Rosetta Stone – second update

I left a week between Rosetta Stone sessions to see how much I would remember and how easy it would be to carry on with the programme. Before today’s session I could only remember “de simmar” – they swim – and that I had been told the words for various people and activities, such as cooking, drinking and running. By the way, if you want to read more about forgetting, try:

Ridgeway, K., Mozer, Michael C, and Bowles, A. 2017. Forgetting of Foreign鈥怢anguage Skills: A Corpus鈥怋ased Analysis of Online Tutoring Software. Cognitive Science. [Online] 41(4), pp. 924-949. [Accessed 10 April 2018]. Available from: 10.1111/cogs.12385

Anyway, I re-started in the Reading section of Lesson 1. Using the tool that lets you listen to a native speaker and shows you how your own pronunciation compares really helped to get back into the swing of things, and I could continue with the chapter quite easily. I felt like I had to shout at the microphone sometimes but that may have been because of my local audio setup.

Unit 1: Lesson 1: Writing

This section started with the same matching exercises the reading section had just finished with. At first I was a bit disappointed with this but it all became clear a few minutes later when I had to copy out the phrases that had been repeated.

I like that there is an inbuilt keyboard, or you can use the one that is attached to your computer.

I would have liked a bit more of a consolidation section before starting the next unit, but it turned out to be fine.

Unit 2: Core lesson

In this section we are introduced to vocabulary relating to food, transport modes and animals, using the words we already know from the previous sections, e.g. “the boy eats bread”. New words are introduced with聽 clear pictures, which is helpful, after some of the earlier picture clues were not always obvious to me.

Towards the end of this section I wondered if I had lost the necessary concentration, but persevered to get to the end of the section. Turns out I had definitely lost concentration as it became clear that the programme was teaching me to say “not”, as in “he does not sleep”. For a few minutes I had thought it might mean “afterwards” but looking back that would have been far to advanced! I should have stuck with modelling German grammar, which would state “der Junge schlaeft nicht”. So English seems to have interfered with my logic here!

During a break from the programme (but not having paused it) the microphone picked up sounds while I was talking to a colleague (in English) and I passed some tasks without actually trying. A bit unfortunate and confusing.

Learning outcome

From my point of view the key to using Rosetta Stone is patience and not trying to guess what it is teaching until it becomes really obvious. I find this difficult and would be intrigued to know if someone who has not learnt languages before would experience similar issues.



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Swap your papers now!

A bit of a random post but I have finally managed to write down what I have talked to people about for a while now…

One day I would like to attend a conference where nobody presents their own presentation but where everyone hands in a memory stick with their presentation saved on it when they arrive and later pick a memory stick from a hat. That memory stick then contains the slides they will present.

The idea behind this is PowerPoint Karaoke, an activity that invites improvisation and fun. During PowerPoint Karaoke participants deliver presentations that are timed and that they have never seen before.

This way

  • slides need to be clear and to be structured in a way that is clear to everyone, not just the person who created the slides
  • nobody is an expert and therefore some nervousness of presenting may be taken away
  • new viewpoints may be introduced

I suggest that each presentation is followed by a Q&A session that is led by the person whose presentation was shown (the “expert”). This would allow the experts to clarify anything that was missed out or was interpreted wrong.

Who’s with me?

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Rosetta Stone – first update

Unit 1: Lesson 1: Pronunciation

The first lesson was all about prounciation, as was to be expected. The software indicates how close you sound to the computer voice, via a traffic light system. This seems to work well so far. (I have also tried the pronunciation section for German, of which I am a native speaker, and the software showed that I am doing fine. You can imagine my relief.)

Unit 1: Lesson 1: Vocabulary & Grammar & Reading

After the introduction to pronuniciation, you are presented with flashcard activities, during which you have to (guess-)match pictures and words (which are written down and also spoken for you to hear).

I found the grammar parts not always logical to guess, but I managed to match most pictures up with sentences. So far I could not fully explain why they belong together, other than that I recognise them to belong together from earlier exercises. (I wonder if this is more difficult when the language you are learning is further removed than Swedish is from German and English and you cannot guess as easily.) I like that the examples used in the pronunciation section are repeated in this section, and navigation is very simple as well.

The reading section builds on the pronunciation section from earlier, repeating what I’ve been presented with so far, although I had to fight with the microphone picking up the correct noises in this section (this issue could easily be down to the fact I am using the software in a busy public space), which left me a bit frustrated and ready for the weekend.

snoring cat

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Rosetta Stone

Over the next few weeks I will to use Rosetta Stone, an immersive software for language learning, to see how it works and how effective it is for me. I can access it for free through my workplace, so I thought that I really need to give it a go.

Having read the review that Benny Lewis posted on his blog a while ago, I am definitely curious but also very aware that I may need to add other resources to the learning process to become confident in the language I am learning.

I was unsure which language to explore as my favoured choice, Maltese, was not available. I am mostly interested in seeing how the software works, so choosing a language was a bit difficult after that. Anyway, with the help of Twitter and work’s DVD collection I have decided to try my luck with Swedish. There are three levels for Swedish, offering over 30 hours of language material to work through. If you are interested in how Rosetta Stone’s levels compare to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), they’ve already done the work for you.

I will post updates on my progress as I go along.

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Saving while using the library

Have you ever thought about how much you could save by not buying all the books you read? Could you estimate it?

Well, if you had ever wondered… The American Library Association (ALA) has published a Library Value Calculator. (Here’s a link to an exchange rate calculator for US Dollars (USD) to British Pounds (GBP).) And there is also a German version from the Kompetenznetzwerk f眉r Bibliotheken (knb): the Bibliothekswertrechner. (Here’s a link to an exchange rate calculator for Euros (EUR) to British Pounds (GBP).)

You will see that it’s worth it: use your local, public, university and all other libraries, swap books with friends and colleagues, re-read old favourites, … and explore all the other library services while you are at it! Enjoy 馃檪

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I’ve had several conversations about personal budgets this year already, so here’s a template that you may find useful: BudgetTemplate.

I created this with a librarian’s wage in mind but if you don’t earn that amount, or your spending habits are different, you can adjust the figures in the template to suit your individual circumstances. The calculations should still work.

And if you don’t like my template, there are many others online, for example these “5 Household Budget Templates That Will Help If You Actually Stick With It“.

Some simple tips for sticking to a budget and saving (added after more conversations on Twitter):

  • Send your planned savings into a savings account at the beginning of the month. Only touch them in an emergency. Set a target, which will help you stay motivated.
  • Withdraw weekly budget in cash on a Monday morning. Don’t use your card unless it’s an emergency. That way you can see what you spend. And any leftover – weekend treats (or savings, if you are really good)!
  • Take your home-made lunch to work. That can save approx. 拢2 a day. Shop late in the day, as shops reduce food around 5.30pm. Freeze what you don’t use straight away
  • Explore free events, e.g. free concert season at music colleges, town halls, etc.
  • Use your public library.
  • Ask whether you are buying something because you need聽it (in which case – buy immediately) or because you want it (walk away and if you still want it the next day, consider buying it).

More tips welcome, please add yours in the comments!

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Storify – all my old ones

Here are some pdfs, in case anyone is interested in my old Storifys (but probably more for my own archive):

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Annual AULC conference 2018 #AULC2018 #SBSAULC2018

Another January, another AULC conference. No more Storify, so no pretty pictures this time… but here’s the full programme and my notes:

Day 1

Opening Keynote: Elissavet Amanatidou (Brown University): From major to minor: reconfigured pedagogies and curricular transformations in ab initio university language classes.

  • Embrace ab initio provision in HE
  • curricular changes in schools
  • Language competency =valuable skill? Need to work on image. Different competencies
  • Literacies – 鈥漞mpowers individuals to enter societies鈥 (Swaffar & Arens, 2005)
  • World Readiness National Standards: 5 Cs
  • Learning materials need to be relevant to students鈥 lives not infantilise – scaffolding required
  • eMargin resource (Birmingham University)
  • use adverts for language learning – authentic materials but simple & social context, different skills, use of adjectives

Parallel session 1

Language learning as an institutional partnership. Isle Renaudie (University of East Anglia)

  • Language as economic resources
  • Need for global mind set
  • University-wide etc priorities may differ
  • Opportunity to design curriculum inspired by non academic context
  • Applied language learning opportunities
  • Collaborative project opportunities
  • Recognition and visibility of language department activities
  • Challenges: Sustainability, focus, staff expertise/what leads teaching, differentiation
  • Interesting initiatives in French: video CVs, market research/working with alumni
  • Translation projects, e.g. graphic novels
  • Degree programme identity: value of complementarity, specialisation of language departments
  • Board games in language education – language and culture

The dual role of University Language Centres. Oranna Speicher (University of Nottingham)

  1. IWLP
  • Global engagement & CPD for language teaching staff
  • Does the institution know what the LC does? Perceptions!
  • Give students linguistic competence to go abroad – international graduate – but: need to provide some opportunities at home
  • Challenges: timetabling, awareness amongst students (includes grade awareness), awareness and willingness to open curricula
  • Try to shift university鈥檚 mind set, e.g. meetings with Head of Schools to get insights into curricula constraints and ways to overcome this
  • Note to self: LZ and Tandem offer ways to overcome some of these issues
  • Marketing and advertising, using student voices/feedback
  • Internationalisation of staff is another topic completely

2. CPD

  • Scholarship
  • Finland
  • Who teaches language – language teachers often disadvantaged in comparison with academics, e.g. promotion
  • LANTERN (2014) – create identity for language teachers, sharing best practice, regular seminars – now includes not only LC colleagues

Parallel sessions 2

Global engagement strategy: enhancing graduate employability through short intensive academic placements overseas. Ali Nicholson (University of Reading)

  • Students going abroad generally do better after university
  • Generally good feedback about placement abroad – part to course -special funding for abroad activity
  • Skills developed: language, confidence to speak and generally
  • Intercultural differences – not all students knew how to reflect/notice differences

Special Interest Group Meeting: Professional development

  • See website for aims etc
  • Open group! Anyone can initiate discussions
  • Professional Identity
  • Support scholarly activity
  • Not just teachers but also those that support learning, e.g. librarians
  • Collaborative networks – be ambitious about projects!
  • Resource sharing
  • How-to sessions
  • Physical meeting of interest

Keynote: Prof Terry Lamb (Professor of Languages and Interdisciplinary Pedagogies, University of Westminster) 鈥 Opportunity and innovation in language learning and teaching in UK higher education.

  • See photos
  • Internationalisation of curriculum
  • Reward systems important when supporting innovation
  • Enhancing student partnerships
  • Value our multilingual unis – identity & career development
  • Employability and enterprise
  • Technology
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • 聽Civic role of university – community, community languages
  • Value of existing multilingualism – how can curriculum benefit? Create a bridge? Foundation degrees?
  • Outreach
  • Sheffield, Festival of the Mind. 2014?
  • Westminster Learning Communities – website?
  • Murray and Lamb, 2018 – Space, place and autonomy in language learning
  • Student centeredness
  • Plurilingual education

Duolinguo versus uTalk: selecting appropriate software to support IWLP learners. Billy Brick (Coventry University)

  • Framework for evaluating apps: Fernando Rosell-Aguilar
  • Duolingo not teaching cultural competence/awareness, or pretending to do so
  • Cost a consideration, also possibility to work offline, customer service, accessibility/how easy to log in
  • Gamification
  • Statistics useful

Enhancing employability through the integration of linguistic diversity awareness in the syllabus: the case of Arabic. Dr Rasha Soliman (University of Leeds)

  • Students don’t learn languages to get a job
  • Arabic varieties – exposure during studies develops future employability
  • Download PPT for resources/websites
  • Variation as 6th skill
  • Work with colleagues
  • Teacher as human being

Day 2

Plenary: Brian Fox (recently retired from Director of the provision of interpreting for the European Commission) 鈥 Students as Global Graduates.

  • Importance of language in EC
  • USA don’t have a national language (initially not to exclude anyone)
  • It takes two to communicate.
  • EU 8 key competencies
  • Language – culture – identity = triangle, support each other
  • Geert Hofstede – cultural identity/nose
  • Fons Trompenaars – pedestrian dilemma – cultural behaviour –
  • International work experience
  • Microsoft – work on attention spans
  • Audience matters
  • Societal changes brought on by social media etc
  • Bubble!!
  • People look for confirmation of their beliefs
  • 鈥渃onstant waterfall鈥 of information
  • Need for critical thinking, workplace preparation, modernisation, selectivity (media, offers, decisions)
  • question whether everyone should go to university – everyone has a gift and it may not be academic gift!



  • useful certification
  • Not trying to replace university certification
  • Early adopters: Manchester, Durham, Sheffield


  • New website:
  • September conference in Poznan
  • Journal – online access through library

UCML – AULC survey

  • Read full report when published – approx. in March
  • First time looking at resource centres, proportion of international students
  • Low response rate
  • Non-specialist language learning – prospects similar to previous year, some more uncertainty – watch this space for further analysis
  • Most postgraduates can’t take modules? Watch this space for further analysis
  • Some institutions offering special courses for postgraduates, members of the public – may be due to funding

Parallel sessions

Foreign Language Centre: not just a language provision. Dr Juan Garcia Precedo and Prof Sonia Cunico (University of Exeter)

  • Internationalisation and global citizenship agenda in HE
  • Perception of added value of FL modules
  • Increased emphasis of work experience abroad, study abroad
  • Unresolved issue of service unit rather than academic department – recognition within institution (Cinderella complex)
  • Language competence more than a skill
  • Peer learning/ lifelong learning
  • Create professional community – students
  • PAL scheme, Exeter University
  • Teaching Assistantship Scheme – like FLAs? To assist tutors, not replace
  • F2F tandem scheme – monthly social events – similar to Global Cafe
  • – potential for OER able to match tandem peers transnationally, with an institutional status – project ends in April 2018
  • Online magazine: The Language Express – student-led, showcase, sense of community. Chief editor: FL assistant
  • Students need to see that their language skills are valuable assets/expertise – how it links to employability and graduate skills

The Global Graduate 鈥 languages and employability. Caroline Campbell and Dr Karen Llewellyn (University of Leeds)

  • LITE project
  • Leeds curriculum context
  • Value of language skills
  • Student and employer perceptions
  • Employability
  • Kucharvy鈥檚 T-shaped professional
  • Report towards end of March
  • Bovill and Bulley, 2011 – ladder of student participation
  • – good project management practice
  • Employers expect that students have already built a (professional) brand: social capital as well as knowledge
  • Rounded transnational graduate
  • Not so much about language skills but skills that have been developed because of language learning
  • How to make students aware of need to reflect on skills, experience and how to articulate these
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Life in the UK

I have spent most of September and October reading and re-reading the same book, Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide For New Residents. My house and handbag were littered with flashcards and post-it notes full of facts and figures, I bored everyone around me with facts and questions about the corn laws, James I and VI, Henry VIII’s wives, the devolved admininstrations, etc. – and yes, I passed the test. Compared to other exams I have taken so far in my life, this one feels like the one that makes me most proud. Weird, no? Some of the information I gained has been valuable (did you know they still have sheriffs?!), and I can’t wait to visit the National Civil War Centre!

Also, it was interesting to find out how much of the information and knowledge required for the UK citizenship test British citizens have actually learnt at school or in everyday life. As a language practitioner I also found it fascinating to see how the information was presented in the literature designed to prepare me for the test – it took me a while to get my head around the structure of the book, to be honest.

In the end I have become quite fond of the – now very tattered and marked – book… and I don’t just say it because I don’t have to read it again. If you want to see some sample questions, have a look at

[By the way, I did okay on the German citizenship (practice) test as well, you’ll be glad to hear. The German education system has served me well.]

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#uklcchat no more

Today’s #uklcchat is finished and take-up has been very low again, so this trial will come to an end (background).

It has been an interesting experience to set this up and there may be things that could have been done differently, especially in regards to marketing. Also, I wonder if the needs I tried to address with this are already covered elsewhere, for example as part of AULC activities. By the way, AULC now has a Twitter account (well done!), so get involved with that if you can.

Thanks to those who have taken part in #uklcchat and those who may have followed proceedings without getting involved further. There are many other great chats to join, so find the ones that suit you and enjoy! 馃檪

Here’s a picture of a half-eaten pie to illustrate the joy of potentially half-baked ideas 馃槈

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