Become Better At Grammar And Remember it Much Longer By Personalizing It

“…and that’s why, children, we use Past Simple to describe finished events in the past”

I started coming back from the mental vortex. I zoned out. Not that it was any surprise. It happened in almost every language lesson at school.

“Let’s take a look at the following example”, a cold, sharp voice cut through the air, “yesterday Johny went to the shop.”

I don’t know what she said next. I didn’t care. I preferred to concentrate on my physics homework.

“Why do these lessons have to be so boring”, I thought, as the frustration started growing inside of me.” And who the fu** is Johny?! He’s no friend of mine!”.

Maybe for you, it wasn’t English. Maybe it was German, French or Spanish. But you REMEMBER that soul-tearing boredom of language classes, don’t you?

Why Grammar Is So Boring

One of the problems with effective learning, be it languages or anything else, is that we try to learn new material in the exact form we get it. Teachers, authors of grammar books and course creators serve you some definition and expect you to understand it and (ideally) start using it right away.

But truth be told, it doesn’t happen often.

You can read a definition of the use of a given tense or grammar construction.
But will it really mean anything to you? Will it appeal to you?

No.

Courses and books are full of faceless and meaningless “Johnys'”. But you don’t care about them. But do you know who your brain cares about? You!

Anything which concerns you immediately becomes ten times more interesting! Why not use it to your advantage to become better at grammar (also check this article to memorize grammar faster)?!

Become Better At Grammar By Personalizing It

The process of memorizing can be depicted in the following three steps.

1) Encoding – involves initial processing of information which leads to construction of its
mental representation in memory

 

2) Storage – is the retention of encoded information in the short-term or long-term memory

 

3) Recall – is retrieval of stored information from memory

 

As you can see from the model above, in order to maximize your chances of storing and retrieving information, you have to encode it.

Ok, let’s try to encode some grammar construction by personalizing it. I can’t promise that my examples will appeal to you. But I hope they will give you some idea of how to do it.

 

Example no 1 – French verbs with “être”

In French, the auxiliary verb is either avoir or être. French verbs are classified by which auxiliary verb they take, and they use the same auxiliary verb in all compound tenses.

Most French verbs use avoir. However, there are 16 sneaky verbs which require être.

I will list only half of them.

 

Become Better At Grammar

 

The usual strategy is to repeat such list until you “get it”. Or until you lose the will to live.
Whichever comes first.

But we will try to encode it with help of some nice and personalized story.

Let’s say that you’re an adventurer and together with your friend you’re hunting the mythical “Fluffy Monster”.

I have come there – to the cave of a fluffy monster (Je suis venu ici– à la grotte d’un monstre en peluche). I have wanted to do this since I was born (Je voulais faire cela depuis que je suis ). My friend has also arrived – he didn’t stay at home (Mon ami est aussi arrivé– il n’est pas res à la maison).

We have climbed the stairs and entered the gate (nous avons monté les escaliers et sommes entrés par la porte). We have killed the monster, reentered the gate and returnedhome (Nous avons tué le monstre et nous sommes rerentrés par la porte et sommes retournés à la maison).

The story is definitely silly but I dare you to forget it!

 

Become Better At Grammar by personalizing it
Example no 2 – When to use the Present Continuous tense in English

English tenses are notoriously difficult for non-native speakers.

For example, we use Present Continuous to describe:

 

  • 1) things that are happening at the moment of speaking
  • 2) temporary situations, when we feel something won’t continue for a long time
  • 3) annoying habits, when we want to show that something happens too often and we don’t like it. In this case, we usually use an adverb like ‘always’, ‘forever’ or ‘constantly’
  • 4) definite future arrangements (with a future time word)
  • 5) situations which are changing (i.e. is dynamic)

 

Ugh. Booooring!

But if you have a spouse, maybe you will find the following monologue more appealing and memorable.

“Recently I’m working too much (2) . Am I turning into a workaholic (5)? Maybe. But I’m meeting my boss on Friday (4) and I have to have something to show for it. Now when I am thinking about it (1), it’s all because of my wife ! She is always nagging me (3) – “do this”, “do that” !

Personalize grammar learning

 

Example no 3 – When to use the subjunctive mood in Spanish

 

The subjunctive mood is used to express everything except certainty and objectivity: things like doubt, uncertainty, subjectivity, etc.

One of the best ways to get accustomed to using it is to learn a list of clauses commonly associated with the use of the subjunctive. It is quite long so I will take the liberty of using just three of them in my example.

 

en caso de que …en cuanto …es aconsejable que …
in case …as soon as …it’s advisable that …

 

To remember them, try to imagine that your friend turns to you with a problem – his feet hurt. He is in a lot of pain. Luckily, you know the remedy. You look him straight in the eye and say:

It’s advisable that you lick your toes as soon as you come home – in case you feel lonely (es aconsejable que lamas tus dedos del pie en cuanto lleges a casa – en caso de que te sientas solo)

Give It A Try

As with everything – you will never know if something works until you try it yourselfSo go ahead! Infuse some life into your learning. Make it absurd, funny and personal,

Make it MEMORABLE!

Question for you Is there any grammar construction you have trouble remembering? How can you personalize it? 

You Don’t Learn Languages Like a Child – Start Learning Grammar and Vocabulary

You Don't Learn Languages Like a Child

Do you know what is the biggest BS statement on the Internet concerning language learning? “You should learn languages like a child”. Ok, maybe not the worst, but certainly right up there in the top ten. I hate it. I always feel like shooting kittens whenever I hear it.

You see, there are two kinds of stupid advice – harmful and harmless. Harmless advice is, well, harmless. If somebody suggests you to wash your car with milk to make it look glossy and shining, nothing bad will really happen.

Ok, you might find your car covered with ants and cockroaches in the morning. But nothing really THAT bad. However, the harmful advice will make you lose (besides health!) the most important and non-renewable resource you possess – time. You can always make more money. But you can’t recover the lost time.

“Learn like a child” advice does exactly that. It makes you lose the unthinkable amount of time.

“But Bartosz, why do you think that it’s actually a bad piece of advice?”. Good question, voice no 3 in my head. I rush to explain.

Behind every phrase, saying and a piece of advice there is some assumption. Or even a few of them.
At the first glance, they might seem logical. You have to dig deeper to uncover the truth.

Let’s deconstruct all the assumptions behind this terrible piece of advice.

1) You have as much time as children

 

Average child needs at least a few years of his life to start producing any complex (?) sentences. And last time I checked kids don’t have to pay any bills. Nor do they have to go to school when they are two. Hey, they don’t even have to wipe themselves! They just sit and listen. That’s their only entertainment.

So is your life situation comparable in any way to this ideal?

2) You can fully immerse yourself in a foreign language

 

Bad news. It’s not going to happen. Unless you’re willing to move abroad, of course.

3) Your brain is similar to the one of a child

 

You Don't Learn Languages Like a Child

 

I could quote dozens of scientific papers here. But there is no need. You already know that your brain is nothing like the one of a child. The latter is a clean slate. Yours is like a graffiti-covered wall. The first one absorbs hyper-actively anything on its path. Our adult brains are pickier not as willing to take in the new information.

Here is some foretaste of the processes taking place in a child’s brain (original article can be found here).

Between conception and age three, a child’s brain undergoes an impressive amount of change. At birth, it already has about all of the neurons it will ever have. It doubles in size in the first year, and by age three it has reached 80 percent of its adult volume.

 

Even more importantly, synapses are formed at a faster rate during these years than at any other time. In fact, the brain creates many more of them than it needs: at age two or three, the brain has up to twice as many synapses as it will have in adulthood.

And most importantly

(Their) genes allow the brain to fine-tune itself according to the input it receives from the environment. The earliest messages that the brain receives have an enormous impact.

4) First and second language acquisition is basically the same thing

 

Adults are further advanced when it comes to cognitive development. What’s more, they have already acquired their first language. It gives them the advantage of having the pre-existing knowledge!

All these factors influence the cognitive structures in the brain and make the process of second language acquisition fundamentally different from the ones occurring when you learn a mother tongue.

Learn The Most Important Grammar Rules

 

Here is a fascinating excerpt taken from David Gelernter in Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox…How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean. (as found on Farnam Street).

In your mind particulars turn into generalities gradually, imperceptibly—like snow at the bottom of a drift turning into ice. If you don’t know any general rules, if you’ve merely experienced something once, then that once will have to do. You may remember one example, or a collection of particular examples, or a general rule. These states blend together: When you’ve mastered the rule, you can still recall some individual experiences if you need to.

Particularities turn into generalities gradually. Gradually means slow. Slow, of course, isn’t a negative term.

But I don’t see any reason why I should wait one year before speaking some language at the communicative level. That’s why it is always better to start with generalities, i.e. with the most important grammar rules.

I actually don’t claim that you have to learn grammar at all. You might choose to wait until the language “sinks in”. But I can promise you this. It will take you a long, long time. Even longer if this is your first foreign language. In fact, it might take so long that you will give up.

I believe that the pace of our progress is one of our biggest sources of motivation. Think about it. How many times have you continued to do something despite the lack of progress? Few of us are persistent enough to pursue activities which don’t bring any effects.

Why Adults Learn Better

 

As I’ve written before, adults have pre-existing language knowledge. Children have to learn the mechanics of their mother tongue, while as adults have a more developed grasp of how language works. After all, almost all of us know what conjugations or adjectives are. What’s more, adults are outstanding pattern finding machines – it’s much easier for us to deduce and apply language rules!

To sum up – as adults, we can learn really fast. But as I’ve said many times, it all depends on how hard you’re willing to work. If you believe that watching TV series, reading comic books or just passive listening will make you fluent then… keep on dreaming. I know it sounds harsh. But it’s always better to be mentally prepared to tackle challenges than to hope that “it all will be good”.

Learning requires the effort. There is no way around it.

 

Want To Sound Natural In Foreign Languages? Create Your Own Feedback Loop Within One Minute!

Want To Sound Natural In Foreign Languages? Create Your Own Feedback Loop Within One Minute!

The beginning of language learning journey is full of questions. You can’t be sure of almost anything you say. How could you? You know almost nothing.

So how can you check if the sentences you produce with such effort are correct? Especially if you don’t have any contact with native speakers. Ultimately, the purpose of practicing any language is to get to (at least) communicative level in a foreign language of your choice. You definitely don’t want to utter some incoherent and half-baked sentences.

As you know, I’m a very zealous supporter of talking to yourself. It’s one of the best (and free!) ways to improve your fluency. Some people actually suggest that one of these days it will lead me to sitting half-naked on the park bench and mumbling to myself while feeding pigeons. But I’ll take my chances!

So how do you tackle this problem? How do you make sure that what you want to say sounds natural and would make every native speaker smile and nod with approval?

If your first and final answer is “Google Translate!!!”, I have bad news for you.It’s still a very imperfect tool, incapable of distinguishing between various differences of the words.

I mean, just take a look:

 

Want To Sound Natural In Foreign Languages?The solution I would suggest is combining the powers of Google Search Engine and Google Translate.
Google Search Engine gives you instant access to millions upon millions of sentences which you can compare your efforts with.

Let’s take a look at how you can make it happen. Closing the entire feedback loop shouldn’t take longer than 1 minute.

Translate A Phrase With Google Translate

 

Some time ago I wanted to use the phrase “padół łez i rozpaczy” (literally “vale of tears and despair”) in one of my articles. I admit this phrase is very rarely used, even in Polish. It’s quite a depressing idiom used to describe our world. And I love it.

It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t have the slightest idea how to say it. The first thing I did was checking the translation in Google Translate.

Feedback loop

Does it look ok? No idea. Like I said, I have never used it myself. I also have never seen it being used anywhere.

Google The Phrase In Quotations Marks

 

That’s why our next step is to check how often it is used by native speakers. First of all, we need to learn how to make our search more precise. Our weapon of choice is “quotation marks”.

Using quotation marks
Putting terms in a quote indicates a sentence and will be searched for exactly in this composition. And this is what we get:

 

Want To Sound Natural In Foreign Languages?

1 result?! Seriously?! What’s more, .pl means that somebody from Poland tried to use it before and even put it in the book! It is kind of disappointing. I really wanted to use it. But hey! Let’s check if the phrase “vale of tears” is more popular.

 

 Sound Natural In Foreign Languages

It turns up 351k results. Much better. If I had chosen so, I could have used it. Now just to prove a point, let’s check how many results it turns up without quotation marks.

Want To Sound Natural In Foreign Languages?

As you can see, with over 1 million results it turns up 4 times more results than the same phrase with quotation marks. If I didn’t know better, I would say that it’s quite a common phrase.

Don’t Let It Limit Your Creativity

 

All the languages are constantly evolving. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to coin a new great word? That’s why you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you say something silly.

Not longer than one year ago I told my supervisor that “we can’t jaywalk through the planning process”. He said that it sounds weird. But hey! I still like this phrase!

So that’s what I do at the beginning of my language journeys (and even much later) to make sure that I don’t mutilate a given language too much. You see, now you have no excuses not to write to somebody in a language you’re currently learning!

How To Quickly Learn Declensions and Conjugations And Other Grammatical Abominations

How To Quickly Learn Declensions and Conjugations In Any Language

 

I’m definitely a weirdo. I enjoy learning grammar! Declensions, conjugations, possessive pronouns.
I love them all! And there is a good reason for that! They are simply one of the easiest things to learn in most languages!

Of course, let’s be perfectly honest – learning them is easy. However, using them without any hesitation is another story. Here are a few methods you might use to learn grammar effectively:

The Classical Method

 

Repeat everything till your eyes and brain start bleeding. Not interested? Read on!

Look For Patterns

Let’s play Sherlock Holmes for one moment. The first thing I do when I learn grammar of some language is establishing some patterns.

 

How To Quickly Learn Declensions and Conjugations In Any Language

 

For example, take a look at the weak declension of adjectives in German (it is used when there is a preceding definite article (“der-word”).

Can you see it? Rock n roll horns created of “-en”

Learn Declensions and Conjugations In Any Language

And the rest of this table is just “e”! Quite simple to remember, isn’t it?

The Four German Cases

Can’t remember the order of German cases? Maybe if I NAG(ge)D you would! 🙂

2. Create Some Stories

This is my absolutely favorite method since you can use it with combination with mnemonics.
It definitely requires some concentration and creativity. It might be difficult at the beginning.
You have to shake up your rusty imagination!

Example 1 – German possessive pronouns.

Here you have a list of German possessive pronouns. It looks pretty random, right? Nope, there is actually some cool story hidden there!

 

How To Quickly Learn Declensions and Conjugations In Any Language
I gave her MINE TIN(y) SIGN – and her EER(ie) UNSER (answer) was really EER(ie). Who knows, maybe it’s too abstract for you. Let’s try something different then. Let’s assume that I(h)R stands for Irina Shayk. Or some sexy pIRate if you’re a woman.

Now our little story can go like this:

MEIN DIME SIGN(s) IR(ina) – my UNSER (answer) is O(h) YEAH! IR(ina) !

As you can see, this method doesn’t always cover the pronunciation in 100%.
But that’s alright. In most cases, your brain is aware of that and can correct these mistakes.

Example 2 – Swedish objective pronouns

What about some (singular) objective pronouns? When I was learning Swedish I memorized them, more or less, like this:

MAYDAY! HOE NO! I wanted HENNE(ssy) .

Declensions and Conjugations In Any Language

Example 3 – Spanish conjugations

Time for conjugations!

How To Quickly Learn Declensions and Conjugations In Any Language

 

There are so many ways to memorize these conjugations! But of course, they depend on many things – your native tongue, other languages you speak and your entire “database” of different names, notions, etc.

Being Polish, I would choose to memorize the first three endings with a word “OAZA” (eng. oasis). I think that this approximation is good enough. AMOS can be easily (for me!) associated with my beloved artist Tori AMOS who puts AIS on AN(t).

Something To Remember

 

Treat this method as crutches. It helps you to unburden your memory by memorizing grammar in an effortless way but it’s not a substitute for practice. You need to use the language to automate the use of grammar,

Quick FAQ

Q: Can you always find some associations?
A: Yep. Just use your imagination!

Q: But what if it doesn’t work?
A: Then try harder! Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Good luck and let me know what you think about this method!

 

How To Memorize Grammatical Gender With Use of Mnemonics

How to memorize grammatical gender

 

I have the greatest pleasure to introduce my friend and ex-student – Mariusz who I had the honor to teach (Swedish) not so long ago.

Mariusz started his journey with Swedish in March and thanks to the super effective mix of grit, right methods and mnemonics got to (almost) B2 level at Swedish. The level was assessed by one of the language schools in our hometown at the beginning of October.

How fast is that? Pretty damn fast if you ask me! Especially since he had only a 1,5 h lesson once per week for just 4 months!

Warning: if you’re new to the world of mnemonics, please do not think that we’re having a really bad, acid-induced trip. Instead click here to hop on the list and get your own 7-part mnemonics course.

Without further ado – enter Mariusz!

How to memorize grammatical genders with use of mnemonics

 

Come along for a stroll! How I memorized Swedish A1 level ett-gender nouns. It is known that there are only two grammatic genders in Swedish and they are described with their proper indefinite articles –  ‘en‘ or ‘ett‘.

The first one covers, depending on sources, about 75% of all the nouns, while the other the remaining 25%. It was obvious, that with the aim to pick always the correct one, it’s sufficient to memorize the smaller group of nouns. So I made use of mnemonics.

I’m not certain why but from the very beginning I have already imagined the en-nouns as green and the ett-nouns as light blue, particularly while revising vocab with Anki, and I colored at least the ‘ett’ ones.

As I was wading through, at first, quite big amounts of upcoming words and the number of the blue ones began to grow, I felt the need to arrange them, preferably into one vast made-up Loci. Then I created a picture of a seaside in my memory.

The sea (ett hav) seemed to fit my needs the best because the only bigger blue objects that I came up with were the sky or the planet Earth, too vast to take up a virtual walk along. So I landed by the Baltic Sea on a beach I am familiar with because I’ve spent my holidays there many times, taking long runs in the sand in early mornings.

Having appeared there once again, I saw in front of me the extensive mass of water reaching up to the horizon on my left and right. Although the sand was yellowish, I realized that after every step I took left a footstep (ett spår) illuminating with bluish light (ett ljus). Cool, isn’t it? I looked around hastily and to my surprise, I spotted even more phantom-like bluish objects.

The nearest one was a table (ett bord ) with my Swedish grammar book, opened on a site with a test (ett test). I always feel pain (ett ont) when I make a mistake (ett fel). I left it as I found it and continued to explore the surroundings to find something more inspirational.

Not too far away, more or less halfway of the left-side shore, there was a stage on which a music band played a sort of heavy metal, sounding similar to the Polish metal band… oh, I forgot, what was its name (ett namn)?

 

Seepsteen (Sias van Schalkwyk)

Seepsteen (Sias van Schalkwyk)

 

Oh yes, the name was Vader. Maybe to spice up the atmosphere of the heavy and furious songs, the weather (ett väder) at the venue was about to get bad (such a shame!), as I saw a big grey-blue cloud (ett moln) thereover.I gave the gig a better look.

Seemingly, the frontman had a sibling (ett syskon) in the same band, but the difference between them was that, unlike his brother, he wore a weird blue beard (ett skägg).

Maybe that’s because he’d always had a big ego (ett stort ego) and wanted to show off? Or simply got crazy on drugs (ett knark). Apart from that, whenever he didn’t sing he sipped his beer (ett öl). And…

If you would like to know how my short story continues, I can only say, that on the right side of the beach one can see a big company (ett företag) which processes the water (ett vatten)  to make it clear again before letting it into the sea.

Not to mention other countless objects.  If one day there’s no more place available at the seaside, I’ll certainly check what’s behind the distant tip of land so that I could go on with my travel. And you’re invited too!

Mariusz Hebdzynski

Let’s take a look

 

That’s not a place to sugarcoat anything so let’s get straight to the meat of the matter.

What was right:

What was wrong:

  • very little action and emotions

Have you noticed how static Mariusz’s picture is? There is very little action and far too few emotions. If you see a book which reminds of your mistakes you should punch it time and time again! Guys on the stage should go crazy since they are likely to be stoned!

Action and emotions are the mortar of your associations. If used appropriately, they can increase your recall manyfold.

  • too few distinctive places

I don’t know exactly how the said beach looks like. But the thing about beaches is that there are not many distinctive places there to place many pictures. It might work assuming that we don’t flood such a scene with too many associations but in the long run it’s not good enough.

Variations of this method

 

You might say that the example used in this article was pretty useless, after all, there were only two articles. What about German where there are 3 of them?! Or about Russian where the grammatical gender is not even specified by an article?!

Well, the main principle doesn’t change – we just need two distinctive locations to memorize the grammatical gender. Logically, the nouns which don’t appear in any of the stories placed in these locations must fall into the third gender category – piece of cake!

That’s it, have fun and let me know if you decide to use this method (or have used it already!).

 

6 Ways You Can Use To Track Your Progress In Language Learning

Track Your Progress In Language Learning

I wonder if you’re like me when it comes to tracking everything?

I used to hate it passionately. I mean, how much geekier can you get? And all these vain people scrupulously jotting down their weight. Pathetic!

And then one day I decided to buy myself scales. I joyously stepped on them just to see that I hit 100 kg mark. WHAT?! I came to my sense around that time and started tracking, not only my weight but my learning progress as well.

Can you actually imagine a runner who just runs around and one day shouts out: “I’m gonna win a marathon”! And then an old man standing nearby strikes a conversation, something along these lines:

– “That’s amazing! So what’s your best time so far?”

+ “Best? Uhmm, dunno really. I guess it’s not that important to me.”

“Have you ever run  a marathon before?!”

+ “I’m not sure. But once I ran so long that my feet hurt and I had an ouchie.”

That would be weird, right? And yet, a lot of us actually do it. Very often we start thinking that we don’t get better anymore. WHY?! (a dramatic pause and Carmina Burana in the background)

Habituation

 

Not only is it a cool word, but also one of the most important (and frequent) processes which occur in our lives!

Habituation is a form of learning in which an organism decreases or ceases to respond to a stimulus after repeated presentations.[1] Essentially, the organism learns to stop responding to a stimulus which is no longer biologically relevant. For example, organisms may habituate to repeated sudden loud noises when they learn these have no consequence.

And therein lies the rub. We get used to our current skills level. And that’s why we NEED tracking. The best part is that it does not need to be sophisticated to be effective.

At the bare minimum, it should be able to show you if you’re moving in the right direction. Or moving at all. Because the chance is that you’re spinning your wheels knee-deep in a turd ocean of self-admiration!

6 Ways To Track Your Progress In Language Learning

 

My idea of tracking my progress is quite tightly connected to the core language competencies: reading, writing, listening, vocabulary, grammar, and speaking.

Of course, to start tracking anything, you need a place to note your progress. Remember, it doesn’t have to be high-tech. You can use a notebook, Google spreadsheet, Excel or Calc (Open Office).

TRACKING VOCABULARY

I assume that you already use Anki. If you don’t, download it immediately (unless you use some other spatial repetition programme).

Anki makes tracking your progress really easy. The first important piece of information for us is the number of words you’ve covered so far.

 

Track Your Progress In Language Learning

If you see that within a month you’ve moved from 406 to 700, it’s a clear sign that you’re on the right path.

The second thing worth tracking is the recall rate (especially correct mature).

Track Your Progress In Language Learning

This piece of information clearly tells us how well you remember the information you learn. If it’s alarmingly low (below 40-50%), it’s a signal that you should seriously consider improving your learning techniques.

TRACKING READING

Usually, we either read e-books (e-articles) or paper ones. In my opinion, you should track the medium which you use more frequently. When it comes to reading, a good tracking criterion is to simply note down the number of pages you’ve read.

TRACKING LISTENING

It doesn’t matter whether you listen to podcasts, music or simply watch TV-series. Tally it up and enter the data.

TRACKING WRITING

If you write mostly online, start counting how many words you have written (use Word Count Tool). Otherwise, start counting the number of pages you’ve written.

TRACKING SPEAKING

Let’s be honest, it’s not the easiest thing to track. I’ve never done it as I prefer tracking words. But if you know that speaking is your absolute priority – go for it. Check when the Skype conversation or a meeting with your friend starts and when it finishes, and sum up the total number of hours.

If you really put the effort into your learning, I’m sure that after just a few weeks you’ll be amazed to see what you’ve accomplished so far!

TRACKING GRAMMAR

It sounds daunting, and I agree. But for me, it comes naturally. As I’ve written before, preparing the outline of the grammar is something which should be done before you start learning a language on your own.

Once you have it, start crossing out the grammar topics which you’ve covered or just put a date next to them. It shows how much further grammatically you should get to achieve a certain level.

Benefits Of Tracking Your Progress

 

1) you never hit a plateau

You see and know that you’re making a progress.

2) increased motivation

You can admire your hard work at any time. Open Excel and take a look at yourself, you sexy, hard-working beast! And that obviously helps you stay focused.

3) instant feedback

You see when you slack off or that your learning methods need a change. The data don’t lie! Also, it helps you see patterns in your learning.

4) you don’t focus on the negative

It’s a sad fact but we tend to focus on negative things in life. Your successes stop giving you joy after a couple of days. We lose sight of our achievements. Your language log will keep on reminding you about them!

Conclusion

 

Tracking is a powerful tool in language learning. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it. Of course, you don’t have to go over the top. It’s enough that you start tracking elements which are the most important to you.

So go ahead and let me know how it works for you!

How To Learn Grammar Fast – How to learn a language on your own (Part 4)

Learn grammar fast

Can you feel it? We’re going on an adventure! By now, you should have everything we need to start learning. 

If you’ve read the first part of this guide you should have some grammar book. Internet sources are also acceptable but ba ook is always more reliable.

But before we start, just a small disclaimer.

THE SMALL DISCLAIMER

The process which I’m about to present work like a charm for me. But we’re all different, so remember that your approach might vary from mine. That’s why you should consider tweaking them a little bit so they’re more tailored for your needs.

This part of the guide will seriously get you started but of course, it’s not possible to cover all complexities of particular languages. I’m selective.

I don’t give a damn about being 100% correct at the beginning because nobody cares. You know what is really tiring? Stuttering with perfect grammar every second word.

Sure, you’ll make mistakes but it rarely happens that they are serious.

– “I really do love rapes officer!”
– “Pardon me? You are a sick and twisted person! Oh, wait! Did you mean grapes?”
– “Oh yeah, me thanks and love you long time!”

You see? At least you’re politely making a conversation.

TWO MAIN BRICKS OF YOUR LEARNING FOUNDATION

There are two things which you should know before learning anything – your baseline and general outline of the subject you’re about to learn.

So what’s baseline?

This is the manner in which you can refer what you already know to the material you want to acquire.
It’s possible most of the time. However, sometimes you have to be really creative!

When you learn a new language, you can, of course,  compare it to the ones you already know.

General outline

You should know more or less what the given language consists of. Why? Very important part of learning is knowing what you don’t know.

Skimming through a grammar book can give you a pretty good picture of the language. You can learn how many tenses there are or conjugations.

Now the real art is to pick grammar constructions which are the most useful to us and will enable speaking as quickly as possible while maintaining a relatively high level of grammatical correctness.

I’ll stress just for clarity’s sake – you need a general outline of a language. You’re not learning at this stage.

WHAT’S THE MAIN GOAL?

I’ll try to describe in as many details as it’s only possible how I usually approach learning languages.
Once again – my goal is to start speaking as soon as possible.

If yours is only to read or write – it’s still the approach I would choose as it helps you to build a grammatical scaffolding where you can later set vocabulary.

Grammatical correctness usually follows quickly once you start speaking. To depict the said process, I’ll use Esperanto as an example.

It’s much easier than most languages and that’s precisely why it is perfect. Just like scientists who use simple organisms to understand more complex ones. I’ll use an easy language as an example so you can later transfer this knowledge to more complex ones.

HOW TO USE THIS PART OF THE GUIDE?

I suggest the following – go through it (more or less) step by step. It’ll set you on the right path.

But the most important advice which I can give you is – ignore ALL the other things from further steps until you cover the ones you’re actually trying to learn. It takes the burden of overthinking off of you.

When should you move to the next step?

Once you can use the structures from the current one with confidence.
Of course, feel free to change the order of these steps and adjust them to you if you feel it suits you better.

FIRST BABY STEP- Personal Pronouns

The first question which we have to ask ourselves is: what elements of language are the most important? The answer is – the ones which you can’t substitute with anything else.

That’s why I always start with personal pronouns (subject pronouns)For the sake of brevity, I’ll limit my examples to a singular form.

miI
viyou
lihe
ŝishe

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2 – PRESENT TENSE

Once we get a grasp of subject pronouns we can move to present tense. This choice begs the same question as before.

Why present and not past or future tense? Assuming that we have really little time at our disposal, we can always say something like:

“I eat dinner yesterday”
“she goes there in 3 days”

Sounds terrible – I’m pretty sure we all agree here BUT It helps you to get your message across! If there are more than 1 present tense in your target language, it’s better to choose the one which’s used for general events

Step 3 – CONJUGATION

Esperanto makes everything simple. All verbs in present tense have endings -AS.

Obviously, in a language of your choice, you’ll face more conjugations. And the great thing is that you know how many because you learned beforehand what the grammar outline of your target language looks like. (You READ it, right?)

Now we have to learn how to construct:

  • affirmative sentence
  • negative sentence
  • questions

Questions are least important as you can always ask one using an affirmative sentence and changing your tone of voice.

AFFIRMATIVE SENTENCE (in present tense)

POSSIBLE TRAPS: In many languages the order of the sentence is fixed – e.g. The conjugated verb is always the second sentence element in German.

Be aware of it.

Let’s select some verbs so we can start creating sentences.

Short list of the most useful verbs
can = povi

must / have to = devi

should = devi

might / may = povi

have = havi

be = esti

get = ricevi

give = doni

take = preni

want – voli

need = bezoni

buy = aĉeti

sell = vendi

go = iri

come = veni

and 3 nouns

money = mono
time = tempo
book = libro

Now the best part – building sentences:

mi prenas libro = I take a book
ŝi vendas mono = she sells money
vi havas tempo = you have time

Please note that these sentences are incorrect (we should add -n to nouns in this case) – I’m trying to show the process of grammar acquisition as precisely as it is only possible.

As for now, we know nothing about declensionNevertheless, such sentences can be understood without any problem.

NEGATIVE SENTENCE

Typically we can negate either a verb or a noun. The most important for us is how to negate verbs. In English, we use the adverb “not” to do so. In Esperanto, we can do it using “ne” before verbs.

Examples:

Mi ne havas mono = I don’t have money
 ŝi ne vendas mono = she doesn’t sell money
vi ne havas tempo = you don’t have time

QUESTIONS

Close-ended questions

Some most popular ways to form a yes-no (i.e. close-ended) question in many languages is to use intonation, inversion (present in English), inflection, auxiliary verbs (do, have, etc. in English) or a grammatical particle.

The latter is true in, among others, Polish, Esperanto and French.
In Esperanto, we use the particle “ĉu“.

Examples:

love = ami
Do you love money? = ĉu vi amas mono ?

Do you have a book? = ĉu vi havas libro?

Open-ended questions

If we want to learn some more details, it’s great to know the most popular interrogative words:

List of interrogative words

which

what

whose

who

whom

where

when

how (much, many, often)

why

Examples:

Who = kiu, what = kio

Who do you love? = Kiu vi amas?
What does he want? = Kio li volas?

Step 4 – OTHER USEFUL PRONOUNS

The final step to make our sentences clearer and fancier is to learn some more personal pronouns

POSSIBLE TRAPS: You have to be aware that in some languages you can encounter many categories of pronouns depending on the case.

POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS

my – mia
your – via
his – lia
her – ŝia

Examples:

Let’s add two adjectives to spruce things up a bit:

big – granda*
cheap – malmultekosta*

* All adjectives in Esperanto end with -A

My book isn’t big – Mia libro ne estas granda
His time isn’t cheap – Lia tempo estas malmultekosta

OBJECT PRONOUNS

me – min
you – vin
him – lin
her – ŝin

She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah) – ŝi amas vin
Do I need her? – ĉu mi bezonas ŝin?

DEMONSTRATIVE PRONOUNS

Why are they so great?

Because you can simply learn them, point at some object and grunt:

“This!”
“Not this, that!”

Lovely, right?

this – (ĉi) tiu
that – tiu
these – (ĉi) tiuj
those – tiuj

This person is stupid – Tiu persono estas stulta
He gives that money – Li donas tiu mono*

* I still make mistakes on purpose. It should read “li donas tiun monon”.

INDEFINITE PRONOUNS

List of indefinite pronouns

enough

little

less

much

more

most

several
few

fewer

many

more

most

no one

nobody

neither

none

everybody

everyone

all

both

someone

something

some

anyone

anything

either

any

Examples:

Someone = iu, everything = ĉio

She knows everything = ŝi scias ĉio

Someone wants you = iu volas vin

I’ve decided to skip reflexive pronouns. But feel free to read about them.

Step 5 – CONJUNCTIONS

Long and (almost) complete list of conjunctions

after

although

as

as far as

as if

as long as

as soon as

as though

because

before

even if

even though

every time

if

in order that

since

so

so that

than

though

unless

until

when

whenever

where

whereas

wherever

while

and

nor

but

or

yet

otherwise

so

either…or

not only…but (also)

neither…nor

both…and

whether…or

just as…so

The ones that are the most important to me at the beginning are:
because, and, but, or, after, before, that, that’s why, to, although, if, until, since, although, otherwise

Conjunctions give us this nice feeling of confidence when we speak. They combine two or more sentences and add a great touch of logic and cohesion to them.

Examples:

because = ĉar
I love you because you’re pretty = Mi amas vin ĉar vi estas bela

understand = kompreni

I understand that’s why I sell = Mi komprenas tial mi vendas

That’s it when it comes to grammar basics. More to come!

REMEMBER:

You can create your own context and the world within a language. You’ll have time to adjust the accuracy later.

As long as use logic and try to avoid any idiomatic expressions you should be understood.

CONCLUSION

– Know the general outline of grammar before you start
– Learn grammar step by step, once you feel quite comfortable within some grammar structure – move on
– If you want to start speaking as fast as possible, learn the thing which can’t be substituted with anything else first
– Your brain craves sense and meaning – create your own context, have fun, start saying some silly stuff!
– Embrace imperfection, we all have to start somewhere