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The Many Ways to Learn Farsi
The beautiful language of Farsi is the most widely spoken of the Persian languages. If you’re a student who has chosen to study Farsi, it will be of interest to note that the language is also widely spoken in Afghanistan and by a significant amount of the populations in Pakistan, Iraq, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.

As with any desire to learn a language, if you choose to study Farsi, you have plenty of options on how to do it. With the helpful resources that the web provides, your ability to find tools that will help you learn is no problem, if you know where to look.

One of the first choices to make is whether you want to enroll in a formal university course, Persian studies program, or focus on independent ways to learn. There are a number of excellent DVD or personal study curriculums such as the Rosetta Stone language programs, which include lessons of varying degrees of difficulty, making them ideal for those of any learning level. There are also the options of hiring a tutor or engaging in correspondence and online chat discussions with native Farsi speakers who can aid you in learning and feeling confident in speaking the language.

Sites like LRNGO provides an alternative to paid tutors with the concept of learning exchange, where you teach your partner something in exchange for a lesson to you. This allows you to have the benefits of a tutor without the cost, and helps you establish a relationship with someone of the culture.

There are also opportunities to study Farsi at a university level, though not all United States universities offer students the ability to obtain a degree in Farsi language. The list below is not extensive, but includes some of the places where you can find a degree program. If your interest in learning Farsi takes you to a university setting, take special interest in the programs that these schools have to offer.


Despite the small number of universities that offer such a degree, Due to Homeland Security concerns, U.S. government funding became more widely available to students interested in learning to speak Farsi. This meant that universities offering Farsi courses increased by 80% in the years 2002 to 2006. Because knowing Farsi is considered a requisite skill for an increasing amount of government jobs in defense, intelligence, and Homeland Security, applicants for government funding may be asked to work a minimum of 2 years for the government after graduation.

If you’ve decided to dedicate yourself to learning Farsi, persevere and practice. You can practice some of the basics on your own using sites such as Linguanaut and Digital Dialects.


Photo Credit: Alan

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Inside Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in Russia.
Polishing Your Russian Language Skills
Learning the Russian language is an exciting, challenging task. If you’ve committed yourself to learning Russian, then you have already completed the first step. Dedication is the number one requirement in language learning, so keep that in mind when the times get rough.

In terms of difficultly for native English speakers, Russian is classified as a Level III language, which is defined by around 780 hours of emmersion study to reach intermediate fluency—but don’t let that discourage you!

Estimates put Russian speakers worldwide at approximately 285 million, only 160 million of whom are native speakers. Do the math and you’ll see that there are hundreds of millions of fluent Russian speakers the world over who have learnt Russian as a second language successfully! With a complex language such as Russian, however, utilizing the help of Russian tutors can prove a deal breaker as to whether or not you will be among those who succeed in learning fluent Russian.

If you’re putting in your time and effort to learn Russian, you want to be sure that you do it right. The only way to really perfect your Russian, or any second language for that matter, is to practice with native or fluent speakers. This means that it is necessary to connect with a Russian speaker to help you strengthen your skills.

Fortunately, there are countless Russian tutors available to assist you on your journey towards Russian fluency! The experience, teaching skills, education level and English proficiency of Russian tutors vary greatly, of course. To make the quickest progress in learning Russian, you will want to find Russian tutors and other options available. Some possibilities are:

  • Joining a language school

  • Signing up for a course at your community college

  • Purchase an online Russian language study program

  • Look for Russian tutors in your local classifieds, directory listing and rating website, magazines or newspapers, or Craigslist and choose one that fits your personal preferences and budget.

As you probably know, you can connect with a language exchange partner at LRNGO and get the benefits of a tutor for no monetary fee, just your ability to teach your partner something new!

Once you are on the road to Russian fluency, be consistent. You will lose the ground you’ve gained if your studies stop and pick back up too often, so make a consistent schedule with your tutor so that you are encouraged to practice frequently. Having a regular class at a set time will keep your momentum going and give you the quickest possible forward progress. Just remember to stay dedicated, and you will see progress and eventually polish your Russian!


Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Most common languages spoken in each Houston zip code other than Spanish.
Language Exchange in Houston
If you take a look at the map of Houston above (click on it to enlarge) which lists the most common languages by zip code excluding Spanish and English, you start to get a picture of just how diverse Houston really is. Picture yourself in zip code 77055. Besides English and Spanish, the most popular language in this zip code is Vietnamese, but take just a small step over to zip code 77008, and suddenly there are German speakers everywhere. Now take a small stroll down to 77007, and Chinese becomes prevalent. It's amazing that so many different language speakers from such diverse backgrounds coexist in the same vicinity.

Houston truly is a melting pot of languages, and it’s no surprise that in a city this large and diverse, there are innumerable opportunities to explore learning and practicing foreign languages. Over 90 languages are spoken in the area and, according to the Houston Chronicle, Houston is even more "ethnically diverse" than New York City.

When so many different types of people come together in one place, the opportunities to learn and grow from one another are limitless, as long as you have the resources to find each other and utilize them.

One of the most beneficial tools to learning a new language are language exchange partners. There is no ‘right way’ to find one, and Houston offers plentiful means to connect with all types of people, making your search easy. Language exchange partners make great resources as they allow for the benefits of one-on-one teaching without the cost. The key is to find someone whose language skill set matches what you aim to learn, and vice versa. Once you find a partner, you can begin exchanging lessons, and both of you will find yourselves growing in your respective second tongues.

The Houston Language Partners Initiative Meetup group is brought together by people with similar goals of learning a second language. The group meets socially and hosts free speed-friending events to connect members and promote language exchange.

FYI, if you’re looking to cast a wider net, LRNGO offers users both local and global language exchange connections. You can search the languages that you can teach, those you want to know, and your location to show a list of matches whose abilities and goals compliment your own. From there you can send out messages to connect and set up meeting times, either in person or on Skype (or any other choice of video chat).

If you’re interested in meeting a learning exchange partner on your own, try going to many different locations and many different zip codes, and immerse yourself in Houstonian ethnic diversity. Try seeking out someone at a local coffee shop, library, or bookstore. Pay attention to what they’re doing, and if they happen to be studying a language you already know, ask them if they’d be interested in language exchange.

The key to pairing with a language exchange partner is to be friendly, helpful, and not too embarrassed (remember, they’re trying to learn a new language too).

Beyond language exchange partners, if you’re currently a student at a local university, be sure to take advantage of the language resources that your school has to offer. Rice University’s Center for Languages and International Communication offers courses in over ten languages, study abroad opportunities, and community involvement through service learning and ‘language tables’ that help to build speaking skills. University of Houston offers classes in about fifteen languages and the Language Acquisition Center offers students a variety of useful tools to help improve their skills, including an extensive foreign film collection. UH’s Language and Culture Center even provides international students with an intensive ESL program.

Your dream to learn a second language starts with you, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. In Houston itself, there are so many people to connect with and so many languages to learn; like Tagalog, Urdu, Gujarti, and Laotian. Fluent speakers in languages that I am not ashamed to say I have never heard of, are all living in the same place. When I stare long enough at this map, I’m struck by the opportunities that language acquisition offers, and I feel lucky that we have the ability to connect with new people and cultures around the world, right in our own backyard.


lrngo users in over 190 countries

Buffy sign on the wall
10 American TV Shows I Want to See In Spanish
Do you love television? Don’t lie. You love television. I also love television. Heck, everyone loves television. This means that television is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the Spanish language. So! Without further ado, here is list of a few American shows that are worth your time watching in Spanish:

  • 1. Dexter is full of blood and guts and great character development. For a show about a serial killer, it is also surprisingly accessible and blackly comic. Let me give you a brief primer- Dexter, our titular hero, is a blood spatter specialist working for the police department who masquerades at night as a serial killer. The twist? Dexter is a serial killer with a consciousness, a serial killer who only murders fellow serial killers. The show follows him as he evades the authorities and struggles to cope with his lust for murder, which he has dubbed his “dark passenger”. You have excitement; you have intrigue; and better yet, you also have a pretty dang good story too. Things started going downhill for the Dexter series around season 6, but the shows before that (especially the widely loved season 1) is top quality T.V. The best part? I think it is just a great show to watch in Spanish. This is because Dexter has a penchant for narrating to the reader. For example, he might be walking down the sidewalk, and in his warped, emotionless mind, he’s thinking to himself about how alone and isolated he feels. All of this information is communicated to the reader by a Dexter’s voice overlaid on the scene. In other words, he is talking but his mouth is not moving. This small point is extremely important because it makes the Spanish dubbing significantly more convincing than many other live action shows.

  • 2. Louie- I’m not entirely sure how to describe Louie, so let me just start off by saying that it is my favorite comedy show. Louie (played by immensely talent comic Louis C.K.) is a middle age bloke who struggles to cope with the modern world and the reality of being a single dad. It is the only show I know that is a riotously funny as it is completely depressing. Let me just give you a quick scene. Louie is pulling an all-nighter as he desperately tries to prepare for the rapidly approaching Christmas morning. As he inspects the presents that he has spent an inordinate amount of time searching for, he comes to a horrible realization. Both of a doll’s eyes have fallen into the back of its head. For the next four hours or so Louie panickly tries to fix the doll. After a copious amount of tinkering with the doll and cursing in frustration, Louie just breaks down and begins crying, alone, in his apartment. Now, I personally think this show is fantastic to watch in Spanish because of its use of street phrases and slang. I have seen few shows that have as realistic of dialogue as Louie does. This means that someone watching this show to learn Spanish would hear how actual people on the street speak- an invaluable exposure absolutely necessary for any serious language learner.

  • 3. Game of Thrones- I have not watched Game of Thrones in quite a while and, even though I really enjoyed it at the time, I honestly remember very little about the story. It’s pretty complex. There’s something about dragons, and political medieval conflict, and there is also really good characters, I’m pretty sure. It also has some of the most surprising scenes I have ever seen on television. Whatever. It’s popular enough to where I’m sure you have heard of it before, so you probably don’t need me giving you a summary. Now, I think Game of Thrones is good for language learners for a very specific reason. Because of the complexity of the story line, the show absolutely forces you to understand the dialogue. In other words, this show will shove vocabulary and grammar comprehension down your throat; it makes you pay close attention to what is happening on the screen.

  • 4. Cowboy Bebop- Ah…Cowboy Bebop. Isn’t that just the best name for a television show? It’s a Japanese anime that follows the melancholy lives of a gaggle of space-age bounty hunters. I recommend this unique gem as a language learning tool mainly because, if you haven’t seen it, it’s completely different than on this list. I can’t emphasize enough how variety in your viewing habits will aid in your comprehension.

  • 5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Do you know the movie The Avengers? Of course you know The Avengers. Well, the Director- Joss Whedon- also directed this idiosyncratic show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, yes. I know it sounds hokey. That’s what I always get from people when I recommend it. But trust me when I say it has some of the best dialogue of show out there. The dialogue is also very funny, and this is specifically why I think you should watch it in Spanish. Every line of dialogue becomes a little mini quiz- if you laugh, you understood it. It’s very simple. If not, well, just rewind until you can say “yes, I get it. That is witty.” You can’t beat instant feedback like that.

  • 6. Firefly- This is another great show from Joss Whedon. I recommend it for the same reason I recommend Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The best way I can describe this legendary cult series is a brilliant cross between hardcore science fiction and the antics of cowboys in the Wild West. Check it out.

  • 7. Supernatural- I know a lot of people who really, really like supernatural. I am not one of those people, but I will admit the show is entertaining. It follows two boys- Sam and dean Winchester, as they battle supernatural and/or mythical beasts. I recommend this show for the opposite reason that I recommend Game of Thrones. The storyline in Supernatural is generally the following: A bad beast does something bad; Sam and Dean find the bad beast; Sam and Dean nearly die fighting the bad beast. It’s repetitive and simplistic, yes, but it’s different from other shows that follow a similar format in that, within this repetitive structure, there are always unique and entertaining elements. So you have two things to consider: it’s easy to understand and it’s entertaining to watch. Sounds perfect for learning to speak Spanish, doesn’t it?

  • 8. Hannibal- this is not a show for the lighthearted, but my goodness is it excellent. It follows literature’s most infamous cannibal, the surprisingly erudite Hannibal Lector, prior to the events in the Oscar-winning movie The Silence of the Lambs. In other words, it follows good-old Hannibal before everyone realized he was eating people. It’s both mesmerizing and disgusting to watch as Hannibal manipulates everyone he comes in contact with. Nothing has sent chills down my spine quite like Hannibal’s endless slew of double entendre: “oh, my dear friend, I never feel guilty for anything I eat”. I include this show mainly because it employs some more advanced vocabulary than I have seen in other shows. The dialogue is dense, intellectual, and a joy to unravel.

  • 9. House of Cards- Viewers of House of Cards watch as Frank Underwood- the brilliant and vicious majority whip for Congress- connives and manipulates his way up the totem pole of American politics. Underwood is vicious, cold-hearted, and regularly uses dialogue not found in any other shows: namely politically oriented vocabulary. No other show will help you learn the Spanish word for Super-Pac, for example.

  • 10. The West Wing- the West Wing is all dialogue all of the time. It can be difficult to follow. Heck, it can be difficult to follow in English if you’re not paying attention. If you are an advanced Spanish speaker looking for additional immersion, this should be your go to source. Not only will it help you learn difficult vocabulary, it will also submerge you in the fascinating world of American politics.


Photo Credit: Bart Naus

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Karaoke sign outside a building.
Tips for Changing Accents (And how Karaoke helped me with Spanish)
First off, I must say that everyone has an accent. Yes, including you. Just because you cannot hear your own accent does not mean you do not have one. Accents vary based on a many different factors, including geographical location and who is in your social circle. Everyone has an accent; in fact, even people who speak in sign language have accents. Slight deviations in how different words are signed are even enough to indicate whether or not the person signing can speak or is mute. Heck, even cows have accents. Their mooing varies depending upon what region they come from.

This article is geared towards offering a few brief tips to people who wish to change their accent. You may wish to do this for a variety of reasons. But again, I stress that everyone has an accent. If you wish to change your accent simply because you believe that another accent sounds better, please remember this simple fact. Everyone has an accent; everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side. I would personally recommend only considering an accent change if your accent is currently inhibiting your ability to be understood by others.

As a final caveat, I must say that unlearning an accent is a difficult and long process that may require professional help. A speech-language pathologist is one such professional who can help you with this process. He or she will minutely examine how you pronounce various consonants and vowels. He or she will also consider such elements as stress, rhythm of speech, etc.

There are, of course, measures you can take on your own to begin to change your accent. What follows is a few of those tips. In general, you want to practice verbal speaking as much as possible. If you want to see slow, gradual improvement, you really need to practice at a minimum around thirty minutes per day.

  • Find recordings of single words or phrases. Listen to these over and over again. After each repetition try your best to sound out the words in question.

  • Practice specific sounds repeatedly. It is often important to focus on specific parts of words rather than the entire words themselves. Practice enunciating difficult consonants, vowels, etc.

  • Watch as much television as you can in your accent of choice. It is important to say, however, that passive listening will not cut it. To make improvement you will need to mimic the actors as they speak. Here is another important part: practice speaking in different tones of voice. Mimic the actors when they are excited, when they are angry, when they are surprised, etc. You will need to practice all of the various emotional tones to be able to get a grasp on the language.

  • Read out loud in your desired accent as much as possible. If you have kids, a great way to practice your accent is by reading to them. They will both enjoy listening to stories and find the new accent hilarious and entertaining.

  • This is going to sound crazy, but I personally believe that one of the most effective ways to learn a new accent (and to have a little fun at the same time) is to do karaoke. Your first step is to find a series of artists who sing in your desired accent. I decided to listen to songs by Hector Lavoe, Juan luis Guerra, and Los Tigres Del Norte. Then all you have to do is just jam right along with them. Sing their songs constantly: while you are doing laundry, while you are driving to work, while you are on the computer. This was the only way I was able to make any progress in improving my abysmal Spanish accent.


Photo Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim

lrngo users in over 190 countries

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