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An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One

 Luca Lampariello

Introducing Luca and his language learning method…

 Luca Lampariello Luca Lampariello is an Italian polyglot who speaks 9 languages: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, and Portuguese.

Chinese is his latest language project, and learning to speak Thai is a real possibility!

When Luca was barely in his teens (13), he began studying languages on his own. As his experience grew, he came to the conclusion that there is no one best way to learn a foreign language, but there are some universal principles. And handy for us, he believes that the principles should be shared with others desiring to learn a foreign language.

Using these basic principles in his self-study, over the years a simple language learning method evolved.

Full circle: Target language (source files) => Native language => Target language

The MethodThis method enabled him to acquire languages with ease. Ok, it is still a work in progress, but what method isn’t?

To talk with other language learners, Luca joined YouTube. You can find his informative videos on his YouTube channel at poliglotta80.

And YouTube is where I found both Luca and his method.

Excited about the possibilities, I contacted Luca to get the finer details on how his method would mesh with learning Thai. And as you will soon see, it works quite well. So well in fact, that we decided to work together to remix the script from his videos to fit a post format. Two posts, actually.

And that is what you will find in the coming information. Luca’s method, but with a focus on Thai language learners.

I now hand you over to Luca…

An easy way to learn foreign languages…

While learning a foreign language is not an easy task, it is not as difficult as it seems. I called one of my videos An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages, because I was inspired by the title of a book that made a serious impact in my life: An Easy Way to Stop Smoking.

Being able to quit smoking is generally perceived as difficult. The book literally dismantled the reasons why one smokes, and then rendered the quitting of cigarettes quite easy.

The idea is this: In order to be able to do something easier than first imagined, one has to be shown how to do that very same thing, only simply. This works for languages too, although it takes more of an effort.

My language learning method…

  • The timeframe of my method is: Quality, then quantity.
  • The method is based upon a strategy of: Often, natural, and sà-nùk.
  • The strategy consists of: Listen, read, repeat, translate, and then translate back.

Studying languages with quality and quantity:

From the very beginning, put quality time into your studies. The quality aspect makes the difference between an excellent and a mediocre outcome. Put quality into your studies for the first 8 months to 1 year. After that period of time, add an additional ingredient for a solid language acquisition: Quantity.

Quality: What is more powerful than absorbing content? Preparing and training your brain to receive that very same content, that’s what. And if you put the time into absorbing the sounds of your target language, your brain becomes plastic towards that language.

Quantity: Listening and reading become more effective once you’ve built a decent vocabulary. And if you acquire a stable of useful words, you are more likely to understand, enjoy, and learn from books, blogs, articles, and podcasts.

My method uses three basic principles:

Often: The first principle is to work on a daily basis. Or, at the very least, 5 days a week. No gigantic amount of work is required either. For the first 3 months, 1 hour a day of study is preferred. Later on you can cut it down to 30 minutes.

Please note that it is more effective to learn a little bit each day, than to cram for 2 long days each week. Trust me. And after a mere 6 months, you will be astounded at your progress.

Natural: The second principle is to learn in a natural way, as natural as possible. The natural way of getting into the fabric of a language doesn’t bother with the heavy tomes of grammar.

It is not that grammar books are not useful. But, given the heaviness of the subject, a strong focus on grammar has a tendency to discourage language learners.

In the first stages of the learning process, it is more fruitful to concentrate on the spoken language by listening to as much dialogue as possible. During this time, write down, in your own words, the bare basics of grammar. No more.

Sà-nùk: The third principle is very Thai: Sà-nùk (สนุก means ‘fun’ in Thai). This principle focuses on making your language learning experience entertaining, not stressful.

It is important to inject a bit of sà-nùk into your lesson plan, so here are a few suggestions:

  1. Create simple games with the lessons.
  2. Input the lessons into Byki (activities and games).
  3. If on a Mac, copy the vocab into aTypeTrainer4Mac.
  4. Learn a handful of Thai songs each month.
  5. Laugh at hilarious Thai commercials on YouTube.
  6. Partner with another Thai language learner.
  7. Challenge your partner to a Thai language competition.
  8. At each milestone, treat yourself to something lusciously sinful.

There will be times when you feel frustrated because you can’t recall something you worked on a few days ago. When this happens, allow yourself to relax. Remind yourself that soon enough, those very same worries will seem ridiculously easy.

One other important note: Even if it takes you 8-9 months to finish your chosen Thai course, don’t worry. The faster one learns a language, the faster one forgets. So don’t learn in haste. Remember that quality is much more efficient than quantity.

A few more tips before we move on…

The Internet:

Rather than surfing the Internet in search of multiple Thai language courses, concentrate on one set of materials. This is exactly what I do with the Assimil and Teach Yourself series (more about this later).

The Internet is an incredible tool for learning languages, but it also turns a fair number of people into passive learners. What I suggest is to become an active learner by sticking with good material at the exclusion of all others.

And only after you’ve acquired a core of language knowledge, do you head back to the Internet. Because it is at that point that the Internet will become an amazing means to improve your linguistic knowledge.

But until then, please don’t be tempted away by yet another language course. And another. And another.

Pronunciation:

A delicate subject to talk about is pronunciation. With some effort, even taking into account linguistic inclinations and ear, I personally believe that most language learners can reach a good pronunciation level.

What I want to point out though, is that it is extremely important to listen to the sounds from the early stages of your learning. And being tonal, this is especially true with the Thai language.

It is not just a matter of listening, but also being able to reproduce the sounds correctly through the proper positioning of your mouth and tongue.

Getting the assistance of a native speaker will accelerate the process of acquiring and reproducing sounds correctly.

Proper pronunciation consists of two main phases:

  1. Pronouncing single words correctly.
  2. Getting the correct intonation of a whole sentence.

Thai learners are lucky in that there is an excellent product available: Improving Your Thai Pronunciation, by Benjawan Poomsan Becker.

Thai script, transliteration, writing vrs typing:

I personally use MS Word for my foreign language studies. But, given transliteration and the Thai script, you might very well prefer to handwrite your homework.

If you are going the typing route, WLT has a post explaining how to type in Thai (PC typing resources are included): Thai Typing Tutors: aTypeTrainer4Mac

The beautiful Thai alphabet stumps many students, while challenging others. Taking this into account, you can choose to go through the method either way: Thai script or Thai transliteration.

If you are unfamiliar with Thai transliteration styles, visit thai-language.com to get a look at some that are available.

And for those of you desiring to get a jump on the Thai alphabet, 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet is the ticket. You can also study the Thai alphabet via one of the many language sites in WLT’s Learn Thai for FREE resources page (but don’t lose yourself in there!)

Please note: In An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two, I will explain (in detail), the strategy of my method.

Luca Lampariello
Web: thepolyglotdream
Facebook: Luca Lampariello
YouTube: poliglotta80

WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two
WLT: Luca on Active Learning vs Passive Learning

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

39 Comments

  1. Okay this one has got me hooked although the bait has been swallowed the hook is loose in my mouth, you might say I’m intrigued enough to follow this route.

    I see a stark similarity in this method and Daniel T Murphy’s. Quality before quantity and walk before you run are to me the same approach. Get some good basics before over indulging is the message I’m getting.

    …’Rather than surfing the Internet in search of multiple Thai language courses, concentrate on one set of materials’…..

    Okay I’ve selected mine and it is Teach yourself Thai by David Smyth.

    I’ve loaded the first CD in the drive and I’m going to learn a little five days a week. I can’t promise it will be a hour each time. I’ll look forward to the second part.

  2. Martyn, when I first listened to Luca explain his method I was excited. Even if I got the order wrong at first, I could see the power. And when he patiently explained, I was even more chuffed.

    It is so simple. I can do simple.

    I got the ‘ah hah’s!’ because I know that this method will work with how I learn.

    And no matter what stage learners are, they can use this too.

  3. Catherine,

    Great post! Thanks for highlighting Luca and his great language ability on your blog. His methods are truly great for learning languages and they work extremely well. I have spoken to him on many occasions and he has a remarkable ability to really get inside languages and use them in a natural way in conversation. Anyone wishing to get into a language would do well to employ Luca’s methods.

    Thai is a fabulous language and I have found the Thai people to be hospitable and friendly – the “land of the smiles” truly matches my experience of Thailand. Anyone wishing to learn this incredible tongue will be well rewarded by the pleasure one gets from conversing with other speakers of the language. Luca’s fine example is a fabulous way to attain a good knowledge of Thai, or indeed any language.

    All the best,

    Richard

  4. Richard, Welcome to WLT! It is wonderful to see your comments here. Your ’50 things with accents and languages’ is truely amazing, so I hope others will wander over there too.

    Luca’s method will work for me. And I especially like how he is advising beginners to stay away from the Internet for awhile. For WLT, I made it my quest to find everything I could to help learn Thai. But too much of a good thing can sidetrack the early efforts of a language learner.

    On methods… I started out my professional life as a portrait artist. When ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ appeared on the market, I was curious so purchased a copy.

    Reading through, I realised that her method was exactly how I twigged into drawing portraits. It was how I ‘saw’ the world around me. I just didn’t realise it because I started so young – around 4 years old is an early recollection from my parents, who tagged me as an artist from that point on (presents of dolls were overshadowed by paint sets and art classes).

    And in a way, that is what Luca has done. And just like in drawing, there are many ways to learn languages, but this one is speaking to me personally.

    Btw – if you have any tips that you would like to share, please do :-)

  5. It definitely seems a simple way to go and I like simple but I think Thai is one of those languages that needs a little more time. Not all languages are made the same and one such as Spanish would be much easier to learn with this route than Thai.

    That being said I am trying to get in Thai learning 4-5 times a week but I still think the best program is living in the language area and learning by example.

  6. Talen, by time, do you mean more than one hour per day? Because he has not put a time limit on length. And while he has learned European languages with this method, he is now going for Chinese (and I am sooooooooooo glad that I am not learning Chinese :-)

  7. One of the things I like the most about Luca’s method is a solid emphasis on both input and output. There are lots of theories out there on the net that over emphasis learning through input but that will make you a good reader and listener. If you want to interact, you need to practice speaking and writing as well.

    Another thing I like about the method is that it’s flexible. Catherine, it looks to me like you’ve done a wonderful job applying it to learning Thai. Best of luck to you!

  8. Ryan, I guess that is also why I like Luca’s method – he has everything covered. And I will see for sure in 2010, when I spend a full month testing his method out (wish me luck!)

  9. I’ve been floowing Luca’s method for some time now, ever since I discovered his YouTube channel. I’ve been brushing up my Italian using both Linguaphone and Assimil, but following Luca’s methodology. I’m now using to help me to learn Swedish. Follow his advice, enjoy your language learning and it WILL be effective.

  10. Davide, welcome to WLT :-) It is excellent to hear from someone who is using Luca’s method. After reading about the method, I ordered Assimil Thai (which, as you know, is in French not English) so I’ve decided to brush off my absolutely awful French at the same time as I’m pounding away at Thai. I figure that his method will make the whole process easier, so why not go for broke.

  11. Can you please explain the elementary method. You hear a sentence, repeat it, then write it down in your native language. Then the next day, you do this again with a new sentence. Then the third day, you translate the sentence you learned the first day into the language you are practicing? Then the fourth day you’d do the same to the sentence you learned on the second day right?

  12. Hi Agnaldo, welcome to WLT! To fully understand Luca’s method, go to the second post – An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two.

    I’m starting his method in the new year. For 30 days, I will post my progress at the end of each week.

  13. Hello luca, I´m federico from argentina and I think you´re so amazing person, It´s easy to you learn any language, you´re good
    I´ve begun to learned english about 7 mothns and i´ve listened many english, I think the language enter with ear and that is I do it, listen and listen…. well I´m going to go, greeting from argentina.

    oh one question: how much time have you learn any language??

  14. Dear Federico, first off, let me thank you for the nice words.

    Listening to a lot of English (or any other language) is without a doubt a very good way of “plonging” into the language, but I suggest you start absorbing English not only by listening to it, but also by reading, writing and speaking it. As I pointed out numerous times, quality does count in language learning. If you read, say, the script of a podcast while listening to it, and you write it down (in both Spanish and English) will help your brain link the script with the sounds (“Verba volant sed scripta manent” the latins used to say). A balance between input and ouput is the key to learning a language consistently. As you will have noticed, there’s a number of people who read and understand a language effortlessly but have issues when it comes to “uttering” words, producing sounds or write a simple text. There are others who have a decent oral and written “production” but have a rather poor comprehension. If you do things the right way, you’ll develop all these skills consistently, that is, you’ll be able to read, write, speak and understand very well the language you mean to pick up. You need to have a good method (a nice car) and a lot of fuel (motivation). With these 2, no matter how far the road strechtes, the results are garanteed. Everybody can pull it off. The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is faith. If you believe in yourself you can do it. Just give it time and never give up.

    Have a great day

    Luca

    PS: I replied in English but I’d gladly answer in Spanish if you didn’t fully understand my answer

  15. Dear Luca,

    congratulations to your excellent language skills and many thanks to Catherine for the good explanation. I am German and must admit, that your german is really good. I am self-studying spanish and try to find the best way to learn a language. Your method is quite interesting. Now I have one question regarding the translation:

    When you do the translation to your native language, should you translate word-by-word (like in Assimil) so that you are able to retranslate it back to the learning-language, for example
    “I like to play football – Ich mag zu spielen Fussball” or do you prefer the correct way: “Ich spiele gerne Fussball”, but then it might be difficult to translate it back correctly.

    kind regards

    Christian

  16. Luca Lampariello

    April 14, 2010 at 4:34 am

    Dear Christian, first of all, let me thank you for your kind words. The back-and-forth translations’s main goal is exactly this: to compare the 2 scripts and understand the “fabric”, the structure of the target language you want to learn THROUGH your mother tongue, or another language you know very well. No matter how different they are

    What you have to do consists of 2 main steps:

    1) ANALYSIS
    2) SYNTHESIS

    Analysis means that you have to analyse a script, which can be a very brief dialogue (beginners), a longer text (intermediate) or a newspaper article (advanced). Highlight the words that you don’t know and look them up on the vocabulary (on and/or offline) and write the corresponding meaning at the side of every word (in the very same paper). ASSIMIL is perfect for both the beginner and intermediate phases because you have bilingual texts, so that you can infer the meaning of the words in-context by simply looking at the corresponding translation on the right page. You can read and analyse (study) the dialogue (text,article) as much as you want. Then, after having read and analysed the text quite a few times (or when you feel ready), open a .doc file (you can write it on paper if you don’t like a computer screen) and by looking at the text in the target language (that is, by looking at your ASSIMIL left page) write it in your mother tongue on the doc.file. When you translate that text (reading Spanish on ASSIMIL and writing in German onto the .doc file in your case), you can help yourself with “some tricks”. As you said, if you come across an expression which is very different in both languages, do like ASSIMIL: write the right translation and add (in brackets) the literal one. When you hit phase 2) you’ll remember how to translate it correctly. I’ve been doing this with every language and it is extremely useful for chinese (see note below)*, which has sometimes sentences really difficult to translate “back and forth”

    2) A week later you’ll take the text that YOU have written (with some notes that YOU add to help yourself, as I told you) and try to translate it back into the target language. This is the synthesis and, as you will find out, it is a bit more difficult than simply analyzing a script

    With 1) and 2) you: acquire words (in context), learn how the two different languages interact, how they work. You also auto-correct yourself and with phase 2 you force your brain to work in a slightly different way: you don’t think in your language in order to produce output in another one, you do the opposite. By doing so, you learn how to express yourself DIRECTLY in the target language, because the final step, the one which creates the “full circle” is the second, the synthesis. It takes time, but it is extremely beneficial

    I don’t know if that is clear. The fact that it is evident in my head doesn’t (unfortunately) necesseraly mean that it is just as clear for others. I try my best to explain it and I’m seriously planning on making a video in this regard (among others which I hope will come out soon :-)) “to fill in the gaps”

    If you have any more doubt..feel free to drop a line (even in German if you want)

    Luca

    * For example: 学习中文的意大利人越来越多”literally means “learning chinese (de) italians are more and more. So, when you read the sentence in chinese and you write it in english (step 1), you’ll write “italians who are learning chinese are more and more numerous” BUT you’ll add the literal translation in brackets (learning chinese (de) italians are more and more. When you will be translating that sentence from english to chinese it’ll be easier

  17. Christian, I don’t know about their other courses, but Assimil’s Thai language course has transliteration, not Thai script. To get around this problem, I’ve had a Thai typist put the dialogues into proper Thai.

  18. Dear Luca,

    thanks a lot for the detailed and precise answer. This aspect now is clear to me and I will follow this procedure during my future studies. On the ohter hand I would like to know your approach when it comes to grammar and communication. How do you deal with that?

    I understood not to focus to much on grammar rules but isn´t it useful to know the basic rules like how to build tenses?

    For the communication, I was really surprised how good your german pronounciation was, even if you haven´t been to our country very often. How do you improve your communication skills? I listened to a polyglot on Youtube you focused on keywords and common phrases to improve his ability to talk. My biggest weakpoint still is the lack of building sentences in my mind while communicating. Do you think this will get better when I enforce your mentioned vice versa translation method?
    How is your typical “language studying day”?
    How long does it take you to become familiar with a new language, escp. when they are so difficult like chinese or thai?

    Again I am really amazed about your language skills and I really like to learn from your experiance that you made so far. So I am looking forward to some new “discoveries of your secrets” ;-).

    Kind Regards

    Christian

  19. Dear Christian

    I am pleased to know you got my point.

    Now, as far as grammar and communication are concerned:

    Grammar: I’d like to emphasize once again the fact that grammar IS important. The whole point is not whether grammar is important or not, as many debate, but how to absorb it without focusing on it purposefully, that is, avoiding a tedious grammar tome. If you are a linguist and are interested in all possible aspects of a language, then a grammar book is the best you can find. If your main goal is proper and efficient communication, then ASSIMIL is great to get started, in that it offers grammar notes along the way. Building a language in your head is like building up a wall: you need brick walls (words) but you also need the glue that holds them together. If you are familiar with this language series, you’ll notice that they provide grammar notes along the way. ASSIMIL’s philosophy (as well as mine) is to provide bilingual scripts and providing grammar notes, when they are necessary, but they accurately avoid burdening you with them (there are some exceptions, like Russian but that’s a bit peculiar). Those grammar notes, rather obscure or a just a bit difficult to grasp at the beginning, make more and more sense as you make your way into the language. Once you’ve done the back-and-forth translation, you are consciously AND unconsciously formulating phrases, that is, your brain is using words IN-CONTEXT, and you are learning grammar without even realizing it! You become conscious, aware of it when you look back at the first grammar notes and with a gasp you utter a “this is adamant,evident, obvious, why didn’t I realize that before?” That’s where the synthesis plays a huge role. Writing things down makes your brain attentive and aware of words,grammar AND pronunciation.

    I’d also like to point out that ASSIMIL is great for GETTING STARTED, but learning a language well requires much more than that. You don’t learn a language well by reading a couple of books. After you’ve finished using them, you are ready to move on to the next stage (the intermediate phase)

    The very fist language I picked up with this method that I’ve developed and refined along the way is German: I started on the wrong foot. My grandmother had an old, dusty grammar book in german (in gothic :-)) and I started focusing on that. After 2 months I realized that focusing on grammar to get started was useless, a total waste of time. So I started using DE AGOSTINI, which provided an excellent language series: dialogues, exercises, but also “Lebendiges Deutsch”, Literatur. It is the best language series I’ve ever seen. I learned things that you don’t normally get to learn in an “institutionalized” language series, such as “Sussi, Glotze, Mädel” and so forth. With the b-f-translation and after 1 year and a half I came across germans in Sardinia. It was a blast! :-)

    Communication and pronunciation: there are quite a few people convinced that listening and reading are all it takes to get fluent in a language. Unfortunately, it takes a bit more that that. I agree that listening and reading are NECESSARY activities, and in this regard, the more the better. I also think though that adding writing and speaking along the way is very beneficial in the long run. Reading and listening, as well as speaking and writing have to be developed consistently if you want to speak,understand and write a language well, that is, conveying your ideas efficiently in both oral and written form.

    I’ve heard people say that talking to yourself is not useful because there is no native speaker around correcting your misspronouncations or grammar mistakes. When you get fluent in a language, 90% of the work comes from you, and the “final refinement” comes from contact with native speakers, who polish both your accent and oral proficiency. Since that DE AGOSTINI series, and after a mere 2-3 months of study, I’ve always started formulating sentences. I phantasized about getting to know a cute girl (ah, girls, isn’t it true that girls move the world?) and saying interesting and charming things to her, or discuss other subjects with a friend.

    Thinking, imagining yourself in certain situations,formulating phrases both in your head and with your mouth (while you keep learning on books) is what brings astounding, unimaginable results in the long run. Imagine yourself in front of the EVEREST: if you think about all the way you have to walk to reach those heights it seems the toughest challenge in the world. Lower your head, get your eyes on the ground and start walking, step by step. That’s what will get you to the top of the world :-)

    In answer to your other question: chinese is a 3-year project. That is, I’ll be applying my method to it for the next year and a half (I’ve been learning it actively since september 2008). I usually learn it an hour a day. Analysis (listenting, reading) is easy, you can do it whenever and wherever you want (I do it on the bus, I am currently focusing on interesting articles, politics, religion, and the like, there’s an incredible site providing excellent articles in 10 languages). I do the synthesis in the weekends, when I can relax at home and get hold of my dear computer :-)

    I’d like to thank you again for your kind words on my german. The truth is, it is very rusty in both videos (I hadn’t spoken it in years) and my accent had degrade quite a bit. I hope I’ll speak some of it in the next videos (coming soon), and I hope you’ll notice some improvements..want to get it back on stage

    Hope this answer will help in your future endeavours :-)

    If you have anymore question, I am here (and on skype)

    Take care

    Luca

  20. Speak Spanish Fluently

    June 11, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Would you suggest we adopt your methods when learning any foreign language?
    .-= Speak Spanish Fluently´s last blog ..Learning Spanish Online Free =-.

  21. Dear friend, I am not suggesting that you or others adopt my method. I am just showing how it works to those willing to listen to me. I don’t sell anything, I just share my experience in language learning. Many people are willingly following this path though, and I am glad to see that it’s working well for them too.
    There is no one best method, but if you stick to sound principles (working every day and making your way progressively into the “languag2e maze”) you will surely reach your goal, no matter what “method” you embrace. Luca

  22. Luca, I watched your interview with Richard – it is fabulous, impressive, amazing :-)

    Multilingual interview with Luca – the Italian polyglot

  23. Dear Loucas!
    Thank you for your site!

  24. Luca, congratulations! Your language skills are amazing!

    Have you ever tried your method with films, dvd series, real interviews and their scripts? Some of them have a lot of real dialogs.
    Have you ever tried it with books and its unabridged audiobooks?

    Maybe its too long, but maybe it can be useful at advances stages.

    Thank you.
    Alberto

  25. Catherine and Luca,
    when you go L1-L2 (syntesis) and you commit a mistake, what do you do? Do you write several times the correct form or something else?

  26. Dear Alberto,

    making mistakes, forgetting or omitting things are the difficulties that you will face during the synthesis and the more the better: its main purpose it to “fill in the missing spot”. If you don’t remember a word or a whole phrase, just look it up and then complete the translation of the lesson. You’ll see that the effort/need to remember that chunk of dialogue or text is beneficial in terms of “registering” the details of the text itself in your head. I always suggest one translate line by line the text and check out for mistakes “on the fly” (but you can do a checking after having translated the whole text if you feel that it’s a better way to proceed): in case you do make a mistake, just correct yourself and next time you’ll be likely to avoid it.

    As far as the other question is concerned: I used (and still use) my method on newspaper articles (I found a great site in this regard), and I take notes when I watch dvds or TV (VERY effective!)

    Take care and thanks for the nice words

    Luca
    .-= Luca Lampariello´s last blog ..A discussion about passive and active learning in second language acquisition =-.

  27. Hi Luca,

    Thanks for your videos on youtube and your website. I only discovered you, so to speak, this evening and thought I must write to thank you and to ask you a couple of things. Your recommendations on how to study a language are very similar to what I’m currently doing with French.

    At the moment with Assimil I’m doing the daily lesson, writing the French out by hand, shadowing and or reading the preceeding 5-6 lessons, typing in French the lesson from two weeks previously and using the French to re-type in English three weeks later. This means today I completed lesson 45, reviewed 38-44, typed in French 31 and translated 10 from French to English. Next week I will commence translating the English back to French. This all takes me around one hour.

    As you can see it is the same as what you recommend but drawn out over a longer period. I decided to do it this way to help improve my retention. I will begin to see whether my method is successful next week when I begin translating back into French. Would you recommend that I continue the way I’m going or do the translating backwards and forwards immediately?

    I am using FSI French Basic and I’ve completed 4 lessons. I am finding it very good for retention because of repetition. Should I stop using the FSI or continue using it when I have the time?

    One final thing, I read recently that it could be a good idea to use one foreign language to learn another. By doing this you are practicing one while learning another. I speak a little bit of Italian but it is quite rusty so I have ordered Assimil’s ‘Il Francese Senza Sforzo’ and ‘Perfezionamento del Francese’ for later. Do you thing this is a good idea or not? Have you done this yourself?

    Thanks for your time and keep up the good work. Vielen Dank, merci e mille grazie. Tu (d’accordo?) sei un personaggio molto interessante e mi piacerebbe visitarti a Roma. Devo fare un po’ di pratica con mio italiano!

  28. Roger, while you are waiting for Luca’s reply I wanted to take the time to mention his brand new website – thepolyglotdream.com

  29. Dear Roger, if I understood your message properly, you are a English native speaker (that is, English is your L1, mother tongue) who is learning French (L2).

    Let’s suppose that I myself am a native English speaker in the process of learning French. I would do the following:

    Day X: read dialogue 4 (let’s suppose that you are currently dealing the fourth lesson) in French (L2) by confronting it with the English version. Read and listen, highlight, try to UNDERSTAND everything. In the same day, you’ll review lesson 2 and 3

    Day X+1: read dialogue 4 again and listen to it again. Read lesson 5 (you don’t need to study a new lesson every day, if you feel like you are going too fast, stop and review the preceding lesson) and rievew dialogue 2 and the 2

    Day x+2: write down lesson 4 (handwriting or on a .doc file) in ENGLISH (not in French!): you have to look at the French text and write down the corresponding version in your L1. The goal here is to NOTICE and UNDERSTAND. If you translate a whole text from one language into the other (and there is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed, given that you have both texts at your disposal), it should be adamant that you have understood the whole text. By doing so, you will notice quite a few things that eluded you when simply approaching the text by simple reading and listening

    From this point you can keep listening to the text of lesson 4 (as well as the preeding lessons)as much as you can. Just stop doing that (that is, stop reviewing the lesson) and wait for 4-5 more days before moving on the SYNTHESIS. I suggest you not wait for 3 weeks until you retranslate it BACK INTO FRENCH. The technique DOES NOT IMPLY ACTIVE MEMORIZATION of a text. That is the secret! The goal of the technique is to show you the bricks and how to put them together. If you don’t remember a word, it doesn’t matter, the most important thing is that you are learning a language ACTIVELY, figuring out its fabric (how the “bricks” (words) are put together)

    You wrote:

    At the moment with Assimil I’m doing the daily lesson, writing the French out by hand, shadowing and or reading the preceeding 5-6 lessons, typing in French the lesson from two weeks previously and using the French to re-type in English three weeks later. This means today I completed lesson 45, reviewed 38-44, typed in French 31 and translated 10 from French to English. Next week I will commence translating the English back to French. This all takes me around one hour.

    Yeah, the technique implies multiple operations performed every day. I suggest you make the schedule a little shorter though (10-14 days instead of 3 weeks should be the time span between the first reading of a text and its synthesis)

    > As you can see it is the same as what you recommend but drawn out over a longer period. I decided to do it this way to help improve my retention. I will begin to see whether my method is successful next week when I begin translating back into French. Would you recommend that I continue the way I’m going or do the translating backwards and forwards immediately?

    > I am using FSI French Basic and I’ve completed 4 lessons. I am finding it very good for retention because of repetition. Should I stop using the FSI or continue using it when I have the time?

    I don’t know the FSI, but if you like it, go for it :-) Start using just ONE language course at the very beginning. You can always integrate it with other materials later

    > One final thing, I read recently that it could be a good idea to use one foreign language to learn another. By doing this you are practicing one while learning another. I speak a little bit of Italian but it is quite rusty so I have ordered Assimil’s ‘Il Francese Senza Sforzo’ and ‘Perfezionamento del Francese’ for later. Do you thing this is a good idea or not? Have you done this yourself?

    It is an excellent idea, provived that you speak the other language rather well. Otherwise, I suggest you stick to your mother tongue (L1) to help yourself learng a L2

    Hope this helps :-)

    If you have any other question, feel free to ask them directly on my blog: http://www.thepolyglotdream.com

    Luca

  30. Hi Luca,

    I’ve really been inspired by your videos. I’m 50 and living in Montreal, Quebec as you may know is a French province in Canada. I’m embarrassed to say that I am not bilingual. I’ve lived and worked in the “english ghetto” so I have been lazy with learning french. But I am getting more pressure at work and I truly desire to learn but all the courses I’ve taken have gone in one ear and out the other because I have been very shy to speak. I’m afraid of making mistakes and sounding stupid. I believe in your method because I always found if I wrote things down I retained the information better. Now I need your advice: you have mentioned Assimil and Teach Yourself. Which one do you recommend I start with? I already have a basic vocabulary but I have to learn how to form proper sentences and increase my vocabulary and build my confidence. I have plenty of opportunity to practice…shame on me! When I first saw one of your videos I thought you were American! It was only when I read more that I discovered you were Italian! I felt if you can learn 9+ languages I can at least learn French!!! What you said about grammar is true…it just scares people (like me). I look forward to your advice and thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us.

    Cathy

  31. Dear Cathy,

    thanks for the nice words. I would definitely go for ASSIMIL, it is one of the best series for getting started in language learning. If you have any other question on how to best use it and how to progress, feel free to drop me a line at my blog (www.thepolyglotdream.com)

    Good luck with your studies! :-)

    Luca

  32. Hello! My name’s Tomek. I come from Poland and I’m really impressed with what you’ve been doing.
    Because about a month ago I put your method into my studying of German and Spanish I would like to ask you some questions:
    1 Do you study several languages at the same time?
    2 Do you always study a new language using your mother tongue or you also use other languages?
    3 When you study a new dialogue do you do some additional translation, I mean literal one?
    4 Do you study just a whole dialogue or maybe you also study sentences to have a better understanding and maybe first of all to make a language more flexible?
    5 What do you do if you finish a dialogue faster than 6 or 7 days for example in 3 days? Do you go to a new dialogue or you keep repeating the one that you’ve learnt?
    6 What do you think about rewriting a dialogue of a target language before doing some translations? I think it’s quite useful if we don’t know a given language at all. But maybe I’m wrong?
    7 What do you do not to mix several languages together?
    8 When you do a translation and it’s quite good but still not perfect, I mean there are few words that you translate or write in a wrong way, what do you do? Do you keep rewriting only the words you’ve got problems with or you keep doing translations?
    9 Do you listen to the same dialogues later, I mean as additional exercises to the schedule that you’ve presented? For example after 2 months, 4 months, etc.

  33. Great article and comments!
    You wrote: But until then, please don’t be tempted away by yet another language course. And another. And another.

    So true! But I can not resist the temptation: I have collected about 100 different Thai courses so far!

  34. I’m Thai and I’m very excited that you are interest inThai language.
    If you want to know anything about Thai, I really love to help you.

  35. เชื่อผม ผมพูดไทยได้นะ (Trust me, I can speak Thai.)

  36. Welcome to WLT Pas :-) I’m sure there will be plenty of people with questions!

  37. Ok, Whatever I could help,I will do my best.

  38. Hi Catherine,
    Hoping you can help. I have been reading through your site and also Luca’s and I just cannot seem to “understand” exactly how the translation thing works, when you go back and forth. Is it possible to give a tangible example – perhaps explaining step by step.

    I get that it involves taking a phrase/sentence – but what happens exactly afterwards? Do I learn the sentences’s translation in English first and then test myself afterwards by writing this back in German(my L2).

    I must be seriously impaired intellectually because I just cannot seem to understand exactly what to do. LOL!

    Many thanks
    Carters

  39. Hi Carter, apologies for taking so long to reply (I’m on holiday).

    It’s explained in more detail in Part Two.

    1) Listen to the audio files (your target language – German).
    2) Repeat the audio files (German).
    3) Read the materials with and without the audio files (German).
    4) Translate the Thai (in your case German) dialogue into English.
    5) Translate your English translation into Thai (German).

    I hope that helps?

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