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Creating Confidence When Speaking a Foreign Language Studying a foreign language? Feeling tongue-tied, unable to spit out what you're trying to say? You aren't alone. One of the biggest challenges in learning a foreign language is training our tongues (literally) to speak in a way that is rather unnatural. Ever tried to roll an "r" in Spanish? Or (for me) speak a lick of French? It is exhausting, at best. One way to ease your fear of speaking a foreign language is - you guessed it - to SPEAK the language! And I don't mean go out in public and ramble at any random person you meet (although in some scenarios, a version of this may be highly recommendable). Instead, have you ever thought of RECORDING yourself speaking the new language? Listening to our own voices pronounce new words and phrases not only creates confidence in our speaking skills, but it allows us to focus on our pronunciation, and the intonation of our voice. Most computers nowadays have... read more

Yesterday I savored my last sweet bean ddeok (rice cake) for a while on Korean Airways. It was soft, chewy, mild in flavor, but oh, so delicious! Although I am now back in Seattle, the calm, sweet taste of Korean confections, green tea soymilk, and piquant pepper paste will linger in my memory for quite a while, I think, as will the deep impression I formed of the Korean work ethic and value on education. In Korea, they have a saying to guide high school students as they study for college entrance exams: "Sleep 4 hours, pass. Sleep 5 hours, fail." It may sound like a joke to us, but it's largely true. Korean high school students stay in school until 9 or 10pm and then study longer at private institutes, with tutors, or at home. There is of course great debate on whether it is good or fair to ask students to study this hard, but the system does produce a 99.7% literacy rate and an amazing population of well-informed, capable workers. I guess what I want to take away... read more

In previous posts, I wrote a bit about memorization and how we may be shying away from it too much. We are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say. Education needs to be about much more than rote memorization, but having memorized facts and vocabulary at your disposal is also part of being an educated person. I've also found in my tutoring experience that students who have not memorized their arithmetic facts or Spanish vocabulary cannot dream of doing well in the related classes. There is some basic knowledge that you need just as a pre-requisite, and the fastest way to get it under your belt is to purposefully try to memorize it. The same goes for SAT and GRE vocabulary - sometimes memorization has to be a big part of your strategy towards improving someone's score. Our education system being the way it is, most of us are not that familiar with the process and practice of memorizing large amounts of information. Sure, we've all made a few flashcards in our careers,... read more

Summer vacation has begun, and many young people are suddenly free and looking for something to keep them entertained and busy. If you or your kids want to do something educational this summer (besides hiring a WyzAnt tutor, of course!), I have some ideas. Here is the first one of the week: Study a foreign language! If you have ever traveled abroad or plan to do so, you will appreciate how useful and fun it can be to speak a foreign language, even at a beginner level. It's like stepping into another person's shoes, trying on a different lifestyle, using parts of your mouth you never knew existed, or tasting a delicious new dish that feels different & amazing in your mouth. There are many wonderful books, CDs, and websites that can help you study the language of your choice on your own. It can be hard to learn entirely on your own, but there is much you can do to get a headstart before you hire a tutor or go abroad for an immersion experience. Many people ask me... read more

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