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Le Blog: Lingual Links

By angelaluke, Mar 4 2017 08:17PM

It is often said that developing foreign language listening skills is the hardest skill to master, yet it’s also one of the most important ones. What can we do to improve listening comprehension?

Well, it goes without saying that practice makes perfect. But if you’re not living in the country, how can you listen to authentic language? Actually, there are lots of ways and mixing up your sources of listening material will stop you getting bored.


With the Internet, it is very easy to search for radio stations in your country of choice. Whilst it’s true to say that radio presenters seem to talk particularly fast, radio programing follows a format. Therefore, start by listening on the hour, in order to hear the time, news headlines and maybe the weather. These sound bites are enough to get you started. The radio also makes great background noise and, the more you listen, the more your ear will get attuned. Here is a link to a marvellous site: radio garden - http://radio.garden/live/ You can spin the globe and listen to any live radio station in the world in real time – awesome!

Songs with lyrics

And if music is your thing, why not listen to foreign songs with lyrics. You can search on YouTube and if you’d like French lyrics, search for ‘chansons en français avec paroles’ and for Spanish, ‘canciones en español con letra’. You’ll find a huge choice and the lyrics on the videos help make the listening more accessible. The other day I was searching for songs in French and came across Sara’H who sings French covers of British and American artists. So, if you are a fan of Adele, you can hear ‘Hello’ in French. Knowing the song in the original language helps your comprehension enormously. Here is link to Sara’H’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/sarahageali


Podcasts are a great way to listen to relatively short bursts of French or Spanish and you can often get the transcript if you subscribe. There are many to choose from, but a French one I particularly like is called ‘One Thing in a French Day’ and the podcasts are produced three times a week. Here is a link: http://onethinginafrenchday.podbean.com/ For Spanish I like Audiria, with its transcripts and online exercises: http://audiria.com

Or maybe you prefer films?

Films are another entertaining way to improve listening skills, and give great insight into the country’s culture. Amazon has a fabulous collection of foreign films under the genre ‘International’ and if you are an Amazon Prime customer, the films are free to watch. It’s also worth checking what’s on in your local town. In Farnham, for example, Brasserie Blanc shows French films every Monday in their secret cinema upstairs and the Maltings also puts on foreign films. Don’t worry that the films are subtitled - the subtitles are there so that you can check how closely the English adheres to the original script!

Lastly, flashcards.

Building your vocabulary is another important language task and quizlet.com here kills two birds with one stone. Quizlet’s flashcard and online activities are great. You can search for any topic or easily add your own set. However, what I like is the fact that the site has built-in audio so you can listen to the words on the flashcards in the foreign language. Why not give this a try! https://quizlet.com/

Hold conversations with people who speak the language you’re learning.

Ultimately, we learn a foreign language to be able to communicate with other people so conversation groups are a great way to practice listening and speaking. Anyone who attends our French or Spanish conversation groups will know this, but if you can’t find a group near you, why not look to chat online? There are many sites that will help you find an online chat partner but here’s one I like: https://www.conversationexchange.com/

So, what do you do to practise listening? And what might you try now you’ve read this? Please leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear what you do and, if you’ve liked this article, please share it on your favourite social media.

Merci et gracias, Angela

By angelaluke, Feb 20 2017 04:41PM

Shrove Tuesday for us – Carnival for them!

So, it's a week tomorrow until Shrove Tuesday when in Britain we traditionally have pancakes, historically to use up all the rich food before eating more simple food during Lent. However, I have to say that some parts of Spain do much better than this; like Venice, certain towns put on a carnival. This lasts typically over a week and ends on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Their logic is to party hard before the forty days of simpler living. And party they do…

Vilanova i la Geltrú

In this coastal town 40 kilometres south of Barcelona, the carnival program started on 5th February and involves several balls with live music, activities for children, poetry readings, processions, meringue-throwing, and a huge boiled-sweet battle between different local groups, to the sound of live music. If you have a chance to be in the area, it’s well-worth visiting, particularly the sweet battle on Sunday 26th February, starting at 9am – but don’t worry, if you stay over on the Saturday you’ll be woken much earlier by the brass bands in the streets.

The Carnival King

Another part of the carnival is the arrival of the carnival king, Carnestoltes on Thursday 23rd February. His burial on Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the end of the carnival, but there is a still a ball that night!

Carnival in Catalunya

The Catalans take the carnival seriously and have serious fun. This is partly because Franco banned carnivals. Barcelona and Sitges also have impressive carnivals, the one in Sitges being particularly flamboyant. Given the excellent transport links along the coast, you could easily visit all three towns and sample the carnival in each. The atmosphere is fabulous and this would be something you’d never forget.

Have you been to any of these or other carnivals in Spain or Latin America? I'd love to hear about them...

Links to the three carnivals:

Vilanova i la Geltrú: http://www.carnavaldevilanova.cat/index.php/carnaval-2017/programa (in catalan)

Sitges: https://www.sitges-tourist-guide.com/en/events/sitges-carnival.html

Barcelona: http://www.barcelonayellow.com/bcn-events-calendar/details/11-barcelona-carnaval

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