Learning British UK Accent (RP): 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011

Mobile App Helps Users Learn Language From Real Life

Social Media | Mashable | The Social Media Guide

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Voxy

Quick Pitch: Voxy uses location and current events to teach language.

Genius Idea: Adding context to new words and phrases.

Living in Spanish-speaking countries for a decade gave Voxy CEO Paul Gollash strong opinions about how people learn languages best. Interviewing top linguists gave him more.

He rolled what he learned from the two experiences into an innovative learning app for the iPhone. Voxy, says Gollash, turns on “learning in the flow of your life.”

Voxy has two main components. The first is a news feed that pulls in current articles from the Associated Press. It distills each article to passages of about 100 words that are appropriate for the user’s language level. Then it adds links that, when clicked, translate phrases and offer the option to add them to a personal vocabulary list. As the user catches up on news that she is interested in, the articles and vocab phrases that she reads are saved in a separate section for review later.

The second main component changes depending on where the user is. Visiting the grocery store, for instance, pulls up a list of “vocabulary,” “things you hear” and “things you say” appropriate for food shopping.

Essentially, the app adds context to what otherwise would be a stack of flashcards.

“When you go back to study you are studying basically scenes from your life,” Gollash says.

In a pilot program Voxy ran at Miami Dade College in Florida, a group of ESL students who tried this personalized approach reported that they studied language twice as much as a control group in the same class. Voxy didn’t take any assessments, but “time on task” is a widely agreed upon factor in successful language acquisition.

If you haven’t heard of Voxy, it’s probably because its first and only app is intended for Spanish-speaking users who are learning English. Gollash says he chose this category because, at least in the United States, learning English is often connected to financial and emotional well-being. Also, Spanish-speaking English learners in the United States are geographically concentrated in five states, which makes them easy to target.

In eight countries outside the United States, Voxy is the top education application in the App Store. At the end of March, Voxy had 77,000 registered users, and the startup is on track to end this month with 160,000 registered users. The app even beat out Angry Birds on the general list of top apps in Spain — at least for a couple hours.

Gollash says he hopes the upcoming release of a Voxy Android app, which can run on a wider variety of devices, many of which are more affordable than the iPhone, will help expand the English-learner userbase in the US.

Meanwhile, the startup, which has raised a total of $1.2 million in funding to date, will also expand its offerings to learners of other languages. In about two weeks, it expects to release a version of Voxy designed to teach English speakers how to speak Spanish.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

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Language Diversity: What’s the Big Deal?

Accent Reduction Blog | Accent Neutralization Blog

Languages are not immortal. They need about 100,000 speakers at any given time to stay alive. Right now there are roughly 7,000 languages that represent the culture and collective experience of humankind. It’s estimated that by the end of the century, we’ll probably be down to less than 3,000. That’s mindboggling-- 4,000 languages that will have, unfortunately, made it to the ‘Extinction’ list. We know how languages evolve, but how do they die? The reasons are not generally happy ones and often don’t reflect man’s most glorious moments in history. None of us typically get the warm fuzzies when we think of destruction of habitat (in this case that of a language’s speakers) or oppressive political mandate…let alone genocide, mass demographic shifts due to poverty and war, forced assimilation, and even the introduction of electronic media as a replacement of (not just an addition to) one’s mother tongue. Most linguists, me included, go into grieving mode at the knowledge of yet another language no longer among the land of the living.

language diversity

Why all the drama? Why should we care about endangered languages? How about the following three reasons, just for starters? Look them over and see if they resonate with any of your concerns.

Reason #1: The sustainability of our planet may depend on the viability of endangered languages. This may seem like a stretch, but consider that many of our most critical medicines are plant based and grow in areas where indigenous peoples have the best access to, and understanding of, local biodiversity. Linguist David Harrison explains, “The people who live there are the experts on the environment…They know more about the ecosystem, the plants and animals, than scientists typically do. And it's not just a list of things they know; it's a hierarchy of knowledge, how things fit together." Collaborators on the “Enduring Voices” project add, “Much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many still undocumented by science. Studying indigenous languages therefore benefits environmental understanding and conservation efforts…And when languages are lost, most of the knowledge that went with them gets lost.”  In other words, language diversity = biodiversity.

Reason #2: The more we understand the workings of language, the more we understand the workings of our brain. And I don’t mean our own language (whatever that may happen to be). I mean our 7,000 living languages. The way we speak determines how we think. For example, the particularities of a language’s grammar and vocabulary actually determine the way we process information. (Please see blog, Accent Training: It’s Not Just What You Say But How You Say It.) And because of this, the larger the language variety, the more cognitive scientists can explore the capabilities, and limitations, of the human mind. Peg Barratt, NSF division director for behavioral and cognitive sciences, sums it up perfectly, “We want to know what the diversity of languages tells us about the ways the brain stores and communicates experience. “ 

Reason #3: Languages are the keys to our historical record and provide insight into creating our future. They tell us, almost step by step, how diverse peoples have coped with similar problems, challenges, organizational change, and community aspirations throughout millennia. They show us how diverse people problem solve, look for and find opportunity, and contribute to the well being of the group. Wait a minute! This last reason is beginning to sound a whole lot like a diversity and inclusion initiative!

And that’s the point. That’s the connection between language and our world today. The goal isn’t to all be the same. Au contraire. It’s to harness our diversity to problem solve, leverage opportunity, and help the group (aka organization) advance. As noted in the Endangered Languages Archive, “The more perspectives we have…the better we can hope to understand.”  That’s what living languages do! They help us navigate our world. They help us excel.

To find out about current initiatives to sustain ‘endangered languages’, check out: “The Linguists”, a PBS special with linguists David Harrison and Greg Anderson.

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Do you need musical talent to learn languages? No.

Accent Reduction | Babel

Do you need musical talent to learn languages?

When people hear the title of my book, Language is Music, they often assume that one has to be a musician or a good singer to learn languages or that I profess that someone can learn language just through music. Neither is true.

Language is music because each language has its own musicality. But you don’t have to be a musician, opera singer or pop star to learn the musicality of a language.

You have to pay attention to HOW the language sounds to copy its rhythm, beat and sounds. Professional singers may be paying more attention to hitting the notes correctly and singing in key than to the correct pronunciation of the language of the music. So there are people without musical training who have good accents in other languages because they focus on improving pronunciation.

Let me give a couple of examples of singers who have professional musical training and do not have excellent accents or pronunciation in other languages to show that being a musical pro is not a sure way to learn a language.

I woke up before the crack of dawn one cold fall Saturday morning in New York City to stand in line to get standing room tickets to hear Luciano Pavarotti sing the main male role in the French opera, “La Fille du Regiment”. I wasn’t all that taken by the opera until  he came on the stage and took my breath away. But he wasn’t singing in French, he was singing Pavarotti. I could barely understand the words he was singing although I am fluent in French. Do I regret not understanding his words clearly? No, I was totally mesmerized because his voice was out of this world. He had perfect pitch but couldn’t pronounce French correctly.

This clip is not from the performance I saw at the Metropolitan Opera, but it’s of another time when the Italian tenor sang “La Fille du Regiment” in French:

Many opera singers can’t sing in Russian. They sing some aberration of our language and sometimes they are so bad that it’s actually offensive. Opera singers who can’t correctly pronounce a foreign language might as well sing in English or their native tongue so at least those of us who do speak their language can understand what they are singing.

Classical Singer magazine interviewed me a couple of years ago to provide tips for students of opera singing who have trouble learning languages, especially Russian and Czech. Here’s the link to the article: http://createyourworldbook.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/50Week-september.pdf

Diana Krall has a sensual and gorgeous voice in her interpretations of classic Brazilian songs, but she can’t pronounce Portuguese. The requisite nasal sounds of Portuguese are absent in her songs. Here’s a clip from her concert in Rio:

The reason I am giving these examples is to show that even trained musical giants don’t have good pronunciation unless they make an effort.

Don’t use the excuse of being a poor piano student in elementary school be a reason not to pursue foreign language learning.

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VIDEO: How to be a British royal

BBC News - Home
Here are some dos and don'ts for being a member of the British Royal Family.
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The ST Sound


Unfortunately the original audio player is no longer available so please do follow this new link to access the file.

If you are keen to improve your pronunciation and speak English with an RP accent then take a look at my British Accent Training Course.  It contains Audio, Video and PDF docs to help you develop an clear, authentic  RP british accent. Don't let your accent hold you back! Click here for help and information

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How to pronounce Sword with British accent (RP)

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Improve your accent and pronunciation with my British Accent Course.

How do you pronounce these Film actors and Director names?

How do you say:

  • Pacino
  • Scorcese
  • Connery


You may not need the correct pronunciation of these Film stars names, but would it be useful to know the British accent pronunciation of Top 500 English words?  The Top 500 Words is one of the modules contained in the Ultimate RP British Accent training course.  Find out what's covered in the other 11 Modules by clicking here: http://www.learningbritishaccent.com/the-ultimate-rp-british-accent-course/