Transparent Language Library Spotlight: Nashville Public Library

Posted on 29. Jul, 2015 by in Company News, Language Learning

Never has a slogan been truer than for Nashville Public Library (NPL), where “books are only half the story.” This library goes beyond books, and beyond the walls that house them, with its extensive adult literacy program that supports immigrants and resettled refugees throughout the community.

In a city as linguistically diverse as Nashville, where over 140 languages are spoken, there is a great need for resources and services for both foreign language and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. That’s why NPL uses Transparent Language Online, leveraging the program in extraordinary ways to support the community’s needs.

While the library is not a direct provider of formal language courses, NPL does partner with local organizations through numerous outreach programs. The library’s mobile computer lab makes the rounds through Nashville, providing access to Transparent Language Online on its 10 laptops. Library staff help bring the lab to ESL classes throughout the community that would otherwise not have access to technology in their classrooms.


Nashville Public Library staff members bring the library’s mobile computer lab to classes around the community to provide access to Transparent Language Online.

One major success story involves a local charter school where about 90 percent of students are the children of immigrants. At the end of the school day, Nashville Public Library brings their mobile lab to the school, where parents can benefit from 90 minutes of language training on Transparent Language Online, while their students enjoy afterschool enrichment programs.

Nashville Public Library hopes this outreach will encourage community members to come to the library and benefit from the other resources available to them. The library frequently provides “field trips”—which are tours of the library— to the immigrant population to acquaint them with the different sections and services. The library also provides on-site civics classes and study materials for the U.S. citizenship test, in addition to the ESL materials in Transparent Language Online. For those who can’t make it to the library easily, there’s a full suite of services available online through NPL’s Pathway for New Americans program.

NPL1Megan Godbey, the Adult Literacy Coordinator at NPL, explains that the library selected Transparent Language Online because of the language diversity, interactive learning activities (which included multiple ways to practice pronunciation), and support on tablets and mobile devices. She also notes that instructors within the community have been “extremely impressed” with the system.

Here at Transparent Language, we are the ones who are impressed and are completely thrilled when our library partners leverage our resources to serve the needs of their community. Keep up the great work, Nashville!

If you live, work, or go to school in Nashville—lucky you! Be sure to stop by your local library branch (there’s 20 of them in the city) and sign up for your free Transparent Language Online account. Not in Nashville? We partner with hundreds of libraries throughout the country, so give your local librarian a call and let them know you’re interested in a Transparent Language Online account!

Six Hard Mode Languages

Posted on 27. Jul, 2015 by in Uncategorized

Itchy Feet: Common Denominators

Everyone’s heard about the world’s most widely-spoken languages – English, Spanish, Russian – snore. So vanilla. So mainstream. They’re so applicable and useful around the world it’s tiresome.

But what about the underground scene in language learning? What about those truly challenging, extreme-sport-equivalent tongues that only the daringest of the daring attempt to master? These languages are so rare, they make four-leaf clovers seem positively abundant. They’re so difficult, you’ll think Russian declensions and Mandarin tones are a Sunday stroll. The following are a few of the world’s least-spoken, most unique, hard-mode languages.

Spoken by four people (as of 2012) on the island of Naunonga, Tanema is a rare Austronesian/Polynesian/Oceanic language in a region of the world brimming with literally thousands of unique languages. If the largest of these Pacific Island tongues, such as Eastern Fijian, Tahitian or Māori are just too ordinary for you, then why not give Tanema a shot? You’ll certainly have your work cut out for you.

archiWith more or less 1,000 speakers, Archi would appear to be much easier to learn than Tanema, not least because the Caucasian mountain region where Archi is spoken is easier to reach than a tiny Oceanic island – but that’s where you’re wrong. Archi’s verbs can be conjugated nearly infinitely; some are recorded having 1,500,000 separate conjugations. One can only imagine what the grammar tables for an Archi textbook would look like.

Taushiro (AKA Pinche, Pinchi)
Thanks to the prevalence of Spanish and Quechua in the Peru/Ecuador region of South America, many native languages in the area are dying fast. Taushiro is one such language, unique for being a language isolate, meaning it’s seemingly totally unrelated to any other language on the planet. With only one reported native speaker, you’re going to have to hope they’re a damn good teacher.

Not really a single language, but a group of languages belonging to the natives of Eastern Siberia and Western Alaska, Yupik is not the rarest language on the list (though with only 15,000 or so native speakers, it’s no English), but it earns its spot by being polysynthetic – that means they like to combine several words into one. If you think German is excessive, try tuntussuqatarniksaitengqiggtuq, the Yupik word for “he had not yet said again that he was going to hunt reindeer.”

Another critically endangered language, Ongata is spoken by half a handful of elders in a small village in Ethiopia. The reason why is actually pretty tragic – the Ongata are despised by their neighbors and their language publically ridiculed. To prevent teasing, the elders have stopped speaking it to their children, who have picked up the larger local language of Ts’amay (which itself is endangered by even larger regional tongues). Help the Ongata stand up to bullies! Learn Ongata!

Silbo Gomero
This one is my absolute favorite. Silbo is an extremely unique language “spoken” by the people of the La Gomera island, one of the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco. I say “spoken” because it’s not actually spoken; it’s a whistled language. That’s right. What’s amazing about this is that unlike vocal tones, whistles can carry long distances while retaining their pitch, making it ideal to “talk” to your neighbors across the valley. Silbo has words, grammar, tones and all – and, I can only assume, the La Gomera understand what R2-D2 is saying. With the prevalence of cell phones, Silbo isn’t quite as necessary as it once was to communicate over long distances, and is now done mostly for tourism. It may one day become a cultural cliché, but it’s an awesome one.

Sadly, many of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct forever. The United Nations estimates that we lose a language every two weeks. In many cases, language being inextricable from culture, the death of a language means the death of a culture. Personally, I think this sort of thing is an unfortunate but inevitable byproduct of globalization, but it’s great to have records so they can at least be proudly remembered – and, just maybe, picked up by an enterprising language learner like yourself.

What about you? Do you speak any rare language or dialect?

Setting the Conditions for Language Learning – Trip Over your Task

Posted on 22. Jul, 2015 by in Language Learning

If you’re reading this blog, it is a pretty safe assumption that you want to learn a language, sustain a language, and/or improve a language. All of this is great. Transparent Language has created the greatest tool for language for all three objectives.

Technology is a fantastic medium, but everything in life breaks down to action. Behavior. Execution. What are you going to do with these innovations?

In the Army we use a phrase ‘Setting the Conditions’. As I have matured over the years, I see all the implications of this phrase. Leadership, training, organization, planning, logistics, communication, coordinating, the areas in which we must ‘set the conditions’ are nearly infinite.

The primary reason we need to ‘set the conditions’ is due to a phenomena called the ‘hot cold empathy gap’. In short, humans totally underestimate the power and influence of feelings on our behavior. Said differently, a warm man doesn’t understand how a cold man feels. In the Army, this is why commanders live in the same conditions as their soldiers.

How does this influence our behavior? In a ‘warm’ state, fully rested, inspired to achieve some goal—lose weight, get up earlier, stop smoking, begin a new Yoga routine, learn an instrument, learn a language–we make plans based upon this ‘warm state’.

At that time we make this mental commitment, we underestimate how it will actually feel to begin such an activity.  Just getting up a bit earlier is an experience of shock. The warmth of the bed, the urge to return to sleep is so powerful at 0500—nothing like we assumed at noon the previous day when making this decision.

This totally reminds me of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman yelling at Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. Pyle cannot negotiate the first ladder in an obstacle course, and Hartman yells, (among other colorful language) “If God wanted you up there, He would have ‘miracled’ your butt up there.”setting the conditions

Setting the conditions is being realistic enough to understand that God will not ‘miracle’ us to our stated goal, but simply making a commitment without putting in some scaffolding around that decision leaves us like Private Pyle,150 lbs of chewed bubble gum.

What are some examples of ‘setting the conditions’? Here are a few that I try incorporate for other areas in my life:

  • Go to bed in my running shorts. One less thing to do before I head out for a run or go to the gym in the morning.
  • Pack my gym bag at night, and place in the car.
  • Pack my lunch the night before. (Full disclosure: my wife does this for me.)
  • Have James Allen homepage the first page that opens on my Internet browser.

So what are the ways to set the conditions for sustained language training? Relying on willpower is a fool’s errand. It is much better to change the environment as much as possible so that it is easier to do the task than ignore it.

Trip over your language training.

Here are a couple of ideas, but I’m curious to know what works for you. What hacks have you used?

  • Email myself a reminder with the Transparent Language’s webpage in the email. One click and I’m in.
  • Tie my language study to another habit that is already hard-wired., such as listening to my vocabulary lists while driving to work.

How do you set the conditions for language learning? This is not rhetorical, I’m truly curious. I am always looking for better ways to do the things I don’t necessarily enjoy doing.