How To Turn FaceBook Into The Language Learning Machine

If you had asked me a few months ago how I feel about Facebook, I would have said that it’s probably the biggest time-eater in the world. However, within the last few weeks, I changed my mind quite drastically.

Believe it or not, but know I think it’s one of the best language learning tools in the world. Make yourself comfortable my friend – you’re in for the story.

Facebook, or There and Back Again

 

There
So  About 4 years ago I was a full-blown Facebook junkie. I had to get my fix at least a few times a day. My hands would shake if I couldn’t. “I need more cat picture! I need more updates from friends! I need more of everything. Gimme! Arghhh!” So yeah, it was bad.

After some pondering and a lot of hesitation, I finally deleted it. The last straw for me was seeing a picture of my friend’s dinner with the following comment – “Yum, yum”.

I was a broken man. Rehab was excruciatingly hard for first 3 weeks. But soon thereafter my world became more peaceful. I felt less anxious and overwhelmed. The sun was shining brighter. And so on.

And back again
But I CAME BACK. I felt dirty. As if I was treading on everything I value. At least this time, I knew my time was under control because of the software I use to block the time-sucking websites.

Being a relative optimist, I decided to look at the bright side of my Facebook presence. I started participating in the language groups. I also refreshed contacts with some of the old friends.

Again In The Comfort Zone

 

At about the same time I was bothered by the fact that I don’t read enough. In other languages that is. I tallied up that per average I read between 300-1000 pages per week.

Sadly, over 95% of all the things I read is in English. What a wasted opportunity! I could be learning so many other languages if only I started reading in them. I knew that it had to change.

So I started with the question.

Why am I reading so much in English?

The answer came right away – because it’s convenient. Because it’s so damn convenient. I’ve subscribed to newsletters of over 15 websites. All in English. They come straight to my e-mail box. No effort whatsoever is required from my side.

What’s more, I read English books because

  • a) there are more of them than in any other language I know
  • b) because I got stuck in my comfort zone

Does it ring a bell? Do you find yourself consuming most of the media in just one language?
Then read on!

I knew that the first thing I had to do was to minimize the required amount of energy to take action.

Minimizing The Energy Required To Take Action

 

Minimize The Energy

Let’s say that you want to take up running.

You promise yourself that you’ll do it 3-4 times per week for at least 20 minutes (a great example of a SMART goal!

Noble thought, my friend! However, it seems that no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get a grip on yourself. Every morning you have to look at yourself in the mirror with disappointment in your eyes.

You really do want to do it. It’s no lie. But you’re tired. Or it’s too cold. Or can’t find your shoes. Or don’t know where you’d like to run. There are too many decisions you have to make before you go out for a run. That’s why it’s so hard to get off your butt.

Now imagine a different situation. This time, you’ve planned all the details beforehand.

What’s more, you go to bed with your track-suit on and leave your sneakers by the bed.
That’s a commitment! As a result, the initial energy required to take action is drastically minimized.

Why Use Facebook For Language Learning?

 

  • 936 million daily active users on average (for March 2015)

It means that most of us use it almost every day.
That, in its turn, means that you have already developed a habit of using it.
For many of us, it’s almost like an addiction.

  • over 30 million companies with active pages

Posts and news in hundreds of languages are at your fingertips!

  • it’s convenient

Timeline provides you with a stream of never-ending pictures and posts.
The only thing you have to do is scroll down.

All these things make FB a perfect tool for language learning!

Now, the question is – how to do it?

Unfollow Most Of Your Contacts On FB

 

“Give me a break, do I really have to?!”

Of course, you don’t have to. I haven’t unfollowed ALL my friends. But I was merciless in weeding out people who appear on my Timeline. I didn’t do it randomly. It was a process aided by the following questions:

  • Am I interested in a life of this person?
  • Do I believe this person has something interesting to say?

I unfollowed every person who didn’t fit the criteria.
In fact, I unfollowed about 98% of people who are among my friends.

Tough Decisions

It was hard – believe me. There is always this treacherous voice at the back of my head.
“Come on! Don’t you wanna know what’s going on in X’s life?!” Yes, the voice of the ever convincing Fear Of Missing Out.

“Maybe it’s right. Maybe I’ll miss something important? What if the Ebola Zombies invade Europe and I won’t know it!”

What if …x?! What if …Y?

That’s a risk you and I have to take. The truth is that you are behind the life’s wheel and you’re choosing the direction. Do you really want to let all that fluff and bullcrap into your life?
How many cat pictures can you watch?

Do you really care how somebody’s baby looks like if you haven’t even called this person in a few years?

Be brutally honest with yourself and get down to work.

What If I Can’t Do It?

 

Ok, maybe you’re not ready yet. I don’t blame you. I know it was damn hard for me.

Luckily, there is the option no 2.

Register a new FaceBook account and use it exclusively for language learning. Although, it’s better to use your main FB account. You might be asking yourself now – why all the effort?

What’s the next step”?

Start Liking And Following Pages!

 

By now your Timeline should look, more or less, like a wasteland.
From now on, all the pages you like will start appearing on your main FB page!

Here are some ideas of the pages you might want to follow if nothing comes to your mind at the moment.

  • Newspapers

All the biggest newspapers have their FB pages. Choose the ones you’re interested in and follow them! They update their pages many times per day.

They will provide your Timeline with an ongoing flood of news.

  • Most popular FB pages in …

I like this method since usually, the biggest pages are also the ones which care deeply about the quality of posts they share. Google “most popular FB pages in x (e.g. Russia, Turkey)” to find them.

  • Random pages of interest

Use the FB search field and try to type in words like “jokes”, “productivity”. Of course in your target language!

This way your Timeline will be full of posts of all kinds.

This way, you’ll make sure that the language you take in is diversified enough to guarantee you continuous growth!

Here is a small snippet of my 2nd FB account which I use for reading French and Russian news.

 

Language learning machine

The Final Touch

 

You have come the long way, congratulations! There is just one more thing you can do to get the most out of using FB.

Change the default language settings to any language you’re learning. It’ll only be weird for a couple of days. After that, all the writings and words become normal, or even boring.

What’s more, you’ll see them many times per week.
Thanks to this, you’ll learn them in no time!

Now, I have a question for you – have you ever tried to change the default language settings of programmes and/or devices you use to learn a new language?

Let me know in the comments or via e-mail!

How To Get Your Reading Practice Done While Increasing Your General Knowledge

How to get your reading practice done

I guess that I didn’t take this one, crucial thing into consideration when I published my article about fun ways to read.

Some people have the short attention span or even add ADD. And it’s quite difficult to read anything with such a condition. Or to do anything for that matter. You know how it goes – halfway through an article tears come down to your eyes and your brain starts yelling

It’s like being drunk – you start with one activity (like reading), your mind goes blank and just a few moments later you realize that you’re arranging matches in the order of importance.

“How did I get here?”. And it happens to the best of us.

This video serves us as a grim reminder of our times.

The Solution

 

As you know Wikipedia is available in many languages. What you might not know that there is the magical link in the left top corner of the website which randomly chooses some Wiki page for you!

 

How to get your reading practice done

 

How AMAZING is that?!

I’m seriously addicted to browsing Wikipedia daily. And I hope you can get hooked on it as well. After all, there are not many beneficial addictions around, so don’t be picky!

Instructions are staggeringly simple:

1) change the language of the Wikipedia to your target language (in my case it’s often Spanish and French)
2) click this wonderful button
3) start reading

Advantages of this approach

 

It’s not a perfect solution (but is there really such a thing?!) but you have to appreciate the obvious advantages of this method

1) You get your daily reading practice done (duh!)

2) The reading material is diversified

3) If you get bored you can switch what you read within just a few seconds

4) You boost your creativity. It’s a great way to ensure the constant inflow of interesting information. Since creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, it’s a great way to improve your problem-solving skills

5) You increase your general knowledge. You’ll be shocked how many breath-taking things you can get to know in just 15 minutes per day. If you aim at being silver-tongued and well-rounded, it’s definitely the way to go!

Go ahead, give it a try! And let me know if you find something interesting!

 

How To Create Your Own Frequency List From any Text In Less Than 1 Minute

Create Your Own Frequency List

How often does it happen to you?

You start reading some article or book and within seconds you feel overwhelmed with vocabulary. Which words should you learn? ALL of them?

That’s a little daunting prospect, isn’t it? But good news everybody! You can create your own frequency list out of any text you want, and you can do it for free!

But first things first.

The main advantage of frequency lists

 

It helps you to use your time wisely. I know you have thousands of things to do.
That’s why you should be concentrating on the words which occur the most frequently.

Once you master the most useful vocabulary, you can focus your effort on learning less common words. Such strategy guarantees that you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the language much faster than usually.

To get you started, here is the link to frequency lists of over 40 languages:

Frequency Lists

Of course, be aware that there are always differences between frequency lists of spoken and written language.
You should always take it into consideration and adjust it to your goals

How to create your own frequency list in less than 1 minute

 

Yes, it’s really that simple. And you don’t have to know how to program to do this.
The name of the solution is Word Cloud.

There are countless uses of this tool but just a few days ago it dawned on me that it can be really useful in language learning. There are many websites of this kind which I’ll list at the end of this article but the one I like the most is ToCloud.com.

It presents words in a really clear way and it’s very user-friendly. Let’s take a look.

 

How To Create Your Own Frequency List

As you see, there aren’t many options and there is even a little question mark on the right in case you have any doubts.

Usually, the only thing you have to do is paste the url with the article into the Page field and that’s it! Alternatively, paste a text directly into the Text field.

The Result

 

I’ll use the article from Wiki titled Franklin’s Lost Expedition (give it a read!).  This is what you can see upon pasting:

 

Create Your Own Frequency List

 

All the words and phrases are presented in an orderly fashion – the ones which occur the most frequently are at the top and are accompanied by their frequencies.

If you’re an intermediate learner, I’d suggest creating such a list before reading an article and translating the most useful words. It’ll make your reading more pleasant and smoother!

Other websites of that kind

 

Now, if you prefer some websites which give you more options you should give these a try

It allows you to create tag clouds not only from URL links and plain text but also from Twitter ID, Del.icio.us, and RSS.

This website allows you to edit the layout, change the colors and arrange the words in a different manner.

In addition to creating a tag cloud from plain text and URL links the website allows you to upload a plain text file with the words to mention in the tag cloud.

That’s it! Have fun and please share this article with your friends if you find it useful!

 

A list of 13 embarrassing (and captivating) things you can read to take your language to next level

Embarrassing things to read

You know it, I know it, pretty much everybody knows it.

You should try reading more in your target language.

But it’s hard. It’s hard to force yourself to sit down and to do it. And that’s why 99% of articles suggest that you should read something which is interesting to you. And it’s a really great piece of advice. Seemingly, I mean.

 

Why? Because sometimes, even if you’re at an intermediate level, pure interest is not enough to pull you through an article. I love neuropsychology, physics, and statistics.

But reading about it with my bad French would be as fun as sticking needles in my back and pretending that I’m a hedgehog. So no, that’s not the way I start reading.

 

So how do I do it?

 

Well, the article’s title probably gives away a little bit about what I read. I start with things which I consider a huge waste of time. BUT only in the languages, I’m fluent in.

That’s why I prey on my most primitive instincts to keep myself focused on reading. I hope that this list will help with your studies. And please don’t judge me, I’m just a man!

1. COMIC BOOKS

 

Let’s be clear about one thing – I don’t consider comic books to be a waste of time! So go ahead, unleash your inner child!

Usually, the storyline and pictures make it a breeze to finish reading and keep you coming back for more! Here’s the website with free comic books in 9 languages (including English): Comicbookplus.com

2. BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

 

Because who doesn’t like dragons and fluffy stuff? The biggest website with free children books is: ChildrensLibrary.org

They have books in thousands of languages! Well, not really, but definitely in over 30 languages! And here’s the website with picture books: ChildrenBooksForever.com

3. SONG LYRICS

 

One of my favorite ways to learn. Emotions and melody create a powerful mix which makes reading really enjoyable. What’s more, lyrics are usually short so they don’t require a lot of attention.

Simply choose a band singing in your target language and google the title of the song + lyrics/text. It works for most of the languages. Of course for the languages which are more exotic, you might want to check the translation of “lyrics”.

4. COMMENTS

 

Most of the time I choose to read comments on Reddit, YouTube and below some interesting articles elsewhere. Usually, they are either quite witty or interesting which makes them really appealing.

5. GOSSIP

 

I personally hate any kind of gossip. It sucks time and energy right out of your life. But you can’t deny that as people, we’re generally nosy. That’s why I try to use this vice to my advantage and read gossip-related online magazines.

To find such websites try to google: “news about celebrities” or any word combination of that kind.

6. EROTIC STORIES

 

There. I said it! And I’m not going to explain to you why. You KNOW why. Google “erotic stories” in your target language. Nobody needs (and wants) to know…!

7. HARLEQUINS

 

Or any books of that kind. One of the guilty pleasures of women!

I’ve never tried to find such a thing but you can probably find a lot of such books and stories by googling “broken heart”, “mysterious lover”, etc. But hey! What do I know?

8. TWEETS

 

Just like comments, they are brief and (at least) try to be either funny or informative. Use Twitter Top 100 Most Followed website.

Then click “Global Top 100” and choose the country of your interest.

9. WEBSITES LIKE 9GaG.com

 

If you have never heard of http://9gag.com/  I want you to know that I don’t believe you!

I had been battling my addiction to this website for a long time before I had won! But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy such websites in other languages!

All the memes and cat pictures guarantee to keep you mesmerized and basically allow you to absorb all the phrases and words effortlessly.

The similar websites for languages other than English include:

 

10. GRUESOME STORIES

 

It’s not for everyone but I really enjoy them. Google “scary stories” in your target language.

Or start with this thread on Reddit “What’s the creepiest Wikipedia article you’ve ever read?” and change the language on Wikipedia to the one of your interest.

11. CONFESSIONS

 

Reading confessions online is probably a modern counterpart of going through somebody’s diary. To get you started, try to google the following phrases in your target language:

 

  • what’s the worst thing you have done
  • what ‘s the strangest thing you did in bed
  • what’s the stupidest thing you have ever done
  • what’s the most embarrassing …
  • my boyfriend/girlfriend cheated on me

12. COMPLAINING

 

In Poland, it’s almost a national tradition to complain about everything so I might be a little bit biased. Try to google the following phrases in your target language:

  • a list of the worst …
  • why I hate …
  • the worst …

13. SILLY WEBSITES / FORUMS

 

Take your pick – anything from conspiracy theories forums to camel spotting fan-clubs. The possible side effect of such reading exercises is coming to the conclusion that the human race is doomed.

 

 

What embarrassing things do you read which help you to stay focused? Let me know so I can create the ultimate “shameless reading list”!