Only an debate like this one could pull me out of my book-writing cave to post my two cents! Actually, I’ve been meaning to write this one for awhile now as I continue to see both sides dive into mortal combat with each other over this very topic. Well, buckle up. This is my personal take on the Vocabulary vs. Grammar controversy.
Are you using online language exchanges to practice speaking in your target language? If so, are you taking full advantage of this amazing learning tool? In this post, I’ve got some advice for getting the most out of your online language exchange. I’ll also compare and contrast a language exchange with an online tutoring session to help you decide which is right for you.
Hey there language learners! I was lucky enough this week to be interviewed by Chris Broholm for the Actual Fluency Podcast. For those of you unfamiliar with the podcast:
“The Actual Fluency Podcast is a Podcast for language learners who want to be inspired, informed and entertained on a weekly show. The show will go live every week and feature some of the top minds in language learning along with other interesting guests that have high value to inspire and motivate you to take your passion for languages to a whole new level.”
Some past guests on the podcast include such big names as Steve Kaufman, Olly Richards, Judith Meyer, and more! It’s a very relaxed, casual, conversational style interview that was a tone of fun to record.
So, check it out and let me know in the comments what you think!
How Long Does it Take to Learn a Language?
I’ve managed to go 2 1/2 years without writing a post on the topic of “How long will it take me to learn ____?”. Truthfully, I could go another 2 1/2 years without addressing it and I would be just fine. However, I continue to see this question asked on Language forums, in Facebook groups, on Twitter, and in my email. Somehow being able to quantify things like this just seems to be part of human nature. Well, I’m going to talk about this in depth and answer (or at least try to shed some light on) this question once and for all! So, how long does it take to learn a language? Let’s find out.
With so much talk recently about speaking, listening and writing, my old friend reading was starting to get a complex. Well, if you are a fan of reading (like myself), this is the post for you. I’m going to talk about a few ways to use reading to boost vocabulary, grammar, and even motivation. As usual, I am going to preface this post with a disclaimer that the information contained in this blog is what works for me. One size does not fit all, but I honestly believe that anyone can find something in this post to help them with their language quest.
So, you started learning a language. You’ve been diligently studying vocabulary and grammar. You’ve been working on your listening skills and perfecting your pronunciation. Maybe it’s been 2 weeks, maybe it’s been 2 months. Regardless, you have decided that you are ready to start speaking and/or writing. The massive input phase has been fun, but now you’re ready to reap the benefits of your hard work and start actually producing something. Ok. So, what next? The answer certainly isn’t the same for everyone, but I can tell you what works for me. Read More
My previous post about vocabulary was very focused on methods and what has worked for me (and what hasn’t). With this post, I’d like to dig a little deeper and discuss some of the finer points of vocabulary acquisition.
I’d like to start off by discussing a topic that actually comes up quite a bit among both beginning language learners and polyglots alike. I’m talking about the age old question: “How many words do I need to know to be fluent in a language?” Obviously this is one of the most subjective questions you could possibly ask, but it does make you think, doesn’t it? Throw out the obvious distraction (“fluent”), modify the verbiage a bit, and you are left with a reasonable question. “How many words does one need to know to function in a language. “ Let’s see if we can find out. Read More
I know, I know. I used the F word. Well, for the remainder of this post, I’m defining fluency as fluidity of verbal speech. I am not defining any level of competency or functionality, just the ability to speak at a fluid, even, and unbroken pace. Therefore, the purpose of this post will be to help you develop a natural, easy, and fluent-sounding speech pattern in your target language early in the learning process.
Before I jump into the post, I’d like to share the reason that I feel like this is an important piece of the language learning puzzle. Two and a half years ago, when I started learning German, I hit the books and flashcards hard. Within three months I had memorized over 1000 words and could recite lots of obscure German grammar points. By six months, I was over 2000 words and could write large paragraphs with good speed and accuracy. I could also “kind of” hold a conversation… My speaking was ok. I could say anything I wanted to and get my point across with no problems. I wasn’t lacking vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation. My problem was my “fluency”. I stopped and started and “ummm”ed and stuttered and stammered and basically sounded uncomfortable speaking the language. Fortunately, I was able to overcome these issues in the following months and would say I’m pretty comfortable with my oral abilities these days.
What follows are some tips I’ve picked up that really work for me. Hopefully you find some gems among them:
If you’re like me, you are probably super excited about learning a language. You probably also enjoy what I call “The resource round-up”. What is the “resource round-up”? It’s that exciting stage right BEFORE you dive into learning a new language when you scrounge for resources to help propel your learning to new heights. I’ll talk about how to do a proper round-up in a future post.
For now, let’s assume you are all “resourced up” and ready to explode! I’ll paint the picture. You’ve got a dozen free language websites in your favorites with all the vocabulary lists, grammar points, common phrases, native audio, and encouragement you could ever possibly want. You’ve gone on an Amazon.com shopping spree and now you have 6 or 8 or 20 new books including multiple courses, vocabulary books, dictionaries, verb guides, and who knows what else because you really haven’t looked them over that well yet. Maybe you’ve downloaded some podcasts, audio courses, or even some simple audiobooks. Maybe your bookshelf looks something like one of mine:
Maybe it looks like a less (or even more) extreme version of mine. Basically, we are assuming that you are 100% totally geared and psyched up to drive your shelf into Language World and kick some major butt. You’ve got the firepower. You’ve got the attitude and the confidence. You’ve got the desire. What’s stopping you?
Oh yeah… What do I do now? I always run into this too. Honestly, it doesn’t get much easier the more languages you know. I’ve never started two languages the exact same way. No two languages are the same, why should the methods be?
You may be saying “Great advice Sherlock, what am I supposed to do now?” Well, bear with me for a little while longer and I will have you ready to move on from “Resource Round-up” to “Language Launch” in a matter of minutes. Read More
I get a lot of questions about how to start a new language. In particular: “What words should I learn first?” Well, today I’m going to share my list of the words I prioritize when starting a language. This is a list of 250 words that I learn first. They are MY basics. They are not for everyone. They involve things that I want to be able to talk about. They are not all encompassing and, to be honest, they will not bring you to fluency by any means. They DO however allow me to talk about the things that I feel like talking about. Not all of the things, but enough for me to feel like I can communicate most of the things that I need to (even if in a roundabout way) in a foreign language.