My Wishlist: A Gift Guide for the Language Lover in your Life

Are you gearing up for the holidays? Listening to wonderful Christmas Market music? Enjoying the mulled wine? Oh, you're rushing around the shops trying to find gifts for your polyglot friends! I know how you are feeling - it was me who desperately googled Gifts for Developers and Coders earlier today. I nearly bought my man a Netduino, but could not quite figure out what that even is.

So if you're still undecided and need help for language lovers, here's my list for 2014.

1. Foreign Language Fridge Magnets

I am so jealous of anyone who has these, because my fridge is at floor level and I have nowhere to stick them. You can get these in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese (I only found the kids' edition), Yiddish, and..erm..Maths. Hey, it's a foreign language to me!

2. Travel Inspiration Calendar

All language learners dream of exploring the world without any restrictions, and there's nothing like a daily daydream to keep us going. Back in Germany, I would cover my desk in at least two Sehnsuchtskalender (usually "Scotland" and maybe "Iceland") every year. These days, I'm all about the vintage travel posters.

3. An Awesome Dictionary

There are never enough dictionaries on a language lover's shelf and a good dictionary will forever blow apps out of the water. While I don't want to recommend any particular ones, I would advise you to go for the biggest you can find. If you want to get a German one, I'd recommend the brands Langenscheidt, Pons and Duden. Or if your giftee is a beginner and about to travel, then check out this Language Map.

4. Quickstudy Guides

I was very excited when I discovered these super detailed laminated grammar sheets in the Notre Dame University Bookstore in South Bend earlier this year. Fun fact: It's the Hammes bookstore. 'Cos that's how we roll.

Quickstudy guides are the most practical reference sheets EVER. I've seen them in lots of languages, and personally bought myself copies for German and Russian. Another great recommendation would be this one: Common English Pitfalls and Mistakes.

5. Travel Translator

travel translator

No one wants to waste a lot of money on roaming fees when they're exploring the world, and often the signal in remote places is too unreliable to use your phone as a dictionary. Enter the Travel Translator. This magical device works like a phrasebook, speaks 12 languages and helps you out when you're REALLY stuck..or just tired of translating for your lazy friend.

6. italki Lesson Credit

italki credit

I would list a bit of italki credit at the top here, so your giftee can buy themselves a few live lessons, but don't forget that every great independent teacher will also sell you a gift certificate so that you don't have to go through a marketplace.

7. Online Courses

You can also give an online course as a gift.

How about Fluent's own course in French Grammar? Here is a 50% Discount voucher for you.

Or Jade Joddle, friend of the blog, has a special new course called the Introvert Cure, which you get at 70% discount through this link only.

    You can get the full set of suggestions from my Pinterest board:

    All the Amazon links in this article are affiliate links, but if you want to support Fluent directly, please check out my Patreon. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

    Motivation Never Ends: Why this Scot is Learning German For Fun

    In this guest post, you are going to hear from someone who might be just like you - Alan McGinlay is a 29-year-old Scottish guy living in Glasgow and for the past 18 months he has been learning German again. Yes, again! In his story, Alan talks about what brought him back to German learning and what works when you are reviving a language after more than ten years. You should follow him on Twitter @alanmcginlay.

    You'll find interesting thoughts "from the trenches", when a real learner has to counter the issues we've recently discussed here on the blog: group tuition, motivation and looking silly for being the linguist.

    scot learns german

    I’m Alan McGinlay, a 29-year-old Scottish guy living in Glasgow and for the past 18 months I’ve been learning German again. I first studied German at school and I always wanted to take it up again. Now I’ve got all my university and professional exams out the way I finally have the time to give it a proper go!  

    I’d love to be fluent one day but my main aim is to keep improving and enjoy it!

    Why Learn a Language?

    Sometimes people look at me strangely and ask why I am learning a language. My reply to them is always "why not?!"

    It surprises people that I’m not learning German for a course, a job or because I’m planning to up sticks and move to Germany.  So why am I then?

    The simple answer is because I enjoy it! I find learning a language fun, challenging, it keeps your brain sharp and there’s a great sense of achievement when the hard work starts to pay off.  

    I was really pleased the first time I read a tweet in German and didn’t have to think twice about translating it. It also felt great when I checked into a hotel in Hamburg last month and managed to speak entirely in German. 

    Everyone will have their own reason for choosing a particular language to learn.  I’m interested in German culture and history and I also studied it at school so it was the natural choice for me.

    If you find the right language and motivation it makes the whole experience easier and more enjoyable!

    Getting Started

    It was a Friday afternoon in January 2013 and I was making my weekly trip back home to Glasgow from working in Lithuania.  An unusual weekly commute! I was working as an accountant at the time and we had a client based in Vilnius that I worked with from November 2012 until March 2013. Unfortunately Glasgow and Vilnius are not that well connected and my journey each week usually involved 3 flights in each direction and a lot of hours in airport departure lounges!

    For some reason, that Friday somewhere 30,000 feet off the ground between Helsinki and London I thought it was time I started learning German again. I’d wanted to take up learning the language again and had been putting it off for years. So I decided no more procrastination - this was the perfect time to begin! I felt I should be putting all the hours on planes and in airports to better use than playing games on my phone!

    So why did I pick German and not Lithuanian? Although I was working in Vilnius at the time I felt that I was a lot more likely to use German again. I’d enjoyed visiting Germany, Switzerland and Austria previously and really wanted to visit new places in these countries. German is also a useful language for business, with Germany having the largest economy in the EU so I thought I might be able to put my language skills to use at work at some point in the future.  

    I’d also enjoyed studying German at school, and it was really important for me to enjoy the process if I was going to keep it going.

    I think learning a language is like anything you know is good for you but might be hard work, like exercise or reading a ‘classic’. Taking the first step is always the most difficult part. Since I picked up my first bit of German again last year I haven’t looked back. 

    German at School

    Gifhorn - Altes Rathaus

    img ©misburg3014

    I studied German at school, starting when I was 11 and continuing until I sat my Advanced Higher at 17.  The highlight of my final year German at school was an exchange trip to Gifhorn (pictured) in Lower Saxony where I stayed with a host family and spent a week working in a local bookshop.  

    While I was in Gifhorn I bought the German language version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and said to myself that one day I would manage to read it from cover to cover!

    I used to learn German but I can’t remember the word for….well anything!

    The most frustrating part of learning German again was that I’d reached a decent intermediate level by the end of school and I definitely wasn’t there anymore!  I could still decline haben (to have) in a million different tenses but I couldn’t remember the word for a kettle! In other words it was hard to find what level of German I was at and where to begin. 

    My Experiences with Tutors and Web Resources

    In the end I decided to find a tutor to help me.  I knew I didn’t want to learn in a classroom environment (I tried evening classes a few years ago and they didn’t work for me) but I felt like I needed some guidance.    

    I’ve had two native German tutors and I’ve been going to a weekly lesson with my current tutor, Rebecca, for over a year. The benefits of learning one-to-one with a native speaker are amazing. I think I get so much more out of that hour than I did in a three-hour class. We now speak almost entirely in German for the whole hour and that hour of speaking practice is really valuable. I also learn at my pace and we use materials that I’m interested in. I can’t ask for much more than that!   

    A personal tutor is by no means the only option though. Before finding a tutor I used a lot of web resources.  

    To start with I tested my language level online.  I used a short test that determined which of 5 levels of fluency I was currently at. Using my result result I was able to find a lot of free resources on a number of websites including Deutsche Welle. My advice is to be open-minded and find what works best for you – everyone is different!

    I found a basic vocabulary app was great for refreshing my memory on all those words that I’d forgotten. It’s amazing how quickly words I knew before came back to me and ‘relearning’ these at the same time as learning new vocabulary has kept it interesting. The app I use at the moment is called Wortschatz but I’ve also used Duolingo amongst others. 

    My Top Tips 

    When you’re learning a language it’s great to try and bring that language into your life as often as possible.  Here are a few of the things that I’ve done to help me improve my German:

    •    Write in the language. Write about anything and everything and if possible have someone correct it for you.  I’ve found this helps you to think in the language and understand the structure.  It’s really helped with improving my listening and speaking too. 

    •    Follow Twitter Feeds. Following twitter feeds has been a great way to see written German everyday. I mainly follow news feeds (Spiegel Online) and can either read the headlines and/or click into articles depending on how much time I have.

    •    Watch TV.  My tutor recommended me to watch Boston Legal in German with English subtitles to get me used to hearing German at the speed it is spoken at by native speakers on a regular basis. I enjoy the program so it doesn’t really feel like I’m ‘working’ on my language skills.

    •    Read books on an e-reader. I have read a number of books on my Kindle and installing a German dictionary has made it a lot easier and less time consuming to check new words. André Klein has written a good selection of books aimed at learners of German.  You can check out what options are available in your chosen language.   

    •    Change voice software to your new language. I have an iPhone and one of the best things I did was to change Siri’s language to German. It’s great for thinking about everyday tasks in your new language and also tests your pronunciation!
    I hope this post persuades you to try a new language if you’ve been thinking about it for a while.  I’d say there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. I’m now about a quarter of the way through Harry Potter and it gets easier to read every time I pick it up!

    Good Luck / Viel Glück!

    Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

    New Podcast: Putting the World to Rights with Olly Richards

    I never woke up and decided that I want to be a polyglot.

    You wanna learn a language? Then I've got the guy for you! In today's podcast episode, I'm speaking with Olly Richards, the man behind I Will Teach You a Language. Olly is an expat Brit with a lot of travel experience under his belt, and his considered and smart answers really put me to shame.

    You Will Learn More About:

    • Our Dreams of how Education can Make the Language Learning World so much Better
    • Why "Speaking" Can Become a Huge Obsession and Actually Damage your Motivation
    • What to Look Out for When Taking a Teaching Qualification
    • The Problem with the WHOLE Education System
    • How to Make Motivation Work
    • What Beginners should Read - and why reading Children's Books is not a good idea
    • Why Olly Advises that you DON'T Track Your Progress

    Articles of the Week

    Most Language Students unable to do more than understand Basic Phrases on the UK Guardian

    The Best Way to Learn a Language is the Opposite of the Usual Way on Forbes

    Tips of the Week

    Out of the following fabulous three tips, Olly chose number 2 as his favourite tip - not without a lot of careful consideration though!

    1) Use online self-tests as check-ins, not tutorials

    2) "Makers Classroom", like at Raw Learning - follow foreign recipes, sewing patterns, directions?

    3) Join Parleremo, a virtual town that teaches languages

    Tips and Links from this Podcast

    What is Content and Language Integrated Learning? (CLIL)

    The 60 Second Fluency Test by Olly Richards

    My Article that Sparked some Polyglot Debate

    Der Weg zum Lesen, simple German short stories

    Le Petit Nicolas et Les Copains, fun story in simple French

    French Comic Books for Language Learners

    Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. Please head over to Patreon and become a supporter!

    Podcasts are the New Listening Trend that you CANNOT Ignore

    There was a time, maybe back in 2008 (and I am so old that this seems like last year to me), when you would have heard the word "Podcast" and rightfully passed it by. Podcasts have been around since the 1980s but were always reserved for the nerdier folks among us. Maybe research scientists? Programmers?

    The world is ever changing, and today though it's a different world. Podcasts are the best new way of getting into anything that you are excited about. A podcast (don't forget you can listen to the Fluent podcast too!) is a pre-recorded discussion, story or radio show. The beauty of these simple listening resources is not just that they are usually available for free, but that they are slowly on their march to completely replace the radio. You can download and listen to them anywhere, especially if you own a smartphone.

    Personally, I have had so much fun making more podcasts this year. I have had the opportunity to share giggles and intelligent conversations with my colleagues among the learning landscape, and to give you guys an opportunity to hear my voice and get more insight into what I am like! In today's blog article, I'm going to give you the complete guide to what podcasts are all about and how you can use them as a language learner. Even if you don't care about languages at all, don't pass this article by because you are going to LOVE these.

    How to Listen to a Podcast

    The most common way for most users to subscribe to a new podcast is through Itunes itself (example link. The process is that when you click the "Subscribe" button, the app you are using will automatically know that you're interested in having it download any new episode that comes out. Often, they will also fetch the last published episode for you and put them in a convenient queue, meaning that you only have to hit "Subscribe" once and you'll always be up to date. There's also a podcasting app that now comes with IOS 8 on the iPhone. It looks like this:

    If you want to see downloading and playing podcasts in action, and encouragement from a wonderful lady "on the dark side of eighty-five", here's a helpful video featuring podcast and American public radio master Ira Glass.

    Here are some other listening possibilities beyond what comes built into your computer:

    • For listening on your phone and on your web browser, Stitcher is an excellent on-demand service combining radio and podcasts. It's available on all kinds of platforms including Android devices.
    • Downcast for IOS and Mac and Overcast for iphone are also fab, each with their own really useful advantages. Each of these lets you put together playlists grouped by theme, and in Overcast you can even set up priority podcasts that are listed at the top whenever a new episode becomes available.
    • For Android users, I've heard good things about Beyond Pod.

    Fab Language Learning Podcasts to Try

    Number one: The Creative Language Learning Podcast with me, Kerstin Hammes. This podcast brings together interviews and tips that help you learn any language, coupled with tips of the week and current news articles. You can also find it on Stitcher.

    The amount of podcasts that language learners can download at level A1 is absolutely immense. They're almost imposssible to count. The easiest place to find one that might be right for you is to type "__ (insert your target language) learning podcast" into the iTunes store or straight into a search engine. The category you will want to look for is Education > Language Courses. Here's an example of what's on offer for German learners:

    german podcasts in itunes

    How Useful are Language Learning Podcasts?

    Personally, I'm not sure if a podcast alone would really serve me all that well when I'm trying to learn a new language. I'm a visual information processor and always itch to see how words are spelt and what they look like. So as a consequence, podcasts don't offer the learning experience that I crave when I'm serious.

    Here's where I think language learning podcasts belong in your "routine": They're probably about as useful as Duolingo, in the sense that the most exciting use for a podcast is to create a useful add-on and immersion tool, allowing you to spend more time processing the target language.

    My Favourite Podcasts

    Whether you are learning English or not, I can definitely recommend This American Life and its recent spin-off, Serial. I also love most of what's made by the wonderful 5by5 Network, though their podcasts tend to be a bit more nerdy than I am. There is a wonderful writing show called "Write for your Life".

    I'm currently looking into French podcasts too and found hundreds of resources about my kinds of stuff: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, entrepreneurship and music. I have also tried and enjoyed this Welsh learning podcast and Olga Mitchell's "Speaking Russian" podcast, which actually both went a long way to building my speaking confidence.

    One Final Note as a Podcaster

    Making a podcast is a labour of love and does take a little bit of time and work, so please do appreciate the effort that your favourite podcasters and bloggers are putting into their work. If you enjoy my own little piece of work, the Creative Language Learning Podcast and want to help support me in making more, better, greater ones, then you can now become my personal patron on the Patreon website. The system is now live and I'll be telling you more about it on the blog in the near future.

    What are YOUR favourite language learning podcasts?

    How to Eliminate Your Self-Doubt and Get Speaking

    Today I have another awesome guest post for you. Do you remember the podcast with Jade Joddle, where we talked about introversion and extroversion in language learning? I feel like Jade would love today's guest poster. This is all about how to get out of your own head and be that extrovert you HAVE to be when you want to speak another language. For me as a pretty extroverted person, that fear is weaker than for most people I see. I literally just go up to people and speak terrible Russian/Spanish/Italian. Honestly, I'm embarrassing!

    Guest writer Kevin Morehouse is a language coach on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. Raised as a monolingual English speaker in the United States, Kevin is all too familiar with the struggles of the language learner looking to go beyond English and make the leap from monoglot to polyglot. On his blog Language Hero, Kevin gives actionable tips on mindset, method, and goal-setting that can help intrepid learners escape the language learning labyrinth. You can read more of his work at Language Hero or connect with him on Twitter @Kevin_Morehouse

    So let's beat that voice in your head!

    get speaking language


    It’s the bane of many a language learner. The idea of going up to someone and trying to communicate in a non-native language can be excessively intimidating for some. Every new opportunity to do so unleashes an unrelenting barrage of questions straight from your unconscious:

    • What if I blank out and don't know a word?
    • What if I say something wrong, or unintentionally offensive?
    • What if they laugh at me?
    • What if they can't understand me?

    This is self-doubt in its purest form. By unwittingly asking yourself what would happen in the worst-case scenario, you're psyching yourself out from the possibility of success. By answering these questions, you're painting a picture of the worst-possible scenario.

    And sadly, if you paint a bleak enough picture, you'll likely never go up to that person and start speaking, no matter how much experience you have.

    And if you want to live out your dream of speaking a language confidently, that just won't do.

    The problem isn't you, or your "talent" or how much experience you have. The problem here is that you're letting your self-doubt run your mental imagery, and thereby run the show.

    We need to take back our mental imagery. Instead of imagining the worst-possible scenario before it happens, we need to change our angle of approach.

    We need to go back…wards.

    A New Angle on Visualization

    Comedian Kyle Cease is no stranger to the paralyzing effect of negative thoughts and visualizations, known to many as performance anxiety.

    In order to combat the excess worry that he would feel before going on stage, the comedian found a unique way to reapproach his mental imagery and, in his own words "get out of his own head."

    The technique is called Kylegling (kuh-lay-gull-ing), and is best described by Kyle himself in this short video:

    The Technique, Step by Step

    1. Notice when you are anxious about the outcome of an event
    2. Instead of thinking about how it will go, imagine yourself in the not-too-far future and begin to imagine how it went.
    3. Mentally construct the best possible outcome you can think of, and load your thoughts with positive emotions. Do this until you start to physically “feel” happier, more positive, and more confident in the present moment.
    4. Once you've built up the outcome in your mind, ask yourself "How did I do it?" and retrace your steps mentally all the way back to the present time.
    5. Use the new information and positive energy gained from this visualization to “get in the zone” and live out the situation as close to your vision as possible.

    An Example in Action

    You overhear a Spanish speaker walk into your job.

    You've been studying Spanish, so you know you need to go over to them and say something.

    Instead of psyching yourself with questions of Can I do this? or Will she judge me? you stop, imagine yourself in the future (post-conversation) and think about how well it went.

    You imagine yourself going up to her, introducing yourself simply and succinctly, with a smile and a nod.

    She smiles back, widely, pleased to have an opportunity to share her language with someone as enthusiastic as yourself.

    If you're an experienced learner, you chat back and forth for a bit, maybe exchanging a few laughs, all the while forging a connection. If you're just beginning, you use what Spanish you know, and then, if necessary and/or possible, you explain politely in English why you're so eager to learn Spanish, and how you're going about doing it.

    She compliments you on your language skills and your enthusiasm, give you a few friendly tips, and you say your farewells, happy to have met one another.

    You come back to reality: You still haven't spoken any Spanish yet, but now you've got an encouraging and positive view of how everything will go.

    Then, with the confidence gained from the exercise, you sally forth and start the conversation for real this time, using your mental script to “get in the zone” and guide you through successfully.

    Final Thoughts

    Even if the situation doesn't go exactly as you mentally planned it, the outcome is likely to be much more successful than it would have been had you kept your focus on the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or rejection.

    I’ve used this technique many times to clear my thoughts and offset the pressure that often comes with a new opportunity to test my language skills. It’s worked well for me, and I’m positive you’ll benefit from it as well.

    If you’re having trouble getting up the courage to speak, use this method to take control of your inner thoughts and back your way into success.

    So, readers:

    What do you think?

    Have you ever used this or other visualization techniques to get in the zone when learning your using a language?

    Please let me know in the comment section below!

    Language Linkfest: November 2014

    Okay, I feel like the last language linkfest (that was Halloween) was only about yesterday. This month has flown by even faster than usual. Big shout out to all the ambitous online teachers who have decided to start going PRO by signing up for my new course Not Just Another Teacher. The days have become rather dark now, so in the November edition of linkfest my recommended drink of choice is a nice cup of Glühwein.

    Best of Fluent in November

    The Most Important Sentence I Learnt In Two Years of Language Teaching

    Podcast interviews with Benny Lewis and online course master Breanne Dyck

    Language Learning Around the Web

    How to Learn a New Language - Tips from TED Talk Translators - a great little summary of what just works in language learning (thanks Fabrice Poirette for showing me this article)

    English only in Lidl - A thought from Simon at Omniglot about the languages spoken in British supermarkets

    Quick review of my book Fluency Made Achievable over on French Together

    Why Germans are actually REALLY funny, once you speak German

    Tips and Tools

    Free English pronunciation course LinkedEnglish over on Udemy

    Wordkiwi, a new dictionary website - in case you've not got a favourite yet, this one might do it for you? My favourite is probably for ever Leo

    SharedTalk, a language exchange network

    Do your Mistakes Matter in Language Learning? A "Written Homework" Perspective

    You know, language learners, how we bloggers always bang on about “things don’t have to be perfect” and “start speaking even if you will make mistakes”? You’ve heard all this, right? You’ve heard it and nodded and seen how it makes sense. You believe that you will be able to get over yourself.

    But here’s the thing:

    When it comes to really putting your skills on the line and “showing your workings” to another person, are you still holding back?


    Take this example from one of my German students. We had spent a little time reading a news article and discussing the themes in it. In terms of core skills, this guy is a red hot reader! He is not only happy and confident about picking up any book from Harry Potter to Dune in German, but will also approach it with the positive mindset of someone who enjoys understanding every single word. We’ve also worked so much on speaking skills over the year and made excellent progress. But there’s one thing on my list, one left to cover: The Writing skill needs a push.

    Why Do I Prompt My Students to Write?

    You can tell me that pushing ahead on writing skill is just not what an adult learner needs in 2014, but I’d just direct you to what I wrote in Fluency Made Achievable: There are four key components to building up expertise and confidence in the language you’re trying to acquire: listening, reading, speaking and writing. You can't skip out on one of those four without feeling the consequences at some point. Even if you are not planning to enter into a German story competition any time soon, pushing your writing skill has a million advantages for your language learning journey. For example, your composition and structuring skills transfer straight to the spoken word. An experienced writer doesn’t need language exchanges, their confidence will come naturally when they open their mouth. For introverted learners, getting into writing also has huge advantages since you’ll become comfortable AND GOOD at using your target language correctly, before ever entering that “risk period” where someone else sees you. And believe it or not, being a great speller means being a great reader and speaker of your target language.

    To speak a language well, it helps to understand how spelling and pronunciation work together. (Tweet this here)

    If a tree falls in the forest…

    Writing can be very introverted, it’s an exercise you do at home, typing away on your computer or scribbling into a notebook. No one else needs to see what you write. And there's why this is so difficult: Because your writing isn't for others to see, it becomes pretty easy to just not do it. What you need is accountability.

    You know what it’s like with New Year’s resolutions: No one will ever know you’re doing it unless you actually tell them. Your foreign language writing is the same thing. If you don’t find someone that actually expects you to write, it becomes too easy to avoid doing this work altogether. You start realizing that mistakes are really, really visible when you write. On the one hand, language learners subscribe to the philosophy that making mistakes is part of learning. But on the other hand, showing those mistakes to people as a “written fact” is the hardest thing in the world.

    Which leads me back to my wonderful student. I set him an exercise two weeks ago: Summarize each paragraph of our text in simple words, just one sentence picking up the key points. Yesterday I got an email saying:

    I must admit that I am just not getting it done right now. I have tried to work on it a couple of times this week, but have only a few sentences to show for it. I feel like I’m still learning, but just not making progress on this part.

    Those are the words of somebody who’s judging himself pretty harshly. My reaction? “A few sentences? That’s AWESOME!! All credit to you for trying, and we totally have something to work with now for the lesson.” Do I care if he’s sending me a perfect summary of the text? No! Do I treat this like a school exam, grading him on a scale of A to F for “failure”? No! From the point of view of your language tutor, let me tell you that all I want you to do is try your best. Or even your semi-best. Just sit down and do the thing, open up, be vulnerable and let’s work on this together.

    No matter if you do work with a tutor or not, here are a few tips on embracing mistakes in your writing:

    • Stop apologising to anyone about how “little” work you do, and start embracing that any exercise done means you become vulnerable. Most likely you're not perfect. You will spell things wrong and (if I'm your teacher) I will still LOVE it, because that's how I can know which bits you spell wrong. We tutors are largely a kind bunch. We appreciate the fact that you have made a commitment to study a foreign language.
    • Converseley, if you ever hear a person in a "teaching position" tell you that you're never going to get it, consider FIRING THEM.
    • Go somewhere specific to do your writing: not in the office, not at the computer, not where you usually type all your Facebook posts. Here are a few more tips on why that is going to help.
    • Work with word order formulas. Here are a few German ones you can use, but if you are studying other languages please ensure that the word order you’re working with is actually correct:

    1) Subject + verb + object

    2) time + verb + subject + object

    3) Subject + verb to say "says" or "expresses", subject + verb (indirect speech) + object

    • Use a little bit of lesson time or email time to type in your foreign language. This can be done right from day 1, and it's one of the easiest way to bridge the gap when you don't have a native speaker to practice with.

    The Language Writing Challenge

    In conclusion, writing is difficult. It may well be the core skill that takes the most time, makes your mistakes super visible and has the most potential to embarrass you. And now we've put that out into the open, it's time to get over it! Try one of the steps above, or even start by copying textbook language into your notebook, but it's a fact of language learning that writing will always be there. It's part of a healthy language habit!

    I've tried my best to address all of the reasons why you would avoid writing in your language practice above. Got any others? Write me a comment and see if you can change my mind!

    Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

    A Glimpse into the Translation Industry

    Today we have a guest post from Aniello. Aniello comes from Pagani, Italy, and now works as a professional translator and project manager at London based for translation agency Language Reach. He speaks fluent Italian, English, German, French and aims to learn Swedish in the near future.

    His guest post is about a topic really close to my heart: Careers in the Language Industry!


    As a seasoned translation wizard, I’ve seen a lot. In fact I think I could possibly write a manual in English, title it ‘all things translations’ and translate it into my native Language (Italian). This spur- of- the-moment brainwave probably shouldn’t have been mentioned! Nevertheless, as I commence writing this enlightening blog post, my mind activates numerous thoughts. Subconsciously, I begin by exploring the translation and language industry, its advantages, disadvantages and lastly the changes and trends of living and working in this growing culture pot.

    Working as a translator

    I was always interested in languages and began my career in the translation industry. Prior to my current job I worked as a freelance translator and after a number of years, changed my career and moved on to working as an account manager for a London based translation agency, Language Reach.

    For many, the idea of working in the translation industry is often a daunting one, perhaps because of clichéd hearsay. But as glad as I am to have experienced the translation industry first hand, I certainly didn’t wake up one morning thinking “how about a career in the translation industry.” Like many, I was tired of being stuck in a mind-numbing job, so when plan ‘A’ didn’t go accordingly plan ‘B’ became the next best thing.

    I was sceptical at first which seemed perfectly normal. More than anything I was really sold on the idea of working when it suited me best and while having the benefit of earning a reasonable wage. It was only a matter of time before I began exploring my options and soon after, I took a risk which in effect was a risk worth taking.

    What industries need languages?

    Language Reach has noticed a real growth in the language services industry in recent years. The most obvious factor is growth of the internet, which has prompted interaction on a whole new level. In fact, now more than ever we are networking with people in all parts of the world. The internet has made interaction simpler and has in effect made global business more accessible.

    But which industries utilise language services?

    • The legal sector
    • The medical sector
    • The financial sector
    • The technical sector

    In March 2013, the Ministry of Justice disclosed data highlighting the growing demand of language services in courts and tribunals. The study which was recorded from January 2012 until January 2013 indicated that there were 131,153 requests for language services covering 259 different languages. This figure demonstrated the real demand for linguists in the legal sector.

    Although the above figures seems promising, the growing market here in the UK is proving very competitive in many other sectors. Here are a few reasons for a rise in competition:

    • More Europeans are better prepared to work in foreign languages which shows that proficiency in languages such as English and French is becoming widespread. This means that more and more people are better suited in the translation industry.
    • The development of modern technology, computer stimulated language tools and vocabulary resources could be triggering potential threat.

    A recent report shows that 55% of all online content is in English but only 27% of users speak English. In Russia, 6% of content is in Russian whereas 3% of users speak the language. The latter figure shows an overall balance, in contrast to the amount of content available for English speaking recipients which is widely imbalanced.

    Freelance VS employment

    Not all speculation is untrue, in fact for the most part translators work as freelancers and for agencies. A recent report, which you can find here, shows that the number of freelance workers has increased from 1.39 million to 1.56 million which shows a rise of 12 %. But working as a freelance translator or interpreter isn’t as easy as it may seem, in fact such roles require time management and being able to build a brand around the services you have to offer.

    Other translators choose to take the opposite route of employment. Translators generally work in-house for a solicitor or even for a bigger company such as Amazon. Working as an employed translator proposes a greater chance of stability, which can be a major factor influencing decision making, not only in the translation industry, but as many of you probably know, also any other field.

    Demand for languages in the UK

    There is a growing demand of many language services here in the UK, with European languages unsurprisingly remaining the most popular. A very interesting infographic prepared by the Business Insider shows the second languages of countries across the globe. The graph proves very effective and foreseeably reveals that English is the most popular second language and with French coming in second.

    [Note from the editor: The infographic is very large, so I do advise you click here to view it in its full glory.]

    You can see there's real demand for language translation and interpretation for businesses in Britain, and certainly we notice that at our agency. Interestingly, I have also noticed a growing trend for African languages such as Amharic and Swahili, resulting in many translation agencies such as ours seeking African speaking translators. But more than anything, what the infographics have presented is the occurrence of languages developing outside of their native country, proving that globalisation is still at its best and so is the need for translation services, which makes today a really exciting and busy time to be a part of the industry! 

    Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

    New Podcast! The Full Online Learning Guide with Breanne Dyck

    breanne podcast

    Welcome to episode 10, a little milestone for the Creative Language Learning Podcast! Thank you guys so much for tuning in, sharing the podcast and responding to it so often.

    Do you have any dream guests you'd like to hear from? Special topics, questions or discussions? Leave them in the comments below.

    This time, I am talking to an expert in the area of course design and online education. Breanne Dyck knows how to make people learn, she's got lots of information about neuroscience and learnt quite a few languages herself.

    It’s not abstract motivation that keeps us going. It’s all about checking in along the way.

    In this Interview you'll be finding out about

    • Why languages are the daddy of self-teaching
    • The big mistake all self-learners tend to make
    • Where the MOOC concept comes from
    • What you should consider before you start even looking for an online course
    • The difference between a MOOC, an online course and Duolingo
    • How to avoid wasting money on unsuitable courses

    • What motivation is really about

    Click here to Listen on Stitcher and Here to Listen in itunes

    Article of the Week

    What is a foreign language worth?

    Tips of the Week

    Out of the following fabulous three tips, Breanne chose number 1 as her Tip of the Week! Keep immersing yourself in the target language through Facebook and practice switching from and to the target language without translating everything in your head.

    1) Language Immersion by Facebook on Language Surfer

    2) Beat the Leaderboard on Memrise like Leszek Trybala

    3) Translate to Beat the Plateau, a tip from Dr Rebecca Braun at the Guardian Live Q&A

    Tips and Links from this Podcast

    Breanne is holding three major webinars, the Elevate series from 3-6 December 2014. If you're curious about making your own online course, this is THE place to be.

    Google, in case you have not heard of it

    Rozuku, an easy course creation website

    Udemy, an online course marketplace with reviews and thousands of courses

    French Grammar for Beginners, my awesome online French course for grammar reference and simple explanations, online course marketplace

    Breanne Dyck's Blog at MNIB, about the science of learning and teaching online

    Reddit, where you can find communities about anything and any language

    Letters to Kerstin: Studying in Another Country

    In "Letters to Kerstin", I share the emails and messages that I have received from language learners around the world. Today, there's a burning question from blog reader Isabella. I am practically jealous of her amazing dreams and enthusiasm - Isabella, you'll go far and I love that you are pursuing your passion. Here are my tips.

    letters to kerstin

    Opening A Door to The Whole World

    Hi Kerstin,

    I am a 21 year old American college student. I am thinking of changing my major from liberal arts to languages. I have been interested in doing something with language for a long time. The trouble is, I have looked at schools abroad over the internet and I don't know what to look for or which ones to choose, it is a little overwhelming. Also, since I am in school I can not exactly fly over there any time soon to check the place out. Right now I am thinking the school that I am at is not the best place for me and I should do something I am very interested in.

    I love the French language and culture and I want to be fluent in French. My aunt wants to take me to Paris someday. I think I should go to Paris before I go to a language school to get acquainted with the French culture more. But I also want to learn more languages-not just French. I want to learn Japanese, Swedish, Russian, Vietnamese, and German. Do you have any suggestions for great language schools that offer a wide variety of languages and are possibly in France or Belgium (a french speaking country?) Also, are there any other things/activities that one can do with a language other than a language school to become fluent that you suggest?

    Thank you so much for helping me! Isabella

    Hi Isabella

    Thank you very much for your email. So you’re living in the USA and you’re excited about switching your major to languages. I understand that switching can be a daunting thing. Often we want to think of our education as a qualification and investment for professional life and worry that graduating in “language” is too vague to ever get us a job. But I can assure you, languages really do open many doors! Switching to French if you already have the passion for it is one of the best things you can ever do — you will build up skills that take other people years to acquire, and you’ll open up not just job opportunities in the language professions, but also an international side to your career that lasts forever. Languages make you a pretty sexy job candidate. They’re also a great boost for transferable skills.

    In terms of recommending a specific school, I think that’s a tricky one. The education systems of Europe and the USA are still far from homogenous, so that it can be easier to switch to Europe for postgraduate education, like a Masters. One school that I am aware of is ISTI in Brussels, but don't forget that there are hundreds more I probably have never heard of!

    You want to learn other languages and not just French, and there is no reason why a focus on one language should stop you from acquiring others. There are many things you can do to become fluent, and ultimately the key is in setting realistic goals, staying excited and committed and making sure you’re in this for life. Every language you acquire will open the door to an amazing new world. For French alone, just think of the African continent, Canada, France, Belgium and the Caribbean!

    To sum up my advice to you, I’d say “Say YES to travelling and languages” especially at the age of 21. You’ve got nothing at all to lose and the whole world to gain.

    Kerstin x

    Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog.

    Got a language learning question for me? Then please email me at, and your message will pop up in Letters to Kerstin soon.

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