June 28, 2012

Learning French (and other languages) on your mobile phone or device

I'm interested in finding out what people think are the advantages of learning French and other languages on a mobile phone or device as opposed to a regular desktop software or indeed other more traditional learning methods.

So, if you have a quick second, please participate!

400 responses so far to the first French Quiz question!

Many thanks for all your responses to the first French Quiz question! In fact, nearly 400 people have responded so far and the number is growing!

However, for an interesting comparison of people's responses, we also still need some more native French speakers to respond! So, do you have a French friend? Or maybe a French native from another country such as Canada or Belgium?

Why not get them to give their answer to the French Quiz question! You can find the question here:


Let's see how many people we can get!

June 26, 2012

How often do people use machine translation?

Some preliminary results of the recent survey on use of machine translation have just been published on translation service home page of the French Linguistics site.

As you will see, there is actually quite an even split among the different reported frequencies, with around the same percentage of users reporting that they use machine translation at least weekly (21%) as those reporting that they never use it (26%).

Note that the category "Once or twice" (18%) refers to those users who in the survey reported that they had previously used machine translation "once or twice" but did not report to be regular users. The category of "now and again" (18%) refers to those users that report regularly using machine translation every now and again.

Given its ubiquity on the web, it is interesting to see that almost a quarter of users report never having used such a service.

French Quiz Questions

Well, it's just about summer again: that time of year when everybody starts thinking about their holiday in Corfu rather than their poor French grammar and vocab, which get relegated to the back of the sock drawer for the next couple of months.

Well, just so that you don't switch off all of your brain this summer and forget about French altogether, I'll be running a series of French Quiz questions on the French dictionary home page over the next few weeks.

French Quiz question number 1 is for slightly more advanced students and concerns the use of so-called "preceding object pronouns" (technically termed "clitics") in French.

If you are a native French speaker, then it is also not "cheating" to have a go at the quiz questions. Indeed, I shall be interested to see what responses we get from native French speakers and how they commpare to those of our non-native students.

June 22, 2012

This week on the French Language forum

This week has seen various interesting questions about French grammar and vocabulary at a number of different levels on the French Language forum:

A notable discussion for more advanced users concerns the use of inversion in French. This the structure found essentially in formal French where the order of the subject and verb is reversed. In French, it is usually used to form a question. The discussion centers around the fact that there are actually two different forms of inversion used in French: "simple" and "complex". In addition, the "simple" form of inversion can be used for what is called "stylistic" inversion: an optional case of inversion which serves no function as such, but is felt by the author in question to by more stylistically pleasing.

So-called modal verbs can frequently be an issue for learners because of the subtlety they can entail. See this question on the use of devrait-il.

An ongoing discussion concerns various tips and suggestions for learning French vocabulary more quickly. What is coming out of the discussion is that there is no single magic bullet but rather a combination of strategies is required. Some specific suggestions of techniques/web sites is proposed in the discussion.

Remember that anybody can join in the discussions on the French Language Forum. Regular highlights and updates are also posted on the French Language Forum's Facebook page, which you are encouraged to join.

June 15, 2012

Update to French Vocab Games iPhone app to feature pronunciation

Look out over the next few days for a pending update to this site's French Vocab Games app for iPhone. Among other things, the new version will feature two notable additions:
  • an optional extension provides audio pronunciation of all items of vocabulary in the game;
  • the app is now integrated with the iOS Game Center, allowing you to compare you progress with friends and classmates, or simply keep track of your own achievements.
A common issue among learners is of course knowing how to pronounce French words, especially how to pronounce the most basic words of French while you are still starting out with the language and getting to know what letters generally correspond with what sounds. And so not surprisingly, having pronunciation in the app has been among the most common requests. In the upcoming Version 2.0 of French Vocab Games, the pronunciation option gives you access to studio recordings of a native French speaker pronouncing all 1,200+ items of vocabulary included in the games. Simply tap the 'pronounce' icon any time you see it (e.g. on flash cards, on completed crossword/wordsearch clues, next to any word gloss as it pops up...) to hear an authentic pronunciation of the French word or phrase in question!

June 8, 2012

Update to the French Dictionary includes updates to verb tables

The site's French Dictionary has been updated today. The update includes new items of vocabulary along with some small corrections to the dictionary's verb tables. The correction concerns some rarer subjunctive forms which were not displaying correctly in the previous version.

As you may be aware, you can display the conjugation of French verbs in the dictionary by searching first for the infinitive of that verb. A summarised verb table is then displayed within the dictionary entry for the verb, showing the forms of certain frequently used tenses (present, imperfect, future, perfect, present subjunctive). More advanced users will in fact be able to determine the forms of most other tenses from these since, for example, the French conditional and future tense forms share a common root, and other compound tenses (pluperfect etc) are formed in a similar manner to the perfect, with only the past participle and choice of avoir/ĂȘtre varying from verb to verb.

However, if you require full conjugation tables of any French verb, then you can click on the link to "see the full conjugation" that appears beneath the summarised verb table in the dictionary entry. The French grammar section of the site also includes links to full conjugations of common French irregular verbs, plus the a "French verb conjugator" tool allows you to display the verb table for any given verb.

If you have any further questions about French verbs, then you may ask your question on the French forum.

June 4, 2012

How long does it take to translate a novel? The case of translating J K Rowling's latest novel into Finnish

It is being reported that the translator of J K Rowling's new novel will have three weeks to translate 480 pages. If the reports are true, this is in part due to the publisher's artificial restriction of not allowing the translator to see the text prior to its publication date.

Although this is obviously a high profile novel, I wonder why the real need to introduce this spurious obstacle. Translators are quite used to signing Non-Disclosure Agreements. And given the volume and timescale involved, even if the translator were to be allowed double the time, it still sounds like they'd be left with no time to sleep let alone go around organising illegitimate disclosure of the Secret Book.

In any case I'm wondering if there could be something we're missing here. At, say, around 200 words per page, this would equate to translating just under 4,500 words per day continuously for 7 days. To put this into perspective, non-literary translators generally translate in the order of 2,000 words per day. Sure, there are always projects where it is possible to "burst" at as high as 4,500 words per day. Indeed, I've experienced this myself with the translation of certain very formulaic material or, say, the translation of transcripts of business meetings containing only a few passages of content-rich text interspersed with many passages of more mundane banter. And I've seen other colleagues report a similar experience.

But the idea of sustaining 4,500+ words per day for several weeks on literary, content-rich text and at the end of it producing high quality, publishable material sounds absurd. So as I say, I wonder if we're missing something. If you know any more about this story or have any thoughts, I'd be interested to here your opinions.

Survey: How long does it take to translate a novel?

June 2, 2012

What language learning app would you recommend?

You may have seen the French Vocab Games app for iPhone/iPad that accompanies the French Linguistics web site.

But perhaps you use another app that you would recommend? If so, let us know what language learning app you would recommend! We'll include apps for iPhone/iPad and also Android phones and tablets.

LetterMeister update

A small update to LetterMeister for Windows/Linux/Mac OS has been released. The update improves the resolution of the in-game graphics.

If you haven't already downloaded it, why not give this addictive word puzzle game a try: it's free to download for desktop machines and only $0.99 for iPhone and iPad.

If you do download the game, don't forget to Like LetterMeister on Facebook to keep up to date with updates and gameplay tips.

June 1, 2012

Translation offers mailing list re-instated

Signups for the Translation Mailing List have been re-instated. You can now sign up here for information on reduced price translation offers as and when they come up. Please note that this translation service is designed primarily for business clients and institutions requiring translation of documents of at least 2,000 words.