New Podcast! The Memory Palace is a Happy Place, with Anthony Metivier

Yay, here's episode 14 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast. Thank you guys so much for all the support and attention that the podcast has got over recent months. I really appreciate you all listening and am looking forward to creating more episodes for you. If you want to do something to support this podcast and help me create more shows, please support me on Patreon. It's easy and cheap.

memory podcast

In episode 14, I spoke to a highly unique guy in the language learning world. Anthony Metivier (I've previously reviewed his Udemy course on learning and memorizing vocabulary) and even got to be a guest on his podcast. So Anthony is a regular here on Fluent, and this time I wanted to dig a little deeper into his memory palace world.

Check out the interview for

  • Thoughts on what it is that will stop you from giving up

  • Competition in language learning, and where exactly Freud comes in

  • The point when giving up might be the right decision

  • How a memory palace can be a source of happiness and comfort in your life

  • Fifty shades of German

Article of the Week

20 Struggles of Expats living in Germany

Tips of the Week

Anthony opted for tip number 2 as his favourite, but actually added such a great perspective to Tip 1 that it became unmissable.

1) Label things

2) Use Instagram (Lindsay does Languages has an article about this)

3) Get onto a MOOC

Tips and Links from this Podcast

Support this Podcast through Patreon - every $ helps!

Magnetic Memory Method, the home of Anthony Metivier

The How of Happiness on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Nerdist Podcast

The Vocab Cookbook

National Geographic Documentary: Brain Games

Learn Languages, Skip Hassle and Have Fun: Does Guerrilla Language Learning deliver?

If you have ever spent a little time learning online, you may have noticed that there are lots of great video courses to help you learn languages. Udemy is one of the leading platforms that offers language courses on video. There are courses for learning any language from German to Hebrew, courses about memorizing words (I reviewed Anthony Metivier's course before) and also general courses aimed at helping you develop great learning routines.

guerrilla-course

Just in case you are unaware, I am both a teacher and learner on this platform. I like hanging out on Udemy, because their learning interface is impressive and it allows the instructors to provide special offers, add lectures at any time and reply to questions from participants in lots of detail.

Guerrilla Language Learning

In today’s article, I’ll be reviewing “Guerrilla Language Learning” by Wiktor Kostrziewski, who writes and coaches at 16 Kinds. He’s also an experienced language teacher. I am in contact with many fellow language bloggers, but haven’t had the chance to get to know Wiktor yet, so I’ve been looking forward to trying this course out. It promises that we are going to “learn languages, skip hassle and have fun”.

I have also bagged a fabulous discount for you, making this course available for only $19 if you use the code FLUENTSPRING by May 2015.

Course Structure

Guerilla Language Learning is divided into three sections called “On how things are”, “On how things can be” and “On how things should be”. I am loving this encouraging structure.

Section 1 contains a friendly introduction and a wonderfully strong case for becoming multilingual. Wiktor goes into detail about the promises, hopes and truths of language learning. There is a slightly outlandish lecture comparing languages to food (I’d say skip that one), and a great video examining how language schools actually do their business. Lecture 4 is particularly great, and I feel that the whole section comes down to the essentials right there.

In Section 2, Wiktor focuses on practical approaches to getting things done. He goes into deep detail for learners wanting to develop a routine that works for them. How does learning work for you? How can you make your own textbook? What are tests and certificates good for? In Section 2, those questions are addressed in depth.

And finally, Section 3 was the most interesting one to me! This is the part where you will really make significant changes to how you learn. From improving how you interact with teachers, to optimising how you use internet resources, Wiktor covers an excellent array of how language learners can improve. Out of all the three sections, I would recommend this one the most.

Value for Money

The course is listed in the Udemy Marketplace for $19 (This is especially for users of the code FLUENTSPRING which Wiktor provided me with after I wrote this review), which strikes me as a worthwhile investment. It contains the video lectures, worksheets, live sessions and 2 free books as well. You’ll easily save this much money, many times over, if you have the determination and drive to work through Wiktor’s ideas rather than spending money on language schools. It also requires a significant investment of time. This is no quick fix. Allow at least 2 weeks to work through everything.

Course Pacing

I am not the most patient person and found the 20-minute videos quite overwhelming. I often found my attention getting diverted. The course contains a full five hours of content, but it had me wanting to skip ahead to the next point throughout.

One solution for making yourself work at the right pace could be to download the videos and watch them on long train journeys or listen to the audio in the car. The slides are not required for learning success.

Video Quality

The videos follow the classic concept of presenting slideshows with a voiceover. Both voice and slide quality are high throughout. As always in a lecture like this, I found myself wishing Wiktor had addressed the camera himself on occasion. I want to get to know him better! Video is such a versatile medium and I feel like slideshows with voiceover fail to take advantage of it.

The most important quality aspect that I perceived was the material. Every lecture comes with its own PDF worksheet. And those worksheets are GOOD! They contain thoughtful prompts, further reading recommendations and exercises.

Instructor Quality

I really like Wiktor’s voice and the way he responds to any and every learner question. With over 2000 participants, it’s also clear that he is well-liked. The best thing about him is the sheer focus and depth that he brings to each lecture. He has researched his topic and cannot provide enough information. Sadly, this is also the worst part if you are expecting a quick course. Wiktor’s approach and style work only when you have a good 30 hours to focus. It requires commitment.

Overall Rating

One of my main criticisms is that a few of the lectures in this course feel like musings or blog posts that were converted into a video. It doesn’t make the course a bad investment of time or money. In fact, I found myself agreeing with Wiktor’s sensible perspectives throughout. His recommendations are powerful and they really do work.

But as a result I felt that the course was not well-paced. The lectures needed to be more concise and entertaining, with some of them being cut completely.

The PDF downloads were excellent and delivered Wiktor’s information and exercises in a format I enjoyed.

Final verdict: 4/5, but not suitable if you want something fast

Try the Course Today

Use this link to sign up: http://tiny.cc/guerrillalanguage. And please don't forget that the code FLUENTSPRING will get you an awesome deal and this course for just $19. So worth it, that's a bargain.

Have you joined Guerrilla Language Learning? Are you a Udemy student? I’d love to hear what you thought about my course in the comments or over in the course on Udemy.

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

Three Quick Techniques for Speaking and Writing More in a Foreign Language

If you are the self-directed type of language learner, I bet you’ve got yourself a little routine set up and have a large amount of input coming in. Online courses, flashcard decks, podcasts. And instructions and TV shows. And Harry Potter in whatever language you are learning. It’s all about how much you can put into your head in the shortest possible period of time.

speak-write-more-fluent

And then an article comes along and tells you to “speak more”, so you pack your motivation and get yourself that language exchange partner, you open your mouth and …. nothing. Where the HECK are all those new words, please?

Like you, I totally know the feeling of wanting to just open your mouth and speak. I see it in my students on a regular basis. I can feel it when I try to have a French conversation. Why is it so frustrating?

For me, the heart of the problem lies in the nature of the skills you have been training. There are output and input activities. And within those, thee four core language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. All languages are systems of communication, so they require you to be able to both understand and produce comprehensible things. Balance really matters, and if you are on chapter 15 of your Assimil, but you can’t talk at chapter 3 level, you need to go back to the core language skills and start pushing yourself to go from input to output.

Core Language Skills to the Rescue

Luckily, this isn’t quite as tough as it seems. In my book Fluency Made Achievable, you can find lots of easy exercises for training the specific skills of writing and speaking. And here are three ideas you can use in your language learning routine to focus on boosting your output. If you have to cut some of your study time away from the input-focused tasks through this, don’t hesitate to do so. The aim of incorporating output into your language learning is not to make you better at producing language right away, but instead to give you that core skills balance. You will find that you become a better and more confident speaker through this, and that you’ll start approaching that desirable feeling of fluency and confidence.

1. Reply Back

This exercise is for all those learners who spend hours with foreign language podcasts and TV shows. It cuts right through all those excuses and attention drifts that are holding you back. Whenever you are listening to those recordings, get into a routine of stopping what you are listening to every five minutes. Think about whatever the actors were talking about and imagine you are being interviewed about the same topic. If you are watching a drama, imagine you are part of the action. What would you say? What do you think about these facts?

Don’t just imagine what you would say, but reply back to the video, talk to the actors or the imaginary interviewer in your head. Speak out loud, like no one is around you. This exercise is so perfect for being in the car or studying at home. Not only does it force you to say something, but it also prevents you from tuning out. If you force yourself to think about what was discussed and reply back, you are also forced to listen attentively and make sure you really understand. No more hiding.

If you’re interested in a great tool deeply understanding native language content, check out Yabla, a fabulous tool that goes so much further than your average YouTube channel.

2. Describe Your World

Here is a quote from Fluency Made Achievable, in which I interviewed language learner David Mansaray about his favourite practices in learning a foreign language:

I like to describe the world around me in a the foreign language. For example: ”The boy is wearing a hat”, or ”The woman is pushing a pram”, or ”The people around me are boring so I'd rather think in my head in a foreign language”. I can do this exercise anywhere at any time. It not only helps me practice, but it also helps me to discover vocabulary and grammatical structures I need to work on. I make a note of these in a small notebook I always carry with me and work on them later.

No matter if you are recording a voice memo on your phone or jotting sentences down in a notebook like David does, the key is that you are using your language in the context that works for you. You can go from foreign language shopping lists to describing an everyday scene in great detail. The key is that you maintain active use and produce something in a foreign language on a regular basis. This exercise is also particularly great because it builds habits very easily, which can make a huge difference when you start coming out of the first honeymoon phase.

3. Write Short Lines Every Day

There is a reason I keep making my students aware of the need to write as part of their language practice. Writing forces you into paying attention. When you try to write something on your phone, you miss what's on the TV. When you try to tweet while talking to someone, it comes out as nonsense. Writing has this way of being an activity that tells you "HEY! Look here! This is where you focus now". I often talk about how much I find that this practice is underrated, and it is the quietest core language skill. If speaking a foreign language appealed to you because you are an introvert, or dreaming of overcoming shyness, then you may not be willing to spend hours crafting short stories.

Nonetheless, you should put your mind to short and regular writing practice. A line a day is easily written, takes up five minutes of your time and STILL does more for you than half an hour of podcasts can. If you work with a tutor, why not email or text them in your target language from time to time?

Or alternatively, start out translating one line from your native language every single day. Over time, you will feel this huge sense of achievement as you realise you have written thousands of words in your foreign language. Behold the achievement when it happens, congratulate yourself on your progress and make sure you get this proofread.

Remember Balance

Nothing is as frustrating as feeling you are working hard and making no progress at all, and understanding the core language skills idea will help you propel forward your language learning progress. Getting stuck in a rut is not for you.

Here is the key: Maintain variety and keep doing the things you haven’t done.

It’s not about beating yourself up when you find that your writing skill doesn’t live up to your advanced reading routines. It’s about recognising that there’s a skill gap and getting to work. I promise you that you’ll find yourself getting better and boosting your confidence in a little matter of weeks. It’s incredible what a shake-up can do for language learners.

If you want to work through your own core language skills assessment, check out my book Fluency Made Achievable which is focused entirely on this system of four skills and contains a neat 3 week planner. It will help you build your proficiency and focus on strengthening the precise skills you need.

It's a free app loved by millions. Here's why Duolingo wastes your time.

Whenever I hear that someone new is starting language learning, I get excited. They’re about to enter into this world of verbs and nouns, expressions and exclamations, new culture and new countries. When I hear you say “I’ve started learning a new language”, I want to give you a big ol’ high five.

duolingo review

That is, until you mention Duolingo. The little app with the friendly owl has become the absolute go-to resource for newbies trying to acquire any language. It’s free, it’s accessible and it is based on solid research. What’s not to love, right?

Here is the thing: I don’t love Duolingo. In fact, I don’t get it. I want to enjoy using this little app. I want to be part of the club of people who sit in a doctor’s waiting room levelling up their vocab, but somehow I just don’t get it. In today’s post, I’m going to try and give you some insight into what it is that is making Duolingo so unattractive to me. And by unattractive, I don’t just mean that I personally don’t want to use it. It’s that I actively stay away from recommending it to people as their first language learning contact. When someone asks me how they can get started learning a new language, I don’t want them to start with the Duolingo app. Why?

1. It’s not the Interface

Duolingo is well-designed, pretty, engaging and takes away a lot of the “dusty books” image from learning. It’s an app designed for modern consumers. The mascot is very cute too, so there is very little to dislike about how Duolingo is designed.

2. It’s not the Gamification

Personally, I don’t feel that giving a language learner three lives to pass a lesson is an idea that you’d ever get away with in real life. Imagine if I carried that message into my lessons? Three errors and you’re out? Same error three times, let me start you again? If any IRL teacher did this to a student, they’d be asked to come in for a review with the pedagogy council. If nothing else, the “three lives” concept can actually deter a student from really learning something by understanding it. It prompts learners to guess their way through lessons by remembering what isn’t correct. The addictive nature of game playing makes it tempting to try again, but it doesn’t help with linguistic understanding.

Now why is this not a huge problem with the app? The thing is it seems to be what millions of people want. People enjoy the gameplay aspect of Duolingo so much that its user base grows every single day. And there’s no arguing with the masses. Maybe the gamification aspect is an ineffective gimmick, but it does make language learning accessible. I would argue that it doesn’t make it more fun, but if a label says “game” on it, you’re just more likely to try.

In other words: I don’t think you need a language learning game in your life, but I like that it makes you want to play.

3. It’s not the Business Model

In Episode 12 of the podcast, Chris Broholm and I touched on Duolingo’s business model, which includes selling user generated translations in exchange for providing free language training. I’m not 100% comfortable with this, partly because we would all be up in arms if Flickr or Facebook did it. Paying with your information is an accepted economic fact on the 21st century internet. In effect, Duolingo is not free. It just doesn’t take your money. As long as you're aware of it as a user, then go for it.

4. It’s not the Results

Hey, if there have been studies saying that this works then I am not qualified to argue. Duolingo officially works for getting people to do well on tests. In fact, I think as a pronunciation trainer it is doing a pretty good job. Will the system make you love your new language? Will it make you excited to go out and speak, or to read road signs from abroad? Those are the results I care about when a language learning app comes out, but they’re a lot tougher to measure.

So what is my problem?

Here we get to the nitty-gritty of what drives me crazy about Duolingo. Not the general issues or concepts, but the real reasons that I close down the app within minutes of opening it.

1. It’s the Vocab

Duolingo telling me what my problem is.

Duolingo telling me what my problem is.

When I first started with Duolingo, I tested right into lesson 52 of French. This got me to a vocab level where the app thinks I should handle the following sentences:

“We needed fire.”, “You have to be big.”, “You must eat more.”

I’m not sure that I could come up with many sentences that I am even less likely to use in my life, or to enjoy translating. Because the app generates its sentences automatically, you don’t really get anything that’s very in-depth. In fact, this sentence from a critical review over at Hacking Portuguese sums it up perfectly for me:

The sentences are so far removed from anything that you might actually want to use in conversation that I doubt how much value there is in rote translation.

2. It’s the Translation Pre-Sets

Now, again this is the complaint of an accomplished language learner and not a beginner. I understand that Duolingo isn’t really built with me in mind. For the sake of this post, I tried out both a language I’m proficient at (French) and one that I didn’t know well at all (Danish). Yet I feel it’s justified to complain if they’re going to offer high-level grammatical structures that no one encounters before year 3 or 4 of French, then the computer just needs to become better at knowing that there is way more than one possible translation for most sentences. For a system that builds user habit and loyalty based on little hearts, I lose way too many hearts because I phrase my answers slightly differently than the computer wants me to do this. This is so incredibly frustrating, and so far removed from a joyful and challenging approach to language acquisition that it makes me want to shut down the app straight away.

3. It’s the Machine

I cannot tell you how much I dislike the computer voice. It doesn’t intone, it doesn’t emote, it’s just blank. A blank canvas of words coming at me. Who learns a language for that? Languages are about people. I wish they’d play and work with snippets from media shows or real people’s recordings. Just think of the big efforts Audio Lingua and Rhinospike are making in this area, and you can see that automated heartless computer voices really don’t need to be used in automated language instruction.

Whenever I switch on Duolingo, I get to a place that sits between boredom and outright irritation. Its mechanical, box-ticking structure reminds me of the worst in education, when learners are simply put in front of a multiple choice test and made to regurgitate whatever they had crammed into their minds before. This is not what language learning is about, and this is not how to become good at it. I just straight out refuse to believe that Duolingo can incite the same excitement that a book, a conversation or a foreign tv show could. It doesn’t do it for me.

4. It’s the Lack of Explanations

So here is the thing: Immersion is fine, but I don’t think it’s the answer to all of an adult learner’s language issues. Starting with this app means making up your own explanations for why things are right, it means trial and error. I get the sense that here is where “immersion” becomes completely pointless. In this app, you learn by parroting phrases without even beginning to cover the background stories that grammar and pragmatics tell. I have seen so many forum posts and emails from language learners who felt like they were completely losing the plot and ever wondering “Why am I getting this bit wrong?”. Duolingo would make me so much happier if it provided grammar references, even the most basic ones, and a perspective telling the user “Here’s why people say things this way”. I just cannot fathom how any self-respecting adult learner would put themselves in this babylike position where they simply take the word of a robot as the law. Language learning should make you curious, while this feels to me like it wants to create robots.

Perhaps surprisingly, the aspect of explanation is another thing that the Tell Me More version of Rosetta Stone has been doing rather well. Rosetta certainly isn’t free, but I think it is not comparable.

In Conclusion

This review of Duolingo might fly in the face of what many language beginners experience when they first start interacting with the app. In fact, our regular writer Angel has recently shared her own experiences and lauded Duolingo for a lot of the good stuff it does. The “learning game for adults” aspect of the app is brilliant, and I commend Duolingo for giving millions of people something to do when they feel a little bored online. But ultimately, this is not a system (yet). It's a translation quiz with flashcards built in.

Don't make Duolingo your first stop because it's too likely to be your last

My thoughts come from the point of view of a language teacher, someone who wants people to get into feeling the language instead of simply mastering its technical aspects. Just like the promise of fluency that many tools throw at you, I want you to feel that you have a right to make up your own mind about the Duolingo system. You can use this once a week, you can use it intensively for a few days and run out of steam, or you can just never try at all. Whatever you do, it won’t make you a better or worse language learner. You’re not going about this the wrong way - in fact, if you are just getting started with a new language, here’s my advice: don't make Duolingo your first stop because it's too likely to be your last. There are lots of cheap ways to start learning a language, so make sure that you put something into place that really is productive and doesn’t just feel that way because you earn 200 meaningless points on an app every day.

Have you had good experiences using Duolingo? Have you stuck with it for more than two weeks? I'm sure there are many ways in which you could argue I'm wrong, and I'd love to hear a few in the comments. If you are feeling curious about what you can do in addidion to playing with the little owl, I'd encourage you to subscribe to Fluent and receive a free copy of my resources booklet with specific sections and tips for many languages.

This is not Fantascienza: A Real World Language Learning Sprint

I hope you have been looking forward to Tanja's most recent update of her progress in the italki Language Learning Challenge as much as I have. Tanja signed herself up to taking 20 Italian lessons in just 8 weeks. Has she done it? Is this possible for normal people? Find out everything right here in this awesome guest post.

Where is my Mind?

Only a few days to go until the iTalki Language Challenge ends – I have 18 lessons under my belt and the two that are left have been scheduled, so it’s looking hopeful. I’ve just finished a run of four Italian lessons in five days. In my last blog post, I mentioned that three to four hours a week didn’t seem all that bad to me. What I had forgotten is that when studying on intensive courses, you tend to not do much else. When I was doing my TEFL-training in Spain, the practice part involved teaching in the afternoon and in the evening, plus revision in the morning and preparation every single spare minute in between and on the weekends. With job and life and Italian, the past few weeks have felt like that.

A Hard Day’s Night

I also stated before that without further study in between lessons, people will not progress, or at least they won’t progress fast.

I have become more diligent with reminding my students of that: it’s not possible to upload knowledge into your brain, you will have to revise, you will have to read, you will have to focus. Don’t get me wrong. Every little helps. If you don’t really have time and determination to study right now, a “word of the day”-screensaver is a start. If you’ve previously learned a language and just want to maintain your level, a weekly discussion group might be enough. If you have to send business emails that are fairly standard, you may be able to get them mostly right with templates and a good dictionary. If you only want to read, working up the courage to speak to strangers spontaneously and trying to activate your passive vocabulary could be unnecessary (but I’d still recommend it). But, and this is a big but, if you really want to improve fast, or if you are just starting a language and know nothing, you will not be able to get anywhere without putting in some work.

Which brings me back to my hard day’s night. Eighteen hours into the challenge, I am shattered. Still getting over my cold, loads of other stuff going on – the late lessons have been quite strenuous. The good thing about lessons after 9pm is that I’m usually home, but having to be ready and chatty in front of the computer at the end of the day is surprisingly demanding.

Senses working overtime

So how much time have I actually spent studying Italian?

I vowed a few weeks ago to do at least half an hour of active listening per day, which I accomplished mainly by watching television. Having finished my Montalbano-miniseries (English subtitles), I bought a television show on DVD that was meant to have Italian subtitles, but didn’t - I am a little impressed with myself for sticking with it. I do believe that watching “original” television is great for experiencing the correct rhythm and speed of your new language. I have been assiduous and covered a lot of grammar - in theory. I did exercises, I familiarized myself with structures, but I haven’t really applied them much yet. In fact, my last few lessons have been mainly conversation, which has been challenging - but I think I want to go back to fifty percent studying new words and new structures. I also have to read more - I am a visual learner, so my eyes need exposure to correct syntax.

My favourite things

What I have been enjoying most during my learning experience is having set both my phone and my laptop to “Italian”. It’s such a pleasant language!

“Connessione in corso”, “Appena aggiornato”, “Controllo posta”, “Caselle”, ”KK sta scivendo”, “tre minuti fa”, “inserisci il password qui”, “A cosa stai pensando?” “MM ha condiviso questo articolo” - the new language makes facebook updates and various logins much more interesting. The computer settings are good for memorising little words - “aiuto”, “finestra” - and for learning proper sentences like “La batteria non è in carica“ (which means “the battery is not charging”, but unfortunately doesn’t offer an explanation for that…). Most importantly, all of this is a constant reminder that you are currently learning a new language.

Everybody’s talkin’

Let me share with you my three favourite words of the challenge and how I’ve memorised them:

  1. cucciolo - puppy: Puppies are unforgettable per se, but the pic in the 3400 words app is particularly endearing. Even the word is cute!

  2. fantascienza - science fiction: This confused me for the first couple of days because I kept forgetting the word order and fiction and fantasy wouldn’t mingle in my head. But then I remembered a picture I’d once seen on the internets and the picture and the word instantly became associated in my brain. I doubt I’ll forget it again, ever. (I won’t post the drawing for copyright reasons, but google “fanta sea”).

  3. cascina - country house: When I see the word, not only do I have the Blur single ringing in my ears, I also think “Tuscany - countryside - peace and quiet” (see my previous post for more detailed day-dreaming). Note that my associations are not “spiders”, “no central heating”, “no public transport” - because the brain can’t process negatives, right?

The Tower of Learning

I had a lesson with a community tutor this week who made me talk about very specific topics. He spoke quite fast so the lesson was tough for me. However, he did comment afterwards that some conversation had been on a C2 level (which I highly doubt) and that whatever I was doing, I should keep doing. Mille grazie!

In my next post, I will talk a bit more about the future, but I am already wondering what to do come March. I can’t afford to keep up with this amount of lessons, though I have grown quite attached to my teachers. I have arranged for a small test to be done after lesson number 20 to somehow assess my progress, though of course I know that’s not going to be a definite result. The trick is to keep going.

I also kind of want to learn another language now, because I am feeling super inspired - and wouldn’t it be fun to be able to read in Arabic?

New Podcast: Becky Morales on Perfect Pronunciation and Having 4 Bilingual Kids

becky language podcast

Hey, welcome to lucky episode 13 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast. In this episode, I'll be sharing a delicious foodie article and talking about Kid World Citizens with Becky Morales.

You Will Learn More About:

  • How Becky went from Maths major to Spanish lover in college
  • What it takes and what it means to become bilingual
  • How to put together a golden approach to teaching language
  • Why pronunciation can be something you master at any age if you only have time, dedication and fun
  • How to create an environment where you can learn a language to any level from your own home

Article of the Week

Top Five Russian Pasta DIshes on Transparent Language

Bonus! Recipes of the Week

Jewish Noodle Kugel

German Spätzle

Kazakh Beshbarmak

Tips of the Week

Out of the following three tips, Becky chose number 1 as her favourite tip -  personalize your language learning experience by building your own vocab decks.

1) DIY your Memrise Courses

2) Start with Pronunciation (here's Gabriel Wyner's take)

3) Incorporate all the senses into your vocab learning habits (Science Daily)

Tips and Links from this Podcast

Support this Podcast through Patreon

The Top 10 Podcasts to Help you Learn a Language

Heartwarming video of Brazilian students practicing with elderly Americans

Kid World Citizen : Becky's Website

The Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners, Becky's book onAmazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com (Buy through this link to support my podcast!)

Language Linkfest: February 2015

Hello and welcome to the latest language linkfest, everyone. I know that we skipped an edition on 30 January 2015 to make space for the Language Book Club event over on Facebook, so this month I'm back to once again share what's caught my eye online.

Gorgeous image by Alexey Kijatov on Flickr

Gorgeous image by Alexey Kijatov on Flickr

Best of Fluent's Blog

Best Language Articles, January 2015

Edupreneur's Corner

And that is it for the Fluent month, which has been ever hectic. I have been very proud to launch my new brand building course Savvy Brand Academy for the Spring intake this week, which is a Branding class for online teachers. So go check it out if you're ready to teach better, earn more and have awesome students.

Feel like Giving up Learning a Language?

People, I have some shocking news for you. Remember all that New Year 2015 enthusiasm? Those promises you made? Those ideas about fluency being within reach? That's less than 2 months ago!! Today's guest post comes from a fellow language teacher who's seen that deflation before.

Jimmy Monaghan is  from Ireland and currently works in Malta, where he is working with the Elanguest English Language School. He enjoys studying and practicing French in his spare time. I thought his tips for reviving enthusiasm and staying motivated were just perfect for this time of the year. Enjoy!

img ©paul fisher on Flickr

img ©paul fisher on Flickr

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
— Thomas A. Edison

Thomas A. Edison was a smart man. As well as inventing some of the most important devices of our civilisation, he knew all about the importance of persistence. He certainly didn’t invent the light bulb over night, and if he had taken the easy way out and given up on his vision, then we would all still be spending a lot of time lighting candles. Language learning is a mountain to climb. Any body that has ever attempted to do so knows how disheartening it can be to feel like you are getting somewhere, only to realise how much further you have to go. And like anything that is hard to do, the temptation of giving up is sometimes too great. But everyday millions of people all over the world are having success learning new languages, so why shouldn’t you? Here are a few tips that might help inspire you to overcome that block in the road and continue on your (long but rewarding) journey towards learning a new language.

1. Set Obtainable Goals

How come I’m not fluent yet? If you start learning a new language and expect to be fluent within a couple of months, then you might be setting yourself up for disappointment, which will ultimately increase the likelihood of you throwing in the towel. Despite there being websites that offer to make you fluent in three months, the majority of us will only be at an advanced beginners stage after this little time. If you set obtainable goals for yourself then you are much more likely to meet those goals and feel a sense of accomplishment, which will motivate you to continue towards fluency.

Examples of obtainable goals:

"I will be able to read and understand an entire children’s book without a dictionary."

"I will be able to book a hotel room over the telephone."

"I will be able to watch a movie without subtitles in my own language, but subtitled in its original language."

2. Be OK with your ability

The truth of the matter is is that some people just have an easier time learning languages than others. Maybe it’s the way our brains our wired: all different, highly complex machines, no two alike. It might not seem fair but hey, that’s life. This fact doesn’t just apply to languages however. Some people learn how to drive after a few lessons, while for others it can take months or even years. It is important to accept this, to identify at what rate you can comfortably learn, and to not compare your ability to that of others.

3. There is no such thing as Wasted Time

One big contributing factor to a lot of people giving up their language learning aspirations is not seeing immediate results, and fearing that they have simply wasted their time. Every minute spent studying a language will eventually pay off and help you somewhere down the road. And while it’s easy to feel like you are wasting hours studying a language you aren’t making progress in, so much more is happening in the brain than you might imagine. Any studious activity, especially language learning, is like taking your brain to the gym and training it. The results can seep into other areas of your life such as helping to strengthen your memory or increase abstract and creative thinking. There is no such thing as wasted time.

4. Be humble and don’t overestimate yourself

So you’ve been busy studying. You’ve been making personal breakthroughs and are feeling pretty good about yourself. You feel like your level of comprehension has gotten better and you can just picture yourself effortlessly constructing beautifully poetic sentences at parties while others marvel at your command of the language. Then you go to a party and meet a native speaker. You get a little nervous and think ‘OK, here’s my chance to finally put all of my study into practice…’ and then you choke. You can’t even think of the most common words. The person you just met has to explain even the simplest of phrases to you while inside you’re screaming, “I’m so much better than this, I promise!” If this doesn’t make you feel like giving up then you don’t need to be reading this article. Finding out that you are not as good as you thought you were can be hard and demotivating, but a big part of this is confidence. I’ve met people with a very low level of English who have so much confidence that they can barely stop talking, despite making mistakes with every second word. On the other hand I know people who know so much but are afraid of making any mistakes that they won’t even open their mouths. Out of these two, who do you think is getting the most useful practice? The only mistake you can make is to be worried about making mistakes.

5. Don’t care what other People think about you

People are horrible, generally. We judge others and we have high expectations yet we are all so self centred and selfish. This last tip is one that can be applied to all areas of your life, but is especially useful in your language-learning journey. If you are constantly worried that other people will think that you are stupid or a slow learner because you haven’t mastered a language, then you will be creating a lot of unnecessary stress for yourself. Remember that you (under most circumstances) are learning a language for yourself, for your future, not theirs. If you think that you are good at speaking a language, then you are. If somebody else thinks otherwise, who cares? Be proud of everything that you have learned, even if it’s a little, because you have taken the time and energy to better yourself. If you keep letting other people bring you down and make you feel like there’s no point, then you will be a lot more likely to give up, and if Thomas Edison had done that, we would all be sitting in the dark.

I hope this article has been helpful and that it might inspire you to keep focused and determined while learning a new language.

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

My 8 Top Apps No Traveller Should Be Without

top travel apps

There is a German saying that sums up all that is annoying and all that is important about travelling:

Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter. Es gibt nur schlechte Kleidung.

This means "there's no bad weather, there's just bad clothing". While single-handedly giving you and explanation for all those German tourists dressed in pro-level hiking gear, the saying also talks about attitude and preparation. Without good prep, travel won't be fun, so today I thought I'll share a few tools that I use every single time I travel abroad. And no, it hasn't stopped me from doing some remarkably stupid things such as forgetting my passport at home (ouch) and turning up at the airport a whole 24 hours too late. But imagine how much less organised I could be!

Be Smart about App Usage on the Road

It's important to watch your smartphone's data consumption when you travel. The EU roaming fee law that we all waited for has now been pushed back until 2018, so even from the UK to Germany it's important to ensure you've researched before you go.

I'm UK-based and have found the best deals for using my smartphone abroad with Three and o2. More information for UK-based users is available on the always excellent Money Saving Expert website.

No matter where you are, here are my top phone tips before you go travelling:

  • Get your phone unlocked and research buying a local SIM if you stay longer than a week, you travel to another country regularly or you're planning to use a lot of data.
  • If in doubt, switch off international roaming.
  • Research where you can get free Wi-Fi access.

The List of Apps and Services

This is the list of travel apps that I am never without on my phone. Most offer app options for iOS and Android. I'll be linking to their websites so you can select your download option. None of the links in this article are affiliate links, but I've used my "Refer a Friend" where I've got it.

1. tripit

Oh my god, I'd be lost without this site. TripIt creates a master travel itinerary. You can forward most train, car hire, hotel and flight confirmations to their plans@tripit.com email address and it reads them automatically and puts them into the calendar. The service also integrates with online calendars, so your diary is up to date.

The best thing about TripIt is that I can share my itinerary and allow others to post things to it. It's completely stopped that irritating "What time is our flight again? Which terminal?" conversation I used to have with my partner on every single trip. Instead, we just say "it's in the TripIt".

2.airbnb

The above link gets you free travel credit, feel free to use it!

I started using Airbnb in 2011 and it's become one of my go-to travel tools since then. Airbnb has been a big success story. It allows people with a little extra room, from a spare couch to a tree house, to rent out that space to travellers and visitors. I know that Couchsurfing runs this for free, but after years of business travel I just became a little spoilt and I'd rather set up a transaction with my host and have guaranteed safety and comfort in return.

I've now used Airbnb on trips to Cardiff, Kendal, San Francisco, Portland and London and have never had a bad experience. One of my friends has also started hosting on there, so if you're ever going to Edinburgh, email me for more details.

3.Award Wallet

Click the link above. The first 10 people to use the code "free-siaumd" get an upgrade coupon through my account.

If you never use your frequent traveller miles, you're not alone but you're missing out. AwardWallet is a website that tracks your airline and hotel loyalty schemes - something no one can really keep track off properly, right? The site will give you one central point to check your balances of every loyalty scheme going, including expiry dates and links to the original scheme websites.

Last year, I travelled around the USA and back for just $500, by the way. That was entirely due to using my frequent flyer miles, so this is worth looking into!

4. HotelTonight

My Referral Code KHAMMES will give you a £15 discount.

When I travel on my own, I like to be as free and unrestricted as I can. Road trips, spontaneous day trips and added nights in beautiful places are commonplace for me, so that means I rarely book a full itinerary in advance. There always has to be an unorganised bunch of nights in there, allowing me to feel free to roam. And HotelTonight has got to be the BESTEST EVER THING FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME.

The app is pretty, reliable and so easy to use it's unreal. Originally a last-minute reservation service for "tonight" only, they've now expanded their offering and allow you to use the app for reservations up to 7 days in advance. The rates are always competitive and their range of hotels is gorgeous. Without HotelTonight, my road trip to California would not have been as much fun.

5.Parkopedia

A new addition to my travel arsenal, Parkopedia is a British website listing reviews and tips on the best and most affordable parking spaces in 52 countries. It's saved me hundreds on my most recent Christmas trip by simply showing us a cheaper car park 500 metres away from our hotel. Absolutely worth looking into!

6. Kayak and 7. SkyScanner

Both of these websites are designed to deliver straightforward flight searches, allowing you to get the best connections all around the world. There are of course millions of flight search websites out there. Google has recently added its own service to the market as well after they bought the awesome ITA Scanner a few years ago. But for a bargain hunter like me, the two above are always worth checking out.

Kayak is great as a starting point for major airline connections and offers you a search featuring nearby airports, flexible dates and lots of route options. They miss out a bunch of low-cost airlines, so Skyscanner is my second favourite place to check for flight options because they will include Ryanair, easyJet, WizzAir and so on. Invaluable for Euro travel.

8. Happy Cow

If you're a vegetarian on the road, use Happy Cow. If you are looking for quirky restaurants that offer awesome healthy food, use it too. Basically: Use Happy Cow! This restaurant guide has listings of veggie-friendly places in even the most unlikely locations like Moscow and Lisbon. I've often dragged friends and travel partners to Happy Cow locations and had the best meal of my whole trip. The app offers you directions and opening hours and also lists health food stores. For going beyond the usual travel fare, this is your new best friend.

More App Recommendations

The list above is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I also make regular use of TripAdvisor and the LEO Dictionary app. And I am always on the hunt for a really good packing list app, I've just not found one yet.

What are your own favourite apps for travelling? How do you prepare for a trip abroad?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

7 of the Best Language Learning Rules Ever

best language rules

Today I want to go a little bit deeper into the content of all our Language Book Club interviews from 30 January. As you saw last week, the event was truly epic and delivered some wisdom from no fewer than 11 multilingual people (polyglots! yes they are!).

Between me and Chris Broholm from Actual Fluency, we had the chance to interview a great bunch of people about writing, language learning and challenges on the day, so here are the most important things that Language Book Club taught us:

1) Forget Fluency

Fluency is not a word that most polyglots or language teachers love. Yes, we all call our blogs after it, but fluency is truly a concept that you need to define in more detail. It certainly doesn't help when you are working on your goals. Instead of aiming to define fluency, try setting short-term goals such as reading a certain book in the next month. I admit that I’m pretty pleased with myself for my own definition, which goes a bit like “if you can avoid communication breakdown and keep a conversation flowing, you’re pretty fluent."

2) Learn Vocabulary in Context

Flashcards and vocab are hot property, but there are lots of different ways of doing them. From detailed Anki interaction to paper-based systems like my simple Write-Look-Cover-Repeat system, the biggest key is in creating a rich context for whatever you are learning. In fact, you can develop this all the way to creating language memory palaces. Anthony Metivier believes that the memory palace is great for simple grammar principles and vocabulary, and emphasises that it is the most fundamental way of developing your memory (read here for my own mini palace attempt).

3) Don't get hung up on Accents

No matter where you go and speak a native language kinda badly, you'll still be welcome and accepted. this message was reinforced by Jared Romey and the girls from Russian Step by Step. Jared talked about how easy it can be to become disoriented even within the same language as he recounted his experiences of embarrassing Puerto Rican shopgirls. You might be feeling self-conscious or embarrassed when you step off the plane and have to open your mouth and “talk foreign” for the first time. But Jared says: “The most important thing is that you learn Spanish. Afterwards, you can adjust it, but don’t let dialects stop you."

4) Appreciate how big the World is

Language learning is not just about remembering words and grammar structures. It's about a whole different world view. Becky Morales shared the story of American high schoolers who met their first Mexican in their teenage years and enquired whether she had ever seen an orange. When you learn a language, she said, you become a world citizen and that's what really enriches your life.

5) Look Beyond the Idea of Hacking

There is no language hack and no single method of making language learning easier for all. From Benny Lewis and the emphasis on speaking and communication, to Gabriel Wyner's intense pronunciation focus, no polyglot can promise you the answer to getting things entirely right. Many share what works for them, and all of us hope that it will work for you too. In that sense keep trying, because you're not getting things wrong any time soon. Looking for a shortcut to better language skills is fine, but every one of our experts on the day has been a language learner for many years. The tips that you get are honed through years of experience, discipline and habit-building. What is the key to good language learning? Enjoy the journey!

6) See and Believe the Impossible

It's all right to be a fan boy! In Teatime with Chris, my Co-host Chris Broholm talked about his own journey of self-development and finding a purpose. It’s a pretty inspiring story and really does stand out as proof of how language learning as a personal challenge can help with even the biggest challenges. Chris started his own podcast as a means of learning from the people he admired. He says “It’s been such a big motivation for me when I see people doing things that didn’t even seem possible to me, and once you see what you think is impossible then it becomes possible."

7) Chill out at least some of the Time

When you feel overwhelmed, it's fine to slow down. Instead of trying every method of language learning all at once, just chill out and reconnect with your own preferences. Language learning is about what you do best. It has to be in sync with your own learning style. Not only did I discuss this as part of my own hour of Language Book Club Live, but I actually built this principle into the entire concept of The Vocab Cookbook. It's a cookbook: a collection of recipes to inspire and inform. Like with every other collection and every other blog, I want you to try out the ones that sound nice. You'll still get your time's worth.

Get Involved in Language Book Club

You can join Language Book Club on Facebook to stay up to date with news and discussions around language learning and books, and of course the updates on our next event when we make it happen later in 2015!

And if you claimed a free copy of The Vocab Cookbook on the day, don't forget that you can claim the action-focused worksheets for Vocab Cookbook readers simply by submitting an Amazon review and letting me know about it on Twitter, facebook or here in the comments.