The following 8 tips are for those looking to write quality language books that inspire pupils and keep them craving ever more tuition.
Your introduction should enthuse and motivate.A nice touch might be to include a short history of the language with a concluding emphasis on its beauty, usefulness or impact in today’s world. Novices need that extra kick-start to persevere with tricky grammar, nonsensical exceptions and homework exercises.
Don’t write a dictionary.Lists of foreign words followed by their translations might teach pigeons to speak but not humans. There’s nothing more mind-numbing than a lengthy word manual lacking phonetic guidance and cultural insight. If the bulk of the book is a copy and paste translation job, your students aren’t learning anything they couldn’t type into Google and those that are serious about pursuing their newfound interest aren’t going to give your publication much more than a second’s flick-through in Waterstones.
Back to primary school ...We take numbers and letters for granted in our mother-tongue after Year 2 but the basics are essential for anyone starting anew so draw up those number and alphabet tables and don’t skimp on help with the pronunciation. The Italian alphabet, for example, has 5 letters less than the English one. This could cause confusion in less pattern-perceptive learners of the language when attempting to write words they have heard but not read. Moreover, grasping the other language’s alphabet provides the first step to familiarising oneself with pronunciation. This can be seen most notably with Latin languages like Spanish as well as African ones like Swahili, both of which contain particularly high levels of phoneticism.
How do I say ..?If you don’t have an accompanying audio track to your book, it is important that you either provide phonetic spelling alongside all foreign words or relate particular sounds in the new language to those in the mother-tongue. For example, in the Bengali word ma, the a is pronounced as in the English word star.
But don’t get too technical!Hammering home the significance of acute accents and cedillas is fine if they’re being used to demonstrate the difference in sound or meaning between a word with the accent(s) and its accent-less counterpart but worrying those starting out about subtleties of dialect or even characters (as for Asian languages) presents them with a dauntingly unnecessary bundle of complications.
Split it into bite size chunks.
Culture.A straightforward method of incorporating some depth into your students’ discovery of the new language is to add a culture section. You could write about anything from quirky cultural habits or turns of phrase to cataloguing some of the national literature and saying what it means to its people.
Last words.Glossaries and a short, simple dictionary should be included at the end for mere reference. Again, this could be organised into useful words or phrases for particular circumstances (e.g. business, the tourist office, telling the time, etc.) or it could be done alphabetically. Remember to stick to common, everyday words for now and save the linguistic intricacies for the sequel!
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