The Story of Bilingual German-English Live Training

One of the worst moments I've ever experienced in German teaching was the time I tried to introduce a class of lunchtime learners to the Akkusativ case. Armed with whiteboard and sample sentences, I walked into the class, and I felt so ready and so excited to be teaching this (what I thought) awesome system in grammar.

"So when you have an object in your sentence, here's what happens..", I explained to them, with colour-coded underlining to illustrate. I thought I was doing well..until I saw everyone's face. In this classroom, at 12:45, in the middle of a busy workday, something clearly wasn't working.

That's when I realised that language teaching and language learning are not the same thing. And even worse, that what I was explaining didn't make sense to half of these people and they didn't care either.

Relevant Teaching

I came out of that class feeling absolutely defeated. I think I even cried, feeling like I'm failing myself and my students. And the experience always stuck with me and built part of the philosophy that is behind my actions now: The LEARNER is in charge of learning a language. And the learner, that's you right there reading these words.

When you're taking classes with me, you can get the solid and important explanations at your own pace in my online courses, but in live lessons I avoid explainers and I never lead with them.

Instead, the key to the Fluent Language method is relevant teaching.

For you as a German learner, that means experiencing language immersion at a good pace, making your own conclusions, and answering questions regularly. It's important to speak or write early, but it's also important that you're learning relevant and well.

Action: Bilingual Live Training

In my most recent teaching venture, I created a bilingual webinar - the first one I ever taught, and a successful one too.

Thank you so much if you were among the lovely people watching on Saturday. It was a challenge for me to teach in this way, but an incredibly rewarding experience to know that the viewers were following along, answering questions, and understanding the immersion concept.

Do you want to try it out? Catch up with the webinar today, and make sure you also download your worksheet and follow along. Click here and find all you need at the webinar live page.

German Immersion in Germany

For those of you who are ready for the next step in German, don't forget that the deadline for applying to our exclusive FLUENT GERMAN RETREAT is approaching very quickly. The event is perfect for you if you've been stuck in the books and screens, and you want to break out and speak German in the wild.

To learn more about this once-in-a-lifetime event, click here.

I do have a few places left at this stage and need to close registrations very soon, so make sure you don't miss out today.

Did you watch the webinar? Did you learn something new and use the worksheet?

Tell me how you enjoyed it in the comments below, and make sure you sign up for my newsletter to learn about the next one.

A Good Handle on the Hangul (Podcast Episode 47)

In this episode, we let you guys take us where you wanted us to go with your awesome listener messages.

Some of What We Talked About

  • Where to go when you travel to Lithuania (home of our first listener)
  • Great tips for studying Korean, like how to study the grammar and where to go next after learning Hangul script
  • Is there ever a perfect language course that is not too slow and not too fast?
  • How to set yourself little language goals
  • Great apps on your smartphone that help you learn languages (we mentioned DOZENS and you've never heard of half of these - guaranteed!)
  • How to beat procrastination when you’re supposed to be studying your languages

The Language Learner's iPhone Gallery

 

We want to thank you guys so much for sending us so much feedback (especially Paulina, Stephen and Andy) in this episode. Keep it coming, we always read your reviews and feedback and definitely want more voice messages.

Links and Resources From This Episode

Korean

Welsh

Apps

There are so many more that we mention on the show, so don’t forget to check out our home screen gallery for inspiration.

Beating Procrastination

You Can Be On The Show

Don't forget that you can submit your message to us anytime. Simply do one of the following:

  • go on Skype and leave a voice message for fluentlanguage OR
  • email us at kerstin@fluentlanguage.co.uk - include a voice memo from your phone if you can, so we can feature your voice on the show
  • leave a comment on this blog post

Make sure you mention your name and which languages you’re learning. We also value your reviews in the iTunes store of your choice - simply click here, subscribe, click review and go for it (thanks to our latest US-based reviewer for the cool review en español!).

Top 5 Photo Spots in the Mosel Valley, Germany

When you travel to a location as outstanding as the Mosel valley, it would be a shame to forget your camera. I recently headed home to spend a week preparing for the Fluent German Retreat, and on my trip I collected a few top tips to share with you.

The following sites are not to be missed and can be visited in a day or two. But wie alles an der Mosel, it pays to take your time and slow down to find a relaxed pace.

photo spots mosel

Top 5 Photo Spots in the Mosel Valley

1) Porta Nigra, Trier

Where would Trier locals be without their beloved Porta? This old Roman city gate stands proudly on the West End of Trier. It may not impress you with its beauty at the start, but this location is unmissable as the city's Wahrzeichen - our flagship building. This is where Germany's oldest city meets for coffee.

Insider Tip:

The inside of the Porta Nigra is fascinating, and during the summer you can take guided tours with a Roman centurion.

Eiscafé Calchera, just a few steps away from the Porta, is the city's finest address for Italian ice cream.

2) Straußwirtschaft im Weingut

Straußwirtschaften are the traditional German cousins of microbreweries, run in the wineries of wine country and open only a few months per year. Let yourself be spoilt with local foods and fresh wines right from the cellar. It might be true that we export all the good stuff.

You can find them in every village and know them by a bunch of ribbons, stray or branches (the Strauß) displayed on the outside the house.

3) Altstadt Bernkastel-Kues

Bernkastel-Kues is an absolute Mosel classic, visited for centuries by everyone from convalescent kings to US Army staff looking for a relaxing weekend. This town has everything you could want from a German photo spot: a castle ruin high up in the hills, a traditional market square second to none other, and a romantic bridge across the river to boot.

Bernkastel is bustling, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable for visitors at any age. It's most incredible during the Weinfest der Mittelmosel, crowned with stunning fireworks that reflect in the river on a warm September night.

4) Weinköniginnen

At most German wine, beer or shooting festivals, you are in the presence of local royalty. In the Mosel valley for example, young ladies (usually between 17 and 25) represent their villages, towns and even the whole winemaking region. This job is coveted, and can even lead to a career travelling the world to represent German wine.

And if you make it to the Fluent German Retreat, you might spot a picture of me as a fresh-faced young wine queen proudly representing Mülheim.

5) Moselschleifen

So obvious that it's nearly forgotten, the Mosel river is an absolutely breathtaking sight. Winding its way through ancient slate hills, lined by vineyards, it looks every bit as wonderful as it sounds. The Mosel valley has something beautiful on offer around every bend. Sometimes your eye will be drawn to an old castle, vines on a steep slope or a boat peacefully making its way down the river bends. The Mosel is a unique experience - drive or hike up one of the hills and you'll be spellbound.

Insider Tip:

Look out for the word Moselschleife in a guidebook, and do not let fear of a steep vineyard put you off. My favourite locations are the Brauneberg directly opposite our Retreat venue in Mülheim, the hills above Kröv and Minheim.

Where To Find Out More

This post covers just a few of the beautiful locations in the Mosel valley, and obviously there are hundreds more spots to discover. For example, I love the Josefinenhöhe in Veldenz,

This place is popular with travellers all around the world, yet undiscovered by the big tourist hordes, so prepare to discover your own private trail.

Join Us In The Mosel Valley This October

If you want to experience these wonderful places and speak German intensively, you are invited to discover the Fluent German Retreat.

  • Are you a German learner ready for a week of immersion, fun and relaxation?
  • Does the prospect of speaking German for 5 days make you feel energised and excited?
  • Do you want to start speaking to native Germans and boost your speaking skill by 50%?

If you said yes to these questions, then it's your perfect time to join the Fluent German Retreat.

There are a few places available at this stage, so go ahead and let me know if you want to be one of the highly motivated group of German learners who are going to experience Germany like never before.

Mastery and Advanced Level Language Learning (Podcast Episode 46)

Thanks for our good friends at Flashsticks for their ongoing support of the Creative Language Learning Podcast. Try their free app and get 10% off anything on their site using code KERSTIN10.

master language

When you reach the higher language levels, it's not enough to just study. How does it feel to reach a level where you are looking for ways to go beyond fluency? How can you move towards mastery?

There's no Lindsay in this episode (don't worry, she'll be back very soon!), so I found myself two experts who know what they are talking about:

  • Tristan Foy, an American polyglot who's currently my advanced German student

and

The episode is full of tips and strategies for reaching the very advanced levels and getting better even after years of study.

It's Not About Fast Progress

Thanks to Ellen Jovin for letting me show you this picture.

Thanks to Ellen Jovin for letting me show you this picture.

Of course you want to start off feeling like you are making fast progress, but at the advanced levels you're no longer looking for that. Approaching and chasing "mastery" means that the time you spend studying a language isn't relevant anymore. In other words, a truly advanced learner has long stopped counting the time they spent.

Advanced Level Means Finding "More" In The Language

Once you get to a point where having a conversation in your target language is no longer just a crazy dream, it's absolutely essential to find something more to connect to. Call it culture, call it personal connections, whatever it might be.

At the advanced level, you're guaranteed to have found what Tristan calls "the language speaking to your soul" - grammar and vocabulary becomes secondary.

"Learning a language is a bit like hugging a cactus - you can never get entirely comfortable"
(Tristan Foy)

Tweet: Learning a language is a bit like hugging a cactus (Tristan Foy on the Creative Language Learning Podcast) www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/podcast

It Takes Work To Progress

language mastery

It's entirely possible to plateau at an intermediate level even after you have moved to a country. If you've got enough language to chat to people and fill in forms, that doesn't mean you're approaching "Mastery" yet but it does mean you're okay. So in order to improve ever more, you need to put in the work, set new goals and engage in every single one of listening, reading, speaking and writing, vocabulary, and grammar.

Turns out that you're never ever done - Gareth for example has just passed the C1 German exam and he says he has endless scope for improvement.

Enjoy the journey, stop for a breather whenever you feel like it and keep going.

Fluency - No One Cares!

Tristan sums this up with a wonderful sentence: Don't worry about getting fluent. Worry about getting better.

Everyone is always looking for a label, it could be "fluent" or "C1" or "conversational". But at the end of the day, you're never really done and get closer and more comfortable.

You Need Humility

Having areas of weakness in your language is not a sign that you are weak overall, but it's a valuable hint.

Gareth highlights that your potential for making errors gets bigger as you improve, so you'll need to keep aware that it will get ever more difficult to find and revise the most advanced grammar points. He recommends you work with textbooks, grammar exercises and advanced tutors.

How An Encounter With Tibetan Monks Inspired Christine To Learn Three New Languages

What is it that makes me so happy about language learning?

It's not just about showing that the human brain is capable of miraculous feats. It's also about using language as a lmetaphor for understanding other people.

LWhen Fluent reader Christine McKenna contacted me by email with her story, I was drawn to it immediately. She speaks of language changing her perspective, and tells a story of how incredible it is to dive in and let your studies lead you to a new life. Christine is a yoga teacher living in the US, and has been studying languages for more than a decade.

Her language choices are Tibetan, Sanskrit and French. Intrigued? Then read on to find out how she connected to those languages.

If you're curious about diving into the languages mentioned in this post, you can download a little bonus page full of great resources from Christine and me. Click the button to get our recommendations.

It Started With Tibetan Monks

Before my current life as a yoga teacher, I was a software developer for 23 years.

In middle age, I developed an interest in broadening my horizons to something beyond full-time engagement with technology. I encountered Tibetan monks who had come to perform rituals at the Sackler Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC. They explained that they lived in India as refugees.

This was late 2001 and they were doing a healing ritual for Americans after the 9/11 attacks. Impressed by their generosity. These people lived as refugees, yet were concerned for us! 

Exploring further, I met a translator and teacher of Tibetan philosophy who said there were linguistic and cultural nuances that were difficult or impossible to communicate in English. Drawn to find out more about this phenomenon, I began to study Tibetan language.

After a few starting pains (there are many dialects and variants), I found my solid grounding in literary Tibetan. Later I went to India and lived in a Tibetan refugee community. I took courses, helped out with various tasks (teaching technical skills, editing English translations), and developed my spoken Tibetan. After about eight months, I traveled to Nepal, to live in Tibetan communities and study.

My most engaging learning occurred while listening to conversations in public places. In Tibetan communities in India and Nepal, Tibetan conversations would flow freely as I visited teahouses and other public places. I was listening for cultural assumptions and how the language was being used. Listening was easier for me than constructing sentences of my own, so this helped move my skills along.

After I had learned a certain amount, I decided to take my next steps in conversation and scholarship. I returned to the US and a move to the East Coast gave me the opportunity to study Tibetan and Sanskrit at the University of Virginia.

Next Steps: Sanskrit and French

As part of my History of Asian Religions degree, I found myself adding more languages, too. I took up Sanskrit to better understand literary Tibetan.

While exploring history and availability of Tibetan-language manuscripts, I realized considerable research had been published in French! The French have a long history of Oriental studies - you need only visit the Website of Bibliothèque nationale de France and enter tibetain in the search to find out more. So after a while, I became persuaded I should study French to be the best and most responsible researcher for the history of Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhism.

In the university environment, I was typically more than twice the age of the next-oldest student in my classes. This was not a problem; I never felt out-of-place. I seemed to have fewer social distractions, knew exactly what I wanted from each class and remained very focused. Contrary to stereotype, I was often more comfortable with technology than some of my classmates. I seemed to be the only one in my French class to prefer an electronic dictionary to the traditional printed versions.

Language and Culture

In the Tibetan community, I encountered a philosophy and culture in which compassion is emphasized.

This shows itself in the language in wonderful ways: Verb tense and aspect differ significantly from English, in ways I hadn't imagined. Initially, I would ask a bilingual Tibetan, "How would I say [something or other] in Tibetan?" and they would respond "You wouldn't."

Puzzling, but I finally understood that the world-view is significantly different and the language corresponds to that. Also some distinctions have historically not arisen; Tibetans have black hair, and there are traditionally only two words for hair color, black and what they were calling “blonde”. I was informed that my dark-brown locks are blonde for their purposes.

Tibetan Poems and Proverbs

Tibetan Poems and Proverbs

To immerse oneself in traditional Tibetan writings is to immerse oneself in a culture that values kindness and compassion over material concerns that pervade English language. This is not to say all Tibetans are saints or that I have not encounter Tibetans behaving badly. However, I find the mainstream culture inspiring. The centers of learning have long been monasteries; the head of government until very recently was also a spiritual leader--the Dalai Lama, said to embody compassion. Meditative practices are part of the culture.

To immerse oneself in traditional Tibetan literature, and much of their modern media is, typically, an effective way to pause and creatively re-direct thoughts based on Western cultural biases.

Everyday Language Immersion

There is much more I’d like to learn about these languages and the cultures they express! Right now I type most of my notes in Tibetan and Sanskrit; I would like to spend more time on hand-writing and calligraphy.

I often choose to immerse in language, sometimes simply crossing the border and spending time with French Canadians, or with Tibetan refugees in the U.S. or abroad. I may spend a day at home watching videos and reading books in a particular language, and I find that fluency develops - or resurfaces - and I lose some cultural baggage. Languages make me better at taking a new perspective.

Currently, I need to stay close to home, with little opportunity to travel. However, spending a day totally immersed in French or Tibetan - videos, reading, writing, even thinking in a chosen language - feels like a vacation because I make a mental shift. I also have occasional access to a Tibetan language conversation partner, or can video chat with one of my French Canadian friends.

Start Learning Tibetan and Sanskrit

Have you studied any of these ancient Asian languages? What is your experience with the compassionate world view of Tibetan culture?

If this story has made you curious to try out the languages for yourself, don't forget that you can get Christine's recommendations as a bonus to this post right here.

The Book That Will Change How You See Language Learning (+ Clever Notes & Action Plan FREE)

One of the most common things I hear from language learners is

becoming fluent book

"what is the best way to do this?" You want to know how to learn a language, in as much detail as possible.

And it's hard to answer that question once and for all, for everyone. People are different, and no one's going to teach you good habits overnight. I know there are plenty of players out there telling you that their way of doing flash cards or listening to native content is the real answer.

But seriously, guys. What it really takes is that you learn to understand your own smart and capable self. That's where a book like Becoming Fluent comes in.

By the way, I've gone ahead and done a little bit of hard work for you guys. You can now click the button below and download my book notes for Becoming Fluent along with a fab little action plan template so you know what to do next.

What Is Becoming Fluent?

Becoming Fluent is an impressive book in the field of language acquisition. It's written with the scientific background expected from academics. But that doesn't mean that language learners cannot apply it to their lives: Throughout the book, the authors mix explanations and practical tips. The book is written for adult learners who want to conquer another language, and goes into the following topics:

  • What do you have to do to make sure you become a successful language learner?
  • How can you choose the right target language to study?
  • What are the best
  • How important is it to know the culture and norms of people who speak your target language every day?
  • How can you get better at memorising and remembering more?

Why It's Awesome

There are many language learning books out in the market that tell you all about how wonderful the author's methods are. Most successful polyglot-style books follow this system. The logic is that if following certain steps made the author fluent in another language, then you can do the same by copying the steps.

In Becoming Fluent, I detected none of this. The authors do work from their own experience in languages but never claim to know all the answers. Each chapter is based on a new aspect of language learning and gives a neutral summary of what the science says, followed by practical advice.

I've never used or endorsed the "copy a winner" approach, and I don't think it's quite how things work for language learners. Success in language learning is about more than just playing the game right. The more you learn and discover about yourself, your habits, your preferences and strengths in language learning, the more you will approach a real ability to learn any language quickly.

So for me, Becoming Fluent was an outstanding book about language learning because it doesn't tell you what exactly to do. This one is about empowering yourself to find your own perfect method.

What Wasn't So Great

Becoming Fluent is smart and thorough and scientific, which is a big rarity in language learning. It's great to read such a sensible voice in our field. The book comes at language learning from so many different angles that some great aspects get a little lost.

I would have liked the book's action-focused tips to be highlighted or separated from the main text, making it easier to find exactly how to put new insights into action. As it is, Becoming Fluent does require you to put in a few hours for reading, but this is time well spent.

My Favourite Parts

  • All of chapter 2, which addresses the many lies and misleading beliefs that we hold in our heads before we even start learning. If you can only listen read one part of the book, this chapter is going to make a massive different. It's a small window into how your brain trips you up.
  • This sentence in Chapter 3:

"The REAL test of how well you speak a language is how easily you communicate when you are using that language, and the pleasure you derive from speaking it."

  • The ideas behind common ground and the zone of proximal development, which are all about how you think of how good you are, how good other people are in comparison, and how you can get better step-by-step.
  • The focus on learning and speaking a language like an adult, not a kid or teenager. This focus builds great insights, for example the understanding that it's more important to be yourself in another language than to sound "exactly like all the native speakers".
  • The image of tutors and helpers as a Sherpa, i.e. Someone who's climbing the mountain with you, showing you the way, teaching you about the process as you're doing it.
  • The concept of cognitive overload, which explains exactly why and how and when you get tired.

Overall, I am very happy that I read Becoming Fluent and recommend you check it out too. I ordered my copy from the local library and am very glad that it's in their catalogue now. You can get your own printed copy in the same way, or order it from Amazon (here's the US link and the UK link).

Don’t forget, you can grab my full book notes (9 pages!) by clicking the button below. They also include your own action plan template and a checklist of books to check out, so next you can be prepared on your next visit to the library or to Amazon.

If you want to try a faster read gives instructions on what to do, try Fluency Made Achievable (which is written by me, so you will definitely enjoy it if you like this blog).

How to Learn a Language Using Snapchat (Podcast Episode 45)

Everyone's talking about social media, some people are talking about social media for language learning. In today's podcast episode, get the most specific advice possible as Lindsay and I guide you through the Snapchat app for language learning.

Listen to the episode:

Don't forget to catch the mention of our good friends at Flashsticks, the language learning post-it guys. You can purchase vocabulary post-it notes in 8 languages and get 10% off with the code KERSTIN10 - or just download the free Flash Academy app.

snapchat language learning

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a social media app for any smartphone. It lets you share photos or videos, and your snap only lasts 24 hours unless you make it a "memory".

Of course you can change the menu language, but with such strong visual focus that alone won't teach you a language.

It's designed for camera phones and not available on your desktop computer.

Why is it awesome?

  • It's easy, fast and low-pressure. In other photo social networks, you would be tempted to make every picture stunning and impressive and beautiful. But in Snapchat, you'll just play and learn in the process. What does that mean? No more shyness, no more reasons to avoid speaking!
  • It allows you to stitch things together into a story, so you can share a 5-second snap, or go ahead and combine several videos to show how you speak a foreign language.
  • For language learning, the new Memories feature is a way to track your progress. Record yourself speaking today, save the memory, and try the same thing in a month. You'll be surprised at your own progress!

How to Get The Most Out of This For Languages

You may have to set up a little system in order to get the most out of this, for example an evening review or a regular vocab routine.

1. Document
Lindsay studies every morning and documents her mistakes on Snapchat, while I am more spontaneous and use the system to show and share how languages pop up in my day.

2. Check and Correct Errors
One other idea is to practice what you want to practice, then check back and correct the errors that you made. We go into detail about how important it is not just to make the mistakes, but to correct the mistakes so that you can get better.

3. Make Yourself a Vocab Resource
As you go through your day, why not take pictures of all you see around you and build yourself a little daily vocab resource? You can save the story in Memories at the end of the day, or do an evening review to add the words to your vocabulary bank.

Great Accounts to Follow (Click for the Snapcodes)

Are You a Snapchat User?

If you use Snapchat for language learning (or not), leave us a comment and share your usernames and snapcodes.

Thank you guys so much for being podcast listeners, chatting to us on twitter (I'm @kerstinhammes and Lindsay is @ldlanguages) and making your voices heard!

Get Free Language Learning Advice on the Creative Language Learning Podcast

Language learning is a wonderful journey, but it's also hard work and there's a lot of confusion out there.

You might be confused about methods, tips, tools and even which language you should tackle next. Imagine having two good friends who know what the deal is in this language learning journey, and who will be happy to help you out.

Sounds great, right? Here's how make that wish into reality - for free!

On the next episode of our Creative Language Learning Podcast, Lindsay Dow and I will be answering your a language learning questions, sharing your stories and hearing from listeners all over the world.

Right now, there is one thing missing:

We Want To Hear Your Voice

What would a feedback podcast be like if there were no listeners? Very empty! We don't want that, we want you guys to be part of the episode, making your own voices heard.

In return, Lindsay and I will put our minds to giving you the best language learning advice - or life advice if you have an international love dilemma, a question about studying abroad or any other question that needs the power of our combined years of language learning power.

You don't have to make an appointment to be a guest on our show - not this time.

Simply think of your language question, story or product recommendation, record yourself or leave a Skype voicemail, and we will be delighted to have you on our show.

Don't Know What To Ask?

Some intriguing questions from past shows included:

Why are you guys learning Korean and Welsh?

Which app should I use for finding cool language exchange partners?

Help! I'm learning 3 languages and I can't keep up. Do you have any tips?

You can tell us about your favourite language learning tool or app, or even email a picture of your phone's home screen to show us the apps you love using.

How To Send Your Message

You can submit your message to us anytime. Simply do one of the following:

  • go on Skype and leave a voice message for fluentlanguage
  • email us at podcast@fluentlanguage.co.uk - include a voice memo from your phone if you can, so we can feature your voice on the show
  • leave a comment on this blog post

Make sure you mention

  1. your name,
  2. where you're from and which languages you're learning

and then just go for it and ask your question, tell a story or recommend a language learning tool that you use regularly.

Remember: Your Review Makes a Difference To The Show

Podcasters always love it when they get reviews, and we here at the Creative Language Learning Podcast are no exception. Send us some love by subscribing and reviewing in itunes - right now we have reviews from Russia, Mexico, Germany, the UK, France and the USA.

Reviews really mean so much to us, we always share them excitedly when they come in. Here is how to do it in 3 easy steps on Apple devices:

  • Step 1: With your iTunes program open on your desktop, navigate to the iTunes Store and select Podcasts. If you're on an iPhone, open the Podcasts app.

  • Step 2: Search for the Creative Language Learning Podcast and click on our cover art (usually iTunes shows the grey image, not the orange one but we are the same show).

  • Step 3: Click on the "Ratings & Reviews" tab, then select "Write a Review".

  • Step 4: Apple may prompt you to log in, so go ahead and log in with your iTunes account.

  • Step 5: Once logged in, simply write your review and press “Submit”.

Thank you guys so much for being podcast listeners, chatting to us on twitter (I'm @kerstinhammes and Lindsay is @ldlanguages and making your voices heard!