Learning a Language the Fun Way

When learning a foreign language, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in tired, traditional learning methods such as flashcards or dusty grammar books. Of course, vocabulary and grammar are integral to language learning, and you’ll undoubtedly have to put in some hard work in these areas, but that doesn’t mean it has to be endless drudgery. Language learning can, and should, be fun. You’re much more likely to retain information that you learnt whilst enjoying yourself. There are a whole host of methods you can try; here are just a few of them:

  • Dubs and translations of familiar material

Strictly speaking, it’s probably best for you to watch and read content produced in your target language to further your cultural understanding. That being said, a dub of your favourite film or TV series can be a really effective way to boost your language skills. Think about it; you already know the story and therefore don’t need to worry about missing crucial plot details due to gaps in your language, and you’re bound to pick up new vocabulary naturally and effortlessly as you already know what everyone is talking about.

  • Browse the internet in your target language

How long do you spend each day procrastinating online? Why not turn this time into a valuable learning opportunity by visiting your favourite sites in the language you’re learning? Buzzfeed, for example, offers a version of its site in a variety of languages, so now you can take personality tests in French and call it productive!

  • Sticky notes

People might think that you’re a little insane when they come to visit a house plastered with sticky notes, but labelling household objects in your target language is a great way to learn vocabulary. You’ll see the word again and again without any conscious effort on your part, allowing you to avoid endless piles of flashcards.

  • Make friends with native speakers

This is the perfect solution, you get to relax and have fun with your friends all the while practising your language! It might seem a little daunting, and at first it can be exhausting to have to express yourself in a foreign language all the time, but if you manage to meet kind (and patient!) people you can build lasting friendships and will have a more concrete motivation for learning the language.

  • Keep a journal in the language

If you already keep a journal, why not switch it to the language you’re learning? You don’t have to feel embarrassed about mistakes you’re making as it’s strictly private, and you’ll find yourself needing to look up new words all the time, thus expanding your vocabulary. What’s more, you can look back on earlier entries and cringe at your old mistakes, whilst feeling smug about how far you’ve come!

  • Foreign language music

Take a look at the top charts in a country that speaks your target language, there’s sure to be something that suits your taste. You’ll learn to associate the words to the tunes and will be much more likely to remember them as a result, and it’ll give you common ground to talk about with natives.  Even if you’re struggling to distinguish words, it’s a good way of familiarising yourself to the sounds of the language.

So don’t despair, learning a language can actually be quite enjoyable. Mix up some of your more traditional study methods with these fun techniques and you’ll find yourself progressing without even noticing. If you enjoyed reading this blog, you can find more of the same here, and don’t forget to consult our job offers for bilingual secretaries in Paris.

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What Does Fluency Mean to You?

As a company specialising in the recruitment of bilingual secretaries, it’s important to examine exactly what we mean by ‘bilingual’, or rather what is implied by fluency. The word is bandied around, laden with implicit meaning, in questions to language learners and expats alike (“But are you fluent yet?”) and as anyone with any experience in this area can tell you, the answer is far from simple.

Most would suggest a definition along the lines of ‘conversing accurately and with ease’, and indeed this seems to be the consensus amongst dictionaries. Does this mean that a fluent speaker must have a perfect mastery of the language? Certainly not. The myriad aspects of language are almost impossible to list, let alone to master. To any native English speakers: how many of you can provide a definition of the verb ‘to jargogle’? Does your likely inability to define this obscure word as the act of confusing or mixing things up demonstrate that you are not, as you had previously thought, a fluent English speaker? It seems that rather than demanding absolute lexical knowledge of a language as proof of fluency, we should look more towards contextual understanding of unknown words and the ability to use the target language to fill gaps in vocabulary. For example: the ability to describe a coaster as a small mat for a drink without knowing the word itself. Of course, excellent and consistent grammatical knowledge is necessary, but fluent second language speakers and natives alike will occasionally slip up in this regard; what matters is that communication is not impeded.

As far as accents go, some will go very far towards perfecting theirs in a foreign language, but only a handful will rid themselves completely of their native language accent – and should this really be the goal? A (slight!) accent should be worn as a badge of honour, as proof of the hard work put in to acquire your second language, rather than seen as something to be ashamed of. Few would claim that Marion Cotillard, for example, does not speak English fluently due to her slight French accent.

Then there is the romantic idea that dreaming in a foreign language is the ultimate indicator of fluency. The trouble with dreams is that they are particularly hard to measure and do not necessarily accompany fluency, although they are certainly a good sign of mental immersion. Furthermore, many beginners have been known to dream in their second language without understanding what is being spoken around them, which is quite probably gibberish!

Perhaps the most sensible way to view fluency is as the ability to function in your second language in the same capacities as your native one. Evidently this will mean different things for different people and therefore adds a personal aspect lacking from the ‘accurately and with ease’ definition. For example: the ability to discuss astrophysics would be irrelevant for most, whereas for a German scientist working in an Anglophone environment this might be an integral part of bilingualism.

What does fluency mean to you, and would you classify yourself as fluent in any languages you’ve learnt? Do any of these definitions really matter? Maybe you think we’d do best to get rid of the label completely and simply focus on being able to communicate with one another!

If you enjoyed reading this, you can look at our blog for more of the same. Also if you’re searching for a job, don’t hesitate to look at our offers.

3 Trésors gratuits en ligne pour maîtriser une langue étrangère

Vous avez un très bon niveau dans une langue mais vous ne la parlez pas encore couramment ?  Comment trouver ainsi des ressources en ligne pour perfectionner votre maîtrise ?

Si on débute l’apprentissage d’une nouvelle langue, il est facile de trouver des logiciels en ligne adaptés à votre niveau : Duolingo, par exemple, nommé application de l’année 2013 par l’entreprise Apple, propose des exercices ludiques pour vous enseigner, et il y en a beaucoup d’autres qui suivent ce modèle.

Quant aux locuteurs adeptes, le défi consiste cependant à trouver des outils en ligne correspondant à leur niveau supérieur.  Acquérir un vocabulaire de base, comme « dog » et « cat », ne vous sert à rien si le besoin est d’étoffer un lexique technique.  En plus, à quoi bon faire des exercices pédagogiques si vous souhaitez maîtriser un anglais des affaires courant ?  Ne vous inquiétez pas parce que voici plusieurs suggestions pour vous :

WeSpeke

Imaginez un mélange entre Skype et WordReference, et voilà, vous pensez à WeSpeke.  C’est un réseau social qui vous permet de joindre des locuteurs natifs aux quatre coins de la planète et avoir des conversations avec eux en temps réel.  Choisissez votre niveau de langue (1 pour un débutant et 5 pour un natif) ainsi que vos intérêts et vous serez prêt à vous lancer dans une communauté globale ! Vous parlez à tour de rôle dans votre langue maternelle d’un thème qui vous intéresse, les deux pendant un certain temps avant de changer de langue.  Ce site est tellement populaire qu’il connaît un succès grandissant depuis son lancement en 2010.  Inscrivez-vous ou trouvez plus de renseignements ici.

Linguee

Vous parlez couramment une langue mais vous avez du mal à traduire certaines expressions techniques ou spécifiques ? C’est Linguee que vous cherchez !  Un dictionnaire en ligne qui propose des traductions contextuelles, l’outil ramasse ses données des sites officiels qui ont été traduits par des traducteurs professionnels.  Donc, la prochaine fois qu’il vous faut trouver l’expression équivalente de ‘produit intérieur brut annuel’ en anglais, allez sur : www.linguee.fr !

Meetup

Etre bilingue à partir d’un logiciel… c’est probablement une promesse trop belle pour être vraie.  Cela dit, vous pourrez profiter du web pour rencontrer des gens dont la langue maternelle est celle que vous désirez perfectionner.  Meetup propose une manière de joindre les gens dans votre région qui ont envie de se retrouver.  Il y a beaucoup d’échanges linguistiques dont vous pouvez bénéficier.  Il faut simplement créer un compte pour découvrir l’adresse de votre prochain rendez-vous… n’hésitez pas !

Si vous avez d’autres astuces pour se perfectionner en langue, partagez-les avec nous en les écrivant en dessous.

Et ne pas oublier de visiter notre site pour découvrir toutes nos offres d’actualité pour les personnes bilingues ici.

Learning languages – setting yourself apart from the rest!

During your time as a language student at university, you will consistently be reminded that your course provides you with “transferable skills” that will impress any employer and that having these skills may set you apart from the other candidates applying for the same position. With high unemployment in the under 25’s in the UK, it is important to have a special “something” to increase your chances of getting employed. So, is learning another language the way forward?

 

  1. Communication skills

 

It may seem obvious, but learning another language is all about communication. It isn’t enough to master the grammatical rules on paper, you have to be able to speak, listen and understand the language in order to fully master it. Learning another language not only forces you to become a better communicator in the given language, it also helps you understand your own language more clearly, which in turn can make you a better and clearer communicator in your mother tongue. To employers, this is an appealing trait, especially if the work involves meeting and communicating with clients.

 

  1. Presentation skills

 

During a languages degree, you will be asked to give numerous presentations, not only in your native language, but also in the “target language”, i.e. the language you are learning. This improves confidence, encourages you to be spontaneous in speaking the language (preparing you for real-life situations), and also enhances a skill which you may need in your future career. This will not go unnoticed by employers.

 

  1. Study/work abroad

 

A compulsory part of any languages degree is to spend time abroad in a country where the language is spoken. The experiences and skills you will acquire during this time become invaluable and, as many will agree, really shape you as a person. Employers will value this as it proves you are someone who can adapt easily, who is outgoing, responsible, independent and aware of other cultures. It will also mean that your language level hugely improves and, in today’s increasingly globalised society, employers with contacts abroad will really value this.

 

  1. Personality

 

Having learnt a language says a lot about your personality; it proves you to be a committed, confident, driven individual who likes a challenge and who rises up to it – you can, after all, speak the language. This shows employers that they can give you responsibility and that you will work hard to complete tasks to a high standard. Furthermore, the experiences you will have gathered by working or studying abroad contribute to making you a more interesting person; use tales of your experiences during this time to make yourself stand out at the interview!

 

If you haven’t begun with language learning yet, start now and take those important steps to set yourself apart from the rest!

 

How to make sure you don’t lose your language skills

If you are a multilingual job seeker in the UK, pay attention!

In today’s job market, things are getting more and more competitive. With new records of students graduating with degrees every year in Britain, there simply aren’t enough jobs to satisfy everyone’s needs. As a multilingual job seeker, your best assets are of course your languages. The question is; how do you keep them up to scratch.

There are many different ways in which you can keep your languages going and although many of them may seem simple and obvious, they are very important. For someone like myself who is bilingual in English and French, it is easy just to coast along in English (as it is my mother tongue) and living in Paris, most of my friends and family are English speaking. I find it is crucial to speak as much French as possible with native speakers. Be aware that foreigners do always like to practise their English so be insistent.

Reading is so important to keep your languages ticking over. If you can’t find an interesting piece of French literature, then just get a translated version of your favourite English book. Although this isn’t as good as reading French books, this is still very beneficial. Not a book person? Read a French paper once a day or subscribe to a French magazine eg. le Point. If you are not comfortable with that level of language or simply not sufficiently interested in current affairs, you could try a more informal magazine via Bayard Jeunesse eg. Okapi. It may be targeted at teenagers but is informative, easy to read and equally well-suited to adults with short attention spans!

Everyone likes a good film so there is no excuse not to watch them in French. It is such an easy way to consolidate your French and you are pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to French cinema. In fact watching French television is very good for your languages. Just watching the 8 o’clock news every day is worth doing. You can also listen to the French radio and listen to French music (although it is not everyone’s cup of tea!)

If you have visited France or are planning to visit France in the future, make sure you keep in touch with the people you meet. This is the most important part of keeping your language at a solid level. There is no substitute for actually having a conversation in French with a French person. It is even worth finding a pen pal you can write to in French and they they can write to you in English. That way you are both winners.

Grammar. I have kept this to last. Unfortunately this is equally as important as your oral skills. Prospective employers will be keen to test your written French so accuracy is vital. The only way to do it is to practise, like anything else. There are plenty of websites available to test your grammar. You just have to grin and bear it and you will reap the benefits.

MAKE YOUR LANGUAGES WORK FOR YOU: How being bilingual can help you get ahead!

It is well-acknowledged that one of the best ways to get ahead in your career and broaden your horizons is to learn a foreign language. Whether companies are conducting business overseas or fighting for a larger market share at home, employers are increasingly seeking out bilingual workers. A recent “CareerBuilder.com” keyword search turned up more than 1,000 job postings seeking bilingual applicants in the United States alone.

The more professional contacts you can communicate with, the more versatile and thus more valuable you become. Broadly speaking, Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic are some of the most widely spoken tongues in the world. Though it is impossible to ascertain exact figures, estimates for English vary between 250 and 450 million. In terms of languages used most widely in an official capacity, the list is topped by English (57 countries), followed by French at 28, then Arabic, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese.

The lure of living the expat life can also provide strong motivation to acquire a second language, with the United Arab Emirates topping the tables with an expat population of more than 70%. Within Europe, over 30% of Luxembourg’s population is expats, though in terms of quantity, Germany leads the way with over 10 million non-native inhabitants, followed swiftly by France. To stand a chance in the increasingly competitive expat job market amongst the 3 million Britons currently working abroad, developing your language competencies is vital.

The key to making a language work for you is taking a thorough approach. Once you have attained a high enough standard, you must work hard to maintain it. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it! This necessitates extra effort outside of the work environment, to avoid it becoming a dormant and unused skill on your CV. Preferred methods vary from person to person and can be tailored to your interests. Enrolling on a conversation exchange programme, for example on http://www.linguapassion.com/?lang=en, can be an enjoyable way to practise and meet like-minded people, whilst other options include watching films and reading novels in the original language.

Although at the outset it may seem like an uphill struggle to attain operational fluency in a foreign language, if you are willing to put in the time now, the long-term value of your linguistic skills cannot be overestimated!