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Free Resources: 7 Cool Sites to Learn a Language

Learning a language does not have to be expensive. I know that private teachers and academies cost money, obviously. And it’s really worth it, provided you work hard to make the most of it. However, at uTandem we don’t want you to think that you have to pay in order to learn a language. No, it’s up to you how much you want to pay and how hard you’re willing to work in order to learn a foreign language. At uTandem we’re all about free language learning, so in today’s post we’re bringing you 7 sites that are giving away free language learning material.

1. FluentU

  • What is FluentU?
    FluentU is a language learning platform which teaches languages through video and audio. You can choose your language from a wide variety and get started. Some of the coolest things about FluentU is that you can use it on your smartphone or tablet and that there are different blogs depending on the language you are learning and on whether you’re a student or a teacher.
  • Where can I get my freebie?
    If you want to get a free ebook for the language you’re learning, simply go to FluentU‘s home page, scroll down completely, and choose the blog you’re interested in. Then, when you’ve accessed one of the blogs, a pop-up window will appear (like the one below) asking you to enter your email. In exchange for subscribing to their blog, you’ll get your free ebook, which is great. Plus, their regular newsletter is also very useful.

2. Fluent in 3 Months

  • What is Fluent in 3 Months?
    Fluent in 3 Months is a language learning blog owned by Benny the Irish polyglot. This is an extremely successful blog where Benny and other polyglots and language hackers publish posts with useful tips and experiences. While the aim of the site in itself is for you to choose a premium plan, there’s also plenty of free stuff, including the great blog.
  • Where’s my free stuff?
    If you go to the home page and scroll down, you’ll see a box (like the one below) where you can subscribe to their newsletter in exchange for a free 7-day speaking course. I subscribed a few days ago and (spoiler alert!) you actually get a few days extra for free! So you’re receiving useful speaking tips in your inbox for free. It gives you a good idea of what Benny offers, in case you’re considering moving on to a premium plan.

3. Lindsay Does Languages

  • Who is Lindsay and why does she do languages?
    Lindsay is a cool blogger, vlogger and polyglot from the UK. She teaches English and learns different languages. The cool thing is that she is constantly learning languages and blogging about her process and techniques so that other people can learn languages, too. Besides, she offers cool courses like Mastering English Phrasal Verbs through Story or Successful Self-Study. Oh, and (spoiler alert!), we’ll be having Lindsay on this blog really soon! 😉
  • What is Lindsay giving for free?
    Lindsay has a cool “library of language resources”. So if you go to Lindsay Does Languages, you’ll see the box in the picture below, where you’ll be able to subscribe to her site. In exchange, you’ll receive a password to access the free library, where you can download a series of pdf documents with great tips to maximise your language learning experience.

4. MosaLingua

  • What is MosaLingua?
    MosaLingua is a platform which offers mobile apps for you to learn a language. It’s great because they have one app per language, plus a couple of apps for business English and some language exams. Also, they have a different blog depending on the language you want to learn, which is very useful.
  • What does MosaLingua offer for free?
    While you can download any of their apps for free (a lite version), MosaLingua also offers a couple of free ebooks about learning resources and essential phrases in the language you choose. To claim your free stuff, simply go to MosaLingua, hover over “Blog & Resources” and, at the end of the drop-down menu, you’ll see the free resources. For one of them, you’ll need to subscribe, which is cool because you’ll start receiving cool tips every week. For the other, one you’ll need to unlock the free content by sharing on a social network, which is also great, as you can let your friends know about this cool free resource.

5. I Will Teach You a Language

  • Who, exactly, will be teaching me a language?
    This site belongs to another polyglot, Olly Richards, who can speak 8 languages. Olly offers premium courses and free language hacking strategies on his blog, but he also throws you a bone in case you want to check what you’d be getting into before purchasing some of his products. That’s cool, isn’t it? Let’s see what he’s giving away.
  • Hey, Olly, where’s my free stuff?
    If you want to get a very useful free ebook, visit I Will Teach You A Language and hit “Get Started” in the box you’ll see straight away (like the one below). After that, enter your details and the language you’re learning and off you go! You’ll then gain access to his free ebook, “10 Essential Tech Resources for Smart Language Learners”.

6. Actual Fluency

  • What is Actual Fluency?
    The person behind Actual Fluency is Kris Broholm, a polyglot on a mission to learn 10 languages in 10 years. Kris blogs regularly and records cool podcasts either on his own or with other learners or polyglots. He also has a resources page with links to handy stuff when it comes to learning a language.
  • What can I get for free at Actual Fluency?
    At Actual Fluency, you can get a free ebook entitled “Polyglot Beginnings”, which can help you a lot to develop “the right mindset for learning a new language”, as the cover reads. Simply go to Actual Fluency‘s email club and enter your email. By doing so you’ll be subscribing to Kris’ newsletter and gaining access to his free ebook, where he gives you an insight into what learning a language really means, as well as a range of excellent tips and tricks.

7. The Everyday Language Learner

  • Who is “The Everyday Language Learner”?
    The creator of this site is Aaron Myers, a language learner and traveller who blogs and creates courses for language learners like himself. As he claims on his site, Aaron wants to “help you have more fun learning a language”, which is very nice of him, really.
  • Ok, I’m an everyday language learner, so where’s my free stuff?
    If you want to claim your freebies, simply go to Everyday Language Guides (a different site which also belongs to Aaron), and click on “EDLL Guides”. If you scroll down, you’ll see his premium products and services, but you’ll also get to a couple of free resources; “Sustaining: Your Guide to Sticking with It”, about sustaining language learning motivation, and “The Ten Week Journey”, a free email course “designed to walk you into the life of a successful language learner”. While for the second one you’ll need to sign up for EDLL’s newsletter, you can download the former straight away. Isn’t it cool?

UPDATE 5/7/16: the link above seems to be temporarily unavailable. In the meantime, you can try to find the guides through the home page here.


There you go, 7 sites where you can get free stuff to maximise language learning without paying through the nose. I’m sure there are hundreds of similar sites that offer free, quality resources, too, so if you know more, please let us know in the comments below. And remember to download uTandem right now (iOS or Android) and practise your favourite language with other awesome native speakers like yourself for free. Oh, and don’t forget to leave a review on the App Store and Google Play! 🙂

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The Crazy Little Story of the Words “FUCK” and “OKAY”

Yeah, guys, the origin of ok is shady as fuck. Sorry, I meant “as shady as  the origin  of fuck“. Guess I’m feeling a little naughty sleepy today. But really, ok and fuck are probably among the most used words in the English language and, funnily enough, in other languages, too, especially ok. And isn’t it weird that there isn’t any definite proof of where they come from? Isn’t that a little disturbing? To me it is disturbing as fuck hell! So let’s take a look at the most common theories.

OK

The term OK, aka okay or ok, became popular in the United States in the 19th century, and since then, there have been numerous attempts at explaining where it comes from. Some of these explanations, yet appealing and entrancing, go a little too far, while others are simply too unlikely to be true.

One of the most famous ones is that which claims OK actually meant “zero killed”, as in “0K”. It is said that American Civil War soldiers carried signs with “0K” when no one had been killed during a battle. Yeah, I know, it’s strange not to have any casualties during a battle, but this account of the origin of OK is still one of the most widespread.

Another couple of cool explanations going around are the ones that suggest that OK comes from the Greek expression “ola kala”, meaning “it is good”; or from the Choctaw Indian word “okeh”, which means “it is so”. However, it happens that it is much simpler and dumber than that, as it is explained by Oxford Dictionaries (don’t forget to activate the subtitles if you need them!):

So it turns out we’ve been and still are using a word dozens of times a day because of a “jokey misspelling”? As it happens, OK actually comes from an intended misspelling of the expression “all correct”, spelled as “orl korrect”, which was then used as OK during a US presidential campaign. God, my life’s ruined! I have lost all faith in humanity…

In case you’re interested, Wikipedia has a list of proposed etymologies of OK, which only goes to show how much playful thought has been put into this matter.

FUCK

Now, here’s another word with an interesting background. Though not quite as ubiquitous as OK, the F-word  is definitely a close runner-up, as it’s used in so many contexts and has quite a few meanings of its own. And in the same way as OKfuck has made quite a name for itself as regards its origin.

The wackiest and most popular explanation of the birth of this word is the one that claims that FUCK, or rather F.U.C.K., actually meant “Fornication Under Consent of the King”. Oh, come on! As if having sex was forbidden unless you had the king’s permission! Or was it?! I don’t know, maybe it was; stranger things have happened. But hey, I can’t imagine a medieval king signing off petitions to fuck. Besides, on what basis would he decide where a couple were fit to fornicate? Anyways, as I said, quite a wacky one here. This time, the truth is probably less exciting.

It turns out that, most likely, as Jesse Sheidlower claims, the word fuck and its dirty meaning made its way into the English language in the 15th century. Apparently, it did exist in English before that, but meant “hit”. It probably arrived into English from a language like Low German, Frisian or Dutch. Mr Sheidlower, lexicographer and former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, has dedicated an entire book to the F-word, so he must really know what he’s talking about, although nothing seems absolutely certain. Also, if you’re into this topic, the origin of this word, I mean, you might also want to read this great post.

So there you go; can’t go to bed without learning something new, can you? If you’ve heard about other possible or funny origins of these two words, we’d be happy to hear in the comments! In the meantime, you can go asking other native speakers what they know about these words when you do some language exchange with them. Download uTandem right now (iOS or Android) and practise your favourite language with other awesome native speakers like yourself. Oh, and don’t forget to leave a review on the App Store and Google Play! 🙂

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10 Killer Tips To Boost Your Listening Skills (2)

If you’re reading this post, don’t miss the first part, where I talk about speech shadowing, subtitles and other strategies that will boost your listening skills.

But where were we? Oh, yeah! Listening, listening, listening… poor language learners, always struggling with our listening skills. Well, worry no more, as in this post, I ‘m bringing you another 5 tips that will make listening the least of your concerns when learning a foreign language.

1. Guessing

Guessing can sometimes be just as important as actually listening. But before I say more, you should know that there are two processes by which we usually listen; top-down and bottom-up processes. The first is when we make use of all our knowledge of the topic and the context in order to decipher a message. The second means that we are paying specific attention to the individual sounds or words so as to decipher the message. These two processes often take part simultaneously, but in this case we’ll focus on guessing, which is a top-down strategy. For a better understanding of what I’m talking about, let’s see what teachingenglish.co.uk say about this:

Think about talking to your friends (in your first language) in a noisy bar. It is likely that you ‘guess’ the content of large sections of the conversation, based on your knowledge of the topic and what has already been said.

From the quote above, you see how important it can be to bring your own knowledge to the listening process. For this reason, trying to guess what you’re about to hear is essential. Many times we do this unconsciously, but I recommend that, when working on your listening skills, you do it being fully aware of it. For instance, if you’re going to listen to a podcast about mobile phones, try to come up with words related to phones and technology. Think of it as preparing yourself to attend a lecture or a conference. You’ll only make the most of it if you prepare beforehand.

2. Perseverance

When learning or studying, whatever the subject is, being tenacious and perseverant is crucial. Take into account that our progress will gradually disappear if we stop.

You must think about your listening skills as you do about your fitness. If you exercise regularly, you’ll keep fit. If you exercise regularly and push your limits a little, you’ll get fitter. But if you stop exercising your fitness will start to diminish, and the longer you remain idle, the more fitness you’ll lose. It’s as simple as that with languages. If you want to keep your language skills sharp, don’t forget about them! And this applies to listening.

3. Be positive

Your attitude towards learning is essential, too. Psychologists and educators have already proven how important motivation is as regards learning processes. And, although having a positive attitude does not necessarily mean that you are motivated, it can be decisive, as it will prevent you from losing your motivation the first time to come up against a brick wall. A positive mindset will help you gather yourself every time you hit an obstacle, and will make you find the strength and motivation to overcome it. It will stop you from giving up and will eventually make you reach your goals. Besides, it’s crucial to know how to keep up that motivation and positive attitude.

4. Immersion and exposure

Have you ever heard the following sentence? “If you want to learn a language, go abroad!” I’m sure you have and, well, there’s some truth in it. While going abroad is certainly not the only effective way to learn a language, it is certainly worth considering. Going abroad is so effective because you find yourself immersed in the language, the culture, the society, etc. Consequently, you are forced to read, write, listen and speak the foreign language 24/7, which is great.

However, not all of us want or can afford to go abroad for a prolonged period of time. For this reason, you can try to simulate this immersion in your own country. It probably won’t be as effective, but it will help you a great deal. In order to do that, you have to expose yourself to as much foreign language as possible doing everything in that language: listen to music, to the radio, to podcasts, read, write, talk, etc. The more input and practice you get, the better and more effective your learning will be. No doubt this will have a tremendous impact on your listening skills, too!

5. Target your weaknesses

When talking about listening, we can’t really use the words “mistakes”, “errors” or “typos”, but we can talk about “weaknesses”. We could define a weakness in our listening skills as a particular subject, field, accent, word or structure that we find difficult to understand. For this reason, we must identify our weaknesses and tackle them! If we do that, we won’t have the same problem the next time we come across that particular language feature.

It’s like keeping a list of words we usually misspell. If you keep the list and go over it from time to time, you’ll probably stop misspelling those words quite soon. The same happens with listening.

Remember that, in order to boost your oral skills, listening and speaking, there’s nothing better than using these strategies coupled with language exchange. You just need to download uTandem and start meeting up with new people to practise your favourite language.

If you thought this post was useful, don’t forget to share it. And if you have any questions, write us a comment!

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10 Killer Tips To Boost Your Listening Skills (1)

I can’t understand a word!, Je ne comprends rien!, Ich verstehe gar nichts!, ¡No entiendo nada!

If you’re a language student, you’re probably too used to saying these frustrating words. In fact, you may even think that listening’s the worst! But that doesn’t have to be so. Listening is one of the 4 main language skills, the other three being reading, writing and speaking. However, it is a widely held belief among language learners that oral skills (listening and speaking) are far more difficult to develop than written ones (reading and writing). But that is not necessarily true; the problem is that, in general terms, listening and speaking skills are usually yet unintentionally disregarded. And I say “unintentionally” because, well, it’s not always learners’ fault that they don’t get enough listening or speaking practice; the main problem is that there is less material readily available to boost our oral skills. For this reason, learners’ knowledge of how to work on their oral skills can sometimes be scarce, too. So in this post, I am going to give you 5 killer tips on how to improve your listening skills dramatically, and this is only the first part of the post! 🙂

1. Subtitles / Lyrics / Transcripts

One of the main problems with listening is that oral communication does not play by the same rules as written communication; there’s no visible spelling, no spaces, no rigid word or sentence order, words within phrases may sound different, etc. And all this just makes it harder for learners to understand the foreign language. For this reason, it is absolutely essential to build a link between the unpredictability of oral language and its predictable written form, which is something we can more easily control. This link may come in the form of subtitles, lyrics or transcripts.

If you enjoy watching original version films or series, use subtitles. Of course, these must be in the foreign language you’re learning. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be bridging the gap between the sounds and their written form. Reading and listening to a word at the same time will help you to recognise the words the next time you hear them. This is exactly the same when talking about learning a foreign language with songs and their lyrics, or reading and listening to the transcript of a particular listening activity. They are all great ways to build links between oral and written language.

2. Combine Listening with Reading, Writing or Speaking

Listening, on its own, is probably not the best way to improve our listening skills, ironic though this may sound. The thing is that, if you think about it, in real life situations we don’t normally just listen. Language skills tend to happen in combination, especially so oral skills; we probably do most of our listening when we’re talking to someone, or watching TV. So the thing is that, if you want to improve your listening skills, don’t just limit yourself to listening. Go further, try to make it as natural an activity as possible, try to simulate real-life situations when working on your listening skills. Let me give you some examples:

  • Listening + writing: take a language learning podcast and listen to it. However, don’t just listen, try taking notes while you’re listening to the podcast. This would be like taking notes in class.
  • Listening + reading: get a graded reader with an audio narration. As I mentioned in the previous section, reading while listening to something is a great way of becoming familiar with the sound of a spoken language.
  • Listening + speaking: there are many ways to do this, but the one I usually recommend is to go on language exchange sessions. The benefits of language exchange are many, but in this case, it’s enough to say that you will be exposed to naturally spoken language while you have the chance to practise your speaking skills, too.

3. Inward and Outward Repetition

Repetition, whether we like it or not, is an extremely important aspect of language learning. Repetition, if implemented appropriately, can change a lot. But there are different ways in which we can use it, and here’s two of them:

  • Inward repetition: Do you ever talk to yourself? Do you ever have conversations in your head? That’s what the word “inward” refers to; something that happens within ourselves, in this case, in our minds. So why would inward repetition be useful for our listening skills? Well, the simple fact that you are imagining how a word sounds is enough to be beneficial for your oral skills, both speaking and listening.
  • Outward repetition: If you repeat a word, phrase or sentence out loud, you are repeating it outwardly. And this, as you may have guessed already, is very important. Firstly, you’re becoming accustomed to how something sounds; and secondly, you are building a relationship between what that word sounds like in your head and what it feels and sounds like when pronouncing it. This is absolutely essential and extremely effective.

I know that repeating can seem a little boring or make you look crazy if there are people around, but you can do it for short periods and only when you’re alone. Also, you already know that repetition is key to learn and retain new vocabulary!

4. Speech Shadowing

Speech shadowing is a technique in which a person repeats something immediately after listening to it, and continues to do so until the end of the speech stream. So imagine you’re listening to the radio and start repeating what you’re hearing while you carry on listening; that is speech shadowing.

Now, speech shadowing is no joke. It’s not something you’re going to be able to do straight away, but it is really effective. The thing is that if you want to take full advantage of it, you’ll have to start with something adapted to your level and always work on it thoroughly. You can start by reading the transcript in silence, then aloud at the same time, and only move on to speech shadowing once you are familiar with the speech and its pronunciation. This will no doubt have a dramatic impact on both your listening and speaking skills. If you still don’t believe me, you can read how Arizio Sweeting, a Cambridge English Oral Examiner, practises it with his students.

5. Topic Diversity

This is not really a technique to improve your listening, but a fact that you should bear in mind at all times. Whether we like it or not, in real life we’re going to be exposed to different types of language, areas of vocabulary, language registers and so on. For this reason, the sources we use to improve our listening must be as varied as possible. I mean, we’ll always be more inclined to use topics we enjoy, and this is perfectly fine as long as we don’t focus only on those topics. If you’re passionate about education and only listen to podcasts about education, you will improve your listening skills, but you will miss out on the vocabulary and grammatical structures typically used in other areas. For this reason, when you come across those areas, you might find it harder to understand even if you have sharp listening skills.


What do you think about these 5 tips? Do you use other useful ones? If so, let us know in the comments. Keep tuned and subscribe for the second part of this post next week!

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Reading: 7 Reasons Why You Must Read More

Most teachers, or at least language teachers, will have told you throughout your whole student life that reading is an essential part of learning a language, or learning anything, for that matter. As a student, you might have nodded carelessly and forgotten all about it the second you stepped out of the classroom. You might have even thought “who’s got the time for reading?”, or “I can’t understand anything in another language!”. But hey! what you don’t realise is how effective reading is for learning a foreign language or even for improving your own.Maybe you could spend less time memorising lists of vocabulary and more time reading, and if you think you can’t understand a word of the book, you should try a graded reader which suits your level. I can assure you there are tons of great graded readers out there for you to make use of. If you’re still not convinced, take a look at the seven benefits below and you’ll see how awesome reading can be!

1. Reading is fun

Watching a film, a series, or playing video games can be fun, right? Well, reading can be awesome, too! You simply need to find the right story or topic and start reading. If you’re not sure what to read, just ask some friends or go online to find out what a particular book is about. If you enjoy what you are reading, you are far more likely to learn from it. And once you get hooked on a particular story, you’ll see how hard it is to put the book down for a while when you have to do other apparently unimportant things like… I dunno…. eating!?!

2. Global Learning

Every single sentence you read contains and conveys a message. Imagine reading a whole book full of chapters, paragraphs and sentences; or reading an article on a subject you are passionate about! You will be amazed at the amount of things you’ll learn about the world or about specific topics. Imagine you’re learning English; if you like science, why not go on to a site like IFL Science and read about what’s going on in the scientific world. Or if you like current affairs, why not check out The Atlantic or an English language newspaper? Also, there are great English learning magazines you can subscribe to, like Yes Magazine or Speak Up. They usually publish awesome articles about a range of topics and they are adapted for learners to make the most of them. Go check ’em out if you’re learning English! If not, look for interesting reading sources in the language you’re learning, as I’m sure there must be tons! In fact, if you already know some, why don’t you write a comment below and let us know all about them?

3. Integrated Communicative Skills

Reading is what linguists and teachers call a “receptive written skill”; that is, a skill which involves the reception of language in written form. However, you should know that the benefits of any language skill are not limited to that specific skill, but extend to others. For instance, when reading you can improve the following skills, among many others:

  • Writing: apart from writing, reading is the best way to learn how to write. There’s probably not a single writer who isn’t an avid reader! By reading, you learn different ways of expressing yourself, various writing styles, specific writing formulas, etc. In fact, according to the guys over at Grammarly, copying, or rather imitating, is a great way to improve your writing.
  • Language in use: the input of language you receive has a huge impact on how you yourself use a language. This affects your grammar skills, your vocabulary, etc. If you are studying for a Cambridge English exam, reading can save you from flunking the Use of English section. How else do you think you will become familiar with all the different prepositions and idioms if not from listening or reading?
  • Spelling: the language input is also widely responsible for your spelling skills, especially if it’s a language like English, given how irregular it can seem to be. Double consonants, silent consonants, consonant clusters, etc., will become a lot easier to remember if you read them often. Notice that repetitive exposure to a particular word or combination of letters will help you memorise everything better.

Besides improving language skills, reading will also affect your social skills, as it will give you a lot more to talk about with friends and family! 😉

4. Mother Tongue

It has long been proven that reading in a foreign language will increase the knowledge of your own first language. Imagine you come across a word that you don’t understand and you check it out in the dictionary or translator. You may find out you didn’t know the word in your own language. How cool is that!? Read one word, learn one free! Besides, reading in a foreign language can make you realise how words are phrased, or the structure that sentences follow, which can help you identify similarities or differences between your language and the target language. On a personal level, I must say that teaching/learning English has helped me understand Spanish grammar far better than studying it in high school (despite my teachers’ great efforts!).

5. Relaxation

So you’ve had a rough day at the office, or had an argument with your partner and need to clear your mind a little. Sometimes it’s impossible to do so without a little help, so grab a book and start reading. I promise you will easily keep your thoughts away from the problems you might have. In fact, after a while reading, you will probably see everything with a little more perspective, you know? So you’ll be in a better situation to make decisions once you have cooled down a bit. And even if you haven’t had a rough day, but you still want to put your mind at ease, pick a book and chillax in your favourite armchair. It’s fun and relaxing! In fact, I love to readlax! (Yeah, okay, I just made up that word… xD)

6. Your Brain

In the same way that reading improves your communication skills, it will certainly boost a series of brain skills as well. The simple fact of following a plot or an idea that is developed throughout an article helps you get your analytical skills going. Similarly, sitting down and focusing your attention on a piece of writing for a certain period of time will obviously work on your concentration skills. In my case, for instance, after taking up fiction reading when I was given an e-book for Christmas 2014, I have realised that I can now read relatively well even when the environment is not particularly suitable, like when the TV is on, or when there are people talking around me, and so on. And finally, well, this might seem obvious but it’s still worth mentioning: reading improves your memory. As simple as that! And this clearly has a lot to do with what I mentioned earlier about spelling and vocabulary.

7. It’s (almost) free!

Yes, it’s true! Reading, just like language exchange sessions, is cheap, probably as cheap as it gets. It is true that getting a brand new bestseller at your local bookshop might seem a little expensive, as they can go for over 20€. But think about the hours you spend reading a book. If you work it out, you’ll probably end up paying less than a euro per reading hour. Isn’t that great? On the other hand, there are certainly cheaper ways of getting hold of books. You have e-formats (.epub, .mobi, etc.) for e-readers like Kindle and so on. Purchasing electronic formats is a lot cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Also, books that were published over a number of years ago are free to download. These include awesome classics. Finally, there are second-hand stores which sell paperbacks for next to nothing. If you find yourself in a country like the UK, you can go into what we call charity shops, where there are usually a range of books that you can buy at a bargain.

So what are you waiting for? Reading is fun, it fosters your communication skills, helps your brain function better, and it’s virtually free. You name one leisure activity that is as wholesome as reading… name it! See? You can’t!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, share it with your friends and subscribe. And if you’re reading something at the moment, leave us a comment with the title of the book or whatever it is you’re reading. We’d love to know!

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Language Exchange: 12 Great Benefits

Nowadays, many language learners are talking about language exchange. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this topic, language exchange, also called language learning tandem, is a way of learning languages in which two people (language partners) with different mother tongues meet to teach each other their own language. So if you speak Spanish and want to learn English, you would meet with someone who speaks English and wants to learn Spanish. Ideally, during the language exchange, you would spend some time speaking Spanish and some speaking English. Although you can do other things besides speaking, the essence of language exchange lies within the oral practice. So now we’re going to see 12 cool benefits of language exchange. I’m sure there are some that you hadn’t even thought of!

1. Oral practice

As I mentioned in the introduction, oral practice is probably one of the most acclaimed benefits of language exchange. Normally, when two people meet to have a language exchange session, they meet at a café, bar, restaurant, or even a park. For this reason, the easiest thing to do is to speak. Besides, the most difficult skill to improve is probably speaking. This is due to several reasons; for instance, it’s not easy to find someone who speaks the language you want to learn. Also, it’s a skill that requires a great deal of practice if you want to sound natural, and it’s a skill that requires someone else to speak to! I mean, you can perform monologues at home, but that’s not real communication, is it?

Well, the easiest way to overcome these problems is language exchange sessions.

2. Individual attention

There are times when one does not feel comfortable with learning a language surrounded by other people whom we don’t know well. This can happen in a language school, for instance. While learning within a group has many advantages, sometimes we can feel uncomfortable or that we need more attention from the teacher in order to improve faster.

Most language exchanges take place on a one-on-one basis, which is great if you feel you need individual attention of your own. This way, the other person can focus only on what you have to say and how you say it, rather than switching from one person to another as a teacher would have to do.

3. Instant feedback

One of the best things about language exchange sessions is that you know if you’re doing well or not. The good thing about having a native speaker in front of you with you to speak is that he or she will know instantly if you’re making mistakes, and will know a correct alternative to teach you. Besides, one of the things everyone asks themselves when learning a language is “Will native speakers understand me?”. Well, a language exchange session is enough to answer this question! Get instant feedback.

4. Live practice

Traditional learning can be great, but it certainly has its drawbacks. When we hear the words “learning” or “studying”, we see ourselves in a classroom or at home, sitting at our desks with open books in front of us, trying to memorise endless lists of concepts. There’s nothing wrong with that unless that’s the only way you do it. In a language exchange session, you can forget about books and about drilling concepts into your brain. During a language learning tandem, you and your partner are there in the flesh, to practice live, there and then. There’s no exam to take and no pressure to study; simply you and your partner. Isn’t it great?

5. Natural practice

When you study at home or in school, unfortunately, everything seems to be a simulation of real-life events. At times, this makes learning less natural and more artificial. With language exchange, this doesn’t have to happen. You are actually talking to someone, not role-playing or acting. Being live practice means that you benefit from natural situations, from real settings, from natural conversations that you would have with a real person in a real setting.

6. Real language practice

While learning from books can also have many advantages, in order to learn a language effectively, you need to be in touch with the real language, which can differ greatly from textbook language. Many proficient speakers of foreign languages often mention how difficult it was for them to understand people the first time they spoke to someone in real life, even though they were already advanced learners. This is completely normal and is owed to the fact that textbook language is usually “ideal” or “utopic”; there’s no background noise, no strong regional accents, there are instructions, etc. With language exchange, you can cut straight to the chase and be in touch with real language all the time, as you will meet with a native speaker of the language you are learning. This will make it easier for you to travel and understand people better.

Moreover, when meeting with a native speaker, you will be able to learn really up-to-date, idiomatic expressions. This means that you will learn words that don’t appear in textbooks; this can be because textbooks are not fully updated or because those expressions are slightly inappropriate, which doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth learning!

7. Real meaningful topics

We keep coming back to how real language exchange sessions can be. Aren’t you fed up with talking about “protecting the environment”, “outdoor activities”, “endangered animals”, “technology and the Internet”, etc. Why not talk about the latest war conflicts around the world, or about the upcoming elections in your country? Why not talk about your plans for this year, or about the latest gossip involving worldwide celebrities? Language exchange allows you to pick and choose what you want to talk about and it doesn’t have to be the good old textbook topic. Be yourself and speak about meaningful things!

8. Flexible location

One of the best things about language exchange is that you can choose where to hold the session. Do you feel like going to a café? Go for it! Are you in the mood for a little bit of sunshine while you chatting in a different language? Sure! You name the place and arrange it with your language exchange partner. It’s just perfect. By changing the place, you can also change what you are learning. Maybe you’d like to learn to order a meal in a bar; well, go to bar and practice! Want to learn some vocabulary of the city? Go for a walk with your partner and ask him or her whatever you want to know.

9. Meet new people

If there’s something that makes language exchange special, apart from all the previous advantages (duh!), is the chance to meet new people. This is especially true when our friends have moved elsewhere or we have, and we’re finding it hard to make new ones. Why not meet someone completely new for a coffee while you learn your favourite foreign language? You’re bound to find someone who you share interests with and with whom you like spending time. You may just find a language partner for life! Who knows? You may even find the love of your life and have bilingual or trilingual children! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and simply remember that language exchange sessions are great to meet great new people!

10. Dynamic activities

Learning a language doesn’t have to happen always in a classroom, with a teacher, a textbook and some classmates sitting next to you. If you set up your own language exchange session, you can plan fun things to do while you practise the language.  Why not go for a walk with your dog and your language partner? How about going to a bar with your partner to watch a sports game? There are endless possibilities, seriously. Simply think about how, what and where you’d like to meet up, and discuss it with your exchange partner.

Learning a language in a genuine context doing real-life activities is probably the most authentic way to learn a language.

11. Group practice

Up to now, we’ve been talking about language partner as in one person, but maybe you and your potential language partner have friends who would also like to learn a language. If so, go ahead and set up a group exchange. This might reduce the stress of meeting someone new for the first time, and 4 or 5 heads will probably come up with more conversation topics than just the 2.

The idea of group practice also affects some of the advantages mentioned above. For instance, you could set up a language exchange session while playing a board game with a group of people, and you will meet more people at the same time, which can be truly positive for your social life, don’t you think?

12. Language exchange sessions are FREE

Last but definitely not least, as we mentioned in a previous post, language exchange can be completely free. Yes, that’s right, no money at all involved. I mean, you can decide to have the exchange in a café, bar, restaurant or somewhere else, but you don’t literally have to. So if you’re running low on cash, simply make sure you meet your language partner somewhere you don’t need to pay for anything. So remember, lack of money does not stop you from learning a new language, so don’t make it an excuse!

If you’re still not convinced about the benefits of language exchange, well, that’s impossible, so nevermind! If you liked this post, don’t forget comment and share. And if you have any questions, ask them below!

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5 Reasons Why uTandem Is For You

uTandem connects you with people around you, people who speak other languages and who want to learn your language. Pretty simple, right? So what makes uTandem so special? Why should you connect with people around you using uTandem? Let’s see why.

1. Learn another language with uTandem

Knowing a foreign language is so important that it is difficult to explain it in one single sentence. Career advancement, academic development, personal challenge, travel or pleasure are only some of the reasons. The best way to summarize it is probably this:

 

If you want those doors to start opening, start using uTandem. You will be able to learn any language you want. You simply have to choose it on your app and connect with someone who speaks it. As simple as that.

2. No boundaries

uTandem is a worldwide service. Are you on a business trip in the UK and have some time to practice your French skills? Go for it! Turn on your app and connect with someone near you who speaks French.

3. Access to language professionals

Wherever you are, there will be language schools, academies and teachers waiting for language learners like you. With uTandem you can connect with these professionals immediately. You can even receive notifications with information about their lessons, courses and other events. So if you ever want to receive some professional help, you can choose from a wide range of options near you.

4. Socialize

With uTandem you will meet people from various backgrounds, countries and cultures. You will not only learn a language, but you’ll learn about its culture and people too! Besides, you can choose different ways to do it:  chatting on the app, alone with the other person while you grab a coffee in a quiet café, or you can choose a more exciting setting. As an app user,  you will receive notifications from bars, pubs, cafeterias and other hotspots which are organizing events for people who want to practice a foreign language. You will be informed of every language exchange event taking place in your area. Don’t miss them!

5. It’s free

Oh yeah! I almost forgot to mention. It’s completely free. You simply register and start learning another language. No charge for helping you learn a new language. How good is that?

So what are you waiting for?

Do uTandem?

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5 Essential Objects For Every Language Exchange Session

Whenever we go on a language exchange session with a language partner, we wonder what he/she will be like (if he/she’s a new partner), if you two will get on well, if you’ll have enough things to talk about, if the language exchange session will run smoothly, if you’ll make too many mistakes for your partner to understand you, etc. Most of these problems are either completely irrelevant or unforeseeable. However, there is something that most language exchange partners seem to forget to consider, and that is what to take to a language exchange session. We tend to see a language exchange session as something that will boost our language learning immediately and without our having to worry about anything. But hey! Rome was not built in a day, was it? The same happens with language learning, it takes time, dedication and language learning tools! So in this post, I will talk about some objects (a.k.a “tools”) you should take to a language exchange session to ensure that you make the most of it. Let’s begin.

1. Pen & Paper

This one might seem obvious (or at least it should be!), but believe you me, not everyone does it. When you’re consciously learning a language, you need to write down things, take down notes. These may be words, phrases, tips, websites or mobile apps. Heck! You can even draw things to help you remember some of the things you’ve learnt throughout your language exchange session.

I mean, how else will you get to revise at home what you’ve learnt? Pen and paper can be replaced with a tablet or even a laptop. However, these might be a little inconvenient if you’re holding your exchange in a café, where your electronic device might be dangerously surrounded by all sorts of liquids. So if you’re afraid of this or if you’re simply more comfortable with old-school tools, go ahead and get a nice notebook and pen to take with you to the language exchange session.

2. Bilingual Dictionary

“Sorry, what? What did you say? Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”

It may happen, during language exchange, that a word or expression crops up which you simply don’t know or whose meaning is particularly special or difficult to understand. In these situations, a bilingual dictionary will help us out, providing a good equivalent in our own language. Nowadays, rather than carrying a bulky dictionary in your handbag or backpack, it is much better to download a reliable translator app. I personally love WordReference (both the app and the website), as it provides you with all the possible translations of one word, depending on the context in which you’ve heard it. So download this app right now and make sure you use it during your language exchange session.

3. Voice recorder

So you’re home and have some time to kill. You get your notebook (tip 1!) to revise the notes you took during your language exchange session and bam! You see this: “carrera universitaria” (provided you’re learning Spanish!). And you start repeating out loud “ca(r)e(r)a iuniViersiTia(r)ia”. Something is odd… something SOUNDS odd, until you realise it’s you messing up the pronunciation (no offence!). So how can you prevent this from happening? Well, easy! Take a voice recorder to your language exchange session. Okay, not everybody is a cool journalist with a voice recorder in their pocket, right? Nope, but you do have a smartphone, don’t you? Use it to record your partner’s pronunciation (with his/her permission!). So you can say, “do you mind saying that again so I can record it?” That way, you’ll be able to practise it again and again when you’re at home, revising.

4. Topic cards

If there’s something you should avoid during a language exchange session, that is awkward silences! Yeah, you know, when you and your language partner are simply staring at your hands or coffee, without knowing what the hell to talk about… Well, how can you tackle this tiny problem? Prepare your language exchange session beforehand! There are many things you can do, but a very simple thing to do in order to avoid awkward silences is to take question or topic cards with you. There are many you can download from the internet or, even better, you can create your own. For instance, imagine you want to work on your vocabulary about the natural environment. In that case, you can prepare a series of questions about it, like “Are there floods in your city every year?” or “Do you ever have acid rain where you come from?”. That way, you’ll get to practise that which you are interested in and you’ll make sure you don’t come across any horrible awkward silences.

5. Time-controlling device

Remember that a language exchange session is time that you have to share with your language partner. Don’t go ahead and think that you’re the only one there to learn a language; your partner also has the right! Or, if you think your partner is being a little selfish, taking advantage of your time, make sure you let him/her know before it’s too late and the language exchange is over!

The best way to avoid this is to set times for you two (or the group) to switch languages. For instance, during a 60-minute session, you might want to split it into 30/30, so you get a full half in each language, or you could switch languages every 15 minutes if you prefer. It’s completely up to you, but in any case, you need a time-controlling device, such as a watch or the clock on your phone. You could even use a stopwatch app.

Also, make sure you establish a timetable with your partner at the beginning of the session. By doing so, you make sure it’s not uncomfortable to let your partner know that their target language time is up!

Make sure you don’t forget any of these objects when you arrange a language exchange session with someone. I can assure you that they will truly make a difference to your experience and to your language learning process in general.

If you enjoyed this post and found these tips useful, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and to share it with your friends and other language learners.

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