general language learning

Shadowing: This Exercise Will Make You Sound Like a Native

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 …

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Linguistics 101 Series: Why You Need to Master Prosody to Speak a Foreign Language

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 …

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So You’re Not Fluent Yet: Should You Blame Duolingo?

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 …

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You Might Want to Learn These Languages

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 …

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Langjam: Studying Swedish When You Only Have Four Days

  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 …

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10 Ways to Improve Your Accent in a Foreign Language

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 …

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Le défi de se filmer pendant 30 jours

Prefer to read this post in English? You can find it here. Pour le 28ème jour du défi de se filmer pendant 30 jours, j’ai décidé de parler du défi lui-même, et de pourquoi je pense que c’est une très bonne façon d’apprendre une langue étrangère. Le #30dryc est, pour les participants, le défi d’apprendre une langue étrangère en s’engageant …

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