Category Archives: Motivation

Polyglot Austin: Our Multilingual, Multicultural City!

Freestyle Language Center believes in language learning through relevant cultural context. This ‘Polyglot Austin’ blog series shares the unique cultures, stories, and experiences of the multilingual people who call our city home while providing opportunities for language practice and learning!

In this entry we feature Morena Soul, a local band that brings a variety of traditional Brazilian beats with ‘modern musicality’ and a global perspective to the local music scene. In the live music capital of the world, stroll through Downtown Austin on almost any evening and hear the rich sounds of live music, frequently in other languages, bursting from restaurants and bars.

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Go Polyglot! Practice your Portuguese and get to know Morena Soul!

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Freestyle was lucky  to have Morena Soul perform at one of our Polyglot Dance Parties! “Obrigada” to Angela Loyd for her fabulous “passista” dancing.

Watch and listen to the videos below for an interview with Sarah and Frank  as they share a bit about themselves and their music. Interact with us: test your Portuguese and answer the questions below!

Beginner Level

Q:Estamos aqui com a Sarah e com Frank que tocam no Morena Soul e a gente está muito feliz que eles estão participando de um evento no Freestyle, e a gente tem algumas perguntas para vocês. Sarah, de onde você é? /  Sarah: Eu sou do  Rio de Janeiro. Q: E você, Frank?/ Frank: Eu também sou do Rio de Janeiro, só que eu me criei em outra parte do Brasil.
Q: Em qual parte?/ F: No nordeste Brasileiro.
Q: Ah, que legal! Então tem influência carioca, e nordestina também. /F: Carioca e nordestina.  Carioca do Rio de Janeiro e nordestino do nordeste.
Q: E o que vocês fazem, em termos de trabalho?/ S: Eu trabalho na Apple. / F: Eu também trabalho na Apple.
Q: E porque vocês vieram para Austin? / S: Eu vim para Austin para fugir do frio de Nova Iorque / F: E eu vim para Austin para fugir da confusão de Miami/ S: Ele está me copiando!
Q: Já estão americanizados! E o que vocês gostam em Austin? / F: Eu gosto de tudo.  Mais eu gosto muito da cultura de Austin por ser um lugar bem diverso, e muitas etnicidades, muitos países, e gosto muito do clima também, e das pessoas.  As pessoas em Austin são mais calorosas. /S: Eu gosto do tamanho da cidade.  Eu acho que é uma cidade que não é nem muito grande e nem  muito pequena, então você tem a infra-estrutura de uma cidade grande, mas a sensação que você está morando numa cidade pequena.  E eu também gosto da parte cultural.
Q: E na parte cultural, como é que vocês se envolveram com a música? / S: Saudade do Brasil!
Q: E o que vocês mais sentem falta do Brasil, da comida?  Número um. / S: E a família.
Q: A comida e a família.  Os amigos.  Esta coisa de Austin ser mais caloroso, é mais caloroso em relação a outras cidades americanas, né? Mas o Brasil, é bem mais caloroso de qualquer cidade daqui.  As pessoas, a cultura, os amigos. / S: Os churrascos, os fins de semana.

Intermediate Level

For the intermediate interview transcription see our Youtube channel.  url

Write your answers in the comments below – our teachers will get back to you!

Beginner Questions

  1. De onde a Sarah é? E Frank?
  2. Sarah e Frank trabalham para a mesma empresa.  Qual empresa é?
  3. Por que é que eles vieram para Austin?
  4. Por que a Sarah gosta tanto de Austin?  E Frank?
  5. Eles têm saudade de quais coisas do Brasil?

Intermediate Questions

  1. Quais instrumentos Frank toca? E a Sarah?
  2. Como é o público brasileiro nos concertos?
  3. Como é o público americano nos concertos?
  4. Qual é a vantagem de tocar musica brasileira aqui nos Estados Unidos, em relação a tocar no Brasil? Qual é o desafio?

Muito obrigado to Morena Soul for letting us share their stories!  Want to see them live? Check out their events calendar for weekly showtimes!

Up next, French in Austin! Who would you like to see interviewed? Comment below with suggestions. Merci!

The Freestyle Lifestyle

Our methodology incorporates technology and interactive media in a way which brings the most recent, relevant, high-usage vocabulary and everyday expressions to our students in an entertaining and effective way. Join us as we seek to revolutionize language learning: Try a free evening class or our popular Saturday “cafe” (11am-12:30pm) at 801 Rio Grande!

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At Freestyle, we take pride in doing things differently, just like the city we call home!

Follow our blog for more interactive language fun! Know a polyglot in Austin? Let us know who you’d like to see featured on our blog by commenting below.

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Embracing Subtitles; the Road to Fluency

This is not your mother’s pair of jeans, nor your father’s Oldsmobile… this is language learning in the 21st century! It’s pop culture, y’all. It’s slang and everyday language, it’s the fun path to fluency.

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Don’t let subtitles scare you! Get over your fears and hesitations; don’t be too cool for this kind of school.

Films use language in real-life situations enabling the learner to grasp the meaning and sounds of colloquial expressions at the heart of everyday language while experiencing cultural contexts… all while entertaining!

Sit Back and Enjoy the Amusement of Subtitles!

Subtitles can uniquely create humor, adding a pure comedic touch. Take this clip from the comedy Airplane for example with two men speaking jive, obviously English… but is it? Check out the video to see what all the hoopla is about!

Subtitles are humorous! Enjoy… and embrace them!

When learning everyday jargon in a foreign language, we can’t all go about faking it like Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds! Watch as Brad Pitt is thrown off entirely by the fluency with which Christopher Waltz’s character speaks Italian; subtitles enhance the comedic effect.

To Swear or Not To Swear? No Matter, It’s Idiomatic!

To go about one’s day, one needs an understanding of common lingo, or street talk. Don’t tell your mother we told you, but swearing is a huge part of cultural context, colloquial language! Every language has modern slang that defies literal meanings. For example, non-native speakers of English wouldn’t know the flexibility of using swear words such as *hore, bi*ch and *ss without watching films such as this American high school parody, Mean Girls in their native language subtitles.

Embrace, even if you choose not to personally swear like a (bilingual) pirate!

Similarly, we see the French word putain used everywhere, rarely in a literal context.  But we would not know that without seeing how it’s used in everyday language, ie… scenes in films! With film, we grab the cultural meaning behind the language. Watch this clip of Jean Dujardin accepting his Oscar for Best Actor. Did you catch that slip at the end? “Ouah, putain, genial, merci, formidable, merci beaucoup, I love you!”

French films teach us quickly that putain, a high-frequency swear word (but harmless, really) appears just about anywhere in most French sentences.

Global Speak; It’s all Relative

We, as Americans specifically, need to get over our fear of subtitles. People use them all around the world for varying purposes.

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Subtitles carry the potential to be an international game-changer in poverty, status and education.

Millions of people in countries around the world embrace subtitles with no hesitation as a means to improving their everyday life. See this NY Times article on how learners use subtitling to further their education and career and to make global connections.

Even in the realm of entertainment, the entire world seeks to connect to Hollywood and Bollywood films and they do so with subtitles in their native language!

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Let’s eradicate the misconceptions we tend to have while dealing with subtitles in film; they’re useful and globally accepted!

The Science, The Backbone Behind It

Acquiring language through a medium such as film is not only fun and entertaining, but multiple studies have shown it’s a driving force for second language and culture acquisition.

As renowned linguist and second-language acquisition expert Stephen Krashen once said “language needs to be fun!” Language acquisition works best when the input is interesting and compelling to us, so much so that we forget we are immersing ourselves in another language!

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“The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear.” -Krashen.

Rod Ellis, a leading theorist in 2nd language acquisition, elaborates:  “Successful instructed language learning requires extensive 2nd language input…where 2nd language needs to become the medium as well as object.” Film is the medium, and an entertaining one at that! SO, pull yourself out of the humdrum routine of hours with flashcards and intensive studying. Although these methods help in retaining information, the delight and entertainment of film best supplements them.

Plenty of science revolves around it, but the ultimate goal is to have fun while you’re learning; your brain will do all the work! While watching foreign film, in the midst of having fun, you increase your metalinguistic awareness, unbeknownst to you. Qu’est-ce que c’est  metalinguistic awareness? It’s simply the ability to think of and be aware of language in relation to its cultural context, that language has specific functions and rules. Furthermore, multiple viewings of a foreign film also increase awareness of important paralinguistic elements: body language, gestures, facial expressions, loudness, tempo….all features highly important to communication in another language.

One of the most renown (and local!) language specialists, Dr. Garza, Director of the Texas Language Center of the University of Texas, provides an important pedagogical framework for the use of video and film in the classroom. See Dr. Garza as he explains how video and film, as authentic texts, contain the possibility to develop language learners into “active learners”. He states that the application of technology such as video, film, internet, etc. may hold the key for language learners to go from competence to proficiency, i.e. to make great strides along the road to fluency!

The Freestyle Way

Freestyle’s unique methodology incorporates foreign film in our curriculum in a step-by-step process that allows significant realization of linguistic and cultural meaning. We study relevant vocabulary themes and intermediate to advanced grammars entirely in the context of a specific, chosen film; here’s a quick break down of our process:

1. Watch the film in target language with English subtitles; this provides semantics (meaning)

2. Work thoroughly through target language subtitles and/or transcribed dialogue of film over the session; this provides lexical and syntactic information (vocabulary and word order)

3. Watch the film in segments with no subtitles;  this provides phonetics (sound/pronunciation/listening)

4. Witness a significant boost in listening, comprehension and speaking ability!

Additionally, Freestyle is proud to incorporate Austin’s own ITAL in our classes! Transmedia specialist Sergio Carvajal-Leoni, in collaboration with Austin-Based Filmmaker Romina Olson and UT Award-Winning Italian instructor Antonella Del Fattore-Olson, created ITAL, a digital channel that blends entertainment and education to teach Italian language and culture. The entertaining ITAL videos are intended to expand students’ knowledge of contemporary Italian culture while helping them to increase their vocabulary and oral competency. As you can see in the video that follows, part of ITAL’s instructional component is reflected in the use of subtitles – sometimes in English, others in Italian – to emphasize how new vocabulary is used in everyday conversation.

HINT: This fall, intermediate Spanish students will be studying Spanish through Volver, intermediate French through the romantic comedy Heartbreakers, Portuguese through the comedy The Man Who Copied, Italian through the dramedy The Last Kiss!  Come visit a class for FREE.

Additional Tip! 

Try practicing with subtitles by choosing a tv show/film you enjoy watching in your native language with your target language subtitles. For example, the American hit romantic comedy, Two Weeks Notice (Sandra Bullock / Hugh Grant), like many U.S. shows and films, offers both French and Spanish subtitles.

We hope you see the many varied reasons to embrace and enjoy subtitles so that your road to fluency will be smoother and more enjoyable.

Happy Trails on Your Journey to Fluency

Accepting subtitles in foreign film will allow you to grasp a whole new realm of knowledge  that would otherwise only be receivable via physical interaction in the actual country.
Seize the power of film to help you obtain the gift of gab in your target language and join us at Freestyle to further develop your language learning in a relevant, fun and social context!

The idea that language learning is rote and boring is defunct in the 21st century!

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Let the Summer “Games” Begin!

Ready, set, GO! We’ve kicked off our Summer Session with our “Special Guest Speaker Series” in a range of topics such as Sports & Fitness, Earth & Environment, Food & Wine, Art & Entertainment, and Movies. This Summer reflects Freestyle’s unique model of learning languages through relevant social events.

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The speaker series particularly highlights culture which plays a critical role in the comprehension of your target language. Follow along with us as we venture deeper into the cultures of Portuguese, Spanish and French. We will showcase a wide range of experts on a variety of topics, with guests from Olympic athletes to French chefs.

This week’s guest speakers engaged our students in all things Sports & Fitness, starting with Brazilian native and futebol fanatic Karina Marcela Gotuzzo.

Portuguese: “The Ginga”

Karina explained (em português, claro!) the fanaticism of Brazilian soccer.  The basics of the game – the teammates and the soccer ball – come together on the field but the “ginga” or soul is what completes it. “Ginga” is the “springiness” and balance on the field . It has turned into an art and a form of language through which Brazilian society can express their passion.

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Passionate fans, talented players and the richest soccer history in the world… Benvindo ao Brasil!

Read, listen and watch for yourself as Karina explains ginga.

É a tal da ginga, do molejo, este balanço tão particular que já tornou o Brasil cinco vezes campeão mundial.

This is the ginga, the springiness, this particular balance so that Brazil has become the world champion five times.

Leaving the soccer fields of Brazil, let us transport you to Mexico.

Spanish: “A Good Kick”

Meeting an Olympian is not an everyday occurrence, but it is something we got to do on Wednesday! Leo Manzano is a native of Mexico, a proud Austinite and former Longhorn.  His specialty in the 1,500 m and the mile took him far, earning him the Silver Medal at the London 2012 Olympics.

Watch this clip and follow along as he explains his signature kick.

“Un buen cierre es un “good kick.” Entonces, miré hacia el lado y estaba rebasando al chavo con 200 metros, pero lo estaba rebasando en línea 2. Usualmente no se rebasa en la línea 2 porque estás corriendo más de cuando estás en la línea 1.”

“A “buen cierre” is called a “good kick.” Then, there were only 200 meters left and I was passing another runner, but I was passing him on lane 2. Usually you don’t pass someone on lane 2 because you end up running more than when you pass someone on lane 1.”

This past week, our French students have been building their français by learning about some unique sports found en Europe. From the casual la marche nordique to the intense parkour, there is something for everyone. 

French: “Parkour et plus!”

Here are our top picks:

  1. (Nordic) walking/faire de la marche (nordique) : A resourceful way to work out le système cardio-vasculaire because of its easy access to people of all ages, not to mention that it is the most economical sport, only requiring a comfortable pair of tennis and a pair of Nordic walking sticks if you choose. Bougez un peu! NordicWalking3
  2. Parkour : For those seeking more adrénaline, parkour has more than enough to go around! It was originally called le parcours (the course) which derives from parcours du combattant, the classic obstacle course training method used in the military. This extreme yet graceful sport that is often practiced in urban areas involves la course à pied, la varappe/l’escalade, la balançoire, la voltige, le saut périlleux and la reptation — whatever suits that particular environment. The goal is to navigate des obstacles while moving quickly and efficiently and maintaining as much momentum as possible.

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A favorite vocabulary word of the week was franchir : whether crossing the finish line or overcoming the fear of speaking in the target language, the same concept can be applied! Practice and persistence are key.

Stay tuned for our upcoming take on next week’s theme of Food & Wine… Chefs, Paleo Diets and pâtisseries galore!

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This is What Austin Sounds Like to Me, Part II or “Un gaou à Austin”

It is now spring, getting on towards the end of it anyway, and this is one of my favorite times of the year in Austin.  I can drive with the windows down, music semi-blasting (I’m not young anymore, I’ve got to take care of these aural devices.) The sun is starting to set later and later, which brings le coucher de soleil closer to the moments when I meet friends for drinks or dinner, or, on rare occasions, begin a night of bacchanalian revelry with those friends that are better labeled bad influences.

Magic System is from Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and their music is called Zouglou.

There was a stint when I lived in NW Austin, around the Four Points area.  Sometimes too far from my preferred haunts in and near downtown, Magic System made that journey much more tolerable.

“La musique est pour nous un facteur de rapprochement du peuple…”
[Music is, for us, a way to bring people together…]

 Take the drive on 2222 from 620 into town.  Do it as the sun sets, or just as the lights of night start to outshine said gaseous giant as it heads to bed.  Lower your windows, and crank up a little “On va samizé.”

Let the opening notes blow past your ears and the wind blow through your smartly coiffed hair as you descend Tumbleweed hill, foot covering the brake pedal so as not to achieve enough velocity to attempt low-earth orbit or earn some sort of traffic citation.  Cross under 360, pass County Line BBQ and the music, already getting you in the mood to dance, rhythms you in and out of every turn and switch-back on the descent to Mopac.  Go ahead, play it twice, get yourself to Loop 1 to head south for downtown.

Now, having followed Mopac south, take the exit to go au centre-ville, and after you curve to the left, do a little down-and-up shift in the road, then back to the right (just like you’re dancing, man), level out onto 5th and keep Magic System as your copilot.  Switch to their song “Premier Gaou.” Nothing beats it as you patrol the streets, hunting for errant parking spots that are, if you’re lucky, only a few blocks from your destination.  The music keeps your hips primed for dipping in any concert venue, and calms the savageness of parking rage as you hunt.  Long after you’ve paralleled your way between an obnoxiously stationed Hummer and the Car2Go Smart that it dwarfs, despite their separation, you’ll be singing to yourself as you walk downtown

“On dit premier gaou n’est pas gaou, oh…/ C’est deuxième gaou qui est niata, oh…”
[Fool me once, shame on you / Fool me twice, shame on me…]

 

Now that you know the route, give your Sunday drive a Zouglou kick!


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Excuse me, I noticed you from across the room, and I wondered if we could talk…

What makes for successfully learning a language? I often hear stories from  people who studied such-and-such at some distant (or not too distant) juncture in their life. They remember some basics, the s’il vous plaît, the gracias, the привет, the arrivederci.  The story usually contains details about how the learning wasn’t fun, or the language just didn’t speak to them or that they never used it then POOF! it was gone, much like the raccoons from your trash can as you open the door to see what all the ruckus is about.  The epilogue of their little tale often contains some lament about having lost the language, or never having learned another, or never really using it to begin with.

What I notice in these accounts is their lack. The narrators are a bit removed from their stories, as if they’ve no vested personal interest in it, but are merely reporting this little episode that they could have very easily seen on any edition of “The Bachelor,” where that overly handsome airline pilot tries to connect with date #13 as he bides his time to woo #14 and think about #12.  I worry that this disconnect is exactly why they let that language get away–they never felt it theirs, or theirs for the taking and having.

So how do you make that connection?  Well, you look that language right in the eye, that window to the soul, and you see whether she (or he, for that matter, your language perhaps being a burly and rugged German or English, rather than a spicy Spanish or a titillating Italian) connects with you.

It’s a first date.  And as on every first date, you ask yourself some very basic questions.

1.  What is your interest in him? Or better, is she interesting? Your friend who’s dating a lawyer may find all lawyers captivating, but if you don’t, taking one to dinner isn’t conducive to you getting swept off your feet.  You must have an attraction to your language. You must find her appealing.  That interest can, of course, be utilitarian–say, learning German because your firm has offices in Berlin and Munich. For some, utility is a great and sufficient motivator.  But it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the only one. What sparks your interest? What keeps you magnetized? On this very blog, a commenter  recently expressed a desire to learn some Mongolian because of  a pending voyage there. Travel is another good motivation–how better to experience a new place than being able to chat with the locals and read their menus rather than some awkward translation?  Perhaps you have a close friend fluent in Chinese. No better reason to learn Chinese than to speak  it with your friend. My own choices in learning have been driven by literature, that great seducer.  Voltaire’s Candide wooed me so much that I wanted to read it in the original, and thus was I compelled to learn French.  The come-hither vibes of Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics had me coo-coo for Italian. Are you a fan of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Perhaps the carrot of  Män som hatar kvinnor is just the right treat to get you galloping to learn Swedish.

Reading "La cage aux folles" out loud

2.  How do I make a personal connection with my date?  This is always the tough question and the daunting task of starting a new relationship.  Like a new boyfriend with whom you want to spend every free minute, a new language  needs to be an integral part of your life.  Yes, there are sometimes textbooks involved, but once you close them you can’t leave the language there.  Take it with you, make it a part of your day-to-day life.  It’s not a dog, it’s your dog, tu perro. You’re not at the supermarket to buy groceries, you’re there to get du lait, des framboises, du riz, du boeuf.  And it’s not simply incorporating language into part of your life, it’s sharing interests and passions.  It’s your love of movies adding Lola rennt and Der Krieger und die Kaiserin to your Netflix queue or your music obsession keeping L’Ecole du micro d’argent in your CD player for days on end (or on repeat on your EyePod or EarCapsule or whatever digital music device you use).  Make the personal connection, because that’s what keeps LTRs (long-term relationships for those not into acronyms) headed on the right track. Making the personal connection makes the language yours, and you’ll always want to speak your language(s).

Mon chien et mon chat; mi perro y mi gatto

3.  Am I having fun with my date? Am I having fun learning about my date? This is the age-old query of any relationship–are we having fun yet? Or still? Or at all? Though it sometimes takes place in a classroom, learning a language doesn’t have to be soulless or boring. When you’re waiting in line with your lady-love at Starbucks, ready to share yet another romantic iced Venti White Chocolate Mocha with an extra shot–wait who am I kidding?  You’re both coffee purists, that’s why you connected, so no ice in that fancy drink for either of you!–you talk, you joke, you make the wait entertaining. And that’s the attitude you must adopt when learning a language.  Sometimes you have to wait in line, or consult a grammar book or do some exercises in a text, but those moments can be made all the better by having a little fun in the process.  Don’t limit yourself to learning from those texts–the world is your playground, and it’s filled with literary slides and swings, cinematic merry-go-rounds and musical monkey bars.  Sing a vibrant version of “La vie en rose” in the shower or give yourself a dramatic, loud-as-you-can reading of Elogio de la sombra as you sip iced tea on your back porch.  The more fun you make it, the less it seems like work, and the less it seems like work, the more fun it is to do, so you do it more, thus learn more and then the whole wicked and delicious cycle starts all over again!

Learning a language is a lot like starting a new relationship.  You have to be interested in the person to begin with, you have to make a personal connection and incorporate that person into your life, and you have to have fun–otherwise the break-up is inevitable, and you’ll wonder why you went out in the first place.  Take the time to pick a good date, make a choice that means something to you and go for it.

And don’t forget, every relationship starts with a simple, “Hello.”

Just take a listen:

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