The Importance of Fun when Learning a Language

Comment ca vaAlmost anyone can learn a second language if they put their minds to it. With some effort and focus, you can achieve anything from beginner status to fluency. However, there is arguably still one thing you need—beyond educational tools, effort, and focus—in order to learn your chosen language well: fun.

The idea has been studied by observing children’s abilities to learn, and many educators are well-aware of it: the more fun you have when learning, the better your chances of retaining the information. Why this is so, who can say? Perhaps the pressure to perform in a serious situation hinders thought processes. Whatever the reasons, experiments have been conducted that show people are more likely to solve problems mentally when having fun than when they’re in a less fun environment.

Additionally, being creative with information while learning a language is very helpful. When the lesson involves asking the learner to take the information and be creative with it—rather than requiring standard memorization—retention is not the only thing improved; the learner’s in-depth comprehension of the information is enhanced, as well. Creativity and invention require you to take information and use it in different, but correct, ways. Upon completing something creative, you discover that you have a much stronger understanding than when you began.

El reino de los animalesWhether you’re a student, a teacher, or you’re learning on your own at home, never underestimate the power of pleasure in the learning process. Teachers can get creative with lessons. Students have fun with assignments by doing more with them at home. Other learners can go about learning in ways that make them more enjoyable. Having fun while learning will help retention, and being creative will spark improved abilities to solve those language problems.

If you need tools to help you make learning a language more fun, visit World of Reading. We have what anyone needs—teacher, student, at-home learner—to enjoy learning a language.

Your Brain on Language Education

Foreign Language. Concept - learning, speaking, travelThe brain is a fascinating thing about which we still have a lot to learn. Have you ever wondered what is going on in your brain when you do something, such as learn a new language? You are not alone; scientists have wondered the same and explored the notion.

MRI brain scans can sometimes tell us much about what we know of brains. They show us how active the brain becomes when we use it for any reason, including to learn. Studies have been conducted using this imaging technology, specifically to find out how the brain is affected by language education. Basically, the scan “lights up” in the areas of the brain doing the work, revealing what happens to the brain when a person hears a language, speaks it, comprehends it, or doesn’t comprehend it, but tries to do so.

Some results of these studies even suggested that the brain grows as a result of learning a new language. A Swedish study examined the brains of various individuals, some of whom were adept at learning a language, and others who were not. The MRI scans showed that certain areas of the brain for those students in language education appeared to grow in size. The scientists also learned that the people whose brains grew in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex areas generally appeared more skilled than others.

Research into the brain serves many functions and understanding how language helps us grow is merely one of them. But, time and time again, studies—be they of the brain or any other area—have shown that learning a language has few, if any, negative repercussions. This is your brain on language education: learning a new language is great for the mind, for social interaction, for understanding the world, for business interaction, and beyond.

We are all about learning a new language. Come get the tools you need to help your brain grow and your horizons broaden at World of Reading.

Friendship and Foreign Language

Language is about communication. There are many reasons to learn how to communicate in another language and ways to learn. Among all these is the most important: human communication. So, what better way to advance learning than by mixing friendship and foreign language?

Interacting with another person when learning a language is valuable for many reasons. Doing so with someone for whom the language is native is even more so:

colors-of-the-mountain-dvdLearning the Natural: When you take language lessons, you learn the accurate, official elements of the language. You learn proper pronunciation, grammar, structure, etc. This is the best way to begin. However, as you continue learning, it’s important to communicate in a way that is natural. Common communication in any language is not formal; it is not “official.” People for whom the language is native have their own pronunciations, expressions and ways that they are spoken, and many more little things that make the way they speak natural. The best way to learn this is to practice with a native speaker. They can not only help you learn the basics, and proper speech and grammar, but they can supplement your education with communication that the books simply do not teach you.  When they are not available, watch foreign films to learn how people communicate with each other.

Crossing Cultural Divides: Communication is more than words; it is expressions of belief systems and cultures, and all that those contain. To immerse yourself in a language it helps to understand the culture and people that produce it. Putting friendship and foreign language together and making a friend who is willing to help you develop your language skills is a certain way to better your full comprehension of the language beyond the mere grammar, and into full and genuine communication.

Whether you’re teaching, learning, listening, speaking, reading, or writing, there is a wealth of people and materials to help you. We have plenty for you at World of Reading. Visit our website today and starting learning.

Give the Gift of Foreign Language

a-jewish-celebration-cdThat special time of year is coming, as is the time to purchase Hanukkah and Christmas presents. For some, this is fun and easy, and they enjoy it, overall. For others, it can be frustrating trying to figure out what people might want, need, or like. Fortunately, we can make it a little easier for some.

If you know someone who loves a foreign language, is learning a new language, teaches language, or loves foreign films, then we have plenty for you to choose from:

Foreign Films: Movies are almost always a good idea. Most of us love movies, and foreign films give us an opportunity to experience different cultures and languages, all with the thrill of great storytelling. There is a multitude of great, awarding-winning foreign films for all ages. The gift of foreign language pleases the language lover, the movie buff, or a combination of both.

Teaching Materials: Do you know a foreign language teacher? Find something that may help them shake up their teaching routine. There are plenty of board games, novels, non-fiction texts, audio cds, films, and beyond that a creative teacher can use to educate and inspire.

Learn-at-Home Materials: Is someone you know learning a new language? Or, perhaps they’ve expressed a desire to do so. Get them started, or help them on their journey. Give them a book or software program to get them started. Give audio tapes, music, or movies to help them enjoy their learning process.

Great Literature: For the book lover with a knowledge of a foreign language, or someone who’s learning, try a classic novel in the original foreign language. For example, someone learning French might like to aspire to read Victor Hugo in the original French, or a Spanish-learner might like to read Don Quixote.

There is a myriad of gift possibilities this Hanukkah and Christmas at World of Reading. If you have questions, we can help, too and help recommend the perfect gift. Come check us out and give the gift of foreign language.

Passive Listening and Language Learning

instant-immersion-french-audio-cdWe know that, if you want to speak a language fluently, you must learn its sounds and imitate them. When you take lessons or learn on your own, you practice these things. There is something additional that you can do; it’s called passive listening. Some say that passive listening is a significant boost to your foreign language learning process that may improve your education noticeably. This is up for debate. However, what passive listening can help you with is acclimating to sounds as you practice your active listening and study.

Passive Listening as a Learning Aid

There are those who say that you can learn a language through passive listening only. Many also believe this is highly unlikely. It is arguable, however, that passive listening may serve as a beneficial learning aid, secondary to active learning. For example, as you learn a new language, particularly early in your efforts, the foreign words may sound like gibberish in a recognizable accent. Hearing the sounds as often as possible, even when you’re not really paying active attention, may still affect your most basic understanding of what you’re hearing. Though you may not comprehend what you’re hearing in the beginning, you adjust to the accent and sounds become more recognizable. The more you hear in general, the better off your pronunciation and recognition will be.

How to Go About Passive Listening

Another great thing about practicing this method is that it can be done at so many times and in so many ways. As you drive to work, you could listen to foreign music in the language that you are learning. You could have that music on when you work, or any other time. You may also listen to audio learning CDs; you don’t necessarily have to actively repeat what you hear or engage with the lesson—just let it play. You can play a film and watch it without subtitles, or have it on as you do other things, and just listen to the actors speak.

There is a myriad of ways to go about passive listening as part of your larger lesson plans. We have what you need. We have music, audio lessons, films, and more. Visit our website today.

Great Foreign Films

There are simply too many great films in languages other than English to count. This is good news, however, for any cinephile, student, or generally bilingual or multilingual person. Here are just a few recommendations:

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)

This French tale by Antoine de Saint-­Exupéry has been translated into most languages and is loved by many children, and adults. Recently, and much to the delight of many, it was made into a feature film. As a young girl is prepared for life by her mother, she meets the Aviator, who shows her an amazing world that he experienced with the help of the Little Prince. It’s a journey many have taken and will enjoy taking again in this beautiful film.

Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa)

In this film, a Jewish family emigrates from Germany to Africa just prior to WWII as anti-Jewish sentiment grows. They arrive in Kenya and start a farm. Life and the war continue, bringing drama, struggles, and love. This dramatic film was awarded Best Foreign Language Film at the 75th Academy Awards.

Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)comoaguabig

This romantic story is both dramatic and amusing. Tita, a young Mexican girl, falls in love with Pedro, but they cannot marry because, traditionally, Tita’s older sister must marry and Tita must live to care for their mother. As she pines for Pedro and other events—both happy and unfortunate—occur throughout her life, Tita finds the only true way to express her emotions is through her cooking, which has some unforeseen and amusing consequences. Based upon a popular novel, this film is lovely and romantic, though it should be noted that it is also rated R.

Want more foreign movies? Visit World of Reading online and see what we have to offer or email us for specific recommendations, especially if the film must be appropriate for the classroom.

Creative Methods for Teaching a Foreign Language

Whether you’re a full-time teacher, a substitute, or a parent teaching at home, sometimes your students need a little push to learn. Topics may need to be made more interesting for a specific demographic, or they just need to feel a little more relevant to the students’ life. Foreign language lessons are no different. Most teachers are fully capable of being creative and coming up with ways to shake up a language lesson and here are just a couple of suggestions to help inspire.

  • Character Creation

Audience: Young Children

In this activity, children are asked to create a character. It can be anything their little minds may come up with—a human person, an animal, an imaginary creature, and beyond. To create this character, they must draw it and give it an accompanying written and spoken description and back story. For children, these descriptions do not have to be complex. It can be as simply as drawing the character—or, perhaps tracing parts and creating paper figurines, or something equally interesting and creative—and labeling the parts in the appropriate language, and telling a little about the character in a few short, simple sentences. This is an inventive way for them to practice their vocabulary.

  • Scene Reenactmentle-petit-prince

Audience: High School (and Older)

Most students love films, so a great way to get them interested and challenge their comprehension is to turn them into actors. Have them choose a film in their native language or one they have seen in the foreign language, especially if you have seen one recently during class. Then, ask them to pick a scene from that film of a certain length. Their assignment will be to perform the scene in the language being taught. If someone has a strong fear of performance, then the lesson can be adjusted and they can write the scene’s script in the appropriate language. By choosing their own film—within reason, of course—they have some freedom to express themselves, and the language becomes part of their interests.

The possibilities are almost endless; teachers can do so much with language when given the freedom to transform their classes and lessons. For teaching a foreign language materials and aids, and all sorts of extras for creative lesson-making, visit World of Reading online.

Being Bilingual Boosts the Brain

parisdvdbig1Many people function intelligently and healthily knowing only their native language. However, research and studies have long suggested that being bilingual is a strong benefit for a growing person’s brain health, as well as a person’s cultural experiences. Functioning in two languages—or more—is exercise for the mind that helps maintain its health.

The Education Benefits

Utilizing a language requires both hemispheres of the human brain; it calls for both logical and analytical thinking, and emotional and creative thinking. Those who learn as adults may take a more rational approach to comprehension, while a long-time bilingual individual—someone who learned at a young age—may have more a stronger grasp of social concepts. Studies have also shown that bilingual people may also speak better in general, leaving out unnecessary words and phrases and speaking more clearly.

The Brain Boost

Either way, the brain’s cognitive function is heightened. It has even been suggested that bi and multilingual brains have more gray matter. Speaking, reading, and writing in more than one language increases brain activity. This is mental exercise, and these workouts—like most other healthy activities—can prevent and delay certain problems, such as Alzheimer’s and related diseases.

These studies and ideas do not mean that someone with thorough knowledge of multiple languages is necessarily more intelligent than anyone else; it simply means that, in addition to the fun and cultural pluses of being multi or bilingual, there are potentially significant mental health benefits for those who work to become so. Ultimately, it is all about working toward a healthier brain.

If you are working toward becoming bilingual, visit World of Reading online. We have all that you need to pursue multi language education, whether for yourself, your students, or for your children. We have literature, textbooks, DVDs, audio, and much more. Come start your mental workout today.

When Children Learn Multiple Languages

french-bilingual-baby-dvd-and-flashcafrdsIt is something that most of us already know—learning a foreign language at a very young age improves cognitive development and more. However, the U.S. has not yet begun to match its foreign counterparts in terms of language education. If parents want their children to benefit from that schooling, they must often take matters into their own hands at home.

When Children Learn

Research shows that when children learn multiple languages as early as possible—even around the age of three or earlier—may have improved intellectual skills throughout their future education. It is argued that teaching foreign language concepts alongside standard early education, even to infants at home, is the best way to begin a child’s schooling.

The idea is partially based in the fact that a human is best able to mimic sounds as child; as a person grows and develops the ability to speak the native language, it becomes more difficult to mimic the sounds of a foreign one. In addition to having an easier time, studies have shown that when children learn multiple languages it benefits critical thinking skills, and both creative and logical thought. Over time, data has shown that students who acquired more than one language early on perform better in educational testing.

You do not have to wait for a school to teach your child language skills and doing so does not mean a major expense. Most parents may begin teaching the native language at home; all you need to do is add another language to the daily activities you do with your child. Almost any toy, activity, DVD, or book you bring into your child’s life can be found in a foreign language. That’s where World of Reading comes in.

We offer all you need to supplement your child’s language education at home. Children’s literature, educational tools, DVDs, audio CDs, and more from our World of Reading online shop can help you with this endeavor.

To Read is to Learn

If you want to learn a new language, your first instinct may be to reach for the audio learning software. This is not a bad decision, particularly if you want to communicate verbally in that language and you are an auditory learner. However, what if you are a visual learner?

Reading is equally as important. Fully understanding the words and being able to communicate, and understand others’ communications via any type of written content make reading essential. So, here is some advice for learning to read as you absorb your chosen second language.

There’s no shame in starting simple.

chenilleBIGYou do not have to pick up the classics of French when you start learning. Let those be goals for you. Instead, pick up translations of your childhood favorites, such as Dr. Seuss, or Eric Carle.  See how those familiar tales look in a foreign language, and see what you know so well in a different linguistic light. Or, choose children’s classics that originated in the language you’re learning, such as Le Petit Prince. Read blurbs, blogs, or even mere titles. Remember, there is no rush; take your time and enjoy the process of learning. You’ll be reading the more dense materials sooner than you think.

Invest in a portable dictionary.

You don’t have to buy a giant hardback book. You can have a little paperback, or, thanks to modern mobile technology, you can have all that’s in a large dictionary on your phone or tablet. Choose whatever is more convenient for you and take a study approach to reading. Be ready to encounter a word you don’t know and look it up. This is taking advantage of the fact that reading in a foreign language is one of the best ways to improve your vocabulary. If you take the time to look up each unfamiliar word you come across, you’ll remember them that much better.

Read aloud to yourself, or to others.

When you read, you use specific parts of your brain. When you speak, you use some others. When you do both at the same time, your brain is working even more, and you retain information even better. You hear the words and improve your verbal pronunciation, while simultaneously bettering your vocabulary and ability to make connections between the words. If you’re too shy to do so around others, find time for yourself. If you have children, read to them and let them learn with you.

Come get all the things you need to learn a new language at World of Reading. Then watch, listen, read, and learn, and give yourself all that knowing a second language has to offer.