The Internet and foreign languages

Blogging can be a great way to practice a language. More than taking a course and dutifully applying oneself to a grammar exercise book, languages are best acquired – or maintained – by frequent use. When I’m learning a language I like to expose myself to it as much as I possibly can. I took two months of Spanish classes before I went to Barcelona and another month when I first got there but unfortunately, I couldn’t just take classes since I was there to do research all day and I simply had not time. But I was also determined to acquire a fluent – or as close to fluent as I could – command of the language during the year I was there. The answer was to use it as much as I could. I chatted with everybody I could find, I watched a lot of television and above all else, I read a lot of fiction. I adopted a rule that I would only read non-work related material (e.g. newspapers, fiction books, magazines) in Spanish or Catalan while I was there. By the end of the year most people believed I had lived there for years.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve found myself with few occasions to express myself in Spanish. At the same time, I’ve become more interested in expanding my ability to communicate in Catalan, which I can read and understand well, having taken a course, but have not practiced speaking or writing. The solution? I’ve started looking for blogs written in those languages. Blogs are good because not only I can read some really interesting texts but I can choose to participate in discussions leaving comments in that particular language. In terms of language and content my favourite Spanish-language blog is Und komisch spricht das Mulmertier… los años de la marmota en las tierras del frühschoppen, written by a Catalan who lives in Austria and who writes in a very thoughtful, poetic way. More recently I started looking for blogs in Catalan and came across La Llumenera de Nova York, a very interesting, prolific, and creative blog by a Catalan living in NYC. I should probably download some podcasts in those languages to also train the ear.

But if you have time and want to really get into a language, another option is actually writing a blog in that language. The best example of this is my friend Christian’s blog, which is written entirely in Latin!

What about you? Do you use internet resources to practice a language?

Author: guerson

Born and raised in Brazil, a Canadian stole my heart and took me to Canada in 1999. After seven years between Montreal and Toronto, we then moved to Barcelona, Spain, where I did research for my PhD thesis. This blog began as a chronicle of our adventures while living in Barcelona and exploring the old world and has acquired a life of its own after we moved back to Canada.

6 thoughts on “The Internet and foreign languages”

  1. Alexandra,

    uso sim. Leio muito, o máximo que posso, em inglês e francês, e tento escutar uns podcasts quando dá. Ou outros meios; por exemplo, a convenção democrata, o discurso do Obama e da Hillary, eu vi quase toda online. Passo muito tempo em frente ao computador estudando, é normal usar os recursos da web para melhorar os “skills”.

    Você já pensou em fazer um “troca de conversação” com os estudantes que são falantes nativos de espanhol e querem melhorar o inglês aí na sua faculdade? Vocês poderiam marcar, por exemplo, um encontro semanal de duas horas, na primeira, só conversam em espanhol, na segunda em inglês.

    Bjs

  2. Oi Alexandra, uso sim tb! E um das formas é ler o seu blog. :) Alem dele, procuro ler jornais e outros blogs, principalmente os que postam dicas de vocabulario e gramatica. Pela necessidade de ler textos academicos no dia a dia, eu consigo ler bem, mas escrever e falar, não. Reconheço que deveria arriscar mais :( Alias, esse post me motivou a me esforçar um pouquinho mais, a me expor mais a lingua como vc falou. Quem sabe, um dia, nao consigo comentar aqui em ingles! rsrs :) Até Paula

  3. Paula,

    There’s no two ways about it – to be able to effectively communicate, you do have to expose yourself and take risks. I know it is painful at times but it gets much better. This weekend, I went from being mostly a lurker to actually saying a couple of sentences in Catalan in one of the blogs I mentioned above. The subject of the post was such that I simply HAD to say something but on the other hand, even though I’m sure the author speaks English, I felt self-conscious about commenting in either English or Spanish. So out came the dictionary and grammar books. I’ve studied Catalan grammar and read the language all the time but never really write in it so I had to look up the right conjugation of verbs, the proper prepositions, etc. So it took longer to write two sentences but if I do it again and again, those sentences will flow more quickly each time.

    There has to be an output for the language so your brain can get better at making the right connections faster. Input (reading, listening) is very important but all that information can be lost if you don’t find an outlet for it (writing, speaking)…

    Beijos!!
    Alexandra
    PS: Escrevi em ingles pra ver se vc se anima! ;)

  4. Oi Alexandra,
    Obrigada pela atenção em responder ao meu comentário e principalmente ao incentivo que esse post e sua resposta me deram. Eu concordo com vc. Se eu desejo realmente dominar um idioma, eu tenho que me expor a ele e aos riscos (micos?!) que isso me trará. Eu tenho feito alguns progressos e isso é fundamental para o direcionamento que desejo para minha vida profissional. Há um tempo atrás, eu nem ousaria em acessar algum site em ingles, tamanha era a minha repulsa ao idioma. rsrs. Mas enfim, aqui nao é um muro de lamentações rsrsrs e o que gostaria de dizer mesmo foi que eu me senti encorajada a tentar – nas proximas vezes! :)) – e isso já é um passo. Obrigada. Boa semana para vc. Paula
    ps. não pude responder antes, pois meu acesso a internet estava bem limitado.

  5. Hey! I found your post really funny and interesting, because I also decided to use the internet to improve my English skills, since I have now little chance to practice it. Running a blog in English is, in addition to reading lots of blogs, websites, books, and so on in English, a really cool way to keep a foreign language alive!

    Moltes gràcies per les boniques paraules que dediques al meu blog! :)

    Una abraçada!
    T.

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