The Starting Bell
Tearing down the communication barrier and learning to speak.
What many scholastic approaches to language learning fail to teach us, is how to properly communicate with native speakers. Too much focus is made on the ability to read and write the language and not enough is made on the ability to actually speak the language. With our experiences the main lack of communication lies in the inability to understand what is being said and also the inability to recall the proper vocabulary for the situation. For example; one of our staff (myself) studied abroad in Germany for a year while attending the University of Madison Wisconsin. For those of you who do not know about the German language there are dialects spoken in various regions of Germany. These dialects are similar to the US accents but much more complex. Needless to say all of the Hochdeutsch, 'High German' , I was used to listening to during class lessons was rarely spoken and when it was, it was spoken so fast it was almost impossible to pick out individual words and recall their meaning. Outside of simply not understand what was being said by the native speaker, I could not formulate an adequate response to add to the conversation even when I did understand what was being said. I lacked the vocabulary, the gender articles and had trouble simply pronouncing the words. So when someone asked me what I felt like eating or what I felt like doing, I was often unable to adequately express myself.
I attempted to solve this problem while abroad and learn additional vocabulary from the dictionary and grammar book. The problem with this is simply the time it takes to look up the individual words, as well as the end result still can't teach you how to 'listen' for that word or how to 'speak' that word. The majority of the time is spent looking up the words, writing them down and creating note cards or vocabulary sheets. You memorize how the word sounds within your mind and you memorize how the word looks but you can't memorize how the word sounds or how the word is pronounced.
After my completion of a German degree at the University of Madison Wisconsin, myself and other language graduates decided that a product needed to be created to help language learners with these skills.