In my list of basic words to learn, I suggest learning subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, they) using pictures. Instead of “‘Ich’ is the German word for ‘I,’” I suggest memorizing “‘Ich’ is the German word for [Guy pointing to himself].”
But this may seem like a trivial point. After all, it’s only a small handful of words, and what’s the harm in memorizing just a few translations?
A few months ago, I put together a workshop at the University of Vienna on language learning. It was kind of a monster; we started at 9am on a Saturday and ended a bit after 7pm, with a 1 hour lunch break. 9 hours of teaching in a day. By the end, everyone was naturally a bit wiped out, but we had so much fun. I really like teaching in that format, and all the attendees really liked learning this stuff. The feedback forms were just overwhelmingly positive, and aside from a few suggestions to split the material into a 2-day workshop, it seems like we landed on a really good format for teaching my whole method in a weekend.
So I want to do this a lot more often.
Starting today, I’m planning two 2-Day workshops in Los Angeles for mid July, along with another 2-Day workshop in Vienna in November. I’m also interested in doing some East Coast workshops in August/September/October, though I don’t have quite the same network there as I do in Los Angeles/Vienna, so those are a little more tentative. But honestly, if I can drum up enough interest (let me know!), I’d happily flit around the world putting on workshops all the time. It’s fun to teach this stuff.
Anyway, you’ll find all the details, along with a fancy video with clips from the Vienna workshop and comments from the feedback forms at the new Workshop section of the website. If you want to attend one, but I’m not offering one in your area, let me know. If I get enough interest in a certain region, I may set one up near you.
In most grammar classes and textbooks, you learn words ingroups. You might learn about animals on one day and fruits the next. This is comfortable, both for language teachers and students. Your teacher gets to have a clear lesson plan (today is about numbers), and you get to accomplish something (today, I learned the numbers!).
But is this the most efficient way to learn vocabulary?
If you look at the research on vocabulary acquisition, you’ll find a surprising result: weirdly enough, learning groups of similar words (apple, pear, banana) is significantlyharder to learn. You’ll be much better off if you either learn words in unrelated groups (apple, dog, red) or in groups that form stories (apple, sweet, to eat).
To learn a language, you need to memorize a lot of vocabulary, and memorizing lots of vocabulary can be tricky. You’re faced with unfamiliar spellings and unfamiliar sounds, which makes foreign words significantly more difficult to remember than words in your native language. In this article, I’ll show you how to remember words more easily with the help of mnemonics.
A few months ago, I realized that I had forgotten a great deal of my French. My book was taking up 40-50 hours of every week, so I didn’t have extra time to study, and I didn’t really want to study French, either. This year is my Hungarian year, and what little time I have, I like to spend on that language. Languages benefit from focus, and so I try to avoid studying two of them at once.
I needed some way to bring back my French without actually having towork at it, and I found it in the form of television. Continue reading →
Alphabets (and syllabaries) are the first barrier of entry to any new language. If you want to learn a language like Russian, you’re basically paralyzed until you’re familiar with its letters. But even if you’re learning a language with familiar characters, like Italian, you’re going to feel uncomfortable and wobbly at first; those familiar characters aren’t particularly familiar in words like “zaino” (pronounced dzaino), “gli” (pronounced ʎi) or “cena” (pronounced tʃena).
I’ve always liked learning alphabets; while I don’t know more than 10 words of Hebrew, my seven years of Hebrew school did leave me with a decent ability to read the Hebrew alphabet. Yay. I had a similar experience in Russian back in high school. For me, alphabets seem to stick in my brain when nothing else will.
But if learning a new alphabet doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend your weekend, what can you do? This article is about one simple idea: How to learn the alphabet in any language quickly, and how to remember it for good.
Just a short post that should prove useful if you’ve had trouble finding good pictures for prepositions (on, over, between) or directions (up, down, top, bottom). I found a lovely image of 29 prepositions in English on a language learning site for French students of English, Angloxchange. It has a bunch of English labels on it, but I cut the image up into little chunks, so you should be able to drag and drop your favorites into Anki.
This gives me everything I need to make my cards quickly, but it’s a pain in the butt to enter my word into Anki, then do it 4 more times into the search fields, especially when #1 and #4 (the sites I’ve preloaded into Google translate) don’t let you enter things into their search fields directly (it kills the Google translate part).