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Language Learners Journal

Sharing our language learning experiences

Learning a Language in 90 Days!

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For many years I studied French at school, and even though I got good grades and went on to study French at college when I actually tried to speak the language to a native speaker I just couldn’t.

So what went so wrong with my learning?

The fact is that we are not taught languages in an ideal way at school. Often pupils study languages for only a couple of hours per-week with a non-native tutor without an accent. Sadly some teachers think that grammar exercises will be enough to learn a language!  In addition to this pupils learn in large groups so the language is not tailored to suit individual preferences. Teachers also tend to overly criticise mistakes – I hate to break it to you, but those big red crosses on school work aren’t kisses from the teacher!

Most importantly no one is actually engaging in meaningful conversation with each other. Ironically if that were to happen the teacher would send you out for talking!   If you want to learn to a new language, well, you actually have to practice by speaking it and making mistakes in order to progress.

So it took me years to learn French in school and I still could not have a conversation with a native speaker. However, since leaving school I am learning languages, such as Spanish and Mandarin Chinese and having real conversations with native speakers within only a few months, but how?

The 90 Day Language Plan

Even Impossible says “I’m Possible“. To be able to have at least a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker of your target language in just 90 days you need to be prepared to focus, practice and have a plan. I tend to focus on 90 days in 3 separate stages.

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Stage 1: Days 1-30


The first thirty days are critical to planning and getting to grips with learning a new language. Ensure you document these stages by recording your progress. I spend the first 7 days thinking about what my current level was and goal setting. You need to immerse yourself as fully as possible. I recommend getting a personal tutor and some language exchange partners. To start with schedule in at least 2-3 lessons per week.

For my first lesson I learnt the most important phrases… “I don’t speak Spanish“, “How do you say… in Spanish” and “Please can you write this down for me“. You’re going to start encountering a lot of words and phrases that you don’t know, both with your private tutor, and when you practice languages on your own. Enter these words in to Anki, a journal or write them on paper flash cards to help you remember them. For me the first month is all about vocabulary building.

  • Days 1-7 FIND A TUTOR or two and then schedule them in!
  • Plan for the first 30 days and factor in things like holidays and time spent with family.
  • Set up any social media sites you have in preparation for language learning, check out my blog on how to do this, here
  • Join our supportive and encouraging language learning community on Facebook or Twitter .
  • Go to the library and rent out some language learning resources!
  • Have a look to see if there are any MOOCS available in your target language.
  • Check out the links that I have used (listed at the end of this blog).

Stage 2: Days 31-60


After your first month, it’s time to focus on exposing yourself to the language as much as possible. After a month of personal tutoring, you’ll have the ability to have short basic conversations. However, I do find it is around day 30 when my motivation levels start to dip. So remind yourself why you are learning this language. You might consider doing a course or attending a meetup group in the local community in addition to your personal tutor and language exchange partners. Be careful of slipping in to English. Try to make it a rule to speak only in your target language. Now is the time to start finding language partners. Check out  Hello Talk App and Couch-Surfing to find people who speak your target language. Attempt to spend at least 45 minutes everyday practising your language. At this point, because you have a basic grasp of the language spend more time socialising with new friends and learning about their culture.You should start trying to think in the new language. I tend to go over what I have learnt that day and have found by doing this I start to sometimes even dream in my target language!

  • Review your last 30 days, what worked well, what didn’t? What do you need to study more of? Then plan for the next 30 days! I call this the RLP stage – Review, Learn and Plan.
  • Schedule tutorials and DO the homework they set! Really does make a difference.
  • If you have not done so within the first 30 days ensure you find some language exchange buddies NOW! Make sure you do some equal speaking time in their target language too.
  • Flash chats! The Hello Talk app is fabulous for this. 5 – 10 minute verbal or written chats on random subjects. I try to aim for at least 1-2 flash chats every other day from day 60.

Stage 3: Days 61-90


By day 60, you should be in a good position to speak your language. You just simply need to keep practising. Have deeper conversations with your tutors and language partners. Continue studying new words every day and practising the ones you’ve already learned.Watch movies, read blogs and books in your target language.  If you need to, turn on the subtitles. Don’t worry if you have trouble, because understanding a movie can be more difficult than having a conversation. It’s pretty amazing what you can achieve in just 90 days with intense focus. If you don’t believe me then check out these videos from the Add 1 Community.

  • Review, learn and plan (RLP).
  • Start to prepare for having a 15 minute chat with a native. What topic would you like to talk about?
  • Will you do another 3 months in current target language and maybe achieve B2 or if you are  B2 move on to C level? Maybe even tackle another language?
  • Have FUN, learning a language does not have to be boring. It can be rewarding and can increase your social network as well as look good on your CV.

The Resources I Used:

Please note many of the resources listed here are low cost or even FREE!

BOOKS

Fluent in 3 Months, Benny Lewis

Language Hacking: Spanish, Benny Lewis

YOUTUBE

Language Transfer

Tio Spanish

Easy Languages

APPS

Duolingo

Hello Chinese

Hello Talk

Memrise

Anki

WEBSITES

Add 1 Challenge – Supportive community and lots of wonderful resources.

Facebook! – How to use Social Media to Learn a Language. 

BBC Languages 

Utalk 

Italki – Pay per lesson or buy packages for professional tutors. You can find language exchange partners for free on here.

 

Best wishes with your language learning. Let me know how you get on or if you have any advice please post below or on our Facebook or Twitter Page.

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Using Social Media in Language Learning

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A majority of people use social media sites so why not use them more productivity to meet goals.

Firstly set your language settings to your target language on social media and your mobile, but I would not recommend this for complete beginners and also ensure you know how to get back to the language settings should you need too.

Facebook

Firstly post that you are learning a new language. Not only will this help with accountability, but you may also find that you have some potential study buddies or language exchange partners on hand too! Secondly make the most of customising your news feeds to aid in language learning. For example:

  • ‘Like’ several pages that are in your target language, comment and like the posts.
  • Start posting some items that are in your target language.

Twitter

Make a tweet in your target language keeping in mind that you have a 140 character limit, and see if your pupils can strike up a conversation with you. Impose a non-English only reply and retweet rule.

You Tube

Make some vlogs speaking about hobbies, thoughts or opinions on topical news stories, but speaking only in a foreign language. You don’t have to make it public, but hearing yourself speak the language is not only a good way to document progress, but also hear the areas you need to focus on.

Pinterest/Instagram

Take some pictures of prompt cards, post-it notes or even objects with their description in another language and ‘pin’ them on your boards or give them the Istragram treatment! You could even look for photos of the country, or infographics on your target language.

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Dedicate it entirely to publishing content in the language you teach. Show your pupils why you love the language and inspire them to do the same. Ask them to write something, however small, and post it for the whole world to admire.

Other

There are many other sites that could be used too. It is finding those that best suit you and your learning style. I would recommend checking out:

  • Future Learn, Coursera or EdX to see if they are offering any FREE courses in your target language.
  • There is also a course by a fab lady called Lindsay that will help you to get the best out of using Social Media for language learning. The course costs about $50 and details can be found here. http://www.lindsaydoeslanguages.com/sms

Also don’t forget too…

If using a PC or MAC make use of your desktop! I have optimised mine for language learning. My background is the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet. I have direct shortcuts to Memrise,  Duolingo and Language Transfer. I also have sticky notes with the key phrases/words I am currently learning. Plus a shortcut to my language learning file.

 

 

Happy Holidays & Best Wishes for the New Year

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I would like to wish all my subscribers, members and followers a happy holiday period and best wishes for the new year! Thank you for your support this year it is very much appreciated. If you have any ideas about what posts you would like to see in the new year please comment below or share on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Spreading Positivity Throughout December

So in lieu of all the negativity happening around the world  I thought that I would do a random act of kindness everyday throughout December and encouraged others to do the same! It has been overwhelming the support I have received for this and I loved reading your stories of things you have done. One person bought lots of language learning resources and gave them out to a different person on a regular basis, some have offered free tutorials or started up meetups to help others. So thank you all for your support. It was so successful that I plan to do something similar in July 2017. I hope even more people will be able to support us and send a wave of kindness throughout the language learning forums and communities both on and offline.

There is still time to get involved! 

  • Leave 3-5 positive and encouraging comments a week (or even a day) on the social media posts of fellow language learners.
  • Approach an established language learner and ask what they have found positive about learning a new language.
  • Choose 1- 3 (or maybe more) language learners that are really struggling and need some support or have lost motivation. Show them you care by ‘paying it forward’ with resources/buy them some language learning equipment or simply share with them some advice.

What is the point of this?

Positivity can encourage a growth mindset, give hope and improve motivation. Emotions are powerful when in comes to forming memories. If one is stressed or sad they are less likely to be able to focus on studying. However, a simple act of random kindness could really make a difference to someone and have a lasting impact. If you are passionate about learning another language then extend that passion to others.I look forward to see what positivity we can spread during the rest of December across the different language learning communities.

For ideas of random acts of kindness click here.

What random acts of kindness have you done? Please comment below or share your stories/photographs on social media, tagging  #languagelearnerspositivitymovement or #LLP AND #LanguageLearnersJournal or #LanguageLJ so we can see all the positivity we are spreading.

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Make SMART Plans Not New Year Resolutions

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If you want to achieve in 2017 make SMART goals not new year resolutions! The first step to doing this is choosing a specific and realistic goal(s) that means something to you. Then breaking down that goal in to smaller chunks and shaping them in to habits. It is important to plan for all eventualities, such as peer pressures, illness or criticisms.

After you decide what New Year’s resolutions you want to make, your next step is to create a concrete plan to keep them.

SMART and Challenging Goals

When you create a plan to achieve your goals, it’s fundamental to make them SMART and break them down to smaller more manageable chunks that are challenging. Doing so will help you define exactly what you want to accomplish.Also it is critical not just to write the goal(s) down, but say why they are important for you to achieve.

Making your goals so SMART that Einstein would be impressed! 

The ‘SMART‘ approach to goal setting is a very simple and yet very effective framework for creating goals. In practice, this framework is a very powerful techniques that will help you achieve what you set out to do. So grab a journal, calendar or a bit of paper, take out a pen and lets get planning…

The SMART approach is about planning goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Specific

Your goal should be as specific as humanly possible. That means your plan should include:

  • A detailed account of what you would like to accomplish.
  • Who needs to be involved for you to reach your goal and what resources you will need.
  • The whys and wheres to how you will accomplish this goal, and any associated costs, for example budgeting for language tutorials and how much time you plan to dedicate to achieving your goals.

The more specific you make your goal, the more powerful your plan will be as you will know exactly what you need to do to accomplish it!

For example, instead of making a New Year’s resolution to learn a new language, make a new year’s plan. For instance: “I’m going to learn Mandarin Chinese with a personal tutor online, every Tuesday and Thursday.  I want to accomplish the goal so I can can ‘get by’ when I visit the country in July 2017. In addition to the tutorials I will also study for 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week for 3 months. I will budget £150 to achieve this goal.”

Measurable

Next, define exactly how you will measure your progress. For example, make a monthly video speaking in your target language or regularly test yourself and reflect on these results on a monthly basis.

Accountable & Attainable 

Is the goal realistic and can it actually be attainable by you? What do you need to accomplish your goals? Do you have the energy, focus, time to achieve it? Also don’t forget to share your goals with others as this also makes you accountable for your actions.

Relevant

Is the goal relevant to you. For example does it fit in with your values and priorities? Relevance can also refer to whether it is the right time to follow through on a goal. Some goals might be better suited for later on in the year, but I recommend still setting aside some time to plan for them.

Time Frame 

Time creates urgency, and your goals should always have a time-frame. For example, instead of making a goal to learn Spanish, make a goal to have a conversation in Spanish in 3 months. There are lots of supportive communities out there to help you achieve this goal, such as the #Add1Challenge.

It is also important to define the milestones you will reach along the way to achieving the big goal, and when exactly you plan to reach those milestones. Since you have already defined your goals to be measurable and attainable, you will be able to make realistic, real progress toward your milestones after you create your plan.

Creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based is one of the most powerful strategies define and stick to your goals. If you are serious about sticking to your goals then you need to have plan of action. You may what to modify your plan at a later stage. I tend to review mine every 3 months of the year. I reward myself for the targets I meet and re-plan the targets that I have not met.

I am not just gonna to write this one blog on this issue I plan to do a series of blogs throughout the year to support you in achieving your goals and if you let me know what goals you set I will also signpost resources that will help you.

Please comment below what your goals are for 2017 or email me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes for 2017 

 

 

 

 

How the 5 Steps to Wellbeing can Boost Language Learning

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  • Connect – connect with fellow language learners around you. Participate in online and offline language learning communities. Check out the #Add1Challenge or the Language Learners Journal Facebook Page / LanguageLJ on Twitter
  • Be active – Being active can actually help keep you motivated and release those feel good chemicals! Just 15 minutes of aerobic exercise can turn on the BDNF hormone that targets the development of brain cells.
  • Learning a new language (or other skill) – will  give you a sense of achievement and a help build confidence.
  • Give to others –  It could be as simple as a smile, a thank you or a kind word. For more information see Paying it Forward or 18 Acts of Random Kindness
  • Be mindful – The more aware you are of the present moment,  your thoughts and feelings. The more focused you will become. This awareness is known as ‘mindfulness’. Practising being mindful on a daily basis can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

 

 

How to Manage Unhelpful Thoughts When Learning a New Language

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Sometimes when we learn a new language we can be our very own worst enemy. This can impact on our ability to learn, decrease our motivation levels and increase the risk of giving up. So what are these unhelpful thinking habits we apply and what can we do about them?

Compare and Despair

Being part of a language learning community is great! However, sometimes we might start to compare ourselves with other learners. Seeing only their progress and comparing ourselves negatively against them. In order to overcome this remind yourself that you may not know their back story. They might have studied the language longer or they might even be thinking the same and comparing themselves with you! It is a good practice to monitor your own progress. Record videos and watch them back and regularly test yourself or keep a journal. The time spend comparing with others could be better used to learn some new vocab!

Critical Self

Saying to yourself that you can’t do this or you are not good enough is a sure way to put yourself down! However, I have news for for…there is no such word as can’t. People once said we can’t fly and the Wright Brothers taught them otherwise. Even if you think something is impossible then remember that ‘even impossible actually says I’m possible’

Bad Learning Experiences in the Past

Remembering the bad experiences we had of language learning in the past can be very off putting. However, you can learn from the past just don’t stay too long that you start to dwell! Remind yourself ‘that this is now and that was then’. Take what you need from those memories and leave them. Things to take are the lessons learnt from those negative experiences. If it was the teacher or resources that did not work for you then don’t use them again. Don’t be afraid to try something new. ‘If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got’

Predicting the Future

Telling your self that you will not meet your future targets could almost lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy! Stay in the moment and set lots of little targets that will lead to the bigger target. My current goal is to hold a conversation in Spanish for about 15 minutes in 3 months time. However, my focus is learning just a few simple sentences and key words a day. I will then work towards my day 30 and day 60 videos before moving on to the final day 90 video. If you jump straight to the main goal you will loose sight of the little goals that will get you there.

You Should and Must be Doing This…

Actually shoulds and musts put a lot of undue pressure on you. If you miss a day of studying, just pick it up from where you left off the next day. Putting too much pressure on yourself is one way to burn out quickly.

Emotional Reasoning

You have had a bad spell at leaning a new language. Well just because you had a bad spell at learning a new language does not mean you are bad at it. Maybe the routine or resources you are using are not working for you. Also sometimes we can be very good at talking ourselves out of things. So lets talk ourselves in to meeting out set targets. You can do this!

So what negative thinking habits do you apply?  Please comment below or on Facebook/ Twitter.

 

18 Random Acts of Kindness you can do Online

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  1. Send a genuine compliment on social media to three language learners right now.
  2. Very rare in the language learning community, yet unfortunately it has been heard of. If people our being negative about someone, be the one to butt in with a nice and positive message.
  3. Message online tutors or people who have made a difference in your life.
  4. Compliment someone, but not to them! Tell someone else or mention them in an indirect Tweet or Facebook message.
  5. Share overheard compliments.
  6. Send a language learner a book in their target language.
  7.  Chat to someone in your language learning community whom you have’t talked to before.
  8. Be encouraging and inspiring.
  9. Help someone currently struggling with learning a new language.
  10. Send a video message to someone. Maybe someone who is a native to the language you are currently learning. They do say that if you say something in a person’s native language it will go to the heart!
  11. Pay it Forward! Pay a subscription fee for a language learning site, but for a random person.
  12. Remember your manners – a simple thank you will do. To those that have helped and inspired  you throughout you language learning journey.
  13. Send a surprise gift! You can nominate people who have been through a rough patch via the  The Wee Happiness Project . Depending upon the volume of nominations, all or some of the monthly nominees will receive a card in the post along with a surprise gift. You can nominate via Facebook message.
  14. Send someone a random email with a compliment or note of thanks.
  15. Connect two people via an email/Facebook introduction.
  16. Endorse someone for languages on Linkedin.
  17. Kindness is contagious. Please share the acts of kindness you have done online on either Facebook or Twitter so that others will catch the wave and ‘Pay it forward’ Tag #languagelearnerspositivitymovement or #LLP AND #LanguageLearnersJournal or LanguageLJ So we can see all the kindness we are spreading.
  18. When you hear that negative, discouraging voice in your head and feel like giving up, remember to ‘leave yourself alone’ — you deserve kindness too. So be kind to yourself, not just others!

So which one of these acts of kindness will you do today?  If you have any other ideas for spreading online acts of random kindness, then please leave a comment below. This means we can keep adding to this list of simple ways to pay it forward!

 

 

#Language Learning Positivity

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Hey, fellow language learners! It’s hard to learn a language and in order to learn one well we need the support of others. In lieu of recent negative external events happening around the world I thought I would take a stand and start something a little more positive. So during the month of December I have created the #languagelearnerspositivitymovement or #LLP for short

How Does the Movement Work?

  • For the month of December, you leave 3-5 positive and encouraging comments a week (or even a day) on the social media posts of fellow language learners.
  • Find at least 1 newbie language learner to welcome to the Language Learners Journal community.
  • Approach an established language learner and ask what they have found positive about learning a new language.
  • Choose 1- 3 (or maybe more) people during December. It could be some language learners that are really struggling and need some support or have lost motivation. Show them you care by ‘paying it forward’ with resources/buy them some language learning equipment or simply share with them some advice. What will you do?

What is the point of this?

Positivity can encourage a growth mindset, give hope and improve motivation. Emotions are powerful when in comes to forming memories. If one is stressed or sad they are less likely to be able to focus on studying. However, a simple act of kindness could really make a difference. If you are passionate about learning another language then extend that passion to others.I look forward to see what positivity we can spread in December across the language learning communities.

For some more ideas of random acts of kindness click here.

What do you plan to do? Comment below and share your stories/photographs on social media, tagging  #languagelearnerspositivitymovement or #LLP AND #LanguageLearnersJournal or #LanguageLJ so we can see all the positivity we are spreading.

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