Fun Memory Game with German Pronouns

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster
Another little gem from About.com German Language. It’s designed along the lines of the old memory game, where you have a number of cards with images placed face-down on the table. There are two images of each, and the player has to try to remember where they are located.

The same here, but this time not with images, but with German pronouns. Practice both your memory and your skills with German pronouns. It’s fun!


Use Your Ego to Stay Motivated

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

If you are well into your language studies you will have noticed obstacles on your way, and as in any other learning process, you have to find ways to overcome them.

You might get stuck at a grammar structure, you just don’t get the pronunciation of some words right, or you might be frustrated about your slower than expected progress.

Let’s talk about ‘ego’ for a couple of seconds here. ‘Ego’ is supposed to be a bad thing, at least according to Gautama Buddha, since it is the cause for all suffering.

Sounds great to me. However, I’m still battling with mine (LOL) , and I guess so are you. Why not use it as a tool for staying motivated?

Imagine yourself at the end of your learning process, speaking whatever language you are learning fluently.

Let’s say you’re learning Italian, and your Sicilian boyfriend drops by for a visit. Your other friends are there, and you are chatting away happily in Italian. How would that make you feel?

You are a mother of two teenagers, the going is rough, and on top of that you committed yourself to that darn Spanish course. You are in a fight with your daughter when your Spanish teacher calls you to ask about your assignment. You are happy about the distraction and chat away happily in Spanish. How would that make you feel?

You see, pull any register to stay motivated, do what it takes, if you persist you WILL speak that language in the end.  



German Crossword Puzzle

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

Distract yourself for a couple of minutes and do this German crossword puzzle. It has been developed by About.com German Language, and it is geared towards the lower intermediate level.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so if you don’t get it all in your first session, come back later and try again.


Excellent Free German Course by ‘Deutsche Welle’.

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster
‘Deutsche Welle’ (the German equivalent of the BBC World Service) has developed a very comprehensive German language course which I highly recommend.

I recommend it to the student of the German language living outside Germany. The course in itself is not designed with you in mind, rather for the foreign student already living in Germany. However, if you are enrolled in a German language course in your country, then it is excellent support material that will help you develop your listening comprehension, increase your vocabulary and review grammar points. And it doesn’t matter what your mother language is, you can access the support material in almost any language.

Teachers: This is definitely for you. I have been using it in my classes for almost 10 years now, and my students practically fall in love with the fictional characters we encounter in it. Besides, the course conveys as well lots of facts about day-to-day life in Germany, her history and her culture.  You find the link here.


Mexico – A Country of Procrastinators?

Living in Mexico

Every language has at least some words in it that are practically impossible to translate. They have a meaning very specific to the culture from which they originate,  and since no two cultures are alike you have to laboriously explain a word like that. The best thing, however, would be not to use it at all.

‘Procrastination ‘ is a word like that, I still have to find an equivalent for it in either German or Spanish.

And that already answers the question posed in the title of this entry: No, Mexicans are not procrastinators, the concept as such doesn’t exist here.

Now, does that mean that every meeting down here begins on schedule, every appointment is honored at the time agreed?

Far from it.

But that’s not because things are being put off to a later time for a reason specific to them. It’s simply because at the time of the appointment something suddenly comes up that is more important.

Anglo-Saxons like to prioritize, plan, and then execute. Things down here are more circumstancial, happen at the spur of the moment.

And that’s not good nor bad, it’s simply the way it is. You have to be ready for surprises if you want to live or at least spend considerable time down here.

The biggest mistake you could make is to take it personal if a Mexican friend doesn’t show up for that drink he said he was going to have with you at seven o’clock in your neighborhood bar. Or if he shows up at eight and you’re already half drunk…….
For your free, no obligation trial of Rocket Spanish click here.


I confess

Living in Mexico

At a very young age I got interested in current events, and ever since then I’ve been reading news papers, listening to the radio, and watching tv news programs on a daily basis – and I continue to do so. By now obviously I access most of the information over the Internet. My favorite by far is BBC World Service, with two German tv stations as a close second and the German magazine Der Spiegel as a runner up.

I ran a business in Mexico-City in the nineties, and in order to connect and network (that was still offline at the time) I had to be informed about what was going on in Mexico.  And I was.

However, over the last ten years I lost interest, at least in Mexican day-to-day politics. Big news I hear over the BBC. That’s how I find out that another stack of 50 dead bodies shows up on a highway near Monterrey, for example.

But I only recently heard from one of my students that the presidential candidate for the National Action Party is a woman. I don’t mind (I was an ardent fan of Margaret Thatcher), I just didn’t know.

Do I know that a war is raging down here – of course I do, read this post. However, when I want to find out about the annual inflation rate, I rather talk to the grocer in my neighborhood.
For your free, no obligation life time trial of Rocket Spanish click here.


Breaking Language Barriers

Guest Post by WeTranslateTLab

Once a colleague of mine asked me if I was happy. I didn't answer her back then, but thought this over. Am I happy? And what is happiness?

This is the questions most of us have been trying to answer all our lives, but does anyone have a correct answer? I think, it could be yes and no at the same time. No, because nobody knows the correct definition for the happiness so that it suits everyone. For somebody it is love, for others money, for third something else. But yes, because everybody is happy in his or her own way, you just need to want it. It's easy.

I love my family, love my children, love my colleagues and my work, love what I do. Do it sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes superb, sometimes worse than anyone else could ever do. But I love it. I learnt to value every second of my 'measly existence'. I love to write, love when something comes out under my hand (keyboard actually), even if not everyone likes it, I will do it anew again and again, so that everybody could be satisfied.

I love people around me. And that's funny, really, because I don't know many people I work with. Some I don't know at all, some know just a little, some are my good friends, some are just colleagues.

You are sure to ask: how could that be? How is it possible not to know people you work with? Let me explain.

We are doing software localization: take a piece of software and first write the correct words for its interface and then translate it into lots of other languages. Forty four of them, to be exact. And at the same time there are only five of us sitting at the same office, all my other colleagues work somewhere else around the world. Miles and miles away... I never saw them, never ever spoke to them. And at the same time I got to know some of them quite well.

When we started this work, we had two main obstacles to overcome: a way to easily translate the interface of TeamLab software (as we work for it) and means to communicate with all the translators around the world. Both were not that easy as it could be.

The first was solved when the translation system was invented. And, being invented in cooperation with us translators, for the translators and under supervision of the translators, it's come out just as great as we wanted it to be, making me (again!) happy with it. It works as it was meant to work, and can withstand the presence of several dozens of translators at the same time.

The second could be solved using the email communication, but we quickly realized all the drawbacks of such a way. The number of emails grew proportionally together with the number of our translation team members (we are now more than a hundred and a half and that's not that easy to track everything that happens using just email correspondence), and what could be done with all the news and announces we had? Email them to all the translators all the time? That's wasn't the way for us. We needed something else, something more like our own society.

We needed a community.

The community for those who want to translate, for those who want to write, for those who just need to communicate. Yes, we have such people among our translators. They just came to us to communicate, not even to translate or to write. We give this to them as well, because believe that with the course of time they might become our translators. Even if one of them does, it will be great. If not - why not make these people a little bit happier, it is that easy.

And we created such a community - 'Breaking the Language Barriers' portal. Invited all our translators there - and almost all of them who worked with us at the time the community was started (that was on December 27th, 2011) joined it, proving our idea, that it was really important for them as well. We started with about thirty translators, then we grew and soon we will be (I believe that) more than two hundred and will continue to grow. We have translators to all kind of languages: Latin alphabet, Cyrillic, Chinese, Georgian, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic... Lots of languages! Every day we discover new languages for us, see how our portals look like translated into them, love that very much, crave for new languages to be added to our translation system and to the portals, and are glad like children, when a new translator joins us.

That's true, new translators make us glad. And old ones make us happy.

We love to talk to them, love to read their posts in forums and blogs, love when they write something about themselves, about the work they do, love their successes, worry when they have some troubles with the translations. "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." They are no longer just translators. They are OUR translators.

That's how come I don't know most of my colleagues in person. But I know quite a lot about them from what they write, from how they work.

There is a professor from a Brazilian university, who started the translation even when there was no translation system. He works with his students on the translation and likes being praised.

There is a nice lady from mainland China, who translated everything alone, not only portals but also our site, the only one from the translators.

There is a guy from Finland, who translated every single word, every single document, everything at all we could provide him with, tested everything even better than our staff testers, but he himself does not even have a portal of his own and does not need anything from us, just wanted his work to be released into public, that's all. That's just unbelievable!

There is another guy from Vietnam, who managed to translate everything for less than a week (usually it takes not less than a month), working daily and nightly, because he needed it. A low bow to him!

There have been teams formed inside the community - Polish team, Ukrainian team, Finnish team, Dutch team, Portuguese team, other teams as well. They come to our community and communicate not only with us, but also with each other, in their own languages - they wouldn't even ever know each other if our community didn't exist. And that thought makes my head go round. And makes me love my job even more. Makes it meaningful.

We are waiting for new translators, welcome all of them to our community. It is not even the matter of translation. It is a matter of translators. We are translators ourselves, and we love to be among the ones alike. That's why we never regret if translators do not translate anything, but simply communicate with us. That means they just needed this, this is what had meaning for them.

The meaning in everything is what makes my life not futile. What makes me happy.

Yes, I am happy.
We Translate TeamLab is the content writing and translation team for TeamLab web service. It has its own community where anyone can join to participate. You are also welcome to learn our latest news at twitter and follow us on pinterest.


German Pronunciation is a Piece of Cake

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

To learn German is not the easiest task. I wouldn’t say the language is complicated, but it is very precise. Hence it has more vocabulary and grammar rules than, lets say, Spanish or English.

There is however a big upside to choose German if you want to speak a foreign language – its pronunciation is very straightforward.

As an English native speaker you obviously know that written English can differ a lot from spoken English – in other words what you see (read) is not what you get (hear).

Ask anybody who has learned English as a second language, and they will tell you that it was pretty difficult in the beginning to deal with the fact that the written word many times has no or little correlation to the sound of that word.

In German, however, what you see is definitely what you get. With a very few minimal exceptions you pronounce words exactly as they are written.

One of your first task as a German student then is to learn the abc and how you say each letter. Since there are only 29 letters (including umlauts ä, ö and ü), that’s a pretty quick process.

From there on it’s all downhill, at least as far as pronunciation is concerned. Read loud exactly what’s in front of you. If necessary, i.e. if you get stuck, simply slow down, start again at the beginning of the word and simply link one letter to the next.

And don't forget to enjoy the process, have some fun!


Teaching English in Mexico

Living in Mexico

If you are considering migrating to Mexico, or you are planning on a prolonged stay here, then you have probably thought about, or at least heard about, the opportunity of teaching English.

Let me dispel a myth first. You will not be able to live off the money you might be earning as a language teacher, unless you are willing to spend many years of building up a reputation and getting to know the market. I am personally doing it, and I’m doing pretty well. However, I’ve been living here for more than 20 years, where I live (Xalapa) I’m practically a brand, I’ve got my niche nicely carved out. But again, it took me many years.

But don’t be discouraged! You will definitely be able to teach English on a part-time basis for a couple of hours a week, even if you don’t have any previous teaching experience, and then go from there.

See, there are big language schools like Harmon Hall or The Institute that have franchises all over the country, particularly in the bigger cities. And those schools are usually eager to hire Americans.

They have training programs for people without previous teaching experience, so to begin with your only requirement would be to speak English well.

They don’t charge for the training programs, and you don’t get paid for participating in them. But if you stick with them for a couple of weeks, you will probably be offered a position.

That position would most likely entail of you giving one one-hour class per day to begin with. And then go from there. If your students like you and your performance, you will be offered more classes along the way.

However, and that’s where we come full circle, the pay is lousy. You could expect to get paid somewhere between U$ 5.00 and U$ 10.00 per hour of class. Apart from that, you will have to be present at teacher’s meetings and generally participate in other staff activities.

But let me finish by saying that it is well worth a try if you plan to supplement other incomes you might have. 



My Neighborhood

Living in Mexico

I have been living in my neighborhood for three years now. It is an uptown area in Xalapa, the capital of the State of Veracruz in the south-east of the country. It used to be a pretty sleepy place. I remember from my first visit in 1992 that it was a residential area. At that time there were no shops and hardly any traffic.

By now it’s bustling with activity. Which I like just fine, since I can do all my shopping within a 5 minutes radius walking distance.

And it feels really comfortable to be a part of the community. There is the baker, the cobbler, the person who sells the different cheeses, the pharmacist etc., and me, the teacher. I know everybody, and everybody knows me.

Mind you, as in any other country, it didn’t happen over night. However, once ‘they’ get to know you, they are very accessible, always ready for a chat, ready to return a smile, ready to be friendly.

It obviously helps that I speak Spanish fluently. If you are thinking of migrating to ‘México mágico’, learning Spanish is a must.

The upside is that it isn’t really that difficult to learn. 



For German Teachers

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

I myself am kind of a traditionalist. What I mean to say is that I don’t go necessarily for the latest fad in teaching technology, nor do I try to be fashionable. And if I find material that has been around for some years but is still solid, I recommend it to you.

Let me introduce you to Nancy  Thuleen (you find her bio here). She’s set up a website for English native speakers who teach German, and it’s based on common sense teaching methods.

All exercises and vocabulary sheets come with an answer sheet. They are compartmentalized in vocabulary, grammar, writing, etc. Access it here.



Stop “Thinking” in Your Mother Language

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

First of all, there seems to be no agreement in the neurosciences whether we actually think in words. I personally don’t think so, I believe we think in images, emotions, or what have you. Of course, you might say “But look, Georg, I’m observing myself right now, and I do think in words”, and I would believe you . However, I would point out that you are visualizing your words……..

Be it as it may, if you’re learning a foreign language like Spanish or French, you might be doing exactly the same, and you would perceive yourself as thinking in your own language. And that is an obstacle to your progress. Because you would have to revert the process in order to express what you’re thinking into Spanish or French.

If you “think” love, stop doing so. Just remember what it feels like to love and to be loved, and translate THAT into Spanish or French. If you want to talk about yesterday’s excitement when your baseball team won, don’t “think” it. Remember what it felt like and look for the equivalent sound you would use in that other language to express that. After all, words are basically sounds to which we associate a certain meaning. 

Doing that you will be saving a lot of time and effort and you will advance more quickly.



Spanish Crossword Puzzles

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

SPANISHTOWN.CA have designed a series of crossword puzzles for the English native speaker who is learning Spanish, particularly children. Their main purpose is to build up vocabulary.

They are also very helpful for Spanish teachers in their classrooms.

They are in .pdf format, so you can’t solve those puzzles online. Each puzzle comes with an answer key attached to it. My suggestion would be to print out the puzzle itself, do it, and then go back online to check your results.



Do You Need to Speak Another Language?

When it comes to learning a new language, you deserve the best. I fully endorse and recommend the Language training courses below. They provide you with the same quality material and high standard of learning as Rosetta Stone, while at the same time being far more economical.

Should you decide to purchase a package, they come all with a 60 day money back guarantee, no questions asked. 

Click below on the language you want to speak (opens in a new window). If you want to learn a language I haven’t listed, please let me know.

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                             Speak CHINESE fast                    Speak ITALIAN fast    

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Read some cheap novel to build up vocabulary.

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

As soon as you can, and that would be around the lower intermediate level, pick up some paperback in the foreign language you are learning. Some irrelevant love story, maybe a detective novel, anything simple that you can read and understand. What I mean is, if you are learning Spanish, don’t begin with Cervantes! That would be equivalent to a learner of English starting off with Shakespeare.

Read as much as you can, and only look up words in the dictionary if absolutely necessary. As long as you understand the context, plow through it. Meaning of new words will become clear over time as you see them in different contexts.  




Why Your Pronunciation Is Important

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

Many thanks to Berlitz for this hilarious clip. There is really no comment necessary, enjoy!




Marines vs. Narcos, or just Firecrackers?

Living in Mexico

It’s about a year ago that war has come to my neighborhood. It began with little things, like a student of mine calling me on my cell to warn me of a shoot-out on the thoroughfare, a kind of “Don’t go shopping now!” call.

The other day I was running a promotional campaign for my language classes on the main avenue, when a column of ten vehicles, all full with marines with their rifles at the ready, approached me. And it did feel like those rifles were pointed at me. I looked back, the other way, from where another ten vehicles with masked and armed soldiers drove up.

I was about to pack up and go home when all vehicles stopped, everybody got off and went into restaurant across the street for a couple of tacos. I went home, anyway.

The third of May is the ‘Day of the Bricklayer’ here in Mexico, and the bricklayers like to celebrate it with setting off lots of firecrackers. Well, I dunno, it makes me nervous.

I’ve just been told that the marines, who have taken up station a couple of blocks from here, were victim of a drive-by shooting. Well, they gave chase, and I’m still trying to figure out the differences between sounds made by machine guns and people harmlessly celebrating.


Work on your pronunciation NOW

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

It is important to work on your pronunciation right from the start. Let me explain by telling you a (sad) story from Mexico-City.

There was this Mexican high level executive with a multinational German company. Being very ambitious, he wanted to work out of headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany. For that he had to speak German obviously. So he gave it all…….

He was highly intelligent. However, his pronunciation proved to be a challenge right from the start. And, sad to say, his teachers didn’t really focus on polishing it, because they thought that building up vocabulary and fluency was more important. And he did that easily.

They simply got used to him talking German in a funny way.

The end of the story is that he never made it to Germany. Headquarters sent one of their specialist to test his German skills, and it took this gentleman about 10 minutes to be able to understand the candidate. After that it turned out that his vocabulary and use of grammar was almost perfect. So what? The company couldn’t afford to have somebody working for them in Germany whose visitors, new colleagues, clients etc. needed 10 minutes to find out that he actually spoke German well.

And, more importantly, after a certain stage it is very, very difficult to change and improve your pronunciation. So work on it right from the start, get it ´right’ at the beginning.



Look Up International News Media

Tips, Tricks and Resources to Learn A Foreign Language Faster

Let’s say you’re an American learning French. And let me further assume that you know what’s going on in this world, that you have at least a fleeting interest in current affairs.

You have a great opportunity to build up vocabulary by finding online French newspapers like for example Le Monde .

Make it a habit to read it daily. Not all of it, depending on your current level you might get overwhelmed.

Read the international news. You will be aware of the context, comprehension will be far easier, and over time you will build up vocabulary.



“I don’t care about your life!” he told me...

Guest Post By Anker Frankoni

A few years ago, an event in my life put me on a search for answers about my past that had been buried for generations in the dark secrets of the side of my family I barely knew. The search eventually took me to Central Mexico, where I lived in San Miguel de Allende for much of 2009. Telling my friends and family I was writing a book in San Miguel, in reality, I was soon spending far more time playing golf in the company of old men. After a couple of months, one of those old men--a 78 year-old retired Senior Editor from one of Mexico City’s oldest daily newspapers--finally called me out one Tuesday afternoon over drinks in the clubhouse after I’d played 18 holes with him, and two other members also old enough to be my grandfathers.

“Young man,” he began, “Finally this mystery is too much for me! Here you are, how old? Not even forty? You show up here, unknown to us all, with your tattooed knuckles and the oh-so-sporty hats, and come back day in and day out, calmly losing your money to us viejos, and pretending you can’t break a hundred on the course! If you are never going to finally start sharking us, just what the hell are you doing here in Mexico?!”

Nonchalantly sliding my Goorin Bros. cap off the table and out of sight into my lap, I scooted my chair in to get closer to him and start the elevator-pitch I’d practiced so often on the folks back home: “Well Señor Alvarado,” I replied across the table, "I’m actually here in Mexico working on a book. It’s a tale of two lives, sepa--”

¡Coño!” He burst out, shutting down the beginning of my shpeal with a few quick snorts of scoffing laughter. “Anker my friend, you are working on a book no more than I am, or Carrasco, or Fat Pancho there, or anybody else enjoying this fine afternoon in our bar. No -- you are playing golf, and drinking, and if you look at the sign-in log at the entrance, this seems to be what you have been ‘working’ at for more weeks than the fingers of my hands can now count.”

“But excuse me,” he continued, “I must be assuming that you, like the rest of us here, are at home sleeping for eight hours in the night. But these are the eight hours in which you write every day, yes?” Leaning back to see if I were going to bite that hook, Alvarado took a long sip of his Scotch and Soda, and then continued: “So this book you are working on, Anker.... What is it concerning?”

Keen to redirect the conversation back to the comfort-zone of my oft-repeated pitch, while Señor Alvarado took another sip from his highball, I smoothly peeled off a dozen words of my script before receiving his next wet-washcloth slap to the face of my pride: “Essentially Sir, 'Mexican Eskimo' is a story about my life, and theories of reincar--”

“Your life?” He nearly choked on his whisky in his haste to cut me off again: “Your life? What do I care about your life? Who are you? A famous actor? Political figure? Sports hero? No... No Anker: I do not care about your life.”

Draining the last two sips from his drink while shooting a quick glance at the clock above the bar, Alvarado stood up, announced that his driver had arrived, and carefully positioned his prized Montecristi Panama hat upon his head, while my angry, clenched fists hid under the table, twisting into a ruined rag the shamed hipster lid I’d thought made me look so refined on the course that morning. With a final tweak to the brim of his Montecristi, Señor Alvarado walked around to my side of the table, lay his hand on my shoulder, then leaned down to look me directly in the eyes. “But Anker," he said, "I have been watching you: I see that you are perceptive. I see the patience that you exercise in this daft experiment we undertake to put the small ball in the small hole that is too far away for logic, and this strange habit you have developed of spending your days here at Club Malanquín in the company of old age, tells me clearly that you are some kind of mold-breaker.” After pausing for a moment to let that sink in, he continued: “But when you are ready to get serious, and really begin the actual work of writing this story of yours, remember that nobody here (and he stood to indicate every man gathered in the bar) cares to increase our understanding of your life! We, and everyone else on this planet, are all striving to better understand our own. Write a book that helps me do that, and I will personally be very happy to read this 'Mexican Eskimo' of yours.” Señor Alvarado thumped me fondly on the back, and as he exited the bar, called back over his shoulder: “But get to it my friend; some of us here can’t wait much longer!”

... So did I do it? Did I put my glass down, swear off weekday golf and drinking until I too properly earned my own valid retirement, and get serious about writing something to convey some new understanding about life to a person as worldly and educated as my friend Señor Alvarado? I’m sorry to say that I did not. Not, at least, in time for him. Perhaps with your help, I can still honor his spirit, and redeem a little of the faith that an honest and forthright friend once placed in me down in Mexico

Part joker, part thief, part joyful, part grief. Anker Frankoni’s new book ‘Mexican Eskimo’ is a tale of two lives, separated by the one he’s currently occupying. Find out more at MexicanEskimo.com or to follow Anker’s occasional threads of 3:00 AM Haiku, and other sporadic letter-cobbled strips of electronically encapsulated musings, join him at Follow.us


Plan Your Mexico Move Now, Not Mañana

Guest Post By Linton Robinson

I've lived in Mexico for twenty years, including eight in Mazatlán and seven on Isla Mujeres, and more in Baja, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, coastal Oaxaca, and Tijuana.  My friends and neighbors have included everything from seasonal "snowbirds" to entrenched ex-pats with Mexican citizenship to temporary wastrels and deportees. After a while certain patterns and successful strategies for relocation become evident.  Moving to Mexico, especially for retirees, is a compelling idea with a lot going for it.  But doing it without planning and research can lead to moving to the wrong place for the wrong reasons and turning paradise into an ongoing nuisance.  Let me offer some observations on what tends to work, and what doesn't. 

I'm continually amazed to see people who wouldn't think of moving across their own state without looking into the new town in depth, yet buy a condo from a street hustler and move to Mexico without any idea of the area other than how the beach looks through the bottom of a Corona bottle.  There is no single factor more important to relocating to another country and culture than to research it first.  "Research" need not mean poring over Google and library references: it can be as simple as asking some obvious residents at the next table about the area during your times ashore from a multi-port cruise.  Many come to a resort town in Mexico, like it, and come back year after year, then think about moving there when they get the gold watch and escrow from selling their home in Frozen Elbow, Michigan.  If you're thinking of retiring to Mexico, why not take a vacation in a different area every year?  And maybe not always at the beach: the upland colonial towns are rich with beauty, facilities, and more suitable climate.  That's why all the big tropical capitals got built at 4,000 feet.  If you start zeroing in on an area, go there in the summertime.  With the exception of Los Cabos, every beach resort in Mexico offers lovely weather in February (and you appreciate it more when three days before you were de-icing your windshield)  but sweaty, oppressive misery, and perhaps hurricanes and epidemics, in September.  If you're going to be spending summers with the grandkids in the States, fine.  But if you'll be living in Vallarta or Cozumel or Puerto Escondido in the summer, you are likely to suffer.  And turning on the air conditioner will only shift that suffering to other areas.  Like $400 light bills.  Scout it out first. 

Another area of "research" should entail learning some Spanish.  The more the better.  You can spend a month in Mazatlán around tourists and gringo-wrangler waiters who all speak English, but living in a country where you can't get by in the local tongue is arrogant and self-defeating.  Just as one small example, when I ask the price of food in the market, they immediately name me a price much lower than the one they just gave the gringos trying to be understood by speaking English louder.  There's an "Inglés tax" on a lot of things from help to plumber's fees to traffic ticket bribes.  But beyond that, Spanish really does open the country up to you.  One thing you often see among ex-pats is that the ones who learn Spanish start developing more Mexican friends--and Mexicans are very good friends, in general--and enjoying life more, seeing more of their new world and appreciating it more fully.  This is another thing it's well to get started on well before actually making your move.  I'm among those who finds it easy to pick up language in an area it's spoken, but difficult with books and classes.  Let me suggest a short version of my patented Spanish learning method. 

Get a Spanish-English dictionary.  The University of Chicago paperback is cheap, small, and the best one you can get because it has a very smart way to deal with irregular verbs.  Any college book store will have a rack of those laminated, three-hole subject sheets: get the one for Spanish grammar.  Takes  up no space, no weight, and has all you need to know about grammar once you get to that point.  Get Mexican children's books and comic books to learn from.  Do kids learn their own language with newspapers and novels?  Follow their lead.  Get a steno pad to write down any word you don't get.  Look it up and put the definition beside it.  If you can't find it, ask the next Spanish-fluent person you meet, and write it down.  Review your notebook from time to time. See if you can find local conversation groups.  Try to find a Mexican restaurant to patronize to the point that they will talk with you, give you good pronunciation.  Get recordings of Mexican songs with lyrics printed in English and Spanish.  Linda Ronstadt's "Canciones De Mi Padre" records are perfect, but anything you can find lyrics for will work.  Google "letra" to search for Spanish lyrics.  When you learn the words to a song or poem, you learn them for good. Again, it's why so much teaching for kids is in rhyme.  Try renting films with Spanish subtitles, or Spanish language films with English subtitles.  A great way to learn, though translations are sometimes a little sloppy.  Whatever other classes you might take, these methods will supercharge your "real world" relationship with Spanish.

Decide what kind of environment you want to live in.  Visiting different vacation sites helps, as does talking to people familiar with other areas.  Travelogue DVD's and shows help too.  The beach areas are not always the best bet.  Acapulco is a place very few foreigners would want to live.  Inland colonial cities like Morelia are charming, cheap, and blessed with springlike climate.  And look for other features.  Just as a young family will want to know what schools are in the area, retirees or working ex-pats will want to know about local hospitals, real estate values, and the availability of the things they want and need.  The days when you had to beg visitors to bring peanut butter or pickles from the States or Canada are gone, but there's a big difference between a city with a WalMart or Sam's Club  and some bucolic pueblo where you can't find your favorite clothes, food, or lifestyle supplies.  Sure, you pick up new tastes, but it's a matter of how much of a "crash" your move will be.  Some areas are very easy for a foreigner to move right into.  Mazatlán and Cancun have big modern hospitals and populations of thousands of English-speakers.  "Maz" also offers the ability to choose between very North-American areas and other areas that are very Mexican.  Gringo "enclaves" like Ajijic, on a lake near Guadalajara, are even more "gringo-friendly" in many ways, but many find them too Americanized. Many find tight groups of ex-pats to be confining and prefer being able to choose company and commodities from both sides of the fence.  Isla Mujeres is paradise on a tiny island (in winter at least), with the advantages of big city Cancun kept at bay by a ferry ride.  A major urban center like Guadalajara is like being in Chicago: you can find almost any style of life somewhere in its sprawl of suburbs.   Beach towns built on tourism alone can get old fast.  I wouldn't recommend Puerto Vallarta or  Puerto Escondido to very many people. Small, hustler-ridden, and far from urban facilities.  Los Cabos offers a year around climate, large foreign population and plenty of movies, shopping and diversions, but is a crazy rat-race, like living in Las Vegas.  I currently live in Tijuana, where lots of Americans find life to be congenial, though few would rave about how wonderful it is.

Which brings me to this.  When people hear that I live in "TJ" they often say, "Aren't you afraid?"  And I say, "Compared to where?  Detroit?  East St. Louis?  Compton?  Dade County?"  It is not an area where foreigners get gunned down.  My neighborhood is as safe and peaceful as Mayberry.  And I pay two hundred a month for a very nice townhouse with a view and internet and anything I ever need a few blocks walk.  But my point is, the danger to foreigners in Mexico is highly exaggerated.  Even the U.S. State Department is hysterical about it.  Residents here snicker at the dire warnings of our own government.  Don't freak out over headlines about 30 people being shot in a city.   Ask if any were foreigners.  Or, in fact, if a single one of them was not a narcotics industry professional or police officer.  Which, sorry to say, are usually the same people.  Drug gangs gun each other down in Miami all the time, but people don't dread going there.  There is huge wave of kidnapping in Mexico, but I can't think of a single American or Canadian who was kidnapped here.  They like outside income and people who strike against tourists and retirees generally lose the protection that corruption has bought them. Nobody wants foreigners to get hurt.
Here's a general rule about safety in Mexico.  Your possessions are at higher risk than in the states.  You need to be extra careful.  Don't use your credit card for small purchases: get pesos and spend them.  Make sure any house you rent or buy has what the Mexicans' homes have:  barred windows, good locks, maybe a yard dog.   It's not something peculiar to Mexico: most of the world is the same way.
Your person, on the other hand, is safer than back home.  Crimes like muggings, rape, kidnapping, and murder are rarer than in the states, and almost non-existent in the foreign population.  When you hear of them, you generally find somebody was up to no good or being really, really stupid.

Mexico has some major advantages as a place to live, and a wide spectrum of ways to live here.  There is probably a place for almost anybody to enjoy the kind of life offered, and live cheaply with new vistas and opportunities for enjoyment without having to sacrifice most of the advantages of living in North America.  And if you do it intelligently and with some prior planning, you should be able to find the place in the sun that's right for you.

Linton Robinson has been a journalist in the USA and Mexico for many years and has several Mexico books on amazon.com.  His 'Mexican Slang 101' is one of the best-selling English books in Mexico.  See more on his website, linrobinson.com.