Language Learning Books: Make Your Own
Want an easy way to get started in a new language? Phrasebooks are the perfect place to start. Learning to make your own language learning books is easy, too. Check out the video to learn how:
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Phrasebooks. So I wanna start here with the ACTFL Proficiency Levels. So ACTFL is the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages. They published very detailed descriptions of different proficiency levels in languages, what people can do. Proficiency levels don’t worry about where you learned your language, where you got your language skills, how many books you did, how many classes you did. It’s all focused on what people can do, and the novice level learner is at the word level. Their next goal, the next stage is sort of that upper novice level that you see, that pyramid gets a bit wider, and they start making their own phrases to move into the intermediate level, which is sentence level language.
So phrasebooks are absolutely ideal for this. Absolutely ideal. What phrasebooks do is they get people communicating right away. In a lot of traditional programs, people are presented with lists of vocabulary and grammar. And all of that stuffs really useful, it’s fantastic. And you’re gonna have to study it at some point. I do a lot of old school activities, as a learner and as a teacher because they work. However, the novice level learner needs to get communicating. They don’t need to understand rules, they just need words and phrases to communicate.
And a phrasebook is gonna do that. I honestly believe that the focus on all of these rules is what keeps people from becoming fluent because they get discouraged. They sort of are expected to put all this stuff together and create with language, which is what happens, but you’re looking up towards right in the middle sort of in that intermediate level is when that really starts happening. You gotta have a lot of words and phrases first. So there’s no reason you can’t be communicating and cutting out all the stuff that you don’t need to communicate to begin with.
You can do all that language and grammar study later. So one of the things that we did in this course was it was all based on a phrasebook. So the phrasebook being language for travel and beginners. Regardless of whether all of those words and phrases that were presented would be relevant to you at any given time or there could be more that you need to know, there could be less, there could be some that aren’t relevant to you, that’s not really the point. The point is that it’s all communicative and in context.
Here’s an example of a Korean phrasebook. And the context here is just getting around. And as you can see, the English is linked to Korean, Korean native speaking audio. In the middle, you’ve got Korean and then on the right you’ve got Korean and English. This isn’t meant to get you writing novels, this is meant to get you communicating. The more you communicate, the more you practice, the more you know, the more quickly you’re gonna become fluent. It’s really quite simple.
This next example is from eyewitness guides, available online. This is Spanish. The context here is socializing and likes and dislikes. This is cheap and easy. You can download it, you can have this in a matter of minutes. I believe it’s available on Amazon too, but they definitely have their own site, eye witness guides. You see they’ve got the little audio icon, you can hear a native speaker, you can see a bunch of phrases that are relevant to this socializing and these likes and dislikes tasks listed, you see the Spanish equivalent, you see the phonetic spelling so you can pronounce it written for English speakers, really, really useful.
They do tons of them. This one’s Italian. This is very useful for me. Rough Guides is another excellent one. I believe they’re French travel guide has 5,000 words and phrases. Berlitz solid. Lonely Planet. Also excellent. These are all really reasonable, cost effective, great ways to expand your language skills while you’re in the novice level. Another example that I have here that’s completely free are released by the United States government. They’re in the public domain so you don’t have to pay anything for them. This particular example is Japanese, but they’re available in several languages.
Japanese phrasebook from 1944. A terrible time in Japanese history. But it cuts down to the basics. This is all for people who are in Japan to get communicating. There’s greetings, there’s questions, there’s English, there’s Japanese, and then you’ll see the same set of words and phrases in English and then Japanese and English so it’s much easier. You can start learning writ Japanese. The sort of side-by-side guides with the English included. There’s some sad stuff in their. It’s during war time. Terrible time in their history, but part of learning a language is about learning the culture of the people understanding where they came from, and why they might think the way that they do.
It’s really important. We have to learn about what people make, what they do, how they see the world. That’s a hugely critical part of learning a language. Again, free and in the public domain. But beyond that, language learning today is getting easier and easier and better and better because there’s more tools for us to connect with native language and culture. When I first started teaching languages, I was dragging in shoe boxes and photo albums with slides and photos and DVD’s and books and magazines to share with my students. And all this stuff’s available online now. It’s amazing.
And in fact that’s how my whole blogging project started was digitizing a lot of this stuff ’cause it was taking so much physical room. You can listen to audio books, you can see YouTube videos, you can listen to podcasts, there’s grammar lessons, tutorials all over the place, there’s ways to speak with native speakers, there are tools and apps to find words. Here, you can download a lot of it to your phone as well. We’ve never lived in a time like this. But I wanna share one tool with you in particular, which you probably already know about. And that’s Google translate.
So Google translate is like any other sort of translation tool or dictionary. It deals with input and output. You put something in and you get something out. And that’s essential because there’s gonna be times that you’re gonna have to put words and phrases in because you don’t understand them in the target language or you need to know their equivalent of your language in the target language. So I know I’m pointing out the obvious there, but that’s essential. You’ve gotta find a way … you’ve gotta have a way to access words and phrases you don’t know.
But there’s a lot of pitfalls there. Again, it deals with input and output. This is not as smart as a human being. A dictionary is not as smart as a human being. Google translate is not as smart as a human being. So there are lots of mistakes that can be generated through using a program like this. And I just wanna talk about a few before we talk about what’s good about it and how to use it. So I want to show you this example of Italian English to Italian the word Monday. So this seems pretty obvious enough. And the translation is actually fairly accurate, but there’s one error.
And that’s, that Monday in Italian is capitalized, which it’s not. But if you’re at this stage, you might not know that. Now I’m not gonna say that, that’s a deal breaker in communication, but you need to be aware. This next set, the word may. Okay. Well what’s the context? So really I was looking for a May as in the month. But what it gave me is may as in, “May I. Can I.” Completely incorrect context. If I didn’t know enough Italian, I could make some pretty big mistakes their. Here’s an example in Spanish. So if you speak Spanish you know that to pull ones leg … or I’m sorry, if you speak English you know that to pull ones leg is to try to trick somebody.
But the translation that we’re given here is literally to pull someones leg. So if you speak Spanish, you know that the equivalent of that is basically pulling someones hair, the equivalent of that. And so that’s what I put in. And what I got out is to pull someones hair. That doesn’t translate. It’s really to pull someones leg, to trick somebody. Not literally to pull someones hair. So there’s lots and lots of room for errors here. So it’s gotta be used with caution. However, what’s really special about Google translate is that it’s getting better and better and better and better and better.
Because there translations come increasingly all the time from documents that were translated by humans. So it’s not a computer isn’t gonna understand syntax or not necessarily gonna understand the order in which a certain language uses a certain word. Or they’re not necessarily gonna understand the context like that example of may. I wanted to know May the month, but I got out may and in “May I.” Okay? We’re smarter than computers. However, one of the things that’s fantastic, if you go into it knowing that it’s getting better and better and that it’s often right and it’s getting better and that you can completely personalize your experience is that you can make a phrasebook with Google translate.
So let’s go back to the example that we talked about in Italian with the day. So I put in Monday and if you recall I got Monday with a capital, but that’s not correct. So what I did is I actually suggested an edit and I got another choice that came down as another choice this with lowercase level. So then I hit the star and what that does is that adds it to a phrasebook. So what I did is I actually made a little phrasebook of words … basically the days and the months. So what I was able to do is click the star, after I click the star in the target language … let’s actually go back.
I click the star on the target language box, the translation box, and then next to where it says, “Turn off instant translation,” that star with the circle around it, after I finished all my translations I hit that, I ended up with this. Let’s open this up. I then clicked that little icon underneath the search bar. It looks like a little table there. And this is where it brought me, to import document. Now you’re gonna wanna be signed into your Google account when you do this. Because what it’ll do is it’s gonna import that phrasebook, that personalized phrasebook that you made, into Google sheets.
I think that’s really cool. Anything you’d wanna learn, you can make your own little phrasebook. However, I don’t need what’s in column A or in column B. I understand that one column is English and I understand that the other column is Italian. So I just deleted them. And this is what I ended up with. Now what you can actually do with these is fantastic. If you are dealing with Roman script, you can download these as either … well, tab separated values, I would say. You can download these sheets as tab separated values or as comma separated values. Character languages are a little bit different.
And you can import them into programs like Quizlet or StudyBlue where you can make your own study tools. You can make your own EKEE cards with tab separated values. Or you could just have your own phrasebook. The completely personalized language learning experience.
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