How to Keep Multiple Languages Straight

Posted on 19. Nov, 2014 by in Language Learning

Itchy Feet: A Travel and Language Comic by Malachi Ray RempenLearning a new language is an immense challenge, what with all the grammar, vocabulary, expressions and idioms, and pronunciation to deal with. If you then toss another language or two (or five or ten) on top of that, the challenges compound themselves into a heap.

For me, vocabulary is the hardest—for every new language I learn, I know I have to learn yet another word for the same things, and I invariably get them mixed up. Even more frustrating is knowing a certain word in three languages, but not the one I’m speaking at that moment.

Then there’s getting the languages confused. For some reason, I find that my brain has a shelf labeled “foreign language”, and I’m allowed to stash one language at a time there. If I need to change to a different one on the fly, I have to will the gears in my brain to change, requiring a fair amount of time and effort (see above comic).

Depending on the language, though, you don’t always have to start at the bottom. Learning romance languages is great because the grammar is basically the same across the board, with a few exceptions and oddities here and there. Plus, since they’re all based on Latin, a great number of words are the same. And the more complicated the word, the more likely it is to be the same in all the romance languages. If you’re reading this article you have a huge head start on Spanish and French, since you already know words like “complicated” and “exception” and “pronunciation” (watch out for false friends like “embarrassed”, though, or you’ll be telling everyone in Madrid you’re pregnant).

A romance language would certainly be easier than picking up Russian, which requires you learn how to read totally new letters, or tonal languages like Mandarin and Thai, for which you have to learn how to make sounds again (in addition to totally new letters and, often times, even your way of conceptualizing the world).

I find it helps a lot to be in the country where they speak the language you’re trying to learn. That may sound obvious, but it’s much easier to speak German in Germany, and Italian in Italy. The words and phrases just seem to spring to your tongue in a conversation, quick and easy. Try speaking German in Italy, though, and you’ll feel like you’re dragging it up out of a thick mud. There’s something in the atmosphere that pushes you, like a breeze, to speak the language of the locals.

Since drawing the above comic, I’ve also learned to have a different “voice” for each language I speak. I create a literal cartoon character in my head when I’m speaking, and it comes out through the language. German is a stout, jolly mustachioed man, and Italian is a slickly-dressed charmer. It doesn’t just help to separate the languages mentally, it also helps you get into the proper cadence of speaking, which is usually quite tricky. Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll look and sound like an ass.

Most importantly, keep practicing. Many polyglots recommend at least a few hours a week for each language. The more languages you collect, the more hours a week you’ll have to practice. But it’s worth it.

What about you? What tricks have you polyglots learned to keep your many languages straight?

Say Hello to the New Transparent Language Online

Posted on 17. Nov, 2014 by in Company News, Language Learning, Product Announcements

At last year’s ACTFL conference in Orlando, Florida, we unveiled our new lesson authoring tools in Transparent Language Online. What have we been up to over the past year, since then? We’re glad you asked. We’d like to introduce you to the new-and-improved Transparent Language Online!

With a brand new interface, learning features, and faster loading speeds, language-learning has never been so fun, fast, or effective. Let’s explore some of the best to come:

Brand New Look: The new Transparent Language Online looks better than ever! The new design optimizes your screen space, minimizes distractions, and feels more intuitive.


More Personalization: The new Learning Path helps you and your students get started.  It takes your students where you want them to go. Say goodbye to boring text books! We’re giving you the reigns to create the program your students should follow. The Learning Path allows you to present assignments to your students so they follow the path that you set for them.  Assign lessons from our extensive collection or create your own – after all, it’s all about your curriculum, not ours.

Customized Activities: The customization doesn’t stop with the Learning Path! We know that learning a language is about more than acquiring words and phrases; it’s also about building skills. In the new Practice mode, students can choose from a suite of more than a dozen activities that focus on listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Do you have a student struggling with pronunciation? Have them select a few of our speaking activities, choose content from one or more lessons, and listen to them improve!



More Platforms: So we now let you choose what and how you want your students to learn, but what about when and where? The new Transparent Language Online works on any Internet-connected device, including tablets.

Smarter Insight and Review:  We’ve added all of these features to help your students reach specific language goals, but part of getting where they’re going is knowing where they’ve been. In the new Transparent Language Online, your students can track their own progress with a redesigned Learned Items chart that shows how far they’ve come. Not only is it motivating, it’s also crucial for language retention. Learned Items logs each and every word and phrase they’ve learned, including how easy or difficult it was to learn those items. The system then prompts students to refresh learned material that they haven’t seen in a while. As we all know if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it—but we won’t let that happen to your students!



No More Waiting: You’ve waited long enough for these new features, so we won’t make you wait a single second longer—literally. The latest HTML/JavaScript frameworks make Transparent Language Online ultra-fast. No more waiting for things to load—click and you shall receive!

Want a sneak peek at our new look? We’re giving you a first glance at ACTFL 2014! Come by booth 7035 for a free demo.

Not attending ACTFL? The new Transparent Language Online will be available to the multilingual (or soon-to-be!) masses soon. Stay tuned for future announcements.

Give Thanks in 30 Languages

Posted on 12. Nov, 2014 by in Language Learning

‘Tis the season for being thankful. But you know what sounds a whole lot cooler than “thank you”? Merci, gracias, or takk. Spread a little multicultural gratitude this holiday season by learning 20 different ways to say “thank you.”

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English Thank you
Arabic شكرا
Croatian Hvala
Danish Tak
Dutch Dank u wel
French Merci
German Danke
Greek Ευχαριστώ
Haitian Creole Mèsi
Hebrew  תודה
Hindi धन्यवाद
Hungarian Köszönöm
Indonesian Terima kasih
Irish Go raibh maith agat
Italian Grazie
Japanese ありがとう
Korean 감사합니다
Mandarin 谢谢
Norwegian Takk
Polish Dziękuję
Russian Cпасибо
Spanish Gracias
Swahili Asante
Swedish Tack
Tagalog Salamat pô
Thai ขอบคุณ
Turkish Teşekkür ederim
Urdu شکریہ
Vietnamese Cảm ơn
Zulu Ngiyabonga

Want to move beyond the basics like “thank you”? Sign up for a free trial of Transparent Language Online and start learning hundreds of new words in phrases in any of our 90+ languages!
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