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How to read in a foreign language

Feeling fluent feels great. You can go anywhere, say anything, do everything and live your life exactly as you would normally, but in a different language. I’ve had a fair few fluency breakthroughs with my languages. The first was in Germany when I was 15 and on a two-week school exchange and suddenly realised I was speaking German. Another important …

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The pain of learning languages in immersion

When I was at Oxford, studying was something you did on your own. There were lectures if you wanted or the odd compulsory class, but apart from that it was up to you to force yourself to sit down and work. We had meetings every now and then with our supervisors to see how things were coming along. Especially in …

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How to ‘defrost’ the languages you used to know

“Why are you in Spain?” somebody asked me recently, their face exploding with indignation. “Don’t you already claim to speak Spanish?” Like every question that eventually turns into a blogpost, it was difficult one to answer. Yes, I speak Spanish. I started studying by myself when I was 15, I impressed a teacher at school who let me join her …

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How to really learn 30 languages

Nobody ever taught me how to learn languages, so when I first started, it was slow. I didn’t know what I was doing. We’d only just had the Internet installed at home a few years beforehand, and I didn’t know anybody else who was doing it. Whenever I’d tell people I wanted to learn more languages, they’d ask the same …

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Why I’m mixing up Hungarian with Hebrew

Mixing up languages is a question that comes up quite a lot. Many people are concerned about how to seperate languages in their heads, how to avoid embarassingly speaking one instead of the other, and how to reassure themselves that they can actually speak lots of different languages at the same time, rather than just their native tongue plus whatever’s …

Synonyms: your shortcut to fluency

There is a lot of debate about what we should understand as “fluency” when learning a new language. Can you measure it by the size of your vocabulary? Is it how well you know and use the grammar? Or is it just how confident you sound and feel when speaking your new language? These are all possible interpretations. I’ve always …

Studying languages at university: an essential foundation for life

Oxford University student Aurora Dawson-Hunte responds to Belinda Parmar’s recent claims in the Guardian newspaper that people studying for language degrees are “wasting their time”. Aurora studies French and Russian, and has experience working in the French technology sector and Russian oil industry. She believes all of this is because of her choice of degree. Belinda Parmar is trying to encourage girls to get into …

Ten proverbs and sayings to help you around the world

It’s taken me a long time as a language learner to come to terms with proverbs. I always resisted them for various reasons. They’re a pain to learn, they can sound silly and unnatural, and it’s often hard to imagine a scenario in which you’d actually use them. However, they’re actually a really important part of every language, and as …

Multilingualism and literature: 10 authors who write in other languages

Is writing an internationally acclaimed, bestseller novel in a foreign language a mark of fluency? Following on from my recent post, I thought it would be interesting to list some of the many multilingual writers and novelists who write in other languages. What particularly interests me, is that many of these write in their second or third languages, of which …