Becoming Bilingual: A Practical Guide to Successful Language Learning
Anyone can learn a new language at any time in their life.
It's not a question of age or intelligence, but of method.
We have prepared this guide so that you put the odds in your favor.
To start, we're going to give you the two tips that we think are the most important, especially if you're embarking on self-directed learning. They will surprise you :
- Write by hand everything related to your learning: words, sentences, exercises, grammar rules. This may seem anachronistic to you in the age of mobile applications, but it is nevertheless essential. Writing by hand will help you concentrate and make it easier to memorize information related to the new language.
- Aims not for perfection, but for efficiency. The fastest way to reach the proficiency level of a 5-6 year old child in a few months is to focus on the essential rules. By learning just a few grammar rules and a few hundred frequently used words, you'll be able to grasp the context of most ordinary discussions in any language. You will then have plenty of time to improve your grammatical knowledge.
All of our other tips are just as practical as these two.
Here is the map of the guide:- The 3 rules you absolutely need to know before you start learning a language
- A method to memorize up to 40 or 50 items at once
- Consolidating information in memory through spaced repetition
- Implement a relaxation and breathing exercise to optimize your memory
- Discover 2 polyglot tips for learning a language in a few weeks
- Bonus N°1: a list of objectives according to language proficiency levels
- Bonus N°2: a list of foods that are good for memory
Rule n°1: you must set yourself concrete objectives that you can achieve in a fairly short time
This is the essential element of success.
There are two reasons.
The first reason is that the brain likes to put information in boxes.
Each objective corresponds to a box, in which the memory will fix the information and find it easily.
If the objectives are vague, the information will be scattered, and it will be difficult to set them.
The second reason is chemical. Setting well-identified and realistic goals will allow the brain to release a hormone called "dopamine" when these goals are achieved.
This hormone will cause a pleasant sensation, while the memory will record the memory of this sensation.
Thus, each time an objective is reached, the desire to progress will be reinforced.
How do you do it?
The easiest way to set goals is to refer to well-identified themes: learning to greet a person, counting, asking simple questions, etc.
The European Union has developed a very useful reference document, called "Common European Framework of Reference for Languages": you can use it to set yourself goals. At the bottom of this page, we have added an example of objectives by level.
All the topics we offer in our training courses are designed as objectives to be achieved.
Rule n°2: you must choose a workout that you can do every day
It is essential to be able to train regularly, if possible, between 15 and 30 minutes a day.
The more you space out the workouts, the less effective they will be. Our memory tends to erase after a few hours the information it will have seen for the first time. When she sees this information a second time, she will already retain it a little better, but only for a few days. This is the phenomenon of the forgetting curve, which we explain in another chapter.
How do you do it?
Ideally, you should do two small sessions a day: one that will last between 15 to 20 minutes, and, several hours later, another that could only take 2 to 3 minutes.
We have developed a unique training program, which reproduces the process of learning the mother tongue and allows you to vary the content of the sessions in the same day:
Step 1 - Discovery, listening and repetition of words and phrases related to a context. This step can be skipped once the words and phrases on the list are discovered and the pronunciation is correct.
Step 2 - Passive impregnation of words and sentences (sleep plays an important role). You can follow this step at any time of the day, to listen to the course content while doing something else. And it's perfect before going to bed.
Step 3 - Active memorization through interactive tests. You will learn by doing tests. The results will allow the program to measure your progress.
The personalization of our training is done thanks to a spaced repetition algorithm: the program will adapt to your failures and your successes to optimize your overall progress.
Our algorithm uses a unique formula to maintain the pace of progress, even in situations where workouts get a little erratic.
Rule n°3: you must put into practice what you have learned
It's tempting to just use your method when you think it works. However, this is a very bad idea.
If your only source of learning is that offered by a computer program, then you will lock your knowledge in a bubble.
That is to say that you will have difficulty using what you have learned in a context other than the method.
That's why it's important to practice outside of class.
How do you do it?Look for other ways to practice that are available to you. Thanks to the Internet, there are countless of them: take lessons with a teacher, read children's books, watch movies or series, read online magazines, find training tools online, etc.
We also recommend practicing conversation with native speakers as soon as possible.
If you're still not very comfortable chatting with other people, we have developed a free tool, "Read Aloud", which allows you to speak aloud and check if the pronunciation is correct.
And finally, don't forget to learn grammar: it's the only way to move up a gear.
How to use the loci method to memorize sequences of words and sentences
The loci method is a powerful memorization technique that allows you to remember up to forty or fifty words or phrases at once, thanks to visual association. It was invented by the Greeks over 2000 years ago. It is still often used today by speakers and students to remember a speech or vocabulary lists. Here's how to apply it:
Choose a familiar place:
First, choose a familiar place, such as your home or your daily route to work. It is important to be able to visualize this place in a precise and detailed way, even with your eyes closed.
Create a route:
Then, you have to imagine a route through this place. It can be a series of steps, such as the different pieces of furniture or decorative objects in a house, or the different buildings or monuments along a road. You must assign a number to each step.
Associating the information to remember with the stages of the journey:
Now it is time to link the information to remember with each stage of the journey. This is done by visualizing an object or image that represents the information and placing it at the corresponding step. For example, to memorize the sentence "I am happy" in a foreign language, one can imagine a satisfied customer who leaves a hairdressing salon. The hair salon stage will be connected to the satisfied customer and the expression "I'm happy". It's also a way to create a real context for each word or expression learned.
Repeat and revise:
You must then repeat this process for each piece of information to be memorized. Then, to revise, you have to mentally redo the complete route and visualize the images associated with each piece of information. Upon reaching the corresponding step, one is able to easily recall the associated information.
By using the loci method, it is possible to considerably increase one's memory capacity by associating information with clear and precise visual images.
Consolidate information in your memory through spaced repetition
The theory of spaced memory was developed by German philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus in the 19th century. He studied human memory using lists of invented words to assess the effects of repetition on short-term and long-term memory. He discovered that repeating information at spaced intervals of time was more effective in retaining long-term information than repeating it continuously.
Ebbinghaus also developed the concept of the forgetting curve, which shows how information is forgotten over time if it is not repeated regularly. He discovered that recently learned information is easier to remember, but is quickly forgotten if not repeated.
He also discovered that information that has been repeated several times is easier to remember, but is also forgotten more slowly. This discovery led to the theory of spaced memory, according to which repeating information at regular intervals allows it to be retained more effectively in long-term memory.
We use this discovery to create our exercises, as do most language methods today.
We added a unique algorithm that takes into account the gradual aspect of memory erasing. This helps make our exercises more appropriate, even if the student hasn't been able to practice for several days or weeks.
Use relaxation and meditation techniques to optimize your memory
During a learning session, the more relaxed you are, the better your memory will be.
We have prepared an exercise that you can easily implement before starting a lesson.
It will only take you a few minutes, but will have huge long-term benefits if you practice it regularly.
RELAXATION AND BREATHING EXERCISE
Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
Start by focusing on your breathing. Notice how the air moves in and out of your nose and chest.
As you breathe, notice your thoughts and feelings without judgment. If you get lost in your thoughts, come back to your breath.
Next, focus on your physical sensations. Notice the feeling of your sitting body, the sensations of your skin, hands, feet, etc.
Continue to pay attention to your physical sensations and your breath, without judgment. If you get lost in your thoughts, come back to your breathing and physical sensations.
Start counting each breath as you inhale. Count to 4 while inhaling, then hold your breath for 4 seconds.
Exhale slowly, counting to 8 seconds, then wait 4 seconds before starting again.
You can continue this exercise for a few minutes or more, depending on your availability, then slowly open your eyes and prepare for class by visualizing the entire program.
Now you are ready for an intense learning session!
It is important to note that this exercise may take some time to master, and it is normal to get lost in thought.
Here are two tips used by polyglots to learn a language in a few weeks
Generally speaking, polyglots use the same techniques as those set out in this guide, but intensively and cumulatively.
But they also have two little secret techniques that we are going to reveal to you.
When a polyglot learns a new language, he will see if it has similarities with a language he already knows, both from a grammatical and lexical point of view. If this is the case, he will then use his mastery of the first language to accelerate the learning of the second. The result is obviously approximate at first, but this allows him to quickly reach a sufficient level to access various content that will accelerate his progress. In other words, he will use the first language as a rocket launcher for the second!
Another polyglot secret is to write words and sentences by hand.
At a time when 90% of our actions are done on screens with a single finger, this seems anachronistic. Yet, writing words on paper or a tablet has been shown to have a powerful effect in consolidating information.
This is a practice that should absolutely not be neglected, especially when using an application where you just have to click on buttons to give an answer.
Warning, we're not saying that clicking on buttons to give an answer is inherently bad. On the contrary, it stimulates the brain and makes learning more fun.
But limiting yourself to this will weaken long-term memorization.
This is why we propose to print our content: it is thus possible to practice writing the translations under the sentences in your language.
Suggested list of objectives for learning a language
Warning: The objectives related to the grammar points in this list are generic. For each language, appropriate objectives must be proposed. This list is compiled from data provided by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Level A1 (beginner):
Topics to cover:
- Introducing yourself and other people
- Family and friends
- Places of daily life (home, work, etc.)
- Daily activities (eating, sleeping, bathing, etc.)
- Days of the week, months and seasons
- Nouns and definite and indefinite articles
- Personal and possessive pronouns
- Basic verbs in the present, simple past and future tenses
- Adverbs of frequency
- Numbers and Quantities
- Simple Questions and Negations
Vocabulary (about 200-300 words):
- Basic terms for introducing yourself and talking about yourself and others
- Basic words to describe family and friends
- Terms related to everyday life (food, clothing, housing, etc.)
- Words related to daily activities (eating, sleeping, bathing, etc.)
- Words for days of the week, months and seasons
- Introduce yourself and ask about identity
- Talking about family and friends
- Ask for and give their address and telephone number
- Ask and give your age
- Ask and give the time
Level A2 (elementary):
Topics to cover:
- Leisure activities
- Holidays and travel
- Food and drink
- Means of transport
- Emergency numbers and medication
- Simple and compound tenses of verbs
- Adverbs of time and place
- Interrogative and negative forms
- Prepositions of place and time
- Qualifying and possessive adjectives
Vocabulary (about 600-700 words):
- Terms related to leisure activities
- Words related to holidays and travel
- Terms to describe food and drink
- Words related to means of transport
- Terms for emergency numbers and medication
- Talking about your favorite leisure activities
- Planning vacations and trips
- Order food and drink
- Ask for and give information on means of transport
- Request help in an emergency
- Describing people and things
- Giving advice
Level B1 (intermediate):
Topics to cover:
- Personal presentation and family
- Daily habits and routines
- Hobbies and interests
- Travel and transport
- Shopping and shopping
- Food and catering
- Employment and occupation
- Media and technology
- Verbal tenses
- Negative forms and questions
- Modal verbs (must, be able, want)
- Prepositions of time and place
- Direct and indirect object complements
- Relative pronouns
- Passive forms
- The infinitive forms and the participants
Vocabulary (about 1000-1200 words):
- Numbers, days of the week, months and seasons
- Clothes and colors
- Directions and places in a city
- Trades and professions
- Fruits and vegetables
- Types of food and drink
- Means of transport and travel activities
- Types of leisure and entertainment
- Introduce yourself and talk about yourself
- Asking and giving personal information
- Talk about daily habits and routines
- Discuss hobbies and interests
- Describe a recent trip
- Making purchases and negotiating the price
- Order food and drink in a restaurant
- Talking about your job and profession
- Discuss technology and media
- Describing experiences and emotions
- Expressing opinions and agreeing/disagreeing
Niveau B2 (advanced):
Topics to cover:
- Family and social relations
- Professional relations and work-related activities
- Leisure activities and hobbies
- School and university activities
- Social issues and personal opinions
- Political issues and social values
- Media and Information Technology
Grammar (advanced grammatical structures):
- Compound tenses
- The use of conditional words and subjunctive words
- Relative words and subordinate clauses
- Complex sentences with multiple subordinate clauses
Vocabulary (about 1500-1700 words):
- Technical and professional terms
- Idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms
- Advanced culture, politics and media vocabulary
- Formal and informal telephone exchanges
- Description of daily activities and interests
- Comments on current events and personal opinions
- Participating in discussions on complex and controversial topics
- Reading and understanding long and complex texts
- Writing long and complex texts such as articles, essays and reports.
Niveau C1 (expert):
Topics to cover:
- Daily life and everyday activities
- Interpersonal relationships and the family
- Personal opinions and preferences
- Politics, current events, society and culture
- Work, leisure and studies
- Historical events, social and economic issues
- Travel, holidays and outdoor activities
- Use of all verb tenses, including negative forms and interrogative forms
- Understanding and using different types of complex sentences, including subordinate sentences and relative sentences
- Understanding and using different types of clauses, including subordinate clauses and independent clauses
- Understanding and using the agreement of verbs and adjectives
- Understanding and using the different types of noun phrases, including simple, complex, and relative noun phrases
Vocabulary (about 2000-2200 words):
- Common and professional vocabulary, including technical and specialized terms from different fields
- Ability to understand and use colloquial and slang vocabulary
- Ability to understand and use synonyms, antonyms and linking words
- Understanding and using different types of words, including compound words, prepositional words and frequently used verbs
- Ability to understand and use complex sentences and idioms
- Ability to understand and use formal and informal registers
- Ability to understand and use polite expressions and forms of greeting
- Ability to understand and use forms of apology and forms of thanks.
Level C2 (mastery):
Topics to cover:
- Local culture and traditions.
- News and social debates.
- Philosophy and literature.
- Political and economic debates.
- Complex explanations on topics such as science, technology, etc.
- Advanced use of verb tenses, moods and subordinate clauses.
- Building complex sentences and using specific sentence structures.
- Mastery of fine syntax and grammar.
- Broad and specialized vocabulary in various fields such as politics, science, technology, etc.
- Use of rare words and idiomatic expressions.
- Understand and use technical terms in specific fields.
- Understanding and producing long and complex texts.
- Efficient and fluid communication, with an excellent level of precision and nuance.
- Ability to speak with great ease on difficult topics and hold complex conversations.
Here is a list of foods that help improve memory:
- Fatty Fish: Fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are high in omega-3, essential fatty acids that help protect the brain and improve cognitive function.
- Green leafy vegetables: Vegetables like spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are rich in vitamins and minerals that help protect the brain from oxidative damage.
- Red Fruits: Red fruits like strawberries, cherries, and blueberries are rich in antioxidants that help protect the brain against oxidative damage and improve cognitive function.
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts like almonds, cashews, and pecans are rich in healthy fatty acids and vitamins that help protect the brain and improve cognitive function .
- Legumes: Legumes like beans, lentils, and peas are rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins that help protect the brain and improve cognitive function.
- Root Vegetables: Root vegetables like carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals that help protect the brain from oxidative damage and improve cognitive function.
- Spices: Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help protect the brain from oxidative damage and improve cognitive function.
- Dried Fruits: Dried fruits like raisins, dried apricots, and prunes are rich in antioxidants that help protect the brain from oxidative damage and improve cognitive function.
- Eggs: Eggs are rich in protein and nutrients that help protect the brain and improve cognitive function.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms like shiitake and maitake are rich in antioxidants and nutrients that help protect the brain against oxidative damage and improve cognitive function.
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, making them effective for improving memory and concentration. They also contain high-quality plant proteins that can help maintain a healthy and functioning brain. They help improve memory by increasing blood circulation and protecting brain cells from oxidative damage.
- Fish Oil: Fish oil is rich in omega-3s, especially DHA, which is important for brain health. It improves memory and concentration.
- Almonds: Almonds are rich in vitamin E, protein and monounsaturated fatty acids. They help improve memory by protecting neurons against oxidative damage.
- Avocado: Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, potassium and vitamin E. It helps improve memory by protecting neurons from oxidative damage and improving circulation blood.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin, an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties. It helps improve memory by protecting neurons from oxidative damage and improving blood circulation.
- Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, stimulants that can improve alertness and short-term memory. It also contains flavonoids, antioxidants that may protect brain cells from oxidative damage. However, it is important to consume dark chocolate in moderation, as it also contains fat and sugar.
Congratulations if you made it to the conclusion! It shows that your motivation is real.
We'll give you one last handy tip.
You should know that the progression curve is not linear when learning a language: the progress will be very fast at the beginning, then it will stagnate when you start to approach the subtleties of the language. Then a new phase of acceleration will occur.
The first downturn is the most dangerous, and many people give up during this time.
Being aware of this will already limit this risk.
It must be said that this stagnation will not concern the learning of vocabulary. Indeed, the memorization of new words becomes faster and faster over time.
A final word about our method.
It is considered one of the easiest and most accessible in the world.
But easy doesn't mean effortless: it's important to remember that progress will only come with getting into the habit of training daily.
You may not be able to take a course one day. And you will feel a lack.
On that day, we can assure you that there will no longer be any doubt that you will soon be fluent in your new language!