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Have you ever gotten so pumped up about learning a foreign language that you actually started a course?

At first it felt magical, right? “Hi, wie geht’s? tudo bem? ¿como estas?….”

But after a while the shine wears off and you feel you like you were tricked into running a marathon which you were convinced was going to be as easy as running a 5k and now you finally understand that it’s 26 freaking miles…and now you don’t want to any more.

You’ve probably just reached a plateau.

That’s when you spend the time, but you don’t seem to move forward.

It happened to me this morning.

I went out for my morning run and my legs didn’t want to move. But I made them move with considerable conscious effort.

Sometimes I have to do that for the first couple hundred feet.

But this morning was extreme. I was still telling each leg what do when I reached the half-mile point.

It looked hopeless, so I started to comtemplate where I should stop running and start walking.

But then I had to run across the street and start my way up this hill and I convinced myself that after that hill it would be all downhill and that I might as well at least wait till the top…

Of course when I reached the top, I didn’t need to quit since it really was down hill for a ways.

By the time the downhill section ended, I had regained my energy so I kept going.

In the end, I ran the full distance.

With languages you have to take the same approach.

When I first started French many years ago, I couldn’t even find the joints between the sounds to recognize any words. I was convinced that I would never understand the language.

But I loved the sound.

So I kept listening and looking up words here and there and almost magically, the sounds soon separated in my head and formed words.

Now I have no problem at all understanding normal spoken French.

Had I given up or never even started, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the language the way I can.

Realize that there are plateaus in everything we do, and that the lack of movement is only in our minds.

In reality you continue to move forward as long at you apply yourself.

The best part of going through a plateau is that a quantum leap awaits you on the other side.

I’ve had that happen in all the languages I’ve studied. After a perceived dead time, where I didn’t feel like I was learning anything new, I found myself suddenly knowing a lot more than I thought I did only a while earlier.

Funny thing is that both the “dead time” and the “quantum leap” are both just perceptions, tricks that your mind is playing on you.

If you can learn to trick your mind by making it think things are much better than they are, then soon your mind will go with the flow.

So stick with it. There is a pot of gold on the other side of every plateau.

Agree or disagree?
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You can improve you language and your body at the same time using three simple techniques.

The most obvious way is to count out loud in foreign language instead of English. Since exercises are almost always repetitive, you can strengthen you language skills and your body at the same time by counting in your target language.

Another fun way to bring foreign language study into your workout routine is by substituting words for numbers. This will help you expand your vocabulary while you tighten your abs.

Instead of saying one-two-three-four, etc, you can substitute the days of the week, colors and any other vocabulary words you wish to learn.

The words you substitute in your target language can be totally random. The crazier the imagery associated with the words the better.

The third technique to strengthen your foreign language skills while exercising is to pretend that you are teaching an exercise class in your target language. This gives you the chance to polish your vocabulary, your pronunciation and your delivery in your target language.

Speaking in a foreign language will make the exercise session more interesting and seem to go by quicker. At the same time you won’t have time to be bored with the language and will be motivated to continue to study until the exercise session is over.

Imagine that you are talking to a large crowd and this will increase your confidence and build your public speaking skills at the same time.

Tell me how these tips work for you. What’s it like for you to get ripped in a foreign language?

Looking forward to your comments...

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How Do You Pick a Foreign Language?

by Roger Easlick on March 15, 2011

Picking a foreign language to learn is much simpler than you think. In fact, if you’re having trouble deciding, it’s probably because you’re thinking too much.

Learning a foreign language is like taking a journey.  The language you choose is your companion.

So you should choose your foreign language like you would a travel companion.

You need to get away from the idea of translating your native language. Each new language you learn is unique. Think of a language as a group of sounds that convey a meaning. Don’t try to simply look for similar sounding words. Totally let go and approach a foreign language as if you were starting from scratch.

When you let go, you won’t waste time judging how “complicated” or “easy” your target language is.

I started with French because I thought it sounded cool and I could take the course in high school. A few years later I studied German.

Most people you ask will tell you that German is more difficult to learn than French. After all, you have more going on with the grammar in German.  German has three genders instead of two, German declines the nouns, and people always debate whether you should try to learn the “rules” about forming the plural in German or if you should forget the rules and learn the plural form of each noun in German separately.

So do I consider it more difficult to learn German than to learn French?

Nope.

I learned German because I loved the sound of the language. I also wanted to read the great philosophers in their native tongue.  And from the moment I stepped into my first German class, I loved talking to people using German.

Because of all that I found German easy to learn.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a language to study is that you need to get excited about some aspect of that language and the culture that speaks it.

If you choose a language because it is similar to your native language but you can’t get excited about the people who speak it and the way it sounds, you will never spend the time needed to get a feel for the rhythm.

What about one that is exotic? Maybe you can find one that is so bizarre that everyone will raise their eyebrow when you tell them how to say hello?

The question will be, will you be energized about the language enough to spend 15-30 minutes a day with it on a regular basis? If not, that language isn’t your friend. Maybe it will be later, but for now find a language that gives you goose bumps when you hear a few words of it.

I feel the same about using the criteria of how many people supposedly use the language. Will you ever go there? Do you like the people who speak it? Do you get off on just listening to the sounds when someone says hello?

What has given me the energy to learn German, French, Portuguese and Spanish is excitement about making the sounds to connect with others who speak those languages. I love to see the their faces light up when they hear that I know the right sounds to tell them about myself and to ask them about what is important to them.

Read some travel books and blogs, listen to some recording, talk to some people, GET EXCITED and choose a foreign language and start the journey of your life by learning a foreign language today.

Leave me a comment below to share your thoughts with me.
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If you feel like you are in a fog when you try to learn a foreign language, you need a flashlight. I’ll even lend you mine in this article.

Strong language learners will tell you that you need to view learning a foreign language in the proper light.

You need to choose a metaphor that makes it feel easy to move forward and gives you a sense of accomplishment with each small step.

You need to see the light.

I say the proper light is a flashlight.

If you have a flashlight in a dark room, you won’t be able to see everything at once, but you will be able to see wherever you have the flashlight pointed. The flashlight reveals just what you need to know to take that next step.

You don’t need to know everything about the room. You only need to know where you take the next step.

When you are learning a foreign language, you don’t start with total mastery of the language.

You start with a single phrase. The first phrase is your first step. And that first step moves you forward.

Remember the scene in the movie Jerry McGuire, “You had me at hello.”?

One word changed two people’s lives.

So if you see your efforts at learning a foreign language like moving through a dark room with a strong flashlight, you will never be in a fog and want to give up.

When you’re in a fog, you wander around with no results. Maybe you never have the feeling of accomplishment. If you are waiting to speak like a native before you open your mouth and take that first step, you will probably get frustrated and quit.

One phrase can go a long way. With a single phrase you can have a meaningful exchange.

Take the first step and learn a single phrase in a foreign language today. When you use that phrase with an exchange partner, you will be motivated to learn another.

Soon you will find yourself with a bunch of phrases. When someone remarks at how well you speak and asks you how you did it, you will have to stop and think.

Then it will hit you that you were having so much fun using each new phrase that you never realized how far you had traveled.

As always, leave a comment below.

And then stop by http://www.lightninglanguages.com for more tips on how to learn a foreign language fast and have fun doing it.

Thoughts?
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Can You Learn Two Foreign Languages at the Same Time?

by Roger Easlick on February 26, 2011

Learning two or more languages at the same time is easy if you do it right. But don’t rush out and buy a bunch of language courses just yet.

The key to learning any foreign language is active exposure. Active exposure means that you speak and listen a little every day.  In the beginning, you just want to parrot the sounds back in context. If you are studying French, for example, you could start out with “Ça va?” and hear the response “Ça va bien.”

Don’t try to learn. If you repeat anything enough times, it will stick. Just make sure you do it every day. Even if you pick only three new phrases a day to speak and parrot them back, you’ll be amazed at your progress in a week or a month.

The same goes for listening to a foreign language. Don’t try to understand the meaning at first. With repetition, the sounds, and the rhythm will sink in. Look for audio recordings that have both your native language and your target foreign language. That will go a long way in helping you understand the meaning.  The easiest and perhaps best source of dual language audio comes from movie DVDs. Normally DVDs have two or three sound tracks with different languages.

After a while, you will start to find the right words to express ideas without remembering every having consciously learned them. This comes from hearing the language spoken repeatedly.

With time and repetition, the flow of the language will sink into that intuitive part of the mind that makes everything seem effortless and automatic.

And you haven’t even TRIED TO LEARN yet. You have just been practicing active exposure and you have let the language sink in.

That was language number one. Once you start to have that deep understanding of phrases and flow of foreign language number one, you can begin with language number two.

As you continue with your first foreign language, you can add a second foreign language using the same method as with the first.

Let one foreign language sink in before starting with the second one. This may take a few weeks to a few months or longer depending on how much time you spend each day.

That doesn’t mean that you have to have total mastery of one language before you begin with another. As long as you feel comfortable with the first one and some basic dialog seems automatic and effortless, you’re ready for another.

Now it's your turn. I want to know what you think. Comment below with a quick response...
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How Fast Can You Learn a Foreign Language?

by Roger Easlick on February 23, 2011

I think if I ever tried to figure out the answer to the question, “How long does it take to learn a foreign language completely,” I never would speak Spanish today — or any of the other languages I’ve picked up (German, French, Portuguese and some Chinese (Mandarin).

How long it takes you to learn Spanish will depend on how much time and passion you spend.

Generally, the more time you spend the more you learn.

But the real motivation for me to learn a language is connecting to another person through the filter of another culture.

When you learn a foreign language, people are usually more patient then when you are speaking in your native language. That means they listen more.

You would think that starting with so little would mean that you get less out of interacting with people, but the opposite is true.

Having less words means that people pay more attention to your body language, to the tone of your voice and to your sense of your presence.

And you pay more attention to the other person as well.

I savor that intensity. It’s a power that is harder to find when you speak your native language.

So much gets lost in fancy words and concepts.

With a foreign language, life slows down and becomes more intense.

That means that I get excited from the first phrase. I don’t think of how much time it’s taking me to learn a language completely. I focus on the quality of the connection now.

Nothing else exists.

So my advice is that you focus on the intensity and quality of your interactions with each simple phrase and let the language flow over you.

Expose yourself to the language every day. Listen to podcasts, newscasts, stories, etc.

Find someone to speak to. Do a language exchange. Your exchange partner can help you pick out new phrases to learn while you focus on the enjoyment of the interaction.

Over time, you will learn a language completely, but like me with Spanish, you won’t  be able to tell anyone when exactly you went from your first phrase to “complete knowledge” (or speaking the language easily and effortlessly).

You will only know that you had fun with every conversation along the way.

Now it's your turn. I want to know what you think. Comment below with a quick response...
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How You Can Start Speaking A Foreign Language Today

by Roger Easlick on February 13, 2011

You can have your first conversation in a foreign language in five minutes. There is more to a foreign language than vocabulary and grammar.

Although only a few geniuses have ever learned a language “overnight,” for the rest of us it takes some time.

The reason that some learn much quicker in my opinion is that those who learn more rapidly take advantage of more opportunities to speak and to understand than the ones who either learn more slowly or give up altogether.

So the aim of of my report on learning a language faster, Lightning Languages,  is to get people to forget about the grammar and vocabulary and to FOCUS ON GETTING THEIR MESSAGE ACROSS.

To start any language you don’t need many words. The myth of not having a large enough vocabulary stops a lot of people.

As you progress, you will naturally add vocabulary and get better with the grammar.

That’s why I don’t spend time with grammar lessons or long vocabulary lists.

Here’s what I recommend to you:

1. GET EXCITED about getting connected to another person through a foreign language

2. FIND A PARTNER: Someone close by is best, but if that isn’t possible, I highly recommend http://mylanguageexchange.com (not an affiliate link — I don’t get a penny if you sign up). Have at least two sessions a week, one in English (or whatever you native language is) and the second session is the target language. DO NOT mix languages. (Ok, if you are starting at zero, mix a little, but it’s important that you both use the same language because you learn a lot by interacting in context.)

3. PRACTICE DAILY: If you are just starting, then you can take a few words or phrases from a source like http://wordreference.com or my favorite Pimsleur – or better yet from your exchange partner from step two.

Keep in mind that “Hi.  How are you?” “I’m fine.” IS A CONVERSATION.

Also, to be able to answer yes or no to the question, “Do you want fries with that?” is vital and important to you when you are ordering your dinner.

So just to be able to say two words such as”I’m hungry” is a great advancement in your language skills.

Slow down. You don’t need to have a vocabulary of a thousand words to have a good conversation in a foreign language.

That’s right. Size doesn’t matter.

If I had believed I needed a thousand words — or even 500 — to be able to have a conversation in a foreign language, I never would have started.

I got such a thrill out of saying “Wie geht’s” in German or “‘Ça va?” in French and watching the person’s face light up, that all I wanted was another small phrase to try out.

Keep it simple. And enjoy the interaction. Each new phrase is a drop of honey you should savor.

Remember, studies show that 50-80% (or more) of communication is non-verbal. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother with with the words, but a few words can go a long way.

If you get caught up in the grammar and vocabulary you will miss the main event.

To move from that simple interaction to a review of the movie you saw last night is a gradual process that can be sped up significantly by losing your fear of sounding funny and your fear of imperfection.

Nobody speaks perfectly. If you don’t believe me, count the grammar mistakes the next time you talk to your best friend.

That’s not what makes good or even great conversation.

It’s the connection you have with another person.

If you concentrate on the connection, and let the language loose, practice daily -even by yourself – you will be amazed at how well you speak a foreign language in three months from now.

Oh, and by the way, I get compliments for my language skills all the time, not because my accent, vocabulary and grammar are so flawless, but because the people I talk to can sense my excitement about connecting with them.

They feel my excitement to be speaking to them in a foreign language, my confidence in my own abilities, and my sincere interest in what they say.

That is real fluency in a language.

And yes, that kind of attitude with help you pass the tests.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

So, what do you think?
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How You Can Build Rapport By Using Rapport Hooks

by Roger Easlick on June 1, 2010

Let’s talk about one of the more subtle ways to build rapport and maintain it.  Sometimes if you dive right into a story with someone, they are not in a state of mind to listen. They may not be interested in the subject, or they may not have the time to listen, or they just have too much else to think about at the moment.

There’s a technique to build rapport that lets you test whether your language exchange partner is interested and ready, willing and able to listen to what you have to say. I picked this up from a conversational hypnosis course by a guy named Igor Ledochowski.

He calls it using rapport hooks. The way it works is that you give someone a small chunk of information with pieces missing. The missing pieces arouse curiosity and get the other person to ask you questions.

Let’s say I was telling you a story and I say something like:

“It’s a good thing I had an extra pair of shoes in the car when I left for work this morning. To get me out of the car they had to destroy the pair I was wearing. When I got out of the hospital after six hours, they let me borrow some clothes, but there weren’t any extra shoes available.”

You can see from the paragraph above that I have offered you some information. But there are holes in the story which make you want to ask questions to find out more about what happened.

If you ask those questions that have been raised in your mind, I know that you are interested and are in a frame of mind to actually receive the additional info that I can give you.

An important part of the technique is that you stop speaking after you have given the initial bit of information.

One huge benefit of using rapport hooks is that you avoid wasting time talking at someone who isn’t even interested.

It’s also fun to craft pieces of information in a foreign language that have strong enough hooks to get another person to become curious.

This is just one more way that you can build rapport with a language exchange partner and have fun playing with the language at the same time. As you can see, you don’t have to have a great degree of skill in a foreign language to use this technique to build rapport, learn a language and have fun doing it.

Take this technique out for a test run and leave a comment below with your results.

Did I leave anything out?

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A good language exchange partner can be hard to find.

The problem a lot people have is that they don’t know what to talk about. Each person waits for the other to say something interesting. When nothing happens, each thinks the other is somewhat dull. Unconsciously, they project onto each other lowered expectations. The conversation becomes even more lifeless.

Eventually the pressure of discomfort builds until someone beats a hasty retreat.

But there’s an easy way to turn a mediocre language exchange into a fascinating experience for you and your partner. In a 1992 report entitled Pygmalion in the classroom, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson discussed a fascinating study.

The experiment basically showed that the students’ performance was influenced by the teacher’s expectations of them.

The finding of two other researchers pointed in the same direction. Feldman and Prohaska  took one group of students and  told them that the teacher was “quite effective.” Another group was led to believe that their teacher was “incompetent.”

The results indicated that the better the impression a student had of his teacher, the more she paid attention and the better she performed overall.

This effect where people respond better when they feel that more is expected of them is known as the Pygmalion Effect.

What does this mean for your language exchange?

It means that if you want your language partner to be more interesting, imagine him to be very intelligent, interesting and engaging. If you convince yourself of his abilities to the point of feeling drawn to him emotionally in some positive way, he’ll feel it.

It may take a while for the effects to show, but if you do it with enough genuine conviction and enthusiasm, your partner will begin to respond very positively to your treatment of him.

Try this the next time you meet with your language exchange partner. If you can’t wait that long, go find someone to talk to right now. Anybody.  As you talk or listen to her speak, find as many things that you really like about that person and get excited about it. It’s ok to invent positive traits if you don’t know the person well or nothing really strikes you.

Then come back to your computer and leave a comment about your experiences below.

Enjoy this post? Leave a comment below and add to the discussion. Thanks!

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Image Streaming is a great way to learn to speak English (or any other foreign language) faster.

The way image streaming works is this: Close your eyes and imagine a vivid scene in your mind. Now narrate the action in the scene out loud. Be sure to use rich sensory detail. Describe the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile (feel) stimuli of the experience.

Instead of saying, I’m at the beach, detail how the warm sand feels between your toes, the warm breeze against your skin. Describe the taste of the mist that blows in from the sea, the sounds of sea gulls and people laughing or singing as they pass by.

Try to move the story along as quickly as possible without losing the richness of the detail. You should feel like you are balancing on a narrow board or rope that is stretched across two buildings. You need to move quickly as not to lose your balance. This will allow you to relate the action of the scene directly from your senses with as little interference from the critical factor of your mind.

As much as possible, the scene that unfolds in your mind should come together spontaneously. Let your subconscious create the images. Try not to be too intellectual.

The more you practice, the easier it becomes. At first you may feel like you are forcing it or faking it, but don’t worry, you’re practicing your language right? Doesn’t that beat the heck out of repetitive grammar or vocabulary exercises?

If you’re having trouble getting started, pick three random items from your imagination or items within sight and tie them together in a story.

Studies have suggested that practicing image streaming can actually increase your IQ. Since the claims vary widely, the degree of increase if any is debatable. Still, the benefits to your language skills are huge.

Image streaming works by connecting the different parts of your brain. New connections between the part of your brain responsible for spontaneous visual imagery and speech centers are created when you direct your description of the images to an external focus point, like a person or recorder while speaking aloud.

Give it a go today. Leave a comment below and let me know how image streaming works for you.

Any other ideas?
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