Language Linkfest: July 2015

What a month! Summer is always one of my favourite times of the year, and this year too the month of July did not disappoint.

I spent half of the month travelling through Europe, seeing my family and working from a little house in Sweden. The train tickets to make all this possible were a complete bargain, and you can read here how to buy the cheapest European tickets.

Now let's get into that summer mood and give you some good stuff to read, listen to and watch.

Best of Fluent Blog

Click on the picture to find out more about the Summer Giveaway and #fluentshelfie

Click on the picture to find out more about the Summer Giveaway and #fluentshelfie

  • I recorded a fun episode of the Creative Language Learning Podcast with Lindsay and she announced her really big news - listen here

  • I'm running the Big Summer Giveaway and admiring #fluentshelfie pictures from all around the world

This giveaway closes tomorrow, 31 July 2015, so if you want to be in with a chance to win a new prize then enter right now!

Best Language Articles

  • If you study online courses, you'll benefit from these 7 Tips for Being a Successful Online Student on Edudemic
  • Do you get nervous about the word polyglot? Got any idea what immersion really means? Well, Ron can help! Here are his explanations, all with a good dose of humour on the Language Surfer blog
  • Practice your German in a new way by reading my German language wedding report on my friend Verena's blog
  • And Lindsay Dow never disappoints either, she posted so many fantastic articles this month that it was hard to choose. I finally wanted to share this one with you, which is about how you can keep making progress even when you've reached an advanced language stage. Read it on Lindsay does Languages
  • And if you want to know more about progress, I also have a fab archive article for you here on Fluent which is all about how to establish a tracking routine
  • If you're English, here's a good reason to learn a language and get the heck out of here: Underwhelming Holiday Photos
  • The new issue of Parrot Time is out this weekend

Product of the Month

This goes to Say Something in Welsh, which I'm using to study Welsh right now. They also offer Spanish, Dutch, Cornish and Latin.

Do you have any links for the topics above that you'd like to add?

Please tell me about them in the comments!

Slower Travel: How to Buy Cheap European Train Tickets (Plus: Travel Itinerary from Germany to Sweden)


Back in January I showed you how Christian and I travel Europe in my article on train travel from the UK to Germany via Belgium. This time, let me share a trip I am taking as a solo traveller!

Vineyards and Scandi Forests

As I am writing this, I am sitting on a train to Stockholm Central, typing on my laptop. I am on day 2 of travelling by train and have come a long way from the South! My summer trip started out with a flight from Manchester to Cologne (best flight option currently by Germanwings) for a family event. But as I was preparing to book my normal return flight, a Facebook post caught my eye:

“Need someone to look after our cat while we travel. Would any of our friends be interested?"

This came from a friend who lives in Stockholm! A new cat to hang out with and accommodation in an apartment in Stockholm? I was excited, and after some planning we matched up the dates and I decided to make my summer trip home to Germany into a big train adventure.

Here’s how the trip breaks down:

Day 1: Travel by plane from Manchester to Cologne, then by train to Wittlich Hbf

Img ©Christian

Img ©Christian

The first destination in Germany is always the Mosel valley to me. I was there to visit my family, but don’t think that this wouldn’t be a beautiful place for you. The Mittelmosel can be reached by train to Wittlich Hbf with a bus connection to any of the small villages. It’s focused on winemaking, with lush green vineyards on the hills and a stunning river winding its way through the valley.

Language Tip: Hbf stands for Hauptbahnhof, the central station of any city.

The Mosel region is world famous for its wines and amazing scenery. Visit a local wine estate and enjoy a wine tasting with the original producers - guys who know what a vineyard, wine cellar and tractor look like. There are over 15 wineries in my home village alone, and of course I recommend Weingut Hammes (tell them I sent you!). The biggest wine festival of the region is called the Weinfest der Mittelmosel and takes place in Bernkastel/Kues in early September. If you are in town, don’t miss out on the parades, funfair, fireworks and the wine street.

The temperatures during my visit regularly reached 35 degrees, with nighttime temperatures around 20. Some of my favourite things to do include getting amazing gelato at Venezia, swimming outdoors and camping by the river.

Day 7: Travel from Wittlich to Hamburg, via Koblenz.

This is a 7 hour journey including one change and features the lovely rivers Mosel and Rhine as its backdrop up until Cologne. On the trip you will get to see German landscapes changing to the flat and the nautical. Hamburg makes a very beautiful overnight destination, as everything is close by and the city’s sights are within easy reach. It also allowed me time to catch up with a long-time-no-see school friend, Verena who is chief blogger at Hamburg von Innen. She has kindly put a few tips together for you so you can get the most out of Hamburg:

Start at the Landungsbrücken and get set for your day with a Fischbrötchen, the classic Northern German snack. While you're there, take the lift to the old Elbtunnel and cross the river to admire the new Elbphilarmonie building (set to complete in 2017). The views in this part of town are fabulous.
Walk through the Portugiesenviertel to the MichelHamburg's iconic church which offers the best views in town from its tower. On the way there, stop at Milch for an excellent coffee break. You shouldn't miss Jungfernstieg and Binnenalster, with a visit to Warnecke for some ice cream.
Take a stroll around the Speicherstadt and admire this UNESCO-listed cultural treasure. The best Hamburg-style food is Labskaus or Hamburger Pannfisch with an Alsterwasser (shandy).

My accommodation in Hamburg was a friendly little Airbnb apartment in Altona.

Day 8: Travel from Hamburg to Stockholm, via Copenhagen

There’s currently no direct train running between Hamburg and Stockholm, but the trip via Copenhagen is fun and adds little time in total. For this journey, I was on the tracks for 12 hours in total, with a 2 hour changeover. Hamburg to Denmark offers views of picturesque Friesland and a crossing of the Baltic Sea to get to the island of Fehmarn.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150720 155633.jpg

The journey features a truly exciting extra: Your train drives ONTO A BOAT. I was absolutely amazed by this. The ScandLines crossing between Fehmarn, a German island in the Baltic Sea, and Roedby in Denmark takes 45 minutes and gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs. 

The Swedish part of the train journey is all trees and meadows and water, a wealth of things to look at. The SJ train was comfortable and fast, offered free wi-fi, plugs and a little bistro so that you couldn’t be more comfortable.

Here in Stockholm, I’m getting around using the T-Bana (the city metro). My city guide book recommends Skansen, the open air museum to take visitors back to Viking times. I’m also planning to give a little bit of time to a nice walk around Södermalm, the beautiful old town and the open air baths. Being self-employed and staying here as a house sitter has made it possible for me to combine working and discovering this new city and I am very much looking forward to my stay (and to hanging out with Moppet, the cat I’m looking after).

How to Purchase your Tickets

Although navigating the Deutsche Bahn website can take a little getting used to, its wealth of connection and saver fare data means it remains a must when you are planning Euro train travel. Journeys abroad are open for booking as long as they’re offered by or in partnership with Deutsche Bahn. Alternatively, try The Trainline Europe.

I decided to opt for a mobile ticket, meaning I had to download the DB Navigator app and log in. I was amazed at how well this worked, conveniently allowing me to access my tickets and timetables on my phone, research alternative routes and get platform information. Even on the trip from Copenhagen to Stockholm, the conductor accepted my foreign e-tickets without question. Deutsche Bahn offers the option of posting the train ticket to you in hard copy. Be aware that lost tickets will not be replaced if you take that option, and there’s a small extra charge for it.

I bougnt a BahnCard too, a special offer from Deutsche Bahn which gives you 25% off each journey you take. Since the full trip from Wittlich to Stockholm was booked and paid through the Deutsche Bahn website, I was able to make this journey for just €110. That’s an outstanding deal, especially since I realised that it includes a ferry!

Notes on Learning German, Swedish and Danish

Learning German? My native language? Oh yes! This trip took place so recently after I developed my new German pronunciation course that my ears were more attentive than ever. My parents and I watched the news and listened closely to make sure the pronunciation is real Hochdeutsch. And we spoke more Moselfränkisch to each other than ever. On the train trip to Koblenz, I got to listen to some Trier boys drink beer and speak dialect. Do any of these expressions make sense to you German learners? I love and understand them all:

  • Hal dau mol de Schniss weile!
  • Du komen am Sunndisch die Frimmen vorbéi.
  • Dau Flappes!
  • Eisch hann die Freck, haut kann eisch néist.

The prize for most languages during a train announcement goes to the Danes this time, who racked up Danish, Swedish, German and English on their leg of my journey. I didn’t really stop in Copenhagen for very long, skimming over the Danish language on my trip to Sweden.

Everyone I have spoken to in Stockholm so far speaks English at an incredibly high level. But once again, you can tell that the “they all speak English anyway” excuse just doesn’t fly. They may be able to speak English to me, but they don’t choose to. I am happily wandering around at the moment armed with this little beauty, a dictionary from 1975:

The way I use my dictionary to help me learn the language is so much fun to me. I carry it around everywhere and take time to look up words that I see come around again and again (på, och, uttlev) and translate written texts. The dictionary also contains a pronunciation guide, and once I feel like I’m ready to do it I’ll try out my new word on a Swedish person just to check I’m getting it right. Spoken Swedish is not making a lot of sense to me yet, which is to be expected on day 2 a 10 day visit. But every day, I'll be adding words and making memories.

And here’s a little closing note on the languages of this trip (no Norwegian included): 

If it’s got an ø (pronounced “gulp” or something like that), it must be Danish. If it’s got an å (pronounced “oh”), it must be Swedish.

I would love to hear from you! Have you ever been to Sweden? Have you travelled a long distance by train? Share your best train travel experiences with me in the comments. 

New Podcast Episode: Mobile Language Learning and Big News with Lindsay Does Languages

Big news for the ladies of the Creative Language Learning Podcast in episode 20: Lindsay is engaged and Kerstin is married! 

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • What makes a German wedding and an English engagement special
  • Lindsay's and Kerstin's recent language learning updates - we've been learning Semaphore and Welsh!
  • How do you use Memrise for language learning?
  • Lindsay's exact process for learning a new way of communicating with online resources
  • Should you speak early? Is there any reason to hold back?

Article of the Week

Can you really learn a language using mobile apps? on Languages around the Globe

Tips of the Week

Summer is my favourite season, so you won't have to guess hard to work out which tip I chose as the big tip of the week!

1) Get outside and away from all your screens for a summer's learning session

2) Make Language Study your first task of the day with Early Morning Study Sessions

3) Watch your foreign movie...but watch the commentary!

Tips and Links from this Podcast

Question of the Week

Are you in an international relationship? Maybe a bilingual one? Tell us your story of living across borders in the comments or over on Facebook!

New Podcast Episode: Chilled out Success with Language Surfer Ron Gullekson

““Languages are ultimately designed to bring people together.””

This episode of the Creative Language Learning Podcast is brought to you by Flashsticks - use code KERSTIN for 10% off vocabulary aids in French, German, Italian, Spanish or BSL.


Welcome to episode 19 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast, featuring a current article of the week and an inspiring interview with one of my favourite language bloggers: Ron Gullekson from Language Surfer. His relaxed language learning attitude will make you so comfortable. 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why Ron's blog is called Language Surfer
  • How formal language learners all know what "drawing a line down the middle" means :)
  • How Ron structures his on curriculum for language learning
  • Which level of language learning you might be at if you studied Arabic for 8 hours a day..for 64 weeks!
  • Free listening, and how soon you can start doing this in your own study routine
  • How to create your organic SRS system
"I want to get used to the idea of being lost as soon as possible."

Tips of the Week

I had secretly expected Ron to choose tip 3 as a music fan, but his own choice was tip 1: Get out and talk to people.

1) Meet up in conversation groups offline

2) Find local podcasts by switching itunes to the country's store

3) Learn with music on Spotify

Tips and Links from this Podcast

If you loved this podcast episode, don't forget to check out the other episodes in the Archive and visit our sponsor Flashsticks to use your KERSTIN10 coupon code.

Win Prizes worth over $600 in the Fluent Summer Giveaway

Ahh, is anything in life better than winning prizes? If you're a bit like me, you love a good prize draw. And what could be better than winning an awesome goodie to help you with your language learning adventures?

That's right. It's time for the Fluent Summer Giveaway 2015!

This giveaway is a great way for me to give something back to you wonderful Fluent readers readers. It is opening right now, so read on to discover how you can win an absolutely amazing prize.

The Prizes

I have collected a HUGE array of prizes with a total value of over $600. There are several unique prizes that you will not see anywhere else, only here at Fluent Language.

You can win one of the following 18 prizes:

How to Enter


It's free and simple to enter. Simply click here and complete the entry form on my giveaway page.

Want an extra entry?

You increase your chances of winning by sharing your very own language shelfie.

Simply snap a picture of your language bookshelf and share it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #fluentshelfie. Every shelfie picture will get a separate entry (even if you post 50), and I can't wait to see your pictures.

For full competition details, head over to the giveaway page.

Wishing you good luck!


Language Linkfest: June 2015

After last month's linkfest fell almost exactly on my wedding day, we're back with the June 2015 edition. This month has been racing past no slower than the ones before. I have many news pieces, and on the language front this is the month I finally started learning my new language: Welsh! What are you learning this summer?

These beach huts are in St Annes, Lancashire, UK

These beach huts are in St Annes, Lancashire, UK

By the way, this month I finally read Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner and I gave it 4 stars. Read my short review here if you like.

Best of Fluent's blog

Best Language Articles and New Stuff

There are a few new books out!

SPANISH: Learn Spanish with Olly from - he has written short stories

FRENCH: Learn French with Ben from - he has collected and explained idioms

Edupreneur's Corner

Do you have any links for the topics above that you'd like to add?

Please tell me about them in the comments!

Olly Richards' Language Learning Foundations Course reviewed in Full

In every language learning story, there comes a moment where you start wondering whether you’re doing things in the right way. You may start off with a burst of inspiration and the certainty that you’ll be fluent in just a few months. Then weird things start to happen. You wonder how to work less, remember more, and whether you’re cut out for studying every day. You miss a day, you google “is this normal?”.

And before you know it, you’re caught in “what the hell should I do?” territory feeling like a loser.

If any of that kind of feeling sounds familiar, let me tell you one thing: You don’t need any more theories. You need to start doing sensible things and following simple steps. In today’s review, I want to share a course that is all about teaching those simple steps.

Course Structure

Language Learning Foundations by Olly Richards is offered through his popular site It is not a huge course that will take you weeks to complete. It consists of 10 video lectures. You could block yourself off half a rainy Saturday, get comfortable with a laptop and use the time to overhaul your whole language routine. I’d say that’s a lot better than overloading your whole system.

Language Learning Foundations answers some of the most common questions that I see language learners ask all the time, and in this course you will get some answers that really help you out. Olly provides tips and instructions that will help you learn more effectively and achieve your goals a little faster.

Every training video and slideshow can be downloaded. They require some concentration from you, but I was impressed because they were all designed for real life. There's no dry theory here, instead you get tips that you can apply immediately.

How to make progress and not get distracted

For example, Module 3 is called “How to make progress and not get distracted”. Olly goes into detail here about how to get started, advising first of all on the best criteria for a helpful textbook or resource. This alone could save you hours of failed attempts with materials that just don't work. He then brings a bunch of solid arguments for why learners should select this type of resource, and what makes them different from other higgledy-piggledy types of approaches.

In the same module, Olly then moves on to sharing his own views on what your learning mindset should be when working with materials such as textbooks. Finally, there's an exact strategy for the actions you should take with textbook dialogues and audio examples. His advice is very detailed and focused throughout, it's the real deal and so helpful if you want to know how to learn a language independently.

Each module’s video takes 10-15 minutes to watch, but I think you should allow a quarter hour to digest their content afterwards and really think about how you’ll apply what Olly just discussed.

What’s in the package?

Olly has put together two different course packages, starting from just $47 which is a kick-ass price for a course that will enable you to learn without Rosetta Stone, without classes, without hand-holding. You can even upgrade the course to get an ebook version and audio training so you can learn away from your computer. He also offers interviews with four experts:

  • Alex Rawlings (only the most multilingual student in Britain!)
  • Richard Simcott
  • Chris Parker (famously fluent in Mandarin Chinese) and
  • …me as the language learning and teaching poster girl.

Olly’s interview with me was excellent. He asked intelligent questions, made sure every answer I gave was practical and useful for all learners, and our conversation goes perfectly with what this course is all about. So in other words, if you have the extra pennies to invest in these expert videos, go for it.

The slides and audio quality are fabulous throughout, by the way, and Olly also does that thing I love in video teachers: he shows his face regularly and speaks to you as the learner so you know this is your dedicated instructor.

Who’s it for?

Language Learning Foundations is designed so it can benefit any learner, especially beginners or those who are keen to reach dizzy polyglot heights.

A course like this is best if you’ve never enjoyed formal language training and you want to learn a language in your own way.

If you hated language learning in school, then you will enjoy Language Learning Foundations.


Olly has gone into great detail in his language learning course. He is a teacher and language blogger and speaks 7 languages himself. The course is for those who are looking for the best method to teach them skills for learning a language independently.

At the end of Language Learning Foundations, you will

  • Know specific techniques for setting your intentions, staying motivated and experiencing language learning success
  • Be able to select the perfect materials FOR YOU and know how to cut through empty promises
  • Feel confident and ready to tackle the world in a new language
  • Have solid foundations for cutting out the things in language learning that have always frustrated you

It is an incredibly friendly experience, so go and try out Language Learning Foundations if you’re new to language learning.

You can purchase the basic or extended video course versions from Olly’s course page.

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

Podcast Episode 18: World Views and Polyglots with Lindsay Dow

Episode 18 is packed full of language learning news and chat with Lindsay from Lindsay does Languages, my trusty and lovely co-host. I hope you'll join us for all the debate and learning!

creative language learning podcast 18

We discussed

  • A truly useful and helpful definition of Polyglot by Richard Simcott
  • What the Polyglot Gathering is and how it went down in Berlin in 2015
  • If a language you learn really makes you think differently, and
  • Whether Kerstin should make herself study more Russian or allow herself the fun of exploring a bit of Welsh

In Episode 16, I'm introducing our new co-host: Lindsay Dow from Lindsay Does Languages I’m bringing Lindsay in for more Creative Language Learning Podcast because she's just been so much fun for you to listen to.

Article of the Week

"How the Language you Speak Changes your View of the World" in the Independent

closely related Does your Language Shape how you Think? in the NY Times

Tips of the Week

Lindsay's tip of the week was tip number 1, of course because she is completely involved in the awesome Script Challenge this year. Unplug your computer, get a book from the library and write down those words.

1) Go Old Skool with handwriting

2) Use your internal thesaurus when you get stuck

3) Play video games in another language (here's a relevant article from Learn out Live)

Links for Episode 18 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast

This episode is brought to you by FlashSticks, the printed language learning post-its. Use code KERSTIN10 for 10% off.

Should you accept a Language Challenge? Here are 7 Things to Know before you Decide

Challenge is a big word in today's world, and challenges have started being all around us. There are the language challenges like the italki Language Challenge and the Add 1 Challenge. Then your local gym might challenge you to swim a few miles or do 500 squats. And of course we were all challenging ourselves to drown in ice buckets last year.

What is that makes a challenge rewarding and great? How do you know you're ready? Here are a few thoughts and insides to show you what makes a good challenge work.

Why do we like challenges?

language challenges

1. Pride

Accepting a challenge means proving something - not just to yourself but also to the world. No one would put themselves through something difficult if they don't believe that the result will be positive. So when you're in a challenge, you choose to commit to improving yourself and your skills in public. You can stand proud knowing that you have represented no matter how far you get.

2. Community

Group challenges are a wonderful opportunity to overcome your fears and push yourself to try out new things. I remember last year's abseiling adventure and how terrified it made me feel. If there had not been so many other people to encourage me and show me that this is possible, I would have never done it.

Here is how Brian, founder of the Add 1 Challenge, talks about his experience attempting to learn a new language in just 3 months and following a fellow student on the Fluent in 3 Months forum:

Even though he was half way around the world, I get inspired and energized every time just because I know someone was going through the same thing as I am, sharing the same struggles and having our small wins.

So if you are feeling isolated as an online learner, don't despair and seek out a community of people who share your goal.

3. Excitement

As part of my participation in the Small Product Lab (see below) I’m feeling like I’m on an invigorating sprint, and I can already see the end in sight. So here is one reason we love a challenge: Excitement!

It can be very motivating to put a specific goal and a time limit on our activities. You can feel buoyed by the community, inspired by everyone else's ideas and optimistic about the finish line.

How do you know you're ready for a challenge?

Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch out there and so even the most valuable challenge comes with its own risks. Before you dive in, it's important to be sure that you're ready right now.

Will you have time and energy?

Since many language learners and aspiring polyglots are such high achievers, there's a risk in any good challenge. It can feel disappointing when you overcommit and set your expectations too high. So before challenging yourself to achieve something unrealistic, check how you are feeling.

Katey Nixon is taking the Add 1 Challenge right now and warns that "all or nothing" thinking can sabotage your great efforts.

So far three days this week I have skipped practice and I think it is all or nothing thinking, because I think - well I don’t have a full hour to practice - so I don’t even start and let other things get in the way.


Awareness is always the first step to solving a problem, so remember to accept a challenge only if it feels like you will have fun and not added stress.

You must feel that the goal works for you

The biggest risk in accepting any challenge is doing it for the wrong reason. If you are participating in a difficult endeavour just to prove your own skills or strengths, you're in murky territory. First of all, ask yourself who you want to prove yourself to. If your activity is based on the desire to impress someone else, forget it.

A good personal success does not come from other people's approval. Your challenge should be about what's meaningful to you, and what gets you fired up.

And what if you fail?

The other elephant in the room is fear of failure, and this is something that haunts every language learner out there. For example, the Add 1 Challenge proposes that you "hold a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker after 90 days". Personally, I think this is a super vague goal. You could speak to them in your language and have it be a success. You could speak to them for 10 minutes and have it be a failure.

I don't know exactly who said the following thing, maybe it was Yoda or maybe it was George Clooney. But in language learning and in business, I believe these words are powerful:

There is no such thing as failure. There is just trying.

Be flexible and forgive yourself for missing a day every now and then. A well-organised challenge will also take this into account. For example, Lindsay Dow's structure for the Instagram Language Challenge allows some extra days for catching up. If you're ready to try something, you're ready for a challenge.

Before you start, ask yourself these three questions

  1. Are you ready to commit the time and resources required?
  2. Is the goal your goal?
  3. Are you excited?

If you get three "yes" answers, I think it's time to sign up! If one of the answers is a no, leave it for another day. Those good ideas and challenges won't go anywhere.

Here is my own challenge story

And here is a secret revealed: I finally signed up to one.

The thing I’m challenging right now is not my language learning skill but my creativity. Small Product Lab challenges creative people to build a small and helpful product in just 10 days. And because I've not got much time, here is my promotion for you:

I am putting together an Email Set to save any online or private teacher time when they book new and existing students. It will include helpful email templates and also a guide to email signatures. And right now it's not launched yet, so you can get it at half price for a few days only. Click here for more information and to watch my product grow.