Introducing your amazing MFL resource – your Sat-Nav

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Sat-Nav – an accidental but absolutely brilliant MFL Resource

For some years I have had my Sat-Nav switched to Italian to help me learn “La Bella Lingua”. It’s so easy to do – go to the settings and choose the language you wish to hear your instructions in. On most Sat-Navs you  can also choose the gender of your guide  – I have a dulcet toned Italian woman gently guiding me through the streets of London. It turns out that Sat-Navs are totally accidental – but absolutely brilliant MFL Resources.

Having the instructions in another language is a form of total immersion. If you are travelling alone then this is the only language you’ll hear – maybe for some time. That’s cool. But what makes Sat-Navs a top MFL resource is that everything that the Sat-Nav says comes with accompanying directions. You can see ahead of you and also on the map exactly what she is saying.

When my Italian guide says: “Gira a destra fra due cento metri” – I can see the map showing a turning to the right in 200 metres. Very soon you don’t need to look at the map – repetition and context ensure you pick it up very quickly.

Just by having your Sat-Nav switched on you’ll learn a host of great directional and travel vocabulary – all in real time – all with accompanying notes. E fantastico!

If you have a Sat-Nav try it.

If you are nervous about getting lost you can switch it on just for journeys you’re familiar with.

I’ve not seen this idea anywhere else – so share it and enjoy it.

Bon Voyage!

Another great MFL resource for your travels

If you are looking for great language tools for travelling then KLOO Language Games fits the bill. Based on special word playing cards, players can easily make sentences in foreign languages and learn words as they play. The games are designed to make learning a language fast, easy and fun. You can play on your travels and speak when you arrive.

Travel versions of the cards come as double deck cartons and with each deck you can make tens of thousands of proper sentnces – even if you’re an absolute beginner.

In 2011 KLOO won Dr Toy’s Best Vacation Product while Conde Nast Traveler Magazine judged it to be one of the “10 Must pack items” for holiday. KLOO cards are available for learning Spanish, French and English.

Check out how easy it is to make sentences in this short cartoon video.


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The Best Travel Games to pack this holiday

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Top Travel Games that pack a foreign language

What makes a great travel game?

Fun? Well yes – of course.

Portable? That would be handy.

Keep you occupied when travelling? Of course – that’s the main point!

So fun, portable and engaging. Well there are some great games which tick those boxes: travel scrabble, travel Monopoloy, travel chess, Uno, playing cards, backgammon…and lots more. They all work and we as a family have actually taken all of the above on various holidays.

A travel game with a language built in

What if we add another criterion? What if we say the game should help you to speak the language of the country you are travelling to – so that you can play the game as you travel and speak the language when you arrive? How does that sound?

Good – but it still has to be a great game!

OK- how about if it had also won these awards:

Dr Toy’s Best Vacation Product 2011

Condé Nast Traveler Magazine: Top Ten must pack items

ToyTalk’s Best Card Game 2011

If you want to tick all of these boxes – then you need to be taking a look at KLOO.

Top Travel Game judged best for holidays

KLOO is perhaps the perfect travel game. It comes in handy sized, double decked packs and with each deck you can play 16 different games – the main difference being that you effortlessly learn a language as you play. Some games are quick fire quiz type games for kids (like Penalty Shoot Out – see video below), while others require card playing skills like Classic KLOO (see below). You can even play a solitaire game to build vocab for beginners (Under Starters Orders – see video). From £12.99 – KLOO offers games for learning French or Spanish while having fun.

Going on holiday? Want a travel game? Take a look at KLOO!

Language Learning Videos

Want a fun quiz game for the kids to build vocabulary? Watch KLOO Penalty Shoot Out


Make sentences and learn words to score points? Classic KLOO is a favourite


Want to play on your own and build words? Under Starters Orders is perfect


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What’s the best language for going on holiday?

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The Best Holiday Language

If you always go to holiday in France then this is an easy one – French. For Italy? Italian of course. So if you have a favourite destination then of course learn the language of that country.

There are, however, many people (and I count myself among them) who have no idea where they will be going on holiday and it depends on a whole host of criteria: children friendly, sun, affordability etc. So on the basis of not having a fixed holiday destination: what is the best holiday language?

Let’s consider what we have to take into account.

What’s the best language to learn? Here’s our check list

  • It should preferably be a relatively easy language to learn. (Trying to learn Korean for a trip to Korea might be too much to ask).
  • It should be a useful language – a true global language that you can use again and again throughout your life.
  • It should be a language that is spoken in countries that you are actually likely to want to visit.
  • A bonus would be if it helps with studies or reinforces your knowledge of other languages.

On all counts the answer is definitely: Spanish

Spanish as a holiday language

Spanish is a Latin based language giving us an immediate head start in learning it (as opposed to Japanese or Mandarin for instance). It uses the same alphabet and we can immediately have a good shot at pronunciation. As far as languages go, it is one of the easier ones to learn for an English monolingual. For ease of learning – tick.

It is the third most spoken language in the world with approximately half a billion speakers – a true global language? Yes. Tick.

Learn a language with Kindle E-Books

It is spoken in 24 countries as a first language – and some of them you would want to visit! There is Spain of course – a favourite destination of many holiday makers. But there are also the Central American countries – including Mexico and many countries in South America. You could go to different destinations every year and always speak Spanish. Great Holiday Destinations. Plenty. Tick.

A good language to learn to support academic study of language? Spanish scores highly here too. It is one of the most taught languages around the world and even if you are learning French for instance, Spanish will support your learning with many similarities structurally and also in vocabulary. Academically useful. Yes. Tick.

If you’re thinking about learning a language to make your holidays more enjoyable then Spanish ticks the boxes.

If you want to make learning Spanish fun and easy then perhaps consider taking a look at KLOO. With a double deck pack you can play up to 16 different language games and swiftly build your vocabulary. KLOO was judged one of top 10 must pack items in a Conde Nast Traveler Magazine and also won Dr Toy’s Best Vacation Product in the USA. Prices start at £12.99.

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How languages helped in a medical drama on holiday

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Medical Dramas and Learning a Language go together!


I am just back from our family on the Amalfi Coast. We stayed at a place called San Marco. Era bellissimo! If you haven’t been there – I can recommend it – it is as beautiful as all the post cards.

If you follow my blog, you will know my wife is Italian and I am a keen Italian learner. While there I tried to make the most of the opportunities to learn. There were the usual polite exchanges with reception in the hotel, with the waiter when ordering food, asking for directions etc. I also read an Italian book on my kindle – an excellent way to learn. In addition, I read my Berlitz Conversational Italian Book…again useful. The best experience however was unexpected and the most satisfying.

A medical drama in Italy – language skills to the rescue

My daughter Sasha developed an ear ache – OK, it’s not a life and death situation. However being prone to ear aches myself I know how painful they can be – and when you are just 12 years old – even worse. Usually my wife would take over in a medical situation in Italy – but I wanted to handle it. I spoke with reception, arranged an appointment with the doctor who was based at the local farmacia. When there, I had to explain the relationship with my daughter and what she was suffering from. The doctor would then ask me questions to ask Sasha – she would reply and I translated back. It was the most satisfying language experience. To be able to hold my own in a fairly technical conversation was very rewarding.

To top it all off, Sasha received antibiotici which seemed to clear up the infection in double quick time….and Sasha said I was really good at speaking Italian!!

Jump into Difficult Language Situations

When learning a language, it is too easy to stay in our comfort zone..say the usual things  and when in doubt revert to English. To get a real kick out of your language try putting yourself in a situation where you need to dig a bit deeper. All the better if English is not understood…you’ll be surprised at how you fare…

For a fun way to learn a language consider playing KLOO – invented for my own children

Hundreds of words, thousands of sentences, lots of fun.

Learn French Game
Learn French with KLOO
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Don’t be fooled – speaking English is not enough

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The world wants to speak English – but don’t be fooled

I am off the the Frankfurt Book Fair on Tuesday to exhibit KLOO Language Games. Have you ever been to one of these international fairs? The Frankfurt Book Fair is huge – about 250,000 people will attend the show. That’s the population of Iceland walking around 11 colossal halls.

From a language point of view two things strike me. Firstly, the standard of English for whom English is not their first language is truly astonishing. Nationality after nationality turn up at my stand and converse in fantastic English: articulate, expressive and confident. Learning a language for many Europeans is natural and their ability to switch to English when I am present both impresses and, to some extent, embarrasses me in equal measure.

The second aspect is their hunger to learn English. We will be exhibiting our new “Race to London” game, which teaches people to speak English, and we anticipate a lot of interest in the rights to the game from lots of countries. Language acquisition is a rite of passage for many young Europeans.

English speakers beware

Unfortunately, many mono-lingual English speakers draw the wrong conclusion from the keenness of others to learn their language. They mistakenly believe that as they already know English, there is no value in learning another language.

From almost every perspective this is wrong: from being a citizen of the world to understanding other cultures; from mental health benefits to enjoying better holidays; languages have immense value to those that learn them.

OK these are “soft benefits” and I can almost hear people saying – “that’s nice but how does it affect my wallet?”

How about this?

Having a language is good for business and your career

Did you know that those who speak languages have better career prospects and can expect to be paid better? This year the CBI stated that more than a third of British businesses hire people for their language skills, but that they are increasingly forced to recruit from overseas to meet demand. Think about it – two candidates who are equal in every way – except one is bilingual. Who would you choose?

In the meantime a Personnel Today report showed that the average wage for language graduates is higher than other graduates in areas such as Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering after as little as 3 years. Added to that a recent poll of 500 companies, conducted for CILT, the National Centre for Languages, revealed that one in four said the ability to speak a second language would give a candidate the edge when applying for a job.

The jobs market is competitive and if you want an edge – get a language!

Spanish and French Language Games

If you want to learn Spanish or French then have a look at KLOO MFL Games available at or on Amazon. Winner of 6 major awards and embraced by teachers and also families. Our games embed important language learning principles that enable learners to make sentences within seconds and use Discovery Learning to build vocabulary. As a result, learning French, Spanish or indeed English becomes fast, easy and fun.

Take a look at why building vocabulary with KLOO games is almost effortless:


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Which is the best language to learn – Mandarin or Spanish?

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The best language to learn – Spanish or Mandarin?

Personal circumstances may dictate which is the best language to learn. If your ethnic background is Chinese or Hispanic then of course you should learn the language closest to you.  This little report is really written for an English speaking monolingual looking to learn a second language.

Why Spanish and Mandarin? Because it usually boils down to these two. Learning any language is satisfying and bestows many benefits on the learner….but these two languages have in built global advantages and may even boost your career.

Why learn Mandarin?

Mandarin is often recommended as the best language to learn – and indeed many classes have sprouted up to meet the demand. The interest in the language is clear. China is becoming an economic powerhouse and, what is more, it is the most populous country in the world with 1.3 billion people.  That may be so but it is not quite as clear cut as that.

Mandarin is the main language of China but not the only one. There are 5 other major languages as well as many dialects. It is spoken in one other country – Taiwan. Evenso, it is estimated 800 million people speak it – and maybe even a billion worldwide. It is big!

Economically, China has a GDP of US$ 5500 billion and rising fast. If you want to be part of the economic future then learning Mandarin makes some sense. But lets take a closer look at Spanish.

Why learn Spanish?

Spanish may not be spoken by more people – but is certainly spoken in more countries and those countries are more dispersed. Spanish speaking countries include: Spain, Colombia, Peru, Venzuela, Ecuador, Guatamala, Cuba, Bolivia, Honduras, Paraguay, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Equatorial Guinea, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Domincan Republic, Nicarahua, and Uruguay. Wow, that’s 21 countries. Furthermore, Spanish is one of the 6 official languages of the USA with 44 million people – just as many as Spain!

If Spanish is spoken in more countries and indeed more continents, how does it fare economically? Setting aside the USA, no country above can compete with the GDP of China. But when we add them all together – and take 14% of the US economy (which approximates what the Hispanic community accounts for) the Spanish aggregated GDP is about $6000 billion.

Of course that may change. China is on a bull run. However  some of the Spanish speaking economies are rising fast and even faster than China. Who can say? As things stand you can make just as strong an economic case for learning Spanish as you can for Mandarin. So I am entering this as a draw – you could learn either language based purely on economics.

Which language is the easiest to learn: Spanish or Mandarin?

The last consideration is: which language is the easiest to learn? On this question Spanish wins hands down. English and Spanish have the same Latin roots and share many words. They have the same alphabet. This means you can make up every word you need to know, and have a stab at pronouncing them, using letters we are familiar with. In Mandarin there is a different symbol for each word. To be proficient you need to learn thousands of different symbols. Furthermore when speaking, intonation, plays a major part – much more so than in English. This is extremely difficult for an English speaker to master. Even the Chinese know that their language, as beautiful as it is, is very tough for a foreigner to learn.

So when we tot up the scores it goes like this:


Numbers of speakers                  0                             1

No. of countries                             1                            0

Accumulated GDP                        1/2                        1/2

Ease of learning                             1                            0

Totals                                             2.5                         1.5


Being as objective as I can, my recommendation for the English mono-lingual with no particular connection to China, is to choose Spanish. If all goes well, make Mandarin your third language!

Do you want to learn Spanish?

Learn Spanish words by labeling items

KLOO is a an multi-award winning language game that makes learning Spanish fast, easy and fun. You make sentences in Spanish to score points and race to Madrid. It never feels like studying – just playing and having fun.

KLOO was the 2011 winner of the ToyTalk Best Board and Card Game.

Check out easy it is to make a Spanish sentences with KLOO


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Learning a language like a Parrot will seriously slow you down

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French Language Learning Tips

Don't learn to talk French  like a Parrot!

We’re not parrots! So why do we still learn parrot fashion?

Independent research has shown that some, much used learning methods, are totally inefficient ways to learn a foreign language.

The main practice to be placed in the naughty corner is learning by rote (this includes vocabulary lists, phrase books and repetition exercises). Dr. H. Douglas Brown in his excellent book “Principles of Language Learning and Teaching” states that if you learn using such products and methods you are likely to suffer from “Systematic Forgetting” – a scary thought which roughly means “in one ear and out the other”. There are strong scientific reasons for this phenomenon.

Rote learning involves the mental storage of information that is random and unconnected with other bits of information. Its insular nature means it is unlikely to be retained – a bit like someone asking you to remember a random telephone number while they dial it. You hold on to the information to complete the task in hand. Within minutes, however, the information has been forgotten. Alas.

The best way to learn to speak a language is through Meaningful Interaction with humans!

On the other hand meaningful interaction is the best possible way to learn a foreign language. This means talking a foreign language with another person. That other person does not have to be fluent. They can be friend, member of the family or colleague who wants to learn the language too.

Creating Context is the key to learning a language

Dr Brown goes on to expand the point:

“Too many languages are filled with rote and practice that centres on surface forms. Most cognitive psychologists agree that the frequency of stimuli and the number of times spent practicing a form are not highly important in learning an item. What is important is meaningfulness. It appears that contextualized, appropriate, meaningful communication in the second language seems to be the best possible practice the second language learner could engage in”

French MFL Game that makes learning French Fast, Easy, Fun and Meaningful!

French panel jpegHow about a game that uses the principles that Dr Brown extols? That puts words in context, makes them meaningful and involves social interaction (not screen interaction).

Only KLOO does this. Multi-award winning language games that are growing fast in schools and at home. Check out the video below – it shows how easy it is to make French sentences with KLOO cards.

KLOO language games are also available for learning English, Spanish and soon – Italian.

Dr H. Douglas Brown is a professor of MA-TESOL at San Francisco State University and has written many books, articles and textbooks on language teaching.

KLOO is an award winning MFL resource in French and Spanish and a proven way to build vocabulary and make sentences in  a foreign language


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