Ellen Jovin

Today our interview will take us across the ocean – to New York City. We are talking about the languages and various experiences with polyglots, bloggers, language teachers and even volunteer guide Ellen Jovin.

Who is Ellen Jovin?

I am a language blogger and product reviewer in New York City, where I also own a communication skills training business, Syntaxis, with my husband. In the past 12 months I have lived in…New York City.
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What languages do you speak?

English seems to be going pretty well for me. I also speak Spanish, German, French, and (if you are not overly picky about the details) Italian. As a volunteer, I show non-English-speaking tourists around the city in all of these languages, through an amazing organization called Big Apple Greeters, which gives out-of-town visitors a look at New York through the eyes of local residents.
Ellen Jovin with Some of Her Friends

Languages are just a hobby or you make money out of them?

One hundred percent of my income comes from language-related work, most of it from my native English: I teach classes in writing, e-mail etiquette, and grammar for businesspeople through Syntaxis, my above-mentioned company. My work in and knowledge of foreign languages makes me a better teacher, though, as many of my students are non-native speakers of English. In addition, I sometimes give talks on language-learning at businesses and cultural organizations.

Tell us something about your First Time

I regret to say that it was not good.

Any terrible experience? Like a language you could not learn and you gave up…

Well, my head kind of exploded while I was studying Polish (all those grammatical cases killed me!), but it has been glued back together and all is well. I actually love Polish and intend to give it another go one of these years. So no, no bad experiences. It is all happy. Yes, I get frustrated in the moment sometimes, but that sensation is minor and evanescent.

What about an “easy” experience

Italian was easy in the sense that I could not stay away from it. I found it intensely beautiful, sensual, sexy! That meant I could study it almost nonstop, so I learned very fast. My skills are rather rusty now, but back in 2010 I got to a surprisingly high level for me, documented by oral and written tests, in a short period of time.

Why languages and not…..

Language and languages make me happy. I love words. This is where I belong.

Do you have a mentor? Does anybody inspire you?

I learn from and am inspired by many people. I have never been one to pick idols; I find all kinds of people, all over the world and of all ages, interesting.

All right, now that I have thought an additional few seconds, the one job I always envied was William Safire’s; he wrote the “On Language” column at the New York Times Magazine and I wanted it to be mine.

Do you have a secret weapon to learn languages?

I like multimedia assaults: audio lessons, vocabulary, grammar, writing, conversation partners…everything. That way when I get overwhelmed with one facet of the language, I can switch to another rather than just closing my books and taking a break.

Can you share with us your language learning routine?

I set aside a particular time period, usually three months, to examine the guts of a new language, and I study at least a little every day, with very few exceptions. Often I study a lot in a day. But I do not have a daily routine; I prefer working spontaneously and by impulse. I have been doing this steadily for five years now, which is peanuts compared to some of the hardcore linguaphiles out there.

A key for me, though, is to have language opportunities at my disposal at all times. If I am exercising or running errands or doing household tasks, I have audio lessons with me. If I am on the subway, I have a grammar book with me. If it is late at night and I am too tired to do really hard work, I practice vocabulary on Memrise.

Do you try to read/watch content at your level? Is it easy to find?

I do this less than others, I think. I write language-learning product reviews for my website, so I tend to focus my energies on actual language-learning materials.

Your final words: share anything you want with our passionate
community of language lovers.

I often hear from people who tell me that their friends and family find their language obsessions weird. Ignore them! I have fully embraced my abnormal attraction to discussions of past participles, subjunctive, noun cases, etc., and life is good.

How can people get in touch with you…

Through my website Words & Worlds of New York! I love visitors! You would be very welcome.

 

 

Betahaus Berlin

Bliu Bliu presenting at the famous thursday beta breakfast at coworking space Betahaus

The crowd was interested and they asked a lot of questions after the pitch.

beta breakfast blog

 

We really enjoy every time we visit Betahaus, it’s such a cool coworking space with really interesting people.

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#betahaus #breakfastinberlin already started #kulturspace #LineMetrics #BliuBliu

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Ula – from Poland with Languages

We got more language lovers on the line. Today we are very happy to have as our guest Ula. Ula is a Polish language lover and she has very interesting insights about learning/teaching languages and how to include language practice into your everyday life.
Welcome Ula

Who are you and where have you lived in the last 12 months

My name is Ula. I’m a language passionate, a student, a teacher, a blogger, a grown-up child, and a coffee lover. I live in Poland but I’m moving to Belgium in 2 months and I feel very excited about it, especially that I took a challenge to learn Dutch on a communicative level till that time.

What languages do you speak?

I don’t really like when people ask what languages we SPEAK because I don’t know what it means exactly. What if you only understand the language? Or just know its grammatical rules? That’s why I prefer to say that I can fully communicate in Polish, English, and French, I speak (and here I literally mean speaking only) basic Portuguese and Dutch, and I understand intermediate discourse in Spanish, German, and Russian as well.

Languages are just a hobby or you make money out of them?

I work as a teacher of English as a foreign language but first of all, languages are my great passion and I learn them to relax, and get to know more about the world.

Tell us something about your First Time.

My very first times with languages are documented in The story a bout a girl, a book, a mum, and a couple of cuddly toys…

First Time
However, it was a long time ago, and it was only about English. I didn’t realize for a long time that it is possible to know a couple of foreign languages on a high level, so I didn’t treat them seriously as school subjects, I had also many other interests that didn’t leave me enough time to go deeper into language learning. A kind of revelation came when I started studying English at university. I learnt that language is not a school subject but a tool for communicating with people first of all, and that multilingualism is not a legendary myth but a real, very practical skill or sometimes even a way of life. I also got very interested in methodology of learning and teaching foreign languages which made me finally try to learn other languages for my own pleasure. I was about 21 at that time, so I think that these 3 years make me quite new among the language enthusiasts.

Any terrible experience? Like a language you could not learn and you gave up…

I don’t remember any terrible experience with languages. Even if something is difficult and I give up during my way, there is always something left after such an experience. Maybe you haven’t reached C1 in Chinese, as you were planning but you have still acquired a tiny bit that makes you more experienced and knowledgable than you had been before.

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What about an “easy” experience

Languages are tricky. You may know the language itself but fail because of not understanding the culture. There’s no point in lying, learning a language is always a challenge, and much work and determination is necessary to go through the learning path. But it’s also about how you perceive things. Someone told me recently, that everything may be easy if you convince yourself that it really is!

Why languages and not…..

I’ve been interested in thousands of things and I try to develop in many different areas. Languages however, are something completely different. I treat them like a kind of door that let me do more with my other passions – read more books, sing more songs, get to know more foreign cultures. I introduce languages into my daily life and learn them while doing other things that I’m passionate about.

Do you have a mentor? Does anybody inspire you?

I don’t have one particular person but there are many people that inspire me everyday. I sometimes find inspiration in people who have nothing to do with languages. It is enough if they do something with great interest and passion. Last time I was talking to a friend of mine who’s fascinated with painting. Although we didn’t even mention any subject connected with languages, I got some ideas for my passion after meeting her.

Do you have a secret weapon to learn languages?

My secret weapon is systematic learning and passion. First one is a key because I believe that we cannot achieve anything without hard work and involvement, and the second makes this rough path easier, pleasant, and even addictive.

Can you share with us your language learning routine?

I try to introduce language learning into my everyday activities. Of course I also learn vocabulary and grammar in a traditional way but I believe that the biggest part of my learning is talking to myself while cooking, listening to the news in a foreign language, reading press, or meeting foreigners who I try to come across as often as possible. I also believe that if we don’t feel like learning, we should take a break. That’s why there are days when I forget completely about my language learning routine and try to refresh my mind.
Language Learning Routine

Do you try to read/watch content at your level? Is it easy to find?

Firstly, I sometimes find it difficult to define my level, and secondly, I prefer authentic materials whose level is usually not defined as well. That is why, it is very difficult to find something suitable. However, I also think that reading and watching are among the best ways to start feeling confident with the language and use it naturally.

Have you already used Bliu Bliu? :)

I use Bliu Bliu for Dutch because it is my weakest language and I find it difficult to look for suitable content myself. I like that Bliu Bliu recognizes your level basing on known, and unknown words and recommends material that will answer your needs!

Your final words: share anything you want with our passionate community of language lovers.

What I want to share with you most is my motivation and enthusiasm about language learning!
If you want to follow my progress, you can find me on my blog uLANGUAGES  or on my Youtube channel
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTPNNgTGVLScAv9RpJDr1ew

Dream Big

Inspiring people since 2012

You can do everything.

Judith Meyer – LearnYu

Judith is simply put a superstar. Her passion for languages is beyond imagination. She speaks several and she is contributing in so many ways to make language learning better, easier and spread around the world.
We know Judith as she has been one of our first user, helping us to make Bliu Bliu a better place and a better tool to learn language with her constant feedback. Enjoy the interview and at the end don’t forget to support her new project LearnYu on Indiegogo.

reading

Who are you and where have you lived in the last 12 months

My name is Judith Meyer – on many forums I’m known as Sprachprofi – and I live in Berlin. I’m originally from a small town near the German-Dutch border and these two cities are the only ones I’ve lived a significant amount of time in, unless you want to count 6 weeks in Beijing.

 

What languages do you speak?

I speak German, English and Esperanto equally effortlessly, even though only German is my native language. I have a degree in Computational Linguistics and Romance Languages with a focus on French, French literature and all, so my French is also very fluent, and I have taught Latin for many years, even creating my own 3-level language course for it. Next I learned Italian, Modern Greek and Mandarin Chinese and I’d say that I also know these languages very well. Spanish and Dutch are in a funny state, I regularly read books in them without the help of a dictionary, but in speaking I experience way too much interference with other languages. It’s because of this interference that I didn’t tackle more European languages and instead turned my attention to Swahili, Arabic, Japanese and Indonesian. These are languages that still require some work and I have temporarily paused all but Indonesian. You can watch me practise all of the mentioned languages at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OGEP_N37fU&list=UUQXp79zeYbKwjUd35cQcaOw .
This is a video I recorded in one go, without a script and without cuts. Obviously having to switch every minute or so means that my brain can’t fully acclimatize to each language, so both my accent and expression suffer, but I think the video can still give you a general idea of where I’m at.

Languages are just a hobby or you make money out of them?

Both. Unfortunately I haven’t found any company ready to pay me to learn a language or even assume the cost (I’d love to do an Icelandic challenge for TV like Daniel Tammet), but I have been working as a consultant in the language field for many years, starting even while I was still at university. I started by teaching languages as well as working on a grammar system for Cantr.net. Then I got into developing language courses for the virtual classroom, then several years hosting and planning language-learning podcasts for Innovative Language Learning LLC (some people still recognize me as the host of GermanPod101), designing curricula and training teachers in lesson development for Myngle.com, creating the prototype of a machine translation system for Unikom, LLC, creating a computer-aided translation system for Wooga (large creator of Facebook & mobile games) and consulting for business-english24.de . Now finally I’m working on my own startup which combines language learning and computational linguistics. It’s called LearnYu.

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Tell us more about LearnYu

LearnYu is the idea that the computer could be a perfect language tutor, because the computer has unlimited patience and also a vast memory that can remember everything you learned or have trouble with. It teaches you a word or grammar point and then gives you some exercises for that. If you do them correctly, you move on to the next point. If you make mistakes, the computer draws on its vast memory to keep coming up with more and more different exercises, an unlimited amount of them, until you understand and the concept has entered your memory. Every word is introduced in at least three different kinds of sentences – this is a big advantage over regular courses, where some words are only used once and you never see or use them again. The interactivity is another big bonus. You don’t just read or listen to material, you are always actively doing something, whether it’s translating (in either direction) or responding to the phrases as in a conversation. Within one lesson, you see a word at least three times – more often if you have trouble remembering it – and even when you do the next lessons, the computer will ensure a regular review. And keep in mind that you always see new contexts, new phrases. It’s not like an SRS where you can memorize the response without understanding.

Right now, LearnYu is focusing on Chinese. We’re systematically covering all the levels of the HSK (standardized test), because we found that the vocabulary in that test is really frequent and useful. As an added bonus, this means that if you complete a level on LearnYu, you can then sit the test without fear of failure and you can use the test result as proof of your language level, for example when testing out of classes at university or applying for a job.

Give this new kind of language course a whirl! At www.learnyu.com, you can log in with your Facebook account and try a free lesson. The other lessons will be available for free, too, but are still being tested at this point. Also, I’m collecting money for the development of more levels. Go to http://igg.me/at/chinese in order to support me.

Tell us something about your First Time.

I was 10 years old and had to start taking mandatory English classes at school. This was my first exposure to foreign languages because my entire family is monolingual. I didn’t do well at first either, got C’s and D’s in my English classes until I found the internet – once I made English-speaking friends online, my marks improved a lot. I spent so much time using English online, voice-chatting, writing in political discussion forums and so on, I even graduated as one of top students, ahead of the ones who had done an exchange year in America.

Any terrible experience? Like a language you could not learn and you gave up…

I tried Russian because it’s so useful. Turns out that that’s a terrible reason to learn a language: I just couldn’t find the motivation to study, never mind wrestling with that insane case system. For me, language-learning is really a matter of passion. A good challenge among friends never hurt either ;-)

ich bei Yuelu Academy

What about an “easy” experience

Esperanto. I was 14 and read popular science books about linguistics. One of them had a chapter on planned languages and mentioned that Esperanto is both the easiest planned language and the most successful of them (in as much as 2 million people spread out all over the world is a success; few small languages have gained that many new speakers in such a short time, but it’s still far from the intended goal). It also said that learning Esperanto would be a good basis for learning other languages. Since I wanted to learn all the languages of the world, I thought that I might as well start with Esperanto. If it was as easy as they said, it should barely cost me any effort. And if it got too hard, I’d just stop.

Esperanto is still several times easier than any other language I ever studied. So easy in fact that my progress became a motivation onto itself. You know that I didn’t have a good reason to learn Esperanto, curiosity more than anything, I certainly didn’t think I’d ever get to use it much, but just seeing myself WHOOSH past everything was a huge motivation for 14-year-old me. And now I’m glad I learned it, because Esperanto changed my life.

Why languages and not…..

I can go days without programming, or surfing the web, or pursuing any of my hobbies. I can go a day without food. I can’t go a day without learning languages.

2014 mit Richard und Arguelles

Do you have a mentor? Does anybody inspire you?

I mostly learn in self-study and then I occasionally book tutoring when I have questions or want to practise.

I draw inspiration from the polyglot community, a lot of whom I’ve met in person. Of course there are greats like Richard Simcott or Alexander Arguelles, who are very inspiring to all of us, but I also draw inspiration from anyone I meet, because we all have something to teach each other. Like Confucius said: “三人行必有我师” – with three people walking together, one is certain to be my teacher. For example André Müller has mastered more than twenty different alphabets or writing systems, Volte can do 12-hour language study marathons, Leszek at 17yo has enough enthusiasm for language-learning to last an entire army of polyglots, Maria Weidner will make anyone want to learn Indonesian… Any of you might be creating or telling me about the method or resource that will change how I learn a language. (As certainly you did, Claudio. I like Bliu Bliu a lot!)

Do you have a secret weapon to learn languages?

I found that my memory often plays tricks on me when I think back to when I last studied a language. It always seems to be more recently than I actually did. So the biggest change came when I started to log my daily language hours. I created a spreadsheet (download an example here) and I’ve been inputting every half hour I spend on languages, ever since 2010. This has two advantages:

  1. when I feel like I’m not making any progress in a language, I can glance at the spreadsheet and I’ll know why
  2. just looking at the spreadsheet motivates me to do more, either out of guilt or because I “get” something for watching a TV series in Chinese rather than English

Can you share with us your language learning routine?

I don’t really have a routine. My schedule is always changing because I work freelance. The only things that are set in stone right now are my Modern Chinese Literature class on Monday afternoons and my Chinese Speech & Writing class on Wednesday mornings.

Do you try to read/watch content at your level? Is it easy to find?

I am terrible at following textbooks. As a lesson writer myself in a profession that doesn’t usually provide training, I note so many sins against didactics and common sense that it’s hard for me to enjoy a course to the end. I usually throw it out half-way through and then just use easy readers or native materials. I make use of on-hover dictionaries, parallel texts, subtitles (for films) and the like of course. I have developed a rather high tolerance for unknown words and I can guess many from context. Still, Bliu Bliu is a godsend, especially once you get that grammar system working. ;-)

Have you already used Bliu Bliu? :)

Yes, a lot.

Your final words: share anything you want with our passionate community of language lovers.

It is said that a man can have 10 years of experience, or one year of experience repeated 10 times. Be sure to do the former. New materials, new methods, new contacts, new languages are essential if you want to move ahead.

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How can people get in touch with you…

Find me at www.learnlangs.com , @Sprachprofi or on Quora.
Also, be sure to check out LearnYu and my Indiegogo campaign!

CrowdFunding

We just visited Indiegogo office here in Berlin. Indiegogo, together with Kickstarted, is one of the most famous crowd funding platform on the Internet.
IndieGogo

What is crowdfunding?

An example to make it very clear: at Bliu Bliu we want to change the world by changing the way people learn a language. We want to make an app that will always show you videos at your level for the language you want to learn. You will be able to understand all these videos learning new words all the time, improving your skills and getting better and better at understanding how people speak.

Now let’s imagine we managed to build a prototype for 104 languages that you can already use and that now we need your help to go all the way till the end and change the world.

If enough people share the same dream, all we need to do is to post the project on indiegogo asking for your help.
You give us 1€ 10€ 100€ and with your money and the money of other people, we build the vision, giving you in exchange early access or a lifetime premium account.

Bliu Bliu doesn’t have any active campaign at the moment but you never know…

Software for language learning

Lovely things we found on the Internet

More and more people all around the world are using Bliu Bliu to practice their reading skills.
Bliu Bliu offers a gentle solution, finding for you content at your level making sure you expand your vocabulary one word at the time.

We have 106 languages already, some of them with higher quality but all of them can be used to get an idea how the system works.

KSENIA – Languages on an emotional level

Today we want to take you to sunny and warm Portugal. In the capital, Lisbon, lives a Russian polyglot, Ksenia Ashrafullina, who speaks more than 7 languages. Let’s travel together in the stunning and unpredictable life of a ´Lispoeta´.

Who are you and where have you lived in the last 12 months

For the last 12 months I have been a ´Lispoeta´. It is a word play on ´Lisboeta´, a person who lives in Lisbon. After a year of backpacking and sticking my nose into every small Portuguese village and accent, I decided to settle down in Portugal´s capital, where among other projects I am building an app for the EU that unites cultural events of EU language centres and embassies (EUNIC APP).

What languages do you speak?

Russian is native, English feels like one. Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are the languages that make me a more emotional and communicative person, if not frenetic! French and Czech are still a little bit of a battle for perfection. Then there is Polish, Slovak and Serbian: my inspiration is to get past the panslavic improvisation stage. Gourmet-tasting Turkish and Greek right now.

Languages are just a hobby or you make money out of them?

In a roundabout way all my income is somehow related to languages. Striking a common note is easier when one has not only a language skill, but also empathy for the culture and mentality of others.

Tell us something about your First Time

I was a Soviet child dreaming to see London and New York. My first teacher made every English class a party, so I´d say it was easy.

Any terrible experience? Like a language you could not learn and you gave up…

I only give up if the essence of communication happening in a certain language is not satisfactory to me. I would say that on an emotional level Czech is still the most difficult one.

What about an “easy” experience

Italian without any doubt. The innate excitability and desire to communicate that the Italians have make you a pro in no time.

Why languages and not…..

Maybe because I got it all wrong in my life, and now I can not stop myself from learning new languages? :)

Do you have a mentor? Does anybody inspire you?

People´s voices on a tram, musicality of everyday interactions, cinema with its sophisticated choice of sounds and images, names of dishes. I have a strong physical reaction to intonations and accents, so my best inspiration is life in all its euphony.

Do you have a secret weapon to learn languages?

Repeat to yourself anything you hear others say — as they are saying it: in a real conversation or on a device.

Can you share with us your language learning routine?

1. Get inspired by travelling or meeting someone outstanding ´from´ that language
2. Get a grammar book to get the basics
3. Couchsurf, travel, read, listen, ask ask ask questions.

Do you try to read/watch content at your level? Is it easy to find?

It is a good way to look at the challenge: what is my level? how do I find the right content? I´ve never though of it this way — I am learning!

Have you already used Bliu Bliu?

I am registered and starting to explore it. As I am trying to kickstart my Greek now, I´ll be glad to test it with Bliu Bliu:)

Your final words: share anything you want with our passionate community of language lovers

Somehow food tastes better if you can first pronounce it in the original language. Yellow and giallo are different colours. You start moving differently in a foreign language. Enjoy observing yourself and your culinary, visual and motor advances!

To find more about Ksenia and the projects she is in:

About Ksenia – find here
The app to unite cultural agendas – EU cultural centres
Visual inspiration for those who would like to learn Portuguese.
Lispoets FB page – reflections on the beauty of Lisbon: