Bilingual children at a cost of $40,000 per year per child.

A new school is starting up in New York that will immerse kids as young as 3 years old in a second language. The cost is $40,000 per year, per child. Ouch!! I have 5 grandchildren. Three of them attend French immersion. Another one has French and Latin at school, all public schools.

I also believe that if kids are allowed to read and listen to stories regularly, in another language, they will learn languages, or at least get enough familiarity with them so that when they are older they can learn, if they want to. That is available to all kids, not just those whose parents have lots of money to waste.

Learning Spanish in Argentina: Be prepared for change

I was approched by this Spanish language school about putting up a guest post about learning Spanish in Argentina. I agreed since I thought it was an interesting subject. I also don’t mind giving them some publcity. I am hoping that this can lead to further cooperation with them or with other language schools for LingQ.

They said would look at creating some Argentinian Spanish language content for LingQ. Here follows the guest post. Please note that these are not my words.

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?? ?? ??Argentina is one of the world???s most popular Spanish language learning destination. The combination of high quality Spanish schools, relatively cheap prices and inspiring culture (not to mention the best steak you???ll find anywhere in the world) means there???s many reasons to choose Argentina over other destinations. However, anyone booking their language trip to Argentina is likely to be warned of a few language pitfalls in Argentina both in pronunciation and grammar.

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Here???s Expanish Spanish School???s guide to the things to look out for???.

Accent and pronunciation

One of the first things people notice when they hop of the plane and arrive in Buenos Aires, is the Argentine accent. Some of the characteristics include?????

  1. Speed – Argentine???s tend to speak a fair bit faster than their Latin American neighbors, a challenge at first but the ear becomes accustomed fairly quickly??
  2. Lack of lisp – People who are familiar with Spanish from Spain will notice there is no lisp present in the Argentine accent
  3. Italian twang ??? Due to lots of Italian heritage (due to widespread immigration from Italy in the 1900s), Argentine Spanish sounds strangely a little bit Italian
  4. ???Sh???- One key thing that confuses first time visitors to Argentina is the pronunciation on double L (ll) and J. Instead of the ???y??? sound, Argentines pronounce them ???sh???. So ??como se llama???? would be pronounced ?????como se shama???? and ???Yo??? would be pronounced ???sho???. Sounds confusing but in reality, it doesn???t take long to get used to.

Grammar ??? vos the problem with t???

A little bit into their trip to Buenos Aires / Argentina, people will begin to pick up on another subtle difference???Argentine???s use of the informal second person singular pronoun as vos instead of t??. Vos is more or less the equivalent to ???thee??? in English, which can give you a nice Shakespearean twang, should you use it in Spain. But there???s good news. The conjugation of vos is actually simpler than t??, as there are no irregular verbs to deal with other than ser, which changes to sos instead of eres. For example:

  • Dormir: t?? duermes ???> vos dorm??s
  • Venir: t?? vienes ???> vos ven??s
  • Mostrar: t?? muestras ???> vos mostras
  • Ser: t?? eres ???> vos sos

Vos is used across the country, and it is perhaps the most noticeable difference to foreigners hearing it for the first time. However, Argentineans will accept t?? with only a mild sense of amusement. If you really want to fit in though, vos has to become your staple.

Slang -Time

Porte??os love their slang. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a sentence you don???t understand, don???t worry too much, it???s probably just a few made up words and with hand gestures constructed on a whim. There are over 650* unofficial words in regular use in Argentina, most of these circulating within Buenos Aires, with many more being created every time somebody mispronounces an actual word. However, here are some of the more popular ones that you may need to know:

  • Che ??? roughly used as ???hey!???, especially when Porte??os are angry.??
    • ?????Che! ??Dame mi dinero!???
  • Tacho – Taxi??
    • ?????Me voy, llamame un tacho!
  • Quilombo ??? A mess/disaster (literal translation is brothel, careful with this one)??
    • ?????Tu habitaci??n es un quilombo!???

*not in any way based on facts, do not quote me on this figure.

Other Useful Words

  • Strawberries ??? It???s frutilla. Not fresa, not Godzilla.
  • Peaches ??? It???s duraznos, not melocot??n.
  • Juice ??? It???s jugo. It???s definitely not zumo. And even that wouldn???t be with a lisp.
  • Computer ??? Computador. Much easier to use than an ordenador.
  • Potato ??? Papa ain???t your daddy, it???s a potato.
  • To take ??? Tomar. Por favor, no coges el bus. Hay mujeres y ni??os adentro.
  • Tortilla ??? The Mexican flatbread, not that whole Spanish omelet fiasco.
  • Nightclub ??? Boliche. Discoteca sounds lame.
  • Sandwich ??? Sandwich

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Meet up in China.

Any chance for a meet up in China with LingQers and language learners in general?

I will arrive in China late afternoon October 24. I will depart by high
speed train to Suzhou on Wednesday afternoon around 4 pm, arriving in
Suzhou around 9 pm. I will be in Shanghai on Thursday the 27, and in
Suzhou on Friday the 28th. I depart Suzhou early Saturday morning for
Shanghai airport and fly to Hong Kong. There is join a group of
Canadians involved with the forest industry and we will work our way
from Guangdong to Hangzhou to Shanghai. I will have less time the second
week.

Please let me know if there is any chance to meet up.

Learning words, word frequency, graded readers and more.

To me the major task in language learning is the acquisition of vocabulary. If this is done through massive listening and reading, it will naturally bring with it a constantly improving familiarity with the language, making it easier and easier to understand grammar explanations, and eventually making it possible to learn to express oneself in writing or orally. Vocabulary is the key, in my view. The more vocabulary we learn, the more we can acquire. In vocabulary, the rich get richer and the poor stay poor.

Michael Lewis, with his ???lexical approach??? was one of the early proponents of the primacy of vocabulary. Here is a good summary of this approach by David Overton. Lewis stresses the importance of chunks of language, groupings of words, collocations, that the native speaker naturally throws together. Lewis proposes increasing the learner???s awareness of these using exercises.

This is about the only place I disagree with Lewis. I prefer to read and listen, without any exercises. In my experience, when I start learning a language, I am more interested in individual words. I need them to make any sense of what I am reading. I need lots of words. I live with the fact that the combination of the words does not always make sense, that I do not always understand the colloquial phrases or chunks. I just keep reading and listening, until my overall familiarity with the vocabulary and the language reaches a point when I am able to start focusing on chunks, collocations, etc., culling or mining them from my reading and listening. At LingQ this means that I start saving more phrases. I am at that phase now in Czech. The saving or learning of chunks and collocations is particularly important in the transition to output from input, to active use from passive knowledge.

Another popular area of study relating to vocabulary acquisition is the issue of word frequency. It is often stated that we should focus on learning the most common 2,000 or so words of a language (English is usually the example used) since these account for 80% or so of most contexts. This is where graded readers are usually recommended.

Specialists in vocabulary acquisition like Paul Nation and Batia Laufer have calculated that you need 3,000 word families to feel even somewhat comfortable reading, and 5,000 to be comfortable in most situations. This is based on the assumption that you should be reading texts with 98% known words. Many learners like to read graded readers which use simplified language with a low percentage of uncommon words.

I am not a proponent of this approach past the very first month or so. I feel that in whatever I read I will encounter the most common words often enough to learn them. However, if I stick to only 2% new words I will take forever to build the vocabulary I need.

With online dictionaries, and other programs that assist with the acquisition of vocabulary, and with the availability of audio to help the struggling reader, I recommend that learners attack difficult texts as soon as possible. This was the approach of famous Hungarian polyglot Kato Lomb and I heartily agree.

When I import a text into LingQ from a Czech newspaper today, I usually find only about 15-20% new words. It was 60% when I started two months ago. I am reading and listening to Karel Capek???s delightful notes on a visit to England, and there are about 30% new words. But in both cases this includes a lot of names, so the actual number of new words is quite a bit less. I don???t know what my true vocabulary is in Czech but I would imagine it is 6-7000 words if not more. The LingQ system tells me that I know just under 16,000 words and have saved just under 13,000 words (LingQs). This is after two and a half months. If I were using graded readers I would have far fewer words at this point. I would probably be closer to being able to take part in a simple dialogue, however. But I am not motivated to do that. I will start talking in a few months when I am better able to understand the normal conversation of a native speaker, and for that I will need lots of words.

One last point is the distinction between word families and individual words. The words find, finds, finding, findings etc. are counted as four words at LingQ. According to Nation and Laufer, 3,000 word families is equivalent to 5,000 individual words in English, 5,000 equates to 8,000 and so on. In English a LingQ word count should be divided by 1.6. In other more inflected languages the LingQ count needs to be divided by more.

One more thing, if you would like to test your word level in English try this website.