October 13

Language Learning Methods: What works, what not…

and why I’m not an advocate of the traditional school system

If…

  • Are you tired that you are still not being able to have normal conversations in a foreign language?
  • Did you study for years and you don’t see any progress?
  • You already told yourself that it’s about you because you are just bad at learning new languages?

Then read this article to the end and I’m sure your learning gets a healthy boost

So let’s go!

Hi there, first of all, I going to reach back in time and also introduce myself real quick for you to get the whole picture.

Who am I?

My name is Orson and I was born, raised in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Here I live ever since I was born in 1988.

Like a normal kid, I went to school and started to learn French (Switzerland has 4 national languages German, French, Italian, and Roman) first in the fifth grade. English classes came two years later in seventh grade.

Different attitude in learning new languages

In all school years I had I’ve been taught French for about eight years and English for about six years.

After that many years, you probably mastered both languages flawlessly, right?

Well unfortunately that’s NOT the case!

  • My French is lower than the level of a 3-year-old French baby.
  • English I speak well, understand almost everything, and feel comfortable in using my skills in the real world!

Even though I’m far from perfect I am able to interact with about 500 Million persons all around the globe more than I was before. So if you find a wrong set comma or something which isn’t perfect English It’s because my main focus is on real communications with real people.

But why?

Why this gap between those languages is so gigantic?
I tell you why:

There are multiple aspects that led to the situation of how it is today. And this is important for everybody who wants to learn a second language.

Doesn’t matter if it’s the first try or the 100th.

The motivation of adapting a language

French:
I never liked the language (sorry French guys) and I was forced to learn it because you simply can’t choose to skip a specific subject. It was never a goal to be in the French-speaking part of Switzerland nor I had friends speaking French.


English:
For me English was already way more close, my aunt emigrated to Great Britain, the music I listened to was mostly in English, and some TV- shows which weren’t dubbed as well. English was all over. The slogans of Companies, single English words people are used every day by everybody. All those aspects made me have, in comparison to French, a very good relationship.

The approach of learning

French:
I learned French only the way traditional school systems taught us. For example, memorizing vocabulary words, learn grammar rules, and having textbook tasks and homework. Not to forget the tests which every pupil loves so much…

English:
Of course, in school classes, the approach was similar to how the French classes were. And if I would not have added my own methods, I would be on the same level probably!

Because there were a will and an attachment to understand and speak English I started to translate lyrics from Marilyn Manson and Slipknot when I was in seventh grade.

The routine, consistency of learning

French:
While having classes I studied and at home only if there was homework to do or sometimes when a test was announced some extra time learning at home. But never ever even a single minute in my spare time.

English:
Same as above but on top, I did by my own those aforementioned translations of lyrics and made my own vocabulary lists of words that did not get taught in school. Watched TV with subtitles every once in a while.

In my apprenticeship in a phone store (yes back then the cellphones did have a keyboard and a small screen and house telephones was still a thing, yes I am THAT old) I practiced English with clients in a simple way and I loved it!

I saw I was able to speak and got understood. Even it was in a very basic way I had lots of additional hours of learning/practicing English.

The real reason I went to fluency

Years later after graduating from school and apprentice ship in my every days life I didn’t use English as much as before anymore.

But the deciding moment happened in 2016.

I was with a friend watching our team members fight in a Muay Thai tournament in the day and at the evening we went, in a very good mood, to a bar in Zurich.

We ordered chicken wings and outside the bar, where people can eat, smoke and so on, I asked a beautiful blonde girl to take a picture of me and my friend.

She did not speak German and I spoke with her in English.

That’s now absolutely not relevant to the rest but as I assumed, she has to be from Sweden because of the long blonde hair she responded energetically:

No! Swedish are chicken, I’m from Finland!

My Better Internet Shy Half 2016

But just you know Swedish guys, she likes you, just not in hockey!

We had a very fun evening! But that not the topic now so –> fast forward we fell in love with each other.

Well. Tell me a better reason to have the motivation to learn a language! Bet you cant 😉

You want to understand everything the better half is telling you, you want to speak out what is inside of you and and and. THIS was the biggest reason for me the actually get away from basic English I learned over the years. NOW I wanted to master it. The motivation was higher than ever.

An important thing to know is that she was in Switzerland only for vacation, so her residence was and is, in Finland.

We wrote a lot through WhatsApp and sole in English. After a pretty period of time there came misunderstandings which were mainly based on my basic English.

Her’s was great already when we met, but for me, I got things wrong, wrote things in a way she misunderstood me, and we got into a lot of trouble! Long-distance relationships are not easy but if there is on top misunderstandings caused by the language it’s even harder.

Well, I saw the good in it. Another powerful impact of learning English to make our:

  • Relationship
  • Wellbeing
  • Communication

Better!

The way I succeeded with my goal to be fluent

For the guys who don’t know, Finland’s national language is Finnish and Swedish. The reason a wide part of the Finnish people speaks superior English than Swiss guys do is that the TV program isn’t dubbed.

Okay then, let’s learn with TV program!

So I started to use the movie technique, that means to choose a movie and watch short sequences.

Watch those over and over again until you get the whole part. With no subtitles in German but in English. Learn more about the link I shared above.

Learning through listening is the first and most important step of getting fluent

I did it for about half of the movie. It was really hard because there came so many words and phrases I’ve never heard before. Also, slang was common which I wasn’t always able to translate and get the sense of.

Another reason was that I never saw that movie before. It was incredible torture to see how slowly the story moves on. The steady repetition won’t allow that obviously.

The movie I really enjoyed btw. If you like action movies which are kinda “weird” it’s a must.

I stopped it and I searched for more efficient techniques.

With YouTube, I found an awesome English Teacher named A.J. Hoge. I bought his course “Power English“.

This step opened my eyes and made it clear why I stopped the movie- technique.

The movie- technique was too hard for me at that moment. My English wasn’t just good enough yet and I got demoralized. To barely understand specific slang and fast spoken English idioms wasn’t fun after a while. Plus, it was so annoying because I wanted to see how the movie ends already 😉

The difference, which was very crucial, is the fact that I needed to gain a greater understanding of the language. And these mini-stories in the course are built to have EASY and CONNECTING sentences with crazy and funny content.

If I listened to the audio files first I thought, well I understand everything no problem I’m probably advanced enough.

But I stuck to the plan and listened to the same story over the course of one week several times.

How the stories are built:

  • Three-time periods
    • Present
    • Past
    • Future
  • Normal, not extra fancy words
  • A story which has a punchline at the end
  • Interactive moments, he asks you every once in a while a (very simple) question
  • Positive Energy throughout the whole audio file
  • A vocabulary audio file with the little fancier words are explained (all in English)

The stories are built to repeat words and phrases many times cause of the questions he asks, and the answers a few seconds later.

Repetition makes you remember the language subconsciously and steady

This is an extremely powerful tool to get used to the sound of the language (from the mouth of a native speaker) As well as grammar goes subconsciously to the listener’s brain. All because of the great amount of repetition.

The whole process was absolutely effortless, like the name of the program is. All the painful grammar drills and learning new vocabulary was all the sudden:

  • Easy
  • Effortless
  • Connected
  • And way more efficient!
This hinders you to speak fluent

This method erased my old bad habit to translate a language in my head to German and back. My experience showed that this is the way to be fluent. THINK IN THAT LANGUAGE, know how it sounds, independent from your native language.

After that almost half year of listening to this story, I didn’t quit consuming English content. Thank god there are so many videos and TV- shows, etc. on the internet. So kept going forward.

I was interested in UFC/MMA before already, but not that much. I started to watch the fighters interviews and of course the events including Joe Rogan’s commentating and podcast.

Learn with content you’re interested in, it’s the easiest and most fun way to learn and doesn’t even feel like learning

I continued daily to consume every new video on YouTube (MMA World) that was related to it, at least ten minutes a day.

With that, I created a second really big motivation to keep going to improve in that language, and I will never stop doing it because once you think you know everything, you stop progressing.

And all this learning was without any force, it was natural and fun to get new information. And learning was something that happened casually. In fact, effortless.

What fluent really means and what to consider

To be able to speak with anybody, in a specific language, about every topic there is, about God and the world …about anything!

That’s absolutely nothing new and I’m sure you knew this already.

But let me tell you something.

Because the learning happens best in an area you’re interested in you will feel much more comfortable in using your skills in that exact realm.

For me, as a fan of MMA, I do know the slang words and phrases regarding this topic quite well. If I listening to a medical report, for example of the coronavirus or such things, there will be things I won’t understand word by word, but still the meaning behind.

So fluency means you get the whole picture, not being perfect. I’m far from perfect in English nor I’m perfect in my native language.

But that is not the goal and shouldn’t be. To want to be perfect makes you afraid of making failures. And this leads you to overthink and learning way slower.

Look at me, you probably found several mistakes in this article, and it’s fine. I don’t need to win a spelling contest nor any teacher or anybody gives me a grade for this. I’m not afraid to publish my content because of failures.

Failures are kind reminders where somebody can improve. And practice makes you better in it.

So it’s easy to recognize that everything which hinders you from practicing is hindering you from improving. So in a nutshell:

Don’t want to be perfect!

A short story about enlightenment I had

I was writing, in English, some text messages to my girlfriend and all the sudden, I had a sentence in my mind but when I wrote it I thought: Is that really correct?

Your brain connects word, images, sound together subconscioulsy by the time

That word in this set-up? I don’t really know that word but it came to my mind automatically. I translated the word in a dictionary and found out that it was fitting there perfectly!

And here we have it, the perfect showcase for subliminal learning. I never wrote that word before, I never learned it with a vocabulary learning method. I just KNEW it is correct. It came automatically.

And this is because of the shier content I’m consuming every day mostly through my ears. I assume this word appeared in many several phrases and sentences, so my brain took note of it and gave it to me when I wanted to express myself.

To think in the language you speak is evidence of being fluent for real

German, my native language does not have anything to do with English.


My next challenge is to learn Finnish, and because there is not yet such a platform to learn other languages with the attributes I highlighted in this article, I’m VERY THRILLED to introduce you to this new and very unique, 360-degree learning system.

I invented it for myself and will share it to all of you!

…and also. or especially for you who want to improve their English this platform completes the awesome content from A.J. Hoge.

Stay tuned!


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