This is not going to be a post about how “Chinese characters are easier than you think!” I’ll give it to you straight. Learning to read and write in Mandarin is a serious undertaking. It might not even be necessary if your goal is more centered around speaking and listening ability. In this post I’ll help you weigh your personal …Read More »
Just to stir the pot a bit… I thought I would post this chart from my upcoming talk at the Polyglot Conference in Fukuoka (2019). I’ll be giving a talk in which I describe the structure of some of my favorite Asian languages, and what to expect if you decide to learn them (the talk is called “Which Asian Language …Read More »
Mandarin tones do take some getting used to, but they are not as complicated as you might think! I have noticed that language learners often decide not to try learning Mandarin because they are daunted by the thought of using pitch to distinguish meaning. But guess what—Mandarin tones are famous for being among the simplest of all tonal languages to …Read More »
Since I posted my blog post on the importance of prosody, many of you wrote to ask for more explanation of how my shadowing exercise works. It is a very powerful exercise and has helped me immeasurably. It is particularly useful for tonal languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, or Thai. I’ve written a more detailed explainer here, and made some …Read More »
When you learn a foreign language, you usually study pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Maybe even a new alphabet. But how many of your language teachers have ever mentioned prosody? Prosody is the “music” of language. In spoken languages, prosody is the variation of pitches across a sentence or discourse level. For example, in American English we tend to raise our …Read More »
The United Nations has declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages. I know a lot of you are taking that as your cue to try your hand at learning a minority language, from Occitan to Teochew to Hawaiian! How fun! But of course one of the biggest challenges of learning a minority language is that it can be harder …Read More »
Someone on Quora Français recently asked me, “why should I learn Chinese?” (This post was originally written in French for Quora. Lisez son original en français) My opinion? There are several reasons why you’ll want to choose Chinese as your foreign language. Use Chinese to Access Global Business Right now, much of the world considers learning English to be their …Read More »
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Sara Maria’s Language Diary (@misslingdiary) on Dec 2, 2018 at 3:31pm PST Above: an example of a monologue I memorized in order to improve my ASL. Recently, I was asked how someone could learn Korean in 15 days. That was worth a laugh! I’ve been studying Korean for five years, and …Read More »
When the recent article in The Cut came out proclaiming Duolingo useless, the glee was palpable. I get it. You’ve spent countless hours at the beck and call of that owl, and you still can’t speak Spanish, or Ukrainian, or High Valyrian. You feel ineffective, incapable. You wondered if it was just you. I’m writing this post on a long …Read More »
How to Use italki Stategically: Find the Right Tutor and Get the Most Out of Your Online Language Lessons
After a month-long break from language-learning to focus on my business, I’ve just booked my next trip: Prague –> Bratislava –> Lviv –> Kiev! Of course, this means I have some new languages to learn (Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian) and one language I need to revive from very dormant slumber (Russian). As soon as I started making these travel plans, …Read More »
If you’re reading this blog, there is a good chance that you’re a hopeless language addict, suggestible to any new language recommendation, and forever putting languages aside to try out the new hot thing. So maybe I shouldn’t be enabling you. But if you’re looking to learn a new foreign language and don’t know which one to choose, I have …Read More »
I get this question a lot: “You mean, there is more than one sign language?” And don’t feel bad, before I studied linguistics and started doing research on Nicaraguan Sign Language, I hadn’t thought about sign languages much either. I had plenty of wrong ideas about how they worked. But yes, to answer the question, there are actually many sign …Read More »
Happy International Mother Language Day! My mother language, or “mother tongue” as we say in the US, is English. This is fitting for a linguist. Not because it is currently a so-called lingua franca, but because it is a very mixed-up and promiscuous language, vulnerable to nearly any language it comes in contact with, mixing its many linguistic influences, sometimes …Read More »
Hej allihopa! This weekend I participated in Sandra Schellhase’s Language Jam social media challenge, in which participants have four days to study a language which they are randomly assigned. I was so happy to get Swedish! I’ve always been a bit of a Scandinavia-phile, and some of my family lives in Sweden too, but I always felt guilty about …Read More »
Working on your accent? So am I — in six languages. As a native speaker of English and an adult learner of Spanish, French, Mandarin, Korean, Indonesian, and ASL, I’ve had my fair share of phonetic struggles, from Mandarin tones to that rolled Spanish “r”. But guess what? There are concrete steps you can take to improve your accent, especially …Read More »
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