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Snow Sports in Yuzawa Niigata

April 22nd, 2024

A few weeks ago, on March 29th 2024, ten of us went by shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa in Niigata. We met up in Tokyo station around 7 in the morning and boarded the train, excited for an energizing day in the snow!

Once we arrived, we immediately went to get our snow gear. After securing our rentals, we gathered to meet up with our ski instructor. We hopped on a gondola that took us up near the summit of the mountain and were pleasantly surprised by the long gondola ride. As soon as we reached the top, we put on the rest of our gear and headed off!

Gondola in Niigata

On our way up.

The weather was a bit rainy, but we didn’t let that stop us from having fun. We were determined to make every moment count!

The group with their ski gear

Looks like everyone is having fun!

Our ski instructor ensured that we were all having fun. Sure, there were a few wobbly moments and hilarious wipeouts, but hey, that’s all part of the adventure, right? After a solid three-hour session of shredding powder and carving through the snow, our stomachs began to rumble, signaling it was time to refuel. Gala Yuzawa had a variety of food, so we were able to take our pick.

Niigata udon

Doesn’t this look yummy?

Back to the slopes we zoomed by an extra couple of hours of snowy shenanigans! But after a long day, our muscles were begging for a break. So we decided to go relax at the sentō in the ski center. While some of us were all about soaking our sore muscles in those warm waters, others couldn’t resist the temptation of a last few thrilling runs down the slopes.

Gondola returning to the bottom of the mountain

On our way back down the mountain…

After recharging, our stomachs were grumbling for some food. Before bidding farewell to this wonderful area, we decided to eat at a local restaurant. It was the perfect way to relax and to get to know each other better.

Everyone at a restaurant table

Ended the day with a delicious meal.

Once we ate our fill, we took the extra bit of time to shop for omiyage! Rest assured, we made sure to bring lots of souvenirs back to the office.

And here’s some shots that some of us took!(^-^)
Plum blossoms

Some plum blossoms.

A bridge over a river

Bridge by the river.

Although we were sad to go, we were excited to get back and get some rest before the weekend started! Here’s the view from the top of Echigo-Yuzawa station. Today was the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation.

Train station

Until next time, Niigata!

Do you want to join us for the next snow sports event? Or do you have another suggestion for everyone? Do not hesitate to contact HR and let us know!

Hiking Adventure in Hadano

October 30th, 2023

It’s been ages since we tried to do some events all together. But finally, we’re trying to do that again!

Last Sunday, on October 22, 2023, three of us went by train to Hadano, a city about an hour away from Tokyo. We met up in Shinjuku around 10 in the morning and boarded the train, excited for a day of adventure!

After a quick break in a combini to grab some snacks and drinks, we headed to the trailhead. The trail was challenging right from the start (it was supposed to be easy!), with a steep climb up the mountainside. But we were determined to make it to the top and soon found ourselves surrounded by beautiful scenery.

The trail was well-maintained and easy to follow. We stopped frequently to rest and enjoy the view and had a lot of fun chatting and getting to know each other better.

After about two hours of hiking, we finally reached the summit of the mountain. We were rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding area, including Mount Fuji in the distance. Unfortunately, the top of Mount Fuji was covered in clouds, but it was still an amazing sight to see.

We spent some time at the summit, enjoying the view and taking pictures. Then, we moved on, continuing our road on the track. The goal was to reach Tsurumaki Onsen Station. Lots of (beautiful? interesting? big?) spiders to see in the forest, but the trail was definitely easier to follow as we were globally going down. Some treacherous passages were a nice excuse for more breaks.

Once out of the wood and back to the city, our trip almost had some urbex vibe to it!

Once at Tsurumaki, we rewarded ourselves with some delicious karaage! It was the perfect way to end a perfect day. The weather was perfect, and although we couldn’t have a perfect view on the Mount Fuji, it was overall sunny enough!

Do you want to join us for the next hiking event? Or do you know a trail good for everyone? Do not hesitate to contact HR and suggest your idea!

The Role of Immersion in Language Acquisition: Living and Breathing the Language

September 12th, 2023

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Language is a bridge that connects individuals, cultures, and societies. The quest to learn a new language is often accompanied by excitement, challenges, and the ever-present question: What is the most effective way to master a new tongue? Among the various methods, immersion is a powerful approach that allows learners to live and breathe the language they aspire to conquer.

In this article, we will delve into the reasons why immersion is hailed as an effective language acquisition technique, exploring the type of immersion opportunities out there are the benefits they bring to the proverbial table.

1. Language Immersion Programs: Diving into the Deep End of Learning

Swimmers diving into pool

Language immersion programs are immersive learning experiences designed to fully immerse learners in the target language and culture. These programs take learners beyond the confines of traditional classroom settings, plunging them into an environment where the language is spoken naturally and effortlessly. The essence of language immersion lies in its ability to replicate how humans naturally learn their first language: through exposure, context, and interaction.

2. How Language Immersion Programs Work

In a language immersion program, learners are surrounded by native speakers, authentic situations, and real-life contexts where the target language is used as the primary means of communication. This could involve living in a country where the language is spoken, participating in local activities, attending events, and engaging in day-to-day conversations. The goal is to create an environment where learners are learning the language and actively using it to navigate their surroundings and connect with people.

3. Types of Language Immersion Programs

A. Full Immersion Programs

These programs involve complete submersion into the language and culture. Learners are often required to use the target language for all interactions inside and outside the classroom. This intensive approach accelerates language learning by maximizing exposure and practice.

B. Partial Immersion Programs

In partial immersion programs, learners split their time between using the target language and their native language. This can benefit beginners who may need some support initially before fully transitioning to the new language.

C. Cultural Exchange Programs

These programs focus not only on language but also on cultural exchange. Learners often live with host families or participate in community activities, providing them a holistic understanding of the language within its cultural context.

D. Language Camps and Intensive Workshops

Immersion experiences can be short-term; language camps and intensive workshops offer condensed periods of intensive language exposure. These can be particularly effective for those seeking a rapid boost in their language skills.

4. The Benefits of Immersion Language Learning Programs

City street

A. Real-World Context

One of the central principles of immersion learning is that it places language within its natural habitat: real-life situations. By surrounding oneself with native speakers, authentic conversations, and day-to-day experiences in the target language, learners gain exposure to the nuances of pronunciation, idiomatic expressions, and cultural subtleties that textbooks often overlook.

B. Intuitive Learning

Immersion mirrors the way we learn our first language as children. Instead of dissecting grammar rules and vocabulary lists, learners absorb the language intuitively. This approach minimizes the need for rote memorization and allows for a more natural flow of communication. The brain adapts to language patterns, gradually making them second nature.

C. Breaking Down Fear

The fear of making mistakes often hampers language learners. Immersion environments encourage trial and error without judgment, fostering a safe space for learners to experiment with their newfound linguistic skills. The more learners interact without fearing embarrassment, the quicker they progress.

D. Cultural Integration

Language and culture are inseparable companions. When you immerse yourself in a new language, you automatically open doors to a deeper understanding of the culture that accompanies it. Cultural context plays a pivotal role in grasping idioms, social norms, and humor that might otherwise get lost in translation.

E. Enhanced Motivation

The excitement of living in a new linguistic world drives motivation like no other method. The sheer practicality of communicating in everyday situations propels learners to grasp the language more effectively.

5. Cultural Understanding Through Immersion

Group of people eating lunch together

Beyond the realm of language, immersion inherently brings about cultural understanding and competence. As you engage with native speakers, partake in local activities, and navigate day-to-day life, you inevitably become attuned to the cultural nuances that underpin the language. Understanding a language in isolation is incomplete; true mastery involves understanding its cultural context.

A. Cultural Competence

Immersion language learning provides a unique opportunity to develop cultural competence. By immersing oneself in the cultural practices and customs associated with the language, learners gain a deeper appreciation for the values, beliefs, and perspectives of the people who speak it. This not only enriches their ability to communicate effectively but also fosters a sense of empathy and open-mindedness toward diverse cultures.

B. Breaking Down Stereotypes

Cultural immersion helps break down stereotypes and preconceived notions that might exist about a particular culture. Engaging with individuals from different backgrounds on a personal level humanizes those who might have been seen as “foreign” or “different,” leading to a more inclusive worldview.

C. Building Meaningful Connections in a Foreign Language

The connections formed during foreign language immersion experiences go beyond mere language exchanges. They facilitate genuine friendships that bridge cultural divides. These connections can be invaluable for language practice and fostering a global network and gaining insights into various aspects of life.

6. Wrapping Up

The role of immersion in language acquisition must be balanced. It offers a dynamic and holistic approach that accelerates language learning and nurtures cultural understanding and competence. By immersing oneself in the language and culture, learners embark on a journey that transcends linguistic barriers and enriches their perspective of the world. Whether exploring the bustling markets of a foreign city or engaging in heartfelt conversations with locals, immersion leads to the heart of a language and its people. So, take the plunge, live, and breathe the language – a world of communication and connection awaits.

Author Bio:
Sean Patrick Hopwood is a language polyglot and the CEO of Day Interpreting, an on demand interpreting services company.

Top 4 Ways That Peninsular Spanish And Mexican Spanish Are Different

January 17th, 2023


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Do you know that Peninsular Spanish and Mexican Spanish are different? This is because different varieties of the same language are used by native speakers in distinct parts of the world. So, the Spanish you can hear among Spanish-speaking countries may sound quite different.The English language, for example, has regional varieties such as American English, British English, Australian English, etc. In the case of the Spanish language, there are also many possible pronunciations and accents.


Table of Contents

  1. Where Are Peninsular Spanish And Mexican Spanish Spoken?
  2. Vocabulary Differences
  3. Pronunciation Differences
  4. Tenses Used
  5. Using Vosotros And Ustedes
  6. So, Which Spanish To Learn?


1. Where Are Peninsular Spanish And Mexican Spanish Spoken?


A View of Spain

Peninsular Spanish (español peninsular), or European Spanish, is the Spanish spoken in Spain. It is the standard language spoken widely across Spain, especially in the north and center.Castilian Spanish is another term for the more formally spoken versions of Spanish in Spain. In addition, you can also find the Andalusian dialect in the Southern part of the country and the Murcian dialect in the Autonomous Region of the Community of Murcia.

Folklore has it that Valladolid, a northwestern city in Spain, is home to the most authentic form of Peninsular Spanish. Although modern linguists debate this, the Spanish language’s roots may remain in this city.


A View of Mexico

Mexican Spanish (español mexicano), sometimes Latin American Spanish, encompasses the Spanish dialects spoken in Mexico. Thus, this variant of Spanish, with particular distinctive characteristics, is primarily spoken by the Mexican people. In terms of numbers, there are more Spanish speakers in Mexico than in any other country, with 99.2% of the population speaking Spanish as the mother tongue.You may rethink the varieties of Spanish to study as you gather resources for your Spanish studies. But first, let’s examine the significant distinctions between Peninsular Spanish and Mexican Spanish!


2. Vocabulary Differences

Let’s begin with the most glaring language barrier between Spanish speakers in Spain and Mexico. Those who study only one Spanish variety may find adapting to the new setting challenging. So first, examine some common terms and see how they’re used.

  • “Okay” in Peninsular Spanish is “vale.” But, on the other hand, in Mexican Spanish is “bien.”
  • “Cake” in Peninsular Spanish is “tarta.” But, on the other hand, in Mexican Spanish is “pastel.”
  • “Juice” in Peninsular Spanish is “zumo.” But, on the other hand, in Mexican Spanish is “jugo.”
  • “Pen” in Peninsular Spanish is “baligrafo.” But, on the other hand, in Mexican Spanish is “pluma.”
  • “Computer” in Peninsular Spanish is “ordenador.” But, on the other hand, in Mexican Spanish is “computadora.”
  • “Car” in Peninsular Spanish is “coche.” But, on the other hand, in Mexican Spanish it is “auto” or “carro.”

As you can see, even the most basic and universal word, like “okay,” is translated into different words in Peninsular Spanish and Mexican Spanish. Since these two dialects utilize several words, Spanish learners should do deep research to become acquainted with some of the terminology they employ in conversations.


3. Pronunciation Differences

You can immediately tell the two languages apart by their sound and apparent lexical distinctions. So, not only are the words spoken differently, but the sounds made by the same alphabet are also distinct.

The letter “z” is pronounced differently in both languages before every vowel. In contrast, the letter “c” is pronounced differently before the vowels “e” and “i.” In Mexico, this would be pronounced with “s,” while in Spain, it would be spoken with “th,” as in the English word “thing.”


A Pair of Shoes

A common example is the pronunciation of “zapatos.”

One distinctive feature of Mexican Spanish, especially in central Mexico, is the widespread reduction or elimination of unstressed vowels. When a vowel is next to the alphabet “s,” this process occurs at a higher frequency than other vowels, which are subsequently shortened or deleted from the structures.


4. Tenses Used

The past tenses are one of the most noticeable linguistic differences between Peninsular Spanish and Mexican Spanish. Present perfect is the preferred tense in Peninsular Spanish, especially for describing activities that occurred very recently in the past. However, Mexican Spanish speakers use the past and present perfect tenses in a manner quite similar to that you are used to hearing in English.

So, if you study and understand all tenses in Spanish, you can communicate effectively in any setting.


5. Using Vosotros And Ustedes

As we covered, there are substantial grammatical and phonetic differences between the Spanish of Spain and Mexico. So now you have to understand the distinction between “vosotros” and “ustedes.”

In Spanish, both “vosotros” and “ustedes” mean “you” in the plural. They serve the same function as the English phrase “You all,” referring to a group of individuals. It’s essential to consider the context in which you’re utilizing a Spanish word or phrase before speaking or writing it. The greatest analogy is the distinction between speaking to friends and speaking to a teacher or someone of higher status.

“Vosotros” is now exclusively used in Spain. It’s the informal term when you’re just hanging out with friends. “Ustedes,” on the other hand, is formal and informal in any context throughout all Spanish-speaking countries. You may use it to refer to anybody, whether they are close friends or coworkers. Therefore you won’t be using “vosotros” very much in Mexican Spanish. If you plan on communicating with locals in Spain, you’ll need to brush up on your Spanish conjugations.


People at a Party


6. So, Which Spanish To Learn?

Many folks have advanced rather far along in their Spanish studies in Spain before settling into the language’s use in South America. Of course, there was some early stumbling in their ability to communicate, but they had no trouble either understanding or being understood.

Different regions speak different types of Spanish; if you want to spend most of your time in one nation, it makes sense to learn the Spanish dialect spoken there. For example, most Europeans choose to study Peninsular Spanish, whereas Americans prefer Latin American Spanish. However, hearing several varieties of Spanish may create challenges for you. So then, it is also crucial to learn as many different dialects and accents of the Spanish language as possible. In addition, it encourages you to value diversity and recognize uniqueness.

Then, whenever you feel like it, visit our website SpanishPod101.com to get a head start on your Spanish studies without spending money on old textbooks you might not enjoy.

So, have you picked which variety to study on your path to learning Spanish?

Top 10 Careers You Can Get with a Foreign Language

May 16th, 2022

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Learning a widely spoken language as your second language isn’t only beneficial if you’re a world traveler. It can also greatly enhance your career outlook, bring in better job opportunities, and promotes your native language skills as well!

But what are the kind of careers you can get with a foreign language? What are the professional benefits of speaking multiple languages? What is the most widely spoken language you should learn for the sake of your career? Can you land a job in other countries with your foreign language skills?

We’re about to lay down some of the career choices for multilingual professionals with the hope of inspiring you to take the leap and learn a new language ASAP!

The Best Careers for Multilingual Individuals

#1 Language Teacher or Tutor for Multiple Languages

A man teaching a class
If you’re skilled in a variety of foreign languages, you can use your foreign language skills to teach students. If you choose a classroom setup, you’ll need a degree in the language you want to teach. You’ll also need to get certified to prove that you’re capable of teaching the language.

This is a great career choice if you love interacting with students and feel at home in the classroom environment. And there are plenty of job opportunities for qualified teachers.
But if you don’t have the degree to show you’re qualified to teach multiple languages (even though you’re totally capable of doing it), you can opt to become a tutor instead.

Language learning tutors generally work on a face-to-face basis with one of two students at a time. Although tutors have complete control over their lesson plans and the methods they use, you have to promote your service on a continual basis to secure a steady stream of income.

You can also choose to become an online foreign languages tutor, which opens up many more doors of opportunity and gets rid of any demographical barriers. Not only can you remotely tutor in other countries, but the potential earnings increase substantially as well. Verbling, for example, allows online tutors to find jobs easily. And if you’ve got a less commonly spoken language that you can teach, you’ll likely find even more language learning students knocking on your digital door.

#2 Interpreter

If you don’t want to teach foreign languages, why not help others bridge the spoken language barrier instead? Interpreters facilitate communication between people that don’t speak the same language. And as an interpreter, you’ll be the bridge between two foreign languages.

You might have seen interpreters working in action at public events such as the Olympic Games. Whenever different language groups gather, there’s a need for language interpretation in order for spoken language to be understood by everyone.

But not all interpreters are on display. Many of them also work behind the scenes and in more private scenarios like courtrooms. Phone interpreters offer remote interpreting solutions, and you’ll probably never see a UN interpreter because they work in booths, facilitating communication through headphones.

#3 Translator

A woman translating at a desk
If you’re more into writing than actual live conversations with strangers, a job in translation might be right up your alley if you can speak multiple languages. In general, translators work in the comfort of their own homes, translating text from one language to another.

But did you know that there are many different types of translators? Aside from literary translators (the men and women that translate books), there are various specialized translators that work in different fields and across multiple languages. From legal to medical translators, these professionals work across a diverse range of sectors to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.

#4 Foreign Languages YouTuber

Perhaps this one has crossed your mind yet, but you can create your own language learning channel on YouTube if you speak multiple languages! Thanks to modern tech, it’s easier to set up a channel dedicated to language learners than ever before. And there are probably more teachers of foreign languages than you were aware of.

Before doing this, though, do some research to see what other YouTubers in the niche are doing, and then put a unique spin on your lessons. Be sure to offer your viewers real and actionable substance. Your lessons need to be informative enough to be worthy of your listeners’ time.

#5 Tour Guide

A tour guide explaining an area
Traveling in a foreign country and not understanding the local language can make home feel like yesterday’s dream. But that’s where tour guides come in, helping foreigners feel a little more local when it comes to real-time communication in unknown territories.

If you choose to become a tour guide, you’ll be the bridge between the local language and your foreign clients. You’ll interpret spoken language and cultural nuances that are deeply engrained in that language.

#6 Children’s Book Writer

If you’re into writing, but not so much so that you’re willing to become a translator, writing children’s books might be your ideal fit. This is a career avenue that’s not too competitive, and more than the lighter workload, it’s a largely untapped market with a lot of entry points for multilingual people.

From gender equality to racial and cultural issues, children’s literature can be approached in a plethora of ways. Bilingual writers can incorporate their cultural references into their work and help educate children on important matters while still keeping the storyline light and entertaining.

#7 Blogger

Why not consider writing about your language learning journey? Share your experiences and vulnerabilities with other language students. Create a blog that meets a specific language need and has a specific angle instead of being a general repository of your rants.

Can you speak Spanish and love cooking? Something about a Spanish Kitchen might work well if you dish out recipes along with some language lessons. Be genuine in the posts you share and only discuss topics that lie close to your heart.

#8 Localization Specialist

A man working on localization at a table
McDonald’s is the world’s 3rd biggest burger seller. But did you know that they don’t even have a Big Mac or their Indian menu? That’s because the Indian market prefers the Maharaja Mac, a beef-free variation of the Big Mac. Why? Because in India, cows are venerated, and MacDonald’s doesn’t want to insult the religious beliefs of their Indian customers.

But to understand insights like these, you need a localization expert. Localization experts are fluent in the source and target language, and they adjust a brand’s marketing approach to best suit the cultural needs of a new target audience. Plus, they do this for more than one language and geographical area.

In essence, they’re like a human resources specialist. But instead of recruiting new talent or managing employees, they ensure new audiences in foreign markets will be attracted to what your brand has to offer!

#9 Brand Specialist

Woman explaining her brand recommendations
Brand specialists work within the tech industry, and companies like Google are always looking for brand specialists that can help them better communicate in foreign markets. In essence, this is an international relations role.

Not sure what brand specialists are? These professionals work with customers and market research to serve the ongoing product improvements on a brand. It’s in line with human resources but revolves around different cultures instead of around employees. They’re usually fluent in more than two languages to help companies boost their reputation in foreign territories and are the go-to pros whenever a brand wants to expand into new regions with different cultures.

#10 Community Representative

Community representatives play roles that seem similar to the way brand specialists work. But instead, they’re required to interact with foreign audiences, and their job almost falls into the customer experience department.

The game developing company Blizzard, for example, recently recruited a bilingual English/Spanish community representative to engage with their Latin American player communities. The job they offered included assisting with game development and supporting the company at events.

Essentially, this role places a company team member inside the gaming community as a type of human resources analyst to ensure that everything is running smoothly on the user experience side of things. And if you’ve got up-to-date foreign language skills, this might be a suitable role for you.

Ready to Land a Job with Your Foreign Language Skills?

And there you have it! A roundup of ten careers you can get with a foreign language.

Naturally, some of them require more than just language skills to get your foot in the door, but language is always beneficial to a career path! Bilingual workers are more in demand than ever before as globalization keeps up its game.

If you speak two or more languages, you’ve got a skill that only a fraction of the global workforce has. The more languages you boast on your CV, the better the benefits will be.

If there has ever been an ideal time for learning languages, it’s as soon as yesterday. And if you’re wondering which language to start learning, we’d suggest a widely spoken language like the Spanish language. But it’s almost always best to start with a language that falls in the same language family as your native language.

Author Bio:

Sean Patrick Hopwood is a language polyglot and the President of Day Translations, an academic evaluation services provider.

Premium PLUS: The Golden Ticket for Language-Learning

August 18th, 2020

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Do you remember the moment you fell in love with languages?

Do you desire to learn or advance in your target language(s) quickly and effectively?

Then you need a language tutor.

A common question that first-time language-learners ask is “Where do I begin?” The answer? Guidance.

For native English-speakers who want to learn Asian languages, for example, timelines provided by the U.S. Foreign Service Institute can appear discouraging. However, defeating these odds is not unheard of. If you want to beat the odds yourself, one of the best learning options is a subscription to Premium PLUS from Innovative Language.

As an active Premium PLUS member of JapanesePod101.com and KoreanClass101.com myself, I have an enjoyable experience learning at an accelerated pace with at least thirty minutes of study daily. The following Premium PLUS features contribute to my success:

  • Access to thousands of lessons
  • A voice recorder 
  • Spaced-repetition system (SRS) flashcards
  • Weekly homework assignments
  • A personal language instructor

As someone who decided to make Japanese her second language one year ago, I am extremely grateful for Premium PLUS.

Allow me to emphasize on how these Premium PLUS features strengthen my language studies.

Gain Unlimited Access to Audio and Video Lessons!

Woman learning a language with Premium PLUS on a tablet

As a Premium PLUS member, I have full access to the lesson library and other Premium features. Best of all, I’m not limited to one level; I can learn to my heart’s content with upper-level courses.

There are lessons on various topics that tackle crucial language-learning elements, such as:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Conversation

Specifically, there are pathways. Pathways are collections of lessons that center on a specific topic. Some Innovative Language sites, like JapanesePod101.com, even have pathways geared toward proficiency tests. For example, the JLPT N3 Master Course pathway.

Because of the abundance of lessons, I’ve found pathways in the lesson library to help me prepare for certain events. Thanks to the “Speaking Perfect Japanese at a Restaurant” pathway, I spoke fully in Japanese while dining in Japan. Additionally, I participated in conversations at language exchange meetups in South Korea after completing the “Top 25 Korean Questions You Need to Know” pathway.

Each lesson has lesson notes, which I read while simultaneously listening to the audio lesson. This strategy enables me to follow along on key points. Lesson notes generally contain the following:

  • Dialogue
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar points
  • Cultural insights

As someone who’s constantly on-the-go, I heavily benefit from mobile access to lessons. Podcasts and lesson notes are available on the Innovative Language app and/or Podcasts app for iOS.

All lessons and their contents are downloadable. Prior to my flights to Japan and South Korea, I downloaded lessons on my iPhone. The apps make learning more convenient for me during my commutes.

Practice Speaking with the Voice Recording Tool!

a young man practicing his pronunciation with a microphone headset

Pronunciation is an essential ingredient in language-learning. Proper pronunciation prompts clear understanding during conversations with native speakers.

Prior to learning full Korean sentences, my online Korean language tutor assigned the “Hana Hana Hangul” pathway to me. It demonstrated the writing and pronunciation of Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Throughout this pathway, I submitted recordings of my Hangul character pronunciations to my language teacher for review.

I was given a similar task on JapanesePod101.com with the “Ultimate Japanese Pronunciation Guide” pathway. My Japanese language teacher tested my pronunciation of the Japanese characters kana. My completion of the two pathways boosted my confidence in speaking.

Speaking is one of the more challenging components of learning a language. The voice recording tool in particular was a great way for me to improve my speaking skills. Further, because the lesson dialogues are spoken by native speakers, I’m able to practice speaking naturally.

This feature is also available for vocabulary words and sample sentences. Being able to hear these recordings improves my pronunciation skills for languages like Japanese, where intonation can change the meaning of a word entirely. The voice recorder examines my speed and tone. I also follow up by sending a recording to my online language tutor for feedback.

A great way to boost one’s speaking confidence is to shadow native speakers. During the vocabulary reviews, it’s helpful for me to hear the breakdown of each word; doing so makes a word that was originally difficult to even read a breeze to say!

Some lessons create opportunities to speak your own sentences. For example, the “Top 25 Korean Questions You Need to Know” pathway presents opportunities to answer questions personally. This helps you gain the ability to give answers as the unique individual you are.

Example Scenario:

The host asks the following question:

어디에 살고 있습니까?

eodieseo salgo isseumnikka

“Where do you live?”

If you live in Tokyo, you would readily say the following:

도쿄에 살고 있습니다.

Tokyo-e salgo isseumnida.

“I live in Tokyo.”

Increase Your Vocab with Spaced-Repetition Flashcards and More!

A child learning words with flashcards

Imagine having a conversation with a native speaker and hesitating because you lack a solid vocabulary base.

Premium PLUS offers various features to expand learners’ vocabulary, including Free Gifts of the Month. JapanesePod101.com’s free gifts for April 2020 included an e-book with “400 Everyday Phrases for Beginners,” and the content is updated every month. When I download free resources like this, I find opportunities to use them with Korean co-teachers, Japanese friends, or my language tutors.

An effective way to learn vocabulary is with SRS flashcards. SRS is a system designed for learning a new word and reviewing it in varying time intervals.

You can create and study flashcard decks, whether it’s your Word Bank or a certain vocabulary list. For example, if you need to visit a post office, the “Post Office” vocabulary list for your target language would be beneficial to study prior to your visit.

In addition to the SRS flashcards, each lesson has a vocabulary slideshow and quiz to review the lesson’s vocabulary.

There’s also the 2000 Core Word List, which includes the most commonly used words in your target language. Starting from the 100 Core Word List, you’ll gradually build up your knowledge of useful vocabulary. These lists can be studied with SRS flashcards, too.

With the SRS flashcards, you can change the settings to your liking. The settings range from different card types to number of new cards per deck. Personally, I give myself vocabulary tests by changing the settings.

After studying a number of flashcards, I change the card types to listening comprehension and/or production. Then I test myself by writing the translation of the word or the spoken word or phrase.

The change in settings allow me to remember vocabulary and learn how to identify the words. This is especially helpful with Japanese kanji!

Complete Homework Assignments!

A woman studying at home

Homework assignments are advantageous to my language studies. There are homework assignments auto-generated weekly. They range from multiple-choice quizzes to writing assignments.

Language tutors are readily available for homework help. Some writing assignments, for instance, require use of unfamiliar vocabulary. In such cases, my language teachers assist me by forwarding related lessons or vocabulary lists.

In addition to these auto-generated homework tasks, language tutors customize daily assignments. My daily homework assignments include submitting three written sentences that apply the target grammar point of that lesson, and then blindly audio-recording those sentences. My personal language tutor follows up with feedback and corrections, if needed.

Your language tutors also provide assignments upon requests. When I wanted to review grammar, my Korean teacher sent related quizzes and assignments. Thus, you are not only limited to the auto-generated assignments.

Every weekend, I review by re-reading those written sentences. It helps me remember sentence structures, grammar points, and vocabulary to apply in real-world contexts.

Furthermore, I can track my progress with language portfolios every trimester. It’s like a midterm exam that tests my listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.

Get Your Own Personal Language Teacher!

A woman teaching pronunciation in a classroom

My language teachers cater to my goals with personalized and achievable learning programs. The tangible support of my online language teachers makes it evident that we share common goals.

Once I share a short-term or long-term goal with my teacher, we establish a plan or pathway that will ultimately result in success. I coordinate with my teachers regularly to ensure the personalized learning programs are prosperous. For example, during my JLPT studies, my Japanese language tutor assigned me practice tests.

Your language tutor is available for outside help as well. When I bought drama CDs in Japan, I had difficulty transliterating the dialogue. My Japanese teacher forwarded me the script to read along as I listened.

Additionally, I often practice Korean and Japanese with music. I memorize one line of the lyrics daily. Every time, I learn a new grammar point and new vocabulary. I add the vocabulary to my SRS flashcards, locate the grammar in the Grammar Bank, and study the associated lessons online.

I send my teachers the name of the songs, making them aware of my new goal. One time, my song for Korean was “If You Do” by GOT7. My Korean teacher revealed that she was a huge fan of GOT7 like me! For Japanese, it was “CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA,” also known as the Dragonball Z theme song. My Japanese teacher excitedly told me that she sang the song a lot as a kid!

A remarkable thing happened to me in South Korea. I was stressed about opening a bank account with limited Korean. I sought help from my Korean teacher. She forwarded me a script of a bank conversation.

After two days, I visited the local bank. It all started with my opening sentence:

은행 계좌를 만들고 싶어요

eunhaeng gyejwaleul mandeulgo sip-eoyo.

I want to open a bank account.

Everything went smoothly, and I exited the bank with a new account!

The MyTeacher Messenger allows me to share visuals with my teachers for regular interaction, including videos to critique my pronunciation mechanisms. I improve my listening and speaking skills by exchanging audio with my teachers. In addition to my written homework assignments, I exchange messages with my language teachers in my target language. This connection with my teachers enables me to experience the culture as well as the language.

Why You Should Subscribe to Premium PLUS

It’s impossible for me to imagine my continuous progress with Japanese and Korean without Premium PLUS. Everything—from the SRS flashcards to my language teachers—makes learning languages enjoyable and clear-cut.

You’re assured to undergo the same experience with Premium PLUS. You’ll gain access to the aforementioned features as well as all of the Premium features.

Complete lessons and assignments to advance in your target language. Increase your vocabulary with the “2000 Core Word List” for that language and SRS flashcards. Learn on-the-go with the Innovative Language app and/or Podcasts app for iOS users.

Learning a new language takes dedication and commitment. The Premium PLUS features make learning irresistibly exciting. You’ll look forward to learning daily with your language tutor.

As of right now, your challenge is to subscribe to Premium PLUS! Complete your assessment, and meet your new language teacher.

Have fun learning your target language in the fastest and easiest way!

Subscribe to Premium PLUS today, and learn a language with your own teacher!

December 2019: The Big Cleaning Day and Year-End Party

January 6th, 2020

It’s time for the annual big cleaning session to get rid of what’s left of 2019 and start off the new year with a clean slate!

The brave people who joined the Osouji, the big clean-up, turned the office upside down and worked hard to make it shine again.

Props to those who came back after work or stayed longer to give their contribution.

Everyone was assigned to a specific area but in the end, we all helped each other out in order to finish as quickly as possible and enjoy the well-deserved dinner as planned.

Some of us found interesting artifacts in the process, and that was basically the highlight of the evening.

It was very refreshing to see the office so tidy and clean after unleashing our inner Cinderella, but at this point, it was already 20:15 pm, it was time for dinner.

We headed to a Belgian pub nearby where we enjoyed a few drinks and a Belgian-inspired meal between laughs and giggles.

Thank you, everyone, for joining this event and taking part in this year’s Ousouji!

I’ll take this opportunity to wish all of you guys happy holidays and a happy new year!

~ Writer: Graziana

November 2019: Thanksgiving Lunch

December 2nd, 2019

On Friday November 22nd, the whole office has come together to celebrate Thanksgiving day. What’s a better way to do that if not by having a great lunch at a classy location in Akasaka?

The gloomy weather hasn’t taken away from the magic of the day. The elegant location and delicious food warmed up the atmosphere and gave us the chance to bond with each other.

Once we arrived at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel, we all headed straight to the gorgeous buffet that was waiting for us! The chocolate fountains were the highlight of the day and caught everyone’s attention as we came in.

Sometimes you must stop and appreciate the people around you and what’s a better way to do it than sharing a nice meal together while chatting and taking a break from work!

Our stomachs were full and we were in high spirits when it was time to squeeze in for a group picture to end our lunch. We are a big bunch and ILL is still growing, that’s why it’s important to take the time to appreciate the people around us.

Thank you, everyone! And happy Thanksgiving!

~ Writer: Graziana

Music for Language Learning: Best Practices

November 7th, 2019

All cultures have a form of music that they call their own. Music is one of the early types of learning tools to learn a language. Parents use music to teach their young children simple words. Scientists have proven that music helps in focusing attention, improving memory, and acquiring a language. Music is a good foundation builder as well because it can help in physical development and coordination.

Why music helps in language learning

The imitation of the musical structure and rhythm of a language helps a person learn a language, which is one reason why children learn a new language faster. They play with other children and listen to songs, allowing them to adopt a new language easily. The repetition of song lyrics, such as those from nursery rhymes helps children retain words and expressions. Children may not know the meaning of the words from another language, but they will remember them. Mimicking the pronunciation of the words helps them practice making the sounds. The sounds will later lead to understanding their actual meaning.

You might not notice it, but have you wondered at times why you still remember the nursery rhymes that you learned as a child? You can effectively retain expressions and words through music; that’s why. It’s also the reason why you can memorize the lyrics of a song you like because the pattern is repetitive. Moreover, when you listen to music and follow the words, rhythm, beat and melody, you use both sides of your brain.

Ways to study a language through music

Each person studies and learns differently. When using music for language learning, the most effective way depends on your studying and learning habits. However, we want to give you different ways you can approach your language learning through music with these best practices.

1- Passive listening

Whether you have foreign language songs on your computer or you have a CD of foreign songs, one way to learn the language is through passive listening. Let the foreign music play in the background while you are doing something else. To achieve fluency in another language, you should be familiar with it. You need to train your brain to function in the new language 100 percent. The practice is one form of language immersion. As you listen and get more familiar and comfortable with the background music, you can pick up grammar patterns along with common words and phrases.

2- Memorization

Learn how to memorize and add more words to your dictionary. Memorizing the song lyrics is an excellent way to improve your memory. At the same time, the memorization exercise gives you confidence. Memorization gives you three benefits. It enhances your listening skills, boosts your reading skills, and improves your pronunciation of the words. Memorization will likewise help you do the next method.

3- Sing-along

This method is similar to the first one. But instead of listening passively, you take an active role in the exercise. Download lyrics of the foreign songs you like. Some download sites provide the original song lyrics as well as translations in English. Play the song and sing along. You can also find videos on YouTube that have lyrics in the source and target languages. Either way, you’ll learn grammar, spelling and pronunciation while enjoying the songs of your favorite foreign singers. Your listening and reading skills will likewise benefit from the exercise.

You can check your progress by finding the karaoke versions of the foreign songs you like. Again, YouTube is your friend. Trying to sing the song while reading the lyrics in the target language will test if your language learning is progressing.

4- Transcription

This method may sound weird to you initially. You listen to the song as it plays while you write down (or transcribe) the lyrics. At first, you are likely to catch only a few familiar words. Don’t be frustrated and continue what you’re doing. Let the music play as you write everything you hear. Play the song again and write the words that you missed in the first pass. In time, your hearing will improve, as you understand the words better. Your brain’s processing time will be shorter and faster. Further, it will enhance your spelling. Listening to the music and transcribing the lyrics will give your word list a boost.

These are just a few of the effective ways to learn a foreign language using music. Be patient and enjoy foreign music as you learn your target language. If you wish to start with something simpler, listen to children’s songs in your target language. The repetition of the song lyrics is more constant, which allows your brain to assimilate foreign words faster. If you need help in transcribing songs and music sheets, our language translation services team can help.

Learning a language through music means language learning more fun. Likewise, you learn to focus your attention and improve your memory. It’s an effective method when you self-study.

Author Bio: Sean Patrick Hopwood is the polyglot CEO of Day Translations, Inc., an interpreting services provider that serves clients in a wide range of industries including eSports, finance, and government.

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October 2019: Tokyo Disney Sea

November 6th, 2019

The day we have all been waiting for had finally come. The Innovative Langauge Learning outing to Disney Sea! Let’s be honest, it always feels great to let our inner child out and this was our chance to do so.

We were not the only lucky ones to go to Disney sea our staff was allowed to bring their kids along. They were in for a treat, here is a cute picture of the kiddos waiting to enter the entertainment park.

After we all gathered around 8:00 am outside of the train station we were ready to go. Kyejin handed us the tickets and we all walked together to get the Disney train to the entrance.

When we got out of the train this was our view entering the park. It felt like the entrance to a small town in Italy not to Disney Sea.

We went inside the theme park and every group went their separate way. Exploring the different attractions Disney Sea has to offer, we found ourselves in Agrabah the land of Aladin where we stumbled on the Genie.

Agrahaba and Italy were not the only worlds we found ourselves in there were even more! The mystic temple fo the Mayas where Indiana Jones had his adventures.

Luckily, there was also time to think and enjoy the views of the different Disney worlds from above.

Disney brought us the nostalgia of our childhood memories and you wish you were a kid again. Until you realize they sell beer at Disney sea, which gives you the best of both worlds. I guess being a grownup isn’t that bad after all!

Let’s not forget the seasonal snacks which Disney Sea offers.

But before you know it the day is over, time flies when you are having fun. Even when it is dark Disney Sea is beautiful and you just don’t want to leave.

All good things come to an end, but it was hard for the ILL team to accept it, that’s why we took a crazy goodbye selfie to celebrate an ending of a beautiful day.

~ Writer: Terry

~ Participants: Alisha, Andrew, Anna, Becca, Caspar, Erik, Flemming & daughter, Kyejin, Laura & son, Lya, Maryssa, Meg, Michael & son, Mike, Philip, Terry, Wilson, Yuki & daughter