Put Some “Kung Fu” Into Your Language Learning

Put Some “Kung Fu” Into Your Language Learning

Just like learning a martial art, mastering a foreign tongue requires ① time and effort (which is the real meaning of the term “kung fu”), ② the proper blend of “self-study” and “sparring,” ③ a great deal of patience, and ④ a focus on mastering the basics instead of always chasing flashy new moves or words. Read on for tips on how to put more “kung fu” into your language learning.

How to Learn (and Actually Remember!) New Words

How to Learn (and Actually Remember!) New Words

Learning—and actually remembering—new words, phrases, alphabets, Chinese characters, etc. is one of the primary tasks in acquiring a foreign language. But for many learners, it happens to be one of the most frustrating. But don’t despair! The problem is likely your method, not your memory.

What is Spaced Repetition and Why Should You Use It?

What is Spaced Repetition and Why Should You Use It?

Spaced Repetition Systems (or “SRS” for short) are flashcard programs designed to help you systematically learn new information—and retain old information—through intelligent review scheduling. Instead of wasting precious study time on information you already know, SRS apps like Anki allow you to focus most on new words, phrases, kanji, etc., or previously studied information that you have yet to commit to long-term memory. Read on to see how spaced repetition apps work and which SRS tools I recommend.

5 Psychological Obstacles Standing Between You and Fluency

5 Psychological Obstacles Standing Between You and Fluency

I spend lots of my time learning and writing about psychology. Most of my favorite language bloggers do the same. But why? Isn’t all this psychology stuff just a bunch of touchy-feely mumbo jumbo? Isn’t the only important thing in language learning how much you study? Time on task is indeed paramount to success, but the quantity of learning (although important) matters far less than the quality. And what determines the impact of your language learning time? Your psychology. Read on to see the five most insidious obstacles standing between you and fluency.

How Learning to Speak a Foreign Language is Like Riding a Bike

How Learning to Speak a Foreign Language is Like Riding a Bike

Few of you probably know that long before I was “John the Language Guy” I was “John the Bike Guy.” I got my first real mountain bike in junior high school. It was a beautiful blue GT Tequesta it changed my life forever. Suddenly, my world was not limited to just the backyard or schoolyard. I could now go anywhere my 12-year-old quads could propel me! Reflecting back 22 years later, I now realize that when learning to ride a bike or speak a foreign language, the key is building robust procedural memories that you never fully forget no matter how long you go without riding or using the language. And how does one go about learning in the first place? There are 3 fundamental principles involved in all physical and psychological transformations…

Interview with Olly Richards of “I Will Teach You a Language”

Interview with Olly Richards of “I Will Teach You a Language”

With seven languages under his linguistic belt and an academic background in Applied Linguistics, Olly Richards of IWillTeachYouaLanguage.com has proven that he can both talk the talk and walk the walk. His infectious passion for all things language is a breath of fresh air in the increasingly cynical language learning blogosphere. In the interview, we discuss the under-appreciated importance of psychology in language learning, how he has had to alter his approach to language learning now that he is learning a language in country where it isn’t widely spoken (Cantonese in Qatar of all places!), his experience participating in Brian Kwong’s +1 Challenge (an approach he lovingly refers to as “crowdsourced motivation”), the role of teachers in language education, and the power of “negotiated syllabi”.

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