7 Errores Que Cometen Los Estudiantes De Idiomas

Finals in 2 days. And I don't know ANYTHING on...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read this post in English.

  • No escuchar lo suficiente. Escuchar es fundamental para tu éxito con el idioma.
  • Falta de deseo intrínseco. Curiosidad acerca del idioma y motivación son ingredientes necesarios para mantener tu interés.
  • Falta de tolerancia por la ambigüedad. Si quieres traducir cada palabra, vas a luchar. Debes de ser flexible y aceptar que en adición de aprender un idioma, estás aprendiendo una nueva forma de pensar.
  • Usar un sólo método. El éxito viene del empleo de una combinación de técnicas para aprender.
  • Miedo. Debes superar el miedo de hablar y cometer errores para poder aprender un idioma.
  • Falta de práctica continuo. Para aprender un idioma necesitas una rutina regular.
  • Darte por vencido demasiado pronto. ¡Si sigues echándole ganas, tendrás éxito!

Crushing The Stereotype About Monolingual America

America the Beautiful CountryWhat do you call someone who only speaks one language? American!

I don’t remember where I heard that joke, but it illustrates the infamous reputation Americans have throughout the world as monolingual English speakers.

And while there is a grain of truth to that, and perhaps a rather large one, it is somewhat misinformed.

A nation of immigrants, the United States is also home to more than 20 other languages, besides English.

English is the de facto national language of the United States, with 80% of the population claiming it as a mother tongue, and some 95% claiming to speak it “well” or “very well.”

 However, the United States has no official language at the federal level.

Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the United States, by more than 30% of the population. The United States is home to the world’s fifth largest Spanish-speaking population, outnumbered only by Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Argentina.

Chinese languages (Cantonese & Mandarin) have more than 2.6 million speakers in the United States.

Tagalog and Vietnamese have over one million speakers each in the United States, almost entirely within recent immigrant populations. 

Native American languages are spoken in smaller pockets of the country, but these populations are decreasing, and the languages are almost never widely used outside of reservations.

Formerly considered critically endangered, Hawaiian is showing signs of language renaissance. The recent trend is based on new Hawaiian language immersion programs of the Hawaii State Department of Education and the University of Hawaii, as well as efforts by the Hawaii State Legislature and county governments to preserve Hawaiian place names. In 1993, about 8,000 could speak and understand it; today estimates range up to 27,000.

Additionally, modern estimates indicate that American Sign Language is signed by as many as 500,000 Americans.

According to the American Community Survey 2009, endorsed by the United States Census Bureau, the main languages by number of speakers older than five are:

  1. English – 229 million
  2. Spanish – 35 million
  3. Chinese languages – 2.6 million + (mostly Cantonese speakers, with a growing group of Mandarin speakers)
  4. Tagalog – 1.5 million + (Most Filipinos may also know other Philippine languages, e.g. Ilokano, Pangasinan, Bikol languages, and Visayan languages)
  5. French – 1.3 million
  6. Vietnamese – 1.3 million
  7. German – 1.1 million (High German) + German dialects like Hutterite German, Texas German, Pennsylvania German, Plautdietsch
  8. Korean – 1.0 million
  9. Russian – 881,000
  10. Arabic – 845,000
  11. Italian – 754,000
  12. Portuguese – 731,000
  13. Polish – 594,000
  14. French Creole – 659,000
  15. Hindi – 561,000
  16. Japanese – 445,000
  17. Persian – 397,000
  18. Urdu – 356,000
  19. Gujarati – 341,000
  20. Greek – 326,000
  21. Serbo-Croatian – 269,000
  22. Armenian – 243,000
  23. Hebrew – 222,000
  24. Cambodian – 202,000

The original content of this post can be found on Wikipedia.

Go Grandriders: A Film That Reveals Why Following Your Passion Is Worth The Strife

Go Grandriders

A couple of nights ago I went to see a Taiwanese movie called Go Grandriders (不老騎士).

Since I have been living in Taiwan and learning Chinese, I was excited by the opportunity to screen a Taiwanese film in the United States.

This documentary is about a group of elderly Taiwanese people in their 80s who ride scooters on a 13 day tour around the island of Taiwan.

It’s also a poignant and inspirational film about the courage to live wholeheartedly, and to follow your dreams wherever they may take you.

As an immersion language learner, I relate deeply to the essence of these elders’ experience.

  • They all felt a deep passion and calling to make the trip around the island. It is exactly that passion and calling that sent me off to Mexico to learn Spanish, and now Taiwan to learn Chinese.
  • Many of the elders were advised by family and doctors not to go. Concern for their health and safety were among the main concerns. My family also worries about me when I’m abroad, and would rather I stay home.
  • Despite opposition and lack of support from others, the Grandriders committed themselves to the journey. They found support among like-minded others who were also committed to the trip. I find this also be true of immersion language learning. Support shows up along the way, but not before the journey begins.
  • The elders experienced fear. Fear of the unknown, fear they may not be capable. But they stood up to the fear and challenged themselves. Embarking on a language learning journey requires the same kind of bravery.
  • Following their dream was not easy and they suffered accidents, injuries, hospitalizations, and emotional setbacks. But they were determined to keep going and accepted the difficulties as part of the journey. Immersion language learning is rife with struggle and suffering. But I accept it and believe it’s worth it.
  • By following their hearts on this journey, the elders began to feel more alive, and find more meaning and purpose in their lives. I feel exactly the same way when I immerse myself in a new culture and learn the language. It also engenders a sense of inner contentment and possibility.

Go see the movie! It’s extraordinary in many ways.

Let it inspire you to live fully and wholeheartedly. If your life is already full of passion and puarpose, let it affirm you so that, like the Grandriders, you may be of inspiration to others.

3 Simple Things You Should Know About Successful Language Learners

I stumbled upon this informative slideshow by John Fotheringham at LanguageMastery.com called Language Learning | Why Most Fail & How You Can Succeed.

He presents a lot of information, but a few points really grabbed my attention:

  • He distinguishes between language learning and language acquisition. John argues that language acquisition is subconscious process, that happens automatically with sufficient practice and exposure to a language. This is how we learn our mother tongue as children. Language acquisition is hardwired. John says as adults we can learn even faster than children because:
  1. We have the power of choice.
  2. We know how to learn.
  3. We have big vocabularies to draw from in our native language.
  • Traditional learning methods are inadequate. Language learning requires tacit knowledge. Translation and memorization do not build a procedural memory, necessary to apply grammar logic to new contexts and forms of expression.
  • Attitude is critical in language learning. If you find yourself saying any of the following, consider it a red flag and adjust your attitude to ensure your success.
  1. Languages are difficult.
  2. I suck at languages.
  3. I don’t have time.

Have a look at the slideshow and let me know in the comments what other points your find useful or interesting.

Warning! Language Learning Has Serious Side Effects

Singular and Plural

(Photo credit: designwallah)


Mandarin Chinese lacks a plural / singular form for its nouns. This perplexes me.

“But it’s so easy!” My Taiwanese friend insisted. “You don’t have to figure out when to add an “s” to a word.”

Logic tells me that this aspect of Chinese should be easy. But surprisingly, it is not.

In my native English, nouns (and their articles) are either plural or singular, with perhaps a few exceptions like fish. In Spanish, my other fluent language, not only do nouns and articles have a singular / plural form, but so do adjectives.

My brain thinks in terms of singular / plural and naturally wants to make this distinction.

To think any other way, even an arguably more simplified way, requires effort. It requires me to cut a new groove in my thinking.

Learning a language is not just knowing the corresponding words or grammar rules in your target language. There is a serious side effect: Language learning creates a profound shift in your perspective and perception.

So I explain to my friend, “In English we have only one word for brother. It doesn’t matter if the brother is older or younger, the word is brother in either case. However, because Chinese forces you to distinguish between older brother (哥哥) and younger brother (弟弟), you think in those terms. When I told you I had a brother, you immediately asked if he was older or younger.”

“Ah!” exclaimed my friend. Now I understand your point. The way we think is bound by the nature of our language.”

What’s interesting is that unless you learn a new language, you never challenge the boundaries of your thinking. You comfortably assume that your language allows you to think about anything you want, in any way you want.

But once you embark on the path of language learning, sooner or later you will bump into a radically new way of thinking. And you will discover the limitations your native tongue has imposed on you.

So in order to learn language, you must be flexible and allow your thinking to expand, cutting new grooves and pushing out the boundaries further and further.

Acquiring new ways of thinking about the world requires effort and persistence.

However some would say this is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding aspects of learning a new language.

Do you agree? How has learning a new language stretched and broadened your thinking?