For people who love languages
VOLUME 13, NEWSLETTER 3 March 2011
Feature Products: English
Official Language Proficiency Certification
Interview with Michael Boldrick
Featured Partner: Mobile-XL
Spotlight: Inside Ultralingua
Tools to Try: Ultralingua's Online Dictionary
About Our Company
View Our Products
Product Support
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Featured Products: English

For the month of March, Ultralingua is offering a 20% discount on our English dictionary products*. Use the coupon code ENGLISH20 and save 20% on your purchase. Journalists, writers, students, and language professionals can depend on our English dictionaries for all their reference needs.

English language learners can look up definitions and synonyms in English using our monolingual English dictionaries. Using an English dictionary and thesaurus in addition to a bilingual dictionary allows learners to explore English definitions even deeper, finding accurate and precise words when it counts. Both dictionaries include a verb conjugator that allows you to look up and switch between the many English verb forms. In addition to helpful tools like conjugations and a flashcard generator for quick and easy studying, the Mac and Windows products also include a reference guide for beginning to experienced users. Have fun with English - whether it’s your native language or subject of study.

Use the coupon code ENGLISH 20 from now until March 31st to save 20% on Ultralingua's English products. Choose one of the following and take advantage of this month’s discount today!

* This offer is ONLY valid for Mac, Windows, PalmOS, Windows Mobile Smartphone, and Windows Mobile Pocket PC products purchased from Ultralingua’s website until March 31, 2011.

Official Language Proficiency Certification
In last month's newsletter, we discussed how difficult it can be to accurately describe your language skill level. In this month's follow-up, we will suggest some official and widely-recognized standards to help you demonstrate your language proficiency. Official certification will help you to both quantify and communicate your skills.

While the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) grid is a useful and concise reference tool, it might lack a sufficient amount of details for a newcomer to accurately judge where their abilities fall on the rubric. It is also hard to be objective without an examination component. Fortunately, there are several exams, both free and paid, currently available that specifically test linguistic aptitude. Most of the fee-based exams award official certifications that, in addition to accurately assessing you, provide a professionally-rewarding addition to any résumé.

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) sponsors certified proficiency testing in more than 65 languages orally, and 12 languages in writing. According to their website, "ACTFL proficiency tests are currently being used worldwide by academic institutions, government agencies, and private corporations for purposes such as: academic placement, student assessment, program evaluation, professional certification, hiring, and promotional qualification." More than 12,000 tests are administered yearly. Check out their website here to learn more.

If you are a student looking for an outside assessment, your school may offer certification opportunities as well. Many colleges and universities offer proficiency exams either as a requirement for language majors or as a resource for the general student body. Professors in the foreign language departments can also direct you to other organizations offering language proficiency tests.

If you're planning on using your multilingual studies in future positions and pursuits, you should take a serious look at the option of certification. If you've already taken one such exam before, you can share your experience with other users in our forums. Help us and each other by recommending other certification programs in the thread on Language Proficiency Certification.

Interview with Michael Boldrick

Michael Boldrick is a Peace Corps volunteer departing this month for a two-year stay in Mexico. Though it's been decades since he last studied Spanish, Michael is excited to learn more than the day-to-day niceties and become fluent in the language. His first three months in Mexico will be spent living with a host family and undergoing intensive language training. After training, he will move to a two-year job in Central Mexico. We asked Michael what he was looking forward to most, what he will be doing in Mexico, and what his language learning program will look like.

Ultralingua: What made you decide to enroll in the Peace Corps, and why did you choose Mexico as your destination?
Michael Boldrick: Many factors and events led me to join the Peace Corps. I love travel and adventure, I've dreamt of living abroad for years, and helping others makes me feel good; it's what drives me. I've had a successful career as an engineering consultant, but it's no longer fulfilling. With all that, when my 13-year-old black lab passed away (I'm single and don't have any children), the timing was right, and Peace Corps seemed to be a great opportunity.

I didn't "choose" Mexico. It was more like Mexico chose me. I applied for the Peace Corps in February 2010 and was initially scheduled to serve as an IT Specialist in Eastern Europe starting this March. In November, my plans changed as my engineering experience made me a good fit for Peace Corps Mexico. Off I go!

UL: What will you be doing in Mexico?
MB: My title is Engineering Specialist, and I will be working with Mexico's National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT). My role is to assist in their mission to promote the scientific development and technological modernization of Mexico. That's a broad description because, as with most Peace Corps assignments, flexibility and the willingness to adapt to changing circumstances and the local culture are critical.

UL: How proficient are you in Spanish now, and what do you hope your Spanish language skills look like at the end of these two years?
MB: I know enough Spanish that I won't starve, and I'll be able to find a bathroom, but it has been 35 years since I studied Spanish in junior high and high school. I expect to be fluent and extremely comfortable speaking Spanish by the time my service is complete. Being immersed in the language and culture will provide the ideal environment, and I've always been a good student. Besides being of benefit to Peace Corps and Mexico, becoming fluent is my primary goal.

UL: What do you know about the language training program you will participate in during your first three months in Mexico?
MB: Not too much. I will be moving to Mexico as part of a group of about 20 volunteers. We will be divided into groups of five based on our language skill, and we will study with a local teacher six days a week. Some of our training will be cultural and job-specific, but language will be the primary focus. Based on the blogs of other Peace Corps volunteers, it will be a demanding, and often exhausting, three months, but also a rewarding time during which I expect to form lasting bonds with my host family and fellow volunteers.

UL: We understand you will be using Ultralingua dictionaries during your stay in Mexico. Which ones are you using, and why did you choose to include them in your language-learning program?
MB: Initially, I expect to make the most use of Ultralingua's Spanish-English dictionary for Mac and for the iPhone to help me in my studies and to simply communicate my needs or thoughts. As my mastery of Spanish grows and I create documents for work, I will rely on Spanish Grammatica to minimize how much my coworkers have to correct my writing. The combination of products should reduce the number of times I embarrass myself by mangling the language.

I have also armed myself with the Spanish Comprehensive Dictionary by Vox, expecting to use it to become more precise in my use of Spanish, to make sure I'm using Latin American rather than European terms, and simply as a native-language dictionary once I'm semi-fluent.

I chose Ultralingua's products because I used the English-German dictionary six years ago when I lived and studied in Berlin. It was highly recommended by my German language teacher, and I was very pleased with it.

UL: What are you most excited for now, just a few short weeks from departure?
MB: I'm anxious to get started! I'm excited, and a bit nervous, to get situated with my host family. I'm also nervous and excited to start building my language skills, so my ability to contribute at work is not limited by a language barrier. Once I'm established in the country, I'm looking forward to exploring Mexico, and during time off, neighboring countries.

Everyone here at Ultralingua wishes Michael luck in this future endeavor. To read more about this exciting experience as it progresses, you can follow Michael's blog here. If his story has inspired you and you would like to learn more about opportunities to volunteer with the Peace Corps, you can explore their website.

Featured Partner: Mobile-XL

Ultralingua Solutions are positioned at the intersection of technology and language. Our mission is to break through language barriers and meet the challenges of an increasingly interconnected world. We accomplish our mission by partnering with innovative companies and organizations that are set to leverage Ultralingua technology and linguistic expertise in exciting new ways.

Among our group of innovative partners is the California-based company, Mobile-XL. Ultralingua is proud to have joined with Mobile-XL to bring the best of the internet to the people of Africa via the mobile OS, XLBrowser™. This remarkably low-cost, yet highly advanced mobile OS delivers important content to parts of the African continent where internet access is often scarce or non-existent. Leveraging the power of SMS, or "short messaging service," Mobile-XL is able to provide news, music, games and more at an extremely low cost, all via the same technology that we use to send a text message. Mobile-XL utilizes Ultralingua's API to provide on-the-fly dictionary and French-English translation services in XLBrowser™. This content is provided directly to low-cost cellular phones.

You can learn more about Mobile-XL, the XLBrowser™, and their mission on their website. You can also find them on Facebook.

For more information about Ultralingua Solutions and to find out what Ultralingua could do for you, visit our Solutions page, or contact us directly at business@ultralingua.com.

Spotlight: Inside Ultralingua

At Ultralingua, we make software for people who love languages. We specialize in the tools that make multilingual business, travel, and learning possible. Of course, these tools don't make themselves. Ultralingua's products are compiled and maintained by a team of language professionals, including linguists, university professors, and professional translators. We've introduced you to some of these professionals in previous articles, like last month's interview with Jeremy Bergerson and January's look back at 2010.

You can meet the rest of our staff and editors here and, in learning about their favorite hex color codes and chart formats (hint: it's pie), you can witness the same frank earnestness with which we do business. We love what we do at Ultralingua, and we're looking for more people to join our team. Check out our Ultralingua Flickr page for pictures of our talent hunt in action.

We hire people who love it here because they found a place that lets them dig into what inspires them. We are looking for the combination of skills and creativity that brings us people who can figure things out in new and clever ways. We believe problem solving is fun, and we like working with people who approach things in an interesting way. If this sounds like an appealing workplace, you can peruse our employment opportunities page. In fact, we are currently looking for software developers to join our team. The listings include both full and part time positions and are posted as the need arises. You can take a look at our internship program as well, which has four cycles throughout the year.

Our work environment is also highly collaborative – the opinions of Ultralingua employees matter on everything from feature design to company direction. We depend on our employees to share ideas and thoughts on how we can do things better.

Even if you're not looking for employment, you're still part of the Ultralingua team. Want to talk or ask us questions? Just tweet @ultralingua, write on our Facebook wall, or post to our forums to connect with our team or with other users. If you haven't already done so, friend and follow us now to keep abreast of language news and company announcements, to participate in fun linguistic trivia competitions, and to connect with other people who love languages.

Tools to Try: Ultralingua's Online Dictionary

Many of you are familiar with Ultralingua's Online Dictionary, but there's more than one way to reap the benefits of Ultralingua's online services. Our online dictionary is available as a web page for iPhone and iPod touch. All you need to do to access it is visit http://www.ultralingua.com/mobile/ from your iOS device. For convenience, you can add a shortcut to the web app to your home screen by tapping the "share" icon and then choosing the "Add to Home Screen" option.

UL Mobile Dictionary

Wherever there's an Internet connection, you can access our online dictionary, including all Ultralingua language pairs, verb conjugation, and number translation. This service has been around for a long time and will continue to be a valuable resource for even longer -- start taking advantage of it now.


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