My granddaughter has just turned 4 and has recently become very keen on a cartoon character called cat noir. She pronounces noir as a two-syllable word, with a vowel [ə] inserted after the [n]: [nə.waː]. In contrast, many speakers of British English—including her 6-year-old sister—pronounce this word as a single syllable: either [nwa] or with…… Continue reading Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds
I’ve written before about the University of Westminster’s online diagnostic quiz for Norwegian, Swedish and Hungarian. Test your languages online – Language Miscellany I’ve now tried their quiz for some of the other languages. Here are my results for all the ones I took. The results are marked out of 50. German and French For…… Continue reading Test your languages online (2)
If you hear a language you do not speak, it is hard to work out where one word ends and the next one begins. So finding the boundaries between words in continuous speech is a pre-requisite for acquiring your native language and for learning another language. A recent experiment found, for the first time, that…… Continue reading Dogs learn to spot word boundaries like babies do
The University of Westminster runs language courses in about 20 languages. In fact I did 3 of their evening courses in the mid 90s. For some languages they have a brief online diagnostic quiz. This tests how much you know so you can enrol at the right level. The quiz contains 50 questions, in a…… Continue reading Test your languages online
One of my school German teachers, Bob Tyler, used to say that the best all round test of someone’s language knowledge is a dictation. He was right. Your listening needs to be good enough to understand what was read to you (though admittedly in our school settings delivered at a slow pace, and by a…… Continue reading Dictation in language learning
I’ve sometimes heard people describe Russian as a difficult language for native English speakers. It is, indeed, a little more difficult for such learners than languages related more closely to English, such as other Germanic languages or the Romance languages. On the other hand, it is probably less difficult for them than completely unrelated languages.…… Continue reading Is Russian difficult for English speakers?
Mnemonics can help in learning languages. Here are three I learnt at school. German: Fudgebow This mnemonic is of the 7 basic prepositions that take the accusative case: Für: forUm: aroundDurch: throughGegen: againstEntlang: along (actually a post-position, it generally follows the noun, all the others precede it) Bis: untilOhne: withoutWider: against (not to be confused…… Continue reading Mnemonics in language learning