Learning a language: Don’t just listen, interact!

While listening to audiobooks and podcasts, watching movies or playing games will definitely help you learn a language faster, it's still slower than if you are using it to communicate with people. I'm not saying these things aren't worthwhile, just that we need to interact with people to cement the language in our heads. But not all of us can … [Read more...]

Learning Japanese without a teacher

I learnt Japanese successfully, mostly on my own using japanesepod101.com, the Pimsleur audio programs, a few textbooks noted below, and a handful of iPhone apps. How long did it take?Within just a few months of starting to learn Japanese, I was able to travel around Japan alone for a month, with the help of a travel phrase book and a dictionary. … [Read more...]

Daily language learning hacks

If you are like me, your language learning motivation waxes and wanes, with the weather, with a changing daily workload and social appointments, and with tiredness and stress. Recently, my workload has increased, and I'm running around like a headless chicken chasing appointments, sometimes every single day of the week. It hasn't left me with … [Read more...]

When you get stuck

I've been stuck a few times when learning Japanese and German. Mostly it's because I didn't want to leave my 'comfort zone'. I'm an extreme introvert, so meeting and talking with new people makes me terribly anxious, sometimes even sick to my stomach. Sometimes it has been because I doggedly stuck to one particular book or strategy that … [Read more...]

How to be an independent learner

Have you ever sat through a class, been bored out of your mind, and not remembered anything that was covered? I have, many times! It can be a combination of a dry topic, how the topic is being taught, how the other students in the class are participating, the stuffiness in the room, and even how you are feeling at that particular time. The … [Read more...]

Motivation and language learning

It's common to hear "this year I'm going to learn ... Spanish, because I'm going to Spain for a holiday at the end of the year." Or, "I desperately want to learn Japanese. It would be cool to be able to watch anime without subtitles." Or, "I want a raise, and to get it I need to improve my English." You get all fired up and motivated at … [Read more...]

Dealing with language learning burnout

Does working through that textbook seem like an awful drag? Or perhaps a conversation class fills you with dread? Do you prioritize cleaning the toilet or do other unappealing tasks above cracking open your flash cards and drilling? Do you want to throw the towel in on your language learning journey and just give up? If you said yes, … [Read more...]

How to massively improve speaking confidence in conversation classes

What's the one thing most students are afraid of? Making mistakes. Looking silly in front of the other students. Being corrected a lot by the teacher, or by the other students. This drains their speaking confidence and can ruin a conversation class. I was that student, deathly afraid of speaking When I was in high school, I would … [Read more...]

An (un)welcome immersion in language

Immersion really is key to fast language acquisition. But only when you keep using it afterwards! A recent (planned) week-long stay in hospital showed that I can, in general, function in German. I did study a bit harder leading up to this stay, as I knew it would stretch my abilities. I did not know some of the 'nicer' expressions for bodily … [Read more...]

15 Idioms from around the world

Idioms are a great way to increase enthusiasm and interest in learning a language. Instead of getting bogged down in memorizing vocabulary, they paint bold, clear pictures in students' minds, which are much more easily remembered than a boring list of words. Teachers can use 1-3 of these as warm-up exercises, or as a list in an entire lesson … [Read more...]