How I came to Online Teaching: A TEFL-Free Story

Many people who find me and my work through Fluent often assume that I took the classic route of learning how to teach online after studying for a TEFL exam, but that's not actually true. In fact, I never set out to be an entrepreneur at all. In today's blog post, I want to share this awesome interview with me and Gabby Wallace from

It's an in-depth look at how I started out in language teaching, and how my independent streak actually helped me discover my own niche in this market. As you can see, I'm just as scared as you are when it comes to that niche challenge!

Here are the top 4 Lessons you can Learn from this Video

  1. If you work online, collaborating with your colleagues is the door to success
  2. When you blog, you start sharing your views and standing out in a wholly new way. It is one of the most fun experiences on the internet. If you want to learn more about how to start a language blog, check out Fluent's Quick'n'Easy Guide to Language Blogging.
  3. Your prices can send a powerful message to new students. I have spoken to so many language students who felt that they actually
  4. Bonus Lesson: That's a crazy hairband.

And of course, I also mentioned various ways of working with me in the video. The 50 Calls project is now finished, yes I actually spoke to 50 amazing people. It was so much fun!

The feedback I got from them helped me create the course Compass, which is now available to online teachers right here on Fluent as the (renamed) Savvy Brand Toolkit. I'd love for you to check it out, and don't forget to sign up for my newsletter so that I can send you discount codes and promotions when I run them.

Event Coming Up

Gabby and I are running a joint Facebook event on 7 May. It's called the Online Teaching Show and designed to help online teachers get the word out. All for free, so please come and join us by registering here on Facebook.

Upgrade Fluency Made Achievable on your iPad or Mac

If you are a regular Fluent reader, you'll already know that I have published two language learning guides so far. They're called Fluency Made Achievable and The Vocab Cookbook, and both have been for sale exclusively on Kindle this year.


Well guys, it's time to break free and announce the launch of my new iBooks version of Fluency Made Achievable. Over the past weeks I decided to work on creating this special edition of the book, and it's now been approved for sale on the iBooks store.

Why is this cool?

This is not just an ebook you can't do anything with. While every language guide I write is designed to make you take action and start changing small steps in your routines, the new iBooks version delivers more of that than ever. The work on this new version included several optimisations to make it the best possible FMA you've ever seen on the iPad or Mac.

An clear, easy and very helpful read that was well worth the money for me. (Eleni Gotsis on Amazon)

The book is already very popular over on, with 4- and 5-star reviews all round. And here are the most important reasons to get the iBooks edition of this book if you're reading on an iPad or Mac:

  • The navigation and table of contents have been optimised so you can jump between chapters and points and find the right parts straight away. There is not a single reference to a page number, everything works as it should in an ebook.
  • It's produced for the iBooks reader, which makes it way prettier than a Kindle version.
  • The links are clickable so you can switch between reading and researching like a real 21st century book master.
  • You can now buy this in 51 different countries!
  • The book contains multimedia enhancements in the form of embedded video and brand new audio interviews.

Why can't I find this on my iPhone?

The iBooks edition of FMA contains added media enhancements and sadly this seems to mean Apple won't let you buy it on your phone. You're not missing out though, just whip out your Mac/iPad or get the classic Kindle version.

No special offers?

As you know, I run the odd promotion for my books but want to make sure I don't add to anyone's "digital junk" pile. The iBooks store will let me distribute promo codes soon, but not until I've jumped through a few tax hoops (like telling them that I don't live in duplicate) so until then I have just made the price affordable for everyone.

Sounds awesome, how do I find iBooks please?

If you are on an iPad or Mac, simply open your app browser and type in "ibooks". You already have the iBooks store on there as it comes with your device. Then all you need to do is this:

1. Search for my name

ibooks store

2. Find Fluency Made Achievable

3. Enjoy!

Pretty! Optimized for your Mac or iPad. And ever so helpful :)

Pretty! Optimized for your Mac or iPad. And ever so helpful :)

Anything else you should know?

I'm very happy to be offering this new version of my book in iBooks, and behind the scenes you should also look out for the Fluent Box Set, which is coming back in the summer.

I have considered writing a new language learning guide or a little travel guide for German learners, so if you're excited about what I could write next why not comment here and tell me what you'd like to see? I'm curious about your suggestions.

As always, thanks so much for reading and checking in with the Fluent blog.


How to Fall in Love with a Language: Inspiring Stories from Learners like You

A few weeks ago, my partner and I decided to watch the oscar-nominated film Nightcrawler. You may be aware that things get a bit scary in the film, so I allowed myself a distraction from watching it. I was watching the film in English with Spanish subtitles.

And I realised two things:

  1. Spanish doesn't swear sexually but religiously (¡diablos!)
  2. I prefer Spanish to French, even though I've been learning French for 20 years and only studied Spanish from 2001 to 2003

Soon I found myself wondering if this is normal. Does every language learner have a favourite among their languages?

What is it that makes us fall in love with one language more than any of the others?

in love with language

In today's blog post, I enlisted a little help from members of the Fluent community. First of all I want to thank every reader of my newsletter who responded to my call with their own story. It's made this article something I've never had before: A crowdsourced piece of writing. Enjoy!

For some, it's Love at First Word

In the following stories, you'll hear from language learners who were just blown away by their favourite language right from day 1.

Aidan O'Rourke loves German more and more

"My favourite language is German, I much prefer it to French. I love German. I’ve loved it since I started learning it aged 15, I got an A in O and A level and went on to study it at Trinity College Dublin (with French).

German is the most amazing language, I feel it is part of me but sadly I am not a native speaker, though I aspire to that level. I love hearing German, especially on MDR radio and the Tagesschau.

I think I am more enthusiastic about German than at any time in the past! The longer I use it, the more I love it. I've learned a huge amount of German through teaching it as a private tutor over the past few years. There are many things I regret in live but one thing I don’t regret is learning German! Everybody should learn it!"

Aidan is the author of Stargirl of the Edge, a new anglo-chinese novel. You can watch him discuss language learning with me in this video.

Chimene Elessa learnt that other People don't know what she will really love most

"In my school (at age 13), we had the choice between Spanish and German as a third language -- after French (my native language) and English (my second language). When I asked what my third language should be, people advised me not to take German because it was "difficult". So I took Spanish just because people around me were learning that language.

Many years later, I subscribed to cable TV where there was one German channel. I started to watch programmes in that language and I liked it. So I decided to learn German so much so that I now tend to neglect my Spanish because I'd rather study and practice German.

Today my level in German is more advanced than my level in Spanish (which I have been studying for a longer period of time).

My explanation is that I was more motivated when I decided to learn German. Furthermore, I want to add it to the languages I use for my work as a translator.

I still like Spanish. If I take into account years of practice, it is my third language, but in fact it is the fourth if we talk about preferences."

For some, the first love stays true

For many of us, the first foreign language remains special all throughout our lives.

Chiara Grandola will always love British English best

chiara runawaydreamer

"I am Italian and I studied three languages thus far. English, French and Spanish. French is a romantic and beautiful language. I'm drawn to the melody of la langue francaise. It has such a melodic tone that even an insult can sound romantic. Well, kind of…

Spanish is extremely sensual and it can express tremendous passion. Its pronunciation is pretty straightforward and maybe that’s why I feel much more comfortable in speaking Spanish than French.

However, my not-so-secret favourite language is English. British English, to be precise. I find some words and expressions extremely elegant and peculiar, like Quintessential or Blimey! As a long-time learner, I am often amazed by the richness of English vocabulary. The British accent gets me all the time. It's music to my ears and I could listen to natives for hours. I discovered the world of foreign languages by studying English when I was a little girl, so I’ll always be eternally grateful to this amazing language."

You can read more from Chiara on her blog, Runaway Daydreamer.

Ellen Keyne Seebacher got started with her Mother's Books

"I've studied at least eight languages systematically (German, Spanish, Swedish, American Sign Language, Japanese, Latin, French, and Brazilian Portuguese) and another dozen or more casually. My best language is German, but I feel most comfortable with Spanish. I suspect it's because it was the first I was seriously exposed to; as a kid I used to tag along to my mother's Spanish classes (at the time she worked in a hospital in southern Arizona) and sit quietly in the back, then flip through her textbook when she wasn't using it!"

And sometimes it's just right

Does there have to be a reason why you love a language? Or it just what it is?

Israel Lai feels the Music with German

"As a Hongkonger I'm fluent in Cantonese, English and Mandarin, and have additionally studied French for quite a lot of years - technically 12 years from the moment I was first exposed to it. I find it a beautiful language, especially when I picked it up again 2 years ago, but just can't get it 'into' me for some reason. 2 years ago was when I discovered my passion for languages, and since then

I took German in university and touched upon various ones like Japanese, Dutch and Russian. Surprisingly, although I find written German ugly (no offence), I feel most 'at home' with this foreign language. It could be me being a musician, or it could be my one month in Vienna, perhaps even a particular way my tongue is built in, but while all other languages have one feature that appeal to my rational mind, German is the one foreign language that I feel like speaking the most, the one to which I feel a sense of belonging. That's why I'm so looking forward to becoming fluent!"

What's your language love story?

As I put this article together, I felt a wonderful sense of the love and motivation all these Fluent readers feel for their languages. No matter if it's German or Spanish, the language you love is always special to you. Creating this collection of real stories was extremely enjoyable and I would love it if you commented with your own story of true language love.

And just in case you've not seen Nightcrawler yet: Give it a try. It's pretty great.

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.

How to enjoy Language Learning more by being lousy at it

If you are a long-term follower of the Fluent blog, you might already be familiar with my love of Pinterest. I spend the odd free minute over on that website, admiring pictures, getting inspiration and using it to learn about education and teaching..

The Growth Mindset

Today I came across a really great graphic illustrating the growth mindset (previously discussed in episode 9 of the podcast), which is such a helpful way for language learners and strivers of any kind to treat perfectionism and become ongoing learners. Adopting a growth mindset has been proven to contribute to both learning success and happiness in scientific studies. In fact, it is absolutely invaluable for adult learners because it does away with this nonsensical myth of talent.

Here's the amazing core message:

Learn to enjoy being lousy.

That is all. Mind blown? Let's move on to this graphic showing how you can do it.

Thank you, Ryan Thomas

Thank you, Ryan Thomas

Online Perfection

When you admire people's well-prepared Youtube videos and considered posts that outline their study routines, it is all too easy to feel inferior. A fixed mindset keeps you trapped in those situations, it forces you to feel that the situation is unfair and you are lagging way behind. But the growth mindset would look at another person's success, then look at what you are accomplishing and say "I don't need approval, I want to gain more knowledge!". In fact, I cannot say this any better than Edudemic already has, so please head over and read the following article on the Growth Mindset. Inspiring, fantastic stuff.

Use Growth for Everything

If you are struggling with adopting this mindset for your language learning, think of other learning situations you have been in during your life. Driving, cooking, sewing, musical instruments. We all started out pretty terrible at those, and the more you do it, the better you get. Yes, that's all of us. German and Arabic and Tagalog are no different.

If you want to read more about using Pinterest in your language learning routine, you can read my step-by-step guide on this blog.

Learn to speak Dog in 6 weeks: The Top 5 April stories for Language Lovers

Back in 1957, eight million astounded Brits gathered around their television sets to learn about a magnificient cultural spectacle. The popular BBC programme Panorama was showing exclusive footage of the epic Spaghetti Harvest in Switzerland. They had been enjoying tinned spaghetti from the greengrocer's shelves and relished learning more about how this exotic dish was made.

In fact, the BBC has a long history of bringing us groundbreaking news like that. Just think of their discovery that penguins can fly!

What the What?

Okay, by now you may find yourself wondering if I've gone completely crazy and let me assure you I'm not quite there yet! These fascinating news stories are part of the worldwide tradition of playing pranks on April Fools' Day, the world's joke day. To celebrate this crazy tradition, I thought I could either tell you that Fluent is turning into a Chemistry blog (HAH!) or make myself useful by counting down my favourite linguistic jokes. So here we are:

The Top 5 April Fools' Jokes for Language Lovers

1. German Grammar Reform coming up

On 1 April 2015, Deutsche Welle's German Teaching blog reported groundbreaking news. They announced a radical simplification of the German language's grammar. In the new system, the genders of different words would follow strictly logical rules - anything feminine is feminine, anything masculine is masculine, and all the other stuff is neuter. They also announced that the conjugated verb will no longer confuse you by jumping to the end of sub-clauses. And best of all, the four cases would be reduced to just three. Who the heck needs a Genitiv anyway?

2. New Zealand has a new official language

The most significant claim to fame of New Zealand has been its recent role as the site of Tolkien's fabled land of Middle Earth. In a radical move, the country has now accepted its key role in fantasy and changed its official language to Elvish.

Here's a video where you can check out how beautiful the new weather reports in Elvish sound.

3. Netflix admits that English is a foreign language

In 2013, video service Netflix finally admitted that English is not the easy world language it's renowned to be. In a revolutionary move, they introduced the category Movies that are in English but still need subtitles, which features facets of the English language that you might have missed out on so far. How about learning Irish Traveller English or just Scottish?

4. Learn a new language: Dog Barking Online Course

If you have always wondered what it is that your dog really wants, now you finally have the means to open the door to communicating with them. Groupon is offering an exclusive 6-week course that will get you fluent and conversing with native dogs in their own language.

5. English. It's the only language you need.

And finally, here is a post from my friend Alex Gentry that I bet a lot of you will relate to ;)

Russian is the MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGE ON EARTH! I can't take it anymore! It's too much for my poor little brain to handle. Also Hindi! I am tired of Hindi because everyone in India DEFINITELY speaks English anyway, so why need that? Why can't they just translate Bollywood movies into ENGLISH??? Also what's the use of Indonesian? Why can't I learn a USEFUL language like Chinese or Spanish? Also I'm going to stop with Portuguese and German and Spanish and even Chinese because as I know from experience, EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH ANYWAY! So I'm not going to learn anymore languages and I'm going to forget them all! I want to be a monolingual English speaker again! And these foreigners! They can leave me alone unless they SPEAK ENGLISH! WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE JUST SPEAK IN ENGLISH????? IT WOULD MAKE THINGS SOOOOOO MUCH EASIER FOR ME, RIGHT???? Like learning a foreign language, that doesn't benefit me in any way. I just want to be stupid and ignorant of the rest of the world again besides AREN'T FOREIGN LANGUAGES LIKE IMPOSSIBLE TO LEARN???? TWO LANGUAGES IN ONE HEAD??? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?????? From now on the only language I will ever speak again is English, because this post is just the most serious post ever that it completely reflects exactly how I feel about learning foreign languages. Or maybe I might have just wrote this to shock people and make them wonder if something was wrong with me. Or maybe this might just be a March Fool's joke. No! Wait! That's the wrong month! March is over! You know.... Oh wait......:-P

Oh, and did you know that Germans will let you get away with pranks on April 2 and 3 too?

Language Linkfest: March 2015

I'm so excited about springtime this year. It kicked off a lot of productivity here at camp Fluent, with the addition of my first product for online teachers AND a Udemy course full of online teaching tricks. So in other words, Fluent is truly expanding to serve both you language learners and the language teachers right now. My own experience as a 1-to-1 language tutor over the past few years has taught me lots about technology, marketing styles and how to support learners. I'm excited to share it with you.

language links

Best of Fluent

The Creative Language Learning Podcast is going from strength to strength right now. I've just secured a bit of support from the first sponsor. So with their help and with yours (did you know I'm on Patreon?), I can continue working on bringing you better quality and more shows.

New on the Fluent blog:

And this was my most discussed article in March:

Best Language Learning Articles around the Web

That's it for Language Linkfest in March 2015, I hope you have all had a wonderful and successful month no matter where you are, and that you enjoy taking a little bit of time to click your way through what's on offer above.

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.

6 Tips to Get Your Brain and Body Ready for Language Learning

Today I have a guest article from a fellow female language lover for you. The ideas are snack bites you can focus on in just a few minutes, and I've love to hear more from you about how you have incorporated your physical wellbeing  into your language learning time. The article comes from Alina Cincan, a former English and French teacher, translator and interpreter with over 10 years’ experience. These days she manages Inbox Translation. You can get in touch on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.


Everybody has the talent to learn a language. The fact you are reading this article proves you already have mastered at least one. Then why is studying so unsatisfying sometimes? Just as with acquiring any other skill, your body and brain should work together. When was the last time you checked in on the following aspects?

1. Choose activities to match your learning style

Everybody has some natural preference for processing information. If you find out what yours is, studying might become faster and more effective.

  • Auditory learners prefer to learn by listening. If you enjoy talking and singing, you probably have auditory preference. In this case, you’d better apply more listening materials, reading aloud, repetition and discussions in your study plan.
  • Visual learners perceive best when visually stimulated. If you have eye for colours and detail, and strong photographic memory, most likely you remember easier by seeing. Then it’s best to use more video materials, pictures, tables, diagrams, mind maps, etc.
  • Kinaesthetic learners are doers. If you have difficulty keeping still and enjoy sports and dancing above all, you remember best with a hands-on approach. It’s a good idea to take frequent breaks, spend more time writing down and rehearsing the material.

Emphasising on a learning method we are naturally inclined to is useful. Nonetheless, combining more senses when studying creates more connections in the brain and increases the chance to learn and recall with ease.

2.    Study during your peak performance times

Some people are night owls and feel more energetic in the evening; some are morning larks and active before noon. You know best when you feel best.

Commonly, people study when they have time for that. But in order to benefit most from the process, you should do the opposite: make time for studying, when your brain is functioning at its peak.

3.    Make use of the Yerkes–Dodson law

Arousal could enhance (or impair) different tasks. You need calmness when absorbing information. But you might do yourself a favour by practicing the language in a more challenging environment. Having fun and stimulating conversations with different people is highly recommended.

4.    Train, don’t study!

When acquiring a new language, studying, by itself, is not enough. Knowledge without application is a waste of time. You need to practise what you learn in every way possible – by speaking, reading, writing and even thinking in the new language only. In order to stay focused, train to use the language, instead of studying it.

5.   Allow yourself to play

Learning doesn’t have to be boring. If you have a hard time staying motivated, turning the process into a game can do a lot to restore your enthusiasm. Get creative: include challenges, rules, rewards and a big enough stake into your schooling plan.

6.     Exercise

It may seem that language learning has nothing to do with sports. However, any physical activity boosts our energy and increases blood circulation, supplying our brains with oxygen. Thus, we become more perceptive and alert.

Some of the methods described above are quick and easy to apply; some may take time to master. You can test a few or all of them; adapt them to your specific needs, or keep them as reminders that a big part of the learning success involves creativity and engagement.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a universal method or a magic trick that guarantees overnight results. In order to learn effectively, we need to have clear goals and remain committed.

Thanks for reading this article by Alina Cincan 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.

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 and

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.


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: 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.


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.