We live in a world where borders are slowly vanishing and where you were born and where you grew up doesn’t really matter. Without knowing it, you probably have co-workers from across the globe and students that are used to speaking English at school and another language at home. Being multilingual has several advantages, but learning a new language can be a great challenge. By just reading phrases and literature, you’ll get an idea of the language and how you can put together a sentence, but not necessarily how to pronounce it in an understandable way. For instance, how do you pronounce the Italian word “focaccia” or the Norwegian word “lærer”? That’s when the beauty of video comes in. Your students may have pen pals in Europe or South America, but have you considered sharing videos with your language buddies? Here are a few ideas for videos your students can create and exchange with their international friends:
Video with subtitles
There’s no right way to learn a new language, but I’d say that learning from a native speaker at the same age could be a big benefit. There’s a big chance that the students share hobbies and interests, which sets the foundation for interesting videos that will catch the students attention. Let the students talk in their native language to help the students at the other end learn pronunciation of their language. The biggest challenge for your students will be the subtitles, which they have to write in the language they’re learning.
Growing up in Norway, we were pretty much required to understand at least Swedish, Danish, Norwegian (Nynorsk) and Norwegian (Bokmål) from a very young age. As I got older, I started learning English and Italian and I realized that knowing the context is important, as there are so many words that sound similar to each other when you hear them. As a Norwegian, I know that our use of the three letters æ, ø, and å creates problems for everyone who is trying to learn Norwegian, and it probably doesn’t help that the words such as “bønner” and “bønder” are pronounced almost the same way. And it certainly don’t make it easier that “bønner” can mean “prayers” as well as “beans”, all depending on the context. “Bønder” however, is the Norwegian word for farmers.
Ask your students to write down a few words they think are difficult for a foreigner to remember, pronounce or understand the meaning of. Then, ask them to put those words in a sentence that will make it easier to understand the word. When they record the video, ask them to first say the single word loud and clear, then put the word in a sentence and read the sentence out loud. E.g: (NO) Bønner. Chris spiser bønner til middag hver dag. (EN) Beans. Chris has beans for dinner every day.
Learning a language is more than just building a sentence and being able to order an ice cream when you’re on vacation. Learning a new language opens up the door to a better understanding of a new culture and its traditions. Ask your students to share small video clips from their daily life with students from other cultures. What does a typical American breakfast look like? What are the fashion trends in your country? What are the most famous landmarks and what are they known for?
Word by word
No matter what language is your mother tongue, you know there are some words that are especially hard for foreigners to pronounce. When I started learning English, the way “know” is spelled made no sense in regards to how it was pronounced. And can anyone please explain why the “c” in Tucson is silent? The pronunciation of words like these make perfect sense to you when you’re fluent, but a foreigner won’t really know if they pronounce it right. Here’s an example of how video might be the helping hand towards correct pronunciation:
What’s your best advice for learning a new language?