How to Fluently Switch From One Language To Another Language

Imagine you're on a train in Belgium. A woman on the train is speaking French on the phone when the ticket conductor comes in. She asks him a question in fluent Flemish. No one bats an eyelid.

Switching effortlessly between languages is a dream for many language learners. But how do you achieve it? Is it a realistic goal? In this article, read and hear my best tips for switching languages.

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What Is Fluency, What Is Mastery...And How Do You Get There?

This week on the Fluent Show, Lindsay and I went deep into what fluency is, adding in a few other words that often feel awkward to use. It's a great conversation, and will provide you with a new sense of clarity and inspiration, so you can confidently go out there and do what you need to do: learn languages and feel great about it!

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Glossika Review: Powerfully Effective Language Training

I've been looking forward to publishing today's review for a few months now - it's a favourite language course among polyglots.

Here's the short version of my verdict: If you've been frustrated because you can't find a way to speak your target language, this is perfect. Buy and use Glossika courses and you will be chatting in no time - the system works when you speak.

Click here to see the full list of Glossika courses

In my review, I was as neutral-bordering-on-skeptical about the Glossika courses as I am about any others. I don't write reviews about things I don't like. It's often the same marketing that we're bombarded with in this space: fluency, science, natural learning, immersion, blablabla.

But here's the thing: Sometimes something just works.

What Are Glossika Courses Like?

This isn't really a language explainer like my own German courses. The method is all GO, sentence-based and very heavy on the audio. You will hear a sentence and be prompted to repeat it - that's the 2 second version of it.

This simple task of repeating input will solve your #1 problem of having nothing to say. TA DAH fluency.

Glossika isn't for the very early language beginner - if you're looking for a starter, try something like Language Hacking books. This is a method I see as perfect for anyone who's sick of language learning theory and wants to start getting as much practice as quickly as possible.

Sound familiar? Yep. That's the biggest problem adult language learners face.

Does it Work?

My own experiences with the method started with a similar system called Say Something in Welsh, which I've been using for about a year. The method of prompting realistic and natural sample sentences with a native speaker is the Glossika principle, and if you're a Welsh learner you have GOT to get yourself a copy of this right now.

I mentioned the system to my long-term student Randy (who you can hear in podcast Episode 6), he decided to give it a try. Randy's situation might be very similar to yours: a busy person fitting in weekly language study and conversation practice around. He tested Glossika 123 German.

Randy says:

"This course is a bargain for the amount of material you receive. In my opinion, it provides more study material for your money than any other course I have tried (and I have tried just about every one available)." "Of all the self-learning courses I have used, this one is the best. It has the widest range of content and gives me the best opportunity to speak German when I am alone."

Speaking when you've got no one to speak to is an ENORMOUS trick in language learning, and Glossika has taken out the awkwardness.

And here's the thing I can see in Randy, my "test subject": The difference is striking! Within a week or two, I noticed a transformation in his confidence level. Randy found himself cutting out hesitation, he was no longer getting stuck in the middle of his sentences because of one or two missing words. He's made a HUGE jump by activating all of that passive knowledge in his mind.

Glossika is Gold for Intermediate Learners

Glossika's website has impressive claims listed, with accounts such as "400% progress". So can you become a fully rounded expert in a language in a short amount of time using this method?

I'd say yes - if you've been putting in the work. Glossika has this way of unlocking the knowledge you hold within yourself, and it will teach you a million new things.

The language learning process is one of learning lots of new links and having to put them together differently. It's a lot of input, but even more creativity. You can quickly use any method based on repeating audio prompts in order to boost and develop your speaking confidence.

So being fluent in another language also means being able to understand patterns and build your own sentences (in academic terms, you have do develop procedural knowledge). The better you are at pattern spotting and working out the rules, the easier it will be to fit that language jigsaw together.

In conclusion, this is one time when the hype could be real. When you hear accounts of learners who made significant leaps with Glossika within days, you can believe them. This is the experience I witnessed in my students and in myself.

But if you were only using Glossika and nothing else, you might find yourself a fluent parrot rather than a flexible conversationalist. My advice would be to pair this method with a conventional course, ensure you read the transcripts and follow up with grammar points that don't make sense.

If Duolingo is a cute owl, Glossika is one that means business!

If Duolingo is a cute owl, Glossika is one that means business!

Why I'm Convinced You Should Try This

Glossika builds your speaking confidence at a rapid pace, gets you used to a native voice, and challenges you throughout. The payoff for language learners who don't have time and access to regular meet-ups is remarkable, as I've seen with Randy and with myself.

I would recommend the Glossika method for all of you who have spent many hours reading, listening, maybe even writing your target language. If you find yourself hesitating in mid-sentence and you want to feel confident and fluent, this is absolutely perfect.

And for me as a tutor, it's been a godsend to recommend to experienced students.

Click here to see the full list of Glossika courses

Polyglots Will LOVE This

The range of languages on offer from Glossika are unrivalled. They don't just offer the classic set of English, French, German, Russian and Chinese. Instead, Glossika is currently available in over 30 languages. The range of languages on offer from Glossika are unrivalled. They don't just offer the classic set of English, French, German, Russian and Chinese. Instead, Glossika is currently available in over 30 languages. Randy, who's tried and bought dozens of materials, also said

This course is a bargain for the amount of material you receive. In my opinion, it provides more study material for your money than any other course I have tried.

Click here to see the full list of Glossika courses

That number up there isn't even complete yet, as Glossika currently has 46 (!) other language courses in development. I am incredibly impressed by this much commitment to languages from all over the globe, and to celebrating the world's diversity. No matter which language and which country you are interested in, the amazing Glossika range will give you a speaking boost from anywhere in the world.

Have You Tried Glossika Before?

I'd love to hear if you're a Glossika user too. Which language are you studying? How did you find it? Tell me over on Twitter or right here in the comments.

PS: There is no Welsh version yet, but Welsh learners who haven't tried Say Something in Welsh should get themselves over there RIGHT NOW. You're missing out, guys.

Podcast Episode 41: How to Rock Language Learning for Travel

language learning travel

This episode brings you the best mindset tips for learning a language for your next trip - even if you're completely busy and scared of talking to native speakers.

In this episode you'll hear

  • Awesome listener feedback, including my top tip for what to do when people keep asking you to perform and "say something in" your target language
  • Is it rude not to know the language of the country you are visiting?
  • How I didn't do prep for my Iceland trip in the ideal way - and why a phrasebook would've been better
  • What's different when you are learning languages for travel, and not "for life"
  • What we learnt from reading the word "pizza" in lots of languages
  • What to do immediately after you return home

Where Are YOU Travelling To Next?

Let us know
1) via iTunes, you can type it in a review right here
2) on Twitter using hashtag #cllp - I'm @fluentlanguage and Lindsay is @ldlanguages


In this show, we shared and read out some reviews. We love hearing from you guys and want you to know just how much your words are appreciated.

I don't want to keep you guys for too long with a long "housekeeping" section in our show, so if you've been feeling it's hard to listen to the feedback section, please let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Your feedback is extremely important to the show. It gives us inspiration, topics, ideas, and it makes us happy.

You can help our show by going on itunes and leaving us a review yourself - we do read them all.

How to speak more fluently by building good Conversation Habits

No matter if you are new to language learning or you're a certified multilingualist, I bet you know the conversational wall. It's that feeling where you just don’t know how to say something. It could be a missing word, and sometimes you can’t find words for what you’re even trying to say.

The wall creates that awkward moment with your conversation partner, where you just stall the whole thing. You’re running on empty, grasping around for words, and in fact you’re feeling like an idiot. How frustrating it is for an articulate adult to fail when it comes to saying stupid basic things like “I don’t like boiled potatoes” or whatever. How far you have to go!

fluency habit building

In today’s blog article, I want to introduce you to the different ways that you can handle that wall. Trust me, some of these are a lot more beneficial than others. And in fact, I would say that this is where fluent speakers are made. Knowing how to handle a conversation breaker means knowing how to keep things flowing, and it’s the only way for you to approach fluency.

What you have tried before

The following three options might all feel pretty familiar and perhaps even helpful to you if you run into one of those walls. But are they really the best way of dealing with the problem?

Hit more Books

Many people who are new to language learning feel like their only way of dealing with the wall is to give up trying to have the conversation and return to the books. The logic is that if you don’t know how to say everything, you obviously haven’t studied enough yet. But in reality, this is a sign that your learning mindset needs a breath of fresh air.

A student once told me “I’ve always been used to excelling at the things I put my mind to. Law exams, university grades, that all didn’t feel so hard to me. So why can’t I ace this language!?”. As his language coach, it’s my duty to remind him of several trap doors that he’s opening up with that kind of thinking.

Firstly, believing that first time mastery is the only way to be a good language learner is a way of closing a door to true growth in your own mind. And moreover, it’s important to recognise that language learning is not only graded by what you remember and express correctly. Creativity, flexibility and conversational confidence play a huge part in fluency and form part of the learning experience.

The key is to understand that you’re not failing when you run into a wall. You are actually succeeding at discovering your skills. Keep on exploring.

Change the topic

Changing the topic may help you save face, hide that panic and manoeuvre your conversation back onto safer ground. Overall, it’s a pretty solid option and one you can try if you are feeling particularly embarrassed. Remember that everyone loves to talk about themselves, so your sneaky way back from the conversation wall is to put the focus back on the person you are talking to. With a little bit of luck, they may even say exactly what you were thinking - and they’ll show you how to express it in your target language.

If this is a good option, why isn’t it the best one? The answer is simple. How many times are you going to change topic before you realize you still haven’t said what you need to say?

Look up words in an app or a dictionary

The part of you that considers herself a solid and obedient learner will want to do this. The part of you that wants to demonstrate that you are truly accomplished will want to do this. The easy way out of not knowing something is to look it up. Of course! And yet I urge you to consider the negative effects of looking up words every single time.

First of all, your smartphone battery isn’t going to last forever. Secondly, it’s not actually all that polite to keep your conversation partner waiting while you whip out a phone and start googling for an answer. They’re right there! They might just be dying to help you. And thirdly, you’re training your brain to know where to look, but not to remember anything that you are learning. Neither your brain nor your mind will thank you for relying on a lazier way of thinking.

So with all those kind-of-okay options ruled out, what could be the way a truly fluent learner approaches the conversation wall? From my observations in lessons and in my own language learning experiences, it comes down to a few significant shifts in attitude. Remember that Growth Mindset I’m so very fond of? Here is where you use it. Here is where you show your head who’s boss!

Here's how to be fluent in Conversation

Step 1: Walk through the Awkwardness

If you’re a perfectionist or someone who holds themselves to high standards you’re not going to like this option at all. A way through? You mean I’m telling you that you should admit when you don’t know something and sit there all awkwardly looking like an idiot? Yes. That is exactly what I am telling you to do. There are so many learning benefits from finding your way through that awkwardness. First of all, you’ll quickly realise that missing a word in foreign language conversation is a pretty common thing.

Lindsay Dow and I discussed this on the podcast recently and she referred to the British nursery rhyme We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. In the story, the brave bear hunters encounter all kinds of obstacles. Mud, snowstorms, rivers, everything is in the way. There’s no way under it. There’s no way over it. So they decide to go the only way that they can: through it! When you are facing your own linguistic obstacles, remember that you can’t go over or under. You’ve got to get through it. That awkward moment when you feel restricted and stupid because you don’t know how to say what’s on your mind? That’s normal. Just notice it’s happening, take a breath and continue to Step 2.

Ideal Step 2: Accept the Challenge

The idea of accepting a challenge sounds like this is a big thing, but I assure you that this is an attitude shift that will become your best new habit within a matter of hours. So you don’t know a word. So someone’s looking at you and waiting for you to say something and you don’t know how. So WHAT! What can you do next? How are you going to go from awkward to outspoken?

Ideal Step 3: Describe what you want to say

Okay, here is where you flex your real fluency muscles. A confident foreign language speaker is not intimidated by gaps in her vocabulary. Instead, she will embrace the learning opportunity and look for a way around the gap. The first step to take is to prepare a set of useful fillers in your target language. These filler lines should become as comfortable to you as hello and thank you. You will need them for ever and ever - trust me, I’m so fluent in English and words still fail me on a regular basis. 

Good filler expressions include the following:

  • “I don’t know how to say, but I mean a thing that…"
  • “Help me out here…how do you say…?"
  • “You know, it is a little like…"

The key component in a good filler line is that they all allow you to describe the thing you are trying to express. No matter if it’s a noun, verb or expression you are searching for, the key to fluency is in opening yourself up to learning the word from your conversation partner.

It’s absolutely essential to remember that these moments of hitting the wall are where you really show your skills in language learning. Not because you are measured by how many times you encounter the wall, but by how many times you get through it, over it or under it. This is the way that you will have confident conversations in weeks, not years.

So are you ready to start having truly fluent conversations?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent, the Language Learning Blog. Please like this post on Facebook or share on Twitter using the Share buttons and leave me a comment below. If you are feeling stuck right now, why not subscribe to Fluent and check out our language book shop.

What language fluency looks like

On my adventures around Pinterest, I recently came across this image which is filled with thoughts of "language fluency". It addresses a question every learner asks him- or herself lots of times - What exactly IS fluency? So many of you quote fluency as the ultimate learning ambition, so have you defined what it means to you? 

Giant beret is not a symbol of fluency

Giant beret is not a symbol of fluency

A word about SMART goals

If you have taken on challenges in the past, you may have come across this very corporate acronym before. SMART stands for specific - measurable - achievable - relevant - time constrained. Generally speaking, this is considered to be the best possible way that you can formulate a goal. "Fluency" therefore needs to be made measurable, and it's really important that you try and spell out to yourself what exactly it means to be fluent.

For example, a vague and not very effective goal would be "I want to be able to have a conversation with a French person soon." 

Now compare that to this goal, which can be considered worthwhile and functional: "I want to be able to have general small talk about the weather and travel methods (specific and  achievable ) with my French aunt (relevant ) when I go and see them in a month (time constrained )." And even with that, the question of how you measure it is not too clearly answered. Measuring fluency is up to you. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, fluency happens when you believe it's happening.

Checklist - what makes you fluent?

In the image shown above, you can see a few good indicators that you could take as measurements of fluency. For me, these are the most important ones:

2013-06-28 16.56.28.jpg
  • You are able to communicate without hesitation and without long gaps, and feel confident to compensate for words you don't know

  • You are secure enough in your understanding of grammar and word order that you can produce sentences without wondering where the words go or what tense the sentence is supposed to be in

  • You feel that you connect, share information and understand your partner's responses in a conversation

  • You find that using your language brings you a sense of achievement and confidence, which increases your core skills 

If you are a language learner or educator, what would you add to this list? Or would you take something out?

Remember it's attitude and skill combined

Finally, there are two parts to becoming that fluent speaker you dream of being. It's in your attitude, trying and going for it without worries of whether your verb endings are spot on or not. But there is also an aspect of practice and expertise, so don't think that with the right attitude you could completely neglect the study part. Once you get both of those up to the right level, you will just know that it's working. Until then....invisible progress. 

Collo is the word! An interview with Fluency MC

Let me introduce you to American English teacher Jason Levine - sometimes better known as Fluency MC, Ambassador and Knowledge Entertainer at WizIQ. Jason has taken a particularly cool approach: He raps his lessons, and he does it very successfully. The guy has been flown around by the US Department of State. He's in an English tutoring funk band, for goodness sake! With all that, Jason definitely seems like a person to contact about language learning tips. Lucky for me, he's also a nice and generous guy and was more than happy to be interviewed.


Hey there, Jason, nice talking to you! Let's start at the top and learn more about collocations. Is that a phrase you coined yourself?

No way, collocation is actually a theoretical term in language acquisition. My students and I have shortened it to "collos" though - much easier to say for an English learner!

And collos are word combinations that appear very frequently. So what makes them so important in English learning? 

My dedication to bringing collos into language learning came about when I was researching second language acquisition. I came across these theories in research which discussed how effective language teaching can be when it's at the knowledge base. This means focusing on teaching the language in use. Instead of teaching abstract rules of grammar on their own, we practice repeating the words that go together over and over again.  That means they collo, and it helps students get used to the right ways of saying things.

The theory is based on the simple thought that anything will sound right if you say it often enough. We know that the brain doesn't care what is right or wrong, so it will go back to what it knows best when producing language.

Would you say using collos helps students use a language without worrying about its rules?

Yes, it's a way of doing just that. When you look at adult learners, they have been trained to be critical thinkers and to enquire into why things happen. Sometimes in language learning, this can be a hindrance. When you work hard to understand a rule, you may put yourself under a lot of pressure. With collos, the aim is to encourage the less analytical part of the brain to simply repeat the words that work together.

Once you had found your love of collos, was rapping them a natural next step?

Well, I've always had a love of hip hop. I used to be a DJ and have a musical background, and when I started teaching English I noticed just how universal this music had become around the globe. Rap music has the right kind of rhythm for making the spoken word stick in your brain, and so it felt just natural to write some lines for my students. 

 And music has the sticky nature we want when we're learning a language.

Learning must not feel like work

That's right - music is what your brain takes in when you are relaxed. Just like TV ads or billboards, it's just something that surrounds you. My approach is based on the belief that learning must not feel like work, and so I expose students to simple things like collos in fun ways like the ColloTunes or a card game.

  Can we find collos in any language?

Oh yes, definitely. Collos are a core part of language. When you think about it, all rules like grammar and syntax are just descriptions of what we have observed in language. They are patterns, and collos are examples of patterns.

 Do you speak any other languages yourself?

Yes, I have learnt Spanish and French. I spend a lot of time trying to surround myself with natural French. I don't practice what I preach enough, but with this new age of online learning things are so much easier. It used to be impossible to get the exposure for language learning, but now we can get involved in practical language straight away. I think the world of learning is changing.

It's exciting stuff - maybe a Français Collo MC is on the cards one day. Thanks for your time, Jason.

You can get straight in there and collo with Jason Levine on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WizIQ or on his website. And you can trust I made sure he knows about some classic German hip hop!

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Fluency Masterclass, Part 4: Speaking

United States Government Work

Talking to strangers can be intimidating to some, but talking to a foreigner in your newly acquired foreign language? Wow, that's something daunting (even mega extroverts like me don't like the thought of that).

Well, fear not. After you have so diligently practised your  core skills in reading, writing and listening, you should already notice the confidence levels rising significantly. If you have read aloud, you have in fact made large strides in your speaking. Time to get chatting!

Prepare set dialogues

English tutor Mike Shelby, who writes helpful articles on all sorts of aspects of language learning, recommends that you pretend you're an actor for this one. What a fun idea! Find a real-life dialogue or even create your own script and get playing. There are many predictable situations you can use for this, for example greetings, shopping or restaurant bookings.

Practice mirror techniques

No, sorry, it doesn't count as French mirror practice when you spend 10 minutes putting a lot of Chanel make-up on. Mirror techniques are all the ones you use when you are checking yourself and getting used to yourself speaking the new language. The easiest way to do this is to record yourself using a smartphone, webcam or a cheap little dictaphone.

But don't neglect the real mirror either: if it's difficult to make a particular sound, read up on how to do it (a th in English, a Spanish ñ, a German umlaut..) and then try to look at your mouth as you pronounce the words. This can be a helpful trick for learning about the sounds you're producing.

Recite something you love

pic by  mustafakhayat

Rliberni's language blog gives readers a great tip for becoming a confident speaker: Learn through recital! If there is a piece of poetry, song or even a newspaper headline that you really love, just learn it. How cool will it be to impress your German friends by pulling some Loriot quotes out of the bag next time you see them? Or how about spicing up the next date with a bit of Appolinaire?

Okay, then. Maybe not quite, but appreciate how poems are crafted to bring out the beauty in language through rhythm, rhyme and vocabulary.

Make mistakes

If this sounds weird to you, then think about how little practice you're going to get worrying about getting things wrong. That's right. On to the next one. 

You are ready. Do it. Honestly, just try.

The abovementioned techniques are fantastic ideas to help you get started, get prepared and almost ready for talking. But the final step is entirely up to you. Just go out and talk to someone! You could have a go at Verbling or Italki or meet up with a local language tutor. Many cities also have a language exchange or café somewhere - try a local school or university for example.

Or if you like it bold, phone up a company abroad and going nearly through with a hotel or restaurant booking. Cheeky! If you need it, the German for "I'm going through a tunnel" would be something like "Entschuldigung, ich höre Sie gar nicht mehr....mir ist grad der Empfang weg..." 

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!