Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Jobs for Linguists

     Being multi-lingual can be very valuable in today’s job market.  Today I wanted to share with you a few links that you might find useful if you are looking for a job and if you speak more than one language fluently.


    This is the link to finding a job with the federal government.  There are always jobs listed here for translators and teachers.  I did a simple search today for “French” and found a job at the United States Air Force Academy as an Assistant Professor of French.  I also saw a job for a translator at a national


     If you have a Master’s Degree or higher, this link could prove to be very useful.  It lists the most current jobs around the world seeking jobs in the education industry.  If you click on the faculty/research link, then go to the humanities section -- you’ll see a link for teachers of foreign languages.  Most of the positions listed request that you have a Master’s Degree or higher in your foreign language.  However, unlike specialized areas -- many colleges and universities will higher you to teach your foreign language even if you don’t have a degree in that language.  Simply having a Master’s Degree sometimes is enough.


    Taken from CAL’s website:  "As the world gets smaller, effective communication becomes even more important. The Center for Applied Linguistics is dedicated to providing a comprehensive range of research-based information, tools, and resources related to language and culture.
CAL is a private, nonprofit organization working to improve communication through better understanding of language and culture. Established in 1959, CAL is headquartered in Washington, DC.
CAL has earned a national and international reputation for its contributions to the fields of bilingual, English as a second language, literacy, and foreign language education; dialect studies; language policy; refugee orientation; and the education of linguistically and culturally diverse adults and children.
CAL's experienced staff of researchers and educators conduct research, design and develop instructional materials and language tests, provide technical assistance and professional development, conduct needs assessments and program evaluations, and disseminate information and resources related to language and culture.”
     Listed on CAL’s website are a number of jobs and opportunities in the linguistics arena.  Stopping by is a great start to your journey if you are looking a job to use your bilingual skills.

     Learn to teach English Abroad.  This can be one of the most rewarding experiences for an inspiring linguist.  According to their website, "The world’s leading TEFL course provider, i-to-i TEFL has trained more than 127,000 people in the last 18 years. With more than 250 years of combined TEFL experience across our staff, tutors and TEFL academics, i-to-i TEFL offers you world renowned training that you can take in a style that suits you - either face-to-face training in the classroom, distance learning online or a combination of the two!”

     This site is an example of a NY Court -- but explore the local court where you live.  I once translated from French to English for a divorce proceeding in Mississippi.  They are always looking for translators in court.

    Just like courts, hospitals always need assistance with translation services.  Sometimes it is as easy as getting your name placed on a waiting list -- where you can be called when needed.  The above link is for a service that assists  hospitals with finding translators, but sometimes just contacting the hospital’s HR department can be just as easy -- if not easier.

    Whatever you decide to do, keep your options open.  Finding a job that will use your linguistic skills is quite easy.  Let me know if you need suggestions or more helpful hints.  I’ve worked in a number of these areas and would be happy to help.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Air Force Strategic Language List

   Many people have asked me where they can find the Air Force Strategic Language List for purposes of the Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB).  Here is the list of languages as outlined in AFI 36-2605 (remember -- you only receive FLPB if you meet certain conditions -- read my previous post on the subject if you have questions)

     If you have questions about a specific language, let me know.  I'm sure I can track down where it is listed and how it is categorized.  Good luck! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ace Your French DLPT

      Studying for your French DLPT?  Here is an excellent book to prepare you for the test.  

     Unless you were raised speaking French it can be difficult to ever completely understand the nuances and artistic variances that French offers. This book will bring you one big step forward in your quest towards obtaining native proficiency. To do this Professor Western offers a unique approach using mnemonics to help anyone acquire a more profound understanding of French vocabulary. Having this understanding will help you speak like a native, ace your language proficiency exam (like DLPT) or enrich your travel experience and ability to communicate in French. Dig in, have fun, and improve your French today!

     Here are a few sample pages from the book:

A simple way to remember the word “guerre” or “war” in French.

A simple way to remember the word for “Machine Gun” in French.  Sounds just like “me try it.”

     Advanced French Vocabulary Made Easy is a great tool.  Let me know what you think?  I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Arabic Vocabulary Made Easy

     Please check out my book.  For those who would like an easy way to learn Arabic Vocabulary this is it!     

     Vocabulary is key to understanding a language, yet memorizing vocabulary is one of the hardest tasks anyone can do. This book gives the reader an easy method of memorizing key Arabic vocabulary using mnemonics. By associating Arabic terms to clever phrases and unique allusions, any reader from beginning to advanced will almost instantly improve their vocabulary. And with over 300 words to work with, that vocabulary will soon be immense!

     Here are a few samples:

    Just think of a tattoo and the word “washm”  -- what would you tell someone trying to wash off their tattoos?  Hey dude, you can’t “washm” off!  Associating “washm” and what it sounds like in English with the word tattoo in Arabic --- makes learning easy.

     Here is another example:

     How easy is it to remember the word for “woodpecker” in Arabic when you remember it sounds like “knocker” -- which is exactly what a woodpecker is.  

    Overall my book has a ton of words that I hope you will find useful.  It is on amazon.com -- check it out.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Language, national fleets and prawn sandwiches

Language, national fleets and prawn sandwiches

A friend of mine in Australia (and an experienced maritime expert) sent me this article.  What do you think?  I know languages are important.  But did you know how communication is facilitated at sea?  Check out the article.  I’m curious as to your thoughts.

Also -- be sure to check out www.excusemywhat.com

Friday, September 21, 2012

Language Learning Options

How to Learn a Foreign Language

Finding the right method of language study can help you learn to communicate with confidence.
Sometimes words do fail—especially if they’re not in someone’s native tongue. If you need some language lessons before your next business meeting, trip or way-out-of-town job, there are plenty of options to get you talking.

Private tutor

Though Jenny Schade went to kindergarten in Paris, the Wilmette, Ill.–based president of JRS Consulting was far from fluent when she returned to the city on a business trip as an adult. So for the last seven years, Schade has been working weekly with a private tutor. The personalized classes have helped her learn the business French she needs and, over time, to communicate effectively via email. Schade says that working one-on-one suits the changing needs of her business.
$50 per hour
Best for: Executives who need to tailor their learning experience as new opportunities arise.
Next step: Use a site like language-school-teachers.com, where searches can be narrowed down to tutors in your city or state (it also includes online tutors), or call the languages department of your local college for a referral.


When Michael Lundquist, the executive director of the Massachusetts-based Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, decided that he wanted to stop getting by on his high school Spanish (and a translator’s help) during trips to Central America—which included high-level government meetings—he turned first to classes, then to Rosetta Stone software. “It’s almost an immersion course,” Lundquist describes. “[It] uses images that really help you remember vocabulary.” The company recommends 120 hours of instruction in order to become conversational.
Best for: Visual learners who need an on-the-go experience.
Next step: Tell Me More (tellmemore.com) and Rosetta Stone (rosettastone.com) series have won numerous awards. Read online user reviews to guide your purchase.

In-country immersion

Former investment banker Dustin Dumas Weeks took a position in Denmark and dove into full-on immersion. Aside from all the time she spent in her Danish-speaking workplace, she also took classes for 9 to 16 hours a week. “After three months, I was able to communicate well enough that the locals would not revert to speaking English to me,” Weeks says. “I could make conversation with my colleagues at the bank, shop in the stores and conduct business at the bank.”
Approx. $300–$3,000, depending on number of hours and accommodations
Best for: Fearless learners willing to feel a little lost on the way to fluency.
Next step: Online clearinghouses such as linguaserviceworldwide.com, languagesabroad.com, learningtraveler.com and amerispan.com offer extensive listings.

Weekly group classes

It makes sense that an engineer would want to build a strong foundation when learning a language. After trying to learn Spanish via DIY software, David Hashman, the chief engineer with Denver-based Road 9, turned to his local community college for classes. “I’m much more into understanding the structure of the language and the conjugation and everything else,” he says. He also finds the ongoing classes helpful for learning the written language that he needs for business.
Approx. $400 per course
Best for: Travelers who plan to return to a region or country many times, and would like the added benefit of local classmates for conversational practice.
Next step: Check the class schedules at your local college or community adult education program.

Pre-trip immersion at home

With just two weeks to go before his move to France, James Crespo, now the NYC-based president of Georg Jensen USA, hired a French graduate student to give him an intensive 10-day, eight-hours-per-day immersion course at his residence. Though Crespo reports that it was exhausting, it worked. “I didn’t feel comfortable until the second week in Paris, but it did kick in,” he says.
Approx. $2,400
Best for: Fast learners who need just enough to get by during last-minute trips.
Next step: Contact your local university to find a grad student who can immerse you in your language of choice. Grad students usually have teaching knowledge, and they’re always hungry for extra cash.
New York City–based freelance writer JENNA SCHNUER doesn’t remember much Spanish from high school.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Air Force Changes Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus Program

     As of September 1st 2012, unless you are language coded or a part of the Language Enable Airman Program (LEAP), you will no longer be receiving pay for your foreign language if it is listed as “Prevalent in the Force” -- PIF.
    The FLPB (FLPP) program was (in my opinion) a terrific way to motivate airmen to learn to speak languages and to maintain language proficiency, but now those who can receive pay are among a very small group.  Many career fields (Judge Advocates for example) are not eligible to receive FLPB pay under this new program because their career fields has decided to not allow any participation in the LEAP program and none of their positions are language coded.  The only way for some airmen to receive proficiency pay would be to speak a strategic language like Arabic.
    I’m thankful for that as I speak Arabic, but how does this encourage those only speaking European languages to continue mastering their second language?  If the Air Force wanted to promote language proficiency -- why not expand bonus programs rather than restrict them?
    What do you all think of this new policy?

    Below is from the Language, Region and Culture Program on the new changes to the bonus:


Published: Sep 06, 2012 17:16:29 EDT
By Karen Harrison
Language, Region and Culture Program Office
WASHINGTON-- On Sept. 1, the Air Force Senior Language Authority (SLA) announced changes to the Air Force Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB) policy.
The updated policy modifies the criteria Airmen must meet to qualify for FLPB and will affect individual Airmen when they re-certify for FLPB.
The new AF FLPB policy (AFI 36-2605, Air Force Military Personnel Testing System, Guidance Memo 4) is targeted to meet the needs of the Air Force by incentivizing Airmen with proficiency in languages that align with AF requirements.
In cases where the Air Force has more than sufficient existing language capability to meet validated requirements, Airmen will not receive FLPB unless they are serving in a Language Designated Position, are in a language inherent specialty or otherwise require a language to perform their duties. These languages will be listed as Prevalent in the Force (PIF) on the AF Strategic Language List (SLL).The AF SLL is available from base Test Control Officers.
Under previous Air Force policy, Airmen received FLPB if they demonstrated exceptionally high proficiency in a PIF language. With the new policy, Airmen are incentivized in foreign languages and dialects that are of the most strategic importance to the AF mission and where there is insufficient proficient capability to meet validated requirements.
The Air Force is making a requirements-based change to its foreign language proficiency bonus policy. "The service needs Airmen to focus on languages that help us fulfill our mission. This change is for the good of the force" said Ms. Barbara Barger, the AF SLA.
"Given the dynamic and challenging nature of today's global environment, the Air Force needs to be a truly cross-culturally competent force capable of accomplishing its mission in every area of the world" Ms. Barger reiterated.
Airmen who currently receive FLPB can determine if, and/or how these changes will affect them by reaching out to their Test Control Officer.
FLPB Background
FLPB is a monetary incentive paid to eligible and qualified military personnel possessing foreign language proficiency. FLPB was established to encourage Total Force Airmen to acquire, maintain, and enhance foreign language skills vital to national defense.
The ability of the Air Force to interact in the international arena and respond effectively to any global contingency mandates the need for qualified personnel to communicate with allies, local populations and our adversaries.
In addition to receiving monetary benefits provided by FLPB, Airmen with LRC capabilities provide additional value to the Air Force.  FLPB is used to incentivize acquisition of and improvement in those languages that meet validated AF requirements.  Airmen should contact their Career Field Manager to learn about Language Designated Positions in their respective AFSCs. 
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the FLPB policy changing?

The Air Force's long-term goal is to incentivize foreign language proficiency that matches with validated Air Force requirements to enhance the mission. The previous two FLPB guidance memos reflected this policy transformation and began to outline the shift from mapping foreign language proficiency to shaping proficiency to meet specific requirements. Initially, the Air Force Senior Language Authority (SLA) used the incentive bonus to identify language-proficient Airmen. At the same time, the SLA was also gathering foreign language requirements from the Component Numbered Air Forces (CNAFs), so that the AF could understand the inventory of Airmen with language proficiency as compared to the number of requirements for each foreign language. Based on these results, there are many more Airmen with language proficiency than validated requirements in some languages. The new FLPB policy will now aim to incentive language proficiency that more closely aligns with the Air Force mission and validated requirements.

What is PIF and what languages are PIF languages? 

PIF stand for "Prevalent in the Force." PIF languages are those languages for which the Air Force has many more proficient Airmen than requirements. In those cases, the languages were designated PIF and bonus payments for PIF languages are limited to Airmen who are utilizing the language to perform their duties. In addition to the PIF designation, there are also two languages categories for which an Airman is eligible for FLPB.

Enhancement Languages (includes Immediate Investment and Emerging languages) are those in which the Air Force would like to enhance its capability. Enhancement languages are those for which DoD and the Air Force project an immediate need to meet urgent, current demands or for which there is an anticipated future need.

Sustainment languages are those for which there is a continuing, or sustained, need during the next 10-15 years. Whether or not a particular language is considered to be PIF will continue to change with the needs of the Air Force.

The AF Strategic Language List (SLL) is a complete list of the current languages for use in administering testing, training, recruiting and retention incentive programs, including those languages that are PIF languages. Ask your base Test Control Officer for a copy. The AF SLL is For Official Use Only.

Who will be affected most? 

- Airmen who are proficient in Prevalent in the Force (PIF) languages
- Airmen not in a language-designated position or not utilizing the PIF language in support of the Air Force mission
- Airmen who are proficient in PIF languages, whose primary duty requires or is coded for another language, will be most affected.
How can I still get paid for PIF languages? 

Your position must require the language in order to perform your duties. Typically, this means filling a language-designated position. Because many AFSCs use language skills, Airmen possessing these talents increase their eligibility for diverse career opportunities across the Air Force. Airmen should contact their Air Force Specialty Manager to learn about language-designated positions in their respective AFSCs. Another option is studying a language on the SLL that is not PIF. Finally, you could consider an application to the Language-Enabled Airman Program (LEAP). Additional information is available from the Air Force Culture and Language Center at:http://www.culture.af.mil/leap/index.aspx. If you would like to maintain your current language or begin to learn a new language, please contact AF/A1DG at af.a1dgworkflow@pentagon.af.mil for information on free, virtual language resources.

When will the changes take place?

The first changes were effective 1 Sep 2011, when languages of primary training for Cryptologic Language Analysts were separated and paid differently from languages outside of the language of primary training. The second change is effective on the date of publication of the AFI 36-2605, Guidance Memo 4. These changes will more closely focus the Air Force incentive bonus on languages for which the AF has requirements. The policy will affect individual Airmen's FLPB upon re-certification.

How frequently does and will this policy change?

While not frequently, FLPB policy changes as Air Force mission and requirements evolve.

Sound off and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nice Article on Learning a Second Language

Forbes article on learning a foreign language:
Direct link:  http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/27/learn-second-language-lifestyle-travel-study.html

How To Learn A Second Language
Laura Keen, 07.27.10, 4:30 PM ET

Italian cardinal Joseph Caspar Mezzofanti was said to have spoken more than 38 languages fluently at the time of his death in 1849, a skill that would have been imminently useful in today's globalized economy.
Unfortunately, most people nowadays have trouble recalling anything more complex than "Dónde está la biblioteca?" decades after their last high school Spanish lesson.
So we set out to uncover what's involved in learning a foreign language as an adult, which methods work best and how you can maintain your new exotic tongue once you've got it down.
Some advertisements would have prospective polyglots believe they're just a 15-minute audio tape away from becoming a U.N. interpreter. But experts say these get-fluent-fast programs are a complete sham. "There is no method that can do that," says Robert DeKeyser, a professor of second language acquisition at the University of Maryland. "The only way to learn a language is to make quite a bit of effort on a daily basis."
Programs designed to mimic the learning methods of children are also a waste of time and money, says DeKeyser. "You cannot expect to just absorb language the way that a child does," he says. "Children are good at learning the underlining system of all the language input they get because they can infer the underlying patterns without understanding the rules. Adults must be conscientious of the rules of the language. Their implicit learning doesn't work all that well."
Lisa Davidson, an associate professor of linguistics at New York University, says one major difference in the language learning process between adults and children involves interference from a native tongue. "When you're a kid all you're working at is acquiring a language, and you don't have anything to get in the way of that," she says. "When you're an adult and you already have a language, the one you already know filters sounds and you get substantial interference from it."
Before the age of one, infants are able to differentiate between sounds that their parents cannot (a notable example is the inability of native Japanese-speaking adults to distinguish between the "r" and "l" sounds). That ability can be reactivated with the proper amount of language input right up until puberty, a stage linguists refer to as the critical period.
And then comes adulthood, and with it many more hurdles.

Many experts agree that the ideal learning method for adults really depends on the individual. "Find the method that works for you and stick with it," says Richard Simcott, a polyglot who has professionally worked in over 14 languages at once for the British Foreign Service. "The main thing is to do a bit every day and to not get discouraged if you miss a day. If audio works for you, do audio. If it's classes, do classes. But find whatever it is and be consistent."
But not all adults are created equal. There are several factors that contribute to the success of one student over another. "First of all you need aptitude for language learning," says DeKeyser. "People vary in their aptitude like they do in learning math or in playing basketball."
These biological differences in aptitude do not mean that individuals with a knack for languages can just move to Japan and passively await fluency. "Motivation is a key part of learning a language," says Davidson. "The more time that you spend during the day speaking your second language, the better at it you're going to be."
Learning from multiple people is another key to success, especially when attempting to cultivate a native accent. "When you are exposed to a lot of people you get a much better sense of what the sound of a word is supposed to be," says Davidson. "You avoid exposing yourself to what could be idiosyncrasies in one individual's speech patterns."
Once an individual masters one language, experts say learning additional foreign tongues can be much easier for a number of reasons. Individuals with previous experience know what's involved in the learning process and are more adept at cultivating strategies for communicating with limited comprehension. "And no matter how different the two languages are, there are some sounds or words that can be carried over," says DeKeyser.
The tricks to maintaining foreign fluency are very similar to the methods used to achieve it--you have to practice.
"Maintaining a language is a matter of dedicating enough time to it," says DeKeyser. "You need to interact with native speakers. Make every possible effort to speak the learned language on a daily basis."
Simcott recommends continually challenging yourself even after you've reached fluency. "Sign up for political science or philosophy classes where you will be tested beyond asking things like 'how much is the bread?' This will help you understand the culture and the people infinitely better as well."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rosetta Stone

While I hate to admit it, Rosetta Stone is one of the best language learning tools on the market.  When I first started studying Arabic, I used it religiously.  Over the years, the program has improved dramatically, but the basic structure is still the same. 
Using four images, the program will present you a dialogue.  Sometimes it will be a single word.  Other times it will be a complete sentence.  You then have to click on the corresponding picture that represents the dialogue spoken.  Depending on how you use the program, repetition is used to continually reinforce the words/sentences you are learning.   By associating the phrases with pictures, Rosetta Stone helps both the visual learner and the auditory learner.
 You can then take tests to see how well you recall the images.  These tests can be spoken or written.  If you choose to test your speaking ability, the program will examine your tone and determine whether or not you correctly said the particular word or phrase. 
The best part of Rosetta Stone is that your progress is incremental and each level builds upon the next so that you use the words you have already been learning when you start learning other words and phrases.  If used on a consistent basis, Rosetta Stone will really help you build quite an extensive vocabulary.
The only drawback regarding Rosetta Stone is that for the most part every program is exactly the same (i.e. whether you are learning French, Arabic, or Farsi).  So if you beginning to learn Arabic after having used Rosetta Stone for French, you will see the same images for “he jumped,” “she jumped,” and “they jumped.”   It can get very tedious very fast as you have already become very accustomed to seeing the same images over and over.  Thus the boredom factor emerges quite quickly if using Rosetta Stone for a second or third language.  Basically it is the same program with different languages interposed over the framework.  Great strategy if you want to market to the masses expecting that they will only study one language – but not a great product for those individuals who like to study multiple languages.
If you would like to have access to another powerful language learning tool, consider www.excusemywhat.com  -- using mnemonics each book can help you remember hundreds of vocabulary terms in a very short time.  Give it a try today.
As always I welcome your comments and feedback.  What do you think of Rosetta Stone?  Would you recommend it to others?

Saturday, September 1, 2012


     As I’ve stated before, one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to learn vocabulary words. The more you improve your vocabulary, the quicker you will learn your foreign language.  Grammar is important, but focusing on grammar only gets you frustrated.  Learning vocabulary actually gives you the power to communicate.  Just think of little kids when they want something....while they might not use Shakespearean grammar, a simple “hungee” is usually enough to communicate that the child is hungry.
     Trying to crack the nut on the best ways to learn vocabulary is tough.  I’m bias as I totally recommend my books.  www.excusemywhat.com will give you some ideas about my work using mnemonics.  But if there were one product that I would recommend without any hesitation, it would be a product that is totally free.  What product you ask?  QUIZLET!  Simply go to www.quizlet.com to try it out.  It is a computer based flashcard mega-source.  You can find already made flashcards for just about any language you might be studying.
   Once you sign up, you can track your progress, take tests, or simply play games to reinforce the list of vocabulary that you are studying.  Most of the time you can also have quizlet pronounce the words for you so that you not only practice your reading but also your listening comprehension.  I just recently downloaded the quizlet Ap on my IPhone and I just quizlet when I’m waiting for my wife to shop or while I’m waiting for my kids while they are at their music lessons.  On the application you can set it to automatic flashcard mode so that it will read the new term in your foreign language followed by the English version and then it will automatically go to your next word.  You can stop at any time to focus on a word that has been difficult for you to memorize.
     I especially like the games, like scatter.  Because it is internet based you can compete with anyone else in the world that also uses quizlet.  I like that because it gives me a challenge to match words as fast as possible.  
     Bottom line:  If you are trying to learn new vocabulary for anything -- foreign languages especially....use QUIZLET!  It is a terrific program.  I’d love to hear what anyone else has to say.  Got any similar experience using it?

    Don’t forget to check out my website.  I could use any helpful feedback you might have there as well.  www.excusemywhat.com

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ant in French

     Sometimes a silly joke can help you remember a term.  Check out this clip on how to remember the word for “ant” in French.  The word is “fourmis.”


     If you would like to learn more about "Excuse My What” and the books they have to offer check out www.excusemywhat.com.  Here is a video introduction of the company:

     Thanks for checking out my blog.  Let me know if you would like to see any other topic addressed on here.  Anything language related is fair game.   www.excusemywhat.com

Friday, August 24, 2012



With a degree in Linguistics, years as a professor of foreign languages, countless time as a translator, and a thirst to always learn a different language, I can attest (in any language you chose) that the most important thing you can do to learn a language is to build your vocabulary!  Studying grammar for years won’t do it.  Trying to perfect your accent won’t do it.  It really is all about vocabulary.  Everything else will come with time.  When my son was two he learned to speak English the same way every child in the world before him learned their first language . . .one word at a time!  Unfortunately for me his first word was not “daddy.”  It was “car.”  Yes my son has always had a fascination with cars.  One day he was watching television, pointed to the screen and triumphantly exclaimed, “kaaar!”  A few months later her was able to say “moma,” “dada,” and his sisters’ names.  More interesting though was when he said, “wawa” to mean any drink, or “cookie” to mean any type of sweet.  He had also figured out that “shuz on” means we were going somewhere, and that by saying “die pah chaynge” we would rush him to the potty.  Many of his phrases would make little sense to my colleagues at work if I were to use them, but to us they made complete sense.  Believe it or not, the same holds true for you! 
When you are just starting out to speak a new language and you say to a native speaker the equivalent of “wawa” chances are he or she is going to figure out that you are thirsty.  Even if you do not know the word for something, if you can just describe it as, “that round thing over there” chances are the person to whom you are speaking will know that you mean the plate, the tire or whatever it is you are referring to.  Context is huge in language. 
Taking the “toddler” approach is critical to learning a foreign language.  You may not be able to say, “I must find an ophthalmologist because I lost my contact lens.” But you should be able to say, “help eyes, where glasses doctor?”  Knowing a few simple vocabulary words can take you to that level.  The problem most people face is that they are worried that if they do not speak with proper grammar no one will pay attention to them.  Or rather, they feel that they will be made fun of.  Rarely do I find this, and usually I find that I am only ever corrected when speaking a foreign language by non-native speakers and it is usually in such a way as it seems they are only doing it to make themselves feel better about their own ability.  Native speakers are usually just tickled that you are even trying to communicate with them.  As such, whether or not you are using the proper gerund is not as important to them as understanding the underlying message you are trying to convey.  It is perfectly legitimate to speak like a toddler when setting out to learn a new language.
So what vocabulary terms should you begin with?  Start with what interests you.  Why?  You’re more likely to remember those terms.  Being a lawyer, I’m quick to remember that in French the word for lawyer is “avocat.”  In Arabic, it is “mohamee.”  Knowing a few basic food terms will help from keeping you hungry, but studying what is most of interest to you is by far the best way to remember the words that you study.
Another helpful suggestion, and this is a must when you are in a foreign country or in any immersion setting, have a pen and a small pad of paper in your pocket at all times.  Anytime you are chatting with someone in the foreign language and you discover a word that is new to you.  Write it down.  When I was in Tunisia, I oftentimes would hold my pad of paper out to my friends that were helping me to speak Arabic and I would ask them to write the word down.  I did this because sometimes I had a hard time knowing the exact Arabic letter that was used in the word.  I also wanted to get the proper spelling.  My pad became so common place that towards the end of my trip I had a few friends that would just stick out their hand anytime I came across a new word, because they knew that I would soon be asking them to write it down for me.  They didn’t mind doing it, because they didn’t mind helping me, and I wanted to learn.

When you return home at night, you should then write down in a separate pad of paper (a much larger pad) all the words that you learned that day.  Keeping track of the words will help you to remember them.  It will also give you your own personal dictionary of terms that you have run across throughout the day.  Yes you will find that many words you just learned the previous day will have to be written down again, but that is just part of the process of learning a foreign language.  Remember my son?  To him all vehicles were “kaars” until he learned to differentiate and see that some of them were actually trucks or buses.  He didn’t always remember the proper word for something the first time he was introduced to it, rather he repeated it on what seemed like a thousand different occasions, until he got it right.  We all do that.  It is unquestionably true that repetition is the father of all learning.  It was true for my son the toddler and it is true for you.  Why do you hear people say so often, “well I can’t learn a language, I’m too old.” Because they have too much of an ego to realize that in learning a language you really have to make mistakes.  You really have to have the toddler drive and ambition to learn.  So if that means asking how to say “car” ten thousands times until you get it right, ask it ten thousand times.  Eventually you’ll catch on!
Having a note pad at the ready is one way to help your vocabulary, but there are many nuts and bolts to learning vocabulary that can help.  Among the various resources previously mentioned, many companies produce vocabulary tapes.  Americans waste so much time driving every day while listening to garbage radio.  Why not fill in the wasted time with a lesson in vocabulary.  If you don’t like boring vocabulary lists, try one of the many companies that offer vocabulary “a la Mozart.”  You can easily find vocabulary cassette tapes with not just words but Mozart accompanying the background.  Whether it is true or not that music stimulates the brain into better recollection is one thing, but even if it does not, you will still be doing something more productive then by listening to music you didn’t want to hear anyway.
Flashcards are another way to help improve your vocabulary.  It has been estimated that an average human spends approximately three years of their life waiting in line.  If you have to wait anyway, why not have a packet of flash cards in your pocket.  Or use your Iphone and connect it to a nice site like www.quizlet.com.  I had a good friend that went through the Defense Language Institute in Monterey California.  They had a huge list of words that they had to learn every day.  To keep up with the list, he would put every word on a vocabulary flash card.  As he went through the cards, he would put them in three piles.  One pile was for words he didn’t know at all.  Another was for words he recognized, and the last was for words he recalled quite well.  After going through all the cards he would put the cards back together starting with the words he had the most difficult time with.  Once he felt totally comfortable with a word, he would put it in a separate pile that was to be discarded.  As he went through the stack of flashcards a number of times, the “I don’t know” pile became smaller, and the discard pile grew and grew and grew.  No matter how you stack the cards, the one thing that is true is that the more you do it, the more you will learn.
When it comes to vocabulary, the more you learn the more likely you will find it easier to learn more.  It is a product of human nature.  I remember a preacher once being asked how he had such an incredible memory.  He seemed to have memorized the entire Bible and he could recall just about anything that had to do with anyone he met.  His response?  He said that he memorized a verse a day from the Bible.  He said that he started slow but the more he learned, the easier it was to memorize.  He swore that if you memorized a verse a day, in a year you would have a photographic memory.  I believe he is right.  I also believe that it doesn’t have to be the Bible or anything special to make it happen.  The more you exercise your brain, the more it will be able to retain.  This is especially true with regard to learning a foreign language.  If you set out to learn even one new vocabulary word a day, by the end of a year, you’ll find that you have learned much more than you thought was even imaginable.  From that point on, once you have a base vocabulary, learning even more terms is even that much simpler. 
If you ever have a difficult time trying to recall certain terms, be creative.  I recommend using mnemonics.  A mnemonic is something that you use to associate a concept with something else that you can more easily remember.  For example, when I learned the word for ‘elephant’ in Arabic, ‘feel’ I thought about the one time I felt an elephant and how rough the hairs on an elephant can be.  The thought of how an elephant feels, helped me remember the term for elephant.  In French, I had a difficult time remember the word for bailiff, ‘greffier’ so I thought about a really gruff looking bailiff that I met in court once.  For some reason just thinking about him helped me to remember, ‘greffier.’  Yes it is a stretch, but it worked for me.  The point is, if it works for you and it helps you to remember the word you are learning use it! 
If you check out www.excusemywhat.com, you can find several excellent books for learning French and Arabic that are filled with creative mnemonic terms.  The books are inexpensive and will help you learn hundreds of new words in a day.  Check them out – what have you got to lose?
Whatever you do to remember your terminology, the more you learn, the more facility you will have with learning more.  Whenever you speak with a linguist who speaks multiple languages you will find a common trend.  People either are bilingual and speak two languages or they are polyglottal (multi-lingual) and speak more than three.  Rarely do you meet someone who only speaks three languages.  This really isn’t a phenomena.  The reason is simple.  After learning to speak your second language, learning a third is much easier.  Once you reach three languages, the fourth is almost a given.  Your mind just simply adapts to learning a language, you almost develop what one could call a linguistic photographic memory.  Your brain is used to picking up new vocabulary.  For some strange reason, learning Arabic was easy for me because of the fact that I speak French.  Part of it was because many Arabic words were borrowed from the Spanish and the French during the time of the Crusades and the Napoleanic conquest of Egypt, but the other reason is that my brain has just been fined tuned to receiving foreign language data. 
The most wonderful thing about all this, is that our brains are wired for language acquisition.  We naturally acquired our first language.  Developing our second, third, or fourth, really is not a new concept for our brain.  It just takes practice, exercise, and perseverance.  Learning vocabulary is just one tool you can use to give your mind a mental jump-start.  Continual acquisition of new terminology, will keep your mental engine nicely tuned so that when you need to learn the finer points of the language (grammar, precise spelling etc.) you will be ready to tackle that too.

Learn 300 Arabic Vocabulary Terms in an Afternoon

Arabic is considered one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to master because the majority of vocabulary terms are very different from most Western European languages.  I've tackled this problem with an innovative method that will help any language learner master over 300 key Arabic vocabulary terms.  By associating Arabic terms with funny mnemonics, learning Arabic vocabulary is now easy.

As an example, think of the word “lightning" in Arabic.  The word is pronounced “barq.”  If you think about the phrase, “the dog ‘barq’ed at the lightning” the term now becomes easy to remember.

In my Arabic Vocabulary Made Easy, I provide over 200 mnemonics using similar word associations.  I also present clever pictures to help visual learners key in on the new terms.  Many students have found that in a short period of only a few hours, they were able to retain most, if not all, terms presented in the book.

In addition to the 200 mnemonics, you'll get over 100 words that are the same or close to the same as words in English.

If you'd like to check out this book see:

Immersion Key to Learning a Language

Sink or swim!  There is absolutely no better way to learn a language than to be totally immersed in it.  To those who think they are too old to learn a language, just listen to your local Chinese restaurant waiter who is in his 30s and just recently moved to the United States without first learning word one of English.  He did it and so can you.  Why?  He had to.  Nothing worth anything in life is obtained without a struggle.  I learned to speak French with the most facility when I was in Northern Quebec and had to.  I learned to speak Arabic with ease when I was in the middle of the Sahara desert of Tunisia and had to.  Being immersed in a language is by far the best way to learn.  The problem that most people face, however, is not realizing that they are immersed in the language because once immersed they choose to speak English with those others who speak English.  Or, they think that they are not going to spend enough time in the immersed environment for it to make any difference.  In both cases, they are wrong.
I did spend over two years of total immersion in French, and there is no question that it is why I speak French well enough to translate.  I only had less than a month, however, of total immersion with Arabic.  Still, I am highly proficient.  Why, immersion is more about concentration of language, than it is about length of time in the language.  I know of hundred if not thousands of people who live in an environment where they are surrounded by a different language, but they still don’t speak word one of the foreign tongue.  Why?  They choose not to learn.  Sometimes it can be for political reasons.  Ask an English speaking Canadian living in Quebec City why they don’t speak French.  Melt down everything they say and the answer is simple: politics.  Or, it can be because of personal choice not to learn.  Ask an English-only speaking American living in San Antonio why they don’t speak Spanish.  The answer is may boil down to a simple excuse of, “this is America.”  In either case, people may be immersed in a language for years, yet never learn to speak the language of their surroundings.  If, however, by choice, they had decided to try and make a concerted effort at learning something new, they too may be bilingual.
So what do you do if you are not able to travel to France, spend time in Germany, cruise the islands, or ride a camel in the Middle East?  The answer is quite simple.  Find pockets of immersion in your own town.  When my family lived in Washington D.C. we attended a unique church.  It was a nice Arabic Christian church.  Most of the parishioners were from Lebanon and as such it was very much of a Lebanese dialect, but for that 2-3 hour church experience, my family was totally immersed.  Talk about learning a language!  My wife was convinced that I was a better man because I walked away from church having truly listened to the sermon.  I had to!  Without really focusing on what was said, I would not have understood.  Going to church also helped me to meet new friends.  Now I have even more people that I can communicate with to practice my chosen language.  It has also helped my children appreciate other children from different backgrounds.  Helping your children to break down the barriers of stereotypes and discrimination early is a win win for your children and our society.
You want an even easier immersion than a church focused on your language?  Go out to eat!  It may surprise you, but most Chinese restaurants have fluent Chinese speakers working there.  Next time you go, and the waiter asks you how the food is, respond, “Hen How!”  – “very good!”  I’m sure he or she will appreciate it.  As they come around again and ask you if you need more water, ask them how to say water in Chinese.  Why not?  Learning a language is a process. You may forget the word once you learn it, but if you don’t try, you’ll never learn.  Besides, how many times does your toddler ask you about something that is new to them?  If you have ever dealt with toddlers, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  They will talk about something without end.  Don’t be afraid to ask how you say ‘water' again and again if you keep forgetting.  Sooner or later you will remember. 
There are many pockets of immersion in every city in the United States.  One way to find such a pocket is to look in your local town for those interested in learning English as a second language or ESL.  Many local churches and civic groups offer ESL as a volunteer service.  Immigrants wanting to learn to speak English flock to such groups and are very anxious to learn.  Regardless of where you are, if you volunteer to help teach English as a second language you will undoubtedly find individuals who will help you to learn words and phrases of their own tongue.  The best part is that rarely do ESL teaching groups have enough volunteers.  So there is always room for one more.  Second, is that you don’t need to speak any foreign language to volunteer as an ESL instructor.  True you never know what country the people will be from that are there to learn, but that is half the fun.  Regardless, while volunteering your time, it is almost impossible to walk away without learning even a few words and phrases of the languages of the people you are helping.
Check with your local church and or civic group and you are bound to find an ESL group that needs your help.  If, however, you are more adventurous about learning a language, and have some time to travel, the sky is literally the limit.  While teaching as a professor of foreign languages, my college decided to put together a team of students to compete in an International Humanitarian Law competition.  The competition took place in Europe and was attended by over 30 different schools from various countries around the world.  The best part was that the competition was done all in French.  I immediately volunteered my time to help the team out.  We put in our application and I applied as the coach.  When we did finally travel overseas, the team spent roughly 10 days debating Humanitarian Law in French!  What a tremendous opportunity!  It really was the chance of a lifetime.  We didn’t make it into the finals, but we did quite well.  The most incredible part of the experience though was the interaction between us and the other teams.  It was truly an immersion experience.  We learned about the many different countries represented there, and they learned that Americans really aren’t the bullies the world makes us out to be.  Of the three participants on our team that I had the pleasure of coaching, one of them did not speak French any better than a horse speaks Spanish, but by the end of the trip, she was making out quite well.  There is nothing like being put on the spot to learn something.
The competition we were in is known as the Concours Jean-Pictet.  It is geared towards law students from around the world and it has an English competition as well.  If you have a friend in law school, or if you are attending yourself, you really ought to think about putting a team together.  It is not the only competition out there.  There are many like it around the world.  Whether it is Model United Nations, or just a simple conference overseas.  Opportunities like this abound.  Take advantage of them.  If you are not a student, think about coaching a team.  Look around, if you are into cooking, there are many institutes around the world that would love to have you as a student.  Why study in a local university if you can study French cuisine in Paris? 
Aside from small competitions, conferences, or weeklong classes, which anyone should be able to find the time for.  Consider going away for a semester.  If you are a student, this is a no brainer.  While in college, I was truly as poor as a church mouse and the only way I was really able to fund my education was because I qualified for the pell grant.  I really didn’t have a dime to my name, but thanks to good old Uncle Sam, I was able to take out student loans with very reasonable interest rates.  In addition most of the money that I was able to borrow I was able to defer any payment on until after I finished college.  With this newly acquired cash, I was able to travel to France to study international law.  I did this over the summer.  And for most students summer travel is really the best way to go.  Many programs, however, are available that allow you to do an entire semester abroad.  Taking advantage of these programs as a student is so easy that they should almost be required before any is allowed to graduate. 
If you haven’t started college yet, why not do the ultimate?  Think about going to a university outside of the US?  If you are too afraid to travel too far from home, you could consider a college in Montreal.  Yes there are 100% French speaking colleges in Canada.  What better way to get an education and finish school bilingual?  And even if you don’t take the total plunge, attending school in French Quebec alone should put you in an environment where you can truly pick up another language.  There are critics out there that will say, “oh but the Quebecois accent is so strange, only other Quebecois speakers will understand my French.”  This line is reasoning is non-sense.  I found quite the opposite.  I cannot only understand Canadian French, but Parisian French is crystal clear for me.  I believe I have an advantage over those who learned to speak French in Paris.  I have been immersed in a more profound environment and now can more easily understand French-speaking Africans, Haitians, and just about anyone else in the world.  For one thing Montreal is truly a melting pot of the world, and so being there, you’ll be immersed with just about ever dialect.  There really is no better place for an American to study French. 
Immersion is no question the best approach to learning a language, but since learning is a lifetime process, don’t be disheartened if you can’t always be immersed.  There are still many other things you can do to improve your linguistic talents.  Keep tuned to this blog for other ideas that should help!