Lindsay Does Languages

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An Interview with Simon from Omniglot.

A couple of weeks ago I published my interview video with some of the amazing people I met at The Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad. I also spoke quite extensively to Simon, who runs the incredible website Omniglot. Simon in his own words: From a secret valley somewhere in the wilds of North Wales Simon runs a global language empire, otherwise known as Omniglot. He spends the rest of his time exploring languages, making music, singing and writing songs, reading, defying gravity and having adventures. If you’ve had the pleasure to meet Simon, you’ll know just how inspiring he is. It’s as if his website is in his brain – he knows so much about language! Most of our conversation was off camera but I did manage to catch him for a few minutes to discuss Celtic languages – something I know very little about but he knows rather a lot about. Enjoy!

Do you study Celtic languages? Have you had the pleasure of meeting Simon? Let me know in the comments!

Guest Post: Finding Your Genre When Learning a Language

Today you’re very lucky to be reading a guest post by the lovely Louisa! Louisa is a writer and marketer with a keen interest in language acquisition. She runs MAA-MAA, a language learning blog about using an already strong interest in music and media to achieve your dreams of fluency. In her spare time, she can be found attempting a fiction novel or winning Japanese karaoke battles. She is currently studying Japanese with hopes to move on to Igbo and French soon. She’s written a post I found really interesting about finding your genre when you’re learning a language. I think you’ll find it interesting too! Take it away, Lou…

If you’ve hit a wall with your language studies and you can’t even remember why you picked up Intermediate Greek I in the first place, then it might be time to take a break. And when I say “break”, I mean have a listen to your favourite song and keep studying. When you tire of the books, a great way to keep up your studies is by listening to music in your target language. By immersing yourself in music, you’re able to get used to the sounds of the language, perfect your pronunciation as you sing along, recognise key words (after the 9758th listen, of course!), and understand more about the sentence structure. It can be just as enriching and entertaining as you want it to be, and because of that, listening to a good album has become my favourite way to keep up my language studies.

But as we know, even in English or your native language, not all songs serve the same purpose. When I’m sad, I just want a soft singer-songwriter emo-esque ballad to soothe me while I reach for another tub of ice cream; when I’m happy, I want an upbeat tempo to remind me of all the things I have to be thankful for; and, when I’m going for a long walk, I want a song that will stretch along with me and help me forget that my feet are burning. However, when you’re picking out a song to study with, it’s less about what you’re feeling (that comes later) and more about the content. While not always the case, you’ll find that different genres might have certain subject matter and, therefore, recurring vocabulary. This is great to know when you start out because it’ll help you build vocabulary lists, which will help you when you start understanding sentence structure, which will help you start forming sentences of your own – see? Actual studying.

So which genre should I start with?

Classic, shiny pop

The standard. Pop music is quite possibly the easiest to start with because it tends to be neutral – it’s easy to listen to, words are easy to pick out, and the subject matter is usually pretty tame. It’s not uncommon for a lot of pop songs to be love songs in disguise. This is good, though, because it allows you to pick up a lot of words based off of everyday situations. For example, there’s the classic ‘I am not-so-secretly in love with my friend and I don’t know how to tell him’. Also, pop music always tends to be super catchy, which is a plus because you’ll probably be listening to any songs you choose to study from a lot.

Hip-hop, the grit and the edge

If recounting your days as a hard-hitting and rebellious youth is more your thing, then take a deep breath and try out a hip-hop song in your target language. Hip-hop is great to study with if you’re more of an advanced learner. It’s fast, which is the main reason it might be more difficult to pick up on, but that doesn’t mean that a beginner won’t fare well. It’s a challenge, but have fun with it! Another great thing about most hip-hop is that vocabulary will always be a bit more grounded than, let’s say, a pop song. A lot of hip-hop is all about authentic storytelling. If you’re going for more commercial hip-hop, be prepared to learn how to say ‘club’ in different accents.

The sensitive singer-songwriter

The ‘singer-songwriter’ genre, as it’s been recently called, has been steadily gaining popularity around the world, so you’re bound to find some great gems in your target language. Singer-songwriter music can go either way: it can be soft with heartfelt lyrics, perhaps a bit slower; or, it can be rugged and combative. Regardless, you’ll find a lot of creativity in lyrics here. The vocabulary you pick up might not always be relevant, but you might understand more about sentence structure with a singer-songwriter song, because a lot of the lyrics are arguably written truer to the spoken word.

What songs are you choosing to start your language learning journey? Have you found that there’s one genre over the other that works best for you or do you just listen to anything with a good beat?

World Cinema Club: December Film

I went shopping yesterday. Not Christmas shopping. Laminate floor shopping. You know, the most exciting kind of shopping. Anyway, we did pop in to our local shopping centre (or mall if you’re reading this in North America) and from my little trip out I concluded that it’s officially the Christmas period. People are always reluctant to admit it but it is well and truly here.

Told you so. This year I’m very excited about Christmas! We’re moving in (fingerscrossedfingerscrossedfingerscrossed) just shy of 3 weeks before Christmas and we’re hosting. For the first time ever. For 10 people. In a flat that will potentially still be full of boxes. Eek. Regardless, I can’t wait and I even bought cracker snaps yesterday to make my own crackers. That’s right, I’m Pinteresting the hell out of Christmas. YEAH!

Ok, now for the whole purpose of today’s blog – World Cinema Club! The film that month HAS to be festive themed, no question. But I couldn’t think of a really cracking (see what I did there?) Christmas film in a foreign language. So, getting into the Christmas spirit ‘n’ all, I want to open this month’s film selection up to you. Yes, you. Hello! What’s your favourite Christmas film? For this month’s World Cinema Club, YOU choose the film. That’s right! Pick your favourite Christmas film in whichever language you like and watch. Of course, foreign language films are an advantage seeing as it’s World Cinema we’re aiming for here but if you can’t find one, why not try watching a dubbed version of your favourite? Whatever you choose be sure to tweet or Instagram it using the hashtag #MyWCCXmas.

I’m pretty sure my copy of Muppet Christmas Carol plays in French and maybe more languages so that’ll be my film this month…as well as a ton of other festive films! Now can I convince Ash to watch Prep and Landing in Spanish…?

Don’t forget there’s also a couple more weeks to watch Let The Right On In before the discussion post at the end of November!

What’s your favourite Christmas film? Do your DVDs for it have different audio options? I’m excited to see everyone’s favourite festive films in the comments and on social media!

Japanese: italki October Language Challenge: Complete!

It’s now just over a month since I began learning Japanese! Today I want to review my goals I set for myself and also share a little progress video I’ve made. Some time in the very near future I will share a post packed full of resources I’ve used along the way to help me with my Japanese progress too!

Ok, firstly, let’s review goals. There’s no point setting yourself a challenge if you don’t look back and see how far you’ve come right? In fact, earlier today I watched myself in my italki Pledge video for Japanese that I made at the start of October. Wow! I wanted to shout the corrections at the screen! Don’t get me wrong – I still have a loooong way to go but I’m really happy with how far I’ve come in just a month. Anyway, back to those goals. Here were my goals for the month of October with added notes I’ve included today!


  • Learn the Hirigana and Katakana alphabets.
  • I did this! The only thing I haven’t “learnt” is the katakana with the extra bits but I can figure them out with a bit of time.

  • Learn at least 30 Kanji.
  • If you include numbers then I’ve definitely done this! I didn’t focus much on kanji in October in the end though but I’ve begun now and just finished this Memrise course so I’m well on track!

  • Get comfortable with basic travel phrases. (where is…?, how much…?, may I…? etc)
  • I haven’t really focused on this as it turns out. I can ask where something is but I don’t remember doing ‘how much…?’

  • Have 12 italki lessons for the October Language Challenge!
  • Done! Boom!

  • An Instagram video each day. At least for the month of October, I’m going to record a little 15 second Instagram video each day of my speaking a little Japanese. You’re totally welcome to follow and comment to help me with pronunciation etc! I might just carry this one on after October is through…we’ll see!
  • Almost every day! Sometimes life just got in the way! I really enjoyed this though as it kept me on the ball with learning at least a little something new and putting together at least one sentence each day. I haven’t done it yet in November but I might do some occasional ones…I think these two are my favourites!

    And what about November? I think it’s important to re-evaluate goals as you progress to keep you motivated and fresh. Besides, I’ve learnt a lot of new things I didn’t know – for example, I read it would be better to start with the kanji radicals rather than jump straight into the kanji, so I’ve adapted that goal slightly.


    • Learn at least another 100 Kanji.
    • I think I can definitely do this – although I’m going to change it slightly to ‘kanji radicals’

    • Read a short article in Japanese each day.
    • Realistically, I don’t think this is going to happen. Right now I just haven’t had time so far – and with moving day getting ever closer I don’t think November will be the time for this one!

    • Have at least 1 italki lesson per week.
    • I’ve had 2 weeks off but I’ve booked a few more today!

    • Make a one month progress video.
    • Done! See below!

    Did you do the italki October Language Challenge? How did you get on?. Let me know in the comments!

    Through The Language Glass Review

    People around me are pretty good with gifts. Language books. It’s a simple affair. I do get and enjoy other stuff too but a language book is always appreciated. Ashley seems to be quite aware of this, as for my birthday (way back in August!) he got me the book Through The Language Glass. It’s proved quite a fascinating read so today I want to share some of my thoughts about the book.

    Through The Language Glass linguistics book review Lindsay Does Languages blog
    Firstly, any book with the quote “Jaw droppingly wonderful” from Stephen Fry on the front cover is destined for great things in my mind. However, I have to be honest, when I started reading I was confused. Chapter one (post prologue – Naming The Rainbow) was getting all science heavy about colour. I kept closing the book, my face confused, to reread the blurb. “Does the language you speak affect the way you think?” the blurb questioned. I felt that the book, although interesting, talked a lot about the scientific history of seeing colour at the start before bringing in a language perspective. Regardless of this, it still proved interesting and it wasn’t long before I was turning page after page with my eyes becoming wider with each turn.

    The book really is fascinating. After discussing colour (for, in my opinion, slightly too long) the book moves on to consider gender differences and tense differences between languages, amongst other things, each time considering if this changes how we think about the world if we use the languages in question. The most striking for me was the chapter (or two – I forget!) about certain languages, primarily Guugu Yimithirr, whose speakers seem to have an inbuilt compass as they refer to things not being next to or behind other things but east to or south to. Amazing.

    I won’t give away the whole book but I will say that it really is worth reading if you can get your hands on a copy. Page after page it’s constantly fascinating. Even if it does get a bit academic at times, the essence of the book is readable and enjoyable.

    The Good Stuff

    As you may have noticed I’ve mentioned the book is interesting! Really interesting. I learnt a lot, and it made me question aspects of languages I speak or have learnt and consider the question “does the language you speak affect the way you think?”. That’s what I want from a book like this. I want to be made to think about stuff and look at it with a new perspective. Through The Language Glass does just that.

    Any bad stuff?

    There were certain points in the book where I felt slightly out of my depth and it made me feel a little swamped and even resulted in a bit of skim reading , which is rare for me. However, this was mostly at the start when the science seems to prevail above the language for a little too long. Of course, linguistics is a science, so it’s inevitable that there’ll be some crossover, so I can deal with a little skim reading for the sake of what I found out from the rest of the book!

    Have you read Through The Language Glass? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

    Reliving Childhood Through Foreign Language Theme Songs

    Have you seen this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert? If you live in the UK, you’ve probably just rolled your eyes and switched off, or let out a little yelp and a tear. If you don’t live in the UK, you’re probably reading on to find out what the heck I’m talking about. John Lewis is a British department store who seem to have carved themselves into a bit of a tearjerkering Christmas advert niche over the past few years. We’ve had kids who can’t wait for Christmas to give not receive, snowmen travelling to John Lewis to find the perfect gift for their snowladies, and bears and hares. All set to twinkly Christmasy piano music. This year however we have Monty The Penguin, which will make you well up something rotten.

    Anyway, the point of all this premature Christmas chit chat is that at the beginning of this year’s advert, Pingu is playing on the TV. PINGU! It got me thinking how amazing Pingu is and how accessible he is due to his lack of any obvious language. Go Pingu.

    This then led to me hunting down theme songs from my childhood in different languages and compiling them into YouTube playlists of foreign language theme songs. And there you have an insight into the bizarre thought processes that go on in my brain.

    Here’s the French playlist.
    Then we’ve got Spanish.
    And German.
    A few Portuguese.
    And finally Italian!

    Oh yes, and if you’re wondering, no, Adventure Time wasn’t out when I was a child. However, their intro song is translated quite a few times so I’ve included it where I could.

    Also, that’s really me in the photo. What a trendsetter.

    Do you have a favourite children’s TV show from your youth? Did you watch any in different languages? Let me know in the comments!

    Polyglot Conference Novi Sad 2014: Interviews

    Hooray! I’ve finally got the interview video up and running! YouTube decided to play annoying, sound altering games on FIVE upload attempts! Phew. We’re there now though and the video is ready and waiting for you to watch below.

    I was really amazed and inspired by everyone I met at The Polyglot Conference. I’d love to know how many languages were spoke between everyone there. (Did anyone collect that info? Please share in the comments if you know!) I hope that if you weren’t there, from watching the video, you get that sense of amazement and inspiration I felt. Enjoy! :)

    Are you planning on going to The Polyglot Gathering in Berlin next year? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to meet you there!

    Dobuan Grammar 101

    Something strange has happened. Allow me to explain…

    I’m a library junkie. I’m always popping in to the library if I’m in town because they tend to have books sales and sometimes I strike lucky with the language books I find. Cue picture of too many language books I’ve got from the library sales…Sorry they’re in a box ready for moving house. But I do have this photo with a handful of some of them. reading language books library lindsay does languages blog That was my best haul ever. Ahh.

    So, this particular story begins about a year ago. I’m knelt down by the language book section in my local library and I come across what looks like a school exercise book. My curiosity gets the better of me and I pull it out. It is like an exercise book. But on the cover is a black image of a statue, and the words “Dobuan Grammar” followed by the author’s name, Martin B. Atchison, and the line “Edited by Raoul Zamponi”. What is this? Why is it here? Who in this town could possibly have any reason to read Dobuan Grammar? What is Dobuan?

    I turned the book over. Another statue image, the author, title, and editor. Only this time there’s some more information: “D’Entrecasteaux Islands, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea”. Wow.

    Papua New Guinea has always proved a fascination to me ever since I found out that it is the country with the most languages in the world – over 850 estimated different languages – with a population of just over 7 million in a land roughly the same size as Thailand. I want to go there.

    Curious but in a rush, I put the book back and headed off. Every time I visited the library during the last year, I checked to see if the book was there. It always was. On my last visit, I finally decided to borrow it. I don’t know what your local library is like but lately mine is pretty jazzy. There’s a pink square that somehow detects what book you’ve placed on it and loans it to you magically without speaking to a human. However, when I put my Dobuan Grammar pink exercise book on the pink square nothing happened. I had to go to a human (can you believe it?! not a human!). She looked confused faced with the book, pressed a few buttons and gave it to me. I checked my loans list online and apparently I don’t have any books out. It’s like a ghost book. I can assure you it exists though. I think.

    Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the things I’ve found out from this book so far.


    present past and future verb tense dobuan gif lindsay does languages blog
    In the present tense, the root of the verb tend to be repeated twice, or at least partially repeated. For example, waliwali means sing.

    In the past tense, however, things are slightly more irregular although the general rule seems to be add ‘ena’ or ‘ina’ to the end of the root OR just have one root. For example, wali means sang.

    In the future tense, the first syllable is duplicated at the start of the word or the root remains the same and doesn’t change at all. However, for verbs with just a root in the past they look different in the future and vice versa. For example, wawali means will sing.

    There isn’t just one verb ‘to go’. For example… dolo = to go down towards the beach, laga = to go inland from the beach, nao = to go in directions at right angles to lago and dolo, wai = to go from where I am to another spot.


    we ta a dobuan gif lindsay does languages blog
    There are two words for ‘we’ (and two more for both ‘us’ and ‘our’). One is inclusive and one is exclusive. But inclusive and exclusive of what? Well, the inclusive form includes the person being spoken to but the exclusive form doesn’t include them. For example, if you were talking about something you did with your family but you’re talking to your friend, you would say “We did this” and the ‘we’ would be ‘a’ – the exclusive form. However, if you said something to your friend like, “Remember when we did this?” then the ‘we’ would be ‘ta’ – inclusive. Interesting, huh?


    small little yellow car big real car change before and after gif lindsay does languages blog
    Whereas a doubling of a verb puts it into the present tense, the doubling of a noun makes it inferior or a diminutive of the original. For example, udi means bananas but udiudi means wild bananas and mwata means snake but mwatamwata means worm.

    Eyanao is a word which refers to the relationship between a spouse and their spouse’s family. In-laws – which I think it kind of sounds like.


    blue green colour circle gif lindsay does languages blog
    Colours are really interesting. There’s two words for black or dark brown, three words for white, and two for multi-coloured. Not only that but the word kalakalawina means both green and blue (I’ve read about this recently in Through The Language Glass, which I’ll be reviewing on the blog soon!). Ala’alasuyasuya means simply ‘bright colour’ – any colour!


    counting 1 to 5 gif lindsay does languages blog
    I’m going to quote this bit because it blows my mind a little bit. “Today, native counting, which is very rudimentary, has passed out of general use except for numbers up to ten.” How do they not count? Anyway, after five, six to nine combine numbers. For example, six = nima ta ebweu (five and one).


    admiration oisiii dobuan gif lindsay does languages blog
    Interjections are really popular in Dobuan. My favourite at the moment is ‘oisiiiiii’ which is a sign of admiration. I like it because it reminds me of the Japanese for delicious!

    The Essentials

    kagutoki hello thank you I'm sorry Dobuan gif lindsay does languages blog
    About time I told you how to say hello, right? Well the word ‘kagutoki’ means hello, thank you, and I’m sorry.

    The phrasebook at the back of the book provides us with a few more essentials. Probably slightly more essential to daily life in a Dobuan community. I love this part of the book because it really gives you a sense of what life is like there. For example…

    Imu dobe auwana u ote = Put on your new grass skirt.

    Gosiyagu ina bagulaya i yasona udi, kamuyope, painapa, tou, sugelu, ta meleni. = In my friend’s garden he has planted bananas, pawpaws, pineapples, sugar cane, pumpkins, and watermelons.

    Tomota emwaemwagedi si obwa’obwala masula sinabwana manuna, ta abo’ada ta sidasida God enaya, be ida bagula i obobomei = Ignorant people make garden magic for their crops, but we pray to God to bless ours.

    Nayanaya ola si e’ani = The white ants are eating the posts [of a house].

    This book is my new favourite thing. There’s something incredibly intriguing about it. None of my initial questions as to why it is in my local library in the middle of England have been answered, instead, new ones have appeared. How much is it possible to learn from this book? Is it possible to one day go to the islands where Dobuan is spoken? I hope so. As crazy as I know it will sound, I feel slightly fated. This book about a language spoken in a land that fascinates me has fallen into my lap. I can’t ignore that.

    Are you curious? Do you want to know more? Is there a particular part of the grammar that intrigues you? Let me know in the comments!

    3 Non-Traditional Ways of Learning A Language

    As with learning any language, or anything for that matter, there are some methods that are proven to be rather useful. Maybe some of them aren’t useful to everyone though, let’s call them traditional. I’m talking about books, writing word after word of vocabulary until your wrist wills you to stop, audio courses, all of that jazz. These traditional methods can be incredibly useful and definitely have their place for a reason. And personally, I love books. Packing for moving house (1 month!) has resulted in many bags to charity shops…very few containing books. However, I’m always keen to try new ways to learn a language. Perhaps what could be called non-traditional ways of learning a language. I say learning, but really, it’s probably more accurate to say reinforcing. I think there are so many ways we can incorporate language into our daily lives to do stuff we would do anyway. Today I want to share with you some ways I’ve been playing with to help to reinforce my Japanese.

    Do some exercise!

    Yessss. Relax and get some Japanese in the brain too! I can’t relax if I’m not language learning, you see. Exaggeration. But I’m sure you feel my pain. I found this YouTube channel by typing the katakana for what I assumed would be yoga – it worked! My new favourite thing. I may not understand it all yet, but the extra exposure has helped me to remember that ‘shou’ on the end of a verb means ‘let’s’. Wahey!

    Sing a song!

    I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually tried this yet. I know! And I’m recommending it on my blog! Bad Lindsay. BUT, it’s something I’m really keen to try. Since discovering Kirby Crescent on YouTube, who very kindly puts his translated lyrics in the description of his videos, I’ve been keen to print the lyrics and find myself a backing track to practise with and maybe put on my car MP3 player…The girl singing at the traffic lights? That’s me. The girl wishing she was learning a language at the traffic lights? That’s me too. So what better way to make that girl happy?

    Make a film!

    For Halloween, Ashley really wanted to make a horror film. I wanted to practise my Japanese (not for Halloween – I still carved a pumpkin and watched a scary film!). So, we made a Japanese horror film! It’s called The Chair and we filmed it on Halloween night and the light kept going off and it was the scariest thing ever to make. My Japanese wasn’t perfect and I didn’t say a lot – just enough for the level I’m at and for what fitted into the film. The benefits are obvious though when I tell you that I insisted a scene be cut because I knew I’d said the wrong verb. Grammar drama queen. Without being sat in front of my books or my computer, I’d learnt something, realised it was wrong, and learnt not to say that next time. Wonderful!

    Do you have any non-traditional ways that you use to learn a language? I’d love you to share them in the comments!

    Yabla: Language Learning Through Video. (+ GIVEAWAY!)

    Not so long ago in a land not so far away (at my desk) I was invited to test out Yabla. I’d very briefly come across Yabla on Twitter but never had the chance to give it a go until then. I’ve been having a little play over the last month or so and I’m a bit of a fan! So today I wanted to share with you a little insight into Yabla.

    What is Yabla?

    Yabla is an online foreign language video platform that provides subtitles for each video in both the target language and English. Don’t worry though – if you’re feeling keen you can choose to hide one or the other or both sets of subtitles. After each video, you’re offered a fill in the blank exercise which is ideal for checking you understood what you just watched – making Yabla more than just passive language learning and giving it the edge over watching a video on a site not made with language learners in mind. Yabla is currently available for French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese (and English, which I forgot to mention in the video – oops!). You pay your monthly subscription fee and are entitled to watch as much video content in your chosen language as your brain can handle.

    What’s the good stuff?

    The content is authentic, varied, and enjoyable. Also the length of the videos is manageable and non-intimidating, even for a beginner! In fact, one of Yabla’s perks is that it’s not just for beginners. It can sometimes be hard to find suitable content once you get beyond beginner level – but Yabla has the goods to keep you covered. I love that Yabla videos are ranked with difficulty ratings and give details on the accent in each video – both of which are super easy to spot on the home page. You can also choose to sort videos by difficulty rating or category to decide what you fancy watching. If there’s too much choice, just bookmark a video to watch later! Or, if you know you’ll be out somewhere exciting later, download the video to your computer, tablet, or mobile. Speaking of mobile, the apps are really handy to catch up with a bit of learning on the road. There’s also a flashcard option – if you click a word on the subtitles during video, it’ll be added to your flashcard pile. Oh yes, and useful, concise and informative weekly e-mails with great grammar tips.

    Any bad stuff?

    Clutching at straws here but it would be nice to be able to organise the videos by accent. Also, not all videos are available to download, which is a shame, but I’m sure this will come in time – and until then there’s more content than you could watch available to download anyway!
    UPDATE: The lovely people at Yabla have informed me that it IS possible to download all videos for offline use through the app! Yay!

    I’ve felt so inspired by Yabla that I’ve put together a little video to explain all…Guess what? Yabla are very kindly offering a selection of monthly subscriptions to 20 of you lovely folk who read this blog! You will get a free 1 month trial in the language of your choice! All you have to do is leave a comment saying why you’d love to try Yabla and the winners will be picked at random on November 14th 2014. The giveaway will close at 23.59GMT on November 13th 2014. Good luck! UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who entered!

    Do you use Yabla? What do you think? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!