confidence to continue building your knowledge of Arabic vocabulary.
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Primary Languages - Manadarin
Published on Mar 27, 2013
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Germany is internationally recognised as the industrial and economic powerhouse of Europe, so a working knowledge of German is essential for professionals in areas such as business, finance, economics and politics. In this free online German language course you will be introduced to basic German vocabulary and grammar. You will learn about times of the day, colours, numbers, the alphabet, and important verbs
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Paul Pimsleur’s forgotten wisdom
Dr Paul Pimsleur was a psychologist who devised the Pimsleur ‘speak and read’ series of language lessons. He died in 1976, but lessons using his system (including some of the original recordings) remain among the best-selling language series in the world. Many people have remarked that they learnt to speak another language using the Pimsleur system, when all their previous efforts failed. In 1980, Dr Pimsleur’s book, How to Learn a Foreign Language(link is external), was published posthumously. The book lays out Dr Pimsleur’s principles of language learning and instruction, which of course underlie his series of language lessons. His book has long been out of print and very difficult to obtain (at the time of writing, Amazon lists one used copy as available, priced at $2475.00). (Update: In early September 2013, a few months after this article was written, Amazon made Dr Pimsleur's book available via Kindle - great news).
Here are a few of the key lessons from Dr Pimsleur’s book. They were based on his extensive language teaching experience and the best research available at the time, and for the most part they have withstood the test of further research over the 35 years since he wrote. Many of these principles are applicable to learning anything, not just another language.
Why learn another language?
Dr Pimsleur argues that anyone can learn a foreign language, but that for most of us it takes considerable effort and the right circumstances and support. Contrary to the ‘learn a language effortlessly in only a few hours’ marketing hype (which unfortunately has occasionally been used to promote the Pimsleur courses themselves), Dr Pimsleur stated that the effort and difficulty of learning a language to a good standard is part of what makes it so rewarding:
“I think the best answer to ‘Why learn a foreign language’ is that it may make one’s life richer. Not only after one knows it, but even during the learning.... Viewed as a decision to fill a stretch of time with stimulating, purposeful activity, the undertaking of learning a foreign language can be a delightful voyage full of new expressions and ideas. One is glad to go slowly and savor the trip.”
How long does it take to learn another language?
Some people have purchased the 45 hour ‘comprehensive’ Pimsleur course with the impression that after completing it, they should able to speak a language ‘fluently’. They have universally been disappointed.
In his book, Dr Pimsleur describes the level that the comprehensive courses teach as the “Courtesy and necessity” speaking level. (He also describes the length of these courses as “under 60 hours”, which in my experience is more realistic than the 45 hours it says on the box). He comments,
“If your objective is to master the language fully in speech and writing, then you may have to devote at least a year and a half, most of it spent in the foreign country, to reaching this objective. A good plan would be to study the language for three to six months at home, and then go to the foreign country for at least a year, during which time you must speak only the foreign language.”
Dr Pimsleur emphasises the value of even the most basic level of language knowledge, which “can transform a person from an ‘ugly American’ into one who is obviously attempting to meet others halfway. It is certain to make any trip you take more rewarding”.
Which language should you learn?
Different languages require different amounts of time to learn. Referencing research at the Foreign Language Institute (FSI), Dr Pimsleur lists Spanish and French (unsurprisingly) and Indonesian and Swahili (oddly) as amongst the easiest languages to learn. Arabic and Japanese are amongst the hardest.
Dr Pimsleur describes the highlights and lowlights of learning a variety of popular languages. The tough part of French is the pronunciation, whereas the good thing about learning German is that “the Germans are nice about trying to understand what you say, no matter how you massacre their language”. Spanish is valuable because it is spoken in so many varied countries, whereas Russian is “difficult but rewarding, provided you have a compelling purpose for learning it”. Having seen many try and fail, Dr Pimsleur counsels against learning an obscure, difficult language just because it seems like a cool thing to do.
Ultimately, Dr Pimsleur concludes that the best language to study is one that you have a compelling reason to learn. This might be because you plan to spend a long time in the country, you want to enjoy a country’s literature in its original language, or because you have an abiding attraction to a particular culture, language and people.
In Part 2 of this article, see below, I describe some of Dr Pimsleur’s suggestions for learning pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary in your new language. You can also click on “Subscribe via RSS” toward the top right of this page, or add me to your "Following" circle in Google Plus, if you’d like to be alerted when other articles in this series are published.
Paul Pimsleur’s forgotten wisdom part 2
Part 1 of this article, see above, explains how the language learning secrets of the man who invented one of the world’s best-selling language series have been hidden for years. Unveiled in this article is the second installment of the forgotten wisdom of the man who studied Russian with a martini in his hand.
Where to start
Dr Pimsleur suggests starting by learning a few things that will be immediately useful, rather than with lengthy and complex grammatical theory. He adds that if you struggle withconcentration, you should break up your study into short bursts of around twenty minutes. In my favourite quote, he suggests that “no rule forbids learning a language with a martini in your hand; in fact, it may lower your inhibitions”.
Underlying Dr Pimsleur’s suggested approach are some of the same key principles that are explained in more recent books on how to learn effectively (e.g. Your Memory(link is external) andThe Learning Revolution(link is external)). These principles include:
Practice recalling the information
Challenge yourself to answer questions. This is much more effective than simple repetition or sitting and listening to a long explanation.
Get immediate feedback
When you self-test your recall of information, check whether you have recalled it correctly. If you remembered incorrectly or not at all, check the correct answer and then self-test yourself again immediately.
Practice recall in many contexts
For example, practice recalling an important word in many different types of sentences, and practice listening to many different voices speaking your new language.
Use graduated interval recall
If you want to learn information for the long term, space your recall practice over time. An example might be to self-test: immediately, after two minutes, after six minutes, at the end of the study session, and then after a day, two days, four days, one week, three weeks, two months, and one year. Spreading out your recall practice over time is much more effective than doing it all at once.
Learn one thing at a time
Traditional academic courses typically present new information in large chunks. For example, a textbook might teach the Spanish for “I speak”, “You speak”, “He speaks”, “She speaks” and “They speak” all at once. The Pimsleur courses typically teach only one piece of new information at a time. That is, they start by teaching “I speak”, and provide the opportunity to practice saying this before moving on to new material.
How to practice pronunciation
Dr Pimsleur recommends learning pronunciation before learning to read in a language, since reading tends to conjure the English pronunciation. Instead, words should be learnt by mimicking a native model, generally in the context of whole sentences. In a trick borrowed from the FSI, he suggests breaking words down into syllables and then learning the word from back to front. For example, the Spanish gracioso can be learnt in the sequence “-so; -cioso; gracioso”.
If you struggle to ‘hear’ the difference between two sounds, Dr Pimsleur advises that you invite a native-speaking friend to make fun of your difficulties. Having a native speaker repeat your error and contrast it with the correct native pronunciation will help you to ‘hear’ and understand the difference.
Dr Pimsleur confesses that he struggled to learn how to pronounce French (which is the language in which he held a PhD), which should provide great comfort to those students who find learning pronunciation difficult (most of us).
How to learn grammar
Dr Pimsleur recommends learning the grammar of a language mostly through verbal pattern drills. In these drills, a question is asked which prompts you to produce a response in the language you are learning. You then hear a native speaker give the correct response. In this way, you quickly develop an intuitive ‘feel’ for the correct grammar. The Pimsleur courses are based on this principle. Dr Pimsleur suggests that if you don’t have access to a course which provides these drills for you, you could make your own (asking a native speaker to record sentences which embody the elements of grammar you are seeking to master).
In many non-English languages, words are either male or female. Dr Pimsleur counsels that while you should attempt to remember word gender as best you can, there is no need to be overly worried, as in most cases you will be understood even if you get the gender wrong.
How to learn vocabulary
Dr Pimsleur describes coming to grips with vocabulary as the most substantial challenge of learning a new language, since any language has far more words than it has distinct sounds to pronounce or grammatical rules to understand. Still, learning vocabulary is not hard, it’s just a big job.
Dr Pimsleur provides a few key suggestions on how to learn vocabulary. First, start by learning the most common words (you can find these listed in a word frequency dictionary(link is external)). Second, learn things like numbers and days of the week in random order, and interspaced with other material. Third, use flash cards(link is external)(cards with questions on one side and answers on the other). Fourth, learn words in context (i.e. as part of sentences). Fifth, read a lot in the language you are learning, starting with simple texts. Look up the meaning of only the words that interest you or that seem to keep tripping you up.
Mastering workplace knowledge
In a future article, I’ll describe how you can apply Dr Pimsleur´s principles for learning a new language to become much more effective at learning anything you need to know for work or study. You can click on “Subscribe via RSS” toward the top right of this page if you’d like to be alerted when this and other articles in this series are published.
Video and Print Resources
This resource provides a rich source of exemplary teaching practices that can be put to immediate use in the classroom and in the school. It also exemplifies best practices of schools welcoming newcomers, and working effectively with community partners and families.
The print resources facilitate note-taking, inquiry, reflection and planning before, during and after viewing. Download the Viewer's Guide in PDF for complete instructions on how to use the print and video resources.
In terms of language learning, we’re a nation of committed non-swimmers faced with a swimming pool – anxious about diving in and not convinced of the joys of taking the plunge, writes John Worne.
Can’t, won’t, don’t, three words which sum up our national view on speaking foreign languages. Of course it’s not entirely true, but last week saw another day of disappointment for language lovers, as we saw the continued decline in UK students choosing to study foreign languages at university level.
I’m pretty much lost for words, having written and spoken on this topic many, many times in the last few years.
So for inspiration I turn to the writer and author Christopher de Bellaigue, who wrote to encourage me in my labours last autumn:
“It’s as well to remind ourselves that our ancestors thought nothing of picking up languages: one for the village, the other for the town, and perhaps another one entirely for the capital city, and that nowadays supposedly less educated people in other countries can end up knowing half a dozen.
"I had an Afghan taxi driver the other day who knew not only Dari and Pashto, but also Urdu and Punjabi (from being in Pakistan), Persian and Turkish (from refugee limbo in Iran and Turkey) and now English, and considered himself nothing exceptional – sadly in this country we have allowed ourselves to decommission the part of the brain that does this kind of thing.”
He’s not wrong. For the past seven years, the number of UK students choosing to study foreign languages at university level has been in steady decline – and sadly, this latest news does very little to suggest any prospect of us re-commissioning our collective brains.
While there is some progress – languages are now on the menu in more primary schools – there’s a long haul ahead. The latest national school exam results show that uptake of languages at both GCSE and A-level has also stalled.
More than 10,000 fewer language A-level exams were taken last year than at the end of the 1990s, with GCSE entry figures again showing a drop in the number of Modern Foreign Language exams, following a couple of years of growth.
Perfectly intelligent people will tell you not to worry. Everyone speaks English in the world of business (they don’t), your iPhone will now translate road signs for you (but you may crash or choke on the roaming data charges) and the next generation of wearable tech will enable intercultural telepathy anyway. Cobblers.
Language learning is vital for the UK’s future prosperity and global standing. Languages are essential for our trade, prosperity, cultural exports, diplomacy and national security.
The most recent CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey showed almost two-thirds of UK businesses need foreign language skills – and expect that to grow as more firms look to break into new fast-growing markets, with the UK’s concerted export drive. The problem is many UK businesses have given up on home-grown talent and rely on translators or hire abroad.
The only really piece of good news is forward-thinking universities are offering students the chance to study a language alongside another degree subject. A number of students are opting to do so – more should.
It’s a particularly attractive combination for employers. The tough reality in a tough jobs market is a lawyer with Chinese language skills is more in demand than a pure lawyer or a pure linguist.
There is no doubt the UK needs more of our young people, not fewer, to develop their language skills to at least a functional level for trade and export.
But more than that, understanding another language is the basis for understanding another culture – and an open mind and an international outlook have never been more important for the UK's place in the world.
What to do? I’ve said before when it comes to language learning, we’re like a nation of committed non-swimmers faced with a swimming pool – anxious about diving in and not convinced of the joys of taking the plunge.
So, parents of the UK (and I’m one), what it is going to take is a cultural shift in homes up and down the land. Unless we as parents start thinking more about languages, and international experiences, as essential strings to our children’s bows, it’s not going to happen; the school and education system can’t fix it without us.
I leave you with the thoughts of the Principal of the British School in Tokyo who kindly picked up on our Languages for the Future report.
“I have never met an adult who has retained a sense of resentment about being made to learn a language. In fact the opposite is true. Along with ‘I wish I’d never been allowed to give up piano lessons’, the expression of regret I hear most often is ‘I wish I’d kept up my French (Spanish, Polish, Japanese…).”
John Worne, Director of Strategy at the British Council
With 1 billion speakers, English is beyond any doubt the 1st option for language learning for non native speakers. However, speaking a second language is a big plus both for professional and general communication use. This report highlights 2nd language deficiency among Britons.