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Mark Twain Does German

Famous Language Learners, Funny Stories
Among the famous who recount their language learning adventures, we find Mark Twain. It sounds like German was something of a challenge for him. Here's a literal translation of a speech he gave to a Press Club in Vienna, filled with liberal commentary on the problematic nuances of German grammar for English speakers: I am indeed the truest friend of the German language - and not only now, but from long since - yes, before twenty years already. . . . I would only some changes effect. I would only the language method - the luxurious, elaborate construction compress, the eternal parenthesis suppress, do away with, annihilate; the introduction of more than thirteen subjects in one sentence forbid; the verb so far to the front pull that one it without…
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1 Active Listening Strategy for Language Learners

Listening was once thought to be a passive skill. Anyone who has ever tried to learn another language knows this a bunch of hooey. You strain. You sweat. You rewind. You listen over and over. You say, "Please repeat." Nothing passive about it. The good news here is that you CAN work to improve your active listening strategies. (more…)
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Strat Chat: Lean into language learning

Strat Chat Newsletter
Strat Chat, the Strategic L2 semi-regular newsletter, goes out today! In this issue, learn about the phenomenon of forgetting words in your first language. Ever happen to you???? Sign up here. More about language learning: Understanding Word Lists Finding and Using Online Language Exchange Partners 5 Steps Towards Accent Reduction
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Understanding Word Lists

Language Learning, Language Learning Strategies, Language Learning Styles, Technology & Language Learning, Vocabulary Strategies
One of the biggest hurdles language learners face is memorizing vocabulary. Not all words are equal, however, and this daunting task is further complicated by figuring out which words are the ones worth learning. I was in a class the other day and the vocabulary word ‘clerk’ came up, as in a store clerk. These were low intermediate students and we had just gone over the definition of ‘commercial’. Clerk? Really?! (more…)
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What Does the Future of Language Learning Look Like?

Language Learning, Technology & Language Learning
What does the future of second language learning really look like? I picked up "Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era" by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. For anyone who is thinking critically about the future of education – both K-12 and university – this is a must read. Apart from the skillfully placed vignettes used to illustrate data sets, the authors break down major subject areas, to include foreign language education (which is near and dear to my heart). The disturbing bit is that Wagner and Smith give voice to some of the murkier thoughts I've been having about the future of language education, as in, it will probably look vastly different from what we have today. (more…)
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How We Forget Languages

How We Forget Languages

The other day a language learner asked about forgetting a language he'd already learned. How does forgetting work? What could he do to prevent this? (more…)
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Create Opportunities for Language Learning Success

Language Learning, Language Learning Strategies, Language Strategies and Motivation
Language learning websites and newsletters are filled with discussions about making language learning your New Year's resolution. Awesome! I heartily support this resolution, but ... let's fast forward three months... Life happens. We all get busy. There are groceries to buy, projects due, and papers to write. We spend time with friends and family. We play video games, talk on the phone, chat, and text. Sometimes we just want to do nothing more than spend an evening watching TV. Knowing this, the next step in helping you maintain your motivation during your language learning journey is to build language learning reminders into your daily life. (more…)
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The First Step to Become a Self-Directed Language Learner

Language Learning Strategies, Study Strategies
I was working with an English learner from China the other day, and she mentioned that she was getting her driver's license. In China, the first step in getting a driver's license involves studying for and taking a 100 question multiple choice exam and passing with at least 90% accuracy. My response: Wow! 100 questions? I'd never pass! Her response: No. It's no big deal. We're Chinese. That's what we do. We're very good at taking tests. (more…)
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What’s wrong with language learner compensation strategies at the higher levels?

Advanced Speaking Strategies, Language Learning Strategies, Little Bit of Theory
A common attitude held by language learners is that one course or a series of sequential courses will allow them to meet their individual goals. The reality of proficiency development is that while the lower levels breeze by for learners, at the higher levels it will often seem as if the same learners plateau. In fact, by the time language learners reach the advanced levels, they have often developed a complex set of compensation strategies which allow them to (more…)
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What is an individual difference? How to accommodate?

Language Strategies and Motivation, Language Teaching, Learners
What are your individual differences? I was completing a book review the other day and I came across the term 'individual difference' for language learners. Then last week I was finishing an article with a colleague and we got stuck on the draft. The problem? We were working through defining and including 'individual differences'. What are individual differences? (more…)
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Not Everyone Is A Master Language Learner

Language Learning Strategies, The Language Classroom
What's the connection between culture, class (as in social-capital) and language? Check out this article from The Atlantic, the story of a mid-career, African-American professional enrolling in an intensive language program. Coates, the author, highlights not only what it means to be an effective language learner in one of the world's most renowned language programs, but it also touches on the fact that the skills needed for success are gifted to us through our families and upbringing, termed social-capital, and that certain lucky individuals come into these programs as master learners not because they are smarter, but because of their previous learning experiences. This access to social-capital (or lack of) has been documented in university programs across the US for many years now. The idea that there are 'master' language…
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