Why hard work isn’t what makes good learners

Smart work

Why is that some people are worse language learners no matter how hard they work? Among the many emails/tweets and in-person comments I get about those who have tried and failed to learn languages, what comes up more often than not is something along the lines of “I know that I can’t ever learn French/German/Chinese […]


How to Make a New Year’s Resolution and Actually Keep It

Every year around January 1st, my inbox gets filled up with language learners excitedly declaring to me their New Year’s resolutions. They tell me, this is the year I will learn French! Learn Spanish! Learn Chinese! To all you resolved language learners out there, hoping to make 2015 the year you finally reach your language-learning […]


Stop Allowing Excuses to Run Your Life!


In my inbox I see hundreds of people sharing their language learning woes every day, and in person I meet many people everywhere I go who struggle to start a language. There are many reasons they give, some of which are valid, but many times they are just excuses. Nothing reminds us more of this […]


How to Start Learning a New Language (Right Now. Today. Seriously).


Let me ask you a question: If you really wanted to learn a new language, what would you be doing right now to make that happen? The thing with language learning, and really with any goal or desire we have in life, is that we spend a lot of time thinking about what we want and talking about […]


5 crazy ways to get over shyness immediately, no drink/drugs required

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My philosophy in language learning is, always has been, and always will be to Speak From Day One.

But for many people, this is terrifying! And because I have been talking so much about how effective I’ve found using Skype and language exchange websites, or in-person meetings early on in a language project to chat with native speakers right away, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what to do if you’re too shy to speak from day one.

So today I’m going to answer these questions.


I’m severely deaf and partially sighted, but have learned 5 languages. Here’s my story


So, I’m Julie Ferguson and I have nothing on Helen Keller! I am, however, severely deaf and partially sighted.

My parents realised that I had a hearing problem when I was 2 years old, though I didn’t get my first hearing aid until I was 4. Unfortunately, when I was 4, nobody could understand me babbling away in my version of English, except for my mum and my brother. Apparently, I was bad. I couldn’t even pronounce my own name (it sounded like Ooee Fehuhoh).

I was sent to speech therapy for intensive work before I started primary school, and I remember working on all those weird sounds especially “spoon”. My particular hearing loss makes it difficult to hear consonants, especially s, h, and f.


Contextese – the most useful language you are already fluent in


I came across this strange video on a break (from my top secret project). It depicts an episode of Law & Order as if it had chickens/roosters instead of people (from an episode of the funny show “Robot chicken”). Because of that, the dialogue is nothing but gibberish clucks.

And yet, it is incredibly easy to follow what is likely being “said”, especially if you happen to know the format that Law & Order episodes tend to take. Which “clucks” did you understand?


The many reasons (32 so far) why we DON’T succeed in learning languages


Today’s post is my serious attempt to collect every possible reason why we don’t learn a language in list format, and to offer possible suggestions to overcome them. (Note that in the post after this, I am looking for the opposite to reasons why we can’t and I want to hear your success stories that […]


Fail fast and fail often: why many failures can be the key to success

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan As I wrote earlier in the week, my […]


The Language Gene delusion


When you understand “language genes” to be something that some people have and you don’t, then you’re being ridiculous. I’ve seen this in many iterations: language talent, gene, skill, knack etc., and today I’m going to tell you why I think it’s all nonsense. The part of your genetic makeup that helps you deconstruct and […]


Why getting mistaken for a native speaker is much easier than you think


Someone thinking you are a native speaker of your target language is the holy grail of language learners. It’s something many of us dream about, but then sigh to ourselves that it’s just never going to happen. Well, today I want to burst that bubble and tell you that many people genuinely thinking you are […]