28 Jan 2015

Students' Stories: Martin, in Florida for the holidays, celebrates his 5 months of studying abroad!

Hi everyone! 

Just a few days ago it was exactly 5 months since I arrived in Wisconsin, half of the school year. I am back at school and have changed subjects after the holidays when I had a great new year in Florida.  

I had the chance to go thanks to Lucas’ (a French exchange student) host family, who let me stay for 10 days. On the agenda there was: relaxing, fishing, swimming, the beach…the best! The weather was fantastic and I was grateful to have a bit of sun, because in the north it's very white.  

We had a few very cold days two or three weeks ago, but the winter isn't really that bad.

Since Christmas I haven’t done much, just the daily routine… It’s still going really well with my host family, they really made me feel like a part of the family and I truly feel at home! 

Are you currently on a long term programme abroad with us? Contact us and write a short blog for us about your time abroad and you could be one of our lucky winners!

20 Jan 2015

Language apps

In today's fast paced, tech-savvy world where a new iPhone comes out every 6 months and Google is literally everywhere, even in your glasses, it is not hard to see why people have become reliant on this omnipresent technology. In fact, surveys have calculated that on average people spend 2 hours per day on their mobile device (smartphone, tablet etc.). This adds up to 30 days per year, that's right, we spend on average one whole month per year on our mobile devices.

Source: pcmag.com

Many people say they would like to learn a second language but 'don't have the time', 'think its too daunting' or some other excuse. Well, as we are spending 30 days a year on our phones, why not do something beneficial with that time! Smartphones are replacing many things that used to be commonplace (who has an alarm clock now!?) and can do just about anything. There are now a plethora of language learning apps that make it easy and fun to brush up on your linguistic skills. Whether you just want the basics for a holiday or actually want to make some real progress with your skills, there is definitely an app for that!

1: Duolingo 

Source: duolingo.com
Duolingo is a free language learning app. It splits lessons up into units via themes (work, education, home etc) and each unit goes up in difficulty. It is not a particularly grammar intensive app, apart from the units on tenses, adverbs, pronouns etc, although thanks to the Duolingo community you are able to discuss grammar points (among other language aspects) with other users. It uses a range of different exercises including: speaking (read a sentence out loud to your device), translation (both native language - second language and vice versa), matching words to photos, multiple choice and listening (type what you hear). It also gives users the chance to do real translations from the web (from blogs, websites etc). 

Languages offered: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and English.

2: Busuu

Source: busuu.com

Busuu requires a monthly subscription, but like Duolingo has a very active community of users. Thanks to this there is lots of speaking practice. The general format of lessons is the following: start with key vocabulary, writing practice on the particular topic (which other members can see and edit), speaking practice with native speakers in the community, record phrases (which busuu then turns into a conversation with pre-recorded sentences), and finally there is a lesson review. The app relies heavily on the community of users but is a great one for speaking skills. 

Languages offered: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese.

3: Memrise

Source: balderton.com
This app is free and centres around memorizing foreign words. It offers different modules regarding your chosen language, for example "basic Mexican Spanish", "advanced Spanish" or "250 most commonly used Spanish words". Each lessons generally consists of a foreign word, its English meaning and an audio recording. Its main pulling factor is that it uses humour as an aid for memorizing the words, rather than just looking at a word on a page. 

Languages offered: Memrise has a vast, vast amount of languages available, here are (some) European languages available: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, Greek, Norwegian, Swedish.

4: Babbel

Source: amazefiles.com
This app requires either a monthly or yearly subscription. It offers a series of courses with various lessons within each course. The general lesson structure is: presentation of new vocabulary, a dialogue, grammar instruction, review and drilling. At the end of each lesson you receive a numerical grade. It more or less follows the standard structure of a language lesson with "explanation, exercises, quizzes". It also has a 'review manager' which offers quizzes on words and topics already studied.

Languages offered: Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

5: Rosetta Stone Travel app

Source: Rosettastone.com

Rosetta Stone is by far the best known and oldest language learning platform. However the full version tends to be rather expensive, but this is where the travel app comes in handy as it is free! This app is great for those of you who just want to know the basics while travelling. It has a built in phrase book and 3 free lessons to help you get to grips with the basics of your chosen language. It uses its own speech recognition technology to help with pronunciation. 

Languages offered: Spanish, French, German, Italian.

Why not try out what you've learnt on the locals on one of our programmes! Contact us for more info.