The BEST Thing to Happen to Language Learning…Ever.

 

Lang-8

If you are on a journey to learn a new language and already speak one fluently…but have not tried Lang-8, then you are in for a revolution.  Debuting in 2007, Lang-8 took language learning to the highest, most user-friendly, international stratosphere (and that was three years ago!) …and it has never looked back.

  • The premise: Free Language Tutoring.
  • How: Users of Lang-8 (Infinite Languages) write journal entries in a foreign language. Then, other Lang-8 users who are native speakers of that language correct them.  In return, those users’ journal entries are corrected by other Lang-8 members.  What often happens is that 2 members who want to learn each others’ native language meet, and thereafter frequently correspond.  A simple way to bridge divides between nations, reduce miscommunication, and further world peace?  Its name is Lang-8. Continue reading
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South Korea Travel: Andong City

Forgive me for being a bit outside of my normal topic of language, but I thought it necessary to dispense some of my travel experience…

If you ever go to South Korea, check out the city of Andong.  If you ever go to Andong, heed my advice.  I traveled to there with weeks of preparation and phone calls under my belt…but of course~things went wrong.  Here is what I learned and what you must see if you are ever so fortunate as to have the opportunity to experience “The Capital of The Korean Spirit”:  Andong City.

Situated in the center of South Korea (and a bit to the East) is the city of Andong.

South Korea: Andong

How To: Get There

By no means impossible to get to, Andong’s recent popularity boom has made it quite accessible by both bus and train.  Though the train may be novel, the bus is most definitely the way to travel.  The bus is fast (1~3 hours faster), cheap (about 15,000won or roughly $12), and very comfortable thanks to its plush, wide seats.

Directions: Go to Dongbu Seoul Bus Terminal (on subway line 2)and from there hop on one of the Andong-bound buses that depart every 20 minutes.  This will take you right to the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal in the center of the city.

Distances to Attractions: WARNING!

Though advertised by their website as all easily accessible via the Andong Intercity Bus Terminal, DO NOT BE FOOLED!  Though every tourist site in the city is technically on one bus line or another, the locations are far and the buses are few.  Not knowing this, I was in for a real headache.   This is my only warning:  Planning your Andong trip with the idea of getting from place to place via bus will frustrate and exhaust you!

So, how do you resolve this problem?  Simple: Rent-a-Car**.  If I ever go back to Andong in the future, I will not think twice about this!  This is my one strong suggestion. Renting a car in Andong will save your mind, body, and soul as you come to realize the distances you must travel even by bus to get to some of the more amazing attractions.  **I have just been informed those in the business of renting out cars in Andong will not rent out to anyone without sufficient Korean language skills!!  Taxis may be the next best thing. **

The Amazing Attractions

1) Dosan Confucian Academy (Dosan Seowon)
2) Bongjeong Temple (봉정사)(鳳停寺)
3) Sinsedong Seven-Story Brick Pagoda
4) Jirye Artist Colony
5) Hahoe Village
6) Andong Folk Liquor: Soju Museum

When they say that Andong is the center of tradition and culture of Korea, they are not lying.  Within a one-hour radius of the center of the city are a dozen treasures (some literally are national treasures!) that are completely unique and breathtaking.  Here is a list of the places I went to see and can personally attest to their existence and worth. Continue reading

How to Teach English in Korea

There is nothing more deceptively challenging as teaching English.  I majored in Finance and Japanese and came to Corea to, among other things, discover the culture of a nation almost entirely unknown to nearly every American of Caucasian descent; to grow introspectively in patience and understanding in the scheme of the greater social structure of Corean society (primarily that which concerns life in Corean middle schools); to eat Corean food, and—most significantly—to spend time with my girlfriend of then one-and-a-half years and get to know her family, where she grew up, and (with a bit of luck) blossom together in a beautiful and meaningful relationship.  What I discovered was that teaching English in Corea, though on many levels a rewarding and enlightening experience, is a land laced with mines of depression and setbacks, frustrations and stress.  It is a process of self-discovery that needs the very best of one’s personal determination and a mind so free and empty so that all words and daily activities, all information of any kind, can simply pass through your consciousness without maiming it permanently.

Playing in a Stream

Playing in a Stream

When I was asked recently about motivation I realized that the topic and therefore problem of motivating students was one that actually dealt not with the students but with you, the teacher, and your own level of motivation.  Continue reading

New Video: Advanced ESL Middle School

Hello everyone!  I just wanted to post that I have added another video to my ESL Videos page (as well as to my YouTube page, NuevoKimochi).  It involves my after school students giving a speech about their new pet alien.  There are 8 students and each is just about as tired as a college student at the end of midterms but they manage to pull of a fantastic performance.  They prepped for 30minutes at the most (that includes drawing their alien and writing a short description) so please keep that in mind.



They are a pleasure to teach and always good sports about whatever I throw at them.  Finally, I am quite aware that I am still a novice when it comes to teaching so I am more than open to constructive criticism.

Until my next written post I am

Yours Truly,

~Dorian Wacquez

Language Exchange: Mutually Detrimental

Language Exchange

Language Exchange

Around the world and in almost every city there exist now places of gathering for verbal communication in a foreign language: Language Exchange.  In case you have not had the fortune of attending such a gathering (whether it be in Spanish, English, Japanese, German, French, etc.) allow me a minute to introduce to you the setting and the goals that drive these intercultural communication sessions. A language exchange is a gathering of two kinds of people: Those that can not speak the target language and those that can speak the target language–either because they are more advanced or because they are native speakers of the language. The language in question is not a language readily spoken in that area/country and so therefore the goal is simply to give both parties the chance to improve their speaking skill.

How is this improvement made?

Those with little experience are supposed to speak to those with more experience, through which an increase in confidence should help boost their ability to communicate verbally in the target language. Likewise, the more advanced speakers may speak with native speakers of the language who have come to help.  To consider an alternative, the more advanced speakers may benefit by speaking to the lower-level speakers simply by the act of explaining more complex facets of the language to them: Learning through teaching.  Most of the people that I know that have participated in such events have all come out of it with a positive experience, but “having a good time” vs. “learning to speak” are different, are they not? Continue reading

Words: An Inexhaustable Resource

450,000 unique words.  That’s a low estimate of how many words exist in the English language today.  Spanish has something in the order of 200,000 words; Japanese word count (and this could contain archaic, medieval, and modern/contemporary words) is no less than 450,000 words in its arsenal; and if Korean contains just as many words derived from Chinese as Japanese then we should expect Korean to have a similar word count (roughly 400,000) as well.

A few questions come to mind almost immediately after reviewing these numbers.  First, why is it that every language needs literally hundreds of thousands of words in its dictionaries when, on a day-to-day basis, its users will almost never use more than a couple thousand? (maybe no more than 30,000 in their entire lifetime!) Second, if it is necessary to have so many words, why is it that every language in this day and age has about 300,000 words on average?  Why isn’t there a more diverse and varied range of vocabulary?  Last, if one language has more words in its dictionary than another language, does this mean that speakers of that language can express emotions that others can not? Can they think things that speakers of another language can not even fathom?

The First Folio
The First Folio

As you may already know, I am no expert in this field I am only asking the questions and posing my humble answers with high hopes of getting some feedback from you–the reader–and then standing happily corrected.  That being said, let’s address the first question: why is it that every language needs literally hundreds of thousands of words in its dictionaries when, on a day-to-day basis, its users will almost never use more than a couple thousand? If you want to get any idea for what it takes to have the largest vocabulary of anyone in the English language (and to hold that record for hundreds of years) look no further than to the many plays of William Shakespeare.  Within the pages of those (at least) 37 famous plays so eloquently written, are 31,534 unique words.  That means that we are not counting words like “and” or “or” more than once, ever. To go a bit deeper, statisticians have done a bit of research to try to determine the actual amount of words that Shakespeare knew but never used and have concluded that the Elizabethan playwright probably knew somewhere in the ballpark of 66,500 words.  Let me give you a moment to consider the magnitude of that number…66,500 words.

My point?  Simply this: The person with probably the highest vocabulary of anyone before or after him for hundred of years (who single-handedly invented thousands of words) knew no more than 15% of all the words in the English dictionary today.  If that is the case with the most eloquent man on earth, what is the case for the guy next door?  What about you?  What is the point of having so many words when we only need maybe 2% of them to function in society and 15% of them to be considered the most poignant and potent writer that ever graced the face of the earth? Continue reading

Calligraphy: Eastern and Western

Calligraphy: from Greek κάλλος kallos “Beauty” + γραφή graphẽ “Writing”

Caligrafia: Spanish (similar meaning to English version)

Shodo: Japanese しょ、書 sho-Writing, どう,道 do(pronounced doe)-“Way”

Shufu: Chinese 書 “Writing”、法 “Law”・”Rules”

Seoye: Korean 서 「書」Seo “Writing”, 예 「藝」 Ye “Craft/Skill/Technique”

Think of the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. Got it? Good. Now think of one of the most ordinary things on the planet earth: handwriting. Don’t just think about any handwriting though, think of your own. Now superimpose the beauty of the first thing onto your handwriting and what do you end up with? A sunrise. A quiet morning. A rainbow. A smile. What I mean is that you get a writing system that impresses the masses regardless of the content. You don’t need to know who is smiling or over what country the sun is rising to feel joyous. We experience joy simply in knowing that someone is smiling or that the sun is rising. Similarly calligraphy, if it can be separated from its inseparable relationship with the host language, is a language on its own. A universal language that resonates most strongly with art and speaks to the masses much more than the words it makes up.

What is most interesting is the universality of calligraphy. No mater where in the world and no matter what period, there is a system of writing that is considered more beautiful or more correct. For thousands of years the Chinese have developed these rules of correctness into laws governing the writing system. Elsewhere the literate scribes were the sole keepers of language and each had to adhere to strict rules regarding copying. Notably of these are the many glorious and awe-inspiring illuminated texts of the Middle Ages, the work of skilled and dedicated hands. In India too there exist beautiful styles of calligraphic text. Muslim nations will often use calligraphic text for decoration on mosques or tapestries. Around the world and over time beautiful, albeit difficult and painstaking, styles of writing sprang up alongside the development of the society to which they were (and still are) tied.

It is a common denominator, to put it in mathematical terms, that connects all languages. This blog aims to explore ways in which the languages of English, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean are tied together (or split apart) and writing style is one of those ways. On a basic level, these languages have a written form. Check. Within each language though, is there a specific style which is considered most proper or most beautiful? (I realize that the latter term is subjective) To answer this question let’s look very briefly at some possible candidates: Continue reading