Using Kindle to Learn a Language.

Language learning means a lot of reading. First a disclosure: I got Kindle much after learning Spanish and French. So what is it that made me believe that Kindle is such a wonderful device? Let me explain.

After eight hours on my laptop, I really don’t like staring at the screen as it hurts my eyes. But then, reading is imperative to improve grip on the language, and a day without reading isn’t very productive.
Kindle isn’t just about books. You can buy hardcover or paperback book for most books that aren’t even on kindle. The key is – a feature called, “Send to kindle” which lets me send web pages to Kindle. I can easily catch up with it later on, especially while commuting. If I come across a difficult word, I just have to tap it, and an inbuilt dictionary works well for me. I will explain how you can set it up later in this post.

Theory: Vocabulary and Repetition
It has one more feature called vocabulary builder. It automatically collects the words that you look up, I encourage you to look them up every two to three days — continue that for 2 weeks, thereby revising the word for 5-7 times. That will help you master the word. Here’s a word of caution, don’t be quick to look up the word, first try to guess the meaning. It is one of the finest quotes of great polyglot Michel Thomas. It has helped me over the years to improve the vocabulary, and should help you too.

 

So how does “Send to Kindle” works? 
It is simple, you can use it as a browser extension. Depending on what browser you have, you can get it from here. It is a service provided by Amazon to its users. Once you install the extension, click on it. It would ask you to log in with your Amazon Account. Make sure you only select Wi-Fi (Since the other option, ‘Whispernet’ is chargeable). Now you are set to use the service.  I have included recommended settings, as well as the icon in the below picture for your reference.

Recommended Settings for Send to Kindle

 

So the next time you read any news article hit the “K” icon, and it will send it to your kindle, whenever it is connected to Wi-Fi. You can send any document, as long as the document is less than 50 MB. Most of the news articles and web pages are way less than the limit.

Setting up the Dictionary on Kindle
Whenever you register kindle, it comes with default dictionary in your language. So, if you are an English speaker wanting to learn Spanish, you would need to download a Spanish-English dictionary. Some users don’t know that kindle already has around 30 dictionaries on the cloud for free and end up buying a new one from the store. Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1: Tap Home button on the kindle.
Step 2: Tap Cloud (It appears just below home button — only if you are on the home screen)
Step 3: Scroll at the very bottom, you would see an option that reads “Dictionaries”
Step 4: Select a dictionary to download (Again, it is free). You can download multiple dictionaries if you know or are learning few languages. (I have Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian in my collection)

As with every article that I write, if you have any difficulties, or want any assistance, feel free to contact me. I do my best to respond to them as soon as I can.

All the best with your language learning.

Here is How You Learn Two Languages At The Same Time

Learning one language is not difficult. However, learning two languages at the same time can get quite challenging – unless you manage things well. Polyglots are no different from normal humans, they are just more passionate about learning languages, or are able to motivate themselves than most others. If you have zeroed down on your target languages, great! But, if you haven’t, then here are two points that you must consider.

  1. Congruence: Pick up languages that resemble closely, for instance, prefer picking up Spanish and French instead of Spanish and Mandarin. It isn’t some hard and fast rule, and sure, you can pick up Mandarin and Spanish at the same time, but languages that closely resemble each other helps you maintain the balance.
  2.  Objectives: If you are learning for professional competence, then there is absolutely no choice. However, if you are learning it for a rewarding career, consider taking some time out to think objectively, availability of job opportunities in languages that you intend to learn etc.

Once you are set, it’s time for you to effectively maintain the balance. So, how do you maintain the right balance? Well, if you have read my post about how long it takes to learn languages, you  would see that it takes a longer time to learn a few languages than the others. Therefore, set aside about 20-30 minutes extra study time per day for the more difficult language.

Language Learning Tree

Now, here is how you organize things, and a breakdown of why you need 20-30 minutes extra on the more difficult language. As a rule, I always start with more difficult first, although it may vary from person to person.

  1. Language Study Time Table: Always try to keep separate sessions for each language. Generally, it is not a good idea to come back and forth, as the overlearning and sometimes pressure can cripple your learning abilities. Keep a wide variety of learning stuff, for instance, Mandarin Flashcards and Spanish Podcasts on one day and vice versa on the other day.
  2. Keep Language Sessions Short: Each one for about 30 minutes. You can learn and concentrate much more than that, but the key here is to retain maximum focus and energy. So if you start off with a 1-hour session of mandarin, you would quickly deplete your mental energy and draw reserves from your Spanish quota.
  3. A special 20-minute revision for difficult language: With languages, you need execution along with positive thoughts, and keep these 20 minutes for the difficult language, 30 minutes if need be. But just make sure that you have revised your language material completely. There is no shortcut to revision.
  4. Confidence: Have faith in your brain’s ability. There are people who can speak 10+ languages yet never get confused, and you too won’t. But it is important to weed out negativity, if you can’t keep it away, just take a break, deep breathe for two minutes, and come back.
  5. Focus on Process and not the goal: Here’s where the art of thinking less comes into play. If you think of the goal, then it would overwhelm you. It isn’t the most helpful way of doing things. Try to dissociate from your overall language goals – only during your study sessions. Thinking of anything else – even your language goals – at the time of studies is very distracting. Try avoiding it, and if you can’t avoid it, just let it happen and refocus.

Now, try to maintain some variation. Like whenever I learn two new languages at one time, I tend to change my facebook’s default language to one target language and my computer’s default language to another, and switch it, in order to maintain a good variation.

If you keep these language learning tips in mind, you won’t find it difficult to learn two languages at the same time.

Here are Some Easy Ways to Learn Spanish

Some beginners come to me and ask ” What is the fastest way to learn Spanish?” Many Spanish speakers would condense to the answer to — “There are no shortcuts” — and that’s right. However, there ways to study smarter, and consequently, wrap up your Spanish lessons quickly.  
  1. Listen to Podcasts while you exercise or commute: I run a lot, and while you run, your brain works at amazing efficiency, it grasps the language better. If you spend around 30 minutes every 5 days listening to some good Spanish podcasts, then it would pave the way to a great foundation to your Spanish studies. Additionally, put those podcasts on your smartphone and listen to them while you are commuting or driving.
  2. Change the default languages: Include your browser and Facebook to the list. This would integrate Spanish in your day to day life. Changing the language is uncomfortable, yet it is the quickest way to learn Spanish. Out of all the ways to learn Spanish, this is the most prudent one — as repetition is the mother memory.
  3. Read a lot: Newspapers, books or anything else that you like. In this post, I had outlined some great ways to learn Spanish. You should include them to your list so that you get a firm grip over the language. Reading will help you understand various forms of Spanish.
  4. Get good at Grammar: Trust me, it is now or never. Although you can learn Spanish sans grammar, it probably won’t be a good idea. So put a little effort and read it. If you aren’t serious about grammar, then you aren’t learning Spanish — same holds good for any language.
  5. Keep Testing: Don’t put off tests for later. Make sure that you keep testing your knowledge. Remember, when you started off, you didn’t know anything. So, there is nothing to lose. Many people consider tests to be unproductive — but that’s incorrect. Tests help you solidify the concept. So keep testing your Spanish knowledge.

Therefore, In essence, there isn’t any easiest way to learn Spanish, but there is, of course, a faster way.  Put up some extra hours, and start cracking the Spanish mystery.

At the beginning, it may look intimidating, but soon, Spanish will be your friend. Remember, you only need to push till the time you are able to form sentences. Once you achieve that, you would be able to communicate with other Spanish speakers, read Spanish material and pick up the language quickly.

Six Mistakes That You Should Avoid While Learning Spanish

I have compiled a list of six mistakes that you should guard against while learning Spanish.

  1. Trying to Translate: Don’t do that! Please! Remember, trying to translate words in your native language will hinder the flow of language. Avoid that in any case. Now, you may think — “How would I understand if I don’t translate it into my native language?”, well, don’t worry about that. Our minds have that flexibility to understand the language — just like how we learned our native language in our childhood.
  2. Subtitles: This stops your learning. Try to watch your shows without subtitle, and try to imitate the voice. This would tighten your grip on the language. So, next time you watch Spanish Movies, do it without subtitles.
  3. Procrastinating Speaking: Don’t procrastinate the speaking part. Do it, right from day #1. I have covered this part extensively in this post about Spanish Learning. The more you speak, more confident you’ll become with Spanish.
  4. Giving up: Hell No! even if you have invested 10 hours in Learning Spanish, there is every reason that you should keep pursuing the goal until you finish. Don’t settle for anything less than mastery. It is going to be tough, but you got to continue and motivate yourself to keep learning. Giving up is not an option.
  5. Going slow on Accent: Forget your native ways of speaking – please! This wouldn’t take you far with Spanish. It is important to learn Spanish accent for a total mastery. Spanish is very logical and straightforward with pronunciation. If you learn Spanish accent well, then it would make your Spanish Learning easy.
  6. Not Testing knowledge: Even in the last post on Spanish studies, I have mentioned as to why it is important to test your knowledge. Do that, all the times, and only then you would have a correct assessment of your Spanish Speaking Ability.

With that said, don’t wait, and commit yourself to learn Spanish for a more rewarding and enriched life.

Drop me a comment if you have any questions or need any help.

Merge Data From 100s of excel files in Bulk Using Python

If you already work or intend to work with excels, the following tutorial would be very useful to you.

Let’s say you prepare expense report for your company, and you log in daily expenses in the sheet. But what if you want to calculate all the expenses for a particular month, or even for a year? You would need to pull up each file, do copy-paste, and it may take hours to do the Job. Now, you can cut down this time to a minute of two. by using Python Modules, and do it all at once. You can even reuse the code and get this menial job done in seconds.

Even if you don’t know anything about Python, or if you are a beginner, don’t worry. I have broken this down in easy steps so that you can understand. If you are an advanced python user, directly go to the code section (Third Step).

Remember, the first time when you set this up, you may find this intimidating, but keep going. This will help you do this tedious task quite easily for the rest of your life. You can use it without any coding experience. I will also record a video for your convenience.

First Step – Install Python
1. Go to Python’s Official Website, and download Python. I recommend downloading version 3.5 or higher.

2. Once you download it, install python, and environment variable for python. I have covered it in this python pip post.

3. Once you set up the variable. Go to your command prompt (windows+r) key, and install the below modules by typing in these commands
python –m pip install openpyxl   (For .xlsx files)
python –m pip install xlrd  (For .xls files)

4. Since you now have Python installed, open IDLE (It is a python shell, where we would be doing all of our task). IDLE looks like this

Second Step – Go to the folder where you have those files

  1. Open the folder where the excel files are located, and note down the directory.
  2. In your python shell (which looks like the picture above), type the following commands after >>> (Don’t leave any spaces)
    import openpyxl
    import xlrd
    import os
    import globe
  3. Now, go to the directory, you do that in python using the below command
    os.chdir(“directory name”). Say if my directory name is C:\Users\Deepak\ExpenseSheet, the code will be os.chdir(‘C:\\Users\\Deepak\\ExpenseSheet’) {Notice the two ‘\’ instead of one. For starters, windows use one \ as a separator and python uses two, so always put two backslashes)

Third Step – Code. 

Now that you are in the directory, you are all set to merge the excel files. But, you may have either .xls or .xlsx files. So depending on the files that you are looking to merge, use the respective codes.

a) If you want to merge .xlsx files

list = glob.glob(‘*.xlsx’)
for key in list:
wb = openpyxl.load_workbook(key)
sheet = wb.get_sheet_by_name(“Sheet1”)
for j in range (1,200,1):
print (j, sheet.cell(row =j, column =2).value)

Note {Column = 2 means 2nd column, as openpyxl in the code starts counting from 1, so if you store expenses in say column 3, then  change the number to 3}

a) If you want to merge .xls files

list = glob.glob(‘*.xls’)
for key in list:
wb = xlrd.open_workbook(key)
sheet = wb.sheet_by_index(0)
for j in range (1,sheet.nrows,1):
print (j, sheet.cell_value(rowx =j, colx =1))

Note{colx = 1 means 2nd column, as xlrd in the code starts counting from zero, so if you store expenses in say column 3, then  change the number to 2}

When you hit enter you will see all the data along with the names in the python shell, Just copy it, and paste it to a new file – which will have all your data.

I hope this was easy, and as with all my posts, if you find any difficulty in using it, drop me a comment and I would be happy to help you. Python is a great language, and I encourage you to learn it.

Tips To Improve Vocabulary in Various Languages

To learn any language, it is essential to master the vocabulary, as it is not as difficult as it may seem to you — as long as you leverage the technology. You simply can’t ignore vocabulary to master any language. These tips hold good for any target language. You would need a few tools like Evernote, a spreadsheet program, like Excel or LibreOffice or Openoffice. Mastering vocabulary in various languages have a few important components — detecting the right words, and then putting in a good system of practice. Let’s go over them so that it can help you — one by one.
  1. Pick up any of your favorite writing source for your target language and copy it. For instance, if your target is to improve french vocabulary, then go to any good source and copy the content to your excel, and find repetitions of words using excel.
  2. Prepare a blank notebook on Evernote (Or Notepad), to keep a record of difficult words, be sure not to keep their definition, because it is important for your brain to make that neuro connection to absorb the meaning.
  3. Use a good flashcard program like Anki, and space your repetitions, for instance, if you plan to master 10 words every day, revise the words twice a day on the first day, third day and the seventh day. This way, you would imbibe the words deeper into your mind. It never hurts to revise the words once in a while.
  4. Once you learn any word, be sure to write it, it can be in your journal or anywhere else, this part is important as you can only learn words better if you can make strong connections (as I mentioned in point 3), so the more intense and variety of connections you make, the strong your connections get to that word.
  5. Try guessing the meanings of words that are in your list – before looking them in the dictionary. If you think more about the word, you might be able to get a good guess at it, and would certainly retain it for a longer period of time. For instance, if you come across a word “agua” in Spanish, before looking up for its meaning (which is water), try to relate it with a similar word, and once you do, you would be able to retain it for a long period of time.

If you leverage technology well, then mastering language vocabulary will get much easier. So, don’t get overwhelmed. instead, get smart and push hard towards your language learning goals.

Why Choose Portuguese or Italian as your 3rd Language

Language learning is extremely rewarding in the sense that it enables you to learn more languages quickly. So, if you are already proficient in either Spanish or French, it is the time for you to increase your language net, and either target Portuguese or Italian as your third language.

WHY CHOOSE PORTUGUESE OR ITALIAN AS YOUR 3RD LANGUAGE?

There are numerous reasons, first, it is financially more rewarding. For instance, if you are a translator, this would give you another language combination. And consider this — if you know two languages, you can work on two combinations, like Spanish <==> English and vice versa, but it you add one more language, you can work on four combinations, and every new language doubles your language combination.

There is a good demand in industry for both these languages. Moreover, it takes about the same time to learn these languages as it does to learn Spanish and French, so you really won’t have to spend a lot of time which you otherwise would in learning a language like Japanese. Moreover, there are good resources available for these languages.

BUT, WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT IF YOU WANT TO LEARN BOTH?

Well, it is possible to learn two languages at the same time. And, I encourage you to take up both. But then, for various reasons, you might in be interested in picking the one. Well, in such cases, pick up the language that is more similar to the one that you have already learned.

For instance, if you have learned Spanish as your second language, then go for Portuguese as your third language. Similarly, go for Italian if you chose French as your second language.

In my case, I decided to pick up both at the same time — and it is fun to learn it this way. There are various good resources available on both of these, but I highly recommend Michel Thomas’s method for beginners and switch to  other language learning resources. As with any language, it is important to read extensively so that you become familiar with the language.

SOME TIPS BEFORE YOU START

Learning languages is fun, but overdoing it can be distressing. Often it is good to learn a language, give yourself a break, and then switch to something else. But it is important to use that break to think about your language goals. It is quite easy to overlook planning, which is essential to learn anything. For instance, if speak Spanish, then going for Italian will probably take twice as much effort as it would master Portuguese. So before you start, look up the conjugations, and word patterns. If you don’t perform this check, then learning your third language can get difficult and intimidating.