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Learning a Foreign Language

Choosing between non-Western languages
Advice for introducing Spanish to primary students

Where can Americans learn Turkmen (not Turkish) language in America?
Methods or techniques to improve listening skills?
Learn Arabic at my own pace
Learn Zulu
Where can I study Dari in the Washington, DC area?
Learning Bengali
Can I learn a language on my own?
How to become fluent in Arabic?
Where can I learn Uzbek and Persian Dari?
Where can my husband study Spanish in the Virginia-DC area?
Which should I learn first Spanish or Portuguese?
Learning Chinese in Washington DC
At what age should I start to introduce my toddler to a second language, and how do I ensure there is no language confusion?
Is there a standard test for proficiency in Chinese?
Can learning a secondary language as a young person have an impact on academic learning?
Could you recommend a good school for learning Arabic?
What does a career in linguistics actually entail? Is it a rewarding career choice?
What second language should I teach my child?
So many languages, so many opportunities?
How do I reaquaint myself with a language after minimal infrequent use?
How do I go about teaching my child a second language?
Does learning a second language enhance my marketability?
How do I teach my three year old nephew Spanish?
Which of these languages: Russian Korean, Hindi, is the most difficult to learn from the viewpoint of an American speaker?
Beginning level Demotiki. Help!
Help! Only six months to learn Moroccan Arabic before leaving on holiday!
With little opportunity to practice, how do I maintain my listening/speaking skills in a language?
Which types of people learn which foreign languages easily?
I can hardly put together a sentence in Arabic without confusing my subject⁄verb agreement. Help!
Where can I study Magyar?


Choosing between non-Western languages

Dear Dora,

I am a Spanish teacher in a private school, and I was recently asked to organize a non-Western language committee to determine what language we should add.  We currently teach Spanish, French and Latin.  The preliminary discussions have focused on Mandarin Chinese vs. Arabic.  What advice to you have?  Do you know where I could find information that would be helpful?  Do you give presentations or do you know someone who does?  Based on the little research I have done so far, it seems as though there are many more materials and support systems in place for Chinese.  In your professional opinion, is this true?  Thank you for your help.

David

Dear David:

You are correct that there are far more resources for Chinese than there are for many other of the nonwestern languages. Resources for Arabic are beginning to appear and depending what level the private school is, there are possible curricula and materials that a school can use -- some with adaptation and some without. the NCLRC can send you a list of the resources for Chinese and Arabic.

For the other "critical" languages that the National Security Language Initiative has listed, such as Persian (Farsi), Urdu, and Hindi, there are very few resources and one would have to really be creative to produce materials that are usable in the classroom. Obviously, if you have a good and (hopefully) experienced teacher, then the person can put together all sorts of materials that are useful to the students and can create a learning environment. It's a huge amount of work, but doable. This summer, there were a couple of summer language programs that focused on Persian, Hindi and Urdu, and there may be some materials that have been produced through those programs. These were conducted under the STARTALK program (startalk.umd.edu). I haven't had a chance to find out what was used in these programs, but you can contact the directors from the list on the STARTALK Web site.

 My suggestion is that if you're going to introduce a nonwestern language (or more than one, which would be wonderful!), in addition to the committee doing some homework (and we'll be glad to try to answer specific questions), you will need a buy in from the parents and the students, in particular, if the school is thinking about creating a sustained and successful program. Chinese and Arabic dominate at the moment, but there may be some other considerations to take into account. E.g., where the school is located. Where your students end up going to college and university. What their main interests are.

Our relationship to China is probably going to continue for a while, and it's primarily commercial. Our relationship to the Arabic world will probably continue also -- but it's clearly a much more complicated picture. Are Hindi and Urdu worth pursuing since English dominates quite a bit in South Asia?  The answer to me is a resounding yes, and clearly US involvement with South Asia is going to grow. It may be worth investigating Persian. Again, it takes looking into the future and what the school community thinks would be good for its students. I also think that the importance of Russian is going to increase again.

Another component to take into account is that the opportunities for student study abroad at the high school level are increasing. The competition for the popular languages is quite high, but if the school chose something a little less competitive, it may be a real opportunity for the students to increase their proficiency so by the time they got to college or university, they would be well on their way to high levels of proficiency. There is the issue of finding competent teachers and the cost of hiring them full time. Arabic teachers are sometimes hired to also teach French, for example, until there are enough classes to use their services full time.

Nothing like complicating things! From my very own perspective, and this is not an official statement, is that we tend to sometimes jump on bandwagons and then are left hanging after the "langue de jour" goes away. Take Russian and Japanese as good examples from the 70s and 80s.

Best wishes,

Dora Johnson

Program Associate

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Advice for introducing Spanish to primary students

Dear Dora,
I am about to embark on a rather large project and would be so grateful for advice! In July I am starting a new job at an independent, alternative school in Victoria, Australia. This school has never had a language before and I am to introduce Spanish to K though to Grade 8, and am planning to do it through immersion. I have specific curriculum responsibilities for some classes which I will teach through immersion - e.g. Humanities in Grade 1, Science grade 2, Art Grade 3,4,5 , PE grade 6 and 7 and + 'Language and Culture' classes for all grades.


I am passionate about Spanish and Spain, but this is a new thing for me, having only every taught in high schools, where Spanish was never offered. As an ESL teacher, and having learnt Spanish myself, I feel very strongly about immersion /content-enriched approach. It is now a matter of getting started!

It is really the first month I'm wanting to get planned more than anything - I have complete creative freedom in coming up with the units of work. Do you have any suggestions, considering the different age groups - and the fact that no one has any Spanish knowledge? I was thinking that I would try to do complete immersion with the younger kids, and treat culture as the culture of their own lives, families, friends etc. The older kids, I think, will be more interested in Spanish as a language and Spanish Culture. I have as yet, very few resources - I have 4 weeks to make them/find them - but want to be clearer on the themes I'm going to start teaching first!

I hope this makes some sense!
Kind Regards,
Zannah

Dear Zannah,
I am not the authority on this topic. I am forwarding your e-mail to Nancy Rhodes of our staff who will provide you with resources to consult. The project does sound interesting, albeit a bit daunting! Good luck. I'm sure you'll do well.

Dora

Here is her response:
Dear Zannah:
It sounds like you have a fascinating job ahead of you! Your idea to use immersion/content-enriched instruction sounds like the right way to go -- and it's certainly do-able. I highly recommend that you get a copy of the book "Languages and Children -- Making the Match. New Languages for Young Learners" by Helena Curtain and Carol Ann Dahlberg, Pearson, 2004. (Available at Amazon.com) It's a must read for anyone teaching language to elementary school children and is often referred to as the "bible" of language teaching. Also, visit www.cal.org/earlylang for a variety of resources. Good luck! Have fun in Australia! Sincerely, Nancy Rhodes Director, Foreign Language Education Center for Applied Linguistics

One more response from the editor:

Let us know how you are doing there!

Jill Robbins
Associate Project Director, NCLRC

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Where can Americans learn Turkmen (not Turkish) language in America?

Dear Dora,
Where can Americans learn Turkmen (not Turkish) language in America? Thanks. Z.O.

Dear Z.O.:
To my knowledge, the only place you can learn Turkmen is at Indiana University. Here is the information from the CARLA database for this summer's program. It also looks as if they offer a distance program, although there was no description about what that entailed, so you may want to contact the Slavic Department and speak with Jerzy Kolodziej about it.

Indiana University also houses the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region (CelCAR). Although they have not yet produced anything in Turkmen, I believe there are plans to do so. You need to contact them directly. My guess is that some of the private language schools would also offer Turkmen. You will need to contact them individually. Sorry the pickings are so slim, but there is the perception that if one knows Turkish, then one can get along in Turkmen. Not a very comforting thought. That's what people used to think of when they mixed up Farsi and Dari in the not too distant past!
Dora Johnson

Language: Turkmen
Institution: Indiana University (IN) (college summer)
Level: Elementary (first year)
Intermediate (second year)
Address: Slavic Department
1020 Kirkwood Ave.
Ballantine 502
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103
Contact phone: (812) 855-2608
855-1648
Contact fax: (812) 855-2107
Link(s): http://www.indiana.edu/~iuslavic/swseel/index.shtml

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Methods or techniques to improve listening skills?

Dear Dora:
I read through your website section and questions with interest, but did not find resources to help our particular situation. My husband is in a military language program, studying Mandarin. He must acheive a certain level of proficiency at the end of the course in reading, writing and comprehension (listening). He is bi-lingual in English and German from childhood and has studied other Indo-European languages. He is scoring incredibly high (90+) on reading and writing consistently, but his listening is not where it should be. He studies hours a day and watches movies and listens to radio in Mandarin. He knows the individual words/phrases, but just can't process fast enough on the fly in the comprehension tests. The instructors (native Mandarin speakers) don't seem to know what to suggest to improve his listening.

Are you aware of certain study methods or techniques he could use to improve his listening skills?
Much thanks,

HB

Dear HB:
It is difficult to provide easy answers to your husband's problem. Obviously, his anxiety level is creating a barrier and the more he worries, the worse the barrier gets. I ran your conundrum past one of our more experienced language teachers and here is her answer.

It could be that he's putting too much stress on himself by thinking that he has to catch every word. Perhaps he could try "listening with a purpose," trying to pick up a few important details that he determines before listening. 

For example, when listening to the radio, he could set himself the task of learning the answers to questions such as these:   

  • In a weather forecast: Is it going to rain tomorrow? Will the heat wave break?
  •  
  • In a news report: What kind of event is being reported? Is it a bank robbery? Did the thieves get caught?     Is it a flood? What areas were flooded? Was there much loss of life?

These are questions that he can create for himself, based on the types of information that are commonly found in different types of listening passages.

Another tip is closely related to the first one. Usually the context helps us narrow the range of possible messages we can expect to hear. He should pay attention to the context in which the listening passage occurs so he can adopt the appropriate mind set.

Learning styles also play into the problems we encounter with learning. Clearly your husband does better with reading and writing, but probably has more trouble with the other two skills. One suspects he does better with trees than forests! But I'm sure he's using some "forest" skills in reading -- unless his teachers are insistent on his learning every single word. Vocabulary instruction is the least effective way to teach (and learn) for listening skills.

It is stressful learning a second language, and it becomes even more stressful when factors such as testing and careers are also thrown into the mix. He's probably doing a whole lot better than he thinks he is. Could he perhaps develop a bit of sense of humor about the tasks he's being given  

Yours,
Dora

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Learn Arabic at my own pace

Hello Dora,
 I live in Washington DC. My goal is to speak and read Arabic. I would like to learn in an environment that will progress at my pace, and not according to a set schedule. In other words, if I find out that I can learn fast, I would like to move at that pace rather than wait.

My question is, which program or person would you recommend for me around the metro area. By way of competency in Arabic, I can say that I am a beginner with no prior knowledge except the few alphabets I have been reviewing. I understand there are several dialects of Arabic. My goal is to be able to read and communicate in a standard international environment as well as be able to study religious or classical Arabic.

Thank you for your guidance.
Sincerely,

Prince Tambi

Dear Prince:
 You pose a bit of a problem. It sounds to me that you really want to learn Arabic, but you want to get your feet wet first. It does not sound as if you are looking for a real classroom teaching situation because it would be difficult for you to go as slow or as fast as you want in a group situation. So I suggest that perhaps a self-instructional course might be the best way to go. There are a number of these courses on the market and they most likely will introduce you to Arabic. One popular one is the Rosetta Stone series, www.rosettastone.com (or the kiosk at Reagan National Airport!). The initial cost may create a bit of a sticker shock, but it certainly is less expensive than hiring a private tutor. Another option might be to sign up with Arab Academy, www.arabacademy.com. It is an online course and presumably you would work at your own speed with some guidance. I do not know what the cost of enrolling is.  

One other possibility, in case you want to do this inexpensively, is to contact the Global Languages group which is coordinated out of The George Washington University. You can find them at http://www.globallanguagegroup.com

Once you have decided whether you want to pursue further study of Arabic, there are a number of places that you might enroll. The universities and colleges in the Washington area offer Arabic courses as do the Middle East Institute and the Department of Agriculture Graduate School. For religious studies, you may want to contact one of the mosques and they will be able to guide you to a place where you can learn Arabic within that context.
 Good luck.
 Dora

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Learning Dari in the Washington, DC area

Dear Dora:
Where can I study Dari in the Washington, DC area?
Stephanie

Dear Stephanie:
To my knowledge, the only way to get Dari instruction in the Washington, DC area would be to enroll in a private language school. It's expensive but they do tailor programs to meet your specifications. You might want to try Diplomatic Language Services in Arlington, VA or the Internationl Center for Language Studies (www.icls.com) in downtown Washington. There are quite a number of other proprietary schools that you can find either by using Google or the phone book!

Two other places to check because they just might have people on hand who would be willing to tutor you are the Voice of America Afghan service and the Afghan Embassy. I'd try VOA first. They have some very competent people there. The embassy might be a little more reluctant to give out names. I'd ask for the person who handles cultural affairs.

Several years ago, I was in contact with a Dari language instructor but I really don't know if the person still at the address I have. If you are interested, I can send you that information. She used to teach at one of the government agencies, I believe, and also was developing some materials but I never saw them.

You might want to contact the Afghan Communicator in Flushing, NY. They teach Dari in the NYC area and it is highly possible that there is someone attached to that group that knows someone here in DC who would be willing to work with you. T he phone number is (718) 445-6438. The Web site is www.AfghanCommunicator.com. I have been unsuccessful in getting them respond to my questions , but you may have more luck!

And, finally, I suggested to one desperate young man that he go to an Afghan restaurant and ask! And he called me back and said he'd actually found someone and was very pleased! I, unfortunately, forgot to ask him the name of the person! So you might try that as a last resort. There are several restaurants in the Washington, DC area.

If you do find a good resource, please let me know so I can answer the next person a little more intelligently!
Thanks,
Dora

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Learn Zulu

Dear Dora:
I’m looking for someone who teaches Zulu
Dr. Godwin-Jones

Dr. Godwin-Jones:
We no longer keep a database of people teaching critical languages. What we can do is put you in touch with the people who are keeping track!
For Zulu, you need to contact the National African Language Resource Center, http://african.lss.wisc.edu/nalrc. They will either provide you with names or will post the request on their e-mail list as well as on the list for the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages.
Best wishes.
Dora

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Learning Chinese in Washington DC

Dear Dora,
I am a recent college graduate in Washington, DC looking to begin studying Mandarin Chinese. Is there anywhere that I can get a list of programs for the area? I work on Capitol Hill.

Hello!
From your e-mail I'm assuming that you are not interested in enrolling in a degree program, but are interested in working on the language. There are basically only two options that I know of, although sometimes university programs do offer language courses for non-degree applicants. The best and least expensive possibility is for you to contact the US Department of Agriculture Graduate School (www.grad.usda.gov),just down the street from you at 14th and Independence. They have several levels of course offerings, and my guess is that Chinese is one of the languages that they offer on a regular basis. The person to contact is Dr. Maria Wilmeth. The last phone number I have for her is 202-690-4724, and her e-mail is maria_wilmeth@grad.usda.gov.The other option is for you to contact one of the proprietary schools,of which there are many, for lessons. The advantage of proprietary schools is that they can tailor their teaching to your needs. The disadvantage is that they are more costly. For Chinese, I would say any of the larger schools such as Berlitz and Inlingua would do fine. Downtown, you might want to try the International Center for Language Studies on 15th Street, and in Arlington there is Diplomatic Language Services. These are but a few suggested names. There are many others.

Of the universities, American University, Georgetown, George WashingtonUniversity, and Johns Hopkins University's Advanced International Studies in the District of Columbia offer Chinese. In Maryland, the closest is U of Maryland, College Park although UM BaltimoreCounty also offers it. It is highly possible that the University of Maryland University College also offers Chinese. UMUC is also involved in a fair amount of distance learning, but I haven't heard anything about their language programs in that area. The person to contact there is Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez. And in Virginia, the only institution I can find that offers Chinese that's within easy commuting distance is Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge. I hope this is of help.
Dora

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At what age should I start to introduce my toddler to a second language, and how do I ensure there is no language confusion?

Dear Dora,
I am learning French. My son is a year old. I was hoping when he is a little older and I am a little better at it, I could teach him/ learn with him. I have access to Sesame Street in French and other youth programs that would be perfect for both of us. So the question is, at what age should I start to introduce the second language? Also is there something special I should do to make sure he doesn't have language confusion? Everyone keeps telling me that I will confuse him and hurt his language skills, unless I speak French all the time, but this is not really an option.

Hello!
There is a fair amount of information on this topic, the bottom line being: don't listen to your well-meaning friends! There are some issues in early child language learning where you may have to make some choices. I am forwarding your question to Ingrid Pufahl who coordinates some of our (Center for Applied Linguistics) early foreign language learning information. She can send you a whole host of resources that you can use with your child, plus what are possible ways in which you can connect with other parents who find themselves in the same situation.

*Ingrid Pufahl: I think it's a great idea to expose your child to another language. Probably at this time, your best bet would be to ask this question on our listserv. I know that one of our contributors is working on a book that is a resource guide for parents, showing ways to encourage their young children's foreign language learning. To ask this question, please go to www.cal.org/earlylang and follow the link on how to join Ñandu. You may also find other interesting information on this website. Also, depending on where you live, you may find a play group for your child that would support his French. Good luck.
Ingrid / Dora

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Is there a standard test for proficiency in Chinese?

Dear Dora,
I'm a 2 year student of Chinese--including one year study abroad in China. I've been thinking about going into translating. Is there a standard test that's more or less internationally recognized that would give me an idea of my level of proficiency? I assume that I'd want to present the results of such a test to any potential employer whether they be Chinese or American.

Hello!
I don't know if the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org) has devised an accreditation test in Chinese. My guess is that it has not. However, you need to contact them directly. If they don't offer the test, they may be able to provide you with a source that can help you. The last e-mail address for general inquiries I have is maggie@ata.net --the person is Maggie Row. If that doesn't work, the phone number is 703/683-6100. Address: 225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590 Alexandria, VA 22314.

Although many people successfully set up shop, and often there is no need to pass any particular test (at least in this country as of this date), becoming a good translator takes some training. You may want to check two schools that do offer this type of training. One is the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the other is the Monterey Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California. Finally, you may also want to contact the Chinese Language Teachers Association. They do have a fairly complete Web site. The headquarters are at the University of Hawaii even though Ohio State hosts the Web site. This is the contact info: Chinese Language Teachers Association, Center for Chinese Studies, Moore Hall #416, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822. Tel: (808) 956-2692. Executive Director, Prof. Cynthia Ning, Email: cyndy@hawaii.edu. Good luck in your search.
Dora

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Can learning a secondary language as a young person have an impact on academic learning?

Dear Dora,
I am in the middle of my research on learning secondary languages, specifically, "Can learning a secondary language as a young person have an impact on academic learning?" I have been having problems getting updated material, and I need to hear from other people or groups that have covered this area

Hello!
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics (www.cal.org/ericcll) has a fair amount of information on this topic. The Center for Applied Linguistics Web site also has information on the topic under the early language learning heading. You can also join the Nandu listserv (www.cal.org/earlylang/), post your question on it, and will probably get more responses than you care to list! The Foreign Language Teaching Forum (FLTeach), http://www.cortland.edu/flteach is another good listserv.
Dora

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Could you recommend a good school for learning Arabic?

Dear Dora, I'm an adult who wants to learn Arabic. Could you recommend a fine, excellent school? Thank you.

Hello!
Where are you located? The programs at University of Michigan, Ohio State, Brigham Young, Middlebury, University of Georgia, Georgetown University, are possible places to get a good introduction to the language. The problem is whether they actually accept students for no credit during the school year. You'd have to check with them. Middlebury has a wonderful summer intensive program, and I believe Michigan and Georgetown also have summer programs.

If you are in the Washington, DC area, the Middle East Institute and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Graduate School are the two places where Arabic is taught regularly for non-academic purposes.
I suggest that you go to http://www.carla.acad.umn.edu/LCTL/ . There you will find the best list I know of where Arabic is taught, with contact information.
Dora

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What does a career in linguistics actually entail? Is it a rewarding career choice?

Dear Dora,
I am curious as to what a career in linguistics would actually entail? I am unclear as to what it would be like to work as a professional in this capacity. I am only asking very basic questions since I am unaware in any regard what this career choice would be like, what opportunities are available for specializing, and finally what kind of a "working life" it provides. Is it rewarding on a personal, intellectual, and financial level? Does one feel like they have contributed at the end of the day, and is fairly compensated for that good work? Are fellow professionals interesting, challenging, and engaging? What opportunities are available for research, travel, and interesting life experiences?

Hello!
Lots of questions! I'm not quite sure whether we can satisfactorily answer all your questions since any career can take you into places you may or may not want to go, and you may end up working with people you like or don't like. And like most careers, there are days when you think you've done a lot of good and other days when you wonder what happened to the day!

You may want to go to www.cal.org/ericll and click on the Resource guides online icon and look for the guide on linguistics. This has a very short and very basic description of some of the various types of linguistics that one can specialize in.

Beyond that, much depends on the kind of work you want to do. For example, there are linguists who labor mightily and hard in Native and Indigenous American languages in a real effort to revitalize them. This is tough work, but satisfying. That can take care of one's wanting to save the world feelings. There are linguists who do this all over the world -- endangered languages are a real issue. That would mean getting trained in formal linguistics so one knows what one is looking at.

There is work that you can do for the government. These days much of it entails language analysis, computational work, and translation (more than just one word at a time). Often these jobs require clearance. Generally, most of these jobs require actual language proficiency, particularly of those we call the less commonly taught languages (everything but French, Spanish, English, and German).

There is assessment work that you can think about. Measurement issues in language learning and teaching are big -- in fact, a real problem. With that, however, comes the need to also be trained in fundamental measurement and research methods. I would say that if you are trained in both, at least for the foreseeable future, you would not lack for work! Some of it can be mind numbing, but then most work has those aspects to it.

Then there is teaching. This is probably the least available these days. There is a split between what it known as theoretical linguistics and applied linguistics. Most theoretical linguists toil in academia or in places like Microsoft. Applied linguists find themselves in a whole variety of places -- again in academia, but also in education and psychology, etc.

And then there are things like forensic linguistics. And there are people who cross language and the law, language and medicine, language and (hard) science, language and anthropology, language and politics, language and public relations, language and advertising. The possibilities are endless!

What I think is wonderful about linguistics is that its study touches on all aspects of life. As human beings, we are language bound, and consequently it affects everything that we process and that comes out of our mouths and is communicated by our bodies. Even if you don't end up "doing linguistics" in a formal way, its study it seems to me would enrich anything that you may end up doing. Good luck!
Dora

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What second language should I teach my child?

Hi Dora,
I would like my children to start learning a foreign language. Trouble is I can't decide which one. My preference is for a language that is widely used, and easy to learn. Maybe Japanese, seeing as we live in Australia. Any advice is appreciated.

Hello!
It's a little difficult to pass on advice to you. My inclination is for you to introduce the children to one of the Pacific Rim languages. Obviously Japanese and Chinese are the two big ones, but Australia is involved with Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia -- any one of them would be useful to them later on, depending on what they want to be!

None of these languages are enormously easy to learn (although one could also say that of English if one were the speaker of these other languages!). But they can be fun depending on how it's taught. There are many programs for Japanese and Chinese now. I haven't seen anything for children in the other languages, but I would be willing to guess that there are some produced in Australia in the last 20 years since there has been so much emphasis on encouraging the learning of heritage languages as well as languages of the countries Australia is involved with. It would take some doing, but it seems to me that if all of you embarked on learning the rudiments of one of these languages then the children could go on once they enter school.

I don't know where you live, but are you living in an area where there is a large group of immigrants (Greeks, Middle Easterners, Armenians)? If so, perhaps one possible introduction to a foreign language might be to investigate a Saturday school and send the children there if there are classes for them at that age.

Finally, I suggest that you might want to contact Joe LoBianco at Language Australia in Canberra. He will be able to put you in touch with a teacher or group that can give you much better advice than we can from this distance.
Dora

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So many languages, so many opportunities?

Dear Dora,
My query is in regards to choice of languages. I have good proficiency in French, Portuguese and Spanish. I now have an opportunity to study Russian, Chinese, German, Arabic or Italian. I love languages and they seem to come easily to me but I realize that I eventually have to earn a living. Where can one use this type of expertise? Do you have any suggestions?

Hello!
There are any number of ways in which one can earn one's living using languages, none of them easy! Much does depend, however, on your proficiency. "Good proficiency" needs to be quantified, and that's curiously harder to come by once you get to the very advanced levels. So once you know that you want to quantify your proficiency (as in what level you are), then you need to contact Language Testing International (LTI), Tel: 914-948-5100. There is a cost attached to the tests, but the effort may be worthwhile if you're planning to use your languages to earn some income.
LTI, however, generally tests for speaking proficiency, not writing proficiency. For writing tests, you may want to check the Foreign Language Test Database maintained by the National Capital Language Resource Center and see what is available (www.nclrc.org/fltestdb) and contact the group that administers the test.

The largest consumer of foreign language expertise is the federal government. There are some 85 agencies that need language expertise of various types. They range from being a State Department escort (which means traveling with visitors) to working for the "super secrets" like the National Security Agency. Of course, the latter will require security clearance, which can take a long time.

There is also translation work. Being a good translator is hard work and takes a long time but if you are good at it, you will not lack for work. You will need to be certified, and that means going through the American Translators Association (http://www.ata.org/). There are also private translation companies, many of whom are now going into computer-assisted translation. This is a growing field and you may want to investigate those companies. My guess is that those groups tend to need editors, but again your language skills will need to be quite advanced.

You can also teach. There are the private language schools. They don't pay well, and the benefits are lousy, but they are a place to get some experience. You can also consider teaching in the school system. Certified foreign language teachers with proficiency are in demand. There is a growing cadre of immersion and two-way language programs that are in need of good teachers. But that would mean you would have to put up with little or not-so-little kids!

Then there is private industry. This is probably a more iffy area. Many industries tend to use in-country personnel to do their language work for them, but we have been told over and over again that when they do have people who speak the language of the country fluently, it makes a great deal of difference in the way business is conducted. You may want to contact your local university business school and ask to speak with the professor who is involved in international business. He/She might be able to put you in touch with a resource that's helpful. There are, incidentally, groups that specialize in communications that use foreign language. I'm afraid I can't give you the specific information, but I suspect once you start doing the research you'll find them. I hope this is helpful and will get you started.
Dora

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How do I reaquaint myself with a language after minimal infrequent use?

Dear Dora,
Help! About twenty years ago, I could speak, write and read in Arabic, but now I can only understand it when it is spoken. What is the best way to pick it up again? Are there any books on the subject? Do I have to start over fresh? Thank you for your time.

Hello!
How does one advise another in such cases? I feel the same way! To think that I actually passed exams in Arabic many moons ago, I now stumble through many a conversation and have to concentrate very hard to read a newspaper!

However, having said that, the general wisdom is that one never quite loses one's language, so that delving back into it is not such an ordeal. It depends on whether you want to refresh your language skills on your own or whether you want to do it somewhat more formally.

It seems to me less painful if you decided to "start over fresh," as you put it. I don't think it would be a good idea for you to start at the beginning -- you will be amazed how much you probably have retained if you were educated in the language. I would enroll in essentially what is an intermediate level Arabic class if I felt my comprehension was high enough. Most likely, you will struggle for a few weeks trying to get some of the old grammar rules under control.

If your education consisted of informal exposure, then I'd be inclined to say that you may want to enroll in a beginning class. Some of the stuff will be old hat and boring, but teachers are usually willing to add more work for students who are a little more advanced than the rest of the class.

I don't know where you live, but if you are in the Washington, DC area, the two places to check out are the US Department of Agriculture Graduate School and the Middle East Institute.

If you think you want to do this on your own, then I'd suggest that you go to the Language Materials Project database (www.lmp.ucla.edu) and look at the Modern Standard Arabic textbooks. There are a fair number on the market that have tapes/CDs, etc. attached to them, and you can pick the one that look like it might be what suits your learning style, and dive in.

Language, like riding a bicycle, is not quite ever forgotten. It takes getting on it again and careening around a bit. But I think one can do it without encountering too many broken bones!
Dora

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How do I go about teaching my child a second language?

Dear Dora,
I am writing to you from a small town in New Zealand. We are interested in teaching our children a second language. Both my husband and I only speak English. We have recently bought a computer with the purpose of using it to teach our children.
We have contact with many overseas people - we traveled for a year on bicycle and now invite foreign cyclists into our home. Our 3 year old seems very bright (not just to us), she also has the ability to sit for long periods of time, and we would like to make the most of her enthusiasm for learning.

Hello!
There are quite a number of early childhood foreign language programs now available. We are not equipped to evaluate them, so I suggest that you contact the National Foreign Language Resource Center at the address below. Their focus is on K-12, but I'm sure they also are collecting information on earlier years. You may also want to ask the Center about the guidelines they use when evaluating foreign language materials.

The National Foreign Language Resource Center at Iowa State University - http://www.nflrc.iastate.edu/homepage.html: This center focuses on improving student learning of foreign languages in Grades K-12. The center's work is focused on the use of effective teaching strategies, administration and interpretation of foreign language performance assessments, and the use of new technologies in the foreign language classroom.

Another resource is http://www.cal.org/earlylang, which focuses on early language learning issues in grades K-8. You could look into joining the electronic mailing list for school district personnel, superintendents, teachers, college and university teacher educators, and parents. It is sponsored by the Improving Foreign Language Instruction project of the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University (LAB), and funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

It sounds like your little girl has a wonderful, bright future ahead. Best wishes!
Dora

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Does learning a second language enhance my marketability?

Dear Dora,
I am a junior in high school who is studying Spanish and French and planning to major in Spanish in college. I was told by a friend in college that if I major in language, it would open many opportunities for me. Is it true?

Hello!
Learning another language is always advantageous! I think you need to think about what you see yourself doing once you get out of college. There is no doubt that in the foreseeable future, being fluent in Spanish will give you opportunities in the social services and health fields, in teaching, and in business. French perhaps, may be not so immediately useful on this side of the Atlantic, but it certainly would be very useful if you are thinking about going into international work since there are still large areas of the world where French continues to play an important role and as people take it less and less there will probably be a shortage. There is a shortage of French teachers here, for example.

If you are willing to undergo the rigorous training of becoming an interpreter (and it is rigorous!), there are also many opportunities in that field. Good interpreters are always in demand according to those in the know. If nothing else, being fluent in a language opens up all sorts of wonderful doors - for your own personal satisfaction. I am sure you are already finding out how wonderful it is to be able to converse in another language. Keep it up! Then combine it with something you think you want to do in college and you surely will come out ahead!
Dora

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How do I teach my three year old nephew Spanish?

Dear Dora,
I am trying to teach my 3.5 year old nephew to speak Spanish. Any thoughts on how to go about this?

Hello!
There are a number of resources in various places on our Web site (http://www.cal.org). Plug in Early Language Learning and I think you'll find a fair number of publications that will give you a sense of what directions to take.

You may also want to join the ñanduti electronic mailing list , which you can do through this site: http://www.cal.org/earlylang/. Posting your question will probably bring you more answers than you want, but it's a good place to elicit responses from parents and teachers. For example, at one point there was a lot of discussion about the use of video in language teaching/learning. Parents and teachers have shared what they do with their pre-K to higher elementary school students. What they use, what approaches they use, the "tricks of the trade", etc.

If none of this proves satisfactory, contact Nancy Rhodes (nancy@cal.org) and she can put you in touch with a couple of people who can give you more detailed information.
Dora

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Which of these languages: Russian Korean, Hindi, is the most difficult to learn from the viewpoint of an American speaker?

Dear Dora,
I am interested in learning Russian, Korean, or Hindi. Since learning a language is a long-term, intensive investment of time, money, interest, etc., I want to make the right choice now. My question is: which language should I learn?

I use Spanish and Portuguese daily at work and in my family and social life. (I am also familiar with French and Latin). For years, I was a Spanish and English, ESL and American Literature instructor. Consequently, I am fully familiar with the techniques and trials of learning a foreign language and grammatical terms and explanations do not confuse or overwhelm me.

I live in a cosmopolitan area, so I know that I could practice all three if I made the effort. Moreover, I have access to magazines, cassettes, and books in all three languages. So that is not an issue either. My primary reason for learning one of these three languages is simply self-improvement and a personal interest in foreign language acquisition.

Pronunciation is probably the greatest single factor in my making a decision followed by grammatical and syntactical difficulty. Which of the three languages-Russian, Korean, and Hindi-would you say is the easiest to pronounce and which is the most difficult from the standpoint of an American speaker? Is Korean a tonal language as many other Asian tongues are?

Hello!
You have a bit of a tall order and I'm not sure that we could answer your needs in any satisfactory manner. In your case, it's a matter of choice, rather than job-related or a matter of survival!

Korean is not a tonal language so that is not a problem. If you are able to figure out Korean writing, I don't think you'd have that much trouble with Hindi either. Think of the writing system as a laundry line with symbols hanging off it. According to a Russian expert who recently conducted workshops for a project related to the National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC), Russian is about as straightforward a language as one can get. The alphabet is easy to learn (what you see is what you get), and there is little variation in dialects. But like most languages, as you know, once one gets beyond a certain level, communication takes on much more complicated set of nuances.

It seems to me that you may want to make your decision based on what you want to use the language for. If you're only going to learn it for the fun of it and not use it a whole lot as you seem to do with your other languages, then it seems to me, you should make the decision based on how much of the literature, the newspapers, the news (via satellite), etc. you are going to indulge in. Pronunciation might take a back seat in that case -- and comprehension and listening and reading skills would be more important. If you think you are going to be interacting with people from the language group, then pronunciation obviously will be an important factor . Then you would need to decide whether you want to go simple (Russian) or difficult (Hindi). My guess is that Korean falls in the middle, if such a thing can be measured.

What I think might be the best thing is for you to perhaps go to one of the university libraries that have linguistics programs, and look for a volume called The World's Major Languages, ed. by Bernard Comrie. There are good understandable descriptions of the phonologies for each of these languages in the book and you might be able to compare them and make an informed judgment based on your needs and interests.
Dora

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Beginning level Demotiki. Help!

Dear Dora,
I am interested in Greek language study, Demotiki, especially conversation. I have had some lessons in the language, and am probably at the beginner/tourist level. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Hello!
I am not quite sure whether you are interested in taking classes or whether you are interested in going it alone. For information about materials you will need to search on the Language Materials Project. Go to http://www.lmp.ucla.edu.

If it's classes, your choices may be somewhat limited. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School sometimes offers Greek, if there are enough students to make up a class. Contact Maria Wilmeth at 202/690-4724 or e-mail: MWilmeth@smtpgate.grad.usda.gov. The Greek church on 16th Street has also been known to offer classes although I haven't been in contact with them in quite a while. Whether they are continuing or not, I don't know, but you could give them a call. And of course there are the proprietary schools which are more costly, but are also able to tailor classes to your needs. One school is the International Center for Language Studies on 15th Street, NW. Phone number is 202/639-8800. You could try asking for Vesna Putic Other schools are Berlitz, Inlingua, and Diplomatic Language Services although there are a number of others in the area. The Yellow Pages are one place to start.

Finally, the person who knows where all the resources are is Dr. James E. Alatis at Georgetown University. Summertime may be a hard time to get him, but you could try calling his office at 202/687-5659. His assistant will know how you can reach him. Who knows, maybe he'll let you sit in on his classes!
Dora

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Help! Only six months to learn Moroccan Arabic before leaving on holiday!

Dear Dora,
I am going to Morocco in a couple of months. I need to learn the commonly spoken dialect. I understand it is a mix of many languages! If you can provide me with assistance on how to go about learning this dialect, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Hello!
For some curious reason, to my knowledge, new Moroccan Arabic textbooks have not been issued recently. The ones I know of are from the 60s and the 70s. They're quite adequate, but with the exception of a couple of French books and the Lonely Planet phrase book, the only two sets of books I know of are those produced by Georgetown University Press and the University of Michigan Dept. of Middle Eastern Studies. I suggest that you visit the Language Materials Project web site at: www.lmp.ucla.edu for more complete information. There are descriptions of these texts in the database. They can be ordered directly from the institutions, or you might want to contact Schoenhof's Foreign Books: http://www.schoenhofs.com/, and order the books you want from them.
Dora

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With little opportunity to practice, how do I maintain my listening/speaking skills in a language?

Dear Dora,
I have studied and used Russian, German, and Arabic and now I am working in Washington and would like to keep up my skills with these languages. Like most people however, I don't have a lot of spare time to visit language labs or organize discussion groups.

When at university I very much enjoyed the SCOLA programming system, which offered news programs from around the world, a different country each hour. This, at least, would help with listening skills, and provide a basis for mimicking pronunciations. I was wondering if there was any way for private homes to get the Scola link or a similar satellite or cable hookup, i.e. any hookup that would allow viewing of current foreign language TV programming. Thanks very much for any advice you can offer.

Hello!
I believe SCOLA does indeed allow subscriptions to individuals but I have no idea what the subscription costs are. You might want to visit their Web site at http://www.scola.org for further information. I suspect you'll need to have access to some sort of satellite dish.

The other resource is to call the Voice of America and ask them for their schedules of broadcasting. What you should do is ask for the Russian language service, the German language service, etc. VOA is not allowed to broadcast to the U.S. since its mission is to make news available elsewhere, but there is nothing to preclude your getting a short wave radio and accessing the news broadcasts that way.

Two other resources that may be possibilities. I don't think there is a German language program in the area, but I won't swear to it. You might want to call the German Embassy and ask them if there are any broadcasts. There is a French radio one for example (about an hour or two a day). There is an Arabic language radio station and an Arabic language TV channel broadcast out of Northern Virginia. I think there is a Russian program broadcast out of Baltimore but I may be wrong. For Russian, I suggest you might want to contact Professor Rich Robin. He knows where all these resources are. His email is rrobin@gwu.edu (that's George Washington University).

Finally, if you do want to spend a pleasant evening, there is an Inter-Cambio on Fridays or Saturdays at a funky cafe called Dos Gringos in the Mt. Pleasant area just north of Adams Morgan and easily accessible via public transportation. From the list I've seen, there is a fairly wide range of languages represented of people who want to engage in conversation. You may need to call Dos Gringos to find out what languages are being used by the patrons. The phone number is 202-462-1159.
Dora

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Which types of people learn which foreign languages easily?

Dear Dora,
I have a rather unusual question. I am a freshman in college and I am considering registering for a foreign language course next year. I am open to any language, but is it possible to identify which language I would be most equipped to understand before I make my decision? Has anyone ever created a test that determines what types of people learn which foreign language more easily? Given all people have unique talents and abilities, I'm assuming that some people can learn a particular foreign language more naturally than others. I already posed this question to my university's foreign language and linguistics departments, and they referred me to you.

Hello!
To my knowledge, there is no such test. There used to be one that tested for language learning ability called the MLAT but it has fallen out of favor. The going thinking in foreign language learning circles at the moment is that anyone can learn any language -- some obviously with a little more difficulty than others -- and the optimizing comes from good teaching and good materials.

So my advice to you is pick the language you think you would most enjoy learning. Perhaps you might want to look at the country, the culture -- is this a place you would really like to visit and spend time in? -- And ask former students what the instructor is like. I'd also be inclined to see what kinds of resources are available in the language-learning center (the old language labs) and what kind of assistance you can get. Good luck. I'm sorry I can't quite give you the predictable answer you are seeking!

[Note: Since I answered this question, it has come to my attention that Second Language Testing, Inc. 10704 Mist Haven Terrace, N. Bethesda, MD 20852-3437, http://www.2lti.com/home2.htm, E-mail: CStansfield@2LTI.com is making available the MLAT. For further information about its availability and how to take it, contact SLTI directly.]
Dora

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I can hardly put together a sentence in Arabic without confusing my subject/verb agreement. Help!

Dear Dora,
I am a first generation daughter that understands about 35% of the language (Arabic) and can hardly put a sentence together without confusing my subject/verb agreement. I am in the Detroit area and am looking for a school that teaches Arabic. Last summer I took a course at a local community college and learned nothing but the alphabet. My main goal is to speak Arabic fluently as a second language. I am finding it difficult to find an Arabic school that is not taught Islamically. If you have any suggestions please reply.

Hello!
Gosh, I don't really know what to say. I would agree with you that it is probably difficult in the Detroit area to find a school outside of the public schools that doesn't also teach Islamics along with the language. From a Muslim point of view, the two go hand in hand. And your story about only learning the alphabet is also a familiar story. I really don't quite know where to send you. I wonder whether you should consider starting out a little on your own and with someone who might be willing to work with you one on one until you feel like you can become part of a more advanced class.

You fit the profile of what we call a heritage language speaker. You have some knowledge of the language, and probably a lot of culture. So beginning classes can end up being very boring and not terribly useful. Yet, your command of the language does not give you access to a more advanced class because your proficiency is not good enough!

It also sounds as if you feel that the Islamic Arabic schools focus more on religion than they do on the language. Since I don't know them, passing judgment is not appropriate. However, I also think that this does have something to do with that middle ground of proficiency/lack of proficiency in a language.

Have you looked into whether there are some full-fledged Arabic classes at Wayne State? I'm pretty sure there are. If you're willing to drive, the Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor has a wonderful Arabic program. You might want to give both departments a call and find out whether they have available resources that you can tap into. Then you might want to contact the head of the Arabic bilingual programs in the Detroit schools. My sense is that she would also know what might be a good school for you to attend.

Finally, I'm assuming that you are interested in learning to speak Modern Standard Arabic as a second language. Because if you're interested in speaking one of the dialects, it's going to be a little bit harder to access resources. Your parents⁄grandparents probably speak a dialect of Arabic, which is where your comprehension comes from and why you are having trouble with syntax if you're trying to speak MSA.

There are some good resources for learning Arabic now. I'm assuming that the language bookstore in Troy is still in existence. You might want to try them to see what is available that you can afford. You can also go to http://www.lmp.ucla.edu and search for Arabic. There is a fairly long list of different textbooks, including self-instructional ones that may be of interest to you. I'm sorry I can't be of more help. However, don't get discouraged. If you're determined, you will work something out!
Dora

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Where can I study Magyar?

Dear Dora,
I'm a biochemistry major. I've always been interested in linguistics and hope to pursue this route later. For the time being, I'm taking Japanese and German. I took French in high school--not exactly a 'rarely taught language.' My dad's family is Hungarian. As a small kid, I grew up hearing the language. I know some vocabulary and a little grammar, but could learn much more. As the older generations have passed away, there has been less and less chance to hear and practice the language. I've tried to teach myself Magyar and have met with limited success. As you know, it has one of the most difficult grammars to learn of any language.

As a non-Indo-European language, there are few cognates and so vocab acquisition is harder. (What knowledge of Magyar I have has helped with my Japanese though! crazy huh?) If I didn't have chemistry and biology to study and research in the lab, I could spend more time as an autodidact, but... and so I'd rather have some sort of organization. I'd like to learn it formally.

I'd also like to get credit for my attempt. I need your advice. How should I approach the schools on the list about a possible correspondence course? Which school(s)? Summer school might also be an option, but I'd prefer a correspondence set-up.

Hello!
I tip my hat to anyone who wants to take on Hungarian. I have a friend who has lived there now for almost 10 years and despite the fact that she's a good language learner, she says she still stumbles! The reason you probably had less trouble with Japanese because of your Hungarian is because (despite the heated debate) many linguists consider them Uralic languages -- so the structure of the languages are somewhat similar.

Okay, on to where you can study it. Log on to http://carla.acad.umn.edu. Go to the less commonly taught languages icon and follow the trail from there for offerings in the LCTLs. Many of the schools offer independent study. Whether there is a way for any of these universities to allow you to get credit, I don't know.

Beloit College does have an intensive summer program which may be your best bet. The contact information is all on the Web site. Ohio State University used to have a rudimentary distance-learning program where students enrolled and spent a certain number of hours being tutored via telephone. This was way before technologically savvy venues came about. I haven't heard anything about the program for a while, but you may want to contact the Slavic Dept. (also on the Web site) at OSU and ask them whether this still exists.

Finally, I don't know if they would be of help to you or not, but you may want to talk to someone at NASILP (National Association of Self Instructional Programs) - http://www.nasilp.org. They may have some advice for you about what to do to get credit for independent study or from other institutions.

Once you've graduated and you think you won't object to working for the government, you should really look into the National Security Education Program. You just may be able to get yourself a scholarship that will get you to Hungary. This program is designed to encourage people in fields other than language to learn languages. Eastern Europe is not high on the list for obvious reasons, but Hungarian�well; you might be able to talk someone into it. There are also Fulbright scholarships that you can apply for. Combining your science and language is a wonderful idea. Good luck.
Dora

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Which should I learn first Spanish or Portugese?

Dear Dora,
I know Spain and Portugal are geographically close, but how similar are the two languages spoken there? I am interested in learning both Spanish and Portuguese, and am wondering if it is better to take one or the other first, to maximize the transfer from one language to learning the second.Thanks!

Hello!
The answer to your question as to whether Spanish and Portuguese are very similar is an unqualified yes. As to whether which language you should study first, it seems to me that either is a possibility. So I ran a small survey and talked to three people who had studied both languages and here are the results.

Two of them studied Spanish first. They then took a course called Portuguese for Spanish Speakers and they both thought it was a breeze in that they didn't have to struggle very hard. They found the grammar easy to understand. Both said that pronunciation was a little more complicated, but it didn't take much to figure things out. One person went to Brazil after she took the course and she said that at first she had to work hard to figure out the pronunciation, but within the month she was very comfortable with the language. She felt it didn't make a difference as to which language you studied first.

The second Spanish to Portuguese person spent more time in Europe. He listens to a lot of Brazilian music and finds it very easy to understand the lyrics. He did say that pronunciation would be a bit of an effort, but it is far easier to tune into Brazilian Portuguese if you know Spanish rather than tuning into Continental Portuguese. Portuguese has 7-8 vowels whereas Spanish has 5. He found that harder to understand although he could easily read the newspapers. This subject feels that it may be easier to study Spanish first. His experience was that Portuguese plurals, for example, were a bit arbitrary and knowing Spanish helps to figure them out.

The third person I interviewed studied Portuguese first, in middle school, and then learned Spanish beginning in 9th grade. She found the transition very easy to Spanish although writing was a bit of a hill to climb. She too thought that if you really had to make a choice, Spanish might be easier, although she didn't think it was all that much of a problem.

The final piece of information I have is from two Brazilian friends. One of them learned to speak Spanish very easily because her job took her to various Spanish speaking countries. She said it was a breeze. The other didn't learn to speak it but understands it very well. She attends Spanish-speaking conferences, for example. She noted one day, however, that Brazilians can understand Spanish, but Spanish speakers have trouble understanding Portuguese. When I checked this out with the other three subjects above, they agreed.

So, to sum up: the languages are very similar, and the main problem seems to come down to verbal comprehension. So you could start with one or the other, but it may be easier to start with Spanish. Please note, this advice is not based on scientific evidence! Good luck,
Dora

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Where can my husband study Spanish in the Virginia-DC area?

Dear Dora,
I am a native Spanish speaker while my husband is American. He has watched Muzzy and other programs, but what are some other ways for him to learn Spanish? We are in the Virginia area and have a young child who is also learning both languages. Thanks!

Hello!
Regarding your husband learning Spanish, the options are many. I'm not quite sure exactly what you would like in terms of information. There are any number of options for him.

If he wants to learn it at home, you could perhaps buy a self-instructional course such as the Rosetta Stone. It moves the learner from the simple to the more difficult as the learner decides whether he⁄she has control over what has been learned.

There are classes in the area that he could sign up for. No doubt the community colleges in the area offer Spanish and they're usually in the evenings because they cater to working adults. You would need to contact NOVA. The US Department of Agriculture Graduate School in Washington, DC also offers Spanish where the classes are also in the evenings.

You could also take on the task yourself and do a combination of contextualized learning (also with your child). E.g., you could spend half an hour every other day talking only Spanish. It's amazing how quickly he will pick up a whole bunch of language -- if he's motivated! And you can watch fun things like telenovelas with him. I understand that men love these more than women although they'd never admit to that. Or you could listen to/watch the news on one of the Spanish language channels.

Of course, there's always tutoring, and an ad in the local community newsletter may produce more tutors than you know what to do with! The issue is whether you husband really wants to learn Spanish. If so, there are many opportunities. Good luck to him!
Dora

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Where can I learn Uzbek and Persian Dari?

Dear Dora,
I'm interested in learning Uzbek and Persian Dari. Do you offer these language courses? If so, can you send more information or direct me to where I can obtain more details.Thank you

Hello!
I suggest you contact Indiana University for Uzbek. I don't know if they're planning on teaching Dari or not. They certainly are offering Pashto. The Slavic, East European and Central Asian Lanugages is sponsoring summer workshops on these languages. the URL is http://www.indiana.edu/~iuslavic/swseel. For more information on where Dari is being taught, you may also want to contact the Center for the Languages of the Central Asian Region: http://www.indiana.edu/~celcar/.
Dora

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How to become fluent in Arabic?

Dear Dora,
I am currently a senior at Ohio State, and my minor is in Arabic. I am interested in becoming fluent in Arabic, but find this a difficult task to achieve. What I have learned up to this point has certainly been helpful, but I'm looking for more of an intense program to learn Arabic. Of course I am aware of the Defense Language Institute in California that trains the military and agency members, but do you know of a similar program that is open to civilians? I appreciate whatever guidance you can give me.

Hello!
There are a couple of options, although the summer intensive program at Middlebury is full. If you want to go to another summer program, you might want to contact the Middlebury program and attend it next summer.

The other possibility is since you are a senior is for you to consider applying to the National Flagship Language Initiative program that's funded under the National Security Education Program, http://www.casl.umd.edu/nfli/. The two Arabic programs that exist at the moment are at University of Maryland and Georgetown University and I understand that there are more planned. Dr. Mahdi Alosh at OSU can probably provide you with a fair amount of information about the programs since he has been involved in training and testing with them. You also may want to check out the Web site of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic. http://www.wm.edu/aata/. There are intensive summer programs listed on that site which may be of use to you. Some depends on what kind of Arabic you want to work on. For example, this summer there an intensive Syrian Arabic course being taught at the University of Illinois--Urbana Champaign.
Dora

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Can I learn a language on my own?

This month, Craig Packard of The Center for Applied Linguistics will be a guest columnist filling in for Dora Johnson.

Dear Craig,
Please send me information regarding adults learning foreign languages linguistically on their own. Thanks,

Hello!
Here are some ways to study--and to think about studying, whether via self-instructional tapes/CDs, distance ed. courses, Web sites, or on your own using some combination of the following tools and resources. I usually direct people--for starters--to our Resource Guide Online, "Self-Directed Language Learning," which one may read at this URL: http://www.cal.org/resources/archive/rgos/selfdirected.html

As a reliable general rule, you'll make language learning progress faster and with greater accuracy if you work with a teacher who knows how to teach--knows how to teach both the target language itself and [this is important] how to apply your experience and adult brain power in the course of that language-learning process. There are several (learning and teaching) issues and different skills involved, so you may wish to concentrate on only speaking or only listening or both, or reading and writing--or all four. The choice and the plan of study depend on your goals. If it's particularly important to learn Mexican Spanish, for example, (as distinct from Castillian or Argentinian or Puerto Rican Spanish), then you must find yourself a native speaker of Mexican Spanish. The same applies to, let's say, Arabic, of which there are multiple dialects, or Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese dialects), and so forth.

We are able to offer some resources for self-guided language learning as an adult if you intend to do so on your own (without a teacher). It's important to point out that there are many ways to approach learning a language and learning particular language skills; there really is no such thing as one "best" course or approach that suits all people, all language-learning goals, all learning styles, all pocketbooks, and all time budgets (just for instance). Rather, there are several approaches (and combinations of approaches). Deciding which materials and approaches are appropriate for your situation and your language-learning goals--that's something you will need to do for yourself. We hesitate to recommend any particular software or Web site or class/program.
We hope that this helps you; feel free to contact us again if you have more questions.
Craig
*Click here to see Craig's recommended resources for adult self-directed language learning

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Learning Bengali

Dear Dora,
I am searching for language instruction in Bengali in the Portland, Oregon area. Can you tell me which local University has a Bengali curriculum? Thank you,
Bengali student

Dear Bengali Student,
To my knowledge, there are no courses in Bengali offered in the Portland area. However, it is possible that there may be someone around who might be able to help you. I suggest you contact the South Asia Language Resource Center at http://salrc.uchicago.edu/ . They may know someone in the Portland area. Also I believe that there is an effort underway to create Web-based materials for the study of Bengali. The director of SALRC will know about them.

The other group to contact just in case a Bengali speaker/teacher has come to the staff's attention is the Center for Applied Language Studies at Portland State. http://casls.uoregon.edu/home.php. Sorry we can't be of more help. Hope one of these contacts works out.
Dora

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