Ladino saved my life in the war

Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media.

At long last, I am posting the demo to Saved by Language, the documentary I’m co-producing about how the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) language saved a boy’s life in Bosnia in World War II. Ladino is considered to be an endangered language. For those who want to make a tax-deductible donation to help with editing and post-production costs, please go to this link. All donors will be thanked in the credits of the film.

Ladino and the beauty of Sarajevo, Bosnia

Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media.

“Sarajevo has a soul. It has a heart.” My passion for Ladino/Judeo-Spanish is no secret. In this video, Richard Simcott (the hyperpolyglot extraordinnaire) and I speak in Bosnian/Serbo-Croatian (or whatever else you like to call this language) about the beauty of Sarajevo and how the Ladino language saved a boy’s life in World War II. Richard and both lived in Sarajevo but at different times.

MTV, here we come! 17 polyglots redo “Call me Maybe” in 30+ languages

Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media.

That’s right. Seventeen Internet polyglots came together, under the tireless direction of Benny Lewis of Fluent in Three Months, to create the first ever polyglot music video. There are over 30 languages in this video doing a remake of the song, Call me Maybe. I helped Benny create the script and contact various polyglots. Benny took a lot of time to organize this incredible video and edit it so well. I am impressed by his work and dedication to showing how fun it is to speak various languages! He made this video to promote the Polyglot Conference to be held in Budapest in May 2013. As I love to wear my various costumes, I sported my Mexican sombrero and then sweated while recording the Russian section of the video wearing my Russian attire made for Siberian chills. My “Dr. Zhivago” wool coat and Russian fur hat with a Soviet army pin are way too hot for a mild California autumn day. Here is the video!

Language confusion: 3 funny polyglots explain how to avoid mixing up your languages

Posted by & filed under Experiences, How to learn languages with songs and the media.

If you thought that polyglots are just serious language lovers who spend all their time talking about grammar, you are wrong! I spent three fun-filled days in Poland with Richard Simcott and Luca Lampariello switching languages and making some videos about language learning. We spent most of the three days laughing and enjoying Poland. The language videos were just a pretext to meet. As I discuss in the video, it had been my dream for many years to be able to speak as I think, switching from language to language, without censuring myself because my listener didn’t speak the language that was in my head. Being with Luca and Richard afforded me the luxury, and the great pleasure, of just being myself and saying whatever was on my mind, even switching languages in mid-sentence. In this video, we talk about how we prevent confusing our languages. The transcript and English translation are on Luca’s blog. Enjoy!

Learn Portuguese and Brazilian history with samba, “Apesar de você”

Posted by & filed under Como aprender idiomas con música y los medios, Free Language Learning Resources, How to learn languages with songs and the media.

Luciana Lage and I are back with a new lesson in learning Portuguese with Brazilian music. This time we’re examining the serious subject of the Brazilian dictatorship through the song, Apesar de você, by Chico Buarque. Luciana has prepared a blog post, “Learn Brazilian Portuguese with Songs – Apesar de Você” with the lyrics of the song and the explanation of the lesson you will learn. Here’s the video:

Review of Rosetta Stone (Arabic), $1 tea lesson is better than $500 Rosetta Stone

Posted by & filed under Experiences.

I learned more Arabic in 10 minutes with a $1 tea than from 1.5 hours of Rosetta Stone ($500).         (This review shows the negative and positive elements of the Rosetta Stone software for Arabic. I have a list of free and paid resources for learning Arabic.) Disclaimer: In 2003, nine years prior to writing this review, I took an intensive three-week Arabic class and I learned to read and write in Arabic and I could say some basic expressions. However, I could only read very slowly and not well. I remember very little from that class. I’ve also traveled in the Arab world and know some words, but I cannot form any sentences. I didn’t start this Arabic lesson from Rosetta Stone completely from zero. In fact, if I hadn’t had any previous Arabic exposure, my first lesson with Rosetta Stone would have been an even worse disaster as I wouldn’t have understood anything. For the last two years, I’ve had the most expensive item in my closet standing by itself and never being touched, unless I needed to move it aside to get something else. Was this a ball gown? A pair of Manolo Blanik… Read more »

Free and inexpensive resources to learn Arabic

Posted by & filed under Free Language Learning Resources.

Free online resources to learn the Arabic alphabet, phrases and other BBC Arabic: Arabic alphabet: List of Arabic learning resources: Explanations of songs, dialects and other resources for students of Arabic,  The Arabic Student, Arabic music with English translation and transliteration: Resources to learn Arabic for free 
Videos: Sesame Street There are three Arabic versions of Sesame Street, the Egyptian, Palestinian and Jordanian ones. Not many of their videos are available online for free. Below are links to a video for each version. You can do a search with the name in Arabic script or its phonetic equivalent in Latin letters. I can’t find any materials to go along with it for foreigners using Sesame Street to learn Arabic (subtitles, glossaries, explanations of content, etc). If you know of supplemental materials in English for Sesame Street, please post them in the comments section. Shukran! 1. Alam Simsim,عالم سمسم is the Egyptian Sesame Street. Palestinian Sesame Street, Shara’a Simsim: Jordanian Sesame Street: Hikayat Simsim مقاطع من حكايات سمسم Arabic with Sindibad There are English subtitles and a transcript, but the subtitles are only at the beginning. So you have to read… Read more »

Portuguese via Brazilian music

Posted by & filed under Como aprender idiomas con música y los medios, How to learn languages with songs and the media.

In this lesson, Luciana Lage (of Street Smart Brazil) and I use the song Toda Sexta Feira to teach the days of the week in Portuguese, how to use the words todo/toda, and pronounce words that start with the letter “r” in Portuguese. We have a series of videos on learning Portuguese via Brazilian music. Luciana Lage has created a worksheet to accompany the video lesson. You can access it on the Street Smart Brazil website . Here’s our video:

Where are the female and non-white polyglots?

Posted by & filed under Experiences.

Most of the public Internet polyglots are white males. Do race and national origin play a role in the decisions people make about learning languages? What can we do to inspire more non-whites to learn foreign languages? Back in March 2012, I recorded a Skype call with Fasulye and Jana Fadness to encourage more women to learn languages and be public about being polyglots. I decided to widen the discussion to race and national origin. Here is a video of a Skype call I had with three polyglots and language learners Idahosa Ness, David Mansaray, Moses McCormick. We talk about the roles of race and national origin in language learning. Moses, David and Idahosa give suggestions on how to overcome self-imposed or societal limitations or prejudices.

How to learn a language: surrender to it

Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media, Multilingual identity.

The word “surrender” conjures up images of defeat and submission. But when it comes to language learning, the more you give yourself up to your target language, the more successful you will be. Why do people speak with accents? They are stuck in the phonological structure of their native tongue. Why do foreign language speakers keep making the same grammatical mistakes? They are still thinking like they would in their native language. The more you give up about your native language when you speak a new language, the more able you will be to embody your target language and speak it well. It’s not about trying to be a native speaker, it’s about approximating yourself as much as possible to the way native speakers naturally speak. Against the backdrop of Sarajevo, I talked with Bosnian musician Damir Imamović about surrendering yourself to a language and music. We also talked about speaking minority languages and language confusion. Damir’s song “Žute dunje” is played at the beginning and end of the video. ** Press the red CC button in the lower right corner for English subtitles.**