How to keep the fun in language learning!
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  • 25 tips for language learning

    Posted on March 23rd, 2009 Mairo Vergara 14 comments

    helpful_tips_language_learningI summarized 25 tips for language learning from Teach Yourself a Foreign Language Podcast episode six. I hope you like it!

    1. When first starting out, try to just listen to your target language as much as possible without attempting to speak it. This helps you acquiring an ear for the language.

    2. Develop a deep desire to learn the language. Without a desire you won’t get far.
    3. Use time for you language learning which is ordinarily wasted. Standing on line, waiting for an elevator, etc., are all opportunities not to be missed.

    4. Think in terms of phrases and not individual words. It’s easy to remember a phrase like “a breakfast of bread and butter” than it is to remember each word in isolation.

    5. Use your imagination. Visual images can help you remember words.

    6. Invent stories using as much of your new vocabulary as possible. Any words you can’t think off in your target language use your native language and then look up those words later.

    7. Listen to internet radio broadcasts and podcasts as much as possible.

    8. Likewise, watch videos. (

    9. Utilize the BBC for news broadcast and lessons in your target language. (

    10. Utilize flashcards or small notebooks to review vocabulary words and phrases.

    11. Invent funny or silly mnemonic phrases to help you remember new words or concepts.

    12. Use a bilingual dictionary often, not just to look up specific words, but browse through it.

    13. Draw columns on paper, words in your native language on the right and target language on the left. This allows your eye to easily scan to one column to the next and it helps your brain absorbs that word.

    14. Write a simple children’s book in your target language. Make it silly and utilize simple concepts as though a child was actually going to read the book.

    15. Learn the past tense before learning the present tense, and save the future tense for last.

    16. Practice unfamiliar sounds in your target language in the shower or in the car. Example: the English “th” sound. Say it over and over.

    17. Use computer programs and free online dictionaries. (,,

    18. When reading, read more slowly and deliberately than you do in your target language. Later, as you progress, your speed will increase to normal levels.

    19. Read bilingual books or books in the target language that you are already familiar in your native language.

    20. Read comics and cartons in your target language

    21. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

    22. Read your grammar books.

    23. Think in your target language

    24. Put stickers in everyday life items until you’ve learned their names.

    25. Take an occasional break or a day or two off to let your mind sort out your new vocabulary words.

  • Revolutionary approach to learning languages!

    Posted on January 28th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 6 comments

    revolutionary-article-on-language-learningKatz just twittered (can use twitter as a verb? “to twitter”) about this great article: Revolutionary approach to language learning. By the way, you can follow me on twitter at

    “Teachers should recognise the importance of extensive aural exposure to a language. One hour a day of studying French text in a classroom is not enough—but an extra hour listening to it on the iPod would make a huge difference,” Dr Sulzberger says.

    This kind of article makes me think that someday in the not-near future, students will receive iPods when enrolling on language courses, play RPG games to improve their reading abilities, use SRSs, and set up blogs in their target language (just like me…).

  • Amazing Article – Picture Stories, ALG Concept in ESL

    Posted on January 23rd, 2009 Mairo Vergara 4 comments

    logo-algPerhaps one of the best articles on language learning that I have read in these last months! Antonio Graceffo is a language teacher, writer and martial artist. In this amazing article he discusses how he uses the ALG Concept (Automatic Language Growth) in his teaching. This article is just awesome, it shows how we can in fact change the way we teach, how we can forget this thing about “make the students talk” and start focusing on what’s really important: comprehensible input (OK, I love Krashen!).

    Some quotes from the article:

    So, in a strict ALG classroom, students would listen for around 800 hours before they are permitted to start speaking.

    This is so cool! Listen to almost 1000 hours, after that start speaking. Katz and Steve Kaufmann would go crazy!

    Sadly, EFL, ESL, TESOL and whatever other acronyms you want to use for English language teaching, is a business. If parents knew that their kids weren’t speaking in class, they would pull their students out and send them to another school.

    That’s a reality we have to change. Unfortunately too many TEACHERS still believe it is necessary to speak in order to speak. Listening and reading, and how it can improve your output skills still misunderstood by many people.

    “Just keep them talking!” is a mantra I have often heard from employers. But how can students talk if they have nothing to say? Perhaps the correct mantra should be “Keep them listening.”

    100% agreed. Keep listening and you’re going kick a…

    Check out the following video, and after that read the article! You have to!

  • Me and the old lady

    Posted on January 13th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 3 comments

    old-ladyYesterday I had one of the most terrific experiences in my life. Let me tell you about it; I guarantee it’s worth your time. On the way to my girlfriend’s house at about 12:30 I randomly met an old lady on the streets. She patiently asked me: “Hey son, could you help me cross the street?”. I of course replied “Yes, sure”. I helped the old lady cross the street and while she was talking I noticed she had a strange accent. Where is she from I wondered. “Are you from Londrina?” (Londrina is the city where I live) I asked her. “No, I’m not from Londrina. I live here but in fact I am from Mozambique, Africa. Oh that was nice I thought. Just after that she said: “I’m an English teacher”. The was REALLY nice I thought again! “Well, I just finished University, I am also an English teacher” I said. When I said this the old lady started talking in Enlgish…

    Ohhh so do you speak English?
    Of course I do!
    … and so on…

    We spent one hour chatting on the middle of the streets. I even took a bus with her to the bus terminal here in Londrina. She told me about how she lost her job (she used to teach English in a church, but they had some problems she winded up without a place to teach), how she was looking for a new place to work, about her husband who was sick, about her sun, which has around my same age, etc. The old lady was 74 years old and she was very, very cool! She reminded me of my grandmother.

    She talked about English and how she liked to teach it. How those modern teaching methods are not good and how she liked the old, more traditional methods. I agree with her, even though I don’t know much about methods. The old methods seem really nice. For example, Prof. Arguelles in his videos talks about how the old Assimil methods are better than the new ones. Nowadays it seems professors want to make the methods so comfortable and easy to follow without caring at all about the effectiveness of it. Words like repetition and memorization cause horror in actual language teachers who want every method to be “inter-socio-communicative”.

    My talk with the old lady made think about how simple language learning and teaching should be. You just learn the words, learn how to say the phrases, and use the grammar as a way to polish, to clean points where you have problems. My girlfriends told me that old people learn, after so many years, to separate necessary from unnecessary things. Maybe this is what we language learners and teachers should try to do. Put aside what is unnecessary and stick to what is truly necessary in our studies.

    I hope I can talk to the old lady again. I’m sure you and I can learn so much with her. She said God put me in her path. I, being a really rational person, personally don’t believe in God. But for those who believe in it, maybe it really exists. I would say God put me in her way in the same way coincidence put her in my way. Just to finish it up, her name was Raquel and her accent was awesome!

  • The 90-day rule – How to learn a language in 90 days

    Posted on January 6th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 9 comments

    90daysHave your ever heard about the 90-Day Rule? Basically it means whatever you are doing right now, today, will affect your life in 90 days. Start working on it today and the results will come 90 days from now. Are you wondering why you still can understand German newspapers or Japanese Anime? If so, ask yourself what were you doing 90 day ago. Were you practicing you German, Japanese, or whatever language you’re learning? Did you practice it from 90 day ago until today, every day? Probably if you did it you must have improved a lot, didn’t you? If you didn’t,  you will most likely realize that you simply don’t understand the German newspaper or the Japanese Anime because you were not working on it, you were doing other “important” things.

    Start working on something, be it language or whatever, and keep working on it for 90 days. I guarantee you the results will come up and you will be amazed of how “easy” it was. In fact, becoming good at something doesn’t require a tremendous amount of effort, it requires regularity, patience and discipline. One can sit down and study Chinese for 4 hours, but can you do these same 4 hours in 15 minutes a day for 16 days? Even though you’re going to spend only 15 minutes a day, it will still take 16 days, which is a lot a time. If you sit down and study for 4 hours straight, it will be just one day and you’re done, it’s over. Unfortunately, we tend to learn more through regularity than through intensity.

    Getting into languages, you can easily learn a good amount of any language (or improve a language you already know) by working on it during 90 days. 90 days isn’t a long amount of time, but also isn’t a short amount time. Devote one hour of your day to learn a language, do it for 90 days and see what comes out of it. Let’s say for example you want to learn Spanish from scratch in 90 days, what you can do?

    You can use Michel Thomas and Pimsleur. Curiously, Pimsleur is divided in 90 lesson, so you can do one lesson a day. Or you can use methods like Assimil and set up a plan to finish it in 90 days. Or you can even just read and listen to content on the Internet. Whatever you do, do it regularly for these 90 days. The results will come for certain. Maybe if you take a difficult language they will not be big results, but they still will be good results. If you take an easy language for you (like Spanish for me) you could end up learning a good amount of the language in just 3 months. One thing I can guarantee, you are going to learn much more than those guys at the language school. Just make sure you are doing it every day, at least one hour a day.

    Take for instance this blog. I set up this blog for two main reasons: 1) to improve my English, 2) to blog (because I like blogging). The first post published dates December 15th, which means I have been working on the blog for less than a month. Let’s see what it will look like and March 15th, 90 days after the first post. Surely it will be better than now, as long as I keep working on it everyday.

    And you, what language do you want to learn? Start working on it today and stick with it for 90 days. After that come here again and tell me the results!

    See you all later!

  • Why it must be cool!

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 Mairo Vergara 5 comments

    language-baby-coolToday I want to talk about coolness in language learning. Language is much more than a bunch of words combined in sentences and paragraphs. Language is much more than be able to ask “What time is it now?” or “Where’s the toilet?”. It’s much more than capability to say “I love you” in 24 different languages. All these things are the boring part of language learning. Language is communication. Through language we communicate and interact with people, we tell stories, we share our knowledge. Can you image ourselves without language, without being able to communicate? Almost certainly you can’t, because language is something so inherent to us, that we can’t image ourselves without it.

    As you can see, language is really important and crucial in everyone’s lives, and even when people can’t talk, they find ways of communication. But language is not only important,  it’s also damn cool! Why do you talk to other people? Why do you read books? Why do you watch movies and listen to music? Because it’s boring? Of course not! You do all these things for these things are cool! Because it’s interesting, because it makes you laugh, it makes you smart, it pleases you. And if you want to do it in the coolest way, you can do it in different languages! More languages mean more access to the enormous quantity of cool stuff out there. That’s why every language learner should learn English. Because English is so widespread, because there are so many English books, movies, music, articles, blogs, games, etc. To know English means to have access to all this content, to be able to watch Lost without subtitles, to be able to read zillions of super cool blogs, listen to The Beatles, and play World of Warcraft. Not that you can’t do it in other languages, but if you are serious about language learning and want to do something cool with you language skills, I highly recommend you learning your target language and also English.

    All languages give access to cool stuff. If you learn Japanese, you can watch Dragon Ball Z, if you learn French you can read Sartre, if you learn Spanish you can talk to “caliente girls” from Argentina, and so forth. Language is all about fun and cool stuff. As I once said: Cool stuff is at the core of language learning.

    The problem is that our schools, universities and institutions apparently don’t care about it and seem to turn everything in a complete boringness. C’mon! Language classes are one of the most boring things ever! You have to pretend to talk to your classmates about stem cells using the present perfect! You have to read ridiculous texts about a Michal Jackson [I like Jackson’s music, but I have no interest at all in texts about his life or career]. You have to play stupid games in order to memorize the numbers… C’mon again! I ain’t no kid! I do not learn Japanese to play kid’s games inside a classroom with my classmates! I learn Japanese because I want to hang out with my Japanese friends, watch Miyazaky’s anime and listen to Koda Kumi [also watch her]. I want the cool stuff! Not the boring crap!

    Khatzumoto, grand master from AJATT already told us all about it. In order to learn a language you have to surround yourself with the language, and of course with cool stuff in the language. One of the reasons for why I’m writing this blog is that I know it will improve my English writing skills, and also because I like to write, I like to share my ideas through the Internet and see what other people think about it. I write this blog because it’s cool and because it will improve my English. If it wasn’t cool, I probably wouldn’t do it. Moreover, I don’t learn English to write this blog, I write this blog than I learn English.

    My final recommendation for this post is: look for the cool stuff! It varies: some people like music, some people like to read. The important is to find out what you find cool, what you’re are willing to do/read/listen/watch. Just remember the simple rule: if it’s cool, if you want it, and if it’s in your target language, then it’s for you. Now you just have to find tons of cool stuff. The more cool stuff you have, the more you are going to do/read/listen/watch it, therefore the more you are going to learn.