Don't panic... highlight!

- By Jo

When reading in a foreign language, what do you do first?

a. panic
b. find a dictionary and look up things
c. try and work it out for yourself
d. use an online translation site

OK, so those of you who chose answers 'a' or 'd' are incorrect! The first rule of attempting to read in a foreign language is not to panic...

I would also urge you not to use an online translation site – not only is it quite likely you'll get some odd translations, but it'll also probably take far too much time. Whatever the situation, your first port of call should always be yourself!  You can always rely on yourself (honestly you can!). Have a read through the text. Rather than concentrating on what you don't know, concentrate on what you do. In fact, go ahead get a highlighter pen and highlight everything you know.

After you've done that, have a look at the text again. Is there anything that you can guess the meaning of? Maybe some words look a bit like English (we call these cognates) or are similar other words you know in the foreign language. For example, can you guess the meaning of the German word 'allergisch' ? (Answers are below for those playing along). If you're lucky enough to have a second highlighting pen in a different colour, then go ahead and highlight those words too. Now, hopefully your text will be looking very pretty (that is unless you've used orange and pink together - they clash dreadfully!).

Have a look at the text again and see if you can perhaps guess what the text is about. Often you will have some idea, even if it's a vague one. For example, I highlighted the words for 'sister', 'aunt' and 'grandfather', so it's likely the text is about the family. To be a good linguist you have to fine tune your detective skills and keep your wits about you. Take a guess; what do you think the text is likely to say based on what you know, and based on the context? Most of the time you do not need to know what every single word means. In fact, if you are taking an exam (and I hate to tell you this) it is highly likely that you will not know every single word anyway.

Of course, I'm not suggesting for one minute that you never use a dictionary ever again; just don't rely on it. Use your brain first and your dictionary to check afterwards; and when you do check, make a note of any new words and LEARN them. Vocabulary is key! The more you know the better. Pay particular attention to little words that you keep seeing time and time again. Check them out and learn them. I would recommend keeping a little vocabulary book, and testing yourself on it weekly. It may seem boring, but it will pay off when you're next doing some reading (...and maybe you'll be highlighting more of those words you know next time!)

If get used to relying on yourself in this way, and you get learning your vocab too, it'll make things a lot easier if you are taking an exam.

Above all, have confidence in yourself and remember: you are pretty clever when you want to be!


By the way 'allergisch' means 'allergic'. Did you get that right? I told you that you were clever.


What's in a name?

- By Jo

...that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet...

So, I begin this week's blog with a quote from the Bard himself... and why not, after all I've decided to talk to you about names, or more precisely the name 'Linguipod'. Like all parents when naming their children, it was a decision which we didn't take lightly. Anyway, after much consideration the name Linguipod was chosen; and we think it rather suits our new bundle of joy! Linguipod is dynamic, fun and funky. She is friendly and approachable, but also pretty clever. She loves wearing green and pink and lots of other bright colours too.... (Okay, I'll stop there, before you think me completely crazy).

The name for our site is a combination of a cut down version of the word 'linguist' and pod (of course). We envisage our pod as a wonderful cocoon of top quality friendly language tutors. Our pod is also a highly evolved technological masterpiece which is deceptively simple to use... (We have some clever people working here at Linguipod towers). Anyway, we hope you like our name, and we're sure you'll like using our site, whether you're a tutor or student.


I recently discovered that 'Lingui' is a province in China. Maybe that's a subject for a future blog post. Pods in Lingui. Lingui pods? I think I'll stop here...


Those pesky French numbers... again!

- By Jo

In my last post I talked about learning numbers. I thought it might be helpful to have a look at some of those tricky French numbers in detail. If you're revising for your French exams right now, this may provide some help…or if not I cannot stress how important it is to learn your numbers anyway!

Remember not only to learn what the numbers look like (for reading purposes), but also how they are pronounced. When listening it is easy to get confused between numbers that sound similar. Make sure you know the difference in pronunciation of 2 (deux) and 12 (douze), and 4 (quatre), 14 (quatorze) and 40 (quarante), for example.

Up to 69 French numbers are pretty straightforward to learn, and it's just a question of familiarising yourself with them. I'm now going to talk you through numbers from 70, where they become a bit trickier. Here's my little guide, which I hope is useful.

French Numbers from 70

We know that 69 = soixante-neuf. This follows a familiar pattern. When we get to 70 we just keep on counting, as follows:

  • 70 = soixante-dix (60+10 =70)
  • 71 = soixante-onze (60+11 =71)
  • 72 = soixante-douze (60+12 =72)
  • 73= soixante-treize (60+13 =73)

...and this pattern continues up to 79 (soixante-dix-neuf). Simple, right?
At 80 the pattern changes again. 80 = quatre-vingts (4 twenties, after all 4 x 20 =80). Strange, I know, but don't get bogged down in the whys and wherefores -just learn it!
From 80, we start adding on again, as follows:

  • 82 = quatre-vingt-un
  • 82 = quatre-vingt-deux
  • 83 = quatre-vingt-trois

and so on…
...and this keeps on going... so 90 = quatre-vingt-dix (4x 20 + 10 = 90 after all!)

  • 91 = quatre-vingt-onze (80 +11 = 91)
  • 92 = quatre-vingt-douze
  • 93 = quatre-vingt-treize

...until we get to 'cent' (100). As of this point the numbers do become relatively straightforward again... just learn that 1000 = mille, and you're well away. You just use lots of combinations of numbers you've already learnt.
Some examples:

  • 200 = deux cents
  • 320 = trois cents vingt
  • 481 = quatre cents quatre-vingt-un etc.

So…get learning today! It'll be worth the trouble (and maybe a few extra marks).

Good luck to all those taking exams this summer from the Linguipod team!


Learn to count and get a good grade at GCSE!

- By Jo

This week I have been teaching some year 11 students. We have been preparing for their impending doom, a.k.a. their French GCSE listening exam, all but weeks away. Before attempting some practice questions, I thought I'd quiz them on their numbers... after all it's a topic that's pretty much bound to come up in the exam. While a few of the students were pretty confident, many more were slightly confused... and others started to panic!

So what is it that makes French numbers so difficult to learn for native English speakers? Indeed the concept of "four twenties" (quatre-vingts) meaning 80 and "sixty fifteen" (soixante-quinze), meaning 75 is a little strange for us (and as one boy put it perhaps "too mathematical"). I cannot stress enough, however, how important it is to learn those numbers (whatever the language). In GCSE and even A-Level terms it could be the extra mark you need that means the next grade up. So, don't throw away marks...get learning!


The moment of truth...

- By Jo

Here are the answers to my "Happy Easter" guess the language quiz from Friday:

  • Joyeuses Pâques = French
  • Frohe Ostern = German
  • Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych! = Polish
  • Geseënde Paasfees = Afrikaans
  • Kellemes Húsvéti Ünnepeket!  = Hungarian
  • God påske = Danish
  • Zalig Pasen = Dutch
  • ¡Felices Pascuas! = Spanish
  • Buona Pasqua = Italian
  • Hyvää Pääsiäistä = Finnish
  • Pasg Hapus = Welsh
  • Boa Páscoa = Portuguese

If you got them all right, then please give yourself a pat on the back! Now go and enjoy the weekend, and impress someone with your knowledge!