Friday, 25 February 2011

Dutch - Update

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Dutch the Silent Way


Overall, I’m happy that I’m making progress and at the moment I feel that Dutch is a very learnable language. Most of my input so far has come from Dutch children TV. I’ve also used 'crosstalk' for everyday situations and got some 'heroes' to help me from the street.

I’ve written some emails to people to get some feedback on my approach. Here are some responses.

David Long, head of the Thai language programme at ALG, Bangkok

“I think that at the early stages, you should be careful of spending much time on anything that is too difficult. Keep it simple. I would also tend to focus on Crosstalk and see if it is possible to get 2 or 3 people to meet with you on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This way, you will begin to really develop situations that are memorable, and understandable.”

John Fotheringham,Foreign Language Mastery

“I haven't actually used the ALG approach myself, but many people swear by it. While I think it will lead to good pronunciation and strong oral fluency, it does have a major disadvantage: it isn't practical for people who will be moving to a country right away and need to use the language to get around, buy groceries,.
I would also add in podcasts as they allow you to get passive listening input while doing chores, cooking, etc.”


• I’ve watch just over a 100 hours of Dutch TV. This has been mostly children’s TV as it’s simple and quite easy to understand. I definitely feel I understand more now than I did at the start.

• I’ve probably only got about 30-40 minutes of Dutch input from people.

• Listening to Dutch children’s stories on MP3 player – approx.. 4 hours

March targets

• Watch 60 hours of Dutch TV
• Start regular crosstalk session with some Dutch people. Aim for 3-4 hours per week by the end of March.
• Listen to 30 plus hours of Dutch on my MP3 player.

It’s certainly not my intention to learn Dutch by watching TV. I definitely want the human input as I feel it’s needed and it’s more enjoyable. So, by the end of March, I definitely want my Dutch learning to have that human touch.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Learn English from Popular TV shows

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This blog is for intermediate and Advance learners of English

The internet has some amazing resources for English learners. I recently found out that a lot of TV shows have their transcripts up on the web. Shows such as Spongebob, Two and a Half Men, Sex and the City, Chuck and a whole load more.

Why use transcripts? Because this is how people speak! People don’t speak the English used in English text books. These TV shows are a much better example and they’re entertaining too. Also, by using transcripts you can first read and then listen, and this will give you more of a chance to understand.

I’ve also added a link from LukasEnglishPodcast. In a six minutes video, he talks about ‘subtitles’ in videos. He believes that it’s better to just listen to a video and not read ‘subtitles’ (or a transcript) at the same time. Watch his video for how to use listening and reading materials. Link at the bottom.

SpongeBob is fun. It’s written for adults as well as kids. So join in the fun! At Wikia, they have transcripts of many episodes of SpongeBob.

Sex and the City transcripts.

Two and a Half Men transcripts

Here's a list of transcripts for other TV shows from Twiztv

Lucas Video on using 'subtitle' and transcript for listening practice

In the future, I will create an English exercise using transcripts and ‘Youtube’
Thanks you for reading and I hope you enjoyed today’s blogs.

Listen and your English will be great!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Fun Resources for English Learners

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Bored of text books, grammar and the classroom? And yet still want to learn English?

Don't worry! Instead of studying, you can learn better by using games and fun websites.

Lyrics Training

Lyrics Training is fantastic for people who love music! And who doesn't love music!
Also, it'll introduce you to a lot of songs in another language. Most songs are in English but there are six other languages too, including Spanish, Italian and also Germany, which is good for me.

How it works (very easy to use)

• You choose the song you want to play.
• Game option – beginner, intermediate or expert.
• Play and write in the missing word.
• To repeat, use backspace.

Go on, give it a go! It's very addictive! (you'll play again and again)

Ello (Home Page)

This site has lots and lots of English listening material. There are different activities to do and games too. Give it a go! Listening a lot is very important to being about to speak better.

Listening Games

English Yabla

Watch TV and play games. This is not what your English teacher told you but this is excellent. I've used the German version and it's fun (only the free part).

• There are different levels; one star - very easy, five stars – difficult
• Some of the easy videos you can understand by watching and guessing
• There are captions in English and your languages (only for German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish at the moment)
• You can play listening games to help your listening and writing.

Go on, have fun with learning English or whatever language you want. You'll get better results learning this way then by using materials that don't interest you.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Dutch is the Silent Way

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It took me sometime to realise this but at the moment Dutch needs to be the number one language priority. Put simply, I live in the Netherlands and knowing Dutch would make my life a lot easier. It's also easy to find Dutch speakers here.

Dutch the Silent Way.

For the past two years I've been fascinated by the completely different approach taken by ALG(there's a more informative page somewhere - tb updated later) towards teaching a foreign language. Here are five videos with David Long, the Head of ALG Thai Language, explaining their approach.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

They are each about ten minutes long so if you haven't the time to view them here's the basics of ALG's approach.

• You don't speak until you feel the words are ready to 'pop'. For Europeans learning Thai this could be up to 800 hours. A rough estimate for English to Dutch will be a lot shorter (perhaps 150 hrs).
• To learn to speak, the key is not speaking but understandable input.
• Two teachers in the class - this way you get the genuine spoken language.
• Classes are based on different activities that use visual aids, actions, games and interactions to help comprehension. There's no focus on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, activities that you might get in a 'traditional' language school
• They are aiming to teach you like children. They believe that children can not go wrong with learning a language but adults can. Most adults, especially in the Western world have gone through the education system. Here, the practice makes perfect attitude develops. So this approach is used, for adults, to learn languages. At ALG, they believe this causes too much stress and inhibits language learning.
• There order of learning is; understandable input (listening to easily understood situations), speaking (starts after 800 hrs for a Western), reading (starts after a 1,000 hrs?) , writing.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to take classes for this approach to learning a language only seems to exist in Thailand. So how can I use this approach?
I’ve got lots of experience teaching children. The approach used lots of games, competitions, songs and in general worked towards making the classes’ fun. Also ALG have lots of example classes on the net. From those videos, the overall general principle I can gather is ‘talk about the things you can see and feel’ and not abstract ‘adult’ topics.

For me, this is an experiment. To see if I can apply the ALG method as an individual. Also to experience how this way of learning feels.

My current approach will be:

• Watch TV, especially children’s TV as that’s easier to understand.
• Use crosstalk. (This is where I speak English and the other people speak Dutch. For more complicated language, drawings etc can be used to help with comprehension )
• Short Videos – People are instructed to talk about a topic – ‘Your Family’, ‘life Story’ ‘Games I Enjoyed when I was a Kid’ etc
• Picture Book - get people to describe the pictures.
• Talking tour – where people take me on a ‘guided tour’ of a place. They talk about the things that we pass, see, can touch and feel.
• Popular songs
• TPR (Total Physical Response – a Dutch person will speak about the action they are doing e.g. I’m brushing my teeth. I will copy. It’s a bit like training a dog and very effective. Used with enough baby steps, the student can understand fairly complicated language quiet quickly.
• Hang out with Dutch people and listen in on their conversations.

For me, the hardest part will be to get comprehensible conversational input from Dutch speakers. Any suggestions?

And do you have any suggestions for other activities I can do to help me with this approach?

I will be contacting David Long from ALG and other leading language experts on the web, to see if they have suggestions for other activities I could do and which areas to concentrate on most.

Thanks, next time some cool links for English language learners. You’re going to love these!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

English for a Coffee - Venlo

English for a Coffee

Hi everyone!

English for a Coffee in Venlo. Yes, it's true, you can get some real English conversational practice at Hemingway Eetcafe, every Wednesday from 5-8pm. And it will only cost you a cup of coffee!

There will be three hour slots - 5-6, 6-7 and 7-8pm. Call Chris, that's me, on 0630-790-269. First 10 people to call will also get a free extra hour of English conversation.

See you at Hemingway Eetcafe, H. Geeststraat, Venlo.