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  • Rob: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English -

  • the show that brings you an interesting

  • topic, authentic listening practice

  • and vocabulary to help you improve your

  • language skills. I'm Rob...

  • Neil: Watashi no namae wa Neil desu.

  • And that means 'my name's Neil'.

  • Rob: So Neil, here's a question for you -

  • can you speak any languages

  • other than English of course? I think you can!

  • Neil: Un poco de español

  • that means a little bit of Spanish.

  • Some Japanese, which I tried at the beginning

  • and also a bit of Czech language

  • Dobrý den. Jak se máš?

  • Rob: Very impressive. So what tips can you give

  • for learning to speak another language?

  • Neil: Well, practise, practise, practise -

  • and don't be afraid of making mistakes

  • as I no doubt have.

  • Rob: Of course. Well my aim this year is to master

  • the Spanish language.

  • Master means to learn thoroughly.

  • Neil: Muy bien! Well you're not alone.

  • A survey by the British Council found

  • learning a language is a new year's resolution

  • for about one in five Britons in 2018.

  • So learning Spanish is a good start Rob

  • but do you know approximately

  • how many languages there are in the world altogether?

  • Are there... a) 70, b) 700 or c) 7,000

  • Rob: Well I know there are many but surely not 7,000

  • so I'm going to say b) 700 -

  • but don't expect me to learn all of them.

  • Neil: I won't Rob. But I will give you the answer later.

  • So, we all know learning another

  • language is a good thing -

  • it brings us many benefits.

  • Rob: Yes, we can communicate with people

  • from other countries and when we're travelling

  • we can understand what signs and notices say.

  • So we don't get lost.

  • Neil: That's right - but many scientists also

  • believe that knowledge of another language

  • can boost your brainpower. A study of monolingual

  • and bilingual speakers suggests speaking

  • two languages can help slow down

  • the brain's decline with age.

  • Rob: All good reasons. But Neil,

  • learning another language is hard.

  • It would take me years and years to become

  • fluent in say, Mandarin - by fluent I mean

  • speak very well, without difficulty.

  • Neil: Well this depends on your mother tongue.

  • In general, the closer the second language

  • is to the learner's native tongue and culture

  • in terms of vocabulary, sounds or sentence structure -

  • the easier it will be to learn.

  • Rob: But whatever the language, there is so much

  • vocabulary to learn - you know, thousands

  • and thousands of words.

  • Neil: Maybe not Rob. Professor Stuart Webb,

  • a linguist from the University of Western Ontario,

  • may be able to help you. He spoke to

  • BBC Radio 4's More or Less programme

  • and explained that you don't need to do that...

  • Professor Stuart Webb: For language learners

  • in a foreign language setting - so for example

  • if you were learning French in Britain

  • or English in Japan,

  • students may often really struggle to learn more than

  • 2,000, 3,000 words after many years of study.

  • So for example, there was study in Taiwan recently

  • that showed that after nine years of study

  • about half of the students had still failed to learn

  • the most frequent 1,000 words.

  • Now they knew lower frequency words

  • but they hadn't mastered those most important words.

  • Neil: So Rob, don't waste your time trying to learn

  • every single word. Professor Webb spoke there

  • about research that showed students

  • knew lower frequency words

  • but weren't learning enough high frequency words.

  • Rob: Right, and frequency here means the number

  • of times something happens - so the important

  • words to learn are the high frequency ones -

  • and how many are there exactly?

  • Neil: Here's Professor Stuart Webb again...

  • Professor Stuart Webb: For example, with English,

  • I would suggest if you learn the 800 most frequent

  • lemmas - which is a word and its inflections -

  • that will account for about 75 per cent of all of the

  • English language. So that learning those 800 words

  • first will provide the foundation for which you may be

  • able to learn the lower frequency words.

  • Rob: Fascinating stuff. And good to know

  • I just need to learn about 800 words -

  • or what he calls lemmas.

  • Neil: Yes a lemma is the simplest form

  • or base form of a word. And the inflection here

  • refers to how the base word is changed

  • according to its use in a sentence.

  • Knowing these things give you a foundation -

  • that's the basics from which you language learning

  • will develop. Simple!

  • Rob: Thank goodness I am learning just one

  • new language!

  • Neil: But how many languages could you potentially

  • be learning Rob? Earlier I asked you, approximately

  • how many languages there are in the world altogether?

  • Are there... a) 70, b) 700, c) 7,000

  • Rob: And I said 700. Was I right?

  • Neil: No Rob, you were wrong. There are around

  • 7,000 recognised languages in the world

  • but UNESCO has identified 2,500 languages

  • which it claims are at risk of extinction.

  • Rob: A sobering thought Neil.

  • Now shall we remind ourselves of some of the English

  • vocabulary we've heard today. Starting with master.

  • Neil: To master a new skill, in this context,

  • means to learn thoroughly or learn well.

  • "Rob hopes to master Spanish

  • before he starts a new job in Madrid."

  • Rob: Really? That's news to me Neil!

  • But it would be good to be fluent in Spanish -

  • or any language

  • - or to speak it fluently - that's speaking it

  • very well and without difficulty.

  • Neil: Now our next word was frequency.

  • Here we are referring to high and low frequency words -

  • so it means how often they occur.

  • Examples of a high frequency word are

  • ''it', 'the' and 'and'.

  • Rob: And our next word is inflections.

  • These are the changes to the basic form of words

  • according to their function in a sentence.

  • Such as adding an 's' to the end of a word

  • to make it plural.

  • Neil: And don't forget lemma which is

  • the simplest form or base form of a word before

  • an inflection is added.

  • Rob: And finally foundation which means the

  • basics your learning grows from.

  • Neil: That just leaves me to remind you

  • that you can learn English with us

  • at bbclearningenglish.com.

  • That's it for today's 6 Minute English.

  • We hope you enjoyed it. Bye for now.

  • Na shledanou! Hasta luego! Ja-ne!

  • Rob: And in English, goodbye.

  • Neil: Goodbye.

Rob: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English -

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BBC Learning English 6 Minutes | Learn to talk about learning a language in 6 minutes!

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    colinsyuan posted on 2018/04/03
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