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Thai police said Wednesday the prime suspect in the bombing of a Bangkok religious shrine in which 20 people died was overheard speaking a foreign language other than English. The extremists had "a specific system for collecting money" and imposed "specific rates" on different social groups as part of its highly successful racketeering, according to the report, which has not been publicly released. With a 45-minute set that included cover versions of Edelweiss and Do-Re-Mi from The Sound Of Music, the avant-garde Slovenian group Laibach on Wednesday became the first foreign rock band to play a gig in North Korea.
Foreigners who attended the evening concert in Pyongyang said the Slovenian rockers were accorded a warm, if slightly muted, reception by the 1,500-capacity crowd at the capital's Ponghwa Arts Theatre. Photos appeared online of suggestive poses with the artwork, which is based on the rapper's iconic pose in her Anaconda video - where she's posing in heels on her hands and knees. Fluent in 3 months - Language Hacking and Travel TipsUnconventional language hacking tips from Benny the Irish polyglot; travelling the world to learn languages to fluency and beyond! A whole industry of language learning products is based on something that I have to frankly say that I think is absolute rubbish. The shocking truth is that passive listening is never going to get you to fluency in a language. I meet dozens of disappointed language learners every week, no matter where I am in the world, and I have declared war on the reasons holding them back from reaching fluency in their target language, and relying on passive learning (playing audio in the background while you are focused on something else) is high up on my hit list. This approach was already something I was skeptical about for several years, but as part of the last months’ input experiment (some of which has helped me improve my learning approach) I had the radio on in German all the time while I was doing something else (writing a book, or doing grammar or written exercises for the test) and gave it a real chance to see if it could help. After sitting my German C2 exam, a few hours of spoken practise per week gave me 75% in the oral exam, and actively writing several texts for correction gave me 74% in the written exam, both of which I’m very pleased about. The only reason I got even what I did would have been due to the spoken practise – which naturally involves focused listening. One misunderstanding people have when they arrive on my site is that they need to have precisely my circumstances to learn a language. Language learning at a distance is very easy, and I’ve discussed many times before how I have done it over the years, so you absolutely do not need to be in the country to do it effectively. It took me six entire months to realize it, but once I got into speaking Spanish, I managed to reach a pretty good level in the next six months I was living in Valencia. But for now it was time to move on – I went to Germany first, but was surprised to see that I couldn’t even order a train ticket in the language! One of my Italian friends from the Erasmus student exchange program in Spain, Daniele, offered to put me up in his house while I looked for a job.
It’s true that you are at a huge advantage in skipping between languages within the same family, but Italian and Spanish also have quite a lot of very important differences. My goal while in Italy was to leave speaking really good Italian, while not completely destroying my Spanish in the process. The interview was to be in Italian and English, and my incredibly broken Italian still put me further ahead than his other English speaking applicants, and I had the bonus of genuinely speaking decent Spanish (which my boss could too and confirmed my level), so the job was mine! The job had some incredible perks; first I worked in their branch near Termini, which was a 5 minute walk to the Colosseum. In the afternoon I of course found ways to practice Italian by speaking it to as many people as I could.


Despite the busyness of this city, I found those I bought food off to be quite chatty, which was a huge help. I got so annoyed by being exploited like this (other workers were mostly Americans without working visas, so they didn’t have a choice, but I could legally work anywhere in Italy, and was still doing it off the books for the sake of the experience and living right in the middle of the city), that a month or so in, in my off hours, I did some investigating in Italian and got in touch with pub crawl tours, which I would secretly promote to my guests when they asked where to go out that night. Luckily soon after this, I starting making local friends and could go to places with no drunk foreigners and hear not just real Italian, but real romano. One annoying rule of the hostel was that the owner preferred not to have Italians stay there, which meant I couldn’t practice with anyone so easily while at work. Lying in a foreign language is an essential skill to learn… especially if that language is Italian! By the end of my 3 months, my Italian had reached the same level as my Spanish, and I could add it as my official second language. I went on from there to France, which I didn’t enjoy much, and learned French slower because of that. Once again I worked on my social circle despite being so tired most of the time, and was speaking Italian in every single spare second I had, and was studying it on the entire commute (apart from cycling) and was confident that I could have passed that exam until I had to change my plans. Up until this point, all my time in Italy apart from the 2 weeks looking for work initially in Rome, had been while working a 63 hour job or a full time job with 15 hours of commute time per week.
My story is different for Chinese right now, and indeed it would be great if you didn’t have to work so much so you could focus on your language. Yes, I had it easy because I was in Italy, and learning a language similar to one I already spoke (but didn’t actually speak at a fantastic level yet). Of course being in the country helped a lot, but you can find a language exchange or a teacher online (more on this soon) and you can find some time to study or use the language in as many ways as possible. Having to work hard is no excuse – you will find stories of many many people (actually, realistically, most people) who have learned a language while working full time. While you can’t master or reach fluency in a few days, you absolutely can start to speak a language in this time. As I continue on the book tour, I have been getting asked many questions face-to-face with people, many of which remind me of things that I can talk about on the blog more. It wasn't an audience pulling faces of distrust or confusion," said Simon Cockerell, general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours which arranged a special trip for foreign tourists to see the show. In the same way as just studying will never help you speak, passive listening will never help you speak and even understand a language. What I should have done for exam preparation is focus on any audio and analysed it while doing nothing else at the same time. If you have it on in the background you can get used to how it generally sounds and it seems less foreign. It’s better to find some way to actively listen or converse rather than feel like you have done your language-learning work for the day. In fact, most languages that I speak fluently were learned while I worked full or double time. You can find a goal that is very ambitious, while still fitting with your demanding schedule to be realistic.


We spoke in Spanish (both of our Spanish still had a long way to go at the time but we always understood one another), and I stayed in his house, which was a bus and then metro ride into la citta vecchia. As you can imagine, being a native English speaker and having any other languages in the tourist industry puts you quite far ahead of the competition!
I’d meet up with Daniele back in his house to have some of that fantastic home cooked lunch and see how his mother was doing, and watch incredibly silly Italian gameshows with them for an hour or two (the hostel TV had to be left on a music video station, which drove me crazy because they played the same American pop songs over and over). As always, I knew that hanging out with the expat community wouldn’t get me far in learning the language so I found alternatives. For every person I sent to the pub crawl, I’d earn €1, which started adding up very very quickly when you are as convincing as I can be.
Luckily I had some ideas about how to not mix up different languages, and one of them was to consistently practice the other language while learning the new one.
None of us were Italian, but it was the common language in the house, and it was the language I spoke at work this time!
But while you do all that complaining, some of us have found ways to learn a language despite having to work so much. Work is a normal part of life (the main reason I have more free time now is because I worked double time in December and over Christmas to set up the Speak from Day 1 videos and page to give me this boost of extra time), so if many other people are working full time and can learn a language, I think it’s time to put your excuses aside and find a way to make it work! The problem with embracing a passive means of learning a language is that a language is active. This wasn’t about saving money, but the experience of living in Rome and learning the language.
Maybe you have to commute for an hour a day, and you have family or other responsibilities, but you still have a LOT of time that is going somewhere, which you could perhaps be more efficient with. I’d usually have time in the late morning to go through a list of vocabulary to memorise, while all the guests were out being tourists. This was all the Italian the other worker knew, but I stretched out the phonecall every time by pretending to look through the book, ask how many people they were and which city they were from etc. Despite not having much free time, I brought my level of the language up to something I was proud of.
At the time, my big plan and use for all these language certificates was that I wanted to become a conference interpreter, but when I was a few months into working my next Italian job that plan fell through and I had to come up with a new idea, so even though I had done a lot of preparation for the C2 exam, I decided not to sit it.
I could have complained that learning Italian is impossible because I was working too many hours, and how it was so much easier for all those students who have more time than me, but instead I focused simply on learning the language in the best way that I could. I attempted this with Hungarian to get used to the sound of the language before getting full-time exposure to it. A solid distinction of right now I am focused on learning the language will help a lot of people, and they lose this if they vaguely tune in and out.
But the job I had found that would train me as a translator was in Foligno, which required a total of an hour and a half each way of commute time between trains and cycling.



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