The Secret to Learning a Language in 10 Days?

Check out this beautifully illustrated talk about how to learn foreign languages using the Pimsleur approach. No, I don’t believe you can learn a language in 10 days, but you can certainly get started in one, and Pimsleur is a good way to help get your brain and tongue used to a new language.

 

Author: John Fotheringham

My name is John Fotheringham and I’m a languaholic. I originally hail from Seattle, but have spent most of the past decade living, learning, and working in Japan, Bangladesh, China, and Taiwan. I currently reside in Los Angeles where I am a full-time "manny" (or "bro pair" as my older brother calls me) for my 5-year-old nephew. I focus most on Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish but love all languages. And corny puns. And sushi. You can learn more about my other projects at: http://johnfotheringham.net

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  • http://www.do-you-speak-english.co.uk Rachel

    What a fantastic video! I didn’t intend to watch it all but was so mesmerised by the cartoons that stayed watching until the end. And a great language-learning message too :)

    • John Fotheringham

      Yes, it’s a very well done video. I think this is the future of online advertising: interesting, engaging, informative content that people will be eager to share with others (I believe I heard someone call it “adutainment” at some point).

      That said, I want to point out that the product name is a bit of a misnomer; you are obviously not going to “learn a language” in 10 days (though you can certainly learn some). But Pimsleur does do a good job of getting your ears, mouth, and brain used to a new language in a fast, systematic way. That said, you can save money and make a great deal of progress for free (and arguably a lot more enjoyably) by just listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and talking with native speakers online or in person.

      • http://www.KneeHowdy.com Nathan Cain – KneeHowdy.com

        I don’t think podcast accomplish quite the same thing as Pimsleur. What the podcasts don’t do is repeat the new words gradually longer and longer intervals. Pimsleur reminds you of the word right when studies have shown that your brain is about to forget. First 15 seconds, then 1 minute, then 5 minutes (or something to that effect).

        • John Fotheringham

          True, but you can create your own poor-man’s Graduated Interval Recall (or Spaced Repetition) by scheduling when you review a given podcast episode. I like Pimsleur, but the problem is that while the vocabulary they present will indeed be internalized quite well by the end of the program, they only present a very small set of total words. I usually recommend that someone start with something like Pimsleur or Michele Thomas to get their brain, ears, and mouth used to the basics of the language, and then graduate to more interesting content as soon as possible.

  • http://www.gotravelenglish.com/en Skype English Lesson

    I agree with this 100%. This is why most native speakers have a hard time explaining the rules to someone learning the language. They just know what sounds right. They don’t think about all the grammar rules when they speak, it just comes out. When they say something wrong, they don’t know why, except that it just FEELS wrong.

    Interacting, hearing, and using constantly is the best way. Make mistakes and just get comfortable using!

    • John Fotheringham

      Well said. You have hit on the difference between explicit and tacit knowledge, which marks the difference between most failed academic learning of languages and natural acquisition through sub-conscious internalization. Both kinds are important, but most learners fail (or at least find languages very difficult) when they focus too much on explicit information at the expense of its tacit counterpart.

  • http://www.RoadToEpic.com Adam Wik

    I once had a student (as an ESL teacher) who had studied English for around 8 years. She could answer really complicated grammatical questions like what the passive conditional past perfect form of the word ‘equivocate’ was and knew more grammar terms than your average high school graduate – but when it came time to order a latte from Starbucks or chat about the weather she just fell apart.

    Speaking & Practice > ‘Studying’

    • http://l2mastery.com John Fotheringham

      Yes, yes, yes. I have observed the same bizarre phenomenon time and time again, yet many people still think formal study is essential for reaching fluency and even go so far as to look down on those focusing on natural (as opposed to academic) language acquisition. Maybe they just think it’s cheating because most learning the natural way make progress so much faster!

      • Timea

        I think that this absolutely varies from person to person. Living just by grammar rules is of course wrong, but there are people like me who feel more confident ‘knowing’ that the grammar is right. I might still make mistakes but when I start learning a language, I ‘like’ to focus on grammar. I just ‘love’ to take it apart and put it together by pieces. I ‘like’ to ‘understand’ why thing work a certain way. I could never learn a language by repeating words and saying set expressions without knowing why I am saying them in that way. I speak 4 languages, learning my 5th now, Korean, and I am really frustrated at the lessons that the teacher is just not willing to tell me difference between two noun endings, that are supposed to mean the same but when I try making my own sentence using either of them, she always corrects me, saying no, you have to use the other one here. But why? What’s the reason this ending is OK here and the other is not when they are supposed to mean the same? In order to be able to make my own sentences and develop, I need to understand the reasons, I need to be able to figure out why I use a term here and not there. That is when the whole puzzle falls into place. being able to converse following imitation of what you hear is nice but that’s just a monkey job. You acquire a language when you actually understand the structure. native tongue is different, acquired languages are different as well, because you will inevitably compare stuff to your native tongue, you cannot just absorb the new language like you did with the native tongue, as then you had no set of rules to abide by. But once you mastered the native tongue you will think like your native tongue set your minds to, so you won’t be able to just take in a language and learn it as if it were your own. Impossible in my opinion.

        Anyways, deal with grammar first works out pretty well for me but of course speaking is very important too, if people have a chance to practice :)

        • John Fotheringham

          Well said. I completely agree that everyone has different preferences, and interest/enjoyment trumps all.

  • 1361423508

    Why I can’t watch this video ? individual video?

    • http://l2mastery.com John Fotheringham

      Are you in the Republic of China? YouTube is blocked there.

      • Njy9715

        I am in Korea and also can’t watch this video.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/花咲海夜/100001714785533 花咲海夜

        I can’t watch it either, and I live in CANADA. O.O
         

  • Layinka

    Can’t see the video. It’s in private mode :( I am in France, Europe. 
    xx Layinkawww.diylanguage.wordpress.com

  • http://l2mastery.com John Fotheringham

    Okay everyone, I have updated the embed code from Pimsleur’s YouTube page. Not sure why the previous link stopped working, but all should be working fine now (except for those in countries where YouTube is blocked).

  • Jake

    Could this really be better than Rosetta Stone?

    • http://l2mastery.com John Fotheringham

      There is some overlap between Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone, but they are very different products (and the latter is far more expensive). For my take on Rosetta Stone, check out my review.

  • Musouka

    Here is the thing: I rarely use optical media these days; especially for audio. I wonder why they aren’t providing downloadable versions as well? This way they could sell to everyone in the world instead of just in the US.

    • John Fotheringham

      I completely agree. I suspect they are afraid of piracy,with the irony being that CD-based media is actually easier to rip and share than DRM protected audio files.

      • Musouka

        I guess so, but I thought we went beyond this when Apple introduced DRM-free audio purchases on iTunes several years ago. If anything, this failure to adapt is helping piracy. It’s a shame it’s easier to access pirated stuff.

        The video is touting how ‘easy’ it is to use this program. How about making it also easy to get? I would have gladly spent the $10 if they did.

        • John Fotheringham

          Good point.

  • http://elearnrussian.com brian99

    I agree with many of Dr. Pimsleur’s concepts but there are a few fatal flaws which really make it a poor program for learning languages. First, learning to read the language is a very useful skill, so not learning to read immediately, along with listening and speaking makes no sense at all. I’m learning Russian and it’s much better to be developing all 3 skills simultaneously. Secondly, the first dialogue is really too advanced for an absolute beginner, and the ‘basic building blocks’ of the language aren’t being put in place. Plus, you spend a ton of time listening to English. It’s time they updated and improved the program instead of simply marketing it and trying to sell it.

    • John Fotheringham

      Excellent points, Brian. I, too, am frustrated with how much time they spend in English in most foreign language learning programs, classes, and podcasts. Though I have many problems with Rosetta Stone (especially their prohibitive pricing), I do like that they present everything in the target language, using context and visual cues to build understanding. I agree that reading and writing are extremely important, and both can support one’s listening and speaking skills, but I think that many learners (especially in traditional, grammar-driven language education) spend too much time on reading and writing to the detriment of their oral skills. In the beginning, I think a 50/50 to 80/20 split is preferable.

  • http://www.fluentfrenchnow.com Stan

    This is a great presentation, and I agree with many of the observations and recommendations. However, I do have a problem with the “learn a language in 10 days hype.” Of course, nobody believes that. Well, if that’s the case, why say so?

    But the real question is “What can you really accomplish in 10 days at 30 minutes a day?” My own impression is that you can get some kind of introduction to the sounds of the language and some elementary grammar and vocabulary. This is excellent for $10, shipping included, but maybe it should be stated as such.

    • John Fotheringham

      I completely agree. The real title should be “Learn SOME Language in 10 Days”, but they probably wouldn’t sell as many CDs… ; )

      The video’s false promises are indeed annoying, but as you said, it does make some “good observations and recommendations”; if one can ignore the marketing component, I think it’s worth a watch.

  • hildemar farias

    como puedo adquirirlo

  • ZoltanOnody

    Hi, I am learning English third year,… I think I am good in reading and listening but I can’ speak, In school we don’t have time for speaking (we have online 135min of English per week and we are 15 in group) I have private lesson too (1 hour per week). What do you think how can I improve my speaking skills?

    • http://LanguageMastery.com/ John Fotheringham

      Great question. We get better at what we practice. You are better at reading and listening because you have done more of those tasks. I know that it can be intimidating in the beginning, but the only way to get better at speaking a language is to actually speak it. 1 hour per week is better than none, but I would recommend getting an online tutor or language exchange partner who you can talk with a few times a week or even every day. Commit to just 10 minutes in the beginning, and then gradually increase the time. And even when you have nobody around to talk with, you can always practice talking to yourself! Just put in some headphones or a Bluetooth headset and pretend you are on the phone with somebody. If you have an iPhone, change the input language for Siri to English and practice asking for directions, dictating notes, setting reminders, etc. in English.