Understand before you learn | Chinese Boost

Understand before you learn

Here’s some advice about learning that sounds like it doesn’t make sense:
understand before you learn.

But how can you understand if you haven’t started learning?

The key is in the meanings of “understand” and “learn”. This point is about
not trying to memorise or study material that you haven’t first tried to
understand. In this context, “learn” means memorise or actively study. The idea
is that comprehension comes first and reinforcement follows.

If the first thing you do is memorise 1000 common Chinese characters, you’ve
certainly created a nice foundation, but you will struggle to read anything
useful in Chinese. If you instead focus on comprehending whole sentences with a
smaller set of characters, your learning and ability will progress much faster.

Similarly, memorising a list of vocabulary will certainly help with your Chinese
listening, but you will struggle to get beyond the basics if that is your only
approach. A wider-reaching understanding and knowledge is required to
intuitively understand real Chinese.

Depending on your outlook, this may seem obvious, but many people and courses do
try to make it happen the other way round. We are encouraged to start studying a
foreign language by memorising vocabulary lists, instead of first trying to get
a general feel for the language. It’s often more effective to learn practical
sentences and develop an ear for a language, but this in some cases this is not
the focus of beginner courses and textbooks.

As you move past the beginner stages, the importance of this idea grows.
Memorising sentences and vocabulary is useful and quite effective, but it can
never come before the goal of trying to gain some understanding of how words and
phrases work in a more general scope. You should try to gain some level of wider
comprehension first, then use the more focused study methods to reinforce it
over the long term.

The idea here is that “learning” is a tool to strengthen comprehension, not one
to establish it. The initial understanding comes from a bigger-picture process
(which might also be described as learning). In other words, you start with
holistic learning and build on it with granular methods.

This point has come from the [twenty rules for formulating knowledge](http://www
not%20understand), and I think it has some truth when it comes to learning
Chinese. The original article is referring to other types of knowledge than
language learning, but it can certainly be applied.

What do you think?

This content was originally published here.


English Language Training Courses & Programs in Dubai | Study English in the UAE | UOWD

Sharpen your English language skills in just 12 weeks! UOWD just launched a live online course that will help you to enhance your English proficiency for study, work, immigration or social purposes.

Participate from the comfort of your home and benefit from flexible timings to suit your schedule.

The course starts on 27 September.

This general program is for students who want to improve their overall English Language Skills for everyday use, future study or work, or for those who wish to enrol for the UOWD English language skills program but do not fulfil the minimum English language requirements yet. The courses are 12 weeks (240 hours) and run each semester (Autumn, Spring and Summer).

Entry requirements: CEFR A1+/A2 IELTS 2.5 – 3.0

AED 11,760* (12 Weeks)

Note: Price does not include text books.
*VAT inclusive

IELTS Masterclass

Signup for an IELTS Masterclass session with our resident IELTS expert for FREE!
*seats are limited, and places will be offered on a first come, first serve basis.

Part-Time Study

The three stages of the Global English Skills program (refer to The English Language Framework below) are also available in through part-time study. Each stages consists of 4 courses delivered over 4 evenings a week (Sunday to Wednesday) from 6:00pm–9:30pm.

Each course lasts for three and a half weeks.

AED 2,400 (VAT inclusive)

Booster Courses

These intensive 2-week courses are for students who need some additional tuition in order to meet the passing standards of the levels. The courses run at the end of each semester.

The English Language Framework

The English Language Framework consists of three stages:

Stage 1: Core English Skills

Develops each of the four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking, with an emphasis on grammar and vocabulary development.
Entry Requirements:CEFR A1+/A2 IELTS entry 2.5 -3.0
Stage 2: Key English Skills

Stage 2 continues to develop core skills in listening, reading, and speaking, and introduces writing, grammar and vocabulary development in an academic context.
Entry Requirements:CEFR A2+/B1 IELTS entry 3.5-4.0

Stage 3: Higher English Skills

Stage 3 builds on the core skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing for academic, professional and social purposes. There is continuous focus on writing, encouraging students to develop their critical thinking in different types of academic essays.

Stage 4: Reinforces and continues to build on the concepts introduced in the lower stages of the Global English Skills program. Students’ grammar is expanded and their vocabulary range is extended through the introduction of new topics as well as a variety of writing genres. An important aspect of this stage is the development of study skills, which help the learner foster successful study habits and become more independent and confident users of English.

Program Outcome

Successful completion of these courses can lead to an IELTS preparation course and to further study at UOWD or elsewhere.

Placement Test

For all of our English language programs, you will need to take a placement test in order for us to assess
your level of English. A placement test fee is applicable.

For either program, you will need to take a placement test in order for us to assess your level of English. You will need to take the placement test when you apply for English Language programs at the English Language Centre. The placement test fee is AED 105 (VAT inclusive). You can sit the test between Sunday to Thursday (8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.). 

To make a booking for the placement test, call or email the English Language Centre office. Contact details provided below:

University of Wollongong in Dubai
English Language Centre
UOWD Building, Dubai Knowledge Park
P.O. Box 20183
Dubai, UAE
Tel: +971 4 278 1792 / +971 4 278 1783 / +971 4 278 1785
Fax: +971 4 367 2760

Intake Dates

Intake Every Term (View Term Dates)
Delivery Mode Full time (5 days a week: 20 hours per week over 12 weeks)
Part-time (4 evenings per week: 49 hours over 3 and a half weeks)

This content was originally published here.


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As with all Spanish programs, these skills are developed over the course of 30 full sessions that will take you on a journey through real, daily-life experiences in the Spanish-speaking world. You’ll plan memorable trips with friends, arrange meetings with colleagues, discuss the arts, and exchange delicious recipes. You’ll also further your ability to handle those things that are critical to establishing yourself more deeply in a community, from taking care of legal matters to more formal writing.

While there will of course still exist many ways to improve your Spanish, and building a larger vocabulary will allow you to discuss a wider range of topics, Spanish 5 will bring you to a point where grammar will no longer be an obstacle to communication. By the time you complete this level, you will truly be an experienced Spanish speaker.

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This content was originally published here.


Free London Travelcard | Learn English in London | Excel English Language School, London, UK

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To benefit from this offer quote the word TRAVEL at booking stage.

Note: This offer is not to be used in conjunction with any other offer and is valid on courses started before 31st December 2016 and booked on or after June 24 2016

Comments are closed.

This content was originally published here.


10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Chinese Right Now | Chinese Boost | Learn Chinese

10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Chinese Right Now

One of the most important aspects of learning Chinese is making the best use of your time. It can be easy to
waste all of the little five-minute chunks of time that appear throughout your
day, but if you can put them to use, the benefits add up fast.

One thing that I like about this kind of five-minute learning exercise is that
it’s easy to get motivated for them. When you’re just not in the mood to study,
one of the best tactics is to get yourself to do something for five minutes, or
even one minute, or even thirty seconds. Doing anything is better than doing
nothing, and you’ll often find that getting started is all it takes to get
motivated for more.

There are endless things you can do to improve your Chinese in five minutes, and
every learner builds up their own catalogue of activities they can put to use.
Here’s ten to add to your list, if you don’t do them already.

Do 5 minutes of Chinese flashcards

This is my go-to way to productively use a spare minute or two that pops up. If
you have access to Anki (get it on your computer and smartphone, if you have one), you can easily make
use of any amount of time to improve your Chinese.

You can do flashcards for ten seconds, and you can do them for several hours
(when you’ve got final exams coming up and enough caffeine, at least).

Getting a few flashcards done is an excellent default option for spending study
time, because it’s flexible, customised and can always be a part of your Chinese
study habits. I also love them for their scheduling function. You can add
material to your flashcards deck and know that it will come up for review sooner
or later.

Read Chinese for 5 minutes

Flashcards are very good for building vocabulary, increasing 语感 (feel for the
language) and keeping on top of the things you want to remember. But another
important aspect of learning Chinese is stretching yourself and taking on
material that you haven’t seen before.

Reading can be one of the best ways to get that unpredictable element, because
it’s much harder to zone out and ignore the parts you don’t understand. When
you’re listening, it’s easy to just ignore and forget about the harder parts,
but that’s harder to do with reading.

This one may be less versatile than flashcards, but if you’re at a computer with
an internet connection you’ve got access to several lifetimes’ worth of Chinese
reading material. Type some random shit into Baidu and see if you can make sense
of the top result. You’ve got a five-minute time limit so it shouldn’t get too

You can also install various reading apps on your smartphone or tablet, if you
have one. Kindle with an Amazon China account can be really nice, and there are
plenty of Chinese reading apps with free ebooks.

If you’ve got the technology then it’s pretty easy to keep Chinese reading
material with you all the time. Or, of course, you can buy some of those book

Get some listening going

This one is also easy to keep accessible at all times, and is useful throughout
your Chinese learning career (your whole life, hopefully). Listening is
versatile because it can be super low-effort (providing minimal benefit), or
very intense. It can also combine well with other activities you’re doing
without getting in the way.

If you’re at a computer, then search around for some Chinese internet radio.
Try to identify some favourite stations that you can always go to without having
to think about it. If you’re in a Chinese-speaking location, just use FM radio –
one switch and you’ve got Chinese listening practice.

To make sure I have Chinese listening materials available on the go, I keep
various podcasts on my phone (using Pocket Casts), and
sometimes use the FM radio as well. I used to use an iPod for the same thing
before I switched to a smartphone. The point is to make it as easy as possible
to get listening going so that you don’t have to put any thought into it.

Chat online in Chinese

If you can make it work, chatting online in Chinese can be great. It is quite
difficult to get it right though – I’ll write about and link to my thoughts on
this soon. In short, what I’ve found works is:

Note that I’m talking about anonymous / semi-anonymous chats with people you
haven’t met. Chatting with friends is a totally different thing, and in my view
shouldn’t really be seen as a language learning session (even if it has that

Do 听写 for 5 minutes

Listening is a good way to spend time productively or to combine a bit of
language exposure with other activities. It’s very easy to be entirely passive with listening, though, which can eliminate a lot of the beneficial effects.

A sure-fire way to make sure you’re actually engaging with what you’re hearing
is to do 听写 (dictation). As the name suggests, you listen and write, but
there’s quite a lot of scope for variation with this.

Writing out what you hear word for word, trying to summarise, or doing
pre-designed exercises from a listening course all work, and can all be done
right now if you’ve got the materials available.

Learn a Chinese song

Yeah, yeah, I know. When I read stuff like this my reaction is always
“Oh jeez…” But even if it seems unbearably jolly, learning songs is good for
your Chinese. You’ve just got to find songs you like, and spend a little bit of
time with them.

A really good way to learn a song is to translate the lyrics into your native
language (and then post them on your blog!). The goal isn’t to end up with a
nice version of the song in another language, but to make sure you get familiar
with the lyrics and understand them.

If you’re like me then you don’t really enjoy the classic Chinese songs that
everyone knows and wants you to sing at KTV. In the end I’ve ended up learning
various bits and pieces of them against my will, which just goes to show how
effective songs are for getting things lodged in your memory.

Write 10 Chinese characters from memory

If you use Skritter,
than bust that open and get going. You can also set up specific hanzi-writing
flashcards in Anki and keep track of your characters that way. Otherwise, always
having a bit of paper and a pen is good. Just make sure you keep a list of
characters you need to test, perhaps by making a note of any characters you
forget, or new ones that you come across.

Call some Chinese customer service numbers

No, seriously. I’m planning to write a post about this soon, and I’m only
half-joking. After repeated crappy conversations with Chinese companies (I don’t enjoy phoning companies in any language), I realised that you can actually practice this by just randomly
phoning them up.

It might seem a bit weird, but you can think of some vaguely legitimate reason
to phone a large company (e.g. pretend you’re interested in becoming a customer)
and just chat with their representative for a few minutes. I’m not suggesting
you prank them or cause trouble, and a large company can clearly absorb the cost
of one ‘wasted’ call.

Give it a try, it’s pretty funny!

Make 5 Chinese character mnemonics

…or mnemonics for anything in your Chinese studies. Mnemonics are good. Most
people seem to agree on that once they’ve discovered mnemonics, but still don’t
make them a central part of their learning.

The act of making mnemonics is a very good learning activity, and as it’s so
granular it can fill up different chunks of time just nicely.

To do this right now: Which characters have you forgotten recently? What words
have you forgotten? Make mnemonics for them!

Describe your surroundings in Chinese (in detail)

This is one we got taught in our first year of uni, and it’s stuck with me as a
nice way to work on my Chinese at any particular moment. The idea is simple and
works anywhere – describe your surroundings in as much detail as your level of
Chinese allows. Try to use material you find difficult, and try to use words you
find hard to pronounce.

This works best if you can speak out loud, but if you’re not alone, it’s still
beneficial to speak dead quietly or just in your head. Even when you’re alone,
you will feel stupid doing this, because it’s stupid. But you get over that
quickly, and find that it’s surprisingly useful.

Of course, you don’t actually have to describe your surroundings – that’s just a
nice prompt to fall back on. Talk about anything – your day, your plans, your

You might find it’s a nice thing to do in itself, aside from the language
benefits. Even if you don’t go for that hippy crap, do this for your Chinese!

Over to you

Do you do any of these to fill up spare chunks of time? What other good ways are
there to learn Chinese at any given moment?

This content was originally published here.


Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn to Speak Spanish

Spanish is a language that many of us have encountered. It can be heard between two friends on the street, in a song on the radio, or used to order food. Lively and passionate, Spanish is all around us and during the last decade, the demand to learn Spanish has increased significantly. But what is it about Spanish that is so appealing and why do so many non-native speakers want to learn Spanish as a second language? Here are the top 5 reasons why you should learn to speak Spanish today.

1. Spanish Is One of the Most Practical Languages In the World

Learning a language can be fun, but if you don’t really have any clear or practical reasons for learning the language, then you may eventually find yourself less motivated to learn it. Spanish, however, is a language that is extremely useful and one that is used by many around world. According to Ethnologue, there are approximately 7,111 languages spoken today. Within that, there are 23 languages that make up half the world’s population. Spanish makes this list as the fourth most spoken language in the world with roughly 540 million speakers worldwide.

Spanish is spoken in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Equatorial Guinea, and Puerto Rico. In total, that means 20 countries and one unincorporated territory use Spanish as their official language. In addition, Spanish is also widely spoken in the U.S., Andorra, the Philippines, and Belize. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 41 million native Spanish speakers and 11. 6 million bilingual spanish speakers, making the grand total approximately 53 million. That means there are more people speaking Spanish in the U.S. than there are in Spain. At this rate, it is predicted that by 2050, there will be roughly 138 million people who will speak Spanish either as their primary or secondary language. With these rapidly increasing numbers, it’s no wonder why many non-native speakers are learning to speak Spanish as means to keep up!

2. Spanish Is a Relatively Easy Language to Learn to Speak

Classified as one of the five main Romance languages, Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn as it shares a few similarities with English, such as the alphabet, vocabulary and pronunciation.

When learning to speak Spanish, the most basic place to start is with the alphabet. It’s a great way to learn correct Spanish pronunciation, and thankfully, the majority of the Spanish alphabet uses the same letters as the English one because both alphabets are Latin-based. Because of this, English speakers don’t need to spend much time on memorizing a whole new set of characters because they already are familiar with many of the letters.

In addition to a similar alphabet, there are tons of Spanish words that look and sound very similar to English ones. For example, take a look at the following:

Without even knowing Spanish, a complete beginner in the language may see or hear these Spanish words and understand what they mean.

Lastly, what you see is what you get. When it comes to Spanish pronunciation, words are pronounced exactly as they are written. If you’ve learned the letters from the alphabet and their corresponding sounds, then you’ll be able to read and pronounce Spanish words correctly without too much difficulty.

3. Learning to Speak Spanish Can Sharpen Your Cognitive Skills

The saying goes: Use it or lose it. The human brain is no exception to this rule. A complex organ, the brain controls various aspects such as movement, balance, posture, coordination, problem solving and reasoning, speech, visuals, emotions, memories, and the function of many other organs in our body. However, as we age, the brain also changes, resulting in memory loss, problems with multi-tasking, and performing day-to-day tasks. Therefore, it is important to keep “exercising” your brain as you continue to age, and learning to speak Spanish (or any other language for that matter) is one of the many ways you can maintain your cognitive skills. Metro Health suggests that cognitively demanding skills, such as learning to speak a new language or learning how to knit, can decrease the chances of developing dementia as performing challenging tasks can actually strengthen the connections between the various parts of the brain.

4. Learning Spanish Can Land You More Jobs

As the world becomes more interconnected, the demand for bilingual individuals rises. Thanks to globalization, your chances of finding and landing your dream job can increase significantly when you know how to speak Spanish because you have a soft skill that many native English speakers do not. According to Psychology Today, roughly 80% of Americans do not speak a second language because the need to learn another language is not crucial. English is a universal language and if you know English, you can get by nearly anywhere. But, if you learn to speak Spanish, even conversationally, you can set yourself apart from the rest. The opportunity to earn a higher wage increases, and you have more room for career growth in industries such as: marketing and sales, translation/ interpretation, public relations, education, government, and tourism. If you learn Spanish, opportunity can come knocking.

5. Learning to Speak Spanish Can Open the Door to Learning Other Languages

If you successfully learn to speak Spanish, what’s stopping you from learning to speak another language? In this day of being globally interconnected, many people across the world are able to speak 2 or 3 languages proficiently; in fact, The Washington Post, estimates that half the world’s population is bilingual and 13% of the world’s population is trilingual. You too can join in on the action because Spanish is the perfect gateway language to other Romance languages, such as French, Italian and Portuguese. If you successfully learn to speak Spanish, then learning these other romantic languages may come easier for you because they have sounds, vocabulary, verbs, and grammatical structures that are very similiar to Spanish. And if you want to learn a more challenging language such as Japanese or Russian, you can because you can apply your knowledge and experience from Spanish to these other languages.

So, whether it’s to connect with others, apply for a job or be more cultured, Spanish, without a doubt, is the language you should learn to speak next. Not only is it an easy and practical one to use, but it’s a dynamic language that constantly keeps evovling and one that invites you to explore new places and experience many other cultures.

This content was originally published here.


5 Lies Teachers Tell You About Mandarin Tones | Chinese Boost | Learn Chinese

5 Lies Teachers Tell You About Mandarin Tones

Mandarin tones are one of the classic “difficult parts” of the language. Despite
that, textbooks and teachers often do a bad job of teaching them. A big part of
this is that the focus is too often on teaching tones, rather than teaching how
to learn tones.

Note that this is in no way intended to be a bash of teachers, textbooks or
anything else. A lot of teachers do a very good job of teaching Chinese, and
more importantly teaching students how to learn Chinese.

The point of this article is to highlight some common obstacles to learning
Mandarin tones effectively. It’s about misconceptions that can hold you back,
and how to replace them with better approaches.

“You learn tones in the beginning, then move on”

Most courses recognise that pronunciation is pretty essential to learning a
language well, and begin with a pronunciation section. This is good, but it has
an unfortunate side effect. Because tones are covered in this initial period of
getting started with pronunciation, they’re often left to languish there.

What happens is that students learn enough about tones to know the basics and
have a vague idea of what they should be doing. But there’s an urge to get on
with learning “real stuff”, and tones quickly disappear from the picture.
Another factor is the awkwardness of constantly correcting students’ tones.

What really needs to happen is for there to be constant, unrelenting focus on
tones any time students are with the teacher. If you’re studying on your own,
you need to keep up this pressure on yourself using recordings and finding
native speakers to help you.

Tones need to be practised and perfected. Tones need to be memorised for every
word. But more importantly, tone mistakes need to be spotted and corrected, with
NO MERCY. And this needs to continue FOREVER.

This sounds extreme, but when you realise that bad tones are the norm even for
people who’ve been learning Chinese for years, it becomes apparent that
something different needs to be done.

It is totally possible to get very good, even flawless, Mandarin pronunciation,
including correct tones, but it needs real dedication and a willingness to put
in the long-term grind to get it right. It won’t be easy, but you can do it.

“The five tones sound like this: “

The next problematic approach to Mandarin tones is tied in with the “they’re for
beginners” problem above. It’s very common for teachers and Chinese learning
resources to focus on the tones in isolation and describe how each one sounds.

You do need to know how each tone sounds on its own, but it’s way less important
than most people think. Learning them in isolation won’t work long-term. More
detail on that in a second.

Firstly, there are the tone sandhi / tone change rules. These are a small set of rules that
cover how Mandarin tones change based on what other tones are around them. These
would be a bit of a nightmare to acquire if you focused on how each tone sounds
on its own according to your textbook or teacher.

Most courses do at least cover tone change rules and make students aware of
them. But quite often this boils down to an explanation and a little bit of
practice. Tone sandhi provide a massive hint at how you should be learning
tones, but it’s often not enough to nudge structured courses in the right

Mandarin tones also differ significantly according to enunciation, emotion and
people’s differing pronunciation and way of speaking. They can sound different
from one sentence to the next.

I’m not saying all this to put you off the task and make it seem impossible. I
know it’s already daunting enough in the early stages. But I wish I’d known
early on that focusing on each individual tone just isn’t that helpful beyond
the first hour of learning Chinese.

That brings me to the next lie.

“You learn tones by building up”

The approach I described above can be described as a ‘bottom up’ approach, or a
Lego approach. You try to isolate each component and practice them separately.
This approach is definitely an important part of learning Chinese. But a lot of
people focus exclusively on this approach when learning languages, and ignore
the other direction.

Top-down learning is at least as important as bottom-up learning. With top-down learning, you go straight for the jugular and attempt to perform the whole thing that you want to be able to do.

You’ll fuck it up at first, of course, but the benefit comes from giving your
brain the chance to learn all of the extra processes that go into performing the

When it comes to tones, I think that a top-down approach is massively more
effective than a bottom-up one. Trying to pronounce words correctly is much more
effective than isolating individual syllables. The Sinosplice tone pair drills are a good resource for
getting started on that.

You should also go beyond words, though, and try to imitate entire sentences. This
will be hard in the beginning, but keep going. It’s fine if you don’t even
understand the sentence you’re saying. Your goal here is to get used to
producing the sounds and making them as close as possible to a native speaker.

A big give-away that the top-down approach is effective is that it’s so bloody
hard in the beginning. It’s really painful to learn things top-down at first.
But when it comes to learning things long-term, I believe there’s some truth in
the saying ‘no pain no gain’.

My point in this section is not to say that you should run before you can walk.
You do of course need some basic grounding and an idea of how to distinguish
individual tones. But it’s important to dive into the more badass approaches as
soon as possible, and before you feel “ready”. (Hint: you’re never “ready” when
learning a language).

“Third tone is falling rising”

This is an oddly specific section amidst some loftier learning goals, but it’s a
necessary one. When you’re told that third tone is “falling rising” – that it
dips down then back up – that’s basically bullshit.

Mandarin’s third tone does do that when pronounced in isolation, but as we saw
above, tones rarely exist in isolation. The vast majority of the time, the third
tone does not do its jolly dip across a valley. It’s actually better described
as “low tone”: flat and low across a plain.

This makes it fit in better with the other tones, as shown in the second diagram
in this post. You’ve got the high and level first tone, and the low
and level third tone to complement each other. And the rising second tone and
falling fourth tone also make a matching set.

You should also read Olle Linge’s post on learning the third tone. Read all of his stuff in general, in fact.

“Learning tones is all about output”

As with the point about learning by building up, this one is a lie of omission.
Learning by building up is important, but it’s not the whole story. Similarly,
output is absolutely freaking essential to learning a language, but it’s not
the only thing you need a lot.

This is especially true when it comes to tones. You do need to be practising
your pronunciation like your life depends on it (maybe it will! 嘿嘿), but don’t
forget that input is also a 100% required part of your Chinese learning diet.

Think of output as healthy exercise and input as a healthy diet; you need both.

Getting loads of input is important because your brain needs to know what it’s
actually trying to achieve. Babies and little kids do a whole lotta listening
before they begin to speak, and they still sound like idiots. Get as much listening as possible, at all times.

“Teachers expect students to produce the tones before they can even hear the
difference between them (especially in combinations).”

The point of that quote isn’t that you need to spend ages isolating the tones
(please don’t do that), but that getting loads of listening is very important
for getting your tones right.

Bonus! Implicit lies about Mandarin tones

Whilst I don’t think any teachers or textbooks explicitly state the
misconceptions as described above, many certainly seem to lead learners on to
those conclusions. In this section, I want to mention a few ideas that often
form an unhelpful backdrop to learning Mandarin tones, even if they’re never
touched on directly.

(Other native speakers will understand your tones like I do)

This is a HUGE problem in language learning, especially in Chinese for
Europeans. Teachers and other people around the learner get used not just to
their particular way of speaking, but to the way learners speak in general. This
means that they often understand things the learner says which other native
speakers would not.

The result of this is obvious. Learners end up with an inaccurate sense of their
ability to communicate with native speakers. “The teacher / my friends / other
students always understand me, so I must be getting it right.”

It sounds harsh, but the sooner you recognise this reality, the sooner you can
avoid falling into this trap.

This attitude often ends up tying in with prejudice against “non-standard”
speakers and so on – some learners of Mandarin like to blame native speakers for
not understanding them, rather than looking at their own language abilities.

(Tones are a second-class citizen in pronunciation)

For various reasons, a lot of Chinese learning materials pass off the idea that
tones are not as important as vowels and consonants, or are something of a
separate issue.

If you ever see something related to learning Chinese giving pinyin without the
tones, then something is seriously wrong with that resource.

A lot of the time, the tone is actually more important than the vowel or
consonant in a given syllable. If you listen to non-standard speakers of
Mandarin, this quickly becomes apparent.

A common example is the pronunciation of 十 and 四. In non-standard Mandarin,
these are often best distinguished by tone rather than the consonant sound. In
other words, if you say “sí ge” (second tone), most native speakers will
hear that as 十个 and not 四个. It’s easy to assume the opposite if you’re used
to focusing on the vowels and consonants such as in a European language.

(There is only one kind of tone mistake)

Finally, one frustrating issue for learners is a lack of recognition that
there are several types of tone mistakes. Here’s a quick list of causes off the
top of my head:

There are probably more variations (edit: just saw this from Sinosplice). These are very different
types of mistakes, so it’s quite a frustrating experience for a learner to have
their mistake corrected in the wrong way (a mistaken correction, if you will).

If you know how to pronounce the tones, but thought a word had a different tone,
it feels patronising to be told how to pronounce the right one. On the other
hand, if you’re not very good at pronouncing tones yet, it’s not helpful to be
told “that should be third tone”.

There are two things that need to be done to tackle this:

Over to you! Do you think it’s true that these misconceptions are often promoted
in Mandarin learning? Do you think I’m totally wrong?

This content was originally published here.


15 Amazing Youtube Channels To Help You Learn Spanish

Want to learn Spanish with Youtube?

There are many ways to learn Spanish. But with so many options out there, which one should you pick?

Youtube has been around for a while now, and since its launch, people have been posting videos in all kinds of languages, which makes it perfect for any language learner. 

It’s free

Language learning is great and all, but nobody wants to spend a lot of money.

Thankfully, Youtube is still free to access for everyone, even if you do have to watch the occasional ad and close that free trial pop-up. 

Pick up what you like

One of the best things about Youtube as a platform is that the amount of content on there is limitless. You can find pretty much any language and every genre on there.

Vloggers, make-up tutorials, animation, drawing tutorials, fashion advice, travel videos, true crime stories, movie analysis, gaming streams and even specified language learning channels.

Whatever it is you are into, you can find it on Youtube and you can find it in your target language. 

Real speech

Instead of carefully written language learning podcasts or scripted movies, many Youtube channels are a great representation of what native people sound like when they speak freely or interact with each other. This can be daunting at first, but it is great practice and with the visuals accompanying the sound, it can be a great way to get your language skills to the next level. 

Closed captions and playback speed

Some channels offer closed captions with their videos, which makes it a perfect way to practice both your speech and reading skills. It can also help if you aren’t sure what they just said. 

Beyond that, you can adjust the playback speed to match your level. Start out slower, and slowly work your way up to real-time speech, or even faster to train your ears. 

Cultural immersion

The internet has made worlds that were previously hard to get into easily accessible.

Where you used to have to live in the country of your target language in order to get a peek into the daily lives of native speakers, you can now find thousands of vloggers capturing and explaining their every move on camera. 

This makes it a brilliant way to immerse yourself into the culture of your target language. Not only that, but following popular Youtubers might give you something to talk about with native speakers when you do meet them. 

It’s fun

One of the most underrated language learning strategies is to make something fun! So many people think learning a language is all about late nights grammar studies and vocab drills. 

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Language learning works best if you are actually enjoying it. This will make it easier to be consistent and get daily practice. The more you engage with your target language, the more likely you are to succeed in reaching fluency

There are many people out there today who speak English because beyond their classroom, they interact with it on a daily basis through various sources like Youtube.

They may have had classes in school, but they wouldn’t actually speak it had it not been for the daily practice and interaction with the language.

The best part being, all these interactions didn’t feel like studying but instead felt like entertainment. 

How to learn a language with Youtube

Okay, so we’ve gone over the why, now let’s talk about the how. 

Beyond the standard “watch videos and learn”, here are a few strategies that might help your language learning process. 

1. Let your algorithm know

Find things you like and subscribe to as many channels as you can. This way, you’re Youtube algorithm will notice your new interest and recommend more videos in your target language. 

If you choose to receive notifications, you will also receive little reminders to practice when an interesting video comes along. 

2. Improve your pronunciation

Use the videos to try and talk along and improve your pronunciation. In vlog like videos, you can often get a good look at how people move their mouths, and try and imitate those movements. 

Often we are very used to pronouncing letters a certain way, but the way a “b” or “l” is pronounced in another language might be slightly different. Pay attention, and see what you can learn. 

3. Don’t forget the comments

Look at the comments, leave a comment yourself. If you see something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to leave a comment saying “hey, I am a language learner, could someone explain this to me?” or ask a native speaker what it means. 

4. Share your own progress

Why not start your own channel to track your progress? You can join polyglot challenges and ask people for advice on how to improve. 

5. Daily practice

If you check in on Youtube every day and make sure to watch at least one video, you can build a solid habit of language practice without feeling like you are putting in a lot of effort. Once a video is clicked, all you have to do is keep watching. 

Even though you might miss stuff in the beginning, keeping up a habit like this is definitely going to show results in the long run. 

6. Expand the learning

Many Youtube channels have other social media accounts as well. Look in the description and see where else you can add their content to your daily routine.

Maybe there are fan groups you can join, newsletters you can subscribe to, or even podcasts related to your favorite channels. See Youtube as a gateway to the culture of the language you are studying, and try to interact with it accordingly. 

20 Channels to follow if you are learning Spanish

1. SuperHolly

Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Accent: Mexican Spanish
Category: People & Blogs

SuperHolly is a bilingual Youtube who makes videos about both English and Spanish, and the struggles of living between two cultures.

Level: Pre-Intermediate to Advanced
Accent: European Spanish
Category: People & Games

Juan Fernandez, a native from Granada, Spain started an engaging and funny Youtube channel for Spanish learners.

3. BBC Mundo

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: Variety
Category: News

A part of BBC World Service’s foreign language output that covers the latest global news, business, technology, science, health, society, and culture.

If you are into world events, this might be something that would interest you more to learn Spanish with Youtube.

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: European Spanish
Category: Food & Travel

These Spanish couple travel around the Iberian Peninsula trying out different delicious cuisines and talking to locals which will expose you to different dialects as well as traditions around Spain.

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: European Spanish
Category: Spanish Learning

Here, you can learn Spanish, with explanations about grammar, vocabulary lists by subject, phonetic videos, colloquial expressions, etc. You can can also see the daily life of locals in Spain.

6. Rockalingua

Level: Beginner
Accent: European Spanish
Category: Cartoons

Learn Spanish with Youtube through songs, games, videos and picture dictionaries. This is specially designed for kids and children.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Accent: Cental American Spanish
Category: Education & Learning

If you want to learn Spanish from a fun and silly instructor, then Senor Jordan is a good choice for you. There are some videos that feature songs so you can easily memorize grammar, while some feature stories and dialogue.

Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Accent: Mexican Spanish
Category: Food & Travel

This funny Youtuber reports from Mexico and around the world. His good humor is very contagious, even when he experienced unfortunate happenings – like getting mugged in Venezuela and being detained in Bangladesh.

This Youtube channel is great if you want to learn some Mexican slang.

9. Backdoor

Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Accent: Mexican Spanish
Category: Social & Political Issues

Backdoor provides an irreverent, politically incorrect view on sensitive issues such as religion, sexuality, political corruption, drug use, and relationships.

This is an excellent way to learn Spanish with Youtube if you like talking about social issues that a lot of people go through everyday.

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: Mexican Spanish, some European Spanish
Category: Lifestyle, Food & Travel

Easy Spanish team from Easy Spanish interview people on the streets so we can get to know the Spanish language as spoken in everyday life. Their episodes are subtitled in both Spanish and English.

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: Colombian Spanish, with guests from other countries
Category: Education & Learning

Why Not Spanish? produces great short skits using lively everyday Spanish. Maria, the Spanish teacher, interviews guests from different Spanish-speaking countries which exposes you to different accents.

No better way to learn Spanish with Youtube than having quizzes at the end of most lessons, as well as free worksheets.

12. SpanishPod101

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: Mexican Spanish
Category: Education & Learning helps you learn to speak, read, and write Spanish. You’ll have a great time learning with learners all over the world. Get ready to start speaking Spanish from the very first lesson!

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: Various
Category: Travel

Travel the world while learning Spanish with Jim and May. Spanish and Go is a great resource to learn real-world travel Spanish. They do not only teach you the language, they also showcase the culture and beauty of each Spanish speaking country.

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Accent: Mexican Spanish
Category: Food & Travel

If Mexican street food is your favorite, this one is also going to be your favorite. Charismatic standupero (stand-up comedian) and YouTuber Lalo Villar travels around Mexico and beyond to look for the best street snacks (garnacha). Super entertaining and educational but make sure you have food with you as this is going to make your mouth water!

Level: Advanced
Accent: European Spanish
Category: Food & Travel

This very entertaining Telemadrid show takes us to a new location every week to interview local Madrileño expats who show us around town, letting us have a glimpse into their lives.

The content is incredibly compelling but you have to be an advanced Spanish speaker as the show does not have subtitles. But if you are an advanced Spanish speaker, this is an excellent opportunity to hear real-life European Spanish.

However, Telemadrid stopped producing full time episodes of MXM on Youtube. Good news it, you can still find a lot of shows from the past years.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and make a purchase, a small commission will go to us, at no extra charge to you. This helps us keep the lights on and let’s us create more free content for you.

Of course, we only promote products or services that we ourselves have spend money on. Thank you for your support. 

This content was originally published here.


Americans who don’t speak English nearly FIVE TIMES more likely to test positive for coronavirus | Daily Mail Online

Americans who don’t speak English are much more likely to test positive for the novel coronavirus, a new study suggests. 

Researchers found that people who primary spoke languages such as Spanish, Cambodian and Amharic had a five-fold higher risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

What’s more, despite their heightened risk, non-English speakers were much less likely to be tested.

The team, from the University of Washington School of Medicine, says more  outreach efforts need to be implemented, such as mobile clinics and drive-up testing, to curb the pandemic among communities of color.

Researchers looked at nearly 31,000 patients who were tested for coronavirus at the University of Washington Medicine system. Pictured: A person is loaded into an ambulance at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, March 12

Patients who didn’t speak English were 4.6 times more likely to test positive than those who did speak English (above)

For the study, published in JAMA Network Open, the team looked at patients tested at the University of Washington Medicine system, made up of three hospitals and more than 300 clinics.

Researchers analyzed SARS-CoV-2 tests performed between February 29 – when testing first began – and May 31, 2020.

Of the nearly 31,000 patients who were tested for the coronavirus, about 1,900 were non-English speakers. 

Patients who didn’t speak English were 4.6 times more likely to test positive than Americans who did speak English.

About 18.6 percent of non-English speakers were diagnosed with COVID-19 compared to four percent of English speakers.

Those whose primary language was Cambodian were the most likely to test positive for the virus with 26.9 percent receiving a positive result – almost six times higher than English speakers.

Spanish- and Amharic-, an Ethio-Semitic language, speakers were the next most common to test positive at rates of 25.1 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively.

Results also showed that non-English speakers were less likely to have undergone testing compared with English speakers.

Only 4.7% of those who spoke a different language were tested in comparison with 5.6% of those who spoke English (above)

About 4.7 percent who spoke a different language had their noses and throats swabbed in comparison with 5.6 percent of those who spoke English.

Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking patients were the least likely to be tested with a rate of just 2.6 percent.

Arabic and Korean speakers were the next least likely to not be tested with only 2.8 percent and 3.7 percent being swabbed, respectively.

Previous research has linked higher positive rates among minorities with health and social inequities.

Those who live in minority communities are more likely to work in so-called ‘essential’ jobs with a greater risk for coronavirus exposure than those telecommuting.

Additionally, they have less flexible schedules, affecting their ability to take sick leave if needed and potentially delaying treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated in the past that minority communities might benefit from materials that translate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 for people who don’t speak or read English very well. 

‘Our study found that despite the availability of interpreter services across clinical locations, non–English-speaking patients in our health system were tested less frequently for COVID-19 and had significantly higher burden of infection,’ the authors of the new study wrote.

Americans who don’t speak English nearly FIVE TIMES more likely to test positive for coronavirus

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Five free Chinese podcasts you should be listening to | Chinese Boost | Learn Chinese

Five free Chinese podcasts you should be listening to

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I really
like Chinese podcasts as a source of listening material.

There are plenty of great paid Chinese podcast services that teach you Chinese.
Those are great and often worth the money, but always remember that there’s no
shortage of totally free Chinese podcasts offering genuine Chinese audio for

狗熊有话说 (‘BearTalk’)

This is by far my favourite of the Chinese podcasts I listen to. The presenter
is a guy from Kunming, and each episode consists of him talking about his
interests and playing a few tracks that he likes. He often reads out feedback
and messages from listeners as well.

There are quite a few reasons I like 狗熊有话说 so much.

The first is that the content is very natural, genuine Chinese, which isn’t
always the easiest thing to find as a learner. Each episode really is just 狗熊
chatting away. This is good from the perspective of a Chinese learner, but is
also pleasant to listen to because it’s unpretentious and easy-going.

Another thing I like about 狗熊有话说 is that 狗熊 talks about topics I find
interesting: productivity, technology and language learning. He talks about his
approach to learning English, which makes it great listening material for those
of us studying Chinese.

I’ll also add that it’s nice to hear slightly accented Mandarin, and a
down-to-earth male voice. A lot of Mandarin learning materials and publicly
available audio is excessively correct, and there tend to be more female voices
than male in my experience. It’s good to hear a balance of how different people

狗熊有话说 has an audio podcast, a video blog, and a 微信 channel you can
subscribe to.

锵锵三人行 (‘Behind the Headlines with Wentao’)

锵锵三人行 is a current affairs discussion show. It’s actually primarily a TV
show (it has a YouTube channel),
but the audio podcast version makes good listening material as well.

I like 锵锵三人行 because it is ostensibly a news show but isn’t composed, with
each episode taking the form of natural conversations between the host 窦文涛
and two guests.

There’s a mix of topics and guests, including speakers from Hong Kong and
Taiwan. This means you get a range of accents and styles of speech to tune your
ears to.

静雅思听 offers recordings of Chinese literature by various readers. Because of
this it differs widely from 狗熊有话说 and 锵锵三人行. The Mandarin is generally
very standard and rehearsed, and has more of a performance feel.

Because the content is more literary, 静雅思听 episodes use a richer
vocabulary and greater variety in style and sentence structure. This makes it
a great complement to 狗熊有话说 and 锵锵三人行 in my view.

The content doesn’t shy away from deep issues, and is often genuinely engaging.
Having said that, I have heard quite a few readings of extremely wordy and
not particularly interesting texts on dull topics (in my opinion!).

The only thing I dislike about 静雅思听 is that they intersperse the readings
with adverts for themselves that are either ostentatious or overly jolly. This
tends to break any atmosphere that the reading has built up over the preceding
minutes. Then again the podcast is free, and there’s a paid version if the
adverts get on your nerves too much.

To tell the truth, I don’t enjoy the BBC News Podcast as much as the other
shows, but I feel it’s important to get used to this form of Chinese.

As you’d expect from a news show, it’s quite high-speed and pretty formal. They
do have quite a lot of contributions from various speakers and experts though,
who add some variety to the mix.

I like BBC 新闻博客 because it’s quick and to the point, and the episodes don’t
carry on for too long. Try as I might, I just can’t maintain interest in a
rapid-fire news show for too long. It’s certainly not like 狗熊有话说!

開卷八分鐘 (‘Eight Minutes Reading’)

I discovered 開卷八分鐘 via this post from FluentU.
Unfortunately they stopped making new content in Decemeber 2014, but there’s a
hefty backlog of past episodes to keep you going.

Like 锵锵三人行, this is actually a video show, but the audio makes for great
listening on its own. The only issue is that I can’t find an RSS feed for this
one so I’ve been downloading episode files manually instead (well, with some
browser tools).

As you might guess from the title, 開卷八分鐘 consists of eight-minute episodes
in which the presenter reviews and summarises a book. I like this because you
get to hear about potential Chinese reading material whilst improving your
Chinese listening.

Do you listen to any of these podcasts? Which Chinese podcasts would you add to
the list?

This content was originally published here.