If you do the right things (and do them right), you can become fluent in a foreign language faster than you think

Did you know that just 9 words cover 25% of spoken and written English? These words are: and, be, have, it, of, the, to, will, you. With another 50 words, you can cover almost 50% of the language. Add another 1000 words and you’ll cover around 80%!

Wow! So what’s the big deal about language learning if all you need is 1000 words?

In this article I am going to explain to you why this is not enough and what exactly do you need to do with these 1000 words. Then I’ll tell you how to become fluent in your foreign language faster than you might think. At the end, I’ll chat in Indonesian with an Indonesian lady – proving you can become fluent in 4 months!

How learning languages made my life an amazing adventure

My name is Mateusz and I’m co-founder of Taalhammer – language learning that works! During my lifetime, I’ve achieved fluency in four foreign languages. 

Growing up in a small city in Poland, I suffered from a stutter. My life would probably have been boring if I hadn’t started studying languages.  

I first started learning English when I was 14. German followed soon after. With growing confidence, my stuttering disappeared at age 17.

I became very fluent in both of these languages and went to Warsaw to study Applied Linguistics. Of 100 students there, only 6 were male. So I learned how to talk to girls and my adventures accelerated. 

As part of a student programme, I worked a few months in the United States as a door-to-door books salesman. One day I knocked on the door of a German family and they were impressed with my English and German. They bought a lot of books from me and I caught the eye of their daughter, who was my age. I still remember her saying “Ich stehe auf Dich!” (which means ‘I ​​got the hots for you’). She took me on a date to a local club in West Virginia and we kissed to the rhythm of 99 Luftballons (99 balloons)! How cool is that! After that we spent a wonderful few weeks together as a couple. 

After returning from the US, I took the opportunity to study in Germany. I improved my German a lot, but I also took an Italian course at the university. I didn’t learn much at first, but enough to impress an Italian girl in one of my classes. We went for a coffee and had an interesting conversation about languages. At some point she told me ‘​​Siamo fatti l’uno all’altra’. I asked her what it meant. She answered ‘We are made for each other’. We kissed. And had a beautiful romance, we travelled a lot of Italy together and I became fluent in Italian.

After graduating, my language skills landed me a job in an AI start-up in Amsterdam. I decided to learn Dutch, which I used as a pick-up line to start conversations with ladies. Worked like a charm!

With even more confidence, I started travelling the world. I went to Thailand and learned some Thai – not much, but enough to impress an Indonesian lady who was living there. I met her at the bar in a beach club and I told her ‘Yindī thī̀ dị̂ rū̂cạk’, which means ‘Nice to meet you’. She smiled and told me that if I knew a magic password she would have a drink with me. Without hesitation I answered ‘Khwām s̄uk̄h thī̀ leụ̄xk dị̂’, which means ‘Happiness is a choice’, a phrase I learned earlier that day. We had several drinks together and we danced on the beach during the full moon. She invited me to Indonesia the next day and we spent a wonderful time together.

I decided to come to Bali and have currently been studying Indonesian for 4 months. But this time, it’s different – I’ve done the right things in the right way. And I can already speak Indonesian!

Like I said, my life would probably have been boring if I hadn’t started studying languages!

Let’s go back to the 1000 words!

Why learning 1000 words won’t lead to understanding

I used to think learning 1000 words is enough to speak a language. But here’s the sad truth. If you learn a list of the 1000 most frequent words, your understanding of a language will be close to 0%.

But didn’t I say before that 1000 words cover 80% of the language? Yes – but there’s a big difference between “covering” and “understanding”.

What 1000 words do we mean?

  1. First are the so-called closed sets of words: pronouns (e.g. “she”, “we”), prepositions (e.g. “on”, “to”), determiners (e.g. “the”, “these”) and numbers. 
  2. Then you need to learn the most frequent words – preferably in colloquial rather than academic language.
  3. Finally, we only count the base forms of words (called lemmas), which can change by adding suffixes, prefixes etc. ‘Go’ and ‘going’ are just one word.

In Taalhammer we have applied advanced statistical methods to compute 1000 words according to these principles. We call it the core of the language.

And make no mistake, these 1000 words are absolutely essential to learn, but they are only filler material. The other 15–20% convey the real meaning!

So how many other words do you need to learn to communicate fluently?

Take control of your learning and become fluent

Well, it depends on your particular situation. Learn words that are applicable to your life, so you can talk about things you have something to say about. So if you want to talk about basketball, you should learn and repeat vocabulary and phrases related to that.

This is where most language courses and apps
make the biggest mistake. 

They teach you situational language that isn’t applicable to you. What benefit is it to learn about art or cooking if I have zero interest in such things?

Duolingo goes a step further and teaches you sentences like “The moon is mad at the sun” or “Giraffes eat apples”. Not only are these sentences pure nonsense, but the vocabulary is applicable only if you’re interested in astronomy or safaris!

This is why you need to take active control
of your language learning!

Taalhammer’s Editor was designed specially to help you build your own vocabulary. Use it to:

  • Search for vocabulary
  • Find suggestions of sentences so you see words in context
  • Automatically translate your own private sentences.

If you do all this, you’ll become fluent faster than you think!

Three important things about fluency

So what is fluency?

  1. Fluency means being able to sustain a conversation. It doesn’t mean using language flawlessly.
  2. Fluency doesn’t apply to all situations. Start with one topic, e.g. basketball or buying flowers. Master it well through repetition, then move on to other situations. 
  3. Fluency isn’t about how many words you know, but how quickly you can combine those words in sentences that mean what you want to say.

This is where grammar comes in.

Learning grammatical rules first is against your nature

Here again is where some language courses make mistakes!

Grammar isn’t rules – it’s a statistical structure of a language. Rules (and exceptions) are only an attempt to describe this structure – they’re not the structure itself.

Our brains have been evolutionarily designed to discover this structure through pattern recognition –  by taking lots of sentence examples and computing statistics. This is exactly what happened when you learnt your native language as a child. You heard lots of examples and developed reflexes that allowed you to intuitively create “grammatically correct” sentences.

Learning grammatical rules is against our nature. It’s the most tedious part of learning a language. It’s also one of the main reasons learners quit.

Don’t get me wrong, grammatical rules can be helpful, but they should be used only for reference. First you should learn a large number of sentences, to give your brain a chance to do what it was created for. Only after that can you look up grammar rules to explain what you’ve learned intuitively.

It’s like riding a bike. You don’t learn rules about balance and torque in order to cycle. You get on a bike and you try it out. Only after you’ve practised might you go to a book to solidify what you’ve experienced.

Develop language reflexes: learn sentences instead of words

So how do you learn the structure of a language?

Learn lots of sentences by heart. But not just any sentences:

  1. They must be short, optimally between 3 and 7 words.
  2. Each sentence must exemplify a particular grammatical or communicative pattern.
  3. At least 60% of each sentence should consist of  at least 60% of words you know.
  4. Sentences should use the core of the language (the 1000 most frequent words).
  5. Sentences should be ordered in increasing complexity.

By learning like this, you’ll give your brain a chance to do what it does best.

In Taalhammer, we’ve carefully selected 3000 such sentences and combined them into what we call “Core Collections”, which we offer at three levels: absolute beginners, beginners and intermediate.

Learning from a Core Collection will teach you the fundamentals of the language: asking questions, negating, confirming, referring, disagreeing etc.

Think about it analogously to learning football. First you learn dribbling, passing, receiving and shooting. Only if you master those are you able to combine them into “playing football”.

Last but not least: you can know thousands of words and sentences, but if you don’t put them into practice and start speaking, you have little chance of becoming fluent. It’s only when you start speaking that words fall into place. Language evolved as a medium of communication, so start communicating and you will become fluent in your foreign language faster than you think!

Now I’ll prove it works! I see a pretty lady sitting alone, and I’m going to approach her and have a conversation in Indonesian. Wish me luck!

Go to www.taalhammer.com and start learning with Taalhammer – language learning that works!

How to talk to strangers in a foreign language without being afraid of making mistakes

Are you learning a foreign language? Do you feel you already know enough to be able to speak but you just mumble – or even worse, freeze – when it comes to having conversations with native speakers?

You are not alone! Nearly 95% of language learners are afraid of speaking and making mistakes. What a pity! Learning a language is the perfect opportunity to start a conversation with someone you don’t know and make new friends! Right now, you can comfortably make mistakes and be interesting at the same time.

My name is Mateusz and I’m one of the co-founders of Taalhammer – language learning that works. I have been studying Indonesian with Taalhammer for two months and I’ve managed to learn around 1500 sentences so far. But most importantly, I enjoy making many mistakes while talking to Indonesian people with my limited language skills.

In this article I will first tell you why I was afraid of speaking and how I personally overcame it. Then I’ll explain what can happen if you change your attitude, and how the Taalhammer app can help you do that. Finally, I’ll put it all into practice and talk to an Indonesian lady in Indonesian.

Three reasons you’re afraid of speaking a foreign language

So why is it that you are afraid of using the language you are learning? And why don’t children seem to be affected by this?

  1. One of the main reasons you’re uncomfortable is that you feel you’re being judged on your performance – something that your teachers in school probably implanted into you by giving you grades for performance. Throughout your education, teachers were punishing you for making mistakes! You have been trained to feel that way. So the younger you are, the less you care about being judged.
  2. The language you use defines you and your intelligence. Have you ever heard the theory that you are less intelligent in a foreign language compared to your native language? So if you cannot articulate your thoughts clearly and eloquently, you tend to take it very personally – and you panic. This happens a lot when you are put on the spot, especially when trying to speak to a native speaker. It feels like an attack on your intelligence. You get very anxious and virtually forget all the language you have learned before. You freeze or mumble.
  3. You cannot script a conversation. You can never predict what the person you are talking to will say. And they will say something that you do not understand, and very often when this happens you blame yourself and conclude that you are not ready to speak in that language yet. You panic again! Taalhammer can help you prepare for conversations as much as possible, by offering you an editor where you can search for examples of use or sample sentences around a certain topic.

How stuttering helped me become a better speaker

I’ve been in this situation many times before. Even worse, I used to stutter when I was younger. It was very severe, to the degree that I was not able to open my mouth to people I did not know because I felt judged.

I visited many therapists, but there was one whom I remember very well. On the first visit, he gave me an exercise: go to a local shop and buy chewing gum. There were no supermarkets back then in Poland, so buying anything involved talking to a shop assistant – mission impossible for me at that time. But I was a good student and I took the challenge.

I took a long time preparing. I remember playing the whole scenario in my head: how I would enter the shop, how I would approach the shop assistant, what I would say, how he would respond, what I would say to his response, and so on and so forth. I wrote everything down and practised with my mother and sister.

I attempted the mission a few times. Often, I failed even before entering the shop. And then there were those really embarrassing moments when I managed to approach the shop assistant but ran away as soon as they asked me what I wanted.

Success came very unexpectedly. One day I was passing the shop with my mother and something became very clear for me – the shop assistant did not really care about me! They didn’t know me and they wouldn’t judge me, they were just selling.

That’s all. Even if I stuttered, they would sell me what I wanted and go to the next customer. It was like a switch in my head. I entered the shop, approached the assistant and bought some chewing gum. Quick and painless!

Following that victory, I learned how to accept the embarrassment when talking to people. In the next years this led to a passion for communication. And the more challenging the communication, the more interesting for me. This is how my love for learning foreign languages was born.

Three tricks to overcome your fear of talking to strangers in a foreign language

The stuttering just disappeared one day, when I was around 16. But because of it, I’d managed to develop tricks to make me believe in myself and push me into having conversations with people. All of that has led me to translate and apply the tricks to language learning. So how did I do it?

It is effort that counts, not performance

First of all, I realised that real life does not work like school! It is effort that counts, not performance. People always appreciate you if you’re making an effort, especially if the effort is to learn their language. Native speakers will never judge; they’ll be grateful that you are interested in their culture, and they’ll respect you for your courage. Even if this courage means the smallest attempt in communication, such as a simple question.

Memorize sentence rather than words

Second, I changed my learning techniques and started memorizing sentences rather than words. Not only is learning vocabulary and grammatical rules the most tedious part of studying a language, it is also really not effective when talking to native speakers.

In your native language you speak at a rate of around 120 words per minute. Of course it is less when you start speaking a foreign language, but nevertheless you need to recall a lot of words and phrases at the same time! This is very difficult, and being stressed makes it even harder.

Learning full sentences helps a lot here: it gives you a way of saying things from the very beginning, it helps you learn how words are used in context, it automates language reflexes and it gives you confidence when speaking. This is the method we use in Taalhammer.

Stop taking yourself too seriously

Last but not least – stop taking yourself too seriously. Just accept that you won’t be able to have deep philosophical conversations! Accept that you’ll be making tons of mistakes and sometimes saying incomprehensible things.

This is unavoidable – learning a language is about making mistakes! All learning is about making mistakes – you learned how to walk because you fell 1000 times!

Let me assure you, the people you’re talking to don’t care if you make mistakes! And you shouldn’t either. The main purpose of learning a language is to communicate, and who cares how many mistakes you make if communication takes place.

Fail in order to succeed

Your new challenge when learning a language: make as many mistakes as possible and enjoy the hell out of it!

Have you ever heard of Michael Jordan? He is not only a great basketball player but also arguably the greatest athlete to ever play any professional sport. In a Nike commercial, Jordan said:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Change your attitude and you’ll become a confident foreign-language speaker

Is it easy? No, it’s not, but it gets easier with time. So the sooner you change your attitude, the sooner you will embrace the opportunity to speak a foreign language and start enjoying the process, including making mistakes and being embarrassed.

You’ll develop a habit of talking to people, and by doing that you’ll be putting your skills into practice. And through this, you will prove to yourself that what you are doing is bringing results, which in turn will give you the motivational kick to keep going in your journey.

A lot of theory, so let me show you how it works in practice. I’ve seen a pretty girl sitting at the pool, and I am going to take my chance, have a chat with her and invite her for coffee!

Wish me luck and enjoy making mistakes in your foreign language!

How to prepare yourself for your first conversation with a native speaker (after one month of learning)

So you have just started learning a new language, maybe a month ago or so. And you keep telling yourself, well, wouldn’t it be nice to have a chat with a native speaker of that language? This is why you are learning a language in the first place, aren’t you? When exactly will you be ready to do it? 

My name is Mateusz and I am one of the co-founders of Taalhammer, language learning that works. And I am in this exact situation right now! I have been studying Indonesian with Taalhammer for about one month. I have managed to learn ca. 1000 flashcards, which is ca. 250 different words.

Is it enough to hold a few minutes of real conversation?

In this blog I am going to tell you what you need to do to get yourself ready for this very first contact with a native speaker. I am going to tell you something about the mindset that you need to have, then I am going to demonstrate to you how you can use Taalhammer to prepare the phrases and vocabulary for that first contact. And then I am going to test myself by going to a flower shop in Indonesia and buying flowers in Indonesian for my apparently angry girlfriend.

What makes it impossible to have a natural conversation after one month of studying a language?

Let’s be clear about something. At this point, I do not know enough language to express my thoughts and to understand the speech of native speakers. One month is just not enough for your brain to develop that real sense of language. Unless, of course, you are a polyglot speaking multiple languages, and the new language is very similar to one you already know. Otherwise it is just impossible. Prove me wrong!

Indonesian has very little in common with the languages I know. OK, some words are similar to Dutch, some others to English, but this does not really help at the beginning. 

  • The vocabulary is really abstract – I cannot connect it to anything I know.
  • I confuse the very basic words like YOU (kamu) and ME (aku), and I keep saying BOAT (kepal) instead of WHEN (kepan).
  • The verbs are really confusing as they all seem to be the same, like USE (menggunakan) and SEARCH (menemukan). 
  • The word order is sometimes weird, like in 
  • And the pronunciation is very tricky sometimes – they just seem to swallow a lot of sounds.

All of that becomes really problematic when I try to speak to local people, like in the shop or the launderette. Sometimes I become so nervous that I just produce unintelligible language.

There are better days, of course, when I manage to actually formulate some questions. But then, when I receive the answers, I understand next to nothing. It is just one stream of sounds, and in most cases I am not able to determine when a word starts and when it ends.

Does this sound familiar to you? I bet I am not alone in this situation.

So how in this state can I have a conversation, which is defined as exchanging ideas between two people?

If you find courage, you can fake a conversation

There is one workaround that makes it possible, even if you are a complete beginner in a language. Fake it! Virtually trick the native speaker (and your own brain) into believing that you know the language well.

How is that even possible?

Of course it needs to be a relatively simple, so-called well-defined situation. Think in advance about the conversation, and script who is going to say what. Find out the words, phrases and sentences needed for that. Learn by heart what you are going to say and plan in your head all the possible scenarios. Then start the conversation and become an actor! Play your part well, be confident when reciting from memory, and when you hear the response of the native speaker, pretend with a poker face that you have understood it perfectly.

Is it easy? No, it is not easy at all!

It is going to be extremely uncomfortable, so you need a lot of courage to pull it off.

Have you seen the movie We Bought a Zoo? If not, go and see it – it is a really good movie. There is a beautiful quote there by Benjamin Mee, a character played by Matt Damon, who says:

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come out of it.

How I found courage to have my first conversation in German

Let me tell you a story to illustrate how this works out for language learning.

My first foreign language was German, and I vividly remember the very first time I went to Vienna in Austria. I was maybe 14 back then. It was December; there was a lot of snow and the city was beautifully decorated. I had been studying German for two months back then, so I really could not say anything useful. I was a shy teenage beginner.

One day I saw a Porsche on the street parked near where my aunt lived. A Porsche! Imagine a Porsche in the eyes of a 14-year-old child from post-communistic Poland. Life could not get any better. I loved that car so much that I became obsessed with the idea of meeting the owner and asking him questions about his car.

I prepared sentences in German like, “Was ist die Höchstgeschwindigkeit Ihres Wagens?” (What is the maximum speed of your car?) and “Wieviele Pferdestärke hat das Auto?” (What horsepower does the car have?). I then memorized the sentences and all possible numbers, so I would be able to understand the answers. 

And then one day, while going home, I saw a guy opening the door of that very Porsche … my heart started beating much faster … it was my moment … This was a now-or-never opportunity for my dream to come true.

I remember the overwhelming feeling of embarrassment, breathing in, biting my lip and approaching the guy. I asked the question. He understood me and answered something. And it didn’t even matter then that I did not understand a word of what he was saying. And then I asked the second. And he answered again.

I said “Danke schoen” (thank you), turned around, breathed out and smiled.

The whole conversation took maybe 20 seconds, but it felt like forever.

How 20 seconds of courage helped me become a better language learner

I must say, these 20 seconds of insane courage have probably not only shaped my love towards languages but made me believe that I can achieve whatever I want, so long as I put effort into it.

Directly after this, I went home and studied even more words related to cars, and more possible questions. 

Some 15 years later I graduated from a German university, writing my thesis and defending it in the German language.

Now, some 25 years later, I have co-produced a language learning app, Taalhammer, and I am in Bali learning my sixth language – Indonesian.

I am about to have my very first serious conversation with a shop assistant in a flower shop. But this time I am not only older and smarter, but I also have Taalhammer. So I am going to use it to prepare myself much better.

Now I will give a demo on exactly how I use Taalhammer in this way. Directly after that, you are going to witness me buying flowers. 

Wish me luck and enjoy language learning with Taalhammer – language learning that works!

How to start learning a new language from scratch with Taalhammer

If many learners fail in learning a language, will you fail too?

Have you ever wondered how to start learning a new language? Or was your experience that you were motivated to learn a new language, you started learning it, but then you gave up quickly because you did not know how or did not see results? Or even worse, did you feel like you were lacking some special language talent?

Well, let me tell you: you are not alone. Actually about 50% of language learners give up in their first four months. And what is even worse, 80% of the remaining ones never reach conversational fluency in their target language. Staggering, isn’t it?

The main reason why my language learning felt like a waste of time

My name is Mateusz and I am one of the co-founders of Taalhammer — language learning that works. I have been learning foreign languages for over 20 years, and apart from my native language Polish, I have managed to learn English, German, Dutch and Italian. All eventually with quite some success. But it took a lot of time and it was never easy for me. Every time I was learning a language it felt like I was wasting my time.

  1. the content (i.e. the ‘what’) I was learning was hardly relevant for what I was trying to say, as it covered topics that I was not interested in. The lessons were about going to a restaurant or talking about art. But I do not eat out! And I just don’t care about art — I have nothing to say about it.
  2. the methodology (i.e. the ‘how’) I was using was not really efficient. How difficult is matching a picture with a word, a moment after you have seen the translation of the word? How challenging is putting the words in a sentence in order? Not challenging at all …

In other words, I was learning the wrong things in the wrong way!

Why learning the wrong things (and in a wrong way) is a problem?

Let me tell you a short story to illustrate why this is a problem. A few years ago I was going on holiday to Mexico, and before going there I spent three months learning Spanish with Duolingo as preparation.

Then, while travelling in Mexico, I ended up in a minibus full of Mexicans going from Tulum to Playa del Carmen. And I really wanted to say something to someone, just for the human connection. But unfortunately the only thing that came to my mind was “Yo como pollo con arroz” ( “I eat chicken with rice”, a very typical Duolingo sentence).

I had never had a conversation in Spanish with anyone before, so the situation was really stressful for me. Under this circumstance, I really could not find anything else in my memory, except for the sentence mentioned above. And I did say it to the person next to me, greatly amusing not only him but all the passengers in the minibus. Quite entertaining, isn’t it? But also embarrassing — you have to admit it is not really what you would expect from learning a language for a few months.

What is different about Taalhammer compared to other language apps?

Taalhammer is the answer to all those frustrations that we go through using other tools or visiting language courses. In Taalhammer we focus on:

(1) a highly personalized curriculum — through interaction with our application you are building your own language course with things that you really need or want to speak about.

(2) development of native-like reflexes — through focusing on fundamentals of the language (i.e. question, negation, disagreement etc), so you react instinctively without searching through your memory or applying grammatical rules like in mathematical equations.

We achieve that by learning complete sentences (or variations of sentences) rather than words. This has a number of advantages.

First of all, your brain, while memorising, cuts the sentences into fragments, identifies patterns, optimises the memorised data and calculates statistics. This is exactly the same process that took place in our neurons when we acquired our native language. You will be able to speak grammatically without consciously knowing the grammatical rules behind it.

Secondly, learning words in context is not only more memorable, but also it is more useful to learn how words are actually used. Seeing the same word or grammatical item in different contexts will help you innately absorb how it should be used in other sentences as well.

Finally, this also makes sure that you always have something to say, which allows you to have conversations very early in your learning journey — which will in turn improve your motivation to keep going.

My story of how I decided to learn Indonesian with Taalhammer

Back to the current situation. A few weeks ago I decided to go to the island of Bali, in Indonesia. I had got really depressed by staying at home in Europe during the pandemic and I figured out I can work just as well remotely from a tropical island. After a few complications with my visa and five days’ quarantine in Jakarta, I finally arrived in Bali a few days ago. I like it here and hope I will spend several months here!

I have also decided to learn the Indonesian language. Why? Because I like learning foreign languages, and out of respect for the Indonesian people, but predominantly in order to be able to chat with ladies. Who knows, maybe I will find my second and better half here in Bali!

And of course I want to use Taalhammer for this purpose! It is a tool that I have been building with a friend of mine for the last few years of my life. The only problem was that Taalhammer did not support Indonesian out of the box. It supports Dutch, Italian, German and English, but not Indonesian. So something needed to be done.

Because of this, our team has created the first ever core collection for Indonesian for absolute beginners, as I do not speak any Indonesian right now. Two users from our community have already created collections for Indonesian, so I will also use them for support.

How exciting is the beginning of language learning?

The very beginning of learning a new language is the most exciting stage of the whole journey! It is like the first day of a new school, where you meet a new friend, or of a new job, where you meet your colleagues for the first time!

At the beginning, every new word or structure will contribute a lot to my progress. Think about it. I know one phrase in Indonesian, which is “teri makasi” meaning “thank you”. So if I learn 10 new phrases, this is 1000% more phrases! And then with every new structure, I am learning a new way of saying something. I am building my new self, a new person that is able to express thought in a new language.

Talking to people is the best way to put your skills into practice and feel like you’re making progress, which is going to be my motivation. I plan to spend ca. 2–2.5 hours each day — this is the amount of time you need to invest in order to truly learn a language. It is ca. 700–900 hours per year. This is a marathon and I will need very strong motivation to keep going!

Now I will give a very practical demo on how to take the first steps in learning a language using Taalhammer. This will be the absolute first minutes of my learning journey. I am actually excited!

Let’s start learning a new language with Taalhammer — language learning that works!

Czy da się szybko nauczyć angielskiego?

Kiedy byłem w ósmej klasie szkoły podstawowej, rodzice zapisali mnie na kurs angielskiego. To był już któryś z koli kurs. Tym razem zajęcia odbywały się w małych grupach, prowadzone przez młodą i sympatyczną nauczycielkę. Ja jednak zamiast chodzić na lekcje i uczyć się angielskiego, w każdy poniedziałek i środę wolałem chodzić na wagary do mojej przyjaciółki z klasy, w której byłem zauroczony po uszy.

Przez kilka miesięcy wychodziłem z domu na zajęcia ale na nie zazwyczaj nie docierałem. Nie chodziło nawet o to, że nie chciałem chodzić na kurs języka angielskiego. Już wtedy dobrze wiedziałem, że będzie to kluczowa umiejętność w moim życiu, która, jak się później okazało, pozwoli mi zarobić dużo pieniędzy i znaleźć się w conajmniej kilku bardzo ciekawych sytuacjach. Niestety moja znajoma mieszkała znacznie bliżej i co ważniejsze czas z nią spędzany był znacznie ciekawszy niż półtorej godziny spędzone w grupie na wałkowaniu czasów angielskich.

Moja droga do płynnego mówienia w języku angielskim była mocno wyboista. Nie tylko dlatego, że w kluczowym momencie mojej nauki angielskiego, język miał bardzo silną konkurencję w postaci mojej uroczej koleżanki. Było tam jeszcze coś. Ja po prostu czułem pod skórnie, że coś jest nie tak z w sposobie nauczania przyjętym przez nauczycielkę. Czułem po prostu, że się nie poruszamy wystarczająco szybko. Wizja mówienia faktycznie po angielsku była wtedy tak odległa, że kiedy przychodził czas zajęć, ja coraz częściej wybierałem dużo ciekawsze rzeczy.

Jak to się stało, że angielski w końcu stał się moim podstawowym narzędziem w pracy? Co było nie tak w sposobie nauczania, który jest powszechnie praktykowany po dziś dzień przez wielu nauczycieli i na wielu różnych kursach?

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What is the best way to learn a language? – real personal story with happy ending

In February 2016, I was having a lazy morning at the office. I was drinking a coffee, trying to focus after the weekend, when I received a phone call telling me that I had successfully passed the final stages of the recruitment process and my job application to eBay in Amsterdam had been accepted. I was thrilled and terrified – my heart was thumping! Till then I had happily lived my entire life in my hometown of Kielce, with short breaks here and there in Poland, but had never moved abroad as part of my professional career.

I knew I had to learn Dutch, fast. Although it was not a requirement for the job, I thought it was the best way to connect more with locals, to feel just a little less of a stranger and to be able to understand what was going on around me. I spoke pretty good English and French, but it had taken me years to get to that level, while my start date was next month. I desperately needed something better than the approach I had taken so far.

Bear with me

In the next six chapters you will discover the best way to learn a language based on my personal experience and numerous talks with other people who were facing the same problem that I was. We’ll go over modern techniques of language learning, such as spaced repetition, the language immersion method and comprehensible input, and we’ll try to understand when and why they work and how they complement each other.

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