Why thousands of Poles speak English with a Roscommon accent

Working Abroad Q&A: Each week Irish Times Abroad meets an Irish person working in an interesting job overseas. This week we chat to Michael Gannon. He is originally from Roscommon and works as a tour guide in Gdansk, Poland.

Why did you leave Ireland in the first place?

Ireland in the early 1980s wasn’t the best place to be and with the strains of the Boomtown Rats’ Banana Republic ringing in our ears , thousands of my generation went sailing across the oceans looking for something different. I spent a couple of years here and there doing different things such as bar work in Brixton, steel-fixing in Berlin, carting furniture around Manhattan, picking oranges in the Peleponnese and then one misty night in Amsterdam, I decided to try something different.

A short time later I found myself in Co Derry as a mature student in the University of Ulster Coleraine. The North Derry and Antrim coast is spectacular and university life was memorable. However, the day after graduating with a degree in Irish studies I set off for Poland to see if that nice girl I had met in a campsite in Noordwikjerhout in the Netherland still had the flutters for me. As luck would have it, she did, so I thought I would hang on for a while.

Poland in the 1990s was an exciting place – there was a lot happening and at times it even had the air of the wild west about it. So it didn’t take me too long to fit in and feel at home.

Tell us about your life in Poland. 

I first started teaching English in state schools and then opened my own school. It was a sharp learning curve and a fulfilling experience, imbuing thousands of Poles to speak the Queen’s tongue with a Roscommon accent.

Another important milestone that has taken me to where I am today was joining the long established Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society, which is the cradle of guiding in Poland. I enrolled on courses,  and with support and encouragement from lots of helpful people became an officially-licensed guide for the Gdansk region.

What’s a typical day’s tour-guiding like?

Sizes of groups are anything from one to 40. They come from all over the world and their fields of interest could be anything from ancient Prussian forts to aesthetic medicine. We visit many world class attractions in Gdansk such as the colourful and lively streets, the shipyards that downed communism, Westerplatte, which officially opened the second World War, Stutthof the German Nazi concentration camp where evil reigned, and the magical Elblag Canal where ships slide out of water then turn into trains and roll across the fields – you have to see it to believe it. Places where events have fundamentally changed the course of history and names such as Copernicus, Napoleon, Hitler and the Polish Gandi, Lech Walesa, are often mentioned. Irish names such as Sean Lester, Bernard O’ Connor and Bishop O’ Rourke are also high on the list. This is a crossroads of Europe, not some sleepy outpost.

Being a guide is not only to be an ambassador for the local culture, you also learn about the cultures of the people you guide. You hear about their countries, encounter behavioural traits from different parts of the world and into the bargain you meet lots of interesting characters with colourful stories.This is job where you never stop learning and regularly have an eye-opener.

What is it like living in Poland?

This is a gateway country between east and west, and that is reflected in the culture – the romanticism of the Slavs blends with the pragmatism of the Germans. Others who have come and gone have left their mark on the diverse but relatively unknown cuisine, anyone for Russian dumplings, French beans or Ukrainian soup?

Nature and wildlife is my thing and Poland is a mecca for that. I live on the edge of a forest and any free time I have, I am swinging out of trees or worming my way along the forest floor trying with my camera trying to get a shot of an evasive oriole or European stag, the closer I get to nature the clearer things become.

What is it like being Irish here?

A lot of Poles have a soft spot for the Irish because of a shared history of religion, repression and resistance, and many have family and friends who have connections with Ireland. That is a good basis for swapping stories and building relationships. It’s not uncommon now to see Irish-registered cars flying around with “the steering wheel on the wrong side”.

Do you socialise with any other Irish people?

I have some Irish friends who live in different parts of Poland, but, we don’t get to meet as much as I would like to. The Irish Embassy is great at organising networking events such as the one on St Patrick’s day and if I can, I try to make the four hour drive to Warsaw, catch up with old hands like myself and meet new ones, which is always fun. There are very few Irish that I know of living in this neck of the woods. Elblag, where I live, is a quiet town of about 250,000 sitting on the edge of the River Vistula delta region and the hills of Warmia, east of Gdansk.

Life in Gdansk. 

That pretty girl I met all those years ago on a campsite in the Netherlands is now a beautiful woman, who works as a professional on the front line of the Polish public health service. She often hears positive comments about how good the local service is compared to the Irish one, which is thought provoking considering the GDP per capita in Poland is so much lower.

We are blessed with a 16-year-old daughter, who is called Julia after my mother. Early the other morning on our way to school and in relation to this article I asked her in English of she felt Irish or Polish. She muttered in Polish “I feel tired” then sank back into the seat listening to Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl.

If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.

This content was originally published here.

How To Make Alexa Speak Spanish & English With Multilingual Mode

Amazon Alexa-enabled devices are pretty handy you can ask for bits of trivia, find out the current weather, and even buy things from Amazon’s retail website using your voice. And now, Amazon announced on Friday that customers can talk to Alexa in multiple languages, thanks to its new Multilingual mode. If you’re in the U.S., you now have the ability to speak to Alexa in both Spanish and English.

Activating Multilingual mode is super simple all it requires is talking to your device in Spanish. When your Alexa device detects you’re speaking the language, it’ll respond in Spanish. To switch back to English, simply talk to Alexa in English, and she’ll respond.

This update will likely be helpful for Spanish speakers in the U.S. and people who speak English and Spanish at home, but it’s also useful if you only speak English and want to pick up a new language. There’s no need for a study partner when Alexa is able to have conversations with you on the daily. The new feature isn’t just for U.S. customers, either. Amazon is rolling out Hindi support for people in India, and Canadians will soon be able to speak to their devices in French, according to TechCrunch.

It makes sense for Amazon to cater to a multilingual audience almost 40 million U.S. residents speak Spanish at home, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and more than 16 million of those people don’t consider themselves good English speakers. Bilingual speakers often switch between languages in spoken conversation, so being able to do the same when talking to Alexa might feel more natural. CNET reports that Alexa was already available in Spanish in Mexico and Spain, but the new development makes it accessible for Spanish speakers living in a primarily English-speaking country.

When the company first announced its new Multilingual mode was coming in September, Amazon’s Senior Vice President of Devices Dave Limp said, “There are billions of households around the world that have dual speakers sometimes, three languages in a single household. We want Alexa to work great in that.”

Multilingual mode isn’t the only new feature that got attention on Friday. Alexa also has a new Spanish voice and local knowledge, according to a press release from Amazon. You can get information from Univision and Telemundo when speaking to Alexa in Spanish, and the company has added a range of Spanish-compatible Alexa Skills. On top of that, Alexa will start offering more diverse music options. Beginning on Friday, you can ask Alexa for Latin music in Spanish, and she’ll pull new curated playlists from Amazon Music. Playlists include Bachata, Mexicano, Reggaeton, and Salsa music.

And if you want Alexa to translate a sentence into other languages, you can download a free add-on from the Alexa Skills website called Translated. From there, you can translate a phrase into dozens of languages.

It’s not clear if Amazon will add other languages for U.S. Alexa users, but the Spanish and English feature is definitely a welcome addition.

This content was originally published here.

Romanian SEX PEST spared jail as he can’t speak English! – Unity News Network

A cyclist who was known as the “Brighton bottom slapper” when he attacked lone women in a series of late-night sex assaults has not been sent to jail.

Constantin Barbutu, 22, would wear a hoodie to cover his face then he would go up to women and grope or slap them.

He initially denied 21 charges of sexual assault, but later admitted 11.

Barbutu was too “intellectually impaired” to cope behind bars, Hove Crown Court heard.

Judge David Rennie handed him a 12-month suspended sentence and ordered him to complete 40 days of rehabilitation.

During the sentencing hearing, Piers Reed, prosecuting, described a “campaign of sexual assault” by Barbutu, who would strike women “on the bottom” and ride off.

Mr Reed said the defendant was “always on a bike, always wearing a hoodie up”.

In victim impact statements read out in court, one woman said: “His behaviour was menacing and I was alone in a dark, isolated place where no-one would hear a scream.”

Another victim said she was “horrified” when Barbutu squeezed her on the bottom and then returned to do so again while she watched him circling her and “smirking”.

Sentencing, Judge Rennie told Barbutu he would have been jailed “were it not for the fact that two experts agree that you do have severely impaired intellectual functioning.”

“What you chose to do to these 11 women who are complete strangers to you – you caused great fear, ongoing anguish,” he said.

Sussex Police said it received 24 reports from women between September 2016 and February 2017.

Richard Elliott defending him said:

He is sorry for what he has done. Punishment will not help him. It will vindicate the public for what he has done but would not assist him in any way.”

STUNNING range of UNIQUE badges & Jewellery at our online shop, immediate First Class dispatch also available!

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Ex-Chelsea star Hazard doesn’t speak Spanish and it helps him ignore boo boys at Real Madrid

EDEN HAZARD reckons ignorance is bliss as he battles to become a star at Real Madrid.

The former Chelsea star has been booed by the fans and suffered injury following his £150 million move in the summer.

Eden Hazard has been booed by the fans and suffered injury following his £150m move in the summer
Reuters

But Belgian Hazard joked: “I still don’t speak Spanish, so I don’t pay attention to criticism.

“I know that a lot of people talk about Real Madrid everywhere and that’s why I’m here. I have not had any difficult weeks in Madrid so far.”

Hazard was signed to replace superstar Cristiano Ronaldo who joined Italian champions Juventus last summer.

But he has scored only one goal and provided one assist.

Last season he scored 21 goals for Chelsea with two to help his former club win the Europa League trophy.

Hazard’s choice to snub learning Spanish could land him in hot water with fans and team-mates.

Lukaku is now third in the most expensive player ever in terms of total fees

LIONS TAMED


England also facing England rap after Bulgaria charged over vile racism

GLAZER OUT


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RACIST CHARGE


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NO SHAME


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BLUES’ HOME GAME


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GIF GAFF


Sterling hits back at Bulgaria racists with ‘Delightful’ Ainsley Harriott tweet

KROOS CONTROL


Man Utd lining up Toni Kroos transfer in swap deal with Paul Pogba

GLASS OF CAVA


Cavani lined up for stunning Juventus free transfer despite Man Utd interest


Real star Gareth Bale, who has long been accused of not learning the language, has earned the nickname “The Golfer” for opting to spend his free time on the course instead of with his colleagues.

The Welshman saw a mega-money move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning – reportedly earning him £1million a week – fall through this summer.

It meant the Welshman’s Madrid agony is set to drag on, and he even claimed he was a “scapegoat” for poor form last season.

Gareth Bale has been accused of not learning Spanish since joining Real Madrid
Getty Images – Getty

This content was originally published here.

ARE YOU A CURRENT OR A FORMER STUDENT OF SEDA COLLEGE? STUDY ENGLISH FOR FREE ON OUR ONLINE PLATFORM – SEDA College

Studying abroad already provides a lot to the English learning process on a daily basis, but how about keep studying after classes or even when you return to your home country? From now on, current students and ex-students of SEDA College can continue to learn English with our online platform, 100% free of charge.

This content was originally published here.

Study English in Los Angeles at EC School

Learn in the best environment

Our students come from over 140 countries worldwide. Find out what we can do for you.

Find out what it’s like to study with EC

Open yourself to a world of exciting possibilities and give yourself a chance to live a different kind of life – the kind you’ve always dreamed of.

Discover more

How to make the most out of studying at EC Los Angeles

Over 45,000 students study at EC schools every year, so we know the challenges you might face and we’re here to ensure your success every step of the way.

Student Testimonials

Have a look at what students say about their EC journey to becoming more proficient in the English language during their time with us.

  • Irem

    I chose to study with EC because they give us the opportunity to study TOEFL exam. EC teachers are friendly and helpful. I’d recommend EC to a friend because it’s like family here.

    Miho

    I chose to study with EC because I want to learn English in LA and EC have free classes and weekend activity. I like that the teachers always let us enjoy studying English. I respect them a lot. I can’t forget the memory of EC. There are nice teachers, helpful student coordinators and the best environment. I can’t forget the memory of EC.

    Kim

    I wanted to come to Los Angeles and Santa Monica is the most beautiful and peaceful place in Los Angeles. My teachers are very good and friendly. I’d recommend my EC to my friends because of the location and the school is huge.

  • Jacqueline

    The school is located directly in the middle of Santa Monica. I really like the small classes, the additional free classes and the big variety of different activities which are offered in your leisure time.

    Eduarda

    What I like the most about EC’s teachers is that they teach us with kindness and attention. My unforgettable experience here was making a lot of friends from so many countries and fun activities with the school.

    Rebeca

    EC is a very good school and the location is amazing. The teachers are very friendly and open, you can feel comfortable with them. I would recommend EC because you can meet a lot of people and they make you feel safe. 

  • Elgiz

    I choose EC because I was here last year and I liked it a lot. EC has a great community and activities, which are mostly free. Teachers here are very polite and they give you a real knowledge. I always recommend EC because you can really learn English here.

  • Irem

    I chose to study with EC because they give us the opportunity to study TOEFL exam. EC teachers are friendly and helpful. I’d recommend EC to a friend because it’s like family here.

  • Miho

    I chose to study with EC because I want to learn English in LA and EC have free classes and weekend activity. I like that the teachers always let us enjoy studying English. I respect them a lot. I can’t forget the memory of EC. There are nice teachers, helpful student coordinators and the best environment. I can’t forget the memory of EC.

  • Kim

    I wanted to come to Los Angeles and Santa Monica is the most beautiful and peaceful place in Los Angeles. My teachers are very good and friendly. I’d recommend my EC to my friends because of the location and the school is huge.

  • Jacqueline

    The school is located directly in the middle of Santa Monica. I really like the small classes, the additional free classes and the big variety of different activities which are offered in your leisure time.

  • Eduarda

    What I like the most about EC’s teachers is that they teach us with kindness and attention. My unforgettable experience here was making a lot of friends from so many countries and fun activities with the school.

  • Rebeca

    EC is a very good school and the location is amazing. The teachers are very friendly and open, you can feel comfortable with them. I would recommend EC because you can meet a lot of people and they make you feel safe. 

  • Elgiz

    I choose EC because I was here last year and I liked it a lot. EC has a great community and activities, which are mostly free. Teachers here are very polite and they give you a real knowledge. I always recommend EC because you can really learn English here.

Not sure which EC English Course is right for you?

EC offers a broad range of courses to help you meet your goals. Let us help you find the perfect course for you.

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Discover Los Angeles with EC English

Los Angeles is a glamorous and diverse city

EC Los Angeles 205 Reviews

Cycling along the beach between Santa Monica and Venice whilst spotting a celebrity at the local juice bar are everyday activities that our EC students enjoy when they’re not in class. There is a “must-see” tourist spot everyday of the week, such as the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory, but there are also hidden gems the city has to offer in its trendy neighbourhoods. If a vibrant and eclectic city is where you want to learn English, this is the EC Experience for you.

  • Free WiFi
  • Interactive Whiteboard
  • Library Facilities
  • Student Lounge
  • Self-study Area

Tony Watt

Centre Director

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School: +1 310 310 3868
Bookings: +356 23 790555
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401 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 200, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA

Reviews

Francesca Vitelli

The best time I’ve ever spent. The school is situated in a very good location, the teachers are very friendly like all the staff! I was in Oakwood, i couldn’t find a better place! But the best is for sure the people I met, I’ll remember them forever.

Chihiro Uchida

I love this school because friends, teachers and activities were very good! Best school ever! I had a precious experience. Thank you:)

Rud Faustino

I don’t have words to explain how perfect this school is ! ❤️

This content was originally published here.

The Easiest Languages to Learn if You Speak English

People often ask us: What are the easiest languages to learn if you speak English? Well that’s a very good question…

Language learning offers the chance to brighten your world. Along with experiencing the beauty of other cultures and making it easier to communicate with people from around the globe, you’ll also be improving your professional skill set. As the economy continues to move from a local to a global level, being multilingual will become even more of an asset.

Perhaps you don’t have a need to learn any particular language but rather a basic desire to broaden your linguistic horizons. If so, you might be wondering where to begin. You might choose to learn the language that is most utilized in your field. Another option is going with the easiest language to learn. If your goal is to help spruce up your resume as soon as possible, this is probably the best route to take. Luckily, three of the most commonly spoken languages around the world are also some of the easiest for English speakers to pick up.

The Familiarity Factor: The Subconscious Aspects of Language Learning

You likely have more exposure to foreign languages than you might realise. Sure, you might not speak Spanish yourself, but how often have you heard it spoken around you in everyday life?

Chances are that you’ve picked up on bits and pieces of foreign languages via:

You might be thinking that you never actually listened to the languages being spoken in any of these circumstances, but the subconscious mind picks up on more than you might expect. Once you begin learning a new language, you will likely see some words, phrases or sounds that you recognise, and this will help with the learning process and boost your confidence.

The Three Easiest Languages to Learn for English Speakers

1. Starting with Spanish

Spanish is the third-most spoken language on Earth, and it is likely to be the foreign language that, as an English speaker, you’re most familiar with. Learning Spanish is popular in a lot of schools and it’s quite straightforward. Words are generally pronounced the way they are spelled, making it easy to pronounce while reading.

What’s even better is that the Spanish language contains many English cognates, which is one of the reasons why it’s generally one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Some familiar Spanish-English cognates include:

And if you add the familiarity factor to the mix you’ll find out that you already know quite a few words in Spanish. The likelihood is that the words: fiesta, siesta, chico, amigo, fajita and casa are all familiar to you.

Even if you’re not a fan, you have probably heard songs from Shakira, Enrique Iglesias or Jennifer Lopez hundreds of times already accustoming you to the Spanish language. Not to mention if you’re a diehard fan of the popular Narcos TV series that is mostly in Spanish.

2. Getting Great at German

German might not be as familiar to English speakers as Spanish, but it’s still one of the easiest languages to learn. Like Spanish, it’s also a phonetic language, which makes pronunciation easy to figure out. The spelling rules are a bit more structured, and unlike the English language, which has both simple and continuous present tense, the German language only has one form of present tense. All of these things can make learning German easier in the beginning.

Moreover, the English language is part of the family of Germanic languages, which also includes German, of course. This means that the languages are somewhat similar in structure and may even contain similar words that are easy to recognise, also known as cognates. Some examples include:

In addition to cognates, you probably picked up German words from popular songs and movies. In terms of music, you might have also heard the popular ‘99 Luftballons’ song by Nane or, if you’re a rock fan, Rammstein songs were a big part of your playlist. When it comes to movies, there are a quite a few 100% German movies in IMDB’s top movies of all time. Some of the most popular are ‘The Life of Others’ (Das Leben der Anderen) and ‘Downfall’ (Der Untergang) that unconsciously got you one step closer to learning German.

3. Finding Fluency with French

Knowing English will help you learn Spanish, but knowing both English and Spanish will help you learn French  even faster. The more you teach your brain about languages, the more their various structures will begin to make sense to you.

On top of that, English and French have a lot of common ground, and, following the Norman invasion of England in 1066, English and French share many cognates. The pronunciation of French is actually much easier to understand than English, which contains a variety of words with the same spelling yet completely different meanings or pronunciations.

Many of the French cognates actually have the exact same spelling as the English words. Words like international, distance and finance are all written the same in French, making it one of the easiest languages to learn for an English speaker. Some cognates with slightly different spellings include:

French is one of the easiest languages to learn
Do you notice any patterns with these words? French contains many patterns, and once you begin studying, you’ll quickly start picking up on them.

Also, you were picking up new French words without you even knowing when you were listening to Zaz or Celine Dion and watching ‘Amélie’ or ‘The Intouchables’ (Intouchables).

Pick your language wisely

Learning a new language can seem daunting at first. But if you choose the language you want to learn wisely it can become one of the best decisions you will ever make. The secret is to start with a language that can offer you great professional opportunities, but also one that’s easier to learn.

While Chinese and Hindi are the languages spoken by the most people on Earth, learning them would be extremely hard and it would take a lot of extra time. As you already know English, you will have an easier time learning Spanish, German, French or many other European languages.

Now it’s time to pick the easiest language to learn for you, and dive into learning a few new words and phrases every day. The easiest way to start is by downloading one of the better language apps apps and commit to learning daily until it becomes a habit. Before you know it, you’ll expand your linguistic horizons and improve your employability.

What’s even better is that once you start to approach fluency in one of the above languages it will be easier to learn a bunch of other languages. Who knows what languages you will speak in the future?

Today’s guest post comes from Sebastian Maraloiu, CMO of the language learning app, Mondly.

This content was originally published here.

Do I Need to Learn French to Visit or Move to Paris, France?

Do you need to learn French in order to live in Paris?

Nope. Nope. Nope, but let me tell you why you should. I speak French at a conversational level and hardly used it. I did this by either not talking to people, or somehow being approached by 80% of the English speaking people in Paris.  Now, I will say that speaking French does open up a lot more spaces for you and allows you to feel more comfortable in the country. You will get a more immersive experience the more French that you do speak. But, like I was saying it is not necessary to enjoy your trip especially if it’s a short one.

I say this because during a long-stay trip like I was doing when I studied abroad, you have a lot more time to explore and really get to know the city. Knowing the language can smooth out this exploration process and allow you to more easily make friends. Making friends in a new place can give you an instant tour guide who can weed out all of the places you don’t want to visit while dragging you to the places you should see. But, remember, just because there are people who speak English in Paris, doesn’t mean that they are fluent or familiar with any common phrases (idioms) or slang in English, which varies greatly depending on which form of English you speak. Bridge the gap. Meet other people halfway. If you put in the effort to try speaking French, there will always be people who will step forward to help you, and, this extra practice will help you increase your fluency. (If that is something you want to do, of course.)

According to some of the people I met while I was in Paris, they are taught English in many of their schools. In addition to that, many American TV shows and movies are very popular across the world and are not always available dubbed in other languages. And so, lots of the English-speaking people in Paris, are somewhat bilingual. They do say practice makes perfect. So if you are looking to become more fluent in French before your trip or move to France or any other French-speaking place, you can try the TV and movie watching too. Naturally, this goes for any language you may be trying to learn. I only focus on French because it’s the one I’m most familiar with.

Reading is fundamental.

Another thing that helps me increase my fluency is reading books in French. It is easier to start off with stories you are already familiar with because you already know what is happening in the story and that will help you figure out new vocabulary words, tenses, and grammar that you may not already be familiar with. This will also give you the ability to pick up slang and other common phrases, including idioms that do not seem to be drilled into your heads during language classes, which was my experience while taking my own French classes.

There will also be a lot of signs all written in French to give you a daily vocabulary quiz. Other things you can do to increase your vocabulary bank include going to the grocery store, going shopping (department stores, malls, thrifting, book stores), and trying a lot of different restaurants. Since you’ll be able to put your eyes on an image and immediately associate it with a word, it does seem to help you study the language in small, everyday ways. Though I hate to suggest it because I got tired of it myself, going to art museums is another way to add a lot of new vocabulary words to your language skills. You know the little plaques and stands with the descriptions? There are going to be a lot of new words (and for people who have previously studied French, a lot of familiar ones too). What is great about this is that you have the painting, sculpture, or drawing right there to help you through the description, and as you see words repeated from description to description, you’ll pick them up a lot faster and remember them better.

You’re never too old to go back to school.

There’s also the option of taking French Classes after you get to France, and that way, you can find a bilingual teacher with the capabilities of explaining French grammar to you in detail. You could also enlist one of your newly found friends or if you’re already traveling with someone, practice together. The more you speak, the faster your recall will become and the more comfortable you will be with the language.

I encourage you to make the effort to learn French at at least a basic level. Not speaking the language can be an isolating feeling and that is something to be avoided if you plan on making Paris your longterm home. Even with my moderate-level of French-speaking, I often spent a lot of time by myself when I was out in public. Of course, there is nothing wrong with spending time alone, but, it would’ve been a much different trip if I’d been more comfortable with the language.

Before I go back, I’d definitely like to increase my fluency even more so that I feel a lot more comfortable attempting friendships with native French-speakers. There is something a little heart-warming to find new people who are willing to help you learn and support your journey as you learn such a complex and challenging new skill.

To wrap-up: no, you do not need to speak French to visit or move to Paris, but just like moving or visiting any place, speaking the language give you a deeper, more immersive experience that will make your efforts worthwhile but also building your resume.

Keep me traveling and blogging by sharing. <3

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This content was originally published here.

Alexa Can Now Speak Spanish in the US

You can now speak Spanish to your Alexa-enabled devices in the US. While Alexa would have previously replied with, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” she will now be able to respond to your Spanish voice commands and reply in Español.

Amazon Teaches Alexa to Speak Spanish in the US

Given its proximity to Mexico, the United States has a high number of Spanish speakers. However, Google Home learned to speak Spanish in 2018, it has taken longer for Amazon to teach Alexa how to speak Spanish. But it has finally now happened.

In April 2019, Amazon announced that Alexa would soon be able to speak Spanish. In effect, the company had asked developers to “start building skills for Spanish-speaking customers in the US […] with the new Spanish for US voice model.”

How to Start Speaking Spanish to Alexa

With those skills having been certified, Alexa can now speak Spanish in the United States. According to The Amazon Blog, support for Spanish speakers runs deep, so there’s a “brand new Spanish voice, local knowledge, hundreds of skills, and more.”

There’s also a new Multi-lingual mode which allows users to switch seamlessly between Spanish and English. Once enabled, if you ask Alexa a question in Spanish she’ll respond in Spanish, but if you ask Alexa a question in English she’ll respond in English.

“Alexa, ¡Hola!” @alexa99 customers in the U.S. can now access Spanish language and Multi-lingual mode on supported Echo and Alexa built-in devices. https://t.co/BhmiJY8A1G

— Amazon News (@amazonnews) October 11, 2019

If you want to start speaking Spanish to Alexa and have her respond in kind, switch to “Español (Estados Unidos)” in the Alexa app. Or, alternatively, enable the Multi-lingual mode, which will be especially useful for multilingual households.

As a bonus for Spanish speakers in the US, Amazon has added a host of Latin music playlists to Amazon Music. These include a playlist full of urban artists and a playlist packed with dance songs. All of which you can ask Alexa to play in Spanish.

Is It Time to Learn to Start Speaking Spanish?

With 50 million Spanish speakers in the United States, this is long overdue. It has taken Amazon a while to catch up to the competition, but it’s better late than never. And if you’re not yet able to speak Spanish, here are the best apps to learn to speak Spanish.

Read the full article: Alexa Can Now Speak Spanish in the US

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To learn English, bilingual children need robust vocabulary from parents and caregivers: Study first to examine parents’ vocabulary and grammar as an influence on children’s acquisition of English — ScienceDaily

A new study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and collaborators at The George Washington University digs deep into these differences and finds that differences in the vocabulary used while talking to children affect how useful that speech is to the child trying to figure out the patterns of language. The bottom line? The quality of child-directed speech depends on the language proficiency of the speaker. Children who hear a rich vocabulary acquire a rich vocabulary and children who hear a rich vocabulary in full sentences acquire the ability to put all of their words together in full sentences.

Findings from this study, published in the Journal of Child Language, have broad implications for immigrant parents’ language choices at home and for staffing practices in early care and education centers.

Many children learn language, in part, from the speech of non-native speakers who vary in their language proficiency. Even though there is evidence for the effects of language input from native and non-native parents on bilingual children’s speech such as acoustic properties, no research to date has investigated the effects of vocabulary and grammar on a child’s acquisition of English. Vocabulary size is the most reliably observed difference between native speakers and even quite proficient non-native speakers.

“Just because a parent speaks English better than their two-year-old, doesn’t mean that they speak English well enough to maximally support the child’s acquisition of English,” said Erika Hoff, Ph.D., lead author and a professor of psychology in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “Children can’t learn what they don’t hear. So if their parents or other adults speak to them with a very simple, limited vocabulary that is all that they can learn.”

For the study, Hoff and collaborators compared three groups of mothers: mothers who were native speakers of English; mothers who were not native speakers of English but rated themselves as highly proficient; and mothers who were not native speakers of English and rated themselves as having limited proficiency. All of these mothers talked to their children in English on a regular basis.

Results of the study provide evidence suggesting that the child-directed speech of native speakers and non-native speakers with good proficiency provide a richer database for language acquisition than the child-directed speech of speakers with limited proficiency. Native speakers consistently showed the highest level of the supportive properties of input in their child-directed speech, followed by the non-native speakers with good proficiency, and the non-native speakers with limited proficiency who consistently showed the lowest levels.

The speakers with limited proficiency illustrated a smaller vocabulary for their children to learn, used those words in shorter utterances, and their utterances contained less diversity in the lexical items that fill grammatical roles, compared to native English speakers.

The study also found being educated from an English-speaking college or university also matters even if the non-native speaker has advanced degrees from another country. Hoff suggests that one way to become proficient in a language and proficient in a way that translates into a benefit for the child is to be educated in that language.

“Even if you are highly educated from another country and you are not proficient in English, when you speak to your child in English it will show. There really is something about being proficient in English that helps you talk to your child in a way that benefits his or her language,” said Hoff. “Parents who are more proficient in English use a richer vocabulary and produce longer sentences, even when they are talking to a toddler. Clearly, all of the mothers know as much as their two-year-olds, but the difference between what you know when you can barely speak a language and what you know when you’re highly proficient in a language translates into a difference that matters in children, and that’s really the key point of this study.”

Because differences also are observed among native speakers of English in their talk to adults and children, the authors suggest providing more educational opportunities for native speakers as a route to closing other language gaps, such as those associated with socioeconomic status.

To observe speech between mother and child for the study, researchers videotaped them playing together. They transcribed everything that the mothers said to their two-and-a-half year-old children using a special software program as well as manual transcription to count the number of different words and utterances, and to measure the length of sentences.

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