The age of AI is upon us!

About a week ago ChatGPT was released. Below article was generate by this tool just be asking it to write an blog post about language learning. I have to say I’m impressed by its abilities.

Learning a new language can be a fun and rewarding experience. Not only does it allow you to communicate with people who speak a different language, but it can also help improve your problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Plus, it can open up new career opportunities and broaden your cultural horizons.

But learning a new language can also be challenging. It requires time, effort, and dedication to become fluent in a new language. So how can you make the process of language learning more efficient and effective? Here are a few tips:

  1. Set specific, achievable goals. Having clear goals can help motivate you and keep you focused on what you want to accomplish. Break your goals down into smaller, manageable steps, and celebrate your progress along the way.
  2. Practice consistently. Regular practice is key to retaining what you learn and making progress in a new language. Find ways to incorporate language learning into your daily routine, such as listening to podcasts or watching TV shows in the language you’re learning.
  3. Make connections. If you speak another language, try to find connections and similarities between the two languages. This can help you understand the underlying logic of the language and make it easier to remember new words and grammar rules.
  4. Embrace mistakes. Learning a new language involves trial and error, and it’s natural to make mistakes along the way. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and view them as opportunities to learn and improve.

Overall, learning a new language can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By setting goals, practicing consistently, making connections, and embracing mistakes, you can become more efficient and effective in your language learning journey.

5 Time Saving Tips for Learning the Russian Language

Today’s guest post is from Jesse who runs the site He is native English speaker from the USA. He helps run several language learning blogs and studies foreign languages himself. His language learning journey started with the Spanish language. Currently he is studying Russian and hopes to use the language as he travels the world.

Russian is known for being one of the harder foreign languages to learn for native English speakers. This fact alone discourages many from even trying to start learning it. But don’t let all the negative press discourage you. Yes Russian can be difficult, but some of its negative fanfare simply isn’t deserved.

Here are 5 practical tips you can use to help you learn the Russian language, and overcome some of the common obstacles that beginners face.

1) Start with the Cyrillic alphabet

One of the more intimidating features of the Russian language is that it uses the Cyrillic alphabet rather than a Latin based one. At first glance the new letters and symbols can seem overwhelming. However this aspect of the language really isn’t as difficult as may seem.

There are some sounds that will be completely new to you as a native English speaker (most notably the ы sound). However there are also a lot of sounds in the language that are at least somewhat comparable to English. There are even a few that aren’t different at all.

If you’re serious about learning Russian, spend the first week simply learning the alphabet. You’ll be glad you did. You can divide the letters into three groups: letters that sound the same in English, letters that sound similar to English, and letters that are completely different from English.

After you can read and recognize individual letters, practice reading and pronouncing whole words. You don’t necessarily have to know what the words mean at this point. You’re simply trying to become familiar with the letters and their sounds.

When you’re comfortable with the Cyrillic alphabet it will be easier for you to learn and remember Russian words.

2) Break up Difficult pronunciation

Russian pronunciation can be a beast. Russian words often stack consonants together in groups of three or four in ways that just don’t happen in English. My first conversation with a native Russian speaker was rough. The words sounded more like noises to me because I simply wasn’t use to the language’s sound system.

Learning to read the Russian alphabet is important, but you’ll benefit even more if you practice correct pronunciation along side it. As you learn to read and recognize the sounds of Russian letters, spend some time trying to pronounce them correctly.

Set aside 10-15 minutes a day practicing the pronunciation of difficult words. Think of this time as gymnastics for your mouth. The more you practice a correct accent the more natural it will feel. Your mouth and tongue literally have to get used to making Russian vowels and consonants.

The more comfortable you are with pronouncing the language, the easier it will be for you to remember and understand it when it’s spoken.

3) Break down grammatical cases

If you have little to no experience with languages which use grammatical cases, then Russian grammar is likely to be a shock for you. It’s one thing to have Russian verbs which change form (also called conjugation) like verbs do in a Romance language such as Spanish or Italian. It’s a whole other ballgame when Russian nouns start changing too.

Russian nouns will take on a different form (called cases) based on their function within a sentence. There are a total of six different grammatical cases in Russian, which is  a lot to keep track off. Instead of diving in head first and trying to juggle all six cases at one time, try focusing on one at a time.

Once you’re familiar with a case move onto the next one, and continue the process until you are comfortable with all six. It might take you longer to make basic sentences this way, but when you’re finished you have a solid foundation in the Russian case system, which will carry you through the upper levels of the language.

4) Learn words in context

It’s important to learn words in context no matter which language you’re learning, but it’s especially helpful if you’re learning Russian. When you learn a word in isolation your brain simply doesn’t have that much information to grab onto. Inevitably in your you’ll translate a single Russian in English.

You’re not so much thinking for the meaning of the Russian word, so much as your thinking of the English meaning of the Russian word. This makes it harder for you to remember and use what you learn in a real conversation.

On the other hand, if you learn a word in the context of a full sentence (even if it’s a simple one), you pick up clues from the words you already know and in a way you can infer what the meaning is. It’s certainly okay to translate the word if you’re unsure or get stuck. This process will help you see how and when words are used, which is great for learning and reviewing those pesky grammatical cases!

Learn With Oliver is a great tool to use for sort of contextual learning. This is because they let you choose the difficult of the full sentences you use, meaning that your studies can grow with your ability.

5) Practice with Native speakers

Practicing your Russian with native speakers is where the rubber really meets the road. This is where you get a chance to take everything you’ve learned thus far and put it into practice. It’s one thing to remember a word on a flashcard or in an online exercise. It’s a whole deal altogether to correctly use that new word in a conversation.

Odds are your fist conversations in Russian won’t be pretty. Keep your head up. It’s not important that you speak perfectly. It’s important that when you make mistakes you receive quick and accurate feedback from a native speaker.

This process of making mistakes and being corrected is what will propel your speaking skills to the next level. Try finding a local language learning exchange or club in your city. If you can’t find native speakers locally, check online. There are a plenty of free language exchanges on the web.


Learning Russian isn’t always going to be a walk in the park, but with the right tools and approach it’s far from a hopeless endeavor. Use these tips to help you learn the language as efficiently as possible. Most of all don’t forget that in the midst of all its difficult grammar, odd pronunciation, and foreign alphabet, Russian really is an amazing language. Enjoy the process of learning it!

Making language learning fun via YouTube videos

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I don’t write blog posts often as I’m normally busy running the site – but the following topic is quite interesting, so here we go!

While far from being an accomplished polyglot, I do enjoy learning Chinese a lot! Chinese was actually the first language we offered at over 10 years ago.

While I use my own site to improve my Chinese sometimes I feel like doing something else.

Recently I noticed there are a lot of good Chinese movies on YouTube. Often they come with English and Chinese subtitles at the same time. Most of these movies use simplified characters, which might be a problem if you want to concentrate on traditional characters. In any case it’s always good to learn both.

Most of the time I use YouTube but you might also find plenty of material on Youku, Tudou or for instance. These sites might be blocked for overseas users though. But YouTube is just fine if you have problems.

To find movies suitable for language learning use search terms such as “subtitled chinese movies” or “english chinese subtitles”. Once you find a good movie YouTube will often suggest similar movies on the right hand side.

You can choose between a movie or drama series for instance. Each have pros and cons. A drama means you have a lot of content to go through without having to look for new material all the time, but it can get a bit boring having to learn from the same source for a long time. Another problem: Once I was halfway through a Chinese drama when it was suddenly removed from YouTube for copyright reasons.

Once you found something to watch there is a trick to make the learning experience more efficient. On YouTube you can use the following shortcuts to navigate through the videos:

Space or k : Play / Pause
Left arrow : Go back 5 seconds
Right Arrow : Go forward 5 seconds
j : Go back 10 seconds
l : Go forward 10 seconds
f : Full screen
Escape : Exit full screen
0 : Restart video
Numbers 1-9: Jump to different parts of the video (1 = beginning, 5 = mid-section, 9 = near the end)
Up Arrow : Increase volume by 5%
Down Arrow : Decrease volume by 5%
. (period) : Move forward 1 frame (when video is paused)
, (comma) : Move backward 1 frame (when video is paused)

Especially the shortcuts to jump back 5 or 10 seconds are useful as it allows you to re-listen to difficult parts.

There is also the possibility to add subtitles to YouTube via a Chrome extension called “Subtitles For YouTube” by Yash Agarwal. Subtitles are available mostly for Hollywood movies for a lot of different languages. The only problem here is though, that the subtitles are often not in sync with the movie, but it can be adjusted via shortcuts.

Similar plugins or extension should be available for other browser. Just search for “youtube subtitles plugin Firefox”, etc.

Finally the last problem with Chinese is looking up characters you don’t know. After all Chinese doesn’t use Latin letters.

  • The best option is using an app which scans the texts through the smartphone camera and shows you matching Chinese words and its meanings. Personally I use the app from Written Chinese. Pleco has a similar app but seems to have a lower success rate detecting characters. On the other hand one advantage Pleco has is the ability to scan vertical text as well. This is important as Chinese texts can be written vertically or horizontally. Scanning  Chinese characters in books works much better than on a computer screen. Normally it fails if the colour of Chinese subtitles is similar to the background. (white on white for example)
  • Second option is to draw the character into the app mentioned above. This is tricky though, as the stroke order is important and the whole process is quite time-consuming.
  • Finally you can just enter the English translation or the Pinyin into a dictionary and hope that you find the matching Chinese characters.

While I found plenty of Chinese movies with both Chinese and English subtitles, this seems much harder for other languages such as French or Spanish. For these languages I’ve recently downloaded news apps which send me daily push notifications. For French I use the “Le Figaro” app, and for Spanish I recommend “El País”, Finally for German the “Tagesschau” app is pretty good! When you install the app confirm that you want to receive push notifications and you are ready for your daily exercise! Look up words you don’t know and add them to your personal word lists in

Even though watching movies or reading news is a great activity I think it’s still important to use flashcards to learn less common words.

I’d like to draw a comparison with badminton (which I love to play). In badminton you can either have training sessions or play games. Both are equally important. While the training is comparable with the flashcards where you train the same thing over and over again, the games are the equivalent to watching movies or dramas – testing what you’ve learnt. Learning about grammar could be compared to learning about strategies in badminton from a book. Hope that makes sense!

All in all it’s important to do what you enjoy – this ensures you keep learning and improving your language skills!

Hope you enjoyed this blog post, feel free to comment below!

Oliver Antosch

4 Wege mit denen Du Dich automatisch zwingen kannst, eine Fremdsprache zu lernen

Fällt es Dir schwierig Dich zum Sprachenlernen zu motivieren und aufzuraffen?

Jeden Tag nimmst Du es Dir vor, aber wenn es so weit ist, schaffst Du es einfach nicht anzufangen? Irgendwie kommt Facebook, YouTube, der Fernseher oder sonst irgendwas dazwischen?

Das ist auch für mich ein bekanntes Phänomen. Irgendwie fallen einem tausend andere Sachen, die noch machen könnte, anstelle zu lernen.

Es gibt aber eine ganz simple Lösung dafür: Mach Dir Termine. So hast Du gar keine andere Wahl als zu lernen.

Das ist ein bisschen wie früh aufstehen. Wenn Du zur Arbeit musst oder einen Termin hast, schaffst Du es immer (auch wenn es manchmal sehr schwer fällt). Wenn Du das nicht hast, ist es kaum möglich früh aufzustehen.

Hast Du Dir schon mal vorgenommen am Wochenende früh aufzustehen? Das klappt sehr oft nicht.


Mit Terminen zwingst Du Dich ganz einfach zum Sprachenlernen.

Nach diesem Prinzip musst Du auch Dein Lernen gestalten.

Mit Terminen zwingst Du Dich ganz einfach zum Sprachenlernen.

Hier sind 4 Wege, mit denen Du Dein Lernen mit Terminen versehen kannst, damit Du gar keine andere Wahl hast als zu lernen.

1. Feste Termine für Tandemgespräche

Mach Dir über die Woche verteilt mehrere Termine für Tandemgespräche. Optimal sind 3 Tandemgespräche pro Woche, um schnell voranzukommen. Mindestens 1 Termin sollte es aber auf jeden Fall sein.

Hier erfährst Du, wie Du einen Tandempartner findest und optimale Tandemgespräche führst.

Wenn Du einen Termin hast, bist Du deutlich weniger gewillt diesen ausfallen zu lassen als eine Stunde lernen, die Du Dir vorgenommen hast.

Denn Du kannst nicht einfach so nicht erscheinen. Du musst Deinem Tandempartner absagen. Und dafür brauchst Du in der Regel einen guten Grund.

Das ist eine gute Hürde und sorgt dafür, dass Du die meisten Termine wahrnehmen wirst.
Vor allem, wenn Du einen Tandempartner schon länger kennst, wirst Du weniger gewillt sein diesen hängen zu lassen.

Noch besser klappt das mit richtigen Treffen. Ein richtiges Treffen sagst Du nicht so schnell ab.

Am besten ist es wöchentlich immer wieder denselben Termin zu haben. So wird es zur Gewohnheit und Du brauchst Dich nicht immer mit Deinem Tandempartner auf ein Neues abzusprechen.

Vergiss nicht am Ende jedes Tandemgespräches den nächsten Termin zu machen. Sonst gerät es in Vergessenheit.

2. Stammtische / Tandemevents und weitere Veranstaltungen

In den meisten Städten gibt es regelmäßige Veranstaltungen für das Sprachenlernen.
Das können Sprachstammtische sein oder Tandemevents bei denen Teilnehmer entweder auf einer Sprache sprechen oder verschiedene Sprachen miteinander üben.

Mach es Dir zur Gewohnheit zu solchen Veranstaltungen zu gehen.
Verpflichte Dich selbst indem Du im Anschluss allen ankündigst, dass Du beim nächsten Mal kommst.

So fällt es Dir schwerer den Termin am selben Tag abzusagen, wenn Du keine Lust hast. Du hast allen anderen schon versprochen, dass Du kommst.
Lerne auch die Leute näher kennen. So bist Du viel motivierter wiederzukommen.

3. Lerntreffen mit anderen Sprachlernern

In den letzten 2 Punkten hast Du erfahren, wie Du die Sprache regelmäßig sprechen kannst.

Auch wenn das die wichtigste Aktivität beim Sprachenlernen ist, reicht es meistens nicht ganz aus.

Du musst weiterhin die ein oder andere Vokabel lernen (so lernst Du schnell neue Vokabeln und behältst sie dauerhaft), Texte lesen und auch Grammatik lernen. Das alles ist jedoch weniger wichtig als Gespräche zu führen.

Diese ganzen Zusatzaktivitäten zu machen, macht oft wenig Spaß. Und deshalb ist es besonders schwer sich für diese Aktivitäten aufzuraffen.

Eine Alternative ist jemanden zu suchen, der dieselbe Sprache lernt wie Du und dieselben Probleme hat.


Zusammen mit jemanden Lernen macht mehr Spaß und gibt dem Lernen einen etwas mehr verpflichtenden Charakter.

Zusammen mit jemanden Lernen macht mehr Spaß und gibt dem Lernen einen etwas mehr verpflichtenden Charakter.

Trefft euch 1-2 Mal die Woche an einem festen Termin, um zusammen zu lernen.
Z. B. könnt ihr erstmal zusammen Vokabeln lernen und euch dann gegenseitig abfragen.
Ihr könnt euch auch gegenseitig Texte vorlesen oder einen Film oder eine Serie in der Fremdsprache gucken.

Alle Aktivitäten, die Dich weiterbringen aber vielleicht alleine langweilig sind, kannst Du mit Deinem Lernpartner durchführen.

So bist Du motivierter, weil Du einen Mitstreiter hast. Du kannst aber auch weniger einfach Dich rausreden, denn dann müsstest Du Deinem Lernpartner absagen, statt wie üblich es auf morgen zu schieben.

Diese Lernaktivitäten kannst Du natürlich auch alleine ganz einfach zwischendurch ohne zusätzlichen Zeitaufwand durchführen.

Dafür eignet sich am besten Deine tote Zeit, also wenn Du etwas zu tun hast oder unterwegs bist und Dich auf nichts konzentrieren musst. Das kann in der Bahn, im Auto oder beim Putzen sein.

Wenn Du aber Schwierigkeiten hast, Dich in solchen Situationen zu motivieren, dann eignen sich die Treffen mit anderen Sprachlernern.

4. Sprachkurse

Wenn Du große Probleme hast Dich zum Sprachenlernen aufzuraffen, kann ein Sprachkurs eine gute Ergänzung sein.

Du hast einen regelmäßigen wöchentlichen Termin (oder mehrmals wöchentlich) zu dem Du gehen musst.

Es ist einfacher diesen Pflichttermin wahrzunehmen als eben einfach nur eine Stunde lernen, die Du Dir vorgenommen hast.

Achte jedoch darauf, dass mit lediglich einem wöchentlichen Sprachkurs Du nicht besonders weit kommen wirst mit Deinen Sprachkenntnissen.

Wenn Du wirklich eine Fremdsprache lernen willst, ist der Sprachkurs lediglich eine Ergänzung. Das Wichtigste bleibt die Anwendung mit Muttersprachlern.

Fazit: Umgehe ganz einfach Motivationsprobleme mit festen Terminen
Wie Du siehst, kannst Du selbst eine Fremdsprache lernen, wenn Du Schwierigkeiten hast Dich zu motivieren.

Anstelle, dass Du Dich zwingst und zum Lernen aufraffst, machst Du Dir Pflichttermine.
So erhöhst Du die Wahrscheinlichkeit ganz eindeutig, dass Du es schaffst zu lernen.
Versuche aber so wenige Termine wie möglich ausfallen zu lassen.

Wenn Du erstmal anfängst den einen oder anderen Termin abzusagen, wird es immer schwieriger nicht auch den nächsten ausfallen zu lassen.

Du kannst es Dir zur Gewohnheit machen Tandemgespräche zu führen oder zum Sprachkurs zu gehen.

Genauso kannst Du es Dir aber auch zur Gewohnheit machen alles ausfallen zu lassen. Und diese schlechte Gewohnheit fängt an sich breit zu machen, sobald Du den ersten Termin hast ausfallen lassen.


Gabriel ist Sprachenthusiast und Gründer von Fremdsprachen sind seine große Leidenschaft und mittlerweile beherrscht er 6 davon. Auch reist er gerne, vor allem in die Länder, in denen er seine Kenntnisse anwenden kann.


Interview with coach and polyglot Irina Pravet

It’s been a while since the last interview. Today we feature Irina Pravet who is from Romania and currently lives in Finland. 

Irina Fudge

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Irina Pravet and I coach foreigners settling abroad who are looking for a sense of home, as well as people who are learning languages. I was born in Romania and when I was 5, my parents and I moved to Canada – first Montreal, where I learned French, then Toronto, where I perfected my English (today my strongest language). I grew up trilingual and as soon as I had the chance, started learning Spanish and German in school as well. When I was 21, I immigrated to Finland, and I’ve been here ever since. I guess all this moving around between cultures and languages has made me very aware of them, passionate about finding home wherever I am, and ended up shaping my career.

2. What are some peculiarities of Finnish?

I’m so happy you asked this 🙂 Finnish is unlike most other languages (apart from Estonian, and it also shares some similarities with Hungarian) It’s very phonetic and easy to read. Once you learn the alphabet, you can read almost everything. One of the most notable aspect of Finnish is the fact that it doesn’t have any gender or articles (which was a relief after studying German). When people talk about it’s difficulty, they never mention how the lack of gender and articles makes things a lot simpler. Finnish is best known for it’s 15 cases, of which 12 are used actively. 6 of these 12 cases are primarily used to express directions; they are called local cases. Cases are added to the end of a word, and the word is inflected. For example, ‘school’ in Finnish is ‘koulu’. If I say ‘at/in school’ then I add the inessive case (+ssa) onto the end of the word, so ‘at/in school’ becomes ‘koulussa.’ It takes a bit of getting used to the cases because it’s a new way of thinking about things but in the end, it’s very logical. Also, there is no word for please in Finnish. You use the conditional tense for politeness.

3. What is your life in Finland like in comparison to Canada?

It’s hard to say exactly because I left Canada at a transitional period in my life, at the age of 21. So when I think about Canada, it’s hard to separate it from my childhood/adolescence and early adulthood. I joke that I only know how to be an adult in Finland 🙂 I guess the biggest differences are that whenever I have to do something new in Finland, as an adult, I also need to learn some new vocabulary. For example, doing banking and taxes in Finnish involves learning new concepts, but also new words. It makes some of these things feel a bit harder and scarier than they need to be but I try to take small steps forward so as to not let them paralyze me. Otherwise, I would say I live a pretty normal life: I’ve met friends throughout the years, from school, work, and friends of friends. We’re a pretty international and diverse bunch, much like my group of friends in Canada.

4. What are the benefits of a TED appearance? What do you need to do to speak at the conference?

Speaking at TedxOtaniemi was a huge project for me. I didn’t know what all the benefits would be ahead of time but looking back now, I would say that they include getting your name and message out there, and somehow becoming a spokesperson for the message as well. When people are getting to know me professionally, it’s easier to refer them to the Tedx video for them to get a sense of what I stand for and what I believe. Doing the talk was also extremely helpful in that it helped me really verbalize the message I wanted to get out in a very concise format. As the saying goes “If I Am To Speak Ten Minutes, I Need a Week for Preparation; If an Hour, I Am Ready Now”
As for what you need to speak, I would say the #1 prerequisite is passion for a cause/message, #2 courage and #3 perseverance.

5. Do you dream in a foreign language?

I have no idea… I’ve often tried to figure out what language(s) I dream in but I never can remember the actual words; rather I remember their meaning. I assume I dream in English, and if I spend enough time in Romania, I probably start dreaming in Romanian… whichever language I am immersed in.

6. When you learn a new language do you always follow the same strategy?

Yes and no. I tend to follow my curiosity and feel my way around the language in different ways, depending whatever gets me excited. It depends whether the language has similarities to other languages I speak or whether it is completely different. Either way, I try as much as possible to hear the language at first and immerse myself in its sounds, and also stay close to people who are speaking it. I have a much harder time motivating myself to learn if I don’t know anyone who speaks the language or have an immediate need to use it.

7. Which resources do you normally use most?

This feels odd to confess but I don’t use much in the way of apps or more modern language-learning resources. I tend to gravitate towards a basic textbook to get me started, find a reliable online dictionary, make my own flashcards and google things from time-to-time when needed. Otherwise, I tend to ask people and work up the courage to use the language and adjust as I go along. I’ve tried language learning apps like Duolingo and Memrise and although they are really fun, I don’t seem to stick to them for very long. That’s just me, I’m old school like that!

8. How has speaking multiple changes changed you as a person?

I did an entire talk on this topic at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in 2015 (here’s the link) and strongly believe that learning a language will change your life. Not only because it’ll open your eyes to new cultures and people you wouldn’t have met otherwise, but also because it will change the way you see yourself. A language is a medium through which you can express yourself, and every medium has its limitations. So when you step outside the limitations of one language, you’ll be thrown into situations with different societal norms and, if you’re observant and persistent enough, learn to react to situations in completely different ways based on the language spoken. This is a whole new level of mental gymnastics, and the feeling you get when you start to perceive yourself as, for example, someone who can ALSO be ‘reserved’ instead of ‘perpetually loud’ can feel very expansive. It’s like redefining your identity.

9. You know you’re a language nerd when…

… you find yourself explaining how a certain grammar construction isn’t so hard to grasp, and go on to explain why only to be met with wide-eyes stares from those who lost you at a word like ‘adverb’.. it happens.
you’re having lunch with polyglots and they ask you to explain how Finnish cases work with genuine interest, and you ask ‘Are you serious?’ while feeling like you’re dreaming =D

10. What is your single best non-obvious tip for language learning?

As soon as you decide to learn a language, begin to think directly in that language. Even if your mind is blank in the beginning, add to it slowly but surely, and think directly in that language, instead of translating from another one. This is an invaluable skill that takes practice but can be used for learning any language and speaking it fluidly from the beginning.

To learn more about Irina or to see her Tedx talk, please visit

Interview with blogger and polyglot Lindsay Dow

The long wait is finally over! Lindsay Dow who runs the blog Lindsay Does Languages reveals her language learning hacks, favourite podcasts and why fluency is a myth!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Lindsay and I run Lindsay Does Languages, a business and blog dedicated to inspiring others to learn languages. My first experience with different languages was in primary school when I went to French Club because we got croissants at the end of term. True story. It gets better – I later started studying Spanish because I wanted to translate Shakira songs. Yup. It didn’t take much to get me hooked and languages soon became part of my everyday life and later my work.

Lindsay Does Languages started by tutoring people privately in their homes and businesses and then expanded online to teach students around the world through tuition on Skype and via online courses. That’s where I am now.

What languages do you speak?

I hate this question! I’m going to answer it more like ‘what languages have you studied?’, which will give a more accurate answer.

In order of when I started studying them: French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, Korean. I’ve also dabbled teeny tiny bits with loads of other languages including Polish, Danish, and Thai, but this is mostly out of curiosity or travel.

Do you dream in a foreign language?

Occasionally languages will be part of my dreams but I don’t often dream fully in languages other than English.

What do you think of constructed languages? Would you be interested to learn one?

Initially, no. I couldn’t see the benefit and I’m not much of a sci-fi fan, where a number of constructed languages originate from. However, recently, I’ve become interested in Esperanto due to friends that speak the language and finding a couple of old books last summer very cheap! It’s on my list for the year.

When you learn a new language do you always follow the same strategy?

Ahh, interesting question. There are some things that stick but mostly, I try and improve my strategy with every new language I start. I think this is why I’ve started to study so many languages over the years – I’m determined to keep improving my strategy.

How has your strategy to learn new languages changed over the years?

Nowadays my study definitely includes more tech and I’m currently focusing on speaking sooner than I used to. I love books, you see, so it was easy for me to get stuck in a reading rut.

Do you have a favorite language?

Nope. Each language is special to me for different reasons. They all have different times of my life, music, memories etc attached to them. But if you’re looking for a one-word answer to the question – Spanish. Spanish was the language that showed me it could be done and that I could learn languages well. So I guess I have a lot to thank Spanish for.

Are there any language blogs or podcasts you follow closely?

There’s this girl, Lindsay Does Languages. She’s pretty cool. I think she also co-hosts a podcast called the Creative Language Learning Podcast. It would be wrong of me not to mention her. 😉

Seriously though, I love listening to the Actual Fluency Podcast as well and reading, among others, Eurolinguiste and Fluent Language.

What is your definition of fluency?

It’s a myth! I think fluency is often put on a pedestal as the ultimate, unreachable end goal with a language, but the truth is if you look at it that way, you’ll never be fluent. For me, fluency is being able to express yourself clearly without many hesitations or stopping completely. You don’t know a word? Mime it! Fluency is half confidence in my opinion.

What is your single best non-obvious tip for language learning?

Ooo, I think it’s all about using the things that are a part of our everyday life for language learning as much as possible. Right now, my current favourite recommendation is Snapchat. It’s great for accountability. Short and sweet language bursts throughout the day! I wrote about it in more detail here (there’s also a free guide you can download and keep forever!)

Check out Lindsay’s website and YouTube channel to learn more!

Interview with language blogger Kris Broholm

Today’s interviewee is Kris Broholm from who currently lives in Budapest. He runs a popular language learning blog and has helped me set up our Danish site. His in-depth interview is definitely worth reading!

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Chris Broholm with his irresistible smile!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I grew up in Denmark and lived there most of my life. I started learning English in grade 4 and German in 5. However by 11 my entire inner monologue switched to, probably terrible, English and it’s been that way ever since.

I always enjoyed language classes but a major depression removed all my interest in school and so my results were very disappointing.

Then 2 years ago I discovered the on-line polyglot community and the rest is history.

What languages do you speak?

I tell people I know some: English, Danish, German, Esperanto, Russian and Hungarian.

How do you prepare for an interview, and how do you find new interview partners?

One of my primary philosophies when preparing for an interview is that I don’t want to know a lot about the person I’m interviewing.

This is to make the conversations more valuable to the listeners or viewers who often don’t know much about the person I’m interviewing or their projects.

If I did a lot of research before every interview I’m sure it would decrease the quality of the podcast a lot, because suddenly I would be asking questions based on that information and not from a reactionary point of view.

My favourite way of finding new guests is to simply ask my audience, who would you like to hear from? Most of them say Moses McCormick or Tim Doner – the latter of which I believe will be on this season, but I sometimes get some great suggestions that I hadn’t heard of or thought about.

How much editing is necessary before you publish the interviews?

I want the interviews to be uncensored and unfiltered and so I make a point about telling every guest that once I’ve made the introduction there will be no editing of the conversation itself.

However, that doesn’t mean I can just upload the file directly so I would say each episode takes about 5 to 6 hours to make.

0.5 hour prep and pre-interview chat
1-2 hours interview
1 hour editing the audio for the podcast
1 hour editing the video for YouTube
1 hour uploading, writing and scheduling.

What are the best parts and worst parts of language blogging?

The most amazing part of being a language blogger or content producer for me is when people write me to thank me for my content. I’ve had a fair number over the years and it’s the single most rewarding experience of my entire life.

Especially my content related to depression and fighting back to get out of the proverbial hole so many people find themselves in these days. Just the idea that I, little me, actually managed to help make just one other person’s life better.

On a personal level that’s pretty awesome. To add just one more best part, the accountability that’s built in when you put your language learning on display.

I HAVE to study Hungarian, not just to actually speak it and live here in Budapest, but also so my readers and listeners don’t start to send me emails asking, “hey Kris why are you not doing anything??”

There are very few “bad parts” about being a language blogger. Of course it’s a lot of work upfront where any kind of financial return takes years to build up, but that’s more or less obvious when you start.

In general, as long as you get into a rhythm you’ll grow as a person and hopefully inspire others in the process.

The HARDEST part is for sure to keep consistent. I’ve managed to be more or less consistent with my podcast, but the blog posts have been a bit too sporadic. I hope to change that in 2016.

How is your life in Budapest? What are the pros and cons of living there?

Right now it’s extremely cold. Every day is -5-15 and going out is physically painful. Summer on the other hand was 35-40 every day and way too hot.

So I’ll put the weather on the “cons” side of the argument.

However, Budapest is an amazing place with lots of history, beautiful buildings, cultural offerings, bars, cafés, restaurants and pretty much anything you could ever want.

And it’s very affordable with a very nice tax system for freelancers.

I’m very happy here in the middle of Europe with excellent transport connectivity to the rest of the world and I plan to stay here for the foreseeable future.

What are your long term plans? Do you want to do something outside of blogging in the language field? You mentioned you have a book in the pipeline.

My long term plans are to continue to develop Actual Fluency to the point where it can generate enough income for me to go down in hours on my day job. Then I would look to possibly teaching more Danish, as that is one of my unfair advantages in the world.

Yes I have a vision of a pretty epic book in my head, but for now I can’t share any more details. I recently released a 30-page book where I talk about the right mindset to start learning a language and also share my own language learning story, how it was an escape from depression that motivated me to get into learning languages.

Do you dream in a foreign language?

Well, I live my life through a foreign language so of course my dreams are mostly in English. I have caught myself dreaming in foreign languages before though.

What do you think of constructed languages? Would you be interested to learn one?

I’m relatively fluent in Esperanto and I’m a big fan of the positive effects to your learning it can have to learn a really easy language. Esperanto also comes with a global community of people who you can instantly connect and become friends with.

I’ve learnt all the 120 words of Toki Pona and spent two days trying to speak it and although it is a bit of a silly language I found it had great effects on how I perceived the world and language in general.

I was learning Russian at the time and I was struggling to speak, because Russian is very different from English.

My problem, I discovered through Toki Pona, was that I was not trying to convey the meaning my mind was trying to convey, I was actually trying to translate from English into Russian, which severely impeded my progress.

After learning the Toki Pona word for goodbye “mi tawa” translating directly as “I leave” something clicked and I understood that when we say goodbye, we’re actually conveying the meaning of “I leave” at the most fundamental and rudimentary level this is language.

I’d recommend people spend a day or two learning it as I did, but then after that I would not spend a lot of time on it. I think the value of such a minimalist language is mostly for its creator and the first time you learn it as a learner.

I know some people speak to each other in it during conferences and stuff, but I’m not really interested in that as I don’t see it as a practical language, but more as a philosophical experiment.

How has your strategy to learn new languages changed over the years?

One of the great things about learning languages is that you can do it in so many different ways using a million different tools.

My strategy is constantly changing but I think the core is simply to engage a lot with the languages and have many lessons with native speakers.

Do you have a favourite language?

Hungarian is my favourite language right now. It’s so different and unique to any other language I’ve ever studied and it sounds awesome too.

What do you think of

It’s a good concept. The main problem with spaced repetition learning today is the quality of the courses or decks and the lack of focus on full sentences.

LWO manages to do both and also offer a lot of ways to learn at an affordable price. I’m a fan.

What is your definition of fluency?

Being able to speak to people in the language without significant hesitation. Making mistakes is OK but you can’t take 15 seconds per word 🙂

I think my German is at this level. I have a high understanding, can read books and watch TV in it but when I speak I make mistakes. Also I sometimes have to explain missing words but that’s totally fine too.

What keeps you motivated to keep learning?

I’m trying to find as many avenues of motivation as possible. The primary one is to speak the language, to understand and conduct business in it.

Secondary motivation I get from going to Polyglot events all over the world and meeting up with fellow language learners as much as possible. By seeing people who’re doing much better than me I get super motivated to study on my own languages.

My blog and podcast are also sources of motivation because as I explained earlier if I’m not learning anything it’s very hard to blog about it.

What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started?

My book “Polyglot Beginnings” has a lot of tips and tricks on how to develop the right mindset for a new language learner. I think it’s incredibly important to work on the mindset first to avoid burnout or desperation later.

The other tips is simply to keep going. Sometimes the road to fluency seems incredibly long and impossible, but the only way to fail is to stop learning.

And what point would you recommend to read up on grammar?

I don’t focus a lot on grammar. In most languages you actually don’t even need to worry about it.

For grammar-heavy languages like Hungarian and Russian I try to systematically learn about the various cases and then I consult tables when I have to try and memorise endings or rules.

How has speaking multiple changes changed you as a person?

I’ve developed a thirst to find out more about foreign cultures and in the process also become more open and tolerant. Two years ago I had no idea about Hungarian culture and now I’m living here.

Do you travel more now since you’ve learned a lot of languages?

Yes for sure. It’s a great way to experience other cultures and to broaden one’s horizon. The Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen once said; “To travel is to live!” and I agree 100%.

How can you know anything about your own life if you don’t know anything else?

Have you ever started a new language and then given up for some reason?

Yes, I gave up on French on several occasions. First I was very tired of school and just quit the subject. Secondly I was trying to learn at home, but I had not yet found the polyglot community so I had no network, no accountability and no-one to talk to about it.

One day I’ll get back to French.

How important do you think is talent when learning a language?

I don’t think talent is very important. We’ve all learnt at least one language so we’re all capable of learning more.

What talent does is speed up the process and allows you to learn more languages faster. Some people might also just be talented at concentration, which is a huge plus for language study.

Do you use mnemonics to learn new words?

I don’t generally, but if there is new information I particularly struggle with (like a tricky word) I will try and make a mnemonic for it.

The argument, which I’ve not yet found an answer for, is: “Is the effect of a mnemonic so strong that it’s worth spending many times the time on each word, rather than simply repeating it more times?”

How much time do you spend learning languages per day or per week?

I currently aim for about 1 hour of study time per day, split up into 2-3 sessions. This does not include tutoring sessions or classroom hours.

Unfortunately I sadly reach my goal, but as long as I get a little something done every day I’m happy.

Which language you learned did you find most/least challenging and why?

I think the first foreign language you try to learn on your own is always going to be the most challenging. You have to learn not only a brand new language, but you also have to teach yourself how to actually learn.

Objectively speaking Hungarian and Russian cause me struggles because they are soooo different than the other languages I know.

Esperanto was extremely easy for me and I think anyone would say the same.

Any books about language learning you can recommend?

I think Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis is a great primer to get rid of most of the limiting beliefs that stop most adults from learning languages.

Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner is a great comprehensive resource. It does focus a lot on Flashcards, so if they are not your cup of tea you will have to skip a lot of the book. If you do enjoy making your own flashcards this book is right up your alley.

Any tips for people who want to start blogging about language learning?

Be very realistic with your reasons for doing it and the time it will take to keep up. I suggest keeping to a very fixed schedule, because there is nothing worse than visiting a blog where the last post is months old.

I’d suggest people do it for their own sake, but also mine. I love to read other bloggers and it really motivates and inspires me to do better in my own language learning and blogging.

But yeah, be realistic that it’s a serious commitment.

To learn more about Kris Broholm please visit his website over at

10 Reasons Why Knowing a Foreign Language Will Make You Happier

One of the most disappointing stats we have recently come across is that only 7% of American college students are currently attending language courses. An even more disappointing piece of data is that less than 1% of Americans who were taught a foreign language over the course of their education are proficient at it. Even so, these stats are hardly surprising, because there is more than one reason that is to blame for this situation.

First of all, there are the budget cuts, which prioritize subjects which are at the top of the list when it comes to their practical application, such as math, which leaves arts, sports, and languages out in the cold, with reduced or no funding. As a result, there are less language teachers, too.

There is also the fact that English is spoken pretty much everywhere around the world and is the unofficial language of the World Wide Web, which means that an average American will have no trouble communicating with foreigners no matter where they go.

But, we often forget about different ways in which knowing a foreign can benefit us and make us happier, which is why we have put together the following list, in order to remind ourselves, so keep on reading.

  1. The Satisfaction of Learning Something New

There are very few things in this world that feel as good as learning something new, and that is perhaps most evident when you learn a new language. You feel good about yourself, because you have accomplished something which is by no means easy, which gives an additional boost of confidence to learn other languages, or some other skills you previously thought were too difficult for you to master. Plus, there is the small bonus in being able to impress people around you with your knowledge of a foreign language.

  1. Taking Your Travelling Experience to Whole New Level

No matter how confident you are, once you find yourself in a foreign country, whose language you don’t speak, it’s natural to feel a little bit insecure or even intimidated. But, if you take the time to learn the language of the natives, your staying will turn into a totally different, and a lot more pleasant experience. There is also the fact you will be able to save money, because you will know where to find cheap lodging, transportation, and food. Also, in some countries, museum tickets are more expensive for foreigners.

  1. Being Able to Immerse Yourself in a Foreign Culture

You can learn about different countries, customs, and cultures in books or online, but nothing can compare to finding yourself on the soil of a foreign country whose language you speak, and being able to understand it and look at it from a whole different perspective. You are opening yourself to a wider range of pretty much everything: foreign movies, books, art, music, and history. Just the comfort of not needing subtitles is worth it.

  1. Meeting Different People

Like we’ve already said, pretty much everybody speaks some English nowadays, but you will find that communicating with different people online, and especially if you are visiting their country, will make them a lot friendlier towards you, because you have taken the time to learn their language, and anyone can appreciate that. Also, one can only really begin to understand the people, their emotions, the way their think, and speak, if they are familiar with all the nuances of their language.

  1. Access to More Job Opportunities

Some positions will require you to speak a certain foreign language if you want to get hired. There is also a flip side to that coin, as well, because you can command a higher salary if you are multilingual. Then there is the opportunity to go abroad and get a better job there, in some beautiful city. The fact that English is the most widely accepted language also means that there is a constant demand for English tutors and teachers, which is something you can take advantage of.

  1. Increasing Your Cognitive Abilities

Yes, learning new languages actually makes you smarter. There is whole raft of research which proves that students who speak more than one language have better test results, not just when it comes to languages, but other subjects as well, such as math. Believe or not, the process of learning and speaking one or more foreign languages actually alters your gray matter, which is responsible for information processing in your brain.

  1. Improving Knowledge of Your Native Language

Although it may seem strange, this actually makes a lot of sense. When you are learning a foreign language, it requires you to approach it in a different way to your native language. You have to be more mindful of the vocabulary, grammar, the way you compose sentences, use idioms, and apply all of those subtle details every language has. That approach will carry over to your native language, and you will begin to pay more attention to it than you ever did before.

  1. Become More Understanding of the World around You

Each culture has a slightly, or completely different view of the world, and speaking another language will help you understand world events much more clearly and figure out the reasons how and why they are taking place. Being able to evaluate something from an entirely different perspective is an eye-opening experience which nobody should not miss out on.

  1. Prevent Mental Illnesses and Disorders

Although degenerative conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s can have a number of different causes behind them, there is plenty of research data to suggest that people who learn and speak a foreign language can prevent or even slow down the progress of the disease. Keeping yourself mentally healthy is just as important as keeping yourself physically fit, and mastering a new language is one of the best ways to do it.

  1. Becoming a Well-Rounded Individual

When you put together all of the benefits of knowing a foreign language we have described above, they add up to you becoming a more confident, satisfied,
knowledgeable, and eloquent individual, which, in turn, will make you more successful, both at work and in your social life.

Learning a foreign language is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have in their lifetime. And the best thing about it is that it’s available for you in a number of different ways.

Language schools, language-learning apps, books, or simply chatting with foreigners online, those are all legitimate methods, and some of them are completely free, so why not make use of them? Start learning a new language today!

Antonio is a consultant at dissertation writing service EduGeeksClub where he provides online assistance to students and supports them throughout all stages of dissertation writing. When not doing that, he’s biking to new exciting places.

Interview with LWO user Veronica Perez

Today’s interview is with language learner Veronica Perez who uses LearnWithOliver to learn languages. Even though she isn’t a famous blogger it’s one of the best interviews I’ve read for some time. Definitely worth reading. Enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I am 38 years old, a graduate of Accountancy, and I speak Filipino, as a native language; English, which is an official language in our country; and Japanese. I started learning Japanese in 2009 and passed N2 in December of 2013. I can’t claim I studied entirely on my own, though I learned only by getting online. I’ll forever be grateful to the authors of the different websites I used, and blogs that I read, not to mention authors of published books on the language. In 2014, I started learning other languages as well. Currently, besides English and Japanese, I’m also learning French, Swedish, Spanish, Korean, Latin, Ancient Greek, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Greek and German. That’s in the order that I started learning them. I started learning German just this October.

How has your strategy to learn new languages changed over the years?

While learning Japanese, I focused on collecting sentences. After familiarizing myself with its writing system, which took barely a month, I went ahead and read sentences, and only acquired vocabularies in the process. I passed the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) doing just that. Well, I also watched a lot of Japanese movies, anime, TV programs and series, to acquire some listening skills, but I did not actively learn to speak. Eventually, it just happened, though it wasn’t my intention. A lot of reading and watching movies did that.

Since I couldn’t actively use the language, I didn’t personally know any Japanese national, so I had no one to talk to, I started keeping journals in that language. That’s when I noticed that I was utterly lacking in vocabularies. I could understand a great deal but I could not produce the right words to express what I wanted to say. So, when I started learning French, I did it both ways. I still focused on learning sentences but I also coupled it with lots of practice on vocabulary words alone. That’s how I discovered LearnWithOliver, which was then called Antosch & Lin. Its contents were exactly what I felt I needed at the time. A collection of sentences, plus a list of all the vocabularies used in them.

I’ve used electronic flashcards since the very first day and I don’t think I will ever be able to do without them. It’s only how I set up my cards that’s changed over the years. I change them based on what I believe I need at a certain period in my learning. Like, right now, I’m focusing on reading Japanese aloud. With a writing system like theirs, you can actually understand everything you’re reading without actually knowing how to pronounce the words. This is what I’m trying to achieve now, to be able to read Japanese aloud at a decent speed.

Do you have a favorite language?

I couldn’t explain why I kept adding to my list of languages I was learning, besides the fact that I felt it could be done, thanks to our current technology, but when I got to learning German, I thought: This is it! I stopped adding more languages after that. But I have to say this may only be for the time being, because I’ve also wanted to learn Russian. But then, it’s going to take a while before I start doing that. I want to be able to reach a certain level of proficiency in German first, before I start on another language again. Why German? I honestly don’t know. It just felt so right.

Are there any language blogs or podcasts you follow closely?

There’s not a single one I follow closely but I do read a lot of blogs and listen to podcasts. I’m basically everywhere. I read blogs, not just about the languages I’m learning, but about language learning in general. I particularly like those relating about their personal experiences. Since I’m just on my own here, tapping on my keyboard and clicking my mouse, I consider them my classmates in this broad school called language learning. I think this is important, hearing from kindred souls. It helps in keeping my passion for learning aflame. It’s the same with podcasts, I prefer listening to personal ones, like those talking about the traffic and the food they had for lunch. I consider that to be the closest I can get with the language. The reason I’m learning this many languages is I like reading books. Novels, in particular. And I want to be able to read literature in as many languages as possible. But there might also come a time when I would have to speak it, too, and I wouldn’t want to sound like a dramatic novel when I did. That’s why I listen to podcasts, to get the feel of how the language is actually being used in day-to-day conversations.

What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started?

He has to know what he wants to do with the language he wants to learn first. That’s how he’ll be able to know what to do next. Does he want to be able to read in that language? Then, read right away. Does he like watching movies or listening to music? Then, focus on acquiring the listening skills necessary to do that. Does he like to talk, or have someone, in particular, he wants to communicate with in that language? Then, start with everyday conversations. Is it for a job? Then, go towards what that job requires. Once he has the answer to this, the materials he thinks he needs will just present themselves. It’s like magic. When one already knows what he wants, it will come to him. (Stated otherwise, Google will become his best friend.)

I also suggest that he does what he finds enjoyable. When he realizes that he doesn’t like what he’s doing anymore, find something else. When one likes what he’s doing, it starts to feel more like fun, though learning a language demands a great deal of work. It won’t matter where he starts, really. He can start with medical jargon, if that’s what interests him the most. Be it, say, basic, intermediate, or advanced, they will come together, eventually, as long as he keeps going. As long as he learns constantly, he’ll be using the language, even before he realizes he already can.

What keeps you motivated to keep learning?

Understanding words, or phrases, I wouldn’t have understood had I not learned the language. That’s the best motivation for me. The first time I weaned myself off the subtitles, when watching Japanese movies, and still understood what was going on, I was crying the entire time. I did it! Nothing can compare with the joy that brings.

And what point would you recommend to read up on grammar?

When one feels he already has enough vocabularies, to which he can apply these grammar rules on, that’s the time. This will save him a tremendous amount of time. Languages tend to have these exact phrases, with which one expresses certain ideas. If he will keep on digesting sentences, or materials, in the language he’s learning, he’ll naturally be able to acquire and use these phrases. Learning grammar can be likened to polishing your shoes before you wear them. Vocabulary words, and common phrases, are the shoes. It’s grammar that polishes them. You wouldn’t polish a piece of leather and wrap it around your feet, would you?

How important do you think is talent when learning a language?

A great deal. But only if it had to be done really fast and effortlessly!

We all have different capabilities. There will always be someone who can do it better than the other, and there’s nothing wrong if we admired that someone. When it comes to one’s own learning, though, what’s important is knowing what will work best for him. One ought to pick that method that he thinks will be most effective for him. If one has the talent, he should embrace it. If not, then, he would just have to exert more effort, and invest more time, to get to where he wanted to go. He will get there, for sure, as long as he stays the course. I know I don’t belong in the talented category but it’s the least of my concerns. It may take me longer than the rest, but I’m getting there, too.

Additionally, to borrow Kató Lomb’s words, “Language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly.” Either way, talent or none, in learning languages, one always wins.

Do you use mnemonics to learn new words?

Yes, but not actively. What usually happens is that I tend to associate them with words from another language. Like, when I learned the (Brazilian) Portuguese word for cigarette butt: bituca. In our language (Filipino), bituka means intestine. I instantly imagined an intestine full of cigarette butts. (He swallowed them, after smoking, because littering harms the environment!) Then, the word stuck. Because I have this tendency, to associate words with another, learning more and more languages works for me, because more and more associations become readily available to me as well. In cases when I couldn’t make any association at all, I’d try picturing the word in my head, say a window, and imagine the word written there. If that still didn’t work, I’d just leave it to the flashcards. After seeing the words multiple times, they stick, anyway.

I’ve read books on mnemonics, and the like. I believe I understood the idea, but I just couldn’t make it work for me. Either I’d forget the mnemonic I came up with, or I’d successfully come up with something really clever, but a full hour had already passed me by. It’s a waste of time for me. I’d rather see more new words than spend my time thinking of mnemonics I just might forget, anyway. I forgot what I thought could help me remember! That’s the worst feeling in the world, so I just go with what comes naturally to me.

What would you say is the hardest language?

One I can’t understand. That would be the hardest language for me. I’m a native Filipino speaker, so I’d say that’s the easiest language, but only because I know it with all my heart and soul. English used to be really difficult for me, when I was still learning it as a young girl in school. Now, though, I can’t say it’s so hard to learn. I thought I’d lose my mind, when I started learning Japanese, but now, I’d say, it’s relatively easy. Relatively? Compared with what? With a language I don’t yet speak. I could go on and on. French is easier than German, because I’ve been learning French for almost two years now. I started German only two months ago. On the other hand, my Spanish is a lot better than my Swedish, though I started learning Swedish six months earlier than Spanish. We (the Filipino language) use(s) a lot of words that have Spanish origin. The association helped a great deal.

What do I consider to be the most difficult among the languages I’m learning now? Latin. But only because LearnWithOliver doesn’t have it yet. It’s the lack of materials that engage me. In other words, though I don’t want to say this, it’s the relatively less amount of time I spend in learning the language that makes it difficult.


6 Great Ways to Learn Writing with Kanji


The most famous and difficult aspect of Japanese writing is kanji. Kanji are the Chinese hieroglyphs which were adapted to the Japanese language. Mostly, Japanese words are written in kanji, but they still sound the same as in hiragana and katakana.

A little more than 2 thousands of hieroglyphs are used in modern Japanese, however, learning each of them individually does not work as well as with the hiragana syllabarium. Due to the great amount, the Kanji requires special memorization methods. In the learning practice, the knowledge and the use of these strategies make the learning process faster, much more efficient and enjoyable for the learner.

An effective strategy for mastering Kanji lies in learning them with new words in a context. Thus we associate each symbol with the contextual information and fix them in our memory. Kanji are used for representing the real words, so you should focus on the vocabulary, rather the characters themselves.

Compare 暑い and 熱い, both hieroglyphs have the same meaning “hot”. However, the first one is used to describe the weather, and the second hieroglyph is used when someone is talking about the temperature of an object or a person.

To memorize Kanji better, you need to keep up a few simple rules, such as:

1. Track the correct writing.

Japanese hieroglyphs contain many strokes and the right order of writing helps not only to remember the Kanji itself, but also helps to recognize it at reading.

For that purpose you may use an online applications, such as:

KanjiQ by Aribada Inc. With KanjiQ you can practice Kanji, repeating their writing by the lines, or train yourself by looking simply at the strokes’ order.

2. Study radicals (keys)

Kanji are not just the characters, the looks of which are absolutely disconnected with the semantic content. A limited set of unique elements, named “radicals”, is used for writing Kanji. 214 of radicals are so-called keys, which are also the meaning-bearers of each hieroglyph.
Hence comes out the second method: learn hieroglyphics, breaking them into groups with the same keys.

The useful applications for that:

Imiwa? This is an interactive online kanji dictionary, which will help to find not only the hieroglyphs’ meaning and reading rules, but also group them according to the number of the strokes. Also, this application allows to search hieroglyphs by the radicals.

Kanji Game. This application is a bit more challenging. In addition to the usual Kanji reading tests, there is a useful game “Is it a real Kanji?”. The application will show you the hieroglyph, and you should have to guess whether it is a true kanji or not.

3. Memorize reading

Another method is based on the learning the “Onyomi” reading. Anyone, who studies Japanese language, knows that the hieroglyphs have 2 ways of reading – a Japanese (kunyomi) and original Chinese – (onyomi).
Japanese words, denoted with hieroglyphs, are not too difficult to remember, but reading in Chinese way, which often consists of a single syllable, might cause more troubles to the learner. Thus, in some cases, it may be easier to split kanji by groups with the same reading.

4. Use Associations

Each character of Kanji is a little picture, a real art. Why not to involve this into the learning process?

For instance:

  • Kanji 休 (a rest) consists of the elements 人 (a human) and 木 (a tree). It turns out that the rest is when a man leans to a tree.
  • Kanji 東 (east) consists of the two elements 木 (a tree) and 日(the Sun), which are fused together. It turns out that the east is where the sun appears from behind trees.

Such mnemonic technique allows you to create persistent images and understand the essence of the kanji, not just memorize its form by heart.

An application, which will help you:
FluentU. This program includes video, pictures and flash cards which provide a persistent association between a word and its meaning.

5. Compose meaningful groups

Another technique to facilitate kanji memorization is compiling personal dictionaries and combining hieroglyphics by their meaning. For example:
母 (mother), 父 (father), 兄 (elder brother), 姊 (elder sister).
赤 (red), 青 (blue), 黒 (black), 白 (white).
野菜 (vegetables), 果物 (fruit), 果実 (berries)

A handy application for you:

Kanji Star. In addition to the routine tests on Kanji memorization and writing, this program can offer you much more. You can choose the hieroglyphics in different categories, such as “fruit”, “vegetable”, “animal”, “color”, etc and focus only on them.
Learn Japanese. This application is designed for beginners. The program contains 800 words and popular phrases, backed by pictures and audio recordings.

6. Use phrases (mnemonics)

This method consists in memorizing phrases or stories, which can remind the hieroglyphic writing. For example:
馬 (horse): “Fondle the horse on its neck, and then on the head, then down to the nose, then on the back, and then to the tail, and the point – the point – the point – the point.” – this process depicts Kanji writing as if it was a picture of an animal.

Or give the name to each stroke in the same order as it is written:
正しい(right): The Vertical, the horizontal, the vertical, the horizontal and two large horizontal lines.


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