How to Learn Any Language in a
Learn any language in 21 days or
by Frederic Patenaude
How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
About the Author
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude is the president and founder of Smiling Mango
Publications Inc. He has been working in the natural health movement for
over 8 years, and has over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition,
health and personal development. He is the author of several books and his
articles are read by tens of thousands of people every week, in various online newsletters.
Frederic also wrote and published the book The Raw Secrets: the Raw Food Diet in the
Real World, which is widely recognized as one of the best and most practical, down-to-earth
books on the subject.
He also created several recipe books, over a dozen courses and information products, and
hundreds of articles that have been published online and offline.
Other books & courses from or published by
Green For Life Program
How To Make A Living In The Natural Health Movement
Raw Health Starter Kit
Perfect Health Program
For a complete list, go to:
You can receive your free subscription to Fred’s outrageous health and
wellness tips, as well as Fred’s e-mail tips on making a living doing what you
love, by going to
You can subscribe to your language learning tips by going to:
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
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© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
From an interview Frederic Patenaude did with Barry Farber radio-show host and amateur linguist since
1944, and author of “How to Learn Any Language”
Why learning languages is the best hobby in the world?
There’s no other endeavor, there’s no other study or hobby where there’s as much
difference between knowing nothing and knowing a little.
If you’re interested in brain surgery, there’s very little difference between knowing
nothing and knowing a little. If you want to fly or even maintain inter-continental jet
aircrafts, there’s very little difference between knowing nothing and knowing a little.
But, in learning languages, if you learn one phrase — if you say to the cab driver who’s
from Haiti “Sa pasay papa?” — man, you’ll see the smile to the back of his head! In English
we have a phrase: “To melt the ice” — to get comfortable with somebody you just met.
In English, “melting the ice” takes all day. In foreign languages, one phrase of a foreign
language, one word sometime, can turn the ice into steam. So for interpersonal
connections, it can’t be beat.
For cultural reasons, academic reasons, travel, social life, professional advancement,
more business, it is just the all-purpose, ideal hobby.
Everybody has their own stories of how learning languages helped them. I have a family
because of it. I happened to like the looks of Scandinavian women, so I learned
Norwegian, Danish and Swedish. Then I met a Swedish woman, we married and had two
children, and a grandson.
I have a tremendous professional advantage, I was able to get exclusive interviews with
the likes of Ingrid Bergman, and leader of West Germany Willy Brandt, because of
languages. I was chosen to represent the students of America at the age of 21 in
communist Yugoslavia at a peace conference because I spoke, not Serbo-Croatian, but I
spoke Russian. I speak Serbo-Croatian now.
So everybody’s got his own private stories of “look what foreign languages did for me,”
but in addition to your own individual stories, there are sound, and solid things that can
be promised, if you devote yourself to learning foreign languages.
Barry Farber
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Hello, my name is Frederic Patenaude. Welcome to this program on how to learn any
language in a flash. This is actually the second, completely revised edition of this course.
The first edition consisted of only one Audio CD and a few reference booklet that I put
together in 2004, so almost three years ago.
In the years that followed the release of my first CD on learning languages, I’ve been
putting together some new material that I wanted to release in a new course, which
you’re reading right now.
With the method presented in this program, you can learn any language you can dream of
and make more progress, faster and more efficiently than you could ever imagine.
This is a very simple method that I’ve designed for myself that enabled me to learn 4
foreign languages in a relatively short period of time.
In this second edition, I have added more ideas and techniques to my language learning
method and, most of all, I’ve come up with more clarity on how anyone can learn any
language they want in just a few weeks, and attain a certain fluency in only a few
In this program, you will learn:
The 12 magic principles that you can follow to learn any language you want faster
and easier and with more fun than you thought possible
My list of “essential vocabulary” that allows you to understand and speak 75% of
daily conversation!
The number one mistake most people make when attempting to learn a foreign
The 7 steps to language learning that the Guinness Record, most amazing linguist
alive today used to learn 50 languages in less than 3 years.
The story of some of the most amazing polyglots of our time and the secrets behind
their “genius” with languages.
Why formal education doesn’t work.
The biggest mistakes people make when trying to learn a foreign language, and how
to avoid them.
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Why learning a foreign language enables you to speak your own language even
Ingenious tricks to remember vocabulary at least 10 times more efficiently.
What to do if you have to speak a language in a short period of time, like three
days or 5 days (I’m talking about an unexpected trip, or you’ve just fallen in love
and you don’t want the language barrier get in your way!)
How to “relax” yourself into easy learning so that it’s no longer a chore to study
but a pleasure.
How to use music to increase naturally your language ability... with more fun!
The checklist to follow to make sure you’re making constant progress
What to do if you have no time and little energy available? I give you my “Lazy
guide to effective language learning”
Where to find completely high-quality, free lessons in any language you’d like to
learn, without having to sit in front of your computer all day
How to reach the magic turnaround point that is needed to really progress when
learning a language.
The shortcut that allows you to get past the stage of the beginner level.
And much more.
So let’s get started, shall we?
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Why Foreign Languages?
I’ve always been fascinated by foreign cultures and foreign languages. That led me to
learn foreign languages and discover ways to learn them faster. If I were left alone with
nothing else to do or accomplish, I would probably learn more languages, just for fun. But
with a website to maintain, books to publish, orders to send out, and everything else that
I’m doing that keeps me busy, I do not have time to take classes and spend years learning
a language. That is why I have developed my own method that allows me to learn a
language very efficiently.
But first, let me tell you how I got into learning languages and why I spend time doing it.
To this day, I do not understand how many people are not totally excited about the idea
of learning foreign languages. Even when learning a foreign language becomes very
important in the life of a person — it may be due to business, love, or travel — many
people would rather eat dirty socks instead of spending a little time to learn the language
that they need. I have friends, for examples, who spend 6 months a year in a foreign
country and still can’t speak the language.
At some point, that used to be totally beyond my comprehension. But now I understand:
people don’t know how to learn a foreign language! It appears to them as complicated as
climbing Mount Everest, when in fact it’s the most natural thing in the world.
From my experience, learning foreign language is an activity with a very “high return on
investment,” metaphorically speaking. Here are some of the benefits I see in learning
foreign languages:
It makes you a real citizen of the world. You cannot understand a culture without
understanding its language. How could someone pretend to understand the French culture
even a little, if they don’t speak French? How could someone pretend to understand the
American culture even a little, if all they did was to travel in America with an interpreter.
They wouldn’t. And how can someone pretend to be a real “citizen of the world” if they
understand only one language — one culture?
It makes you understand your own language better. It’s true. To learn to speak and
write better French (my native language), I had to learn Spanish! By going through the
process of learning another language, you understand the structure of your own language
a lot better.
You’ll gain respect from foreigners. Let’s face it, as North Americans (or Canadians,
Germans, Danes, etc.), we are inevitably viewed as “gringos,” or whatever the term may
be in the local tongue, when we travel abroad. That is: unknowing, crude and rich white
barbarians from the North. If you learn the language of the country where you’re going to
— even if it’s just the basis — man, you’ll have doors open for you and see smiles you’ve
never seen before. When you go to a foreign country and don’t try to speak the language,
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
it’s like saying: “I don’t really care about you and your culture, I’m just coming over to
enjoy your natural resources with the easy money I make back home.” It doesn’t matter if
it’s true or not — that’s what they often perceive. If you learn their language, you’re
saying, “Hey, I’m interested in your culture, I have a tremendous respect for it.” And
what you’ll get in return is a fantastic value in understanding and human contacts.
“Unfair” Professional advantage. We no longer live in the same world as our parents did.
In today’s highly competitive professional of open market, the knowledge of foreign
languages is often essential. Here in Montreal, many companies now require that their
employees speak some Spanish. I’m sure it’s the same in the US. If you start learning
foreign languages, you’ll get an immediate asset that you can pull out in the right
Unexpected benefits. Everybody who learns foreign languages has their own stories about
how speaking another languages helped enrich their lives. It could be new friends, love,
and tons of little day-to-day benefits that you can’t even begin to imagine right now.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
My Experience Learning Languages
I was 15 when I first envisioned being polyglot. A polyglot is someone able to read, write,
or speak in many languages (generally three or more).
I had found in my basement a French method to learn Italian, piled amongst dusty books
my parents had gotten from a friend. I had already taught myself English using the timeproven “dictionary method,” that is: pick up a bunch of books and magazine and read
them with a dictionary until you gradually assimilate the language. But the idea of
learning a third language had never crossed my mind. So I picked up the book and started
reading. So that’s how I started learning Italian, with this little book and without the
accompanying tapes. I kept on doing the course for a few months. Eventually I forgot
about it.
A few years later, I took some Spanish course in college but didn’t really learn much.
When I lived in California, I realized that I had forgotten almost all of the Spanish I had
learned, and that I could not communicate to my neighbors, some of them who spoke no
English at all, in the city of San Diego. Then, in the spring of 2000. I met someone who
was learning Spanish and I realized: “Hey, I want to learn it too!”
This time, I decided to learn it differently. I learned it on my own, and using some
elements of what would become my personalized method for learning any language in a
flash. I didn’t have all the elements together, but with what I had I was able to unleash
that language-learning potential that lied dormant in me for so many years: I was starting
to understand Spanish! After about 4 months of study in my spare time, I read “The House
of the Spirits,” a 500 pages novel by Isabel Allende. I read it in Spanish of course!
A few months later I was speaking in this tongue, which not so long ago was still foreign to
me. At this point I knew I had something. In a few months my almost non-existent Spanish
became better than my dad’s English (who’s been trying to improve it for at least 20
Then I don’t remember how that happened but the thought crossed my mind: I could learn
German too. I was already in contact with many Germans in the alternative health field.
And I knew they had all these cool magazines that I could not read because they were in
German. Then again, I applied the few elements of my method How to Learn Any
Language in a Flash that I knew at the time.
Of course, learning German was a lot more difficult than learning Spanish, but after only a
few months I was able to read the first volume of Harry Potter in German — and defend
myself verbally in the language.
My next challenge would be Portuguese. I figured out that Portuguese was a major world
language with 160 millions speakers in Brazil alone. I started again to study it on my own.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
But this time something strange happened: I was learning a lot easier. My brain had
adjusted itself to the process of learning languages, and knew how to do it better. Just
like my Spanish teacher in college, who spoke four or five languages, had said: the
hardest language to learn is the second one, then it gets easier and easier. But Portuguese
was too easy: In two months I was speaking it.
About the same time, I did my own research on languages. I went to different libraries
and I kept reading about languages and linguistics. I was particularly interested in knowing
how polyglots — people who speak many languages — had managed to learn so many
languages. How can someone, for example, learn 25 languages? Or 50 languages? It is
during that time that I discovered the missing elements to my method.
I have studied several languages, but I didn’t make it my career. I study languages strictly
as a hobby, one among many hobbies that I have. So that’s one thing that makes my
method special: it works because I am a normal person living a busy life, and I still find a
way to learn foreign languages.
I’m not always studying a new language, but sometimes the urge gets me. After learning
Portuguese, I decided to learn Russian. I didn’t pursue it for long enough to be able to
speak it, but I could still get around in Russian with my basic Russian. Same for
Indonesian, that I studied a bit when I was traveling in Bali.
I’m currently learning Chinese, and decided that I want to be able to speak it fluently.
Using the method I’m going to teach you, I learned more Chinese in just 3 weeks than
most people learn after 6 months of classes. And I did all of that in my spare time.
If by any chance I would have to learn to speak any foreign language in a short period of
time, due to some kind of unexpected circumstance, I have the very enjoyable feeling
that I have all the tools to learn any language in a flash.
Let’s dive into the method, so that you can do the same. First, let’s talk about what you’ll
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
What you need to learn a language
There’s a few things that you need in order to make the method I present in this program
Time — In spite of what you think, you probably have enough time to learn to speak a new
language in the next few months.
The method I’m proposing can take as little as 15 minutes of actual “sitting down” time
everyday, depending how far you want to go with it and how fast you want to progress.
Books, Audio Programs & Resources — Because this method works for ALL languages, you
will still need to get some resources for learning the language of your choice. I’m talking
about dictionaries, audio programs, and grammar books. I’ll give you the resources to find
those. You can also borrow many books and even audio programs at your public library. Go
through this program and you’ll understand exactly what’s required and what’s not.
But the most important thing you’ll need to successfully learn a language effectively is
a strong motivation.
One of the reasons why I decided to really apply myself at the study of English in my
teenage years was because I was playing a game called “Dungeons & Dragons”, and
quickly realized that most of the material had not yet been translated into English. So I
decided to really improve my English in order to be able to get these books in their
original version.
It was not the prospect of having a better career that motivated me at the age of 13. It
was simply being able to do more of something that I loved: play the Dungeons & Dragons
You might think that of course, that’s how kids think. Well I haven’t found much of a
difference in grown-ups.
My theory is that learning because you “have to” will never be as effective as learning
because you “want to.”
In other words, you have to really be excited at the idea of learning a foreign language.
When I first learned Spanish and German, I tried to imagine how my life would be
speaking those languages. I imagined being able to understand movies in the original
language, of traveling to Germany and speaking to everyone... and who knows, maybe get
even a German girlfriend?
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
That’s how my thinking process was. There wasn’t much rational in it because I certainly
did not need to learn those languages. Now looking back, I realize how invaluable they
have been in my life. But that’s something I could not foresee.
Last year, I spent over 9 months in Costa Rica, working there on a project. Without my
knowledge of Spanish, it would have been very difficult to survive in that country.
At the same time, I was working with a lot of German people. I ended up speaking German
more often than Spanish! One of my contractors in fact spoke only German, so I was able
to communicate more easily with him and the rest of my crew working on the project.
Chances are that if you learn one of the major world languages (French, Spanish,
Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, German, etc.) it will be of a great advantage in your life.
But knowing that is often not enough to motivate you.
Instead, focus on the personal joy it will bring you.
So this is the part where I’ll ask you to write some thing down and do a little exercise. I
know, I know, this is usually where you skip to the next part when you read a book. Well
since this is the only written exercise in this entire program, I want you to really take a
moment to do it.
I want you to take a piece of paper and write down all of your reasons for learning
the language of your choice. If you don’t know yet what that language is going to be,
just put “learning a foreign language” and you can decide later.
I want you to come up with at least 20 items.
From little things to big things.
But make sure each and every one of them excites you! If career advancement
doesn’t excite you, but an egotistical feeling of superiority does, then put that
So take a moment to complete the exercise, and come back to this program.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
I’ve always been fascinated by people who could speak many languages. When I first got
started learning languages, I could not even imagine what it would feel like to be able to
speak in 5 different languages!
Now that I do speak 5 languages, I’m still fascinated by those who speak more than 5
Over the years, I’ve met a few people who have learned more than 6 or 7 languages.
What struck me is that these people always used a very specific method for learning
languages! None of them used the traditional methods and all of them were very aware of
what they were doing to learn these languages.
Let me tell you about these fascinating polyglots and the methods that they have used.
From their accounts, we’ll be able to understand a lot of basic principles for language
Barry Farber: Amazing American Polyglot
Barry Farber is an American journalist, radio show host and writer. He’s over 70 years old
and is the author of the book “How to Learn Any Language.”
Barry Farber has a very interesting “love story” with learning languages. He started when
he was very young and has never stopped with his passion for languages. Is that the secret
to his amazingly smart brain?
Barry can speak over 25 different languages. Some of them fluently, some of them
fragmentally. And he’s addicted to constantly learning more!
A few years ago, I managed to get a hold of Barry Farber on the phone for an interview.
He was very generous with his time and talking to him was very fascinating and exciting.
You’ve already an excerpt of this interview in the foreword for this program. Here’s the
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Interview With Barry Farber
Frederic: How many languages can you speak?
Barry: At the language club we always advise for those who come that it’s dangerous to
answer that question with a digit higher than one. To answer that question, we say
instead, “I speak one language, my own.”
Then you pause respectfully, and then you may say, “However, I’m a student of...” and
say how many languages as you please.
Myself, I’m a student of about 26 languages. But that’s much different than saying, “I
speak 26 languages.” I divide them into 2 categories.
There are some languages I date, and some I marry. What’s the difference? When you
marry a language, you learn the grammar, you learn the reading, writing, comprehension,
the “works.”
When you simply “date” a language, you learn between 50 and 500 phrases, but you don’t
go into the grammar or the orthography, the alphabet of languages like Bengali or Hindi,
you just have fun with the phrases. So that’s a long answer to your question, but it’s a
complete answer.
And if someone asks you the same question, but not at the language club, would you
answer the same?
Sure. When somebody says, how many languages do you speak? I give them exactly the
answer I gave you. I don’t claim any language except English. I have varrying degrees of
fluency in other languages. But it’s not like a professional translator who has to give a
answer, “I can work in these 5 languages,” that kind of thing.
Frederic: Do you find it very uncommon for American to have this interest in foreign
Oh yes. That’s one reason we started the language club, to try to get more interest among
Americans, because there is close to zero interest in foreign languages in America,
because we’re a big country, everybody speaks English, and in Canada, the predominant
language is English. And English is the defacto international language of the world.
Frederic: How did you get into learning languages?
Very simply: I always loved the idea. And I was very excited when I went into Latin in the
9th grade at the age of 15 — it was the only foreign language offered in the 9th grade.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
And I was there, wildly excited. And the first day of class it was nothing but vocabulary
words. And I was a wiz, I gobbled all that up. And the second day, third day, I was the
top. But then I was absent the fourth day.
And the fourth day they turned their backs on words and started studying grammar. Noun
declension: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative. I got back the fifth day and I didn’t
know what they were talking about! And I didn’t care.
I was disappointed. I thought that this was some kind of mathematics. And it didn’t sound
exciting, and I thought it would blow over and we’d get back to words. I was what they
called “linguistically naive.” I thought, we have a word, if we learn their word for our
word, then that’s how you learn the language. Wrong.
There’s such a thing as grammar. And there’s such things as idioms. Well, I thought they
were going to give up that nominative-accusative, and 1st personal singular (amo, ama)...
I thought it was some exercise the school board insisted on, just to make it nice and dull,
they way they liked it.
And it got worse, and worse, and worse! And I got worse, and worse, and worse... I
managed to get by with what they called “D” which is one step above failing. The only
reason I didn’t fail is because I always did excellently on the vocabulary part of the test.
And with enough correct guesses, I managed to pass. Barely.
So at the end of the year, they explained to me that I didn’t do well enough in Latin to
take it for a second year. And you needed two years of successful Latin before you could
take either of the two other languages they offered, which were Spanish and French.
Well that summer, I went to a bookstore in my hometown of Greensborough, North
Carolina, and there was a book called “Hugo’s Italian Simplified.” And I opened it and
couldn’t believe my eyes. Italian was Latin with all the difficulty removed. Like you filet
the bones out of a fish, Italian was Latin with the grammar fileted right out of it.
There were no noun cases in Italian! And I went through that course like a hot knife
through butter. And then I picked up a Spanish book and did the same, and a French book
and did the same.
And then I went to the language teacher — there was one teacher who taught Spanish and
French — and I said, “Look, miss ??, I’m not supposed to be able to take a language, but
I’m very interested. I did poorly in Latin, I never got the grammar, but I’ve been studying
Spanish and French. Will you give me a test and if you like my work, will you go to the
principal and ask if he will make an exception and let me take a language, even though I
did poorly in Latin.
Well, she shouldn’t have done it because it was against the rules, but nobody else had
ever done anything like that. I was the only one who showed real interest. Foreign
language study was wildly hated! (Then you can understand why Americans are wildly
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
ignorant of foreign languages). Well, she tested me and I was very very good. She said,
“Ok Barry, do you want to take Spanish or French?” And I said “Miss Mitchel, let me take
them both!” So from being in a position where I wasn’t even supposed to be allowed to
take a second year of Latin because of poor grades, she let me take Spanish and French.
That’s how it all started.
Frederic: And since then?
I branched out. When I entered the army in 1952, at the age of 22, I took tests in 14
different languages. Now I didn’t make top grades in all categories (reading, writing, etc.)
in all languages, but I did easily well enough to be graded an interpreter, and I spent the
Korean war translating Russian.
It was just a very exciting thing. And I thought everybody was interested in foreign
languages. It took me a long time to realize that nobody is interested in foreign
languages! It was just a unique thing that happened to hit me. Like music hit Mozart or
chess hit Kasparov, languages hit me.
Frederic: With that you could have been a secret agent?
No, because I don’t speak any other language well enough to pass for a native. Sometimes
I can pass casually, like Norwegian or Serbo-Croatian, Dutch, I sometimes meet natives
who say, “How long have you been here?” Which is a big compliment, you know, they
think that I was born there, and maybe lost the language a little bit, but they think that I
speak it much better than I do. You couldn’t sustain that. I was working with foreign
languages in the army, but not as a secret agent...
By a secret agent, you would mean someone who goes to a foreign country pretending he
is a German, or pretending he is a Russian. That takes a complete native knowledge of the
language. You never get there.
As a matter of fact, there’s a big argument in America now, about training linguists in
Arabic. I don’t think they realize all they can expect is to be able to train intelligent
Americans to translate documents from Arabic. That’s the best you can expect.
You can’t get them to infiltrate terrorist groups. The only way to do that is to get natives,
and instead of spending the money on instruction, spend the money on security and
making sure they’re really our friends. It’s awfully hard to train a person, even an
intelligent person, to achieve native fluency in a language. That’s almost an
insurmountable goal.
Frederic: But what is fluency then? How would you define complete fluency in a
Barry: The ability over an extended period of time to leave no doubt in the mind of a
native that you are a native too.
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Frederic: And if an American says, “I’m fluent in French,” what would that mean?
Barry: Look, I’m fluent in Norwegian, but that would not suggest that I could convince
Norwegians that I am a Norwegian. There’s a big gap between being fluent in a language,
saying everything you want to say, understanding everything you hear — and passing
yourself off as a native convincingly.
Frederic: So you didn’t become a secret agent, but you became a journalist?
Barry: That’s right. Sure, an American journalist. There languages were very helpful.
Frederic: So how did it help you with your work?
Barry: Oh my Lord, let me count the ways. During the Hungarian revolution, there was a
secret operation: volunteer young people from about 17 countries went to Austrian border
town of Handal, and by night they would go out to a certain point on the border canal,
and guides who charged money to the Hungarians would bring groups of Hungarian
refugees to the Hungarian side of the canal, and our people get in rubber rafts, and go
across, and bring them over.
And when I went to get connected with the group, I wanted to go out to the border with
them, I was told to go to room number 19 in a certain inn in Handal. And I went and I
knocked on the door, and I opened it, and I said “I’m an American journalist” and he
didn’t even let me finish my sentence.
He said, “Get the hell out of here, one of you bastards was here the other night, popped
off a flash bulb, showed the communists exactly where we were, so we don’t have any
need for a journalist from America. And I noticed there was a Norwegian flag on his wall,
so I started speaking Norwegian to him, and he turned around immediately and said,
“Look, you can’t go in those shoes.”
There’s some boots on the other side of the bed, see if they fit you. You’re coming with
us.” So that was a dramatic example.
I got an exclusive interview with actress Ingrid Bergman, because I spoke Swedish. I was
the only journalist to get an interview with Willie Brandt, the head of west Germany, not
because I spoke German, but because I spoke Norwegian and know that he spoke
Norwegian at home. You know, Willie Brandt fled Nazi Germany to Norway and was in
Norway when the Germans invaded Norway and he worked with the Norwegians
underground and married a Norwegian woman.
He spoke Norwegian at home, not German! And the fact that I knew that and could speak
Norwegian won him over. And of course language gave me a wife, bilingual children, so
it’s just been a wonderful, wonderful force for me.
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Frederic: What would be in your opinion the most useful foreign languages?
Barry: It depends. I told you, I was interested in meeting somebody who looked like Miss
Sweden! So therefore, Swahili would not have done me much good. Chinese would not
have done me much good. It depends what your purpose is!
There is a normal answer to your question, though. Don’t forget that people will judge
you by your French. And in spite of the fact that there are more Spanish speakers than
French speakers, French has much more prestige, much more power as a language, so I’d
recommend French first, for that reason. Then I would turn your attention to...
See, at our language club, everybody is interested in the languages that were prominent
50 years ago. French, Spanish, German, Italian: those are still considered the “normal”
Well I would keep French, as I just explained, but I would direct your interest if I could to
the “new” important languages: Chinese Mandarin, even Chinese Cantonese, Arabic,
Russian, even Korean.
And if you want to surprise, Portuguese is extremely influential around the world. You got
Portugal, you got the biggest country in the entire Western Hemisphere — Brazil — and
Portugal had colonies. You can find Chinese who speak Portuguese in Southern China
because of Macau. You can find people in India who speak Portuguese because they had a
colony there called Goa. In East Timor, Indonesia, they speak Portuguese. In Angola and
Mozambique, they speak Portuguese. People know to expect a lot of Spanish but some
people are surprised by the breadth and influence of Portuguese.
Could you tell me a little more about your interest for Scandinavia and the
Scandinavian languages.
I saw a movie with Ingrid Bergman and I went to the bookstore next door and bought.... I
couldn’t afford the book in Swedish so I bought the book in Norwegian, which cost a dollar
less. And eventually I met and interviewed Ingrid Bergman on my radio show and told her
the story. She got a big kick out of it. So that was my interest: tall, blue-eyed, blond!
That was my interest. So I studied the appropriate languages to further my cause, and it
worked. And then I worked onboard Norwegian ships, I got a scholarship to the university
of Oslo, Norway, between my softmore year and junior year in college, and worked my
way back accross the ocean from Norway to Cuba. And I’ve been back to Norway and
Scandinavia many times since then. It’s like my adopted homeland.
Frederic: What is your opinion of Esperanto (the “international” language)?
I have a very low opinion of any artificial language. You don’t ordain an artificial language
any more than you save fuel by voting that room temperature is going to be 32 degrees
Celcius — by voting that 0 degree Celcius is going to be room temperature.
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That doesn’t work. Languages become international because of military, economic and
cultural power. And that’s why English is the number one language in the world today.
English is the language of air. When a Russian plane lands in China, the grounds speaks to
the air, the air speaks to the ground in English.
When the Isralean and the Egypcian general met in the 1973 to make peace, they didn’t
conduct their discussion in Arabic and they didn’t do it in Hebrew! They did it in English.
When the Norwegian whaling ship ducks at Capetown to hire a Zulu crew for the whaling
season in Antartica, the interviews over the cardtable there are not done in Norwegian
and they are not done Zulu. They’re done in English. So we don’t need an Esperanto.
By the way, Esperanto was an artificial melange of the languages that were important
when doctor Zamenhof invented it over 100 years ago. There’s not a word of arabic,
there’s not a word of Russian, you understand? Even within itself, it is archaic. Why go to
an artificial language when you have a living language which has made itself the
international language?
Frederic: There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about learning languages that
people have. Would you address that?
I teach my students only what worked for me. Since 1944 I’ve tried a lot of things. I only
write about and teach the techniques that have worked. I would say that rotation and
repetition are extremely important. In other words, you don’t just sit there, and I think I
mentioned the phrase to you last time when I was studying Tagalog. The first time I saw
that phrase “Please to Meet you” — “Ikinagagalak kong makilala kayo,” I said I’ll never
learn that!
But now it’s like my middle name. But I didn’t sit down and put my hands over my ears
and say it a hundred times or a thousand times. You continue to go back to it and take a
different wack at it.
Let your brain register the impression many times. Relax. That’s one secret: relax. Rotate
among the elements of the language you’re studying, or among the languages you’re
studying. If you forget something, you’ll meet it again later on. Keep on rotating and keep
on repeating.
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Heinrich Schliemann
The second polyglot I’d like to introduce to you is Heinrich Schliemann, a German and a
fascinating character, who lived from 1822 to 1890.
Schliemann’s life quest was to discover Troy, the legendary site of Homer’s work, which
at the time scholars believed to be a fictional place. In 1873 Schlieman and his team dug
out the remains of Troy. He uncovered a paved road, fortifications, several buildings and
many other treasures.
Most people will remember Schliemann for his audacity and breakthrough
discoveries. But what has most fascinated me about him was actually his ability as
a polyglot. He spoke several languages, including: English, French, Dutch, Spanish,
Portuguese, Swedish, Italian, Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic and Turkish — and of course his
native language, German.
But the most fascinating thing is how Schliemann learned most of these languages an
extremely short period of time, less than 2 years!
In fact, I got a hold of a copy of his out of print auto-biography where he actually
describes how he learned these languages. Please pay attention to the following
excerpt as it will give us some important clues that we’ll use later when designing
our method of fast language learning. I’ve highlighted some passages of interest.
“... in order to improve my position, I went on to the study of
modern languages.
“I applied myself with extraordinary diligence to the study of
English. Necessity showed me a method which greatly facilitates
the study of a language. This method consists in reading a
great deal aloud, without making a translation; devoting one
hour everyday to writing essays upon subjects that interests
one, correcting them under a teacher’s supervision, learning
them by heart, and repeating in the next lesson what was
corrected on the previous day. My memory was bad, since from my
childhood it had not been exercised upon any object; but I made
use of every moment, and even stole time for study. I never
went on my errands, even in the rain, without having my book in
my hand and learning something by heart; and I never waited at
the post-office without reading.
By such means I gradually strengthened my memory, and in half a
year I had succeeded in acquiring a thorough knowledge of the
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English language. I then applied the same method to the study
of French, the difficulties of which I overcame likewise in
another six months. These persevering and excessive studies had
in the course of one year strengthened my memory to such a
degree that the study of Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
appeared very easy, and did not take me more than six weeks to
write each of these languages and speak them fluently. But my
passion for study caused me to neglect my mechanical occupation
in the office, especially when I began to consider it beneath
me. My principals would give me no promotion; they probably
thought that a person who shows his incapacity for the business
of a servant in an office is therefore quite worthless for any
higher duties.
“At last, through the intercession of my worthy friends, L.
Stoll of Mannheim and Ballauf of Bremen, I had the good fortune
to obtain a situation as a correspondent and book-keeper in the
office of Messrs. B. H. Schröder and Co. in Amsterdam, who
engaged me at a salary of 1200 francs; but when they saw my
zeal, they paid me 2000 francs as an encouragement. This
generosity, for which I shall ever be grateful to them, was in
fact the foundation of my prosperity; for, for, as I thought
that I could make myself still more useful by a knowledge of
Russian, I set to work to learn that language also. But the
only Russian books that I could procure were an old grammar, a
lexicon, and a bad translation of Telemachus. In spite of all
my inquiries I could not find a teacher of Russian, for no one
in Amsterdam understood a word of the language; so I betook
myself to study without a master, and, with the help of the
grammar, I learnt the Russian letters and their pronunciation
in a few days. Then, following my old method, I began to write
short stories of my own composition and to learn them off by
heart. As I had no one to correct my work, it was, no doubt,
very bad indeed, but I tried at the same time to correct my
faults by the practical exercise of learning Telemachus by
heart. It occurred to me that I should make more progress if I
had someone to whom I could relate the adventures of
Telemachus; so I hired a poor Jew for 4 francs a week, who had
to come every evening for two hours to listen to my Russian
recitations; of which he did not understand a syllable.
As the ceilings of the rooms in Holland consist of single
boards, people on the ground-floor can hear what is said in the
third storey. Mi recitations therefore, delivered in a loud
voice, annoyed the other tenants, who complained to the
landlord, and twice during my study of the Russian language I
was forced to change my lodgings. But these inconveniences did
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not diminish my zeal, and
first Russian letter to a
converse fluently in this
who had come to Amsterdam
in the course of six weeks I wrote my
Russian in London, and I was able to
language with the Russian merchants
for the indigo auctions.
After I had concluded my study of the Russian language, I began
to occupy myself seriously with the literatures of the
languages which I had learnt.
In the beginning of the year 1846, my worthy principals sent me
as their agent to St. Petersburg, where a year later I
established a mercantile house on my own account; but during
the first eight or nine years that I spent in Russia, I was so
overwhelmed with work that I could not continue my linguistic
studies, and it was not till the year 1854 that I found it
possible to acquire the Swedish and Polish languages.”
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Ziad Fazah
The last polyglot I’d like to introduce to you is someone who definitely falls outside of the
“normal” side of life.
It’s a living man with an incredible memory who claims to speak more than 58 different
Here’s a fascinating article from SF Chronicle sometime in the early '90s, and that I found
on the Internet.
World's Greatest Living Polyglot:
Brazilian makes his point in a mere 56 languages
Rio de Janeiro
When police in Rio picked up an illegal alien babbling in an
apparently unintelligible tongue they turned to Ziad Fazah,
reckoned to be the world's greatest linguist. "I soon realized
he was from Afghanistan and spoke a dialect called Hazaras,"
the 40 year-old Lebanese immigrant said. Through Fazah's help,
the man was able to explain how he had been tortured by the
Russians and was able to get asylum here. Fazah, who has been
living in Brazil for 21 years, is fluent in 56 languages,
winning him a mention in the Brazilian edition of the "Guinness
World Book of Records" as the world's greatest living polyglot.
Fazah said his work is much in demand with Rio police. Recently
he was called to interpret for another illegal alien who came
from Eritrea, in northern Ethiopia. The man, who spoke a
dialect known as Tucurum, was eventually deported.
"Unfortunately the police couldn't pay me," Fazah said in
flawless English. "But they said that if I ever have any
problems I could call on them any time"
Fazah was born in Liberia but while still an infant moved with
his Lebanese parents to Beirut. "By the time I was 17, I spoke
54 languages," Fazah said during an interview at his small,
dark apartment in the middle-class neighborhood of Flamengo.
Aside from his mother tongue of Arabic, and French and English
which he learned at school, Fazah taught himself all the
languages. He began with German and moved on to such Far
Eastern tongues as Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and Japanese.
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At the age of 17 the Lebanese government called on him to
interpret for a visiting delegation from Turkey. "When I began
learning Chinese I went to the consulate of Formosa but they
told me I couldn't learn it by myself," said Fazah. Determined,
he bought a grammar book and a dictionary. "Two months later I
went back to the consulate and they were so amazed they offered
me a trip to Taipei. But I was in school at the time and could
not go."
Despite his language skills Fazah has traveled very little
outside of Lebanon and Brazil. At the age of 18, after
graduating from the American University in Beirut with a degree
in philology, Fazah moved with his parents to Brazil. His
father had been living in Colombia and his mother, fearing
civil war would break out, advised her husband not to come
home. Instead, she joined her husband in Brazil. Fazah, who is
married to a Brazilian and has one son, began working as a
tutor in Rio de Janeiro, giving private lessons in Swedish,
Danish, German and French.
Two years ago Fazah came to international attention when he had
his abilities tested on a televised program in Spain. "They
brought in people from Mongolia, Cambodia, Vietnam and
Thailand," said Fazah, whose business cards proclaim the fact
that he "reads, writes and speaks 54 languages fluently."
(Since printing the cards he has picked up two more languages.)
He also participated in a program in Greece, where he was
tested in Hungarian, Czech, Korean, Chinese and Japanese.
While in Spain, Fazah said he was contacted by an Israeli
official. "They asked me if I was interested in working for the
Israeli government but I feared what the Palestinians would do
to me," said Fazah, who is Greek Orthodox. In the early 1970s
Fazah also had a run-in with officials from the U.S. consulate,
who were suspicious of his abilities to speak Chinese and
Russian. "They feared I was a terrorist and asked Brazilian
police to bring me in for questioning but after two hours I was
let go."
Fazah is still learning new languages. The latest one he picked
up was Papiamento, a Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish mixture
spoken in the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curaçao. Fazah,
who can learn 3,000 words in two to three months, said Mandarin
was the hardest language to learn because of the vast number of
idiograms. Fazah claimed that in seven years he can learn the
rest of the world's estimated 3,000 dialects. But his dream is
to create a universal language that would be written as it is
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spoken. He would also like to work as a U.N. translator. "I
feel a person with my skills is wasting his time in Brazil," he
I’ve also been able to find Ziah’s personal method for learning languages. He suggests
these 7 steps for learning a language:
Reading aloud: read and repeat phrases many times aloud.
Visualization: read visualizing each phase in 2 minutes.
Memorization: review each dialog or grammatical rule silently
until you’ve memorized it as a whole.
Auto-Verification (Arguição): Cover with the hand the words,
remember the meaning and verify with the translation.
Practice Your Part: Simulate a dialogue and repeat aloud.
Respond and verify: Respond to exercises in books
Improvement: review exercises and studies.
Now I must say that we’re dealing here with a person of extreme skills and exceptional
memory. I cannot do the same, and chances are that you can’t.
But you can still learn the languages you wish to learn in a short period of time! That’s
what the rest of this program is about. I’m not a genius like Ziah. But I’ve been able to
speak fluently more than 5 languages. So you can certainly learn the foreign language of
your choice.
But you’ll find a lot of value in Ziah’s method. I have included many of his principles in my
own language learning time. You’ll find these principles in the pages that follow.
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Fundamental Concepts
The first thing to understand is that the way most people try to learn a language doesn’t
work. I’m referring here to the traditional methods of school textbooks and rote learning.
How is it that so many of my American friends took French in high school for 5 years and
still can’t order an orange juice in Paris? In that timeframe, studying a few hours a week,
you should be able to speak at least 3 or 4 different languages.
Here are some of the biggest flaws of traditional language learning.
Isolated Learning Time
Probably the biggest mistake that the school system makes is to offer students the
following structure: Take a 2 hour class once a week and do some homework in between.
The problem with this system is by the time you get to the next class, you’ve already
forgotten 90% of what you’ve learned the week before. It would be a lot better to spread
these two or three hours evenly every day throughout the week.
When it comes to language learning, consistency and regularity is very important. It’s
better to take 15 minutes every day to study and practice rather than a 5-hour block once
a week.
Focus on Grammar
The second major problem with standard language learning is that they teach grammar
way too early in the process. That’s not how a language is learned naturally. The most
important thing to focus on at first is vocabulary. It’s a natural process. The first things
we need in order to express ourselves in a foreign language are words. The proper
structure and grammar can come later.
Well, I won’t spend too much time looking at all the different problems with these
standard, class-room learning methods, because almost everything they do is wrong!
Among them are: the useless and boring exercise books that come with those courses, the
lack of motivation due to the academic environment, and the lack of support on how to
keep the language learning going in daily life.
I took English in high school for years and I still could not speak it. Then I decided to take
the project in my own hands and learn it myself – with great success! I took Spanish in
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college and I still could not speak it, that is, until I devoted just 5 months to it on my
own. Now I can speak it fluently.
I have a friend who took 5 years of German, up to the advanced university level, and still
can’t speak it properly or understand a newspaper article!
Now I must say that I’m not totally against taking some class-room education. It can be
very useful, especially when it comes time to learning the grammar properly. But it
shouldn’t be your main focus at first. Later in this program I will explain how to hire a
private tutor to get the most out of your formal language learning experience.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Myths and Lies about Learning Languages
There are many misconceptions, myths, urban legends and plain old lies about learning
languages, most of which are spread by people who have no experience learning
I’d like to cover them briefly as you must get those out of your head before I can teach
you the method that I use.
MYTH #1: A child can learn faster than an adult.
Probably the number one myth about learning languages out there is this idea that a child
can somehow learn faster than an adult. That is absolutely not true. If we’re talking about
being able to express yourself in complex topics in a foreign language, an adult using her
intelligence can learn a language must faster than a child.
It’s true that an adult learning a foreign language will never be able to imitate a native
accent with 100% accuracy. But they can still learn much faster than a child when the
proper techniques are applied.
Children learn languages because they are “forced” to. For them, it’s a question of
survival. They also practice constantly, day in, day out.
Adults have an advantage over children when it comes to learning languages. First, they
already master one language. And second, they have more knowledge and reference
points that they can use to their advantage.
Bottom line is, when learning a language as an adult, you have to use a different system
than when learning it as a child. And with the right system and techniques, you can
certainly learn it faster than a child, though children will be able to imitate native
accents with great ease while you probably won’t be able to.
MYTH #2 — Just watch some TV and movies and you’ll learn it automatically.
Another common myth is that you can just learn a language by engaging in “passive”
learning such as watching TV and listening to the radio in the foreign language.
That simply doesn’t work. What works is “active” learning, which means anything that
requires you to do some work. You can watch some foreign movies, sure, but it’s not
going to do you any good until you have a very strong base of vocabulary. At that time,
you should still be “active” in your learning and writing down any new words, checking
them in the dictionary and improving your vocabulary that way.
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If you’re starting from scratch, you can sit in front of the television for 10,000 hours and
watch Russian television and your grasp of the Russian language at the end would be
mediocre at best.
MYTH #3 — Immerse yourself in the language right away by going to the
country and you’ll learn naturally.
Past the age of 11, we loose our ability to learn languages “naturally”. Thus, it is
absolutely worthless to try to immerse yourself in the language right away by watching
foreign movies, going to the country immediately or just trying to “pick it up.” You have
to learn a language as an adult with the mind of an adult.
Being in the right environment does NOT guarantee that you will learn the language. It
just makes it easier to practice once you have something to work with. But just being
there and trying to “pick it up” naturally won’t work.
When I was living in Costa Rica, I knew plenty of expat Americans who had lived there for
several years and still could not speak half-decent Spanish!
So again it comes to active learning versus passive learning. You have to work on the
language. The language will not come to you naturally, even if you are in the right
MYTH #4: You need to have a “gift” for languages.
Is it true that some people are “gifted” with languages? From my research, I’ve not been
able to prove that. My findings suggest that people who have learned several foreign
languages generally are:
Passionate. They genuinely want to learn a language because they know all the
benefits it will bring them. Polyglots are always passionate about languages and
foreign cultures in general.
Hard Working. Apart from people who grew up in multi-cultural families, I have not
met any polyglot (someone speaking 3 or more languages) who did not put in some
real efforts towards learning the language.
Sure, languages do come more naturally to some people than others. But anyone who
applies the principles taught in this program will be able to learn the language of their
choice, regardless of the presence or absence of any “natural talent”.
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MYTH #5: You should not try to memorize anything.
Some language methods teach you how to learn without “memorizing anything”, “just like
a child would.” We’ve already seen that children learn differently than adults.
So you can pretty much trash the idea of learning “naturally” and of “letting the language
come to you.” Instead, you have to be aggressive in your approach and use any possible
technique that will help you memorize the vocabulary.
Actually, memorizing is very important. It will save you time and efforts. There are ways
to memorize vocabulary that will be much more effective than the rote method. More on
this later.
MYTH #6: You shouldn’t try to translate anything
A similar idea has been spread that using a bi-lingual dictionary is somehow a bad thing
when learning a foreign language. The idea is that you should not try to translate from
one language to another, but rather learn to “think” in the foreign language as soon as
possible, by reading the definitions of words in the foreign language.
In my experience, this approach does not work. At first, your goal is to master the
vocabulary. Since you already master one language (your own), it will be much faster to
learn to translate from the foreign language to your own.
Any word is related to a concept. If you can picture the concept with an image, the job
will be accomplished, and you will understand the foreign words. For example, if I show
you a picture of a “tree” when learning the word “arbol” in Spanish, you will understand
what it means.
But most words are more complicated than that. It is much easier and faster to
understand them by looking up the equivalent word in your own language.
A bi-lingual dictionary will be a useful tool. When your vocabulary gets good, you can start
to understand definitions of words in the foreign language itself, but first you have to
build solid foundations, and translation helps you to do that faster.
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Beware of “Know-It-Alls”!
Beware. When you set out to learn a foreign language, People who don’t know anything
about it will try to scare you and discourage you from your endeavor.
I once met a Dutchman in France who had studied some German. He told me that the
declensions in the German language were almost impossible to master for a foreigner, and
that you had to be German to be able to use them correctly. After two years of learning
German, I was able to use the noun cases properly when speaking German, and I realized
it was not a big deal at all.
I also met all sorts of people who told me that “Portuguese is a very complicated
language” or that this language was more difficult than that language, or that a certain
language was “almost impossible to learn.”
Did any of these people have any real experience? Absolutely not.
Another American who was learning German in Germany told me that it was almost
impossible to learn to speak German with a near-native accuracy as a foreigner, because
of some impossible to grasp nuances in the German language.
At the time I was intimidated by such statements. But now I know they are simply not
true. German declension are easy! And yes, you can learn to speak like a native, albeit
with an accent, if you are willing to work hard enough for it, and spend enough time in
German-speaking countries.
Beware of such language “urban legends.” You will hear a lot of them around. Some will
tell you that the language you are trying to learn has some insurmountable obstacles, or
that it’s plainly impossible to learn.
Challenge any assumption, and don’t believe the “know-it-alls” when you learn a foreign
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Three Blocks When You Are Learning a Foreign
Ok, now let’s get into the “meat” of the information and look at how you can learn a
language in a record time.
When you set out to learn a foreign language, you’ll have to face three main opponents.
I’m talking about what you will actually have to learn and master in order to become
proficient in that language.
These three areas are:
These three areas are all extremely important. You need to master all of them to the best
of your ability.
However, there’s one area that is definitely more important than all of the other ones and
that you should dedicate more attention to at the beginning, and that area is vocabulary.
Vocabulary is critical!
Generally, people who set out to learn languages through the “normal” routes of formal
education are able to get a good handle on the grammar and the pronunciation, but are
not building enough vocabulary to express themselves correctly.
Think about when you were a child. Well, you may no longer remember that, so if that’s
the case, look at children around you. What’s the first thing they learn in their language?
It’s words. Their grammar is approximate and their pronunciation is often incorrect, but
they don’t care! They focus on building their vocabulary, and the rest comes with time!
It’s the same for you. If you have a strong foundation of vocabulary, you will be able to
improve your grammar and pronunciation with time, and be able to express yourself from
the start. But if you start with grammar or correct pronunciation, it will take you too long
before you can start expressing yourself and you will get discouraged.
I will go back to these concepts throughout this program. For now, just remember: the
most important part of language acquisition is vocabulary! Don’t let improper grammar or
pronunciation slow you down.
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The Principles of Language Learning
Principle #1: Master Core Vocabulary and Speak Like Tarzan
Principle #2: Memorize As Many Words As Possible Using
Flash Cards
Principle #3: Increase Vocabulary Retention With Mnemonics
Principle #4: Steal Time: Become a Language-Learning
Principle #5: Immerse Yourself in the Acoustic Environment
of the Language
Principle #6: Read As Much As Possible in the Foreign
Language Using a Dictionary
Principle #7: Get a Private Tutor or Participate in
Language Exchange Programs
Principle #8: Practice Active Language Learning
Principle #9: Use a Complete, Multi-Level Approach
Principle #10: Don’t Waste Time – Reach the Advanced Level
Principle #11: Use Music & Poetry to Reinforce Your
Language Learning Enjoyment
Principle #12: Immerse Yourself in the Language
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Principle #1.
Master Core Vocabulary & Speak Like Tarzan
Remember how I explained that vocabulary is the most important part of language
acquisition? Well here is how we tie it in with our method.
First, let’s start off with some shocking realizations. We know that the latest editions of
some of the most complete dictionaries of the English language contain over 150,000
words that are in “current use”. The figure is actually much higher than that since I’m not
counting the different variations of words, such as a noun and an adjective.
Now if you had to learn that many words, I think you would go crazy.
But here’s the shocking news. Up to 75% of our every day conversation is made up of just
500-800 words! This is what we call “core vocabulary” and it’s critical that you master it
More shocking than that is the realization that over 95% of our daily language, not only
spoken but also written (newspapers, articles, etc.) is made up of around 3000 words.
Of course, a well-educated person may learn over 10,000 words during the course of his
life, but there are only so many that you are actually going to need on a daily basis.
When you have enough words, you can start to express yourself, even if your grammar is
poor. You can understand and be understood, and that’s the first step in mastering a
foreign language.
Let’s go back to my example of children. How do children learn?
Your child doesn’t care if he pronounces a word right or not.
He just pronounces it.
Your child has no inhibitions about learning a language. For
her, it’s a question of survival!
Correct pronunciation isn’t at all important for children. What’s important is being
It’s the same for grammar. A child doesn’t even know what proper grammar is. They say
all kinds of things wrong, and then learn over time the “proper” grammar rules, which are
just an accepted norm anyway.
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A child first focuses on saying words and mastering vocabulary. The most common
questions they ask are, “what’s that?” or “how is this called”? or “what does that mean?”
A child isn’t automatically a better language learner than an adult. In fact, she’s not! An
adult can learn to master a language in much less time than a child. Sure, an adult won’t
be able to get the native accent, because that’s an ability we lose after the age of about
10, but the adult can still learn much faster than a child because he can use his complex
brain to speedup the process.
So why do we seem to think that children are automatically better at languages?
There are five main reasons why children excel at language learning.
Î OBLIGATION & NECESSITY — For children, learning a language is a question of
survival. Even if we’re talking about a second language here. If they don’t know
how to express themselves, they know they won’t last very long in this world.
Î REPETITION — Children are constantly repeating words they just learned and
practicing their vocabulary. They don’t just learn once. They learn and practice all
day long.
Î CONSISTENCY — Children are very consistent in their language-learning efforts.
Again, it’s a question of survival here. They don’t show up one day for a class, and
take a day off the next day. They learn day in, day out.
Î TIME — Children have a lot of time at their disposal and therefore are constantly
engaged in their learning efforts. To learn is a full-time job for them.
So you see, it’s really because of these reasons that children are “good” at learning
languages, not because they have some special gift or learning ability that goes away with
An adult with the right method can learn a language must faster than a child.
Now let’s take a look at the first step to take towards the mastery of ANY language.
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Your Very First Step
Your first step in learning a foreign language will be to master some core vocabulary of
about 300 to 500 words. I suggest you work on that as soon as possible (the next chapters
will give you the tools to do that). I have included a list of core vocabulary that you can
use as a separate file in this program.
Once you know that core vocabulary, you will speak like Tarzan or a caveman. You will
speak using the infinitive version of all verbs only with no conjugation.
What’s an infinitive? The infinitive of verbs in English is created by adding the word “to”
in front of them. For example:
To be
To speak
To have
That’s because English is a very special language. In most other languages, the infinitive
will be a different word. For example, in Spanish, the equivalent of “to be” is “estar”. If
you want to say “I am” or “You are” you have to use different verb forms (“yo soy”).
Do you need to know these verb forms to be understood? Absolutely not.
Will it sound better if you do? Sure.
But at first your main concern will be to understand and be understood.
That’s why you want to learn that core vocabulary and speak like Tarzan.
For example, here’s what a sentence could sound like in Spanish
“Yo querer beber agua”
Now, people will understand when you speak like that. But in order to be understood, you
will have to also ask them to speak to you exactly like this. You will have to say something
that will sound to them like:
You will tell people to speak very slowly and speak like Tarzan, and you will do the same!
Will it sound ridiculous? That depends how you look at it. If you’ve been studying Spanish
for the past two days and you can already go ahead and have a conversation with people,
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even though it’s a very basic and not grammatically-correct one, I would say it’s rather
If you think that this system sounds ridiculous, let me tell you a story that will make you
think again.
Ramón Campayo is a Spanish memorization expert. He’s the author of a work in Spanish
on how to learn any language in 7 days. From his work I have been able to compile a
better list of core vocabulary than I was previously working with.
So I’m going to tell you a story from his book that was originally told by his wife in the
introduction to the book. I will not translate it word by word but just give an overview of
the story for the sake of clarity.
In 2003 Ramón was working on his book on learning languages, and this year he and his
wife were invited to Germany for the first time for a memorization competition and
From Spain, Ramón and his wife got on the plane to Munich, and as soon as they were in
the air, Ramón got out a folder with some weird lists of words inside, along with a small
electronic dictionary, to which he plugged in his earphones to hear the pronunciation.
His wife was used to seeing him do weird stuff, but nonetheless she asked him what he
was doing. He said that he was going to learn German, because the conference he was
giving was going to be this very evening, soon after landing to Germany, and he wanted to
give it in German.
Ramón’s wife couldn’t help but laughing, because she knew her husband didn’t speak any
German. In school he had studied French and he used to give his conferences in English.
She asked him if he was going to study for the entire flight (which was about 2 hours
long). Ramón just said that no, he was also going to take time to eat the meal they were
going to bring and drink his coffee “tranquilo”.
Ramón’s wife had never doubted the capacities or techniques of her husband, because she
had seen him accomplish some pretty amazing feats of memory, but at this point she
thought, “this time he’s really exaggerating”.
In any case, Ramón was pretty busy during the flight (except for dinner time), until 10
minutes before landing. At this point, his wife asked him how it went, and she joked by
asking him if he could speak German now. He answered “yes” with a James Bond smile,
and he “knew enough.”
They went straight to the hotel, and almost immediately to where the conference was
taking place, where a lot of the world’s best memorization experts were going to meet.
During this time, and until the conference, Ramón didn’t review any notes or documents.
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When he got up and started to give his conference in German, his wife almost fell from
her chair. She didn’t think it was possible, but evidently, she was hearing German coming
out of Ramón’s mouth. And it became even more unbelievable when she saw the
attendees attentively listening to his explanations, until the very end. To the wife’s
complete disbelief, the public started to ask questions, in German of course.
Ramón could understand the questions, but in some cases, he had to ask people to talk
differently, to simplify their grammar so that he could understand. People were happy to
do that, judging at how well the discussions went.
When the conference was over, an assistant came over and told Ramón he had really
enjoyed what he had heard. He also added, “but you have to improve your German.”
Ramón answered, “Well man, give me a little more time.”
At this point the guy asked him how long he had been studying this language, and Ramón
answered to that “Exactly one hour and forty five minutes”. At which point everybody
overhearing the conversation started laughing, but obviously the young man who had
asked the question was flabbergasted.
Of course after the conference everybody wanted to know Ramón’s method for learning a
language in such a short period of time. So he ended up teaching a lot on that topic.
His wife of course wanted to know how he had pulled off such a feat. He told her that he
did it the same way that he could memorize hundreds of playing cards in just half an
hour. This explanation didn’t satisfy Ramón’s wife because it was obviously easier to
remember the names of the cards than German words like “Gedächtnis”.
Ramón explained that it was true, but only if you prononunce the words apart from each
other. But in one context, and knowing what you’re going to say, a word leads you to
another, which doesn’t happen with playing cards.
Now Ramón did not memorize the text of his conference. He just learned enough
vocabulary and enough agility to express in German what he was thinking in Spanish.
LEARN CORE VOCABULARY — Your first step is to master that basic vocabulary of about
500 words and phrases as soon as possible! In this program, I’m giving you a list of the
essential words and phrases that you should memorize as soon as possible. This list can be
found as a separate file and is based on Ramón’s work, with my own modifications.
START SPEAKING IMMEDIATELY — Do not wait to be “good” to start using your language
skills. Learn the core vocabulary and start speaking the language as soon as possible. Only
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use the simplest verb forms (remember, no conjugations) and ask your listener to do the
language, pronunciation and grammar, will be improved over time. But at first you have
to master this core vocabulary and be able to express yourself very basically, like a child
How to Learn the Core Vocabulary
You can learn this core vocabulary of 500 words in about 7 days if you are motivated.
Some of the memorization techniques I will teach you will help you.
But one word of advice. Remember what Ramón said about the learning words in a
context? If you just go through the list and learn words one by one, you won’t be able to
retain them fully, even when using memory tricks.
What you have to do is have one word lead you to the next. Start thinking about the first
things you’d like to say. Then get the necessary words from the list.
Now, when I want to learn a brand new word, out of context, what I do is I ask myself,
“what would be one sentence I would be likely to want to say with that fruit.”
Let’s say that you’re learning German. The word you come across on your list is “health”,
which in German is “Gesundheit”.
Now if you just try to remember “Gesundheit”, you’ll have a hard time. What you can do
is ask yourself, “what would be one sentence I would be likely to say using that word”?
Maybe it would be:
“This is not good for health”
So right there, it forces you to learn new words:
Is (or verb “to be”)
Now remember, at first you are not concerned with proper grammar. But you want to get
the word order right. So by looking up the next words, you could come up with this
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“Das ist nicht gut für Gesundheit”
Actually, that’s not quite far from the correct German sentence which would be
“Das ist nicht gut fur die Gesundheit”.
From there, you have 5 words to play with. Let’s say you want to continue with the word
“good” which is “gut” in German.
Let’s think of a sentence you would be likely to use with the word “good”. Maybe it could
“This is very good”
So at this point, you’ll have to find the word for “very” which in German is “sehr”. So now
you know how to say:
“Das ist sehr gut.”
Let’s think at this point of a more elaborate sentence. Again, make sure it is something
you would be likely to say or want to know. Maybe you’d like to congratulate a German on
their English? The next words to learn will be: “You speak English very well”, so you need
to know “speak” and “English language”.
Using your basic German grammar, you would say:
“Sie Sprechen Englisch sehr gut”
Which any German would understand, although maybe they would be more likely to say
“Sie Sprechen sehr gut Englisch”.
So after that, let’s think of what else to learn. Maybe you’d like to say, “where have you
In simplified German:
“Wo haben Sie lernen”
Ok, that phrase is definitely not grammatically correct. But who cares at this point?
You’re learning vocabulary. Eventually, you’ll learn how to conjugate verbs and then
you’ll say:
“Wo haben Sie gelernt?”
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So you see how this works? Using your list of core vocabulary you will learn to construct
phrases by finding related words that you’ll need in your list. When you run out of ideas,
take a random word from the list and start imagining sentences. Make sure you pick out
sentences you would be likely to use yourself.
For example, if you are a vegetarian, you may definitely want to learn that words and
other related terms to help you in your food choices.
If you are a cyclist, maybe you want to learn to talk about your hobby, because that
conversation subject is likely to come up.
During your first week of study, you can focus solely on building vocabulary using the core
vocabulary list, along with the other techniques we will talk about in a moment.
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Principle #2
Memorize as many
flash cards
Researchers have found that for 95% percent of the every day language — on television, on
the street, in the newspaper — you need around 2000 to 3000 words. For argument’s sake,
let’s say 3000 words. Once you know these words, and understand the structure of the
language, you can express yourself, talk to people, read the newspaper, the magazines,
and understand television.
Many language learners do not realize this. They may master a few hundred basic words,
and then hardly make any progress thereafter. They may learn a few new words every
day, but at that pace, they don’t realize it’s going to take a while.
So let’s say you want to know these 3000 words. You’ll be doing your method, reading the
magazines, newspaper, and making flash cards. As the most useful words come back more
often, you’ll quickly realize what are these 3000 basic words.
So the question is, how many new words can you learn every day?
If you learn 10 new words a day, it will take you 10 months to
learn 3000 words.
If you learn 20 new words a day, it will take you 5 months to
learn 3000 words.
If you learn 35 new words a day, it will take you approximately
3 months to master these 3000 words.
So it’s all a matter of how quick you want to get there, and how dedicated you are.
As explained in the previous chapter, your first goal will be to master the very “core”
vocabulary of about 500 words.
Flash Cards
Give yourself a quota of new words to learn every day and use flash cards to memorize
them. You can buy sets of 1000 flash cards in many languages (see the resource section at
the end).
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If you have a set of 1000 flash cards for the core vocabulary, decide how long it’s going to
take you to go through them and know them.
A flash card is a card the size of business cards, or simple small paper sheets. On one side
is written a word in the foreign language, and on the other side the equivalent in a
language you master.
The language learner will take a stash of flash cards before leaving home and will use
every possible, otherwise wasted moment, to review and learn words. These “hidden
moments,” as Barry Farber calls them, include waiting for the bus, standing in line at the
bank, at the store, in the taxi, in the elevator, etc.
With the flashcard system, combined with mnemonics (see next chapter), you can easily
learn 10-40 new words everyday.
Flash cards are not necessary for you to learn a new language. The act of going through
flash cards can be a little repetitive, so you don’t want to use this as your main study
tool. At first, you’ll only need the list of core vocabulary that I provide with this course.
But the advantage of flash cards is that you can easily carry some with you at all time.
That way, all of that wasted time waiting in line at the bank can be put to good use (and
it’s a lot of fun too!).
Keep reviewing and testing yourself with flash cards, and eventually put aside the cards
you master to work on new ones. Always carry blank flash cards with you and add new
words that you will be looking up in the dictionary while reading and during your studies.
Think of it as a game.
The trick is to be able to reach out for your flashcards quickly and throughout the day,
whenever you get a chance to do it.
Ready-to-use flash cards are available in many languages, providing a vocabulary of about
1000 words, but sometimes up to 4000 when they include many related words on one
card. Aside from these printed flash cards, you can also make your own flash cards from
the new words you meet in your studies, while reading, watching movies, etc.
You should always take a stash of flash cards before leaving home, and use it at every
opportunity. With the flashcard system, you can easily learn 10-40 new words everyday.
The difference with this system and the standard one is that you don’t let words escape
you. As soon as you create a new flash card, you own it — it’s yours and it’s also now your
duty to learn it and get rid of it.
You can also use flashcards to review grammatical points, write idiomatic expressions,
strange sentence constructions, etc.
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The trick is to be able to reach out for your flashcards quickly and throughout the day,
whenever you get a chance to do it, at a time you would normally be just idle, doing
nothing or waiting.
Make a game out of this. You cannot decide in advance how many new words you can
retain every day, but you can decide how many new flash cards you are going to make.
Then you should work on removing flash cards from that pile every day. When the pile is
getting too big, you know that you have not used them enough!
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How to blast yourself with vocabulary the easy way, or the
power of audio flash cards.
I’ve just talked about regular flash cards, and how you can use them to boost your
vocabulary learning by carrying a fresh stash every day and using every opportunity to
practice with them.
There’s another type of flash card that we call “audio-flash cards” that you can and
should also use to increase your vocabulary.
Audio flash cards are tape or CD recordings where the speakers go through a list of
vocabulary and expressions. They repeat the word in the foreign language, and then in
English, or the other way around, giving you enough time to come up with the right
response before the speaker does.
The “Vocabulearn” series is a popular company I know that created these audio flash
As a sole or main language learning tool, they would be pretty useless. No one can
remember thousands of vocabulary words by simply repeating them. But in conjunction
with flash cards, they can be effective.
Vocabulearn audio flash cards are made by “PentonOverseas” but do not seem to be marketed anymore by
the company, so you better rush and buy them! Available on, iTunes, or eBay.
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The main problem with audio flash cards is that it is extremely boring to listen to a
speaker enumerate words completely out of context in the hope that simply by repeating
them you will remember.
What you can do is work on the vocabulary in context and then use audio flash cards to
reinforce it.
For example, Champs-Elysees is a company I’ll be talking about in the resource section.
They offer intermediate to advanced courses in French, Spanish, German and Italian.
Their concept consist of an audio magazine on CD along with the transcript and
vocabulary list. Recently, they’ve added the possibility to add a audio flash card CD to
your subscription.
That means you can learn the new words in the right context first, and then practice with
the audio flash cards. That creates a powerful combination of effective learning.
Another way to do that is to record your own audio flash card, once your pronunciation is
decent enough, or have a native speaker record them for you.
That way you are practicing your recently acquired vocabulary, instead of random words.
The easiest way to record your own flash cards is to do it through your computer. You will
only need a microphone (such as the headsets they sell at computer stores) and an audio
recording program like Sound Forge on the PC and Amadeus on the Mac.
What you can do is take 25 minutes to record some audio flash cards on your computer
and then transfer them to your MP3 player or burn them on a CD, and then practice in
your spare time.
In a future chapter, I’ll describe how to use all of this modern equipment.
Use audio flash cards to fill a gap of 5 or 10 minutes, often. It’s not worth it to try to use
them for long periods at a time.
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Principle #3
Increase Vocabulary Retention With Mnemonics
Ok, so far we’ve talked about core vocabulary. I’ve explained that at first you will focus
on learning about 500 core words in the shortest period of time possible, and will start
expressing yourself right away by speaking like “Tarzan” and using the simplest
grammatical structures possible.
I’ve also explained how to use flash cards to learn more words more rapidly, and
eventually master the 3000 words that amount to about 95% of the common language.
But your appropriate question at this point should be... “How in the world will I be able to
remember that many words”?
That’s the right question to ask because honestly, if you were trying to learn these words
using the old “rote” method or repeating, which is the equivalent of banging your head
with a dictionary until the words “sink in”... well, it’s going to take you a long time to
learn these words.
That’s where the secret weapon called “mnemonics” comes into play.
A mnemonic is a memory aid. It’s a crutch that will help you learn vocabulary much, much
It’s a trick that’s very well explained in Harry Loraine’s book “Memory” (which I highly
recommend) and also in Barry Farber’s book How to Learn Any Language.
I believe that Barry Farber’s book has had a deep influence in the language learning world
since he publicized that idea. Since then, there’s even been one company that built an
entire product line using mnemonics alone. That company is “Unforgettable Languages”
and I will talk about it a little later.
First, let me explain to you how mnemonics work.
Basically, you’re going to create a visual association in your mind between the word
you’re trying to learn and some kind of “unforgettable” image, ideally of your own
Rather than trying to explain it to you, let’s do a little test. I’m going to take some
examples I picked up from Unforgettable Languages and then explain how you can create
your own mnemonics, which I believe in the end will be better.
Let’s say you’re trying to learn Italian.
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1- The Italian word for FROG is RANA.
To remember it, try to imagine you RAN A mile after seeing a giant FROG.
Just picture it in your mind and make the association!
2- The Italian for GOAT is CAPRA.
So imagine a GOAT looking at the constellation CAPRICORN.
Just remember to make the change between CAPRI and CAPRA.
3- The Italian for WASP is VESPA.
Imagine a WASP makes a WHISPER in your ear.
Just switch between “whisper” and “vespa”.
4- The Italian for FULL is PIENO.
Imagine being so FULL that you have to rest on a PIANO.
That one is easy...
5- The Italian for QUICK is RAPIDO
Imagine something QUICK and RAPID.
6- The Italian for SMALL is PICCOLO
Imagine a SMALL boy playing a PICCOLO. (a very small flute)
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Ok, now without going back to the previous page, test your knowledge:
What’s the English word for:
Rana: ___________
See how easy it is?
This trick is killer because you can literally remember hundreds of words within hours,
instead of weeks or months.
Now I took these examples from a company’s website ( who
offers pre-made mnemonics for different courses. They have tons of different courses and
languages available.
What I’ve found personally is that it works better when you create your own mnemonics.
If your native language is English, you may find benefits in using these courses from
Unforgettable Languages. I would certainly encourage you to check it out.
But as a native French speaker, I find that I’ll almost never come up with the right
mnemonic in English, so it’s not really useful to have these pre-made courses to me.
Also, all of the examples I gave you are pretty dry. They’re a little funny but not nearly as
extravagant and crazy as you could make them in your mind. Remember when you are
doing this on your own, there is no committee of censorship that is going to say anything!
The key to mnemonics is to make them memorable, and use an image that is outrageous
and funny.
Sometimes, you’ll find that some words are hard to twist around with a mnemonics. So
you’ll have to use more imagination there.
Other words don’t really require a mnemonic. For example, knowing that 70% of English’s
vocabulary comes from French, you’ll have no problems memorizing a lot of the French
vocabulary if you can learn to trace the roots of the words.
For example, the French word for freedom is liberté, which was borrowed for the English
liberty. So no problems here making the transition without needing a mnemonic.
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Here’s a simple summary of how you can use mnemonics to learn any new words in a
Step 1
Take the new word and turn it into a picture. Use the way it sounds to create your
image. The idea is to turn the new word into something you already know.
For example:
- Arrigato in Japanese means “thank you.”
To me, it sounds like an alligator. So you could turn arrigato into alligator.
- KUH (pronounced COUP) in German means COW. That’s easy! KUH sounds exactly like a
COUP— a sudden overthrow of political power.
- ROHKOST in German means RAW FOOD
To me, it sounds like ROCK and...AUSTRALIA!
So you could imagine a rock concert in Australia. How do you know it’s in Australia? The
musicians are kangaroos!
Step 2
Simply turn the English word into a picture. You can use the way it sounds. You can also
simply use it as it is if it’s simple for you to see it in your mind.
Remember, the mind thinks in pictures.
So let’s see a few examples:
- ARRIGATO = THANK YOU. You can simply imagine a Japanese guy who bows down and
says “THANK YOU. To make it even more dramatic, how about a samurai?
- A COW. Well, that’s easy!
- Raw food. Well...simply picture your favorite fruits and vegetables! Bananas, apples,
grapefruits... you name it!
Step 3
Now here’s where the fun is. What we’re going to do is put these two “ideas” or images
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into a crazy movie.
We want to use action.
We want to make sure it’s stupid, ludicrous, illogical, crazy, fun etc. We want to put as
much emotion as possible.
And here’s one secret: put yourself in the movie!
So let’s have fun:
- ARRIGATO. Hmm. You can imagine that somebody is knocking on your door.
You walk up to the door and open it. Surprise: you see a big Japanese samurai. He asks for
directions. You tell him. As he bows over to say thank you...a BIG alligator comes from
nowhere, eats him in a flash and disappears behind your car.
See, it doesn’t make any sense. Yet, it’s funny.
Let’s try another one.
- KUH (pronouced “coup.”)
Kuh means “cow.”
So we could imagine cows making a coup, taking over the USA. In front of the White House
are rows and rows of “Cow-soldiers.”
A lieutenant-cow is doing an official speech. In the background you can see the cownation flag in the wind.
Let’s make another one:
You hopped on a plane and flew to Australia. You want to see your favorite band: “The
Banana-Spitting Kangaroos.”
The show begins. It’s in a big stadium. The crowd is screaming. Hordes of fans are waiting
for the show to begin. Then, there they are!
You feel a rush of adrenaline as Skippy, the lead singer, begins his song. As soon as he
opens his mouth... he begins to shout (throw!) bananas at you!
Out of his mouth fly a whole bunch of delicious raw foods.
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Oranges, bananas, kiwis are flying from the stage to the crowd!
Ok, so you get the idea.
We put the two pictures together with action in a ludicrous way.
It’s as simple as that.
Here are a few other pointers:
- Make sure you’re having fun. Fun and learning go hand in
hand. That’s something teachers and the school system seem to
- See, the examples are from my imagination. You will remember
the ones you create yourself better.
- Write down the mnemonics you create. Write them on your flash
cards. When you’ll go back 3 months later, you won’t have to
create new mnemonics for the few words will have forgotten.
- The mind thinks in pictures. So the more dramatic the
pictures you create in your imagination, the more you’ll
remember them.
- Just trying to do the mnemonics is enough. You don’t have to
see the movie perfectly in your mind. Just thinking about them
will make them work. For example, if you think of ROHKOST, you
can imagine the kangaroos in the Australian Rock concert
“singing” bananas at you!
In summary:
1- Take the new word and turn it into a picture based on how it sounds (instead of how
it’s spelled).
2- Do the same thing with the English word.
3- Glue them together using action. Make the movie ludicrous, incredible and funny. Put
in emotion. Make it bigger than life. Enjoy yourself! Put yourself in the movie as if you
were really there!
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Dealing With Difficult Words
The examples we gave you are simple and obvious. Usually you’ll have to stretch a bit to
make the words fit into the system. Remember, your examples or images don’t need to
stick to the original pronunciation exactly!
Here are some examples from Harry Lorayne’s Memory Book:
HAM in French is JAMBON (zhan-bown). You JAM a BONE into a gigantic HAM.
Lobster in French is HOMARD (oh-mar). Your mother is disguised as a LOBSTER; you say
“OH, MA”
Cake in French is GATEAU (gah-toh). A gigantic birthday CAKE has GOT you by the TOE.
The system also applies to phrases:
French for “I need” is IL ME FAUT (eel-muh-foh). A gigantic EEL is your FOE (eel my foe).
Remember, the system works even if a foreign word contains sound you don’t have in your
native language. All you need is find something that is close enough to the pronunciation.
Your trained language-learning mind will do the rest to adjust.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Principle #4
I’ve talked to a lot of polyglots over the years. I’ve also read stories of famous world
polyglots (a polyglot being someone who can speak many languages).
How can someone learn 5 languages in 2 years, for example?
In his book, Troy and its Remains, Henry Schliemann describes in the introduction how he
learned English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and Russian in less than 3 years.
I’ve already quoted him, but again, here’s a passage of interest:
“My memory was bad, since from my childhood it had not been exercised upon any object; but I
made use of every moment, and even stole time for study. I never went on my errands, even in the
rain, without having my book in my hand and learning something by heart; and I never waited at the
post-office without reading.”
In his book, How To Learn Any Language, journalist and famous linguist Barry Farber talks
about how to transform normally “wasted” moments into language-learning opportunities.
He talks about listening to language learning cassettes and practicing with flash cards
when you wait at the bank, go out for a jog, wait for the bus, etc.
“We can take time back from our days just like the Dutch took land back from the sea and put it to
What do you normally do when you’re waiting in line at the bank, the post office, the airline
counter, the bus or train station, or the supermarket checkout counter?
What do you do while your brush your teeth? You could be listening to a language cassette. What
plans have you made for the time you’re going to spend waiting behind your steering wheel at the
gas pump? Or waiting for the rinse cycle? Waiting for the school bus?
You get the point. An honest, thorough scrutiny of your normal week will yield dozens, even
thousands of minutes that can be put to work learning your target language. And don’t forget, a
scrap of time need be no longer than five seconds to advance you closer to your goal” Barry Farber,
“How to Learn Any Language”
The idea here is to gain momentum. You have to absorb as much material as possible in
a short period of time to get maximum results. If you spread it out over the course of
several years, you won’t learn as effectively, plus you will loose your time.
One key aspect of effective language learning is gaining as much momentum as possible.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Remember when I explained how children learned? One reason why children are so
effective at learning a language is that they do it constantly. Not a day goes by without
them practicing their language.
As an adult, we’ll often sign up for a class and think that 3 hours a week is going to be
enough! It’s much better to regularly practice your language throughout each and every
day rather than concentrate all of the learning into a three-hour period.
Now how do you do that when you have a job and other obligations?
You do that by literally “stealing time”, and it’s one of the keys for effective language
Let’s see how this work. I’ll show you how I was able to learn Spanish, German,
Portuguese and the basics of Italian and a few other languages in about 2 years, without
making it a full time job.
When I was living in Montreal, it used to take me approximately 5 minutes to walk from
my apartment to the closest health food store where I went almost every day.
When I went to that store, I would take my walkman or iPod along, and practice
vocabulary with the Vocabulearn series (the audio flash cards I told you about).
This series feature audio flash cards. They say a word in English and then give you the
equivalent in the foreign language, with a pause to try to come up with the right word.
They do that for hours.
Just by walking to the store and coming back, I got to practice approximately 50 words,
sometimes more. Did I remember all of them? No, but the impressions were there,
registered in my brain.
At home, I would listen to either a Pimsleur lesson or another language learning audio
when I’m tiding up the place and washing the dishes. Often, I would spend the whole
duration of a Pimsleur lesson (about 30 minutes) to clean up my place. I actually enjoy
doing the Pimsleur lesson so as an added bonus, I got to catch up with my house
maintenance chores.
Often, I would go take a walk for 30 minutes and listen to a Pimsleur lesson on the way.
That way, I got to exercise and learn at the same time.
When I was working out, I practiced flash cards between reps and series.
When I went out for a jog, I usually preferred to listen to music, but if I really want to
catch up with my language study, I’ll listen to a language program on the way.
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When I rented a movie, either on my own or with friends, I kept a stash of flash cards
handy. In the moments where the action got a little boring, I would go through a few flash
Actually, I never left my house without flash cards and my iPod, which contains several
language courses. Whenever I waited for the bus, waited in line somewhere or have a few
minutes available, I would pull out the flash cards and practice.
When I was at the supermarket, the sound there was usually loud enough to allow me to
practice aloud with a language audio program. In some more quiet stores I wouldn’t
repeat aloud, but I still listen to the course and practice in my head.
I would even practice with those audio language programs as I was running errands, even
on a busy street. Sometimes people would look at me and wonder why I was talking to
myself in a language they couldn’t understand, especially an exotic one! I got a little kick
out of that, and it was a great exercise to let go of what people think about you.
When I was taking the subway, I would practice with my flash cards. When I was waiting in
line at the bank, I’d pull out my flash cards. And guess what I did in the elevator?
Now I know what you think. You think that’s crazy and only some sort of language maniac
geek would want to do that. You think that you want to have your life and enjoy every
moment of it without having to study.
Let me explain it to you then, because you’re not going to get my method “How to Learn
Any Language in a Flash” if you don’t understand this part, ok?
First, you only have to submit yourself to this “massive language learning action” when
you’re studying the language, especially in the first few months. You want quick results,
and I’m telling you now, this is how you achieve it!
There’s simply no other way to learn a language fast. After you’re done learning the
language, you can go on with your life and resume being bored while waiting for the bus,
turn your thumbs while you wait for your date and count your white hairs while you shave.
But I doubt that you’ll actually want to go back to that. Listening to a language cassette
and having fun, doing something creative while exercising, waiting or cleaning up your
place is a great thing!
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Principle #5
Immerse Yourself in the Acoustic Environment
of the Language
So far, I’ve been teaching you some principles of language learning that I discovered later
in my studies. Now I’m going to explain a basic principle that is not earth-shattering but
will make a big difference in how well you end up learning the language.
The principle is as follow:
“Immerse yourself in the acoustic environment of the language
by repeating phrases aloud and paying attention to their
Dr. Alfred Tomatis explained in his book “Nous Sommes Tous Nés Polyglottes” (we are all
born polyglots)— that “language is a living being that modifies itself in function of the
acoustic environment in which it evolves.”
To master a foreign language, you have to bathe in its acoustic universe.
It’s important to listen and repeat.
You do this using language methods with recordings.
When I first started learning Spanish and German, I didn’t use any of the more advanced
techniques of mnemonics, flash cards and so on that I’ve described in this program. I used
a more “natural” method that combined:
- Taking 15 to 30 minutes every day to go through a lesson,
repeating phrases aloud and paying attention to their meaning
(the Assimil method, see below)
- Reading as much as possible with a dictionary.
With that method alone I was able to make dramatic progress! Of course, when you
combine it with the other techniques I have described you literally become unstoppable!
The first thing you need to do is to go out and buy one or more methods in your target
language. Make sure they feature plenty of audio.
Let me describe the two types of methods to use:
1- Traditional/Lesson Model Methods
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2- Audio Only-Methods
It’s important to understand that there are many types of home-study language methods
available. Each of them will try to market themselves as being completely unique and
better. The methods feature only audio will explain why it’s better to learn with audio
only, while the other methods will emphasize their global approach.
In the end, neither approach is better. You need both. Let me describe each type with the
courses available that I would recommend.
1- Traditional/Lesson Model Methods — I believe it’s particularly important to have at
least one course to go through in your target language that teaches you the grammar in
bits, and exposes you to the different elements of the language. But initially that’s not
the most important thing to do. What I recommend is having some kind of textbook
method for the sole purpose of reading and repeating phrases aloud, with the help of an
audio recording. That way you will assimilate the language better, learn about the various
expressions, expand your vocabulary, improve your pronunciation and get a better
education overall. I would suggest spending 15 to 30 minutes a day with such a method.
There are many methods available there. My favorite
one using that model remains the French ASSIMIL
method, now available in most languages.
I also enjoyed the “Living Language” methods. It’s a
fairly priced method with audio recordings.
The key with these methods is to do a little bit every
day, and focus mainly on what I explained which is to
repeat phrases aloud paying attention to their
meaning. Advance steadily and do not get discouraged
if things seem too complicated. You’ll assimilate things
in time.
The reason why I enjoy the ASSIMIL method is that it’s
not tedious. You just take the 15 to 30 minutes every
day to do simple lessons, and you progress steadily.
There’s are complicated exercises to follow, and the
lessons are generally funny and entertaining. It’s a
simple model that works.
But ASSIMIL alone is not effective enough to get you to learn a language in a short period
of time. If you want fast results, you better master the core vocabulary first, use every
single moment during the day to listen to material, use flash cards, use mnemonics... and
start using the language immediately talking like Tarzan. But if you do that and at the
same time you use a more traditional yet alternative text book method such as ASSIMIL,
you will consolidate your gains much faster and also improve your pronunciation.
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The main thing to remember is that you need to listen to the texts from native speakers
and repeat them aloud, making sure you reproduce as closely as possible the sounds and
words. You don’t need to start memorizing anything at this point, but pay attention to the
meaning of the words.
2- Audio-Only Methods — There are several methods available that are audio-only. That
means you only buy the CDs and have no or almost no booklet or written material to
The advantage of this kind of method is that it focuses on the spoken language, which is
not everything but obviously it’s the foundation of the language. You can also learn
excellent pronunciation with some of these methods.
But the most obvious advantage of an audio-only method is the convenience. Who doesn’t
have at least 30 minutes a day to spare when you could be listening to a language
method, while being busy with your hands doing something else?
You can listen to a complete 30-minute audio lesson while:
your car
dishes and tidying up your place
or walking
There are many audio-only methods available. The one that really stands out for me and
that really made a difference in my language-learning experience is the Pimsleur method.
The Pimsleur method is extremely effective.
It’s hard to describe how it works unless you’ve gone
through one lesson yourself. It’s basically having your
own personal coach guide you through an intensive 30minute language learning experience.
It’s a sort of audio “language-learning workout”!
You can learn all about the revolutionary principles
used to create the Pimsleur method by going to
All you have to do with the Pimsleur method is to
listen and repeat. However it is an intensive
experience! You can listen to a lesson once or repeat
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
it a couple times until you feel ready to move on to the next.
The thing that really impressed me with the Pimsleur method is that you can really
develop impeccable pronunciation with it. When I was learning Spanish and German (as
well as Portuguese), I didn’t know about the Pimsleur method. Some people commented
on my good pronunciation but not as much as when I decided to learn some Russian with
Pimsleur Russian. After going through just a few lessons of Pimsleur Russian, some native
Russian speakers couldn’t believe how great my pronunciation was. It was very flattering
to hear that.
Pimsleur offers complete courses in a wide variety of languages, and more limited courses
in most other, less popular languages.
Level One of Pimsleur consists of 30 lessons. Each lesson is 30 minutes.
In most complete courses offered in the most popular languages (French, German, Italian,
Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, etc.), you can get three levels, so up to 90
If you are really motivated, you could go through one or two lessons a day. Pimsleur
recommends not more than one... but it really depends on your personal motivation and
how fast you can advance.
If you’d go through one lesson a day, perhaps repeating it more than once, you could go
through three levels of Pimsleur in about three months.
Now one thing to mention is some people have unrealistic expectations about how much
you can learn from Pimsleur.
Even after three full levels, you will only master about 300 to 500 words. You’ll still be at
a “beginner” level.
So is it worth it to invest in this method? Absolutely!
The gains you’ll make in pronunciation will be huge, and you’ll not only master words but
complete idioms, expression, grammatical structure, and you’ll be able to express
yourself in a variety of social situations and contexts.
But like everything else, Pimsleur alone will not bring miracles. It works best in
conjunctions with the other principles and techniques I have talked about in this course.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Other Methods of Interest
So far, I have found the Pimsleur method to be best to help you acquire a decent
pronunciation and good grammatical habits in the language. However, there are several
other audio methods that are worth a try as well. Most of them are much less expensive
than the Pimsleur method, and some are very effective as well.
I have not tried all methods, so I will give an overview of a few notable ones. Make sure
you are subscribed to my Language Learning E-mail Tips to stay in touch with the latest
news in the field. To subscribe, just go to
Dr. Blair’s Method — Dr. Robert W. Blair, Ph. D., is the creator of the PowerGlide
method. His website offers courses in Spanish, French and German. I have not tried the
complete online courses his company offers, but I am familiar with his “Learn in No Time”
Dr. Blair has created several audio programs for learning the basics of a language, such as
“Dr. Blair Mandarin in No Time.” These “In No Time” programs are available in Japanese,
Spanish, Mandarin, French, German and Italian.
I have found this program extremely useful! For less than $20, you can purchase it on or iTunes
The program puts you in the context of an “emergency” where you have to learn a
language as part of an expedition or mission. Each course is divided in several lessons
which must be listened to several time to move on to the next part. At the end of each
part there is a test. If you complete the test, you can move on. If you fail, you have to go
back and review.
It’s all in a very light and fun context of a story. You have to basically “accomplish
something dangerous” and learning the language is part of it.
His programs uses mnemonics, memory tricks, and all kinds of very modern language
tricks. Instead of just teaching you a word, he will relate it to other words so that you can
pick up more vocabulary more easily.
If you’re trying to learn one of the languages available in the “In No Time” series, and
you’re at the beginner level, you would be a fool not to pick up a copy of Dr. Blair’s
The pronunciation isn’t always perfect, and the production not at the same level of
Pimsleur, but you do learn more vocabulary in less than with Pimsleur, so it’s a very good
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Learn in Your Car Series — This is another excellent audio only method. I just ordered a
copy for Mandarin and I’m eager to get started. Here’s from the publisher:
Look ma, no textbooks! The Learn in Your Car series treats you
like a child--in the best possible way--starting with one-word
phrases ("please," "good-by"), counting exercises, and simple
nouns ("bus," "train") designed to imitate a child's learning
process. First you hear the words in English, then they are
repeated slowly in clear, unaccented pronunciations. The method
is extremely effective for those who don't know a thing, or for
those who want to brush up by testing themselves when the
English words are spoken. The tapes emphasize the building
blocks of communicating in a foreign country rather than rote
phrases that only apply on the tape and not in real-life
exchanges. Level 1 painlessly covers basic verb forms,
essential prepositions, near future and past tenses, as well as
shopping, hotel reservations, and other travel-related
situations. The series includes French, German, Italian,
Russian, Japanese, and Spanish in three levels that can be
purchased individually or in boxed sets. Each individual level
contains two 90-minute cassettes (or CDs) and an accompanying
booklet (not for use behind the wheel) with helpful
explanations and scripts for the lessons.
Sounds good so far! Again, as with all these “audio-only” method, the context should
always be that of a larger plan of study, that includes the other tools and steps I am
covering in this course. On their own, these methods are flawed. But as part of an overall
plan, they can be very effective.
Of course, there are more courses than I have time to review. Please make sure you are
on my Language Tips mailing list so you can get my regular reviews of these methods
Depending on the language you are trying to study, you will have more or less resources
available to you. Of course, you won’t have problems with French, Spanish, German,
Italian, Japanese, and even Chinese. But if you’re off the beaten track and you’re trying
to learn a less popular language like Indonesian or Tagalog, you will have to settle for
what’s available on the market for that languages, which in many cases isn’t a whole lot,
but it’s always better than nothing.
For more information on recommended language programs, including many free lessons
you can find, please refer to the resource section.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Pretend you’re an actor!
I’m always amazed at how well some actors are able to reproduce different foreign
accents. When Tom Hanks was playing the Polish immigrant in that “airport” movie, I
thought he was very convincing when imitating the accent.
When Americans are telling jokes and in it they imitate a foreigner speaking English, they
generally do a pretty good job at imitating their accent a well.
So how come when an American opens his or her mouth to speak Spanish or French it
generally sounds so crude and coarse and overly “American” that it just makes me want to
tell them, “Dude, at least make an effort to not SOUND like an American”.
Ok, I’m exaggerating. There are really “nice” Americans out there who love to travel and
have a genuine interest for other cultures. But unfortunately the cliché of the ugly
arrogant American traveling and speaking only English and acting with a superiority
complex is far too common. That cliché exists because there are people out there
impersonating it! (And by the way it’s not just Americans, it’s also French people and
others... but we’ll stick with the American example for now...)
The next step is generally to try to speak the language. Generally, Americans will do this
as a last resort, when they realize that no one actually understands them (and they make
no effort to slow down their speech as well).
When I’m hearing the typical American speaking a foreign language abroad, I feel sorry for
them. Their pronunciation is so... well... American... you could spot them the moment
they pronounce a single syllable!
Speaking the language is not enough. You have to get the pronunciation right. And it’s not
any more difficult for an American to do it than any other person.
If people can imitate foreigners when they are speaking English, they can imitate others
when they are the one speaking in a language other than English.
But here’s the trick. To do it, you actually will have to make some efforts. You will have
to imitate the foreign accent to the best of your ability.
Here’s how it works: You have to pretend that you’re an actor trying to imitate the
foreign accent!
And the weird thing about it is that you will not sound like yourself. That’s probably why
most people are not making real efforts to get the pronunciation right. They probably feel
that if they try to really get it right, they won’t sound like themselves!
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Well welcome to the world of language learning! When you speak a foreign language, you
have to give up a lot of your personal pride. It requires a great deal of humility.
First of all, a great deal of our personality relies upon the language that we speak. How
well we can express ourselves. How witty we can be in our speech. All of the expression
we use, all of the cultural references, all of that stuff.
When you’re speaking a foreign language, you’re sort of back to square one. The level of
the conversation is very basic. You don’t know the expressions, you don’t know the
cultures, you cannot be as witty... in other words, you cannot be who you can be when
you’re speaking your own language!
That can be disconcerting for someone who is used to seeing the world through their own
sets of references. But it can also be an extremely liberating experience to be able to
become someone else when you’re speaking that language. To eventually be able to
relate to a new culture and have fun with it!
Maybe then you’ll realize why so many people consider foreigners stupid and make fun of
them. Well when you speak a foreign language, you will look “stupid” for not being able
to express yourself properly.
But don’t worry, the rest of the world is not America! People are actually so
accommodating and will rejoice when they realize that you speak their language, after
they’ve dealt with the 100th American who doesn’t speak a word of it.
But take it a step further and get the pronunciation right.
The way to do it is to pretend you’re an actor, and at first really exaggerate to get it
right, even if you don’t sound like yourself at all! That’s the point!
At first, you really have to make a real effort to act the part.
Whenever you’re reading phrases aloud, make sure that you’re pretending to be an actor
and you’re trying to get the pronunciation as correct as possible, even if you sound like
someone else. Actually you should sound like someone else.
This step may sound a little tedious and time-consuming, but it is very important for
learning a language effectively. With a method like Pimsleur you do all of this
automatically, except that you don’t touch on the reading part. So that’s why it’s
important to get more than one method to cover everything.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Principle #6
Read as much as possible
language using a dictionary
Of all of the principles I’ve told you so far, this is the one that has made the most
difference for me and that has enabled me to learn languages faster and better.
When I first started to learn English, the method that I used was simple. At the time, I was
dissatisfied with the education I got in school when it came to learning English. So I
decided I would learn it on my own and become bilingual.
Here’s what I did.
I started collecting comic books such as “spider-man” and began reading them with a
dictionary. At first, I did not understand much. But I was looking up every word that I
didn’t understand and seeing what the translation was in French. Gradually, I assimilated
the language and started to read more advanced material, such as books and articles.
If you can combine including some reading time every day, by reading in the foreign
language with a dictionary (and making flash cards with new words!), you will eventually
surpass the “beginner” or “intermediate” level.
Every day, take some time in reading material that is challenging, yet not too difficult, to
you. By reading with a dictionary you will acquire new vocabulary, and get a feeling for
the language.
Start with easy material, such as children’s books. Then move on to non-fiction books,
short stories, newspaper articles, novels, etc. Choose material that is interesting to you,
if possible in your field of study. When you come across a word that you don’t understand,
look it up in the dictionary, and write it down on a flash card, along with its meaning. You
could also carry a booklet, and note in it all the new words you learn.
You don’t have to look up every single word. Look for the words that are encountered
frequently, as well as those necessary to understand the meaning of the sentence.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Set Yourself a Challenge
When I first started learning German, I was literally starting from scratch. A written page
in that language didn’t make any sense to me, let alone a complete book. So I bought
several books and magazines and used them as a “challenge” for me to get better with
the language. I thought to myself, “the day I can read those books, I will have made real
I actually ended up reading the first 4 volumes of the Harry Potter series in German. I
even listened to an audio recording of them on top of it!
Pick up reading material that is interesting to you, and spend some time every day going
through it with a dictionary, even if you don’t understand a lot at first.
Most language learners get stuck at the “intermediate” level. The key to break through
that point is to read lots of material with a dictionary.
Set yourself targets! Buy books that you’d love to be able to read in the original language.
How about reading Victor Hugo in the original French, or the Tao De Ching in the original
Chinese? Whatever suits your fancy.
What If the Language Isn’t Written In the Western Alphabet?
I know, I know, some of you have decided to learn languages that are written in weird
scripts, or worst even, using a completely different system like Chinese characters! So
what do you then? Can you still “read as much as possible using a dictionary?”
You’re not going to escape it: if you want to speak decent Arabic or decent Chinese or
decent Japanese, you’re going to have to learn to read and write it.
If the language you’re trying to learn uses a different alphabet, such as the Arabic script
or the Cyrillic alphabet, you’re going to have to learn it. This is generally not a big
It took me 30 minutes to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, and after a few hours of practice I
could read and write it without problems. Even though I didn’t get very far with Russian, I
can still read Cyrillic today.
Now that I’m learning Chinese, I’m facing a much bigger obstacles: learning Chinese
characters. But I find that by spending a little time every day to learn about 5 to 10 new
characters, I can make great progress. If I keep it up, I can master over 1000 characters
within just a few months.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
I find the study of Chinese characters relaxing. It’s easy to forget about dinner or that
“your favorite program is on TV” when you’re starting to practice Chinese characters. It’s
not any more tedious than doing crossword puzzles. It’s simply a game of patience and
So if you’re facing this “new writing system” challenge, just start to learn as soon as
possible. Of course, you will make faster progress with the audio methods and in
speaking, but eventually the writing will catch up and you will find yourself able to go
through some basic books such as children’s stories or even more basic material.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Principle #7
Get a Private Tutor or
Language Exchange Programs
I’ve already expressed my views on traditional learning methods, which I find pretty much
a waste of time, money and energy.
While that’s true, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a teacher.
In fact, it’s invaluable to have one.
As much as you can learn with books, audio tapes, flash cards and so on... you’ll never be
able to tell if you’re making a blatant mistake unless you have someone who can follow
your progress and help you improve constantly.
A tutor can also explain to you tricky grammatical points that might be too complicated
for you to grasp without their help.
Also, you need someone to practice conversation with. A private tutor can help you to do
So I believe in the value of having a private tutor. Cost can be an issue here, but in
general, language lessons, even private ones, are not too expensive.
I would recommend a weekly lesson with a private tutor, to make the most progress
When looking for a tutor, look for the following:
Native Speakers — As much as I think anyone can reach a very high level of
proficiency in a foreign language, they’ll never totally get all of the nuances of
pronunciation and idiomatic expression that a native speaker could. So find a tutor
who’s a native speaker and can also speak your language.
Conversational Based — You want to make sure your tutor won’t be an “oldschool” one who’ll have you go through boring textbooks before you can start
speaking a word in the foreign language. Make sure you explain to them that you
wish to practice conversation mostly, with some help with grammar as well.
Flexible. The methods and ideas I present in this program are radical. Most
language tutors are not used to them. For example, the idea of starting to speak
immediately with improper grammar using core vocabulary and the infinitive form
of all verbs (speaking like Tarzan!) won’t be popular with most language teachers.
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So you have to make sure that you explain to your tutor what kind of method you
are following and that you want help with YOUR method, and you want them to be
open to something different.
I would actually recommend mastering this core vocabulary before showing up for your
first meeting with the tutor.
Then explain what you have done. Explain that you wish to practice conversation speaking
like Tarzan and that you wish for them to speak to you the same way! Explain that you
understand the grammar is not proper but that you wish to start conversation immediately
and then improve upon it as you grow your vocabulary base.
A good tutor should be able to accommodate you and eventually transition you to the
proper speech and help you in the process of your language mastery.
Get a language buddy
Your budget may not allow a tutor. Or you may not be able to find one. Here’s one cool
alternative that I recommend: finding a “language buddy”.
There are websites on the Internet that allow you to connect to someone who would like
to learn YOUR language, and in exchange of some help they will help teach you THEIRS.
It’s a really cool system, but it’s not as straightforward as hiring a tutor.
The idea is that you can get together for a meeting and in the first half hour you will help
your buddy with their conversational English (or whatever your native language is), and in
the second half-hour they will help you with your Italian or German or Chinese or
whatever it is that you’re learning.
The best website I have found is at: They used to be free
but now have a small fee that they charge to allow you to contact other members. I found
it to be worthwhile.
You may also be able to find a similar type of language exchange program in your area:
Here are some tips to succeed with a language exchange program:
Avoid “Internet Buddies” — I found it pretty useless to find someone just to exchange emails with in a foreign language. It’s much better and more useful to practice
conversation. The e-mail exchanges can come later. So make sure you find someone who
lives in your area that you could get together with.
It’s not a dating site — That goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning it. If you’re a
single guy, don’t automatically e-mail girls who speak the language you’re trying to learn,
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secretly hoping for a date. Be comfortable finding a buddy of any age, as long as they are
really motivated to teach you their language. Of course, if you too happen to be single
and there are sparks and fireworks and you want to take this further, well you’re
consenting adults and so good luck with it! But that generally doesn’t happen so just go
about it with the intent of finding a good “buddy” and nothing more.
Have focused meetings — The people you’ll meet on the language exchange programs are
generally not teachers. So they won’t necessarily have a structure and so the temptation
will be great to both talk about each other’s language in a language that you both
understand, which won’t get you very far if what you’re trying to do is to learn their
language. So come to the meeting with an outline prepared. One half in one language,
one half in another. Find a random topic for conversation, and take lots of notes. This is
how you make these sessions really worthwhile. Don’t let new words go by without you
writing them down! Ask lots of questions. Ask them to tear apart your pronunciation and
grammar and help you out.
Also, make sure you incorporate the next principle into the mixture, which is...
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Principle #8
Practice Active Language Learning
I wasted a lot of precious moments until I finally understood that principle.
The idea is, when you’re in a situation where you’re actively practicing your foreign
language, that is, in conversation with other native speakers, you have to take advantage
as much as possible of that moment to learn and improve your skills.
I started learning English when I was 12. By the age of 20, I had a good command of the
language, without being totally fluent in it. I had read a lot in English but lacked
conversational practice. When I was 21, I left for California where I lived for 2 years and
half. The one thing I didn’t bring along was a dictionary. I just didn’t think about it.
When I got there, I often found myself in situations where I didn’t know how to say a
word. I eventually found my way around by explaining to people what I meant, and then
they’d give me the word I was looking for. When I left California, I was fluent, but the
knowledge I would have acquired if I had decided to actively improve my English would
have been tremendous.
When I spent a month in Brazil in 2004, I had a dictionary, but often in conversation I
would hear new words or expressions. I would ask people what they meant, but since I
didn’t write them down, I quickly forgot. My Portuguese improved a lot by that trip, but
nearly not as much as it would have if I had made a point to use every opportunity to
improve my skills with native speakers.
Now what I do is I always carry a little booklet around where I take notes of new words
and expression as they are taught to me by native speakers, in conversations. Otherwise, I
would quickly forget them.
Don’t settle for less than perfection. When you are talking with native speakers, you will
often not know how to say something. Sure, you can get the point across by using
paraphrases, which is a common characteristic of language students, but then, always
write down what the word was and make a point to look it up later.
Let’s say you’re discussing your latest philosophical insights with your German friends and
the concept you’re trying to come across is that of empathy. You know the word empathy
in English but not in German. Since you don’t know it you’ll get the point across by using
some other analogy and your listener will understand what you’re saying and tell you the
word. But then write it down, and make a point to look it up as soon as possible. What a
relief when you learn later that that word is Mitgefühl, and that by immortalizing it on a
flash card, you’ve just added it to your language repertoire!
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The other thing that will happen is that native speakers will use words and expressions
you don’t understand. Make a point to write them down. That is why you absolutely have
to carry with you a small notebook and a pen. You can perfectly interrupt your friend and
write the new words down. You can even ask them to spell it for you. They’ll be delighted
to help you and will be impressed by the efforts you are making to learn to speak their
language properly.
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Principle #9
Use a Complete, Multi-Level Approach
The best way to learn a language is to not just use one technique, such as mnemonics and
flash cards, but to use many different tools and techniques at the same time.
You have to be exposed to the same words more than once to remember them, and you
have to be exposed to them in different contexts.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you are learning French, and while you were reading, you found a word you
didn’t know. Actually, you probably found many words you didn’t know, but let’s just
take one, say noirceur, which means darkness.
You look it up in the dictionary and try to remember it. That’s one impression. You then
proceed to write it down on a flash card. That flash card is added to your flash card
When you’ll have a minute the next day, you’ll practice those new words. That minute
could be while you’re waiting for the bus.
Then on your way to the supermarket, which is a few blocks down the road, you’re
listening to a Vocabulearn tape, and one of the words that is being thrown at you happens
to be noirceur. Like an old friend, you recognize it immediately! A few days later, you
watch a French movie where they say, “J’aime pas la noirceur”, this time your mind
really absorbs it, after the third impression. You’ve won the battle with that one word.
Now, that can only happen when you steal time and proceed to a massive language
onslaught! Daily, you have to let your brain register the impression of many, many words
expressions and grammatical structures, from different fronts: listening, writing, reading.
And it works by spending a little time every day to:
1- Read aloud without looking at the translation, but paying
attention to the meaning and then verifying the translation.
2- Read with a dictionary or translation, writing down the new
words you don’t understand on flash cards.
3- Practice vocabulary with those flash cards.
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4- Practice vocabulary using audio flash cards (i.e. Vocabulearn
or your own).
5- Listen to language tapes (such as Pimsleur)
6- Working on your core vocabulary.
... as often as humanly possible.
And that is the only way you can effectively learn a foreign language in a short period of
Do you think it is any different for a child learning a language? Why do you think children
learn so fast? Because that’s all they do! That’s all they do, all day. There are other
reasons, of course, but this one is often overlooked.
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Principle #10
Don’t Waste Time – Reach the Advanced Level
Here’s my theory. It goes for learning languages or learning a musical instrument, or
learning anything else.
When you learn something to an advanced level, even if you don’t practice your
knowledge for a long period of time, you will still be able to get back to where you where
after a little re-adaptation. But if you learn to just a “beginner” or “intermediate” level,
you’ll likely forget everything if you don’t practice constantly.
I once decided to learn Russian. I spent a lot of hours on it, and I found this language to
be quite the opponent. I was able to achieve a certain level that could have qualified me
of “advanced beginner”. I was even able to read Cyrillic and write it.
But after a little while, I stopped practicing Russian and now... well you might say that I
don’t remember much of it.
On the other hand, I learned German to an advanced level. Even if I don’t speak German
or use it in any way for a full year, I can still get back to it easily.
It’s the same with the guitar. I was able to reach a certain “advanced” level with this
instrument. Which means that I mastered all the basics. Even if I have not played for a
long time, I can still pick up the instrument and play.
So when you learn a language, decide to reach the advanced level. Don’t settle for less
than that, because it’s the level that will bring you true satisfaction, and you’re sure to
never lose your gains if you end up not practicing it for a while!
It’s not a Linear Process
When learning languages, you’ll find that your progress will not necessarily be linear.
It’s not like you master level one, then you go to level two, and then to level three.
For real progress to happen, you may have to jump at level three for a while, before
you’re even ready for it, and then go back to level two to find it easy!
You don’t have to wait to have mastered all the basics to get into advanced material. I
believe that you should focus on your core vocabulary at first, but nothing prevents you
from reading “advanced” material if that’s what you feel like!
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Principle #11
Use Music & Poetry to Reinforce Your Language
Learning Enjoyment
There’s a really cool way that you can use to improve any language that you’re trying to
learn. It’s the use of music and poetry.
I’m talking about learning some songs and poems by heart. It’s an important and pleasant
step that will contribute enormously to your progress and enjoyment of learning your
target language.
When I first learned German, one thing that really helped me was learning some poems
and folks songs in German, and eventually getting into German heavy metal!
There’s a long tradition in Germany of folk songs and poems that used to be transmitted
from generation to generation. Many of these songs were actually brought to our culture.
But it’s not just German. Every culture has its song traditions, and by learning these texts
you start to soak in the spirit of the language. You learn to feel its poetry, its rhythm, its
music, and you incorporate its sounds into your body and your mind.
When I was studying Brazilian Portuguese, I got into an entirely new world of music with
Brazilian pop, jazz, bossa nova and all sorts of great artists and poets. I purchased dozens
of CDs and for a while this music really became a part of me and I believe, dramatically
helped me to learn the language.
But I would not just listen to the music, I would also spend time studying the lyrics and
make sure I understood every word.
You should try to find some music in your target language. In addition to that, you should
also learn by heart a few poems or folksongs that are considered to be “classics” in that
language. These would be the types of texts most native speakers learn when they are
The principle of using music and poetry to improve your language skills is not essential,
but I believe it will help you a lot and it will also add a lot of enjoyment to your language
learning experience.
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Principle #12
Immerse Yourself in the Language
As I’ve explained previously, a lot of people have this misconception that if they were in
the right environment, they could learn a language “automatically”.
Or they have this idea that by watching a lot of TV in the foreign language they’ll
somehow pick it up.
It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. So that’s why I think it’s not even a good idea to
try to “immerse” yourself if you don’t have basic knowledge in the language.
The principles that I’ve outlined so far can work very well even if you are not in a country
where your target language is spoken, or if you’re not surrounded by native speakers.
However, I do think that once you have mastered some core vocabulary and are quickly
learning and mastering the basics of the language, it’s essential at some point that you
immerse yourself in it.
A language is not something you just see… it is something you speak. So it is very
important that at some point you spend time speaking and listening to that language all
the time. Until you can start to think in that language.
The best way of course would be to take a trip to the country where you would speak the
language every day, and ideally would only speak that language.
One of the reasons you’re probably going through this program is because you want to
travel and practice a foreign language.
So let me give you a few tips based on my experience.
When I was studying German, I decided after about 6 months of study to go to Germany
and take an intensive course there with the Goethe Institute. This involved one month of
study with about 4 hours of lessons every day, in a group setting.
I was staying somewhere with a group of students from all around the world who were
also taking this program at different levels. The good thing is that none of these people
spoke English or French. They were from Asia or Eastern Europe in general.
But since their German was not very good, I did not get the full native experience with
them. And the group classes did not bring me full satisfaction... well, I’ve explained why
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before. It was the same story there. I felt I was progressing faster when I was taking some
trips on the weekends to visit some German friends!
When I went to Brazil for the first and only time, I had a very different experience. I
decided to travel for about the same length of time (5 weeks), but instead of taking
classes there, I ended up spending the whole time with Brazilian people, and spoke only
Portuguese during that period of time. Well I can tell you that my Portuguese was pretty
good by the end! I had some friends in Rio de Janeiro and from there I made more friends
and ended up visiting other towns and mostly staying at the houses of Brazilian people
(they are very friendly!).
On another occasion, I had a German girlfriend. Our relationship didn’t last very long, but
we decided to take a 2-week trip to France. Well even though I ended up doing some
translation there for her, I ended up speaking German constantly with her. I really saw my
German improve during that time!
In many other trips, I was traveling with someone who didn’t speak the local language. In
those trips my conversation was limited to casual stuff, such as ordering food at the
restaurant and having a few casual conversations with the locals, because the rest of the
time I was speaking French or English with my non-polyglot friends. Of course in those
trips I saw almost NO improvement in the language.
You may be learning a foreign language for various reasons. You may have different
motivations. Maybe for you, to be able to travel in Italy and find your way around in
Italian, order food at a restaurant and book hotels, and have casual conversations with
the Italians you meet — all in Italian — would make you feel super happy, would impress
your spouse and maybe that’s all you want!
Personally, I like to be able to talk about anything in a foreign language. I like to be able
to discuss politics or environmental issues or what the differences are between my
country and their countries, or love and relationship or life or the meaning of life for that
matter! But I don’t need to be that advanced with every language that I learn.
I think most Americans tend to overestimate the level of English that most natives in other
countries have. Most people in the world speak no English at all, and when they do speak
English, it’s usually very basic.
When I was traveling in Bali, I learned enough Indonesian to get me around... but my
regret was to not have learned enough. It was an easy language to learn, and I could well
have spent some extra efforts to learn it well, but I didn’t. So my conversation was very
limited. I had a great time, don’t get me wrong, but it would have been a totally
different experience if I had had more mastery of the language.
I’ve been told more than once that the best way to learn a foreign language is to get a
girlfriend that speaks this language. Well it’s true (as long as you follow the rest of the
principles in this book), but even if you’re married, you’ll still find plenty of occasions to
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practice. You don’t have to “date” someone to practice a language. You just have to find
some friends who speak that language.
If you’re learning a language for professional reasons, or if you’re just committed to
learning it well, you owe it to yourself to do an immersion in a country where that
language is spoken.
Here are some tips:
Language schools and language classes are great, as long as you have a private
tutor! It’s better to have one hour a day of class with a private tutor that 5 in a
group setting.
Refuse to speak English. It wasn’t too much of a problem for me, but in many
cases, foreigners will want to practice their English on you. Refuse to do it, unless
you just want to indulge them a little bit. I went as far as pretending that I didn’t
speak English in some cases. Do whatever you need to do, but make sure you
converse as little as possible in English or in your native language.
Don’t travel with a sucker. Sorry to be so blunt, but if you really want to get the
most out of your trip, you can’t be traveling with someone who is going to speak to
you in English all the time, and on top of it won’t even be able to speak the local
language. Now I understand that due to your particular situation it may not be
possible to go on a solo-trip. But if you can, do it! Your experience and your results
will be completely different!
Actually speak the language. If you hang out in your hotel room, and only get to
speak the language when you’re ordering food at a restaurant, you’ll have a hard
time improving your skills. So get out there, meet people, and really practice
conversation. The setting of a language immersion program is a great thing for
that, as long as you have a private tutor, remember.
It’s not always easy, so don’t be hard on yourself. When you’re traveling to a
foreign country and you’re doing your best to speak the language, there will be
hard times when you’ll be tempted to give up, where you’ll feel like a child unable
to express yourself, and when the temptation will be great to revert to English.
Don’t! Go through it and you’ll get the most results!
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How to Reach the Final Goal
It will happen. After hours and hours of hard study, you will get past the realm of the
beginner into the more interesting world of the intermediate student. When considered
“advanced,” your progress will be slower. Or at least it will seem to you. At some point
you may go through a momentary loss of interest in your language learning. This may be
due to focusing too much on written material and not enough on real life. The key? Go
take a private class. Watch a movie in your target language. Go talk to people.
This involves:
Intensive language courses in the country.
Corresponding with penpals (Internet is great for that).
Watch movies in the foreign language (without subtitles is best).
Listen to Internet radio or podcasts
Participate in language exchange programs.
Go out there and start talking!
In the last chapters of this manual, I will describe all sorts of ways you can get the feeling
of “immersion” without actually living in a foreign country.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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Using Technology: Why It’s So Easy to Learn
in 2007!
I want to talk about the proper use of technology, and what we should think of the
possibilities brought by the Internet to learn a foreign language.
First of all, I think that it’s become really easy to learn languages nowadays. One
invention that changes a lot of things for language learners is the iPod, or the portable
mp3 player.
Now I’m not that old, so I cannot imagine how it was in the days before the invention of
the portable cassette player (walkman). But I can recall using cassette tapes and CDs for
learning languages.
CDs are pretty useful when you’re in your car driving. You just pop in a CD and start
learning while you commute.
But when it comes to jogging, running errands and so on, the portable CD player isn’t
quite “portable”. The disc skips every so often, you almost have to carry a special bag on
your belt to carry it around, and then you have to bring it the CDs in their jewel cases so
they don’t get scratch, and changing CDs is a pain.
The portable cassette player at least doesn’t skip, but the sound quality isn’t great, and
it’s still quite too big to “carry around at all time.”
Enter the iPod (and eventually all the less desirable clones that tried to copy Apple’s
success). The tag line used to be “500 songs in your pocket” (now it’s “10,000 or
20,000”). For a language learner, it means, “all of the language course I could possibly
need in my pocket”.
The iPod went from being small, to being extremely small, to being super, super small, to
being tiny, and now to being ridiculously small (if we talk about the current “iPod shuffle”
or “nano” model).
It is definitely small enough to carry in your pocket all the time (I often even forget it’s
there!), and you can load on to it all the language programs you could possibly want.
One day my plan is to travel around the world. If I did it now, I could bring my current 30
gig iPod and load on to it ALL of the Pimsleur programs in every language available and
still have some room for music!
By the time I’m ready to travel the world, they probably will have built a watch so tiny
that will hold like a million hours of audio.
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But let’s be serious: if you don’t have an iPod, you’re not serious about taking advantage
of today’s technology!
Now doesn’t have to be the iPod. No of course. You can buy any brand you want. I just
haven’t found one as easy to use as the iPod. But as long as you can put it in your pockets
and carry your language courses with it, I’m fine with it.
When I leave my house, I have in my iPod all of the audio programs I could need for the
day. If I’m done with a Pimsleur lesson, I can switch to something else an the click of a
Now the iPod is just the tip of the surface here. What you can do with it is also amazing.
I’m talking about Podcasting.
A Podcast is simply an audio program that your computer program (iTunes) can subscribe
to, almost like a radio show. But unlike a radio show, you don’t have to tune in at a
certain time to listen (which is the reason why Internet Radio never got big). You can
simply subscribe to the Podcast of your choice. When you’re online and a new episode is
ready, it gets downloaded automatically to your computer and you can listen to it on your
iPod. Best of all, you can even tell your iPod to only load those new episodes you haven’t
had the chance to listen to yet.
Now, what doesn’t it have to do with language learning? Everything I shall say!
First of all, there’s a lot of language courses available in the form of Podcasts. Some are
very amateurish, and some are very professional (like or For some of these companies (like the one who does SpanishSense and
ChinesePod) the podcast is free, but if you can pay a reasonable monthly fee to access
more services on their website (such as the transcript of each podcast, additional lessons,
vocabulary drills and so on).
Another thing to look into is Podcasts in the language of your choice. So it’s not
necessarily a language lesson, but some material in your target language. For example,
you can subscribe to the daily evening news in German (the overview of today’s news),
the same program that Germans watch in their living news, simply by going to the German
version of iTunes and subscribing to it.
You can then either listen to it on your computer or your iPod, or actually watch it on
your computer or video-enabled iPod (this is called video podcasting).
So there’s a lot of possibilities to explore with language learning with podcasts. Since it
may not be obvious at first how to make all of this work, such as subscribing to evening
German news and so on, I have created a tutorial video that you can get in the download
page for this course. Please watch it.
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Another thing I want to talk about has to do with where you can download audio programs
in your target language, once you have an iPod or another mp3 player.
I recommend that you get a subscription to They offer not just audiobooks,
but also a lot of language programs, with new ones being added every day.
The subscription plans are very affordable, and you can use your credits for other audio
programs you may enjoy.
They even have audiobooks in Spanish!
Simply go to for more information. You’ll find the Dr. Blair’s programs I
have talked about, as well as many other series. You can easily download the programs to
your computer.
Best of all, the audible files remembers where you stop. For example, let’s say that you
have purchased Dr. Blair’s Spanish in No Time as an audiobook on Audible. You put it on
your iPod, and decide to listen to it for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes, you get tired,
and decide to listen to some music instead.
When later (which could be tomorrow), you return to Spanish in No Time, your iPod will
“remember” where you left off, even if you turned off your iPod in the meantime! Talk
about convenient technology here.
As a last item, I’d like to talk about the use of the Internet in general for learning
languages. The Internet is a great tool, and in fact in the resources you will find several
excellent websites recommended.
If you’d like to find a language buddy, to find a language school or teacher, to get free
lessons and so on, the Internet is excellent for that.
But in my opinion, it can also make you waste a lot of time. I’m talking about simply
reading websites “about” your target language, simply reading free lessons and other
types of passive learning.
My use of the Internet is more to get the material I want, but then listen to it or study it
somewhere else. Don’t stare at the computer for hours looking for more ways to improve
your vocabulary. At some point, you have to actually get out there and practice.
© Frederic Patenaude 2007, All Rights Reserved
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The Method: Putting it All Together
Ok, now it’s time to put it all together. I’ve shown you different principles for language
learning. I’ve shown you the importance of core vocabulary, of memorization, of
mnemonics, of flash cards, of audio methods, and ALL sorts of things.
How are you going to put it all together in a daily routine that works?
That’s what I’ll be answering in this section.
I’m going to give you my ultimate method for learning any language in a flash.
Now on the sales page where you first learned about this product, I told you I could teach
you how to learn any language in 7 to 21 days.
This is absolutely possible.
I’m also going to be honest with you. You can’t possibly master a foreign language in 7 to
21 days. Anyone who says that is a liar and a crook! The mastery of a foreign language
takes years at best.
But I understand that it’s not necessary your objective.
Your objective could be simply to have enough vocabulary to get you around, and know
the basics of the language. Can you do that in 7 to 21 days? Absolutely.
Another possible objective would be to speak a foreign language more or less fluently. I’m
not talking about native-like fluent, but simply to be able to communicate in that
language without problems, to be able to express yourself on all sorts of topics, to be able
to read the newspaper without a dictionary, watch TV and understand more or less what’s
going on.
Now this can take a little while to achieve, but certainly not as much as you think.
It depends on a lot of factors. First of all, it depends on the language you’re trying to
Yes, some languages are much harder than others to learn. And that, in itself, depends on
what is your native language!
As a French speaker, I find it relatively easy to study Italian. And since I already speak
Spanish and Portuguese, it would probably take me a few months at most to take my
Italian to the same level as my Portuguese if I really wanted to.
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As a native speaker of English, you do not have many advantages in learning foreign
language. Well, at least you’ll have an easier time than a Chinese person if you try to
learn French or other European languages, but that’s about it...
Languages can fall in different categories:
Very Easy
Fairly Easy
Fairly Difficult
Very Difficult
For illustrative purposes, let me give you an approximation of where the most popular
languages would fall, considering that you’re an English speaker (as most of my readers
This is from the FSI (Foreign Service Institute). Group 1 being the easiest and Group 4 the
hardest languages.
Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4
This is just an approximation of course! I have entire studies on the subject. Some people
would argue that French is a difficult language, but if you compare it to Japanese it’s a
piece of cake. And the level of complexity of Russian makes French much easier in
Of course even within group one you could spend time arguing about which is more
difficult, Indonesian or French? Spanish or Portuguese? The differences are not great
compared to those from the other groups.
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Now how long will it take you to get good at the language of your choice? Again, it really
depends on the language you’re trying to learn! Each language has it peculiarities.
Languages from group 4 might take you 3 or 4 times the same amount of time to master as
languages from group 1, but all can be learned, and all can be learned WELL.
What I’m going to do now is to describe the general “all-dressed” method that I use to
learn any language in a flash. It’s an intensive method, I have to warn you, but it’s also
one that anyone can do if they have 30 to 45 minutes to spare every day, because the rest
of the study is done in moments you didn’t even know were available to you!
Once I show you this general method, I’ll then create a daily checklist with it that you can
take with you and use to track your progress.
What I’m going to do after is give you some alternative “diet plans” to that basic language
learning “menu”. Depending on your goals and your level of motivation, feel free to pick
the plan that suits you.
Stuff to Get:
‰ A bilingual dictionary or even better, an electronic speaking dictionary with at least
30,000 words (not a “multi” one but one that works for the language you’ve
‰ A set of blank flash cards, or simply some blank notepads will do fine to create your
‰ A set of pre-made flash cards (if available)
‰ Some reading material in the foreign language (children’s books, easy novels,
magazines, etc.)
‰ Level one of the Pimsleur method
‰ Another audio course like “Dr. Blair” or “Learn in Your Car” or anything you could
‰ A travel phrase book
‰ One home-study course that can teach you some grammar (There are many Berlitz,
Assimil, Living Language, Teach Yourself)
‰ Audio flash cards
‰ An mp3 player
Some more expensive and excellent ones have lots of recorded material, like Pimsleur,
FSI, etc. I say get one method, but I really mean, get as many as you’d like. The more
tapes you have the better.
What if you’re on a budget?
If you’re on a budget, note that you could get most of these items at your public library.
Hey, your public library might even have the Pimsleur audio or other good quality audio
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
methods. You can get a used dictionary for cheap, and flash cards can be nothing more
than pieces of papers cut to the same size.
Stuff to Do
Here I’m going to describe the different elements of my method, so we’re clear about
them, and how you can combine them in the course of your first weeks or months of
studies, as well as on a daily basis.
Memorize Core Vocabulary with Mnemonics
Practice conversations speaking like Tarzan
Use flash cards + mnemonics to memorize more vocabulary.
Read with a dictionary. Look up new words. Create new flash cards.
Study Time. Use your workbook. Repeat phrases aloud, pretend you’re an actor,
pay attention to meaning.
Get a private tutor or language buddy to practice conversation.
Learn with audio-only method such as Pimsleur.
Immerse yourself. Practice conversation, listen to radio + movies with subtitles.
Memorize songs and poems. Listen to music.
Steal time to practice flash cards or listen to audio methods.
Whenever in conversation, make sure you are taking advantage of the moment by
writing down new words.
Always carry a small notebook, your language audio recordings and flash cards with
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
The Method
So here’s the method I suggest, the one that I would personally follow to learn a language
Week 1
‰ Focus on learning core vocabulary. The focus of week one is to spend your time
exclusively memorizing core vocabulary. Use mnemonics and flash cards to increase
retention. Practice at every moment of the day. If possible, already engage in
conversation speaking like “Tarzan” and asking your friend to do the same.
‰ Get a phrase-book, ideally one that comes with a cassette, and start to learn
important greetings and every day pieces of conversation, such as “Hi, how are
you?”, “Nice to meet you,” “please,” “thank you,” “I am learning your language,
but I do not speak it very well,” “could you repeat, please,” and other useful
Stuff to Do Every Day (from week 2)
R Spend 15-30 minutes in your sacred study time. That’s when you’ll work with the
method textbook and audio tapes (such as Assimil or others).
Every day, choose to spend a certain amount of time learning with the method. You have to do this
in a relaxed environment, where you can concentrate.
Repeat aloud the phrases. Work on your pronunciation. Don’t try to go too fast, make sure you
work a lot on the pronunciation. And study everyday. Don’t miss a day. If you only have ten
minutes that’s better than nothing. Cut out on something else if you can’t find the time, but do
find it every day. The best would be to study 15 minutes in the morning, and another block of 15
minutes in the afternoon.
R Revise at least a pile of flash cards in your spare time.
NOTE: Practice your flash cards several times a day, every time
that you have a chance.
R Listen to a Pimsleur audio lesson, once or twice.
If you have an audio-only method like Pimsleur, listen to it during the day and practice
aloud. Ideally, listen to the same lesson twice during the day. If you have other audio
courses available, you can also go through them in your spare time or commute time.
R Listen to at least 5-10 minutes of audio flash cards in your spare time (Vocabulearn or
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
‰ Make sure you are continuing building and mastering the core vocabulary.
Starting from Week 2 or 3
R Spend at least 15-60 minutes leisurely reading in your target language with a dictionary,
looking up new words and writing them down on flash cards.
NOTES: Get either a magazine, a newspaper, a comic book, etc. Start
reading it, highlighting new words, and make your own flash cards to learn
these words. Farber recommends doing this from the first day, but I think
it is better to wait a few weeks, until you have a good grasp of
pronunciation and some basic vocabulary. Otherwise you’ll get discouraged.
Also get a book, a novel or a non-fiction book. This is not for reading
now, but for in a few months. Now you can look at it once in a while and
realize how little you can understand from its content. And also smile at
the fact that this will change very soon. Keep this book as a reminder of
the challenge offered by the language that you are studying. You need not
look up every word that you don’t understand. Look up the ones that come
back all the time or the ones needed for the general understanding.
R Get private lessons or find a language buddy
After a month or two, if you can afford it, start taking private lessons or find a language
buddy. A private teacher will charge you between 10 to 35 dollars for a one hour session.
If possible do one hour and half sessions at a time.
After a few weeks or a few months
‰ After approximately 1-6 months of this method, depending on the language or your
background, you should be ready to go in the country and immerse yourself in the
language even more! Unless you happen to be living there already, of course.
‰ When you feel you’ve mastered at least 500-800 words (that would be three levels of
Pimsleur), start watching some movies or using some of the more advanced resources
described in later chapters to get a bigger feeling of “immersion” if you can’t go
immerse yourself in the country.
‰ Start to memorize some songs and/or poems and listen to music in the language, but
making sure you understand the lyrics.
Avoid doing exercises of the following type: Read the following text and answer the
questions. Avoid the types of book they use in schools, the ones with lots of colorful
pictures, lots of exercises, and very little, very simplified text. These booklets, used in
most school establishments, are not that great.
Avoid big classes with lots of students.
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A day in the life of a language-learner
Let’s put this all together in a typical day, almost like a schedule, to show you how
feasible it would be for someone to fit all of that learning in a day. I’m going to assume
that you’ve already spent a week focusing on learning as much core vocabulary as
This is a fictional schedule of course. I have no idea what your schedule looks like. But I
think you’ll get the idea.
7:00 a.m. — Wake up. As you get up in the morning, you put on
your headphones and listen to some audio flash cards, for about
2-3 minutes, as you’re dressing for your morning run.
7:15 a.m. — You go for a morning jog of about 15 minutes, while
listening to half of a Pimsleur lesson.
7:30 a.m. — Time for your shower and breakfast.
8:00 a.m. — You take 15 minutes before heading for work to go
through your daily lesson in your workbook and tape.
8:20 a.m. — Drive to work. You listen to the other half of the
Pimsleur lesson, and you end up having enough time to actually
listen to the same lesson again as your are stuck in traffic.
9:00 to 5 p.m. — You’re stuck at work, but you find plenty of
opportunities to pull out your flash cards and practice. When
you’re waiting in line anywhere, you pull out your flash cards.
Friends and colleagues wonder what got into you. You tell them
you’re learning French. They make fun of you. You give them a
sly James Bond smile and bask in your self-righteous
superiority as they feel the inner inadequacies of their own
mono-linguist and secretly envy you.
On your lunch hour, you even take the time to review the lesson
of the day and complete it.
5 p.m. — Commute back home. You’re tired of listening to
language stuff so you put on the radio. But in the last 15
minutes of your drive a feeling of courage overwhelms you and
you decide to put a CD of “French with Michel Thomas” and end
up thoroughly enjoying it so that you even stay an extra five
minutes in your car after pulling into your driveway.
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
8 p.m. In the evening, you decide to take 15 minutes to read
with a dictionary, and are amazed that there are many words and
even phrases that you now understand. As you go to bed, you
wish everyone “bonne nuit” and are looking forward to another
day of language studies.
THREE MONTHS LATER: You are now in Paris getting compliments
from French people about your excellent French and you watch in
shock how rude and uncivilized your fellow traveling American
friends seem, as they struggle to get around using English.
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
Different Language Learning Menus
People have all sorts of excuses for NOT learning a new language, even when they need
to. It’s very rare that time is really the issue. The issue is more how you CHOOSE to use
the time you already have available.
I’m going to suggest two alternate “menus” for achieving a certain language mastery.
The first one is for people who really feel they have limited time and attention to put to
this. In general that just means you have little energy to learn, because you can always
“steal” some time throughout the day for your language studies.
The second menu is for people who are REALLY committed to learning the language of
their choice. Maybe it’s an emergency. Like you’re going to move to Russia in 5 weeks and
you need to know the language as quickly as possible! Or you fell in love with a cute
Italian girl who doesn’t speak a word of English and you need to impress her. Or maybe
you’re just motivated to learn quickly and you’d rather concentrate your studies in a short
period of time rather than drag this for too long.
Then I’m going to suggest a quick “travel preparation” menu. That’s when you’re going to
go on a trip and you’d like to know the basics of the language to get around. You don’t
need to be “fluent” but just be able to get around.
Alternative Menu #1 — The Lazy Person’s Guide to Language Acquisition
Week 1
‰ Focus exclusively on building core vocabulary using mnemonics and flash cards.
Learn common phrases from the travel guide.
Week 2+
To Do Every Day
‰ Sacred study time: you have to spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day on your
method with textbook. Try to do more if you can.
‰ Audio course such as Pimsleur: steal time for that when you go out walking your
dog, commute, etc.
‰ Flash cards: steal time for that when you’re waiting in line at the bank, etc.
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How to Learn Any Language in a Flash
‰ Reading time: take 10 minutes (or more if you can) for that, ideally when you’re
not tired. I’m sure you can find 15 minutes for that, either when you come back
from work.
Alternative Menu #2 — The Maniac’s Guide to Learning Any Language
Week 1
‰ Spend around 2 hours a day learning core vocabulary using mnemonics and flash
‰ Blast yourself with the audio flash cards from Vocabulearn (first series) whenever
you can.
‰ Go through the first 7 lessons of a Pimsleur course.
Week 2+
To Do Every Day
‰ Sacred study time: for you, try two 20-30 minutes study sections, one in the
morning and one in the evening. Follow these study section by 20-30 minutes of
reading. So each study section will be about 45-60 minutes.
‰ Audio course: Listen to 60 minutes of Pimsleur every day (2 lessons, either the
same lesson twice or two different lessons).
‰ Flash cards: steal time for that when you’re waiting in line at the bank, etc.
‰ Reading time: do it after your study sessions, but if you can steal time for it, the
more the better.
‰ Get a private tutor starting from week 2
Good luck and happy language learning! Au revoir!
Note: there are many more resources in this program. Please go back to the download
page to access them.
Make sure you are signed up for your language learning e-mail tips at
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