Do your Mistakes Matter in Language Learning? A "Written Homework" Perspective

You know, language learners, how we bloggers always bang on about “things don’t have to be perfect” and “start speaking even if you will make mistakes”? You’ve heard all this, right? You’ve heard it and nodded and seen how it makes sense. You believe that you will be able to get over yourself.

But here’s the thing:

When it comes to really putting your skills on the line and “showing your workings” to another person, are you still holding back?


Take this example from one of my German students. We had spent a little time reading a news article and discussing the themes in it. In terms of core skills, this guy is a red hot reader! He is not only happy and confident about picking up any book from Harry Potter to Dune in German, but will also approach it with the positive mindset of someone who enjoys understanding every single word. We’ve also worked so much on speaking skills over the year and made excellent progress. But there’s one thing on my list, one left to cover: The Writing skill needs a push.

Why Do I Prompt My Students to Write?

You can tell me that pushing ahead on writing skill is just not what an adult learner needs in 2014, but I’d just direct you to what I wrote in Fluency Made Achievable: There are four key components to building up expertise and confidence in the language you’re trying to acquire: listening, reading, speaking and writing. You can't skip out on one of those four without feeling the consequences at some point. Even if you are not planning to enter into a German story competition any time soon, pushing your writing skill has a million advantages for your language learning journey. For example, your composition and structuring skills transfer straight to the spoken word. An experienced writer doesn’t need language exchanges, their confidence will come naturally when they open their mouth. For introverted learners, getting into writing also has huge advantages since you’ll become comfortable AND GOOD at using your target language correctly, before ever entering that “risk period” where someone else sees you. And believe it or not, being a great speller means being a great reader and speaker of your target language as it

If a tree falls in the forest…

Writing can be very introverted, it’s an exercise you do at home, typing away on your computer or scribbling into a notebook. No one else needs to see what you write. And there's why this is so difficult: Because your writing isn't for others to see, it becomes pretty easy to just not do it. What you need is accountability.

You know what it’s like with New Year’s resolutions: No one will ever know you’re doing it unless you actually tell them. Your foreign language writing is the same thing. If you don’t find someone that actually expects you to write, it becomes too easy to avoid doing this work altogether. You start realizing that mistakes are really, really visible when you write. On the one hand, language learners subscribe to the philosophy that making mistakes is part of learning. But on the other hand, showing those mistakes to people as a “written fact” is the hardest thing in the world.

Which leads me back to my wonderful student. I set him an exercise two weeks ago: Summarize each paragraph of our text in simple words, just one sentence picking up the key points. Yesterday I got an email saying:

I must admit that I am just not getting it done right now. I have tried to work on it a couple of times this week, but have only a few sentences to show for it. I feel like I’m still learning, but just not making progress on this part.

Those are the words of somebody who’s judging himself pretty harshly. My reaction? “A few sentences? That’s AWESOME!! All credit to you for trying, and we totally have something to work with now for the lesson.” Do I care if he’s sending me a perfect summary of the text? No! Do I treat this like a school exam, grading him on a scale of A to F for “failure”? No! From the point of view of your language tutor, let me tell you that all I want you to do is try your best. Or even your semi-best. Just sit down and do the thing, open up, be vulnerable and let’s work on this together.

No matter if you do work with a tutor or not, here are a few tips on embracing mistakes in your writing:

  • Stop apologising to anyone about how “little” work you do, and start embracing that any exercise done means you become vulnerable. Most likely you're not perfect. You will spell things wrong and (if I'm your teacher) I will still LOVE it, because that's how I can know which bits you spell wrong. We tutors are largely a kind bunch. We appreciate the fact that you have made a commitment to study a foreign language.

  • Converseley, if you ever hear a person in a "teaching position" tell you that you're never going to get it, consider FIRING THEM.

  • Go somewhere specific to do your writing: not in the office, not at the computer, not where you usually type all your Facebook posts. Here are a few more tips on why that is going to help.

  • Work with word order formulas. Here are a few German ones you can use, but if you are studying other languages please ensure that the word order you’re working with is actually correct:

1) Subject + verb + object

2) time + verb + subject + object

3) Subject + verb to say "says" or "expresses", subject + verb (indirect speech) + object

  • Use a little bit of lesson time or email time to type in your foreign language. This can be done right from day 1, and it's one of the easiest way to bridge the gap when you don't have a native speaker to practice with.

The Language Writing Challenge

In conclusion, writing is difficult. It may well be the core skill that takes the most time, makes your mistakes super visible and has the most potential to embarrass you. And now we've put that out into the open, it's time to get over it! Try one of the steps above, or even start by copying textbook language into your notebook, but it's a fact of language learning that writing will always be there. It's part of a healthy language habit!

I've tried my best to address all of the reasons why you would avoid writing in your language practice above. Got any others? Write me a comment and see if you can change my mind!

A Glimpse into the Translation Industry

Today we have a guest post from Aniello. Aniello comes from Pagani, Italy, and now works as a professional translator and project manager at London based for translation agency Language Reach. He speaks fluent Italian, English, German, French and aims to learn Swedish in the near future.

His guest post is about a topic really close to my heart: Careers in the Language Industry!


As a seasoned translation wizard, I’ve seen a lot. In fact I think I could possibly write a manual in English, title it ‘all things translations’ and translate it into my native Language (Italian). This spur- of- the-moment brainwave probably shouldn’t have been mentioned! Nevertheless, as I commence writing this enlightening blog post, my mind activates numerous thoughts. Subconsciously, I begin by exploring the translation and language industry, its advantages, disadvantages and lastly the changes and trends of living and working in this growing culture pot.

Working as a translator

I was always interested in languages and began my career in the translation industry. Prior to my current job I worked as a freelance translator and after a number of years, changed my career and moved on to working as an account manager for a London based translation agency, Language Reach.

For many, the idea of working in the translation industry is often a daunting one, perhaps because of clichéd hearsay. But as glad as I am to have experienced the translation industry first hand, I certainly didn’t wake up one morning thinking “how about a career in the translation industry.” Like many, I was tired of being stuck in a mind-numbing job, so when plan ‘A’ didn’t go accordingly plan ‘B’ became the next best thing.

I was sceptical at first which seemed perfectly normal. More than anything I was really sold on the idea of working when it suited me best and while having the benefit of earning a reasonable wage. It was only a matter of time before I began exploring my options and soon after, I took a risk which in effect was a risk worth taking.

What industries need languages?

Language Reach has noticed a real growth in the language services industry in recent years. The most obvious factor is growth of the internet, which has prompted interaction on a whole new level. In fact, now more than ever we are networking with people in all parts of the world. The internet has made interaction simpler and has in effect made global business more accessible.

But which industries utilise language services?

  • The legal sector
  • The medical sector
  • The financial sector
  • The technical sector

In March 2013, the Ministry of Justice disclosed data highlighting the growing demand of language services in courts and tribunals. The study which was recorded from January 2012 until January 2013 indicated that there were 131,153 requests for language services covering 259 different languages. This figure demonstrated the real demand for linguists in the legal sector.

Although the above figures seems promising, the growing market here in the UK is proving very competitive in many other sectors. Here are a few reasons for a rise in competition:

  • More Europeans are better prepared to work in foreign languages which shows that proficiency in languages such as English and French is becoming widespread. This means that more and more people are better suited in the translation industry.
  • The development of modern technology, computer stimulated language tools and vocabulary resources could be triggering potential threat.

A recent report shows that 55% of all online content is in English but only 27% of users speak English. In Russia, 6% of content is in Russian whereas 3% of users speak the language. The latter figure shows an overall balance, in contrast to the amount of content available for English speaking recipients which is widely imbalanced.

Freelance VS employment

Not all speculation is untrue, in fact for the most part translators work as freelancers and for agencies. A recent report, which you can find here, shows that the number of freelance workers has increased from 1.39 million to 1.56 million which shows a rise of 12 %. But working as a freelance translator or interpreter isn’t as easy as it may seem, in fact such roles require time management and being able to build a brand around the services you have to offer.

Other translators choose to take the opposite route of employment. Translators generally work in-house for a solicitor or even for a bigger company such as Amazon. Working as an employed translator proposes a greater chance of stability, which can be a major factor influencing decision making, not only in the translation industry, but as many of you probably know, also any other field.

Demand for languages in the UK

There is a growing demand of many language services here in the UK, with European languages unsurprisingly remaining the most popular. A very interesting infographic prepared by the Business Insider shows the second languages of countries across the globe. The graph proves very effective and foreseeably reveals that English is the most popular second language and with French coming in second.

[Note from the editor: The infographic is very large, so I do advise you click here to view it in its full glory.]

You can see there's real demand for language translation and interpretation for businesses in Britain, and certainly we notice that at our agency. Interestingly, I have also noticed a growing trend for African languages such as Amharic and Swahili, resulting in many translation agencies such as ours seeking African speaking translators. But more than anything, what the infographics have presented is the occurrence of languages developing outside of their native country, proving that globalisation is still at its best and so is the need for translation services, which makes today a really exciting and busy time to be a part of the industry! 

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

New Podcast! The Full Online Learning Guide with Breanne Dyck

breanne podcast

Welcome to episode 10, a little milestone for the Creative Language Learning Podcast! Thank you guys so much for tuning in, sharing the podcast and responding to it so often.

Do you have any dream guests you'd like to hear from? Special topics, questions or discussions? Leave them in the comments below.

This time, I am talking to an expert in the area of course design and online education. Breanne Dyck knows how to make people learn, she's got lots of information about neuroscience and learnt quite a few languages herself.

It’s not abstract motivation that keeps us going. It’s all about checking in along the way.

In this Interview you'll be finding out about

  • Why languages are the daddy of self-teaching
  • The big mistake all self-learners tend to make
  • Where the MOOC concept comes from
  • What you should consider before you start even looking for an online course
  • The difference between a MOOC, an online course and Duolingo
  • How to avoid wasting money on unsuitable courses

  • What motivation is really about

Click here to Listen on Stitcher and Here to Listen in itunes

Article of the Week

What is a foreign language worth?

Tips of the Week

Out of the following fabulous three tips, Breanne chose number 1 as her Tip of the Week! Keep immersing yourself in the target language through Facebook and practice switching from and to the target language without translating everything in your head.

1) Language Immersion by Facebook on Language Surfer

2) Beat the Leaderboard on Memrise like Leszek Trybala

3) Translate to Beat the Plateau, a tip from Dr Rebecca Braun at the Guardian Live Q&A

Tips and Links from this Podcast

Breanne is holding three major webinars, the Elevate series from 3-6 December 2014. If you're curious about making your own online course, this is THE place to be.

Google, in case you have not heard of it

Rozuku, an easy course creation website

Udemy, an online course marketplace with reviews and thousands of courses

French Grammar for Beginners, my awesome online French course for grammar reference and simple explanations, online course marketplace

Breanne Dyck's Blog at MNIB, about the science of learning and teaching online

Reddit, where you can find communities about anything and any language

Letters to Kerstin: Studying in Another Country

In "Letters to Kerstin", I share the emails and messages that I have received from language learners around the world. Today, there's a burning question from blog reader Isabella. I am practically jealous of her amazing dreams and enthusiasm - Isabella, you'll go far and I love that you are pursuing your passion. Here are my tips.

letters to kerstin

Opening A Door to The Whole World

Hi Kerstin,

I am a 21 year old American college student. I am thinking of changing my major from liberal arts to languages. I have been interested in doing something with language for a long time. The trouble is, I have looked at schools abroad over the internet and I don't know what to look for or which ones to choose, it is a little overwhelming. Also, since I am in school I can not exactly fly over there any time soon to check the place out. Right now I am thinking the school that I am at is not the best place for me and I should do something I am very interested in.

I love the French language and culture and I want to be fluent in French. My aunt wants to take me to Paris someday. I think I should go to Paris before I go to a language school to get acquainted with the French culture more. But I also want to learn more languages-not just French. I want to learn Japanese, Swedish, Russian, Vietnamese, and German. Do you have any suggestions for great language schools that offer a wide variety of languages and are possibly in France or Belgium (a french speaking country?) Also, are there any other things/activities that one can do with a language other than a language school to become fluent that you suggest?

Thank you so much for helping me! Isabella

Hi Isabella

Thank you very much for your email. So you’re living in the USA and you’re excited about switching your major to languages. I understand that switching can be a daunting thing. Often we want to think of our education as a qualification and investment for professional life and worry that graduating in “language” is too vague to ever get us a job. But I can assure you, languages really do open many doors! Switching to French if you already have the passion for it is one of the best things you can ever do — you will build up skills that take other people years to acquire, and you’ll open up not just job opportunities in the language professions, but also an international side to your career that lasts forever. Languages make you a pretty sexy job candidate. They’re also a great boost for transferable skills.

In terms of recommending a specific school, I think that’s a tricky one. The education systems of Europe and the USA are still far from homogenous, so that it can be easier to switch to Europe for postgraduate education, like a Masters. One school that I am aware of is ISTI in Brussels, but don't forget that there are hundreds more I probably have never heard of!

You want to learn other languages and not just French, and there is no reason why a focus on one language should stop you from acquiring others. There are many things you can do to become fluent, and ultimately the key is in setting realistic goals, staying excited and committed and making sure you’re in this for life. Every language you acquire will open the door to an amazing new world. For French alone, just think of the African continent, Canada, France, Belgium and the Caribbean!

To sum up my advice to you, I’d say “Say YES to travelling and languages” especially at the age of 21. You’ve got nothing at all to lose and the whole world to gain.

Kerstin x

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog.

Got a language learning question for me? Then please email me at, and your message will pop up in Letters to Kerstin soon.

If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.


The Most Important Sentence I Learnt in 2 Years of Language Teaching

The biggest, baddest language learning technique that you can ever learn is to realize what's irrelevant and what really needs to be done. Did you ever feel guilty about a distraction, and then try to make it into something "productive"? I sometimes catch myself watching Season 6 of Gossip Girl (If it's in French, is that still procrastination? Answer: Yes. Especially when you're meant to write something for Compass.). But there are also the times where I just read a lot of irrelevant things and start wondering about font sizes or blog article length or other nonsense. So here's my theory: Distraction comes in many different guises, hides in the back of your mind and drives you to the internet or to YouTube to spend more time and money standing in your own way. 

high standards

There are 1000 questions that pop up when you start learning a language, and even though the answer to each one brings you a little further, today I just want to write about the rabbithole risk of them.

Here are a few:

  • Should I be learning German or Spanish or French or Italian?
  • Or Russian or Japanese?
  • How difficult is Welsh?
  • Do I need a language exchange partner?
  • How many words should I learn every day?
  • When should I improve my accent?
  • What are the business benefits of learning another language?
  • Is it enough that I'm only spending two hours a week learning my language?
  • Can I really do this?

It's not that these questions aren't productive things to spend our time thinking about. I'm a language blogger. Of course I want you to wonder about this stuff and share your views and experiences with other language learners.

But here's where I see the issue:

You Set Yourself Really High Standards

The sentence “You set yourself really high standards” is actually one of the most important points of what I have learnt in two years of working with adults. If you are picking up another language after childhood, things are different. Most of the world out there will actually work on telling you that it’s a lot more difficult to learn this other language. To be honest, I don't really buy that thing about kids being the naturally gifted language learners. The problem isn't in how tired your poor brain has become in 20 years of doing things that aren't language learning. The problem is your expectation.

Adults are used to being able to do most things without having to learn them first – we’ve all gone through growing up and being guided and then becoming independent, and it’s difficult to give that independence up once you’ve got it. In language learning, that means that someone who is really great at their native language is now putting themselves back into that position of being a complete starter. You are used to expressing yourself comfortably and knowing what everything around you is called. You restrict 99% of what you say about yourself to the world, and it ends up making you feel like an idiot. No wonder you'd need a break, even if you've only just learn how to say How are you? in German. This is not about how many words you already know, it's about the psychological adjustment to being a learner. No matter how limited or advanced you are, you deserve a break. But as you might not feel that you "deserve" that break yet, you end up questioning the whole undertaking and chasing online rabbits.

The Cult of Language Genius

When you encounter someone who can speak more than one language, you will not see how CRAP they were at the beginning. The world skips straight to the end of the success story and you zoom in on how eloquent and confident they are.

But it is not about becoming a super-person and I want you to make sure that you check where your standards are before moving on. Being kind to yourself and setting realistic expectations is the only way that you can build a commitment to achieving the level of fluency and expertise that you dream of.

Here are a few things that are totally normal:

  • Even when you've read a word five times already, you'll still forget it. You'll need to hear it like 100 times.
  • When someone corrects you, you feel like you just want to throw the towel.
  • Even after five years of learning your language, you still don't get the jokes.

There's lots of this. Don't lose heart. Here is a quick cheat sheet to being amazing and stopping the worries:

Adjust your standards, put your head down and do the work.

Does it sound a little dull? Yes, maybe. It's less exciting than following an internet rabbit hole or watching the polyglot videos or hoping to be fluent in a very short amount of time. But these three steps are what keeps you succeeding over and over again. I'll have to write an article one day about how I ran my first 10k, and what I was like the first time I ever tried to go for a jog. Kids were laughing at me as I puffed around the 1/2 mile park. I was awful, and now I'm less awful. And I promise you just one thing: If you're awful at your language now, you will be less awful soon.

The War of Art

Here is an excellent book recommendation for those of you who feel that today's article spoke to you and want to find out a little bit more about beating those distractions. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a tough little book, calling out every excuse and hurdle that we put into our own way. It is written from the point of view of a novelist, and I was reading it around the time I wrote the Vocab Cookbook, catching myself out as I slacked off "my work". Pressfield is a powerful author and really talks about the power of just getting on and doing the work. His spiritual view of the muse coming to give you some kind of divine kiss of inspiration isn't really my bag, but no matter if you're learning a language or starting a business or writing a book: You gotta do the work.

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. Image copyright: Alaska Library Association on Flickr

Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys: These Cute Illustrations Show The World Through Foreign Eyes

In today's beautiful and fun guest post, travel writer Matt Lindley is introducing "Idioms of the World", a collection of illustrations for idioms around the world. Idioms are a fun way to think about how other groups of people see the world, and they're always part of what keeps us entertained when diving into another language.

Matt is a language lover and digital content creator based in London. When he isn't at his laptop, Matt enjoys learning Polish, riding his bike and listening to experimental music. You can follow him on Twitter: @MattELindley. His illustrations were commissioned for Hotel Club.

What's in a Bunch of Words?

The idea for Idioms of the World really came about from two observations: The first was realising how interesting the topic of language and culture was. A chat with a friend about the foreign words that have been incorporated into the English language left me wondering:

  • Did we adopt the French word café because we associate France with good food and drink?

  • Did we incorporate the Spanish word siesta into our language because we associate Spain with chilled out afternoons?

The second observation, from my days as an EFL teacher, was realising how much students enjoyed learning idioms. This is what they always wanted to do, even when there were far more pressing things to learn first.

The appeal of foreign idioms comes from the fact that they are not the same the world over. The girl who's "a sandwich short of a picnic" in the UK will have "a spider on the ceiling" in France and "little monkeys in the attic" in Portugal.

I've always found idioms fascinating because they reveal unique aspects of the culture using them. Idioms tell us what matters to a nation, as could be the case with the German phrase "to live like a maggot in bacon", which means "to live the life of luxury".

What are these in their native languages?

What are these in their native languages?

Gems of Fun in Language Learning

A primary reason for learning a foreign language is to learn more about a culture. So it makes sense that idioms should be fun to learn and easy to remember, as they are literally bursting with culture.

For this piece, I asked artist and illustrator Marcus Oakley to draw ten of his favourite idioms from around the world. I hope they show the world in its linguistic glory and highlight how odd these little phrases are, which we sometimes use in our everyday speech without even realising.

I'd love it if you could share some of your favourite idioms in the comments. There really are more than you can shake a stick at.

New Podcast! Episode 9 Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months and The Growth Mindset

Welcome to episode 9, where I'm featuring an AMAZING article of the week and an interview with Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months.

In this interview you'll be finding out about

  • The single one problem that's stopping everyone from language learning
  • Why the "Learn my language, I won't learn yours" is NOT just an English world view
  • Confidence vs Discipline: Which one is more important?
  • What you should focus on when you start learning a new language
  • How important it is to personalize your learning experience
  • How to be a creative language learner with very limited vocabulary
  • Where Benny is going to live next!
  • Top tips for travelling the world on a budget
  • How to create a virtual immersion environment without travelling even a single mile

"The fun part is at the end of a lesson when I realise I've made some progress."

benny lewis interviewed

You can hear that Benny and I had some debate on the following issues - what do you think of this:

  1. Textbooks and Group Classes - Are they useless?

  2. If it really is all that important to take the personal approach, why is the mass approach of Duolingo so popular?

Article of the Week

Why The Growth Mindset is the Only Way to Learn on Edudemic

Very Highly Recommended!

Tips of the Week

Out of the following fabulous three tips, Benny chose number 1 as his Tip of the Week! He stated that he loves working with Mini-Missions and assessing his progress continuously as he goes a long.

1) System of Milestones and Post-mortems  

2) Tutor a fellow learner

3) HiNative

Tips and Links from this Podcast

Tune In Radio

Wikipedia, accessible in hundreds of languages, where you can find local language friends, for affordable travel

Language Linkfest: October 2014

Happy Halloween!

Sometimes time moves too quickly for us to even keep up with. The world's so busy and so intense that no one should be expected to keep up with everything, ever. I love following the language news myself and of course I write the Fluent blog and have a job to do as well. No wonder time flies!

To help us all keep up and take the time to check out what's been going on this month, I decided to put together the Language Linkfest. At the end of every month, this re-cap is going to give you the lowdown on everything noteworthy that you should catch up with, both here on Fluent and out in the world of the web.

Best of Fluent

73 (Yes, Seventy Three!) Awesome Language Blogs For You to Discover

Episode 8 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast, Co-Hosted by me and Lindsay Dow!

A Beautiful Gallery of Multilingual Forest Art

Language Learning On the Web

Live Q&A: What's the Best Way to Learn a Language? I participated as a panel member on this live chat on the UK Guardian website along with Alex Rawlings, Ed Cooke from Memrise, Dr Rebecca Braun of Lancaster University and many other experts. The comments are really worth a read, and I'm so glad the Guardian is so committed to language learning!

Why the Growth Mindset is the Only Way to Learn

Paddy Ashdown: Learning Six Languages has Changed My Life

11 Facts Yü Should Know About the Umlaut

Tools and Book Recommendations

Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher

Lang-8 has released HiNative, a new app where you can get answers to any question about language or culture in your chosen country.

Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, an amazing immersion book to teach you Latin and demonstrate how awesome both Latin and immersion can be.

Denglisch for Better Knowers, a Bilingual book for German learners, lovers, fans...EVERYONE then.

The Vocab Cookbook, my own Amazon release which sold fantastically well in October and has started bringing in some very happy reviews!

Three Language Learning Affirmations You Should Use (And Why They Will Work!)

Let me tell you about a demon. It keeps you safe and small, makes sure you’re in your place. It stops you from leaning out too far, leaning in to new adventures, and saying yes to any kind of change or risk. It’s kind of like a helicopter parent, and lives right in your head. That demon is called self-doubt.

Scenario 1: Self-Doubt

If you’ve been on a roll, spending the last few weeks listening to target language podcasts and seeing your tutor on a regular basis, then you’re expecting progress. You’re expecting a measurable, tangible feeling that this is worth the effort. And when that feeling doesn’t arrive, you start wondering why you bother.

Scenario 2: Self-Doubt Again

And here is the other side: You may have been feeling stuck during the past weeks. The language YouTube videos didn’t make you feel like you understand very much at all. You tried a language exchange and still couldn’t tell them about your week fluently. You’re starting to…guess what?…doubt yourself and second guess if language learning is even the right project for you.

Do You Recognise These Signs?

There are so many ways that self-doubt starts manifesting itself when you are a self-directed language learner. I bet you have experienced some of these before. I know that I do, and it takes one to know one:

  • Putting half an hour into study time, feeling no smarter than before, wondering if you’re using the wrong method
  • Spending five hours online researching study techniques, and zero hours doing any study
  • Accumulating 10,000 points on Duolingo, then getting bored with it and thinking you picked the wrong language
  • Buying every new resource out there, and using none of them

If you are finding yourself stuck in one of those ruts, you need to take action as soon as possible. Shifting your mindset towards becoming the kind of person that allows success to be a natural consequence of what they do is the key to moving forward. In all my conversation with language learners and polyglots and people who are happy about learning and people who are not, there’s always one clear definition: Everyone who is a great language learner believes in themselves. This is not an optional part of studying. You can say yes or no to flashcards, textbooks and italki. But you must never say no to your own learning capacity.

Using Affirmations to Get Unstuck

In today’s article, I want you to think about building affirmations into your learning practice. Shifting the idea about what kind of person you are from “Someone who struggles to learn Italian/German/French etc.” to “A committed lover of Italian/German/French etc” will make a huge difference. J from the Compassionate Language Learner blog wrote about this very topic recently in a post declaring how they use a careful approach to identity to make sure they stay on top of language learning. If you have never tried the same thing but have ever heard that annoying voice in your head asking you if you can really become fluent in this language, then this is something you have got to read. Building that fabulous positive image of yourself as someone who learns languages and enjoys regular successes.

Stop listening to voices in your head that say you’re not smart enough. Stop wondering about age, forgetfulness or which dictionary is the best. Just enjoy the ride.

Okay, so let’s get back to the affirmations. Like Wikipedia says, an affirmation is a statement saying that something is true. The concept of using statements like this to help your personal growth might feel a bit new-agey to you, but bear with this because positive thinking and affirmations are often linked to happiness and increased performance in studies. Beware though: Your affirmations must be credible to you and at least somewhat realistic, otherwise they won’t work. The idea is not to convince yourself, but to remember what you are good at.

Let me share my own affirmation, written right onto the board that I keep behind my computer screen. It says “(Pretend) You’re Awesome”. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering that I am awesome, but I can always pretend. This reminds me to take 10 seconds to close my eyes and imagine all of the awesome things that I do. It works because I am pretending, but at the same time concentrating on a positive image of myself.

Three Affirmations To Work With

Of course you can create any affirmation or positive image at all, but maybe you need a suggestion to get you started. The following three ideas might just work wonders and get you back to your book, your tutor or your homework.

If your inner voice says: "I’m never going to be great at this"

language is in my heart

If your inner voice says: "I am struggling with my language"


If your inner voice says: "I keep making mistakes"

language learning affirmation

How To Use These Graphics

These graphics are designed to keep you remembering that you've totally got this. Pin them to your Pinterest. Print them out, post them where you can see them every day or write them down every single day. You’ll only be investing seconds of your time, but who knows, it might boost your success by 500%!

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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Detailed Review of Rosetta Stone Tell Me More (aka Rosetta Stone Advanced)

Full Review and Screenshots of Rosetta Stone Tell Me More/Advanced

Full Review and Screenshots of Rosetta Stone Tell Me More/Advanced

Here's the thing. My French is not as good as it used to be. Last week, I met the very interesting Zahid Hussain, a local author and entrepreneur. Turns out Zahid speaks not only German, Urdu and English. He also went to school in France and his French is outstanding! Since I hadn't spoken French for over a year, I was excited to practice and started a conversation with him. And within a few minutes, I was pretty embarrassed. Zahid took no nonsense, and I forgot quite a few words. No excuse! Time to get back to studying!

My French Study Buddy: Rosetta Stone Advanced

Even though I had already been playing around with the new Rosetta Stone Advanced system for the Creative Language Learning Podcast, I admit that I hadn't really taken the time to study French with it. I know what it's like with language learning: You have to MAKE time. Knowing that I wanted to really push my French to a higher level, I've now started scheduling regular sessions to work with Rosetta.

Rosetta Stone Tell Me More

The system I work with is called Tell Me More and based on software developed by a company acquired by Rosetta Stone in 2013. Unlike a lot of the traditional models of buying Rosetta Stone as DVDs in box sets, this one gives you straight online access and bases your level on a very thorough 20 minute assessment.

I'm not someone who has spent a lot of time studying languages online and usually prefer live classes for the challenge and community sense of studying in a group with others. Of course I've done a bit of work with Duolingo and Memrise, but neither of them really captured me. Rosetta Stone was different right from the start. The thing I noticed immediately is how much less playful and inviting the user environment looks. The message this system sends is "You're a serious language learner", and we aren't here to mess about.

What's Different about Rosetta Stone Advanced?

The sheer volume and size of the content really stood out. There is so much to be studied and Rosetta Stone Advanced doesn’t look like it will get boring any time soon. After the first assessment, I felt confident very quickly and enjoyed playing around with the system.

There are grammar explanations and backgrounds where needed and the library of reference material in this version of Rosetta Stone is solid. In terms of how you learn, imagine lots of immersive practical exercises from translations to conversations (yes, with a computer...but it works!). The system features culture topics to keep you entertained. Any word can be clicked and looked up. And in all that, Rosetta Stone Advanced still sticks with the classic Rosetta Stone approach of avoiding the use of your native language by breaking the lessons down into manageable steps.

Here's what makes the system great:

  • Extremely thorough and comprehensive language content, covering different topics and a large vocabulary
  • Reliable starting assessment which leads to good prompts that suit your language level
  • Vast range of exercises covering all four core language skills (if you've read my book Fluency Made Achievable you'll know that I think those are the foundation behind fluency in any language)
  • Focus on comprehensible input and an immersive environment

There Are Disadvantages to Rosetta Stone Too

Of course, no language learning software can be perfect. Even though this system impressed me a lot more than any other computer-based class I've seen, there are things to be pointed out.

Example of the speech recognition in Rosetta Stone

Example of the speech recognition in Rosetta Stone

Not every exercise is as easy to complete as I would like it to be, and I admit that some of them drove me straight up the wall. For example, the pronunciation trainer needed me not just to repeat a word, but to repeat it very closely to the demo audio so that I could pass the lesson. The whole way Rosetta Stone's interface is laid out makes you want to complete lessons with a perfect score, so this has the potential to get irritating. The system also sticks with the same type of exercise for a long time, and that resulted in my attention wandering more than it should have. I mean, who wants to pronounce 94 unconnected words in a row?!

The other thing I noticed is that Rosetta Stone Advanced doesn't feel quite ready for 2014. I am a busy person with an iPhone, so I’d like to see a daily checklist, a scheduler or daily timed activities. There is an iPad app that looks sophisticated, but the Tell Me More access doesn't cover it so I cannot talk about it in this review.

In short, a few Rosetta stone disadvantages are:

  • The exercises can get pretty boring
  • It doesn't feel as technologically advanced as I would like it to be
  • It is a computer and lacks what a human language partner can offer you
  • The topic selection is very wide, but not current, not regularly updated or necessarily relevant to what YOU are interested in

My Verdict on Rosetta Stone Advanced for French

Overall, here are my final thoughts on the system. Language learning with Rosetta Stone Advanced is not too difficult for me, because I really appreciated the grammar explanations. I am mostly this one for reviewing a language that I have already learnt. As a brand new learner, I would actually really enjoy how much the system lets me try, play with and achieve. I believe it is definitely possible to advance a level with this software.

What stands out the most for me is just how much this is a system for "serious" language learners. It's not cute and engaging like Duolingo, it's not a game. This is a learning environment that's been well thought out and designed to help you spend several hundred hours studying your language. Altogether, I know that Rosetta Stone Advanced is priced at the high end of all language course ranges, and it certainly lived up to its value promise better than I had thought. BUT the speech recognition the system uses still doesn't deliver as much as even 20 minutes of talking to a real person can give you. That's a value for money score of 3/5.

The course quality is solid, and the assessments at the start and throughout are a good motivator. I do want to deduct some points though for the system being less fun than language learning can be, so there's an entertainment score of 2/5.

Finally, there's the most important score of all.

Does this work?

Well. Rosetta Stone Advanced is not the most up-to-date software when it comes to the real life examples, but at least for the French version I used I felt the vocabulary relevant and the grammar backgrounds useful. The biggest problem is really the low entertainment value, because it doesn't make you look forward to coming back to the system many times.

For someone who is committed and proficient at working with a computer, Rosetta Stone will provide great results. I do think this system is going to work in making you more familiar and confident at your language. The drawback is that you won't be applying it in real life, so, final verdict:

I would recommend Rosetta Stone Advanced as a very thorough computer-based language learning system for self-guided study, BUT I’d recommend regular contact with a real tutor too.

What Else Am I Doing to Improve my French?

Ce qu'un araignée peut faire..

Ce qu'un araignée peut faire..

In addition to switching the language on my iPhone Spider-Man game to French, I have also started reading the headlines at Le Figaro on a daily basis. The website offers a good selection of videos, from cinema reviews to the weather forecast. I do wish that there was a great French podcast to catch up with. I am also a subscriber of the Journal en Français Facile podcast from RFI. Do you have any other tips on how I can bring my French back to life?

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. All the links in this article are affiliate links, that means they cost you nothing but support Fluent. They're for the Euro version of Rosetta Stone, but it is available all over the world. You should also know that Rosetta Stone kindly allowed me to use this software for a free trial but had no input over my review.