Tag: language learning

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Five not-so-obvious benefits of learning Japanese for work and business

Language

Learning a new language will almost always benefit you, especially if you’re in the localization industry or work adjacent to it. Additionally, there are some secondary benefits of learning a language such as Japanese.

1. It raises your status in the workplace

Although this is quite obvious, it may not be in the way you think. Knowledge of Japanese for business will increase your value as a global employer and market player. Whether it’s business Japanese or just getting your foot through the door with basic greetings, your potential clients or business partners from Japan will greatly appreciate your efforts.

Japanese business language might lack the conversational tone you are more used to, so more formality is required. It’s best to study exactly what is or isn’t allowed, and this will save you from committing any faux pas. Learning the basics helps get you started, and it helps you appreciate a foreign culture even more.

2. You will become more approachable

Japanese for business shouldn’t be your only goal. A little known fact, unless you have lived in Japan, is that the Japanese do not speak much English. Not only that, a large majority of the population is reluctant to speak or use the English they do know. Even if you speak just a little bit of Japanese, a simple “ohayho!” will make a noticeable difference. It will prompt Japanese people to be friendlier and more welcoming — after all, you took the trouble to learn something about them instead of expecting them to do all the work.

3. You can further appreciate Japanese culture and entertainment

While we’re pretty sure you have tried sushi or ramen in your home country, there’s a lot more out there. Learning Japanese can help you understand the origins of ingredients, styles of cooking, and even converse with chefs (however basic the conversation may be).

You may also be familiar with adorable animated characters such as Totoro and Hello Kitty. But do you know the thought and stories that go behind the creation of these beloved cartoons? Likewise, Japanese anime has taken over the entertainment world by storm.

And take one of the most vaguely familiar aspects of Japanese culture: Sumo. Sumo wrestling is a sacred sport that originated during the Edo period. It’s extremely unique, and the reason for the sport may not be known to many. Sumo is actually a religious ritual, and to be a pro sumo wrestler is a difficult task. Wrestlers live with many limitations, but are very well respected.

Knowing more about entertainment and what’s trending in Japan could open up opportunities for conversation with your Japanese clients or business partners, and this can be important in relationship-focused business cultures like Japan.

4. It’s a self-imposed challenge

In the workplace, many managers and supervisors give raises and promotions based on the work you produce. Many admire a person that challenges themselves with personal growth.

5. It opens up more doors and job opportunities

The Japanese have their own way of life, different laws and a unique way of doing things. This makes certain integration more difficult for some foreigners.

However, the Japanese market is enticing to potential investors and organizations looking to extend their reach. The country is known to be very poised, educated, and tech-savvy, coming out with new and innovative technologies every year. This is a great reason to localize from a corporate perspective, and it’s a great reason to learn Japanese from a more personal perspective.

The way business is done in Japan is quite different from the west. Business negotiations go down when the sun does. Having to go out after work for lengthy periods, and appealing to the client’s pleasures and preferences, work best. If you are not able to speak a lick of Japanese, it could make this tough to do.

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Anne Martone is a marketing specialist from Preply, an online learning platform. She's passionate about corporate learning and foreign languages. When she's not busy with work, she spends her time with books or traveling.

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Conversational User Experience: Language Learning with Duolingo

Language, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I’ve previously written for MultiLingual about the language learning app Duolingo. I recall Duolingo’s launch and remarking how it was yet another #haterzgonnahate moment for the language industry critics out there. They’ve been proven wrong again. Nothing new there with the blowhards. Just like with their Google Translate criticisms they don’t get it that the alternative is not a human professional translator charging users for money for top quality grammar, terms and style, but no language option at all.

I also wrote about how my own national language, Irish (Gaeilge), is doing so well on the platform and receiving such high-level recognition.

Personally speaking, Duolingo is an ideal way for me to “get my ear in” before I travel abroad somewhere. I’m constantly adding languages into my learning mix

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Exploring Italian on Duolingo. I think I will wait until I get a bit more fluent before sharing my skills on LinkedIn, but I like it! Social is a key part of the Duolingo experience.

Chatting About User Experience

Duolingo takes advantage of voice-enabled devices of course, although it can be used without that feature. I mostly use Duolingo on my laptop and smart phone (language options in beta are not available on mobile), and have even tried it on Google Glass!

Duolingo’s got it all going on really from a UX perspective. It’s free, fun, global, local, social, all about mobility from the cloud, includes gamification, is powered by the crowd, packs voice interaction, and now bots too. A bot is ideal for language learning conversational interaction, of course (though the bot feature is not available in every Duolingo language option).

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A Duolingo bot can be unlocked to practice your language skills “for real” after a certain level. 

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Chatbots are an ideal way to engage with a languagelearning app, delivering a conversational UI for conversational solutions. Of course, text input and gestural interactions are also available.

The People Have Spoken

Duolingo is being used by so many people and for so many things! I know people who use it to learn French, German, Spanish, Italian, Vietnamese, Irish, Romanian, and more. This might be out of love of learning new languages, getting the hang of some phrases in advance of foreign travel, strengthening the kids’ school language learning, just wanting to converse with others in their own language on a more casual basis, or simply out of plain old curiosity.

For many, Duolingo is the “only game” in town.

This TED talk with Luis von Ahn about large-scale online collaboration will help you get your head around what Duolingo is about. But, honestly, the best way to experience Duolingo is to … start that conversation yourself Go for it!

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Duolingo explains as you learn: Noun gender in Spanish is covered  as you use your own voice on a smartphone, for example.

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Hey kids, you talkin’ to me? Italian lesson with voice input enabled.

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More carrot than stick with the Irish lesson. There’s a change! Listen and then drag and drop the words to translate. Nice!

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Activity stream showing my Duolingo progress.

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Hey You! Your friendly Duo reminder on the smartphone!

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Bring the Bitterballen. Learning with others can be fun too. Duolingo lets you try group learning as well as learning on your own.

Your Duolingo Conversation Is Here

If you’ve used Duolingo, I’d love to hear about the experience: the why, how and what you felt about it. The comments box is open for your conversation.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Kudos and Comhghairdeas* to Duolingo’s Irish Language Volunteers

Language, Language in the News, Translation Technology

The Irish President (Uachtarán Na hEireann) Michael D. Higgins (Micheál D Ó hUigínn) (@PresidentIRL) has publicly recognized seven volunteers for their work in building up the Irish language (Gaeilge) version of the crowd-sourced, languagelearning social app Duolingo (@duolingo).

Duolingo on Twitter

Duolingo on Twitter

This is first time I’ve read about a head of state doing something like this in the language space, although volunteerism is something that’s often acknowledged publicly by officialdom.

Indeed, it is well-deserved recognition for these Duolingo volunteers given the results.

Duolingo Irish in the Top Ten

Over the past two years, over 2.3 million people had downloaded the language app and selected Irish as the language they wanted to learn. This means that Irish is in the top 10 most popular languages offered by Duolingo.

Over 2.3 million users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn on Duolingo

Over 2.3 million Duolingo users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn

About 75% of these Irish language users are outside of Ireland, and the majority of new learners are located in the United States.

President Higgins commended the volunteers’ efforts at the official residence of the President, Áras an Uachtaráin, saying that their contribution was “an act of both national and global citizenship”.

The President also took this opportunity to comment on the status of the Irish language generally and about Government plans for the language.

Well done to Duolingo and to its volunteers in Ireland, and indeed everywhere!

The Duolingo Lessons for Other Languages

The Journal.ie quotes Oisín Ó Doinn, one of the volunteers, who was clearly delighted so many are enjoying the benefits of the contributions made to the Irish language lessons on Duolingo:

“The fact that an average of 3,000 people a day have begun using the Duolingo Irish course shows the massive worldwide interest in our native language and makes all the hard work we put in worthwhile.”

Aodhán Ó Deá (@aodhanodea) of Conradh na Gaeilge (@CnaG) was also quoted by the Journal.ie about Irish language proficiency and the reasons behind it. Some of his remarks will resonate with many Irish people:

“The thing I hear again and again from people is ‘I’d love to learn the language’, and I wish I learned it in school’.

So, despite all the negativity we hear about the Irish language, particularly from within Ireland, Duolingo’s success with their Irish language version again proves that not only do people want to try and master conversational Irish but that when the digital user experience (UX) of language learning suits their world, and it is made easy and is fun, they will give it an honest shot and try to learn.

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Again it is also clear how smart use of technology and an ever-improving UX can benefit the health of “minor” languages.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social ventures to the experience of learning Irish.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social features to the experience of learning Irish.

It will be interesting to see how the Duolingo impact plays out, if at all, in the responses to questions about Irish language usage in the next Irish census!

Other languages, please take note!

The Irish President's speech to Duolingo's Irish volunteers and about the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud

The Irish President’s speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers, and about the state of the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud.

You can listen to the Irish President’s Áras an Uachtaráin speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers and about the Irish language on SoundCloud.

  • Congratulations (in Irish).
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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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