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?


Someone found this blog today after searching for “the light at the end of the thesis.” There must have been a mistake. From where I stand that light is just a rumour. I know it exists – it must! – but have yet to see it myself. And if the thesis were a tunnel, I’d still be lingering on the entrance, taking a deep breath before going in.

Tomorrow I have to report on my progress to my thesis committee.

The positive side of being forgetful

I’ve been studying hard since I started my undergraduate degree back in January 2000. One of the side effects of this life devoted to books and knowledge is my increasing absent-mindness and forgetfulness (I tell Alan I’m training to be an absent-minded professor). I’m always forgetting the little things of daily life. But even that has its good side: I’m constantly finding money in my pockets or that I “forgot” I had. When we were packing our stuff to move last week, I found 40 euros (2 x 20 euro bills)lying under some books on my desk. The receipt with it indicates that it dates back to our trip to Portugal in December. Today I reached into my jeans’ pocket and found a 5 euro bill. Of course, to be able to “find” this money I had to have lost it before but truth is, I’ve been so forgetful these days that I never remember I even had that money so it never really feels like I lost any. I just assume I must have spent it… So it feels like finding money on the street ;) And 5 euros is enough to buy lunch at the bakery near the archives! woooohooo