Listening – 2 Comprehension Tasks (Novice)

This post will discuss a couple of tasks that you can do once you find a useful recording or video to work with.

Once I stumble upon or find a recording or a video, I usually do the following activities with the resource that I have found:

In short, I…

  1. Listen to/watch it twice and scribble down words or phrases that you understood.
  2. Write the main idea of the recording or video in English (or in the target language if I’m feeling spunky).

Additionally, make sure you pay attention to:

  • The visuals in the video
  • The title of the recording or video

Take this recording in German, for example, from the website Audio Lingua (great website!)


Here is what I did when I listened to this recording:

  1. Looked at the title: “Ich wohne in einem typisch deutschen Reihenhaus” –  I live in some kind of typical, German house or structure
  2. Listened twice and wrote down words or phrases that I heard (with one listen): I wrote these down on a notebook first.
    • Ich wohne in…
    • ein
    • da gibt es
    • Keller
    • 3 Räume
    • Raum
    • drittens, meistens,
    • Hobbykeller
    • machen – Musik, Sport, dann…
    • eine Gestetoilette, links
    • gibt es die Küche, grosses Wohn und Esszimmer, dann geht man hoch
    • 2 oder 3 Zimmer
    • manchmal
  3. Write the main idea in English (or not-so-perfect German):
    1. Der Mann erzählt uns die Dinge in seinem Haus. Er beschreibt sein Haus und erzählt uns wieviel Zimmer gibt es und was gibt es im Haus.
    2. (The man tells us about the things and rooms in his house. He goes into detail about what items there are and what and how many rooms there are).

Motivational Upkeep – Learn the language you love

This post will discuss a tip on motivational upkeep.

The first key to motivation with learning languages is to make sure that you learn a language that you are naturally attracted to. If you learn a language that you have little or no interest in, then you are going to have a difficult maintaining your motivation in the long term. Whenever I study languages, I do so because I enjoy it because I naturally like the language.  I can’t imagine struggling through the Finnish language if I didn’t have a strong desire to learn it. I probably would have moved on a while ago.

How do you know what language you like? Pay attention to its vocabulary, its vowels and consonants, its intonation, its cadence and rhythm, its written language, and its culture. What aspects do you like or dislike? Answer those questions with each language you encounter and you’ll slowly move towards one that you want to learn.

Do you want to learn a fluid language like Italian or Spanish, or a more guttural language like German or Icelandic, or an exotic language like Finnish? Do you want to write with the Latin alphabet, or make chicken scratches like Japanese, or write right to left like Arabic or Hebrew, or write an alphabet where “H” is pronounced like an “N,” like Russian? (They use the Cyrillic alphabet). Do you want to communicate through the actual tone of your voice like Chinese or Vietnamese, or do you want to learn a language that is completely unrelated to all of its neighbors, like Hungarian or Basque?

Most people in their lives have said “I’ve always wanted to learn _______, because I just think it sounds cool.” Find that language for you and focus on that to start. You’ll benefit in the long run as it will serve a strong motivational boost throughout your studies.

Reading – The Power of Advertisements

This blog post will discuss a reading strategy and the usefulness of reading advertisements in your target language.

Why are advertisements so useful?

Advertisements in the target language (the language that you’re learning) are quite helpful to pick up on good vocabulary and grammar. Advertisements are useful because they often contain all of the following:

  • Strong visual support
  • Contextualized and colorful (interesting) vocabulary
  • Interjections (Oh! Yeah! Woo! Hey! Ouch!)
  • Useful verb forms (plural command, informal you command, polite command, “let’s” command)
  • Economic terminology (money, number, prices…)

Additionally, advertisements are generally short, sweet, and to the point. Short advertisements are easier for novices to read because it’s not a lot of text input and it’s very focused.

How do I find advertisements in my language?

Another advantage to advertisements is that they are pretty easy to find on the Internet. Just use Google Images!

I try the following things to find these useful pictures:

  • just type “[Finnish] advertisements for [McDonald’s]”
  • Look up how to say “Finnish advertisements” in Finnish (suomen mainokset) and search with those words.
  • Look up how to say words like “food,” “car,” “mall,” and look for those terms as well with your searches.

How do I read and learn from advertisements?

Let’s take this advertisement in Finnish:


Here’s what I do with a picture like this:

  1. Read it out loud, to myself, slowly and in my best accent.
  2. Guess on what it could mean. Looking at the visuals, my guess is it will have something to do with a cheeseburger and eating it. I do see the word “ham” at the beginning of the second word – possibly alluding to a hamburger.
  3. What do I know already? I happen to know that “juusto” means “cheese” in Finnish.
  4. Look up the meaning using Google Translate or another useful dictionary. I look up “juustohampurilainen” and GT tells me it means: “cheeseburger.” I also see 1 Euro in the picture. How do you say “one” in the language that you’re learning? (yksi in Finnish)
  5. Now take apart the words/phrases. I take out “juusto,” and “hampurilainen” means “burger.” I happen to know that the ending “-lainen” means to come from somewhere, so I take off the “-lainen” ending and look up just “hampuri.” “Hampuri” means “Hamburg,” the supposed birthplace of the hamburger (although I don’t think this is true).

So from this ad, we’ve learned that “juusto” means cheese, “hampuri” is Hamburg, and “-lainen” we know already to come from somewhere.

Say the whole word again, out loud, in your best accent, with this new context and meaning in mind.