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I have found reading to be the best way to build vocabulary when learning a foreign language. It amazes me how many words I still remember from all the books I read in Spanish and French when I was in college and grad school. No doubt it's because I learned the words in context and didn't just memorize them from a list. But be careful not to pick a book that's too far above your reading comprehension level. You'll just get bogged down and stop reading. Also, don't worry about looking up every word you don't know. The idea is to keep reading and getting the main ideas. After you've read a book for a while, it begins to get easier to understand. In addition to reading, if you're traveling to the country where your target language is spoken, take a journal with you and jot down words and phrases you hear spoken or see on signs. Then, when you are back in the hotel at night resting, pull them out and study them for a few minutes.

Why is listening in a foreign language always easier than speaking? Why does reading in a foreign language seem so much easier than writing? That's because your brain is doing different work in each context. When you listen and when you read, you are taking in information. You are receiving information, a passive form of using your new language. However, when you speak or write, you are actively expressing your own unique ideas. Literally, you are creating and formatting new information! This is why I encourage my students to practice speaking and writing as much as possible, whether it be in English, Spanish, or whatever their new language is. For example, if you usually write your grocery list in English, try writing it in Spanish! Do you know someone who is bilingual? Try talking to them in your new language! They will appreciate you taking the time to converse with them in their native tongue, and your brain will appreciate that you are finally putting to good... read more

Hey everyone! I have currently been working two tutoring jobs, one in the subject of Spanish, with an elementary school age girl. This was my first official tutoring job. I have gained a great amount of experience with this job, I've learned many different types of lesson formats and found that when learning a new language note cards are great for vocabulary. I also think that making little songs will help in memorization and repetition is key. I also think that the format of teaching should vary, for example, starting with 20 minutes of vocabulary, then 20 of grammar, and 20 minutes of combining the two. I like to go over what was learned in the last lesson and around every four lessons or so go over what we have learned so far from the beginning. I think this is also very important because many times lessons are given and you move past that certain part, making it more difficult to remember or perhaps forgetting it all together. Hope these few tips were helpful! :)... read more

The worst thing for a student can be summer vacations. The last thing on their minds is to keep up on what they learned throughout the previous school year. They want fun, freedom, excitement. None of these are often used by students to describe learning or school. However, it is important to their continued mental development that they maintain their level of understanding from school year to school year. Too much time is lost at the beginning of each school year trying to catch back up. This slipping backward can be avoided by doing simple skills every day during summer vacation. Math students should continue to work on math problems throughout the summer. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division can be done easily without pen or paper. A trip to the store or gas station can be a quick quiz for most elementary math students if a motivated parent or sibling is willing to ask them questions. Fun and entertaining math problems can be found online as well that can... read more

Especially in the language areas (French, Spanish, and English), there are lots of ways to stay current or to at least keep aspects of your learning fresh. In the case of foreign language, whenever possible, watch a news program or a weather cast in the foreign language. It is also a good idea to watch children's shows i.e. Dora in Spanish. Reading a newspaper is a wonderful way to maintain reading, learning and analytical skills. Listening to foreign language tapes either in the car, or just before you go to sleep also helps. For those of you who are more inventive or creative, practice having conversations before a mirror. Just make it up as you go. Watch yourself in the mirror. As you encounter vocabulary that you don't know or that you have forgotten, you can look it up, and thereby add to your vocabulary. From time to time review your flash cards or your class notes, or class tests. This is very important a week or two before school begins.

It isn't always necessary to cram textbooks during the summer; try to find simple ways to maintain an overall positive summer in terms of learning by using simple steps: with just a few easy habits, you can reinforce what you've learned in most mainstream classes without feeling like you're under your teacher's thumb! Try typing with proper grammar/punctuation when texting, and using IMs or Facebook. This will get you into the habit of knowing when to use correct capitalization, avoiding word mix-ups such as your/you're and there/their/they're (which are surprisingly common in people who should CERTAINLY know the difference); when using an actual keyboard, this will slowly increase your typing speed, as well. I started doing this myself in 9th grade at 13 years old, have never had a message misinterpreted due to "i cdnt rd wt u sed", and have since greatly improved my typing speed, so much so as to be faster than some people I know who type without looking at... read more

Well, students, here I am! I am fresh from Wichita, KS and awaiting tutoring opportunities in the Seattle, WA area. Just to get the ball rolling, I will create weekly blogs that include little snippets of knowledge relating to foreign languages. Here's this week's: a good quote in several languages... (Quote form brainyquote.com) "Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm." ~ Hippocrates auf Deutsch: "Machen Sie eine Gewohnheit zu zwei Dingen: zu helfen; oder mindestens keinem Schaden zuzufügen." in Italiano: "Prendere l'abitudine di due cose: aiutare; o almeno di non nuocere." en Español: "Haga un hábito de dos cosas: ayudar; o al menos no hacer daño." en francés: "Faites une habitude de deux choses : aider; ou au moins ne faire aucun mal." Can you see some similarities in the different languages? Let me know and have a great week!

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I have been on my bicycle a few times this spring, but yesterday I took my first serious ride (without the 9-year-old). It felt so great. I was absolutely in my "happy place." I am a busy person, often looking to "kill two birds with one stone," so it got me thinking... How can I work biking into the rest of the summer? I started to calculate how many days a week I could bike to work, which regular errands I could do by bike instead of by car, what routes I would like to explore, who I know that might want to bike with me. My thoughts were rolling with the tires, so soon I was on to thinking about any activities I could do outside, and what could be combined without sacrificing mindfulness. Languages! I thought. Riding bike with a friend, I can talk. There's no reason I couldn't do it in French or Spanish instead of English. The same with taking walks, hanging out in parks, playing games outside with kids, and so on. A couple of summers ago I taught... read more

I say: "I love teaching and I have extensive experience teaching beginner, intermediate, advanced subjects to adults, teens, and younger children, in both group settings and private tutoring. My classes are fun, engaging, and geared to help my students learn fast. For private students, I customize my lessons according to each of my students’ learning style and individual needs. My students’ confidence and grades improve greatly after just a few private lessons.  I use games, songs, music, computers, videos, many authentic materials or whatever is necessary to help you get to the levels you desire. Your success motives me and I will help you anyway I can! If you really want to learn to write, speak, read and listen Spanish/English correctly, I am here to help you today" This is what some of my students have said about me & my classes: "Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher!I had so much fun in your class. I enjoyed learning Spanish more than... read more

I had so much fun in college when I lived in Miami, Florida and taught English to young school children. I worked for an organization called Amigos Together For Kids, founded by a young Cuban entrepreneur named Jorge. We organized toy drives at Christmas, helped foster families, and ran an after school tutoring program at Jose Marti Park. The kids at the camp always needed help with their homework, and I loved teaching them, many of whom were children of immigrant families from Cuba (native language, Spanish). One day, I was at a table with five little 1st-graders, and one of them started to sing, I laughed out loud as she hummed the Pussycat Dolls and sang, "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" Seriously it was a great time and very rewarding. I still have many of the little crafty gifts the kids which the kids would make in school and then give to me.

I introduced the Present Subjunctive to 2 of my students within the last week; first to my Spanish High School student and then to my Adult ESL student. Wow! Heavy duty grammar! I used to find it easier to teach Spanish grammar, in either English or Spanish, since I had to learn it formally and then incorporate it into my Spanish vernacular. I don't remember studying English grammar to the same extent, ever! At least until I took linguistics classes toward my Masters in ESL. However, I have always felt that learning these and other grammatical concepts in Spanish crept over to my English. I mentioned this to one of my other High School Spanish students and he agreed! He felt that the grammar he is learning, both from his teacher at school and from me, is helping his English! In fact, my knowledge of Spanish grammar also helped me transfer the same concepts to other languages I have learned as well, including Italian and Hebrew. More reason to study other languages, even... read more

When it comes down to it, many of us are reluctant to sit down and do those mundane tasks that we are required to do. It is so easy to be distracted by simpler or more exciting stimuli; anything to keep us from training the brain. Luckily, there are ways to make it easier. It involves your environment. The objects around you influence your behavior. The surroundings stimulate feelings; good or bad. We have control over how we feel when we go to do our work. Yet, our environment plays a key roll. The first step toward improving our environment is choosing the correct area. Somewhere relatively quiet, plenty of space, ample light, and a comfortable seat. These four characteristics play an important roll in choosing a location. We want quiet and solitude, to reduce distractions, when we sit down to concentrate. If we become distracted, all of the work we put into our state of concentration goes to waste. This leaves us feeling frustrated which makes it hard complete the... read more

Yo escuchaba chapotear en el barro Los pies descalzos Y presentía los rostros anochecidos de hambre. Mi corazón fue un péndulo entre ella y la calle. Y no sé con que fuerza me liberé de sus ojos Me zafé de sus brazos. Ella quedó nublando de lágrimas y angustía Tras de la lluvia y el cristal Pero incapáz para gritarme: "Espérame, Yo me marcho contigo!" ~Miguel Otero Silva

Flashcards have been used for a long time by students that want to broaden their vocabulary, whether for learning a second language or increasing one's vocabulary of your primary language. Before computers, students often used index cards and wrote a word on one side, and the meaning of the word, or the equivalent word in another language on the other side. Now there are all sorts of flashcard websites and flashcard software programs available that basically do the same thing electronically. But regardless of the medium you use, there are some ways to use flashcards that are better than others. I'm going to recommend one way that I find very helpful. Instead of just randomly selecting 20 or 50 or 100 words, and trying to memorize them via flashcards, select vocabulary words that are in context. What this means is that it's better to create flashcards based on a reading passage or book or essay you've read, and then selecting words from what you've read and creating flashcards... read more

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin described a technique he frequently used to improve his writing and language skills: Whenever Franklin came across a piece of writing that he felt was extremely well-crafted, he would read the passage repeatedly until he could write down word-for-word—from memory—what he read on a separate piece of paper. He then would compare what he wrote to the original passage he read, would make whatever corrections he needed to, and would repeat the whole exercise several days later. If there’s some aspect of your language skills you’d like to improve (writing, speaking, or listening, etc.), give Benjamin Franklin’s exercise a try: Improve your listening skills by writing down the words you hear in a foreign language movie or song. Watch your favorite foreign-language TV show, and try to imitate your favorite character’s accent or vocabulary. Or, if you want to work on you foreign-language writing and expression skills, buy a translated... read more

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