Language Challenge 180: Week 9

by Corey · 2 comments

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Welcome to Week 9! If you missed the activities these last few weeks, go to the Weekly Activity Page and click on the activities you missed.

Did you remember to check in on Friday? If not, go to the check in page to check in and then make sure to go check out our current giveaway!

For those of you who have been on board since the beginning, don’t forget to keep checking your language pages! Let others know about the resources you are finding and/or ones that you are still looking for.

Are We the Target Audience?

We can’t escape it. It is always there, hanging over our heads. Vocabulary.

No matter what we do, vocabulary in our target language(s) seems to elude us. We try reading our children books out loud in the target language and we can’t understand half of the words. We try to read the latest news online in our target language and can’t seem to make heads nor tails of anything.

Before you get discouraged, it is important to remember that we, as language learners, are not the target audience of the things we are reading. Children’s books purposely use special words to get children interested and excited about the story (children rarely care if they don’t understand every, single word). Newspapers are known for writing in complex sentence structures (even native speakers have a hard time understanding those completely!).

If you are excited about working through an online newspaper article (which is something my German husband loves to do in French when he has the time – it’s something about the challenge that inspires him) then go for it! Set aside some time and truly enjoy the accomplishment of completing such a daunting task. It will definitely boost your vocabulary and language learning.

When my children and I first started learning Spanish during Language Challenge 101 last year, we spent hours translating the book Ardilla Miedosa – encuentra un amigo, by Mélanie Watt, because we desperately wanted to know what it said. Even though we later realized that the Spanish version was a translation from the English, we didn’t care. We enjoyed every minute of deciphering the Spanish and felt that we had really accomplished something amazing (and we learned a lot about the language while doing it!).

However, for most of us, we like to experience our target language(s) on a level that doesn’t demand hours of challenging attentiveness. And when it comes to language learning, “no pain = no gain” is not the motto (thank goodness!). In fact, it is often the opposite: Too much pain = no gain at all!

I subscribe to a magazine called Deutsch Perfekt which is nothing short of fantastic (and no, we aren’t receiving financial compensation for saying this!). The publishers understand what us language learners need: interesting articles that challenge us while also providing us with help and guidance (which is also in the target language). It is a total immersion experience, yet I don’t feel that I am left on my own, wandering alone through a German-language jungle. Deutsch Perfect also offers online activities to complement what is written in the monthly magazine. They understand that us advanced language learners will falter if our only options are mainstream newspapers (with sentence structures and vocabulary which could kill a small child) and popular magazines (which are so purposely witty, vague and subtle that we aren’t sure what we are reading).

The point is this: Find resources that match your interest and language skill level. Don’t be embarrassed or frustrated about it. Just take it at face value. Have no shame while reading children’s board books out loud to yourself! I know many people who swear they learned languages from watching soap operas in the target language(s). What a great excuse to watch shows like that! Find out what is interesting to you and just take it step by step.

This Week’s Activities

This week’s activities focus on making sure we are familiar with the most common words and idioms in our target language(s).

Activity #1: Top 100 words:

  • Individuals and/or parents: This week you are going to go online and do a search for the top 100 words in your target language. If you are lucky, then searching for “top 100 words in _____” will bring up what you need. If not, then you are going to have to be more creative in your search. You can also ask for help at the language pages or on the Multilingual Living Forum in the Language Challenge 180 section (scroll to the bottom).
    Once you find the list of top 100 words in your language, go through them one at a time this week and make sure you and/or your children know them well. For the words that you/your children don’t know, work on those (or at least some) this week! Search out sentences online or in the books that you are reading that include your target words so that you can learn them in context.
    The top 100 words aren’t magical. They just give us a big step up in understanding the language better since those words will come up often.

Activity #2: Idioms:

  • Individuals and/or parents: The goal this week is to learn (or teach your child) one new idiom each day this week. It isn’t always easy to find new idioms in the target language, so you might have to do some online searching. Or ask a friend/your spouse!
    The best way to go about this is to think of an idiom in your native language (e.g. “It’s raining cats and dogs today!”) and then find out what people would say in your target language for when it rains really hard. Click here for an amazing list of idioms in English that might give you some ideas.
    Once you have your list of idioms, make sure that you/your children try them out at every opportunity! Getting comfortable using idioms is important since it will help you/your children feel more like an expert speakers of the language.

That’s it for today! Stay tuned for the Friday check-in email and new giveaway!

1 Rachel April 30, 2012 at 8:08 am

Vocabulary is a big issue right now. When I learned German I didn’t have children. Most of my friends were single. I struggle with how to say things. I can make it grammatically correct, but I constantly rethink things. Is this how a native would say it? Kids have specialized vocabulary. One example: I never thought I would potty-train in a foreign language. Talk about awkward! Parents also tend to speak in the imperative: Stop that! Don’t touch! Sit down! Eat! Also not forms I used with friends in Germany.

2 Emma May 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm

So true, Rachel! One of our toddler-and-parent Gaelic teachers laughed when asking what we wanted to know and I said “potty training volcabulary”. If I had that then I’d be using the language every day for sure!

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