How To Create An Amazing Language Journal

What if you had a language learning tool that costs you hardly anything, adapts to your own preferences, boosts your memory and helps concentration?

Turns out you do, and it's probably in your bag right now: Your notebook!

Today on the podcast I'm joined by language lovers Kathryn and Sam who are passionate about taking fantastic language notes. Listen to discover their experiences, language learning tips and strategies for effective note taking.

This episode of the show is sponsored by LiveLingua (click for a free lesson), the best place to connect to your new favourite Skype teacher.

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Why Keep a Notebook?

There are so many huge benefits to keeping a language learning notebook, from the brain science aspects all the way to mindfulness and wellbeing.

Personalised Learning

Language learning notebooks are a completely blank canvas where you can design the textbook of your dreams. You control the layout and the content, and get to create what makes sense to you.

Clearer Thinking

Writing in a notebook means you are expressing concepts and sentences in a way that makes sense to you personally. It automatically helps organise what you are learning. Sam mentions that he selects what he finds most helpful and important from podcasts, YouTube videos and online lessons so he can curate his own version of a personal textbook.

Memory Boosts

When you write your notes by hand, you become better at remembering them. The act of writing, perhaps even colouring or illustrating your note is an in-depth repetition of what you’re learning. Add to that the personal connection as you write what is meaningful to you, and the increased repetitions as you look back over your notebook, and what you have created is a reliable system for remembering what you learn.

Enjoyment

If you have a creative side you’d like to unleash, your language learning notebook is a welcome new playground. Kathryn and Sam already loved drawing, design and papercrafts. The language notebook became a way of adding language to what they enjoy, and it has helped create time to combine two great hobbies.

Freedom from screen

Learning online gives you access to infinite materials, but sometimes it’s hard to remember everything that you see. The notebook becomes your place to capture the coolest bits you find on the web, the new words you learn from an app, everything you find in your personal language learning world.

What Can You Write In The Notebook?

Anything and everything! The possibilities are endless: Kathryn keeps her journal in her target language Norwegian. Sam doodles around tricky pronunciation rules and curious idioms. Here are some more ideas:

  • Vocab doodles or lists

  • Jokes & Cute Pictures

  • Repeat and review things you learnt from YouTube or a podcast

  • All types of language learning goals and motivations

  • Memories from cool things you’ve done

  • Tracking: Core skills balance, daily contact with an app

  • Your resource lists

  • Weekly learning plans

Get Inspired With These Instagram Language Journalers

Episode Links

The Intensive, Tough but Super Effective Method for Memorizing Vocabulary in Any Language

You guys, you and I both know that forgetfulness must be one of the most annoying elements that hold you back from learning a language. Remembering vocabulary can be difficult, especially with all those little words like prepositions and conjunctions. Personally, I am blessed with reasonable memory so I am a pretty good reviser, but as part of my research for The Vocab Cookbook I got to know a few new tricks! 

For example, I got to meet one of the “gurus” of learning how to memorise stuff. Anthony Metivier is a Canadian living in Berlin, and spending some quality time in his memory palaces. If you get a copy of my book, you’ll be hearing directly from him about his methods. But today, I want to share a review about his work directly, because Anthony has some pretty firm ideas about language learning that he shares in his Udemy Course “How to Learn and Memorize the Vocabulary of Any Language”.

Signing up through the course links in this article supports my site, by the way, so please do it! You will get the course at half price with the code FLUENTLANGUAGE, please do not forget to type it in.

Where Can You Learn This Method?

I like spending time on Udemy interacting with my own course crowd and discovering new ideas for what I could learn, and Anthony’s course does stand out quite a bit. Not only has it attracted over 5000 students already, but it’s also rated 5 Stars by most of the students.

Anthony’s course is huge, it’s split into 12 sections covering every possible angle of memorising vocabulary in a memory palace that you can imagine. He starts off by sharing his own story - like so many strong believers in a method they’ve discovered, he says that he actually used to be pretty bad at remembering stuff. In his words, the Magnetic Memory Method has completely changed his life. And with that in mind, it’s definitely worth checking out the course.

A full review for this course might run over thousands of words (and ain't nobody got time....well I'd just never do it!), so instead I recommend you check it out for yourselves over at Udemy. Here is my short link for you: http://bit.ly/memorizelanguage. Read on for a speedy review of the essentials - and my verdict on whether this might work.

Does it Work?

One of the core advantages of Anthony’s method is that the way he has put it together is pretty unique. The theories and the methods he works with are not hot off the press news but that’s irrelevant. They are tried and tested, and he does a great job of bringing everything together for language learners here. Do you currenly use a memory palace? Do you currently break a word into sounds and components while trying to remember it? If not, then you want to take a look at this stuff.

My own results for using word association and location have been extremely successful. You have often heard me mention sticky notes in your house, but I had never thought about using all of the different rooms together as “memory palaces”. It’s great - basically it’s taking the next step and now you mentally label your whole house (familiar places, that's the key), then move through it in your mind (though make sure you follow Lecture 7 to know what NOT to do). The real memory anchor is building mental images that you put into those memory palaces. So you build them, then you populate them, then you store and test, and then you never forget anything, like ever, again. 

It’s not easy, it’s not spontaneous, it requires both dedication and spreadsheets. You better work through those 21 worksheets, but if you are ready to commit that much effort to your Magnetic Memory Method you will succeed! It does work and it will make even the most annoying little words stick in your mind for a long long time.

How I Applied It With Russian Vocabulary

memorizing vocabulary

For what it’s worth, here’s a picture of the little doodle I made when I first looked through this course - a mental map of a house (memory palaces), and the stairs populated with words that have the ц letter in them. It’s a sort of “ts” sound, so it reminded me of “st” in stairs. Yes, this already sounds crazy but the beauty of a great memory method is actually that it only has to work for you!! So in my stair room, there’s a bird bouncing down the stairs, making the sound “peep”! Why? Because Russian for bird is “pteetsa” (птица), and now I’ve bundled together the p from peep, the meaning of the word and the reminder that the spelling has a ц in it. I won’t forget the word any time soon, that bird is flying down my staircase all over my mind right now. So as you can see, Anthony’s guidance creates crazy associations - they are colourful, fun and so very memorable.

The pacing of the course is difficult to gauge because it’s obviously self-paced through videos. I would however recommend no more than one section per week and that means you can become a memory wizard in about 3 months here! 

Value for Money

You getting soooo much time and tuition out of this course, and the benefits are extremely valuable if you only put your mind to it. Go with the exercises, complete the worksheet, and observe how Anthony’s methods really do improve your memory. For 97 dollars (and save money with the code FLUENTLANGUAGE, don't forget!!). At the current exchange rate, that’s actually a great deal.

Video Quality

The videos are focused on audio and projected words onto the screen, which is the area where I believe we have some room for improvement. I would *love* to see more of Anthony talking directly to us and demonstrating his method live as he moves around the memory palace. I would really love a few screencasts, seeing him take even better advantage of having video in this course. The audio quality is absolutely fabulous and I also really appreciate the written materials that Anthony supplies.

Instructor Quality

Anthony is a special instructor because he has that thing you do want in any teacher - full dedication to his subject. This man is living the Magnetic Memory thing, so he'll make sure it works for his students. Plus, his voice and calm delivery are very pleasant and add to the value. You may have seen my cat Abigail say hello in my own French Grammar Course on there, but Anthony is too much of a pro for that! Section 12 of this course is particularly special, as this is where he has added extra recordings to help course participants apply the method. The questions are all asked by language learners, meaning this section focuses on everything to do with memory and language learning. For example, in Lecture 50, he gives you a full walkthrough of the memory palaces that work for a Greek alphabet.

Overall Rating

The Udemy Course “How to Learn and Memorize the Vocabulary of Any Language” offers great value for money and will keep you perfecting your memory method for months to come. It's not suitable for someone looking for a quick fix, but if you're dedicated and excited about learning something new, this will be for you. Pretty good videos, calm delivery and extensive documentation mean I'm giving this a 4.5/5.

Remember:

Use this link to sign up: http://bit.ly/memorizelanguage. You will get the course at half price with the code FLUENTLANGUAGE, please do not forget to type it in. 

Linguistic Sidenote

If you have ever become confused about whether to spell the word for remembering stuff as "memorize" or "memorise", you're not alone. These days, it's tough to know which one to go with. Especially with the added confusion of autocorrect on phones and spell checker when you type, I don't even really know whether I am consistent anymore. Here is the lowdown:

  • "Memorize" is the more widely popular and "official" (according to my 2002 Pons English Learners' dictionary) variant.
  • "Memorise" is a British spelling variant, and less common.

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!

Deutschland im Herbst - German autumn vocabulary

Ah, the days are getting colder again. I'm sat here in my little office in a sweater and a denim shirt on top and soon I'll start wearing gloves at the keyboard. Many German learners might be curious about what the country is like in the autumn, so I decided to share my top 5 things that I will miss about Germany this September and October along with a useful vocabulary list and exercises if you sign up for my new mailing list.

Deutschland im Herbst is a special place, and the listed items are my own personal priorities, but of course I know that you may want to add others (something about Munich and beer?), feel free to post your comments!

Traubenlese (grape harvest)

Deutschland im Herbst

Deutschland im Herbst

I come from the Mosel valley and my parents make wine and our whole autumn is a time of vineyard work and harvesting. The hills are completely covered in vines and at this time of the year you'll see tractors everywhere, people working away in the vineyards all day long, but the most significant thing is the scent: The whole place smells of harvest, of fresh grapes and freshly pressed grape juice. Many harvest teams don't even come home at lunchtime but have their lunch brought to them to save time, and enjoy good food with one of Germany's best views..and then back to work!

Apfelkuchen

True to the harvest theme, the second thing autumn means to me is using all the orchard fruit in many new baked goodies. Der Apfelkuchen (apple cake) is one of the most popular recipes, it's easy to make and popular throughout the country. To recreate a true German atmosphere, cover the table in a good tablecloth, bring out the posh china and enjoy a big jug of coffee with the cakes - that's our Kaffee und Kuchen. 

Herbstlaub (autumn leaves)

Germany has 30% arable land (that's land for crops) according to the CIA itself, and we can also show a wealth of forest. As a result, the country offers some great autumn colours throughout the country, from city park trees to fields and vineyards, and of course at their best when you're enjoying them over a glass of wine at sunset. Or is that just me?

Hint: For visitors, the Nationalpark Hainich offers a beautiful view of golden October.

Bundestagswahlen

Okay, these are not around every autumn but they made it into the 2013 autumn list because this year is an election year. Der Bundestag is the German parliament, which is elected every four years. Our election days usually fall on a Sunday and they obviously shape the mood and debate of the whole country. Will you be watching on 22 September when Germany decides who might be the next Bundeskanzler or Bundeskanzlerin? Learn more about this important event through Logo or start off in English with help from the BBC in the fun video above. Advanced German speakers should read more about the parties at the Wahl-o-Mat website.

Tag der deutschen Einheit

Germany's national holiday is on 3 October and celebrates our recent and modern history. As a country that was defeated in a war, divided in the middle of a cold war and then reunited, everyone in Germany warmly remembers  den Mauerfall, the end of the Berlin wall. Even though our national holiday date wasn't chosen as the most significant date around, this day in autumn is still perfect for taking a step back and remembering how we got here (a good piece of advice for life, not just Germany). Have a look at the deutsch-deutsche Geschichte pages on Goethe.de for more information, and check out this cool pin on Pinterest with chocolate company Ritter Sport's unique take on German Einheit.

Don't forget to sign up for my mailing list to get your free vocabulary on Germany in autumn, including five exercises. To get feedback on your German, simply post your answers to these exercises in the comments for this article during the next week (deadline 25 September) and I will respond to your comment!

5 great reasons for language learning with a buddy

When you are learning a new language, your motivation is often rooted in appreciation of how people connect and communicate. Language learning is social by definition, and it's clearly most fun when you can practice and learn with others. All good on paper, but what if you don't know any fellow learners?

5 great reasons for finding a learning buddy

Just like a lot of language learners, I'm not averse to a bit of a challenge. Teaching yourself from books is definitely one of those, but my advice would be that you stay away from challenging yourself to learn in isolation. Here are 5 good reasons why sharing the language learning journey with a buddy (someone at your level, a friend or tutor) makes a lot of sense.

  1. You'll open up
    Expressing your feelings is super-beneficial, no matter if it's through talking, drawing, writing or singing. In the context of language learning, this means you will benefit a lot from speaking about the language learning experience. Shared frustrations and worries are often halved when you have the chance to talk to someone who knows what you mean.

  2. You'll keep going 
    Giving up is much less of an option when people know about your commitment to really making this work. Yes, this tip is just one of my whole library of tips that work both for diets and language learning :)

  3.  Double the research power
    Have you been on the internet these days? It's so full of great resources and media and music and articles that I barely have time to watch Game of Thrones! Even if your chosen buddy isn't one who shares your fluency ambitions, they can help you by keeping an eye out for the best resources, recommended tutors or fellow learners. A network is a powerful thing, and it's so easy to start.

  4. They can quiz you
    There is rarely a thing more efficient than asking a friend to quiz you on your vocabulary lists - they'll be able to engage with your experience with all the pressure taken off, play teacher, set challenges or even grade you.

    I can imagine that this works particularly well in married couples - wouldn't you just LOVE to have the licence to educate your other half?! From my own experience, I also love how it enables my partner to help me with things like my Russian, without having to understand any of it himself.

  5. You might save money
    From borrowing dictionaries to taking cheaper private classes with a tutor (like me), you might find that sharing the language learning experience can really save you a lot of money. This doesn't have to be an expensive experience and not every book or course will do the same for all people, but even if you spent no coins at all on it, you might benefit from a shared cost trip to the exciting destination of your dreams!

How to make it work

There's no straightforward recipe for success for learning with a friend or loved one. Some of us are reassured by having fellow learners, others feel particularly shy about it. You might also want to learn at a different pace to your friend, or work best at different times. If you aren't attending classes together, consider texting in the other language or sitting down just for a monthly catch-up. And if you have found someone who is not a learner him- or herself but wants to cheerlead and support you, how about planning that great trip together?

If you found this article useful, maybe you'd like regular emails from Fluent Language Tuition with more information my ideas, workshops and courses. Just use the sign-up form below :)

French Magazines in Review: Ecoute vs Bien-Dire

Welcome to the French Mag-off, where two established magazines for French learners face each other in a showdown for the title of "Best French Learners Magazine". The two candidates are:

écoute, a publication by Spotlight Verlag in Germany and bien-dire, published in France and distributed in the UK by Languages Direct

écoute is a magazine for native speakers of German, whereas bien-dire is aimed at those learning French from an English language background.

First off..

..a word on language learning magazines. These are a familiar resource at most newsagents' in many countries in Europe. The idea is to create a learner's magazine in the target language and support the articles with vocabulary, exercises and audio. The reader can enjoy a nice, glossy magazine and benefit from immersion in their target language.

2013-02-13 15.58.40.jpg

Overall, language learning magazines are great for groups of learners as well as individuals with a steady foundation in grammar and vocabulary. They make interacting with foreign media a little easier, but beginners should have at least an A2 level of study (commonly equated to 60-80 hours of French tuition).

The Look

Bien-Dire proudly displays its strap line "From France for learners of French". It's not available for retail in the UK and has to be ordered online for €7.50. My test issue (May/June 2012) features a lead article on Rocquefort cheese and 20 other items in colour and with accompanying vocabulary lists. Advertising content restricts itself to only 4 pages, which is definitely a nice touch.

German-made challenger écoute comes along with another 20 articles, plus flashcards and a little pullout section for beginners. The magazine's definitely bigger despite its lower price of €6.50, but as a trade-off readers do have to put up with about twice as much advertising. Still, it's hardly as prominent as in any given women's magazine and all adverts were relevant to French learners.

Content

Bien-Dire leads with a range of articles on what France has got to offer, from actors to cheese. In fact, it's pretty much all about France. If you're not particularly curious about the place, you may quickly end up bored. The articles' difficulty levels are mostly on the high side - around 2+/3 (the highest being 3), which leaves it a magazine with little variation on either front. This makes a nice travel magazine, and a practice ground particularly useful for advanced learners.

écoute makes use of the German language to guide its readers through the magazine, giving a mini summary of each article and guidance on difficulty levels in the source language. I really liked this structure, the easy introduction made me want to follow through with reading many of the articles. The topics focus on French produce, society, history and geography. It's quite a varied spread, with short street scene interviews on current politics but also a large practice session focusing on real-life skills (in the August 2012 edition, the topic is making appointments). On top of that, there's also a story section.

Multimedia

Both magazines offer audio CDs. écoute's can only be ordered as a subscription, starting from 2 for €16. For bien-dire, the magazine and the CD are only sold together on a subscription basis (2015 price update: 1-year subscription for £99/$150 or 2-year subscription for £169/$259).

Reading the articles while listening to the audio at the same time was a really great experience, and I'd recommend it to any learner. The audio quality was absolutely faultless, by the way, though I did wish that I could vary the speed.

Transient

écoute makes more out of its website with little videos on the topic of the month, and also sells a "Plus" issue of each of its magazines which features exercises. Languages Direct also offers bien-dire plusan interactive study supplement that you can add to your subscription.

These don't come cheap, and I can't shake the feeling that all of these extras at such a cost really need a re-think in an age where everyone can get hold of a big set of free resources on the internet. écoute has started on this one - again, they give me the feeling that they have at least heard of the 21st century with their "word a day" app.

Who's my Winner?

Both of these are high quality products. It is my impression that bien-dire is directing itself at an audience of expats living in France. It would make a great practice read for adult college groups and experienced French speakers wanting to keep their vocabulary active. On top of that, bien-dire scores highly when used in co-ordination with the CD. For me personally, the topics were not as interesting as they could be.

écoute definitely had the feel of being written by journalists, not teachers or tourist guides. Its use of German throughout the magazine was a great little guide and gave the articles an instant "sell" that the bien-dire ones were missing. I wouldn't go out of my way to read about French cheese or olive oil, so it was great to have those two lines at the top telling me why to bother, why this might be interesting. écoute's learning support is good both in the magazine and online: it features exercises, grammar sections and prints letters from its readers. But not much comes for free here.

écoute's February issue

écoute's February issue

Overall, the interactivity and relevance of écoute won me over. This is definitely a magazine designed for learners of French, whereas bien-dire feels like a glossy interest magazine for real France lovers who are quite good at French already. What sells language magazines is the offer of well-written content made digestible for a French learner, not a French expert, and both magazines deliver on that front. Great little thing to try if you're curious about learning more French!

You can subscribe to écoute through the Spotlight Verlag and buy Bien-Dire from Languages Direct

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 for all languages and specialised resources for French. I also offer a French Grammar video course which has been highly recommended by learners and experts.