Archive for September, 2013

When the Visual Brain Benefits the Blind

Posted on September 29th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

How many of us complain when trying to learn a new language? The endings of the words are confusing, the words in sentences seem to be in the wrong order, and let’s not even get started on the dreaded conjugated verbs and many tenses that we’re supposed to learn!

But how much harder is it for people with visual impairment to learn a new language? We’re used to being able to see how words are written and how sentences are formed on paper; it helps to reinforce the words in our minds when vocalizing them. The obvious answer is with the use of braille, but research has shown that visually impaired people don’t actually need the use of written materials to help them learn a foreign language. Their lack of sight actually increases their other senses so that audio and tactile methods work just as efficiently. Instead of seeing ‘manzana = apple’ written on a piece of paper, just hearing the Spanish word for ‘apple’ or even holding an apple while listening to it is enough; the other senses allow the brain’s memory to compensate for the lack of visual cues.

Regions of the brain are specifically designed to process languages. Scientific research has shown that these areas of the brain are still active in people who have never been able to see – those who were born blind – producing visual stimuli in response to sounds, particularly spoken words. It is not clear how the brain adapts the visual regions to process language learning abilities in early blind people but the brain activity is definitely enhanced to offer additional language processing skills by way of compensation for the loss of ordinary language learning abilities.

What difficulties in language learning have you had to overcome and how did you achieve this?

Twin Talk – The Secret Language

Posted on September 27th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s well known that twins share a special bond; they are said to think the same things at the same time and to feel what the other twin feels. Many studies have been carried out by psychologists to ascertain whether twins can achieve identical results in tests and I’m wondering whether there is anything to suggest that twins have an increased learning ability owing to the fact that ‘two minds are better than one’.

Apparently not, it seems. On the contrary. Many twins suffer from learning disabilities which researchers have concluded is tied to early delays in language abilities. But how can that be when twins are known to share their own secret language from a very early age? Otherwise known as idioglossia or cryptophasia, this language is invented and developed by twins and cannot be understood by others, sounding just like a foreign language.

It turns out that this private language is purely one twin’s interpretation and mimicking of the other twin’s attempt at trying to speak. As one twin makes disordered sounds while attempting vocalization, the other twin copies this incorrect speech, and vice versa. As the twins happily babble together, it is often misconstrued as the phenomenon of ‘twin talk’.

Twins often display delayed speech and language skills leading to problems with articulation and the ability to express themselves. However, whilst their expressive language skills might fall behind, their receptive skills are considerably higher, meaning they have a much wider understanding of vocabulary and can understand what is being said to them far better than their peers can.

Are you a twin and did you develop a way of communicating with your sibling so that no-one else could understand you? How do you compare with each other in the learning of ‘real’ foreign languages?

Ditch that Disorder and Learn a Language!

Posted on September 22nd, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

People with learning disabilities have long had to put up with the stigma of being ‘slow’ or ‘stupid’. Now that the rest of us have finally become educated into understanding what learning disabilities actually are, those who are afflicted with them have heaved a sigh of relief and have been able to get on with things.


Let’s take dyslexia as an example. As well as struggling to read and write letters and words in the correct way and order, listening and speaking are also common issues with sufferers and this is not as widely known. Dyslexics can often struggle with the ability to distinguish between vowels and isolate the sounds of words, meaning that they may mispronounce similar sounding words. For those who lack phonemic awareness, this will be even more highlighted when they try to learn a foreign language.

A different approach to learning

But all is not lost! Now, thanks to considerable research into learning disabilities and improved teaching techniques, dyslexics no longer need to feel left out of the language loop and can look forward to being fluent in their chosen foreign language. Using a multisensory structure of learning, with an emphasis on vocal training instead of traditional reading and writing lessons, dyslexics will easily learn how to identify the different sounds and be able to form the correct sentence structures.

Do you suffer from a learning disorder and were ever made to feel that you couldn’t achieve your goals? What steps did you take to overcome your learning issues? Everyone has the ability to learn languages; it’s just a matter of finding the method of learning that suits you best.

Teaching Head On With the TEFL

Posted on September 19th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

As the most widely spoken language throughout the world, there is a huge demand for English language courses. Both on a social and business level, English is very widely accepted and understood.

As a requirement for immigration purposes, a necessity for many jobs, and being ideal for day-to-day living, it´s easy to see why a knowledge of English is necessary in many countries. On the other side of the coin, native English speakers are in the lucky position to be able to teach their language to others, with little restriction.

A Place in the Sun

Instead of watching those daytime TV programmes that follow people moving from home to abroad and eagerly watching their progress, have you ever considered taking the plunge and living abroad yourself? Speaking fluent English, you already have a head start over other expats living abroad as a way to earn yourself some money and maybe start a new career. The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is handy to have whether you´re living in a foreign speaking country or a predominantly English speaking country. Either way, there´s always a high demand for English lessons.

Locals Learning the Language

In foreign countries, learning English is still in demand thanks to the progressive nature of social media, the requirements within the business communities, and the opportunities that a lack of restrictions between countries has afforded us. In English speaking countries, lessons are in demand from foreigners who have taken up residence and need to learn the lingo, those wishing to learn the business side of the English language, and those that have an interest in learning it to suit their personal requirements.

Get Certified

Would a home away from home appeal to you? Would the love of your own language be enough to help you settle in your new surroundings? By grabbing the obvious opportunity you have head on, you won´t be restricted with your relocation. All you need to do is take the steps to gain your TEFL certification and you’ll be on your way to your own place in the sun!

Foreign Faux Pas = Sticky Situations

Posted on September 15th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Body language is a great way to express yourself. The tilt of your head, position of your shoulders and hand gestures are just some of the ways you can use your body to convey your feelings to others. Whether you´re happy, irritable, confused or curious, it´s easy to make people understand your mood by looking at your body language.

To really make yourself understood though, there´s nothing quite like actually speaking with each other! Say exactly what you mean to quench their curiosity while ending their confusion and irritability and everyone will be happy…or will they? Not if you´re speaking in another language. You might think you´re pronouncing the words correctly, using them in the right situation and in the correct tense, but you might unknowingly be making a bit of a blunder with your conversation.

How many tourists have unwittingly asked for ‘polla’ instead of ‘pollo’ for some chicken in Spain? (I´ll let you look that one up!) When dining in a restaurant in Sweden, don´t tell the waiter you´re ‘ful’ as he´ll think you´re calling him ugly. Conversely, don´t be offended when the waiter answers ‘slut’ as he´s merely pointing out that that´s the end of your meal or conversation.

Have you ever found yourself in an embarrassing situation when you´ve innocently tried to make an effort at speaking a language? Share your foreign faux pas with everyone so that others don´t end up speaking themselves into sticky situations!

Unlock the Secrets to Faster Learning

Posted on September 14th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

What helps you to remember things? When I say ‘things’, I´m referring to what helps you remember words and phrases from another language. Leaving notes around the house, putting words to a favourite or familiar song, or maybe forming mnemonics; these are all popular ways to commit information to your memory.


When my friend´s kids first started to learn a new language, she stuck Post-it notes all around the house on everyday objects. Each time they needed to use an object, she´d ask them to say the word for it in the foreign language first. As they saw the notes every day, they also became familiar with the spelling of the new words very quickly.


It´s a common idea, and a very successful one at that, to put sentences of the new language you´re learning towards the verses of a favourite song. The more you sing the verses, the more the foreign sentences stick in your mind as would the original sentences, without you even realising it. And as you enjoy the song, it doesn´t feel like such an effort to learn the foreign language.


Using a mnemonic device is a memory aid used by most people. One way to create a mnemonic is by taking the first letter of each word you are trying to remember and construct a memorable phrase. The most common example of this is the mnemonic used to remember the colours of the rainbow, ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’. Each of the initial letters corresponds with a colour: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. Well, that one´s always worked for me, at least.

Memory aids

So what method do you prefer to use when you´re trying to remember something? Do you enjoy word association or maybe reciting the foreign sentences as though they were lines in a play? Share your favourite memory aids with your fellow students!

Part of the Family

Posted on September 8th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Maarit’s year as an au pair in the US had finally come to an end…and what a year it had been! She had watched the two young children she had been looking after blossom as they learned new experiences and had enjoyed teaching them many new things. The little brother and sister had been a delight to look after and she knew she´d been lucky with her chosen host family in the US. Made to genuinely feel as part of their family, Maarit was sad to be leaving and knew she´d miss them terribly. She was glad to have so many memories to cherish and take away with her.

The end of the year wasn’t all sad news though, for Maarit. At the end of her contract with the au pair association, she was given an additional month, known as the ‘travel month’, within which she was free to travel around the US and do some sightseeing. During her year there, she’d continued with her English studies as per her visa regulations, and a number of other au pairs attended the same classes. They’d become friends over the last year and some of them had decided to travel together in a group rather than each heading their own separate way. They each had different places they wanted to visit and sights they had to see before going home, and with their different experiences so far in the US and their combined knowledge of the English language, they were confident it was going be an extremely memorable month.

The time had come to say goodbye and with tears and big hugs all around, Maarit waved sadly to the family she had become so fond of as she walked down their driveway for the last time. Leaving the children was awful but Maarit knew they´d had a good year and was confident that she´d put everything into being the best au pair to them that she could.

The time for tears was to be over as the excitement of the trip ahead took hold. A month of adventure lay ahead of her and Maarit intended to enjoy every bit of it. These final days would be the perfect end to a very special year!


Break the Business Barrier

Posted on September 7th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

English is said to be a hard language to learn yet it’s one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Many people speak English as their second language while others can speak enough of it to get by for their own needs.

When living in a predominantly English speaking country, such as the United States, a certain level of English is required for many things, such as citizenship rights and employment opportunities. Even for people already fluent in English, speaking in everyday terms can be quite different to its business terminology and usage in the workplace. Language schools can help break that business barrier by specifically teaching you the business language you will need in your field. From the basics of writing emails and letters, to conducting meetings and preparing presentations in English, your tutor will cover every aspect of business English so that you are equipped with every skill necessary to get ahead in the workplace.

Business jargon can be a minefield if you´re not prepared for it, which is why native English teachers will be on hand to teach you the correct terminology and usage. Preparing yourself now will hold you in good stead for the future and get you one step nearer to that promotion! Learning the English business language will introduce a world of possibilities to you, enabling you to further your career and ensure your success. Don´t be baffled by the business world; invest in some lessons to give your career a boost!