Tag Archives: Travel

How to get back into serious shape with Burpees

I’m currently on vacation in sunny Britain and with less than a month to go until I return to New Zealand, I can’t see how I’m going to be in decent enough shape to play ice hockey back home. Too many pints, Cornish Pasties and Teacakes.

So to keep things simple, I’ve devised a programme to kick my ass into shape in quick time.

It would be tempting to over-complicate my training with all kinds of exercises. However, I’ve learned through years of frustration that too many exercises just ends in confusion and ultimately failure to reach my goals.

If I had kettlebells with me, I’d use swings to get the job done but with noting but body weight I have to find an exercise that is:

  • tough
  • produces a nice cardio effect
  • works the big muscles of both the upper and lower body
  • thoroughly tests my core strength
  • pounds the legs like skating does

There is only one bodyweight exercise I can think of that satisfies all of these criteria: Burpees.

How do you know that you can rely on Burpees for maximum fitness gains? Well, they’re universally used and hated by the armed forces, athletes and fitness enthusiasts around the globe.

The exercise, named after American physiologist Royal H. Burpee, traditionally involves a squat down, placing the hands on the ground, a thrust into a plank position and finally kicking the feet back to the squat position for a return squat ascent.

This is a challenging exercise but it can be supercharged by adding a push up from the plank position and a jump on the final squat ascent.

So how can we use it to rapidly increase our power, strength and endurance?

Some would just say “do ’em until you drop” but I find this method to be defeating and sub-optimal.

Instead try this: don’t go near failure, in fact, do short bursts, rest and repeat. The rest period should be short enough to allow your muscles to mostly recover so that subsequent sets are as powerful as possible.

There is no need to tax your muscles to the point they start slowing down. This is why the “as many reps as possible” idea is defeating. I want to build fitness on the basis of power, not on the basis of slow, poorly executed reps.

I’m using the On The Minute (OTM) scheme to do this and here’s how I do it:

  1. Find a number of reps you can do comfortably. I started with just 4. Resist thinking that this figure is too low. The method works because you’re doing a demanding exercise powerfully over multiple sets.
  2. Perform each set of 4 on the minute. I find 4 reps takes me about 15 seconds. This leaves me with 45 seconds of rest.
  3. Perform enough sets to get a good conditioning stimulus. You will instinctively know when this is, BUT don’t fall for the “yeah but I could do heaps more”. I started with just 8 sets of 4, or 32 reps scattered across 7 minutes.
  4. Progression: Add a rep to each successive set each workout. For example, having worked up to my target of 8 sets of 4, I added a rep to the first set so it was 1×5, then 7×4. The next day I added a rep to set 2 so it was 2×5, then 6×4 and so on.

After I reach 8 sets of 5 I’ll add a set each workout to bring it to 12 and then add a rep to each of those. 12 sets of 5 = 60 reps in 11 minutes.

This progression can take 3 weeks, depending on how many rest days I add.

At that point I might shoot for adding an additional rep each workout but I won’t go over 6. For the OTM scheme, 4-6 is good because it gives you at most 20 seconds of work and at least 40 seconds of rest.

The beauty of it is it’s simplicity and the careful handling of intensity. I’m staying relatively powerful across each set so I get a great alactic workout (the powerful movement energy system) while also building my recovery abilities through the cardiovascular system.

Furthermore, I can probably go again tomorrow on most days so I progress quicker than I otherwise would if I’m burning myself too much each workout.

Pace yourself and only do as much as is reasonable. The goal is to avoid the burn and get through a nice volume of work to be effective. I find that’s 6-12 sets, which I encourage you to build up over a month or so.

If the jump and push up Burpee is too much, omit those and just do the basic version. Starting there allows you to work on the progression up to the more intense Burpee. Just use the same OTM scheme for each progression and you’ll be fine.

Give it a try – you never know, you might start to love the exercise most people hate!

 

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Why you likely won’t learn a new language (and what to do about)

There’s this curious phenomenon out there we call instant gratification. In short, it feels good to indulge and we like the quick hits of pleasure we get from such indulgence. However, instant gratification is likely the insidious cause behind most failure to stay the course and follow through on a project.

The project many of us undertake is learning a new language. We jump out of the gates eager to learn but “instant gratification bug” starts gnawing away while asking “are we there yet?” We end up discouraged and looking for the quick fix, the “secret method” that ends all our frustration.

However, we quickly learn that instant gratification has lied to us again, or at least hurled false expectations at us.

Enter… Apps. Frustration and quick fixes is the secret to all marketing but more than ever it is the secret to what makes us buy apps and subscribe to services. This is very much the case with language learning.

Have a think for a moment about what you are trying to achieve when you take on a new language. That’s right, you’re looking to acquire (quickly) what took thousands of years of linguistic evolution. Also, you’re probably looking to short circuit the traditional method of learning the language a native speaker took to become fluent.

Language apps feed off this way of thinking. Let me make this perfectly clear so that everyone reading this gets it:

You will never learn a language from an app.

Never? Those are some strong words but I feel I need to spell it out because there are far too many of us who have bought the rhetoric and thought we could become fluent speakers of a language because of (a) our intense desire for instant gratification and (b) we buy the marketing behind these apps.

Apps can absolutely get you started on a language and support your efforts as you progress but what really counts is what the brain determines is real, relevant and useful. Some apps are better than others but trying to substitute language experience with a static one dimensional approach sentences you to failure.

The “I know a lot but can’t speak” conundrum

Here’s what is wrong in a nutshell. Any learning that you do in your bedroom or on the bus is irrelevant until it is accessible to your tongue in the heat of a conversation. Most people who spend time with a language without speaking it or even trying to speak it are creating this gigantic reservoir of language knowledge in the back of their heads but it is only connected to a tap that drips words out.

I’ve been there and in fact am there right now to a certain extent. Purely intellectual learning of a language is ineffective and your brain won’t produce the language when you need it because it hasn’t acquired it in a way that makes it absolutely real and accessible.

This is why people ultimately quit, saying “yeah I tried to learn that” and usually following up with “X language is hard”.

Here’s another hard truth:

There are no hard languages, your method of learning just sucks.

That’s right. You tried to learn either:

  • Too fast
  • Too much at one time
  • Didn’t review or try to recall the language at regular intervals
  • Avoided actual expression at all costs
  • Believed the idea that you only need a few hundred words or so

Imagine how well you’d be able to speak English if you tried to learn it in that fashion.

Now, does that mean we have to be like children and learn that way? No and yes.

Firstly, No – you are smarter than a child and you’re able to make logical connections, infer grammar from language and remember much better than a child.

As polyglot Steve Kauffman of LingQ says (paraphrasing):

A child’s brain might be optimised to learn language better than an adults but I can learn the same amount of vocabulary in 6 months that a child learns in 5 years.

Steve Kauffman’s method, which he speaks about at length on YouTube, is through intensive reading. The platform he found – LingQ – is geared around reading texts and highlighting learned words so that you can essentially see those words light up in the text and review them as a matter of simply reading.

I have adapted this idea based on the work of another polyglot – Robin MacPherson, who says that the job of becoming highly skilled in a language is done by the time he feels confident reading adult-level fiction in said language.

So apps can prove to be good entry points into language learning and some are great at supporting ongoing learning (Clozemaster springs to mind) but they can’t be the sole resource utilised.

Never underestimate the value of immersion in an input sense, through YouTube videos in the target language, reading, podcasts and even radio. These things can prove to be invaluable in the quest to master a language.

Combine these with a  healthy dose of output through writing and especially speaking and mastery can be yours.

I talk more about how to use apps and other language learning methods in my book Fluently Speaking – A Modern Guide to Mastering Any Language.

 

 

 

 

 

fiction in a new language

 

Creating a schedule for language learning that works

How can you learn a language effectively in the busy deadline driven world that we live in?

Learning a language takes work and often that means time we don’t have. It often leads us to try and “hack” the learning process in an effort to speak fluently without going through the teething stages that inevitably arise.

First, let’s tackle that idea of language “hacking”. The term “hacking” has become prominent over the years with a number of well known public figures using “hacks” to learn skills in record time. Tim Ferriss is probably the most popular proponent of hacking and he has carved out a niche in the skill-development field by focusing on these ideas.

In the language learning field, the Irish Polyglot Benny Lewis has used the term “language hacking” a lot and even produced a series of Teach Yourself language books with the hacking approach in mind.

Simply put, hacking is ruthless effectiveness. It is refining the content of a language down into usable chunks that can be systematically practised repeatedly.

So the first point in learning a language effectively with time pressure is this: Distill down the input you need to become fluent. Focus in on key structures, vocabulary and situations.

This distillation process is a skill in itself, which is why people who have learned multiple languages find subsequent languages relatively easy to acquire.

Materials/resources

Find a limited amount of quality material, preferably with audio, and focus on learning the language progressively every day.

The key here is every day. Find something that you can focus on often and work through the material progressively.

Good audio resources accompany many of the beginner language courses such as Teach Yourself, Routledge’s Colloquial Series and Assimil. The key is to process the lessons in a focused way. My personal approach is to spend a week on each chapter of a Teach Yourself book, listening and really getting inside each of the audio lessons. After the 19 or so weeks you’ll find yourself knowing the course inside out and more importantly, understanding the language contained within.

There is more you can do in order to really gain maximum benefits from audio lessons and I go deep into those ideas in my book Fluently Speaking. For example, shadowing the audio (speaking the language in sync with the speaker) is a great practice and one worth adding to your language toolkit.

Speak now

Begin speaking right away, even if it is to yourself at first. I like to acquire and organise the material I learn and package it in speaking challenges. Some of these speaking challenges, particularly early on, involve learning language for a specific situation and then videoing myself speaking it.

Speaking assignments like this are great at developing your internal language machine. Predominantly, however, you’ll want to speak with actual native speakers either live out in the world or with a tutor/speaker via Skype or similar. Italki is a popular service and I highly recommend going there for quality speaking partners and tutors.

Find topics or situational conversations you’d like to become proficient in and start engineering your learning around those areas. This is probably the most important key to “hacking” a language — learn that which is practical to you.

There you have it — language learning need not be complex. With a bit of thought you can begin learning a language immediately with a focus on progression and practicality.

The next post will cover language games and apps and how to integrate them into your language learning lifestyle.

My book Fluently Speaking — A Modern Guide to Mastering Any Language is available in the Amazon Kindle store and UK users can find it here in the Amazon UK Kindle store.

How to order food and drink in the Czech Republic

Snímek 076Czech can be a daunting language to learn for some but, like the 1000 mile journey that starts with a single step, it can be learned by making the effort early on to speak it as much as possible.

A friend of mine recently departed New Zealand to live in the Czech Republic and has faced the task of starting afresh — new culture, new people, places, weather, food and of course, language.

As he recounted his story of how he successfully acquired a coffee using nothing but Czech it reminded me of how exhilarating it can be to speak a new language and be understood. It also reminded me about how learning languages by making “missions”.

Missions (thanks to Benny Lewis for this idea) is the idea that you prepare for a specific encounter in a new language then go out and test it. Not only does this give you confidence it also provides the feedback you need to progress faster.

So, recounting my own encounters with the Czech language, here is my primer for the beginner or traveler seeking to be able to use just enough Czech to get by.

Note: If you are learning Czech, I have provided some grammar points which give you the jumping off point to learn more grammar. Having learned a lot of Czech, I recommend learning just enough grammar to know what’s going on but not too much too early. Grammar fatigue is definitely a diagnosable condition for learners of Slavic languages! Use one of the common textbook/audio programmes in the initial stages and you’ll go well, such as: Colloquial Czech, Teach Yourself Czech.

Before you start, check out this Czech and Slovak pronunciation guide.

From the top: saying hello, goodbye and thank you

Dobré ráno   Good morning (before 9am)
Dobrý den   Good day 
Dobrý večer   Good evening (after 6pm)

Děkuji (vám)   Thank you
Děkuji mockrát   Many thanks
Děkuji vám pěkně   Thank you kindly (lit. ‘nicely’)
Na shledanou   Goodbye

Making requests

Now you’ve said hello, how do you actually order something? A common way to ask for something in Czech and other Slavic languages is to say “I will give myself…” We would never phrase it that way in English, which serves to show how direct translation between languages is many times not possible.

Dám si jednou kávu prosím   I will have a coffee please (lit. ‘I will give myself a coffee please).

The above example is very common and is constructed from the verb dát – to give.

Alternatively, you could use the verb vzít si – meaning “to take”:
Vezmu si jedno pivo prosím   I will take a beer please

Using the imperative form, you could say:
Dejte mi…   Give me…

Dejte mi jedno pivo prosím   Give me a beer please

This form can sound very direct so use please (prosím) either at the beginning or end of the sentence.

Plurals

Plurals can get quite complicated in grammar terms, but for the most part they just require slight modifications to the noun. For example:

Dám si dvě kávy a tři piva prosím   I will have two coffees and three beers please

For plurals of 2-4 items the nouns decline (change ending) in a predictable way depending on gender. There are some different noun endings in each of the genders but here are the main ones

Feminine: káva => kávy   coffee, coffees
Neuter: pivo => piva   beer, beers
Masculine: salát => saláty   salad, salads
čaj => čaji   tea, teas (masculine noun with soft ending)

Plurals can get a bit daunting for a beginner and for the most part the ones above will fit a number of common menu items. At 5 items and beyond you encounter the Genitive case and the noun endings are completely different. However, there’s no need to worry about this in the beginning stages.

If you know the nominative noun form then you’ll be able to ask for what you want and refine later as you learn more grammar and the modifications needed.

More complex constructions

If you feel like going a bit further and want to be a bit more expressive, try using different forms, such as the conditional.

In English we’re just as like to say “I would like” as much as “I want”. In Czech the conditional is made in a similar way — using the past tense of the verb with some conditional language:

Já bych si dal   I would like (note the past tense of the verb dát)
Chtěl bych ten zákusek   I would like that cake (from the verb chtít – to want)
Rád bych   I would like (using the rád – to like)
Raději bych   I would rather

There is a wrinkle here, and this is where Slavic languages can seem overly complicated. For female speakers you’ll need to add an ‘a’ on the end of the past tense stem.

Já bych si dala; Chtěla bych; Ráda bych

Sometimes you need to know if the place you’re at has something. For this situation use the verb mít – to have in this case:

Máte zmrzliny?   Do you have ice creams?
Máte nějaké zákusky?   Do you have any cakes?

To ask for “what kinds of” you could say:

Jaké máte vino?   What sort of wine do you have?

With or without?

Asking for something with something else we use the instrumental case (don’t panic — it’s a simple noun ending change that is predictable and common). Use the preposition “s” like the s in silence.

Vezmu si jeden čaj s citronem   I will take a tea with lemon (citron – lemon)
Dám si jednou kávu s mlékem   I will have a coffee with milk (mléko – milk)

Instrumental endings
The prefix -em is for masculine nouns (usually these end in consonant) and neuter nouns (usually ending in o).

For feminine nouns, use the prefix -ou (pronounced like the word ‘owe’).

Já bych si dal palačinky se slehačkou   I would like pancakes with whipped cream (from the feminine noun slehačka – whipped cream).

Without — the Genitive case
The genitive case is simple in many ways as the instrumental. Use it after the word bez – without.

Dám si dvě kávy bez cukru prosím   I will have two coffees without sugar (from the word cukr – sugar).

So much grammar in such simple phrases

One thing you can see from these examples is how grammar is woven into the sentences in a seamless way. This is why studying grammar in isolation of sentences is not the optimal way to learn Czech.

Instead, focus 80% of your energy on learning phrases and sentences. Having learned just enough grammar to understand the different cases and how they work, set out to learn language you can use in everyday situations and use it.

I hope, however, this primer into the Czech language can at least get you to use it on your travels. In the next post I will script out a whole bunch of useful travel phrases so stay tuned.

Glossika language learning — totally worth the investment

glossikaIn November I stumbled across the Glossika language learning method and decided to invest in the Czech course to finally get me to fluency in the language. Needless to say that 6 weeks on I am pleasantly surprised and enthused by the results.

For years I had struggled with learning Czech. It was my first language so this was not totally a surprise. It also can be a devilishly difficult language — not because it is inherently difficult but more because the grammar complexity is something native English speakers aren’t used to.

So I learned Czech in fits and starts — a lot while I was in the country and only superficially elsewhere.

Without speaking Czech I felt as though I was losing the language and besides, I had other languages I wanted to move on to.

Glossika to the rescue…

Utilising a Mass Sentence method in a predetermined schedule, Glossika’s audio programme reinforces the conversational grammar and vocabulary native speakers use everyday.

This makes a lot of sense to me now that I have discovered the “grammar first” approach to learning languages is not only backwards it can lead to frustration and ultimately quitting the language.

Glossika works because it crams in simple and then more complex structures in a workable order and in a way that mirrors natural language learning.

While my main language learning project at the moment is conversational fluency in French using more textual analysis and audio listening techniques, Glossika is providing me with a structured and manageable way of building my Czech, seemingly effortlessly (I’m not forcing it).

I just plug in an listen to the spaced repetition audios (organised by day number) and then listen and read the new block of mass sentences when the schedule calls for it. This is great!

In short, if I was starting to learn a new language tomorrow, I would grab a Teach Yourself book or Assimil programme and become acquainted with the audio, vocabulary and simple grammar while using Glossika to consistently introduce and reinforce new structures.

Get speaking right away

In my last post I spoke about the need for input and lots of it. Listening to audio and understanding it thoroughly before moving on to my complicated language is how we naturally learn languages.

For me, it’s like the sun rising and gradually illuminating the land below — the darkness of ignorance in a language gradually subsides and you’re able to see and understand more and more of the language.

Glossika compared to other popular methods

Glossika contains far more audio and sentences than most language learning programmes you’ll find. I’m a fan of Assimil, however Glossika has far more language audio for you to absorb and a method for practicing it.

In my opinion, Glossika is far less tedious than Pimsleur and again, contains much more language for your brain to absorb.

I like Assimil and the Michel Thomas method, but I’ve found Glossika better in that it focuses on language you would use most of the time when speaking with native speakers. In the Czech programme, the focus is on the informal form of the language. I think a grounding in the formal structures is good, most of the usual language programmes focus specifically on that style.

It took me a lot of experimentation to arrive at what really works in language learning. Glossika really does give that missing piece I had been searching for and I heartily recommend it!

The path to true mastery of a foreign language

Learning a language is a massive undertaking and knowing where to start and how to progress can be incredibly difficult.

Also, how do you know how good your knowledge and facility with the new language is? What are the metrics?

These questions form the basis of an effective strategy for learning a foreign language and can be the start of a productive and rewarding experience.

However, the task is to stay on track and not feel like you’re not making progress. Continual improvement requires patience but you should also be mindful of the traps and pitfalls.

Trap #1: Collecting too many resources

I think one of the biggest challenges is finding the right content. After learning two languages to varying degrees (my French is very much still in progress) I can now, with the benefit of hindsight, see what I was doing wrong.

I wanted everything — every book, course and piece of content I could get my hands on. This, I believe, is the wrong way to go about learning a language.

For starters, it’s a strategy that is very much like consumerism — accumulation without necessarily deriving benefits from the acquisitions. Every piece of content, be that book or course, should be useful and studied to the point where it is fully comprehensible.

Don’t just grab everything. One or two really reliable sources up front is a good starting point. Once you’ve mastered these sources then move on and find new mountains to conquer.

Too many resources is one way to get confused and create overwhelm. Having laser-like focus on a few resources will serve you very well, in part because of the repetition factor. Think of how you learned your mother tongue. Words, phrases, intonation and word stress all sunk into your brain through constant exposure and repetition from our environment. 

Repetition is important, so finding a good resource to learn from is vital.

The resource(s) you choose should be suitable for your level but gradually allows you to increase vocabulary and recognition of the structure and sounds of the new language.

Output (writing and speaking) are not the focus in the early stage. Completely saturate your brain with the new language. Start to see the connections and repeat these learnings through a schedule of reinforcement.

Some resources have this repetition element built in. Glossika works on the basis of saturation of a large amount of sentences, almost as if you were growing up in the culture of the language you’re learning.

Trap #2: Focusing too much on grammar too soon

Glossika resources make a great analogy: To climb the mountain that is fluency in your target language you need to to rise above the forest that is the grammar. Getting stuck in the forest will only serve to keep you stuck and worrying too much about whether you’re getting everything right.

This is a bad place to be. You will make mistakes and this is actually the process of learning. Trying to be perfect will keep you stuck — you’ll be too afraid to converse for fear you get something wrong (and that people will laugh at you). This fear is understandable but it’s what Professor Carol Dweck calls the fixed mindset. Instead, take the growth mindset and realise that getting bogged down in the detail too soon is hurting your progress (and likely a justification for not willing to try speaking the language for fear of failure).

Is grammar important? Yes, but it will likely hinder your progress if you begin to obsess on the details to soon.

Remember this: The language should be fun, especially early on. Start from a position of enjoyment and begin speaking as early as possible. Do that and you’ll develop a foundation of language understanding and reinforcement that will serve you well as you progress.

Input and output

I always thought the aphorism “you have two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a reason” was irritating. It is a bit lame but is totally valuable advice for language learners in my opinion.

For the most part, be sure to take in the new language often then test your output in speaking and writing. I’m a big fan of the “more input is good” approach, as long as it is done in a progressive way and you’re listening and reading texts relevant to your current level.

Once you really understand the texts/audio, move on and conquer the next level and beyond. Repetition of these basic materials is vital for your progress. Learn and reinforce the language like a native would when learning as a child.

The benefit you have as an adult is that you can make the connection between words and objects/concepts much faster than a child can.

TOP TIP: Build up a log of new words and structures. I like to use a Google Spreadsheet for this. Any new words I find I write them into the spreadsheet with sheets for different things (expressions, common constructions, everyday nouns, emotions…) This way you can go back and revise new words and constructions, which you can then use in your writing and speaking.

Keeping score

Track your progress both in terms of inputs and outputs. Keep track of the reps you’re doing with your material. Repetition pays dividends and tracking this will give you a real boost in confidence.

Tracking outputs is tougher but it could be as simple as writing 20 sentences a day and/or tracking conversations. The latter is harder to quantify because to me speaking is the outcome of learning not necessarily a quantifiable metric.

In short

Live as if the language is part of your daily reality. Do whatever you can to get the target language in front of your eyes and ears often and reinforce everything you learn through repetition.

Don’t be concerned too much with all the resources you’ll need. Just get started on something that suits your level and absolutely own it! Make it a part of your being.

No limits language learning FLR style

Every now and then someone shows up online or in person who just blows your model of reality out of the water. 

I recently stumbled on Moses McCormick’s YouTube videos (username laoshu505000). Moses is a fascinating guy. Based in Columbus Ohio, he makes it his business to learn every language he possibly can. Through his efforts, he has gained proficiency in more than a dozen languages and distilled his approach down into an effective product he calls the FLR Method.

What Moses brings to the Polyglot community is a wonderful humility but also a sense that nothing is impossible. He basically studies his languages in his bedroom and an adjacent room which he calls “bootcamp stations A and B”.

However, he isn’t confined to his bootcamp quarters merely listening to audio, combing through language courses many of us would be familiar with (Teach Yourself, Assimil, Colloquial…) Yes he does all these things but it is all in service of his primary goal with a language, which is to “level up” — code for getting out into the real world and communicating with native speakers.

The drive to refine

There is something very cool about Moses’ approach which dawned on me after watching this video on how he goes about learning multiple languages at one time.

Firstly, his goal to reach an intermediate level in 4 languages every year changes the game completely. If you’re learning one language only, then there is a temptation to drift in the language and not take it as seriously as you could.

Designating multiple languages in a short time frame entails some serious planning, but beyond that, it requires a high level of organisation and daily commitment.

Moses uses charts to organise his time and resources leading to a very effective approach. Having fairly aggressive timelines to practice his languages, Moses has had to create a lean and effective schedule of learning. He has optimised all his systems and is constantly refining.

Again, without the audacious goal of learning 4 languages a year, the need to refine and constantly improve his approach wouldn’t be as necessary.

A second aspect of Moses’ approach worth noting is his drive to go out and test himself on native speakers. Anyone who has learned even a few phrases of a new language and used them successfully with native speakers will know there is an exhilaration that comes from doing it.

You will make mistakes but as the Irish Polyglot Benny Lewis is fond of saying, people want the interaction to go well and they will mostly help you out. This is true even when your grammar is not so flash.

I have had numerous dialogues in Czech where I left thinking “doh! I should have used the genitive case there not the dative”. That learning would only take place when I went out and tried it out.

So now I don’t beat myself up for making mistakes, in fact, it is necessary to make as many mistakes as possible as early as possible.

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field. — Niels Bohr.

Because communication is Moses’ primary goal, his approach is to listen, read and speak as much as possible, especially early on. He studies grammar only after having a solid grounding in the dialogues from books and audio programs.

I speak from experience when I say that the grammar first approach isn’t effective, at least not for me. My approach to study languages like science projects actually stunted my progress in Czech — a language with an enormous amount of detailed grammar.

Impossible you say?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I find Moses to be truly inspirational. He genuinely cares about the languages he learns — he says none of them are useless (as some YouTube commenters have said).

He speaks with a nonchalance about learning multiple languages and the 1-20 year plan he has to study virtually every language you can name. But never do I hear him complaining about how hard a language is, or making excuses. In Moses’ world, excuses never even enter the door.

FLR Method

His 10 years or so experience is testament to the fact he’s a smooth operator in the language learning field. Through his tenacity and experience with multiple languages, Moses has created an approach to learning languages he calls the Foreign Language Road Running (FLR) Method.

His YouTube channel has numerous outlines of FLR but he has condensed all of these techniques into language learning packages that make it easy for the learner to progress week-by-week.

If you think language learning is difficult then FLR might just be what you’re looking for. Moses’ style is very down to earth and doesn’t involve anything complicated at all.

In fact, Moses explains on several YouTube videos how to effectively study a regular textbook like a Teach Yourself or Assimil. His ideas about taking one chapter and repeating the dialogues for an entire week (reading and listening) have been immensely valuable to me. A 19 chapter textbook can seem daunting but if you devoted one week for each and devoured the dialogues, you would have a vast understanding of the language.

Once you’ve got a solid grounding in listening and reading, then, as Moses explains, is when you should begin looking at grammar. It will make much more sense when you’ve got the comprehension from 18-19 weeks of dialogue study.

Applying FLR to French

Since I began learning French in July this year I have learned a tremendous amount. However, I used my old “grammar first” approach so when it comes time to speaking the language I have struggled.

To remedy this, I’m putting grammar on hold and am only using textbooks to study the dialogues. In less than a week of doing this I already feel more confident in the language.

Resources aren’t an issue for me (I have tonnes) but the approach I’m taking is now making those resources come to life. Thanks to Moses, I feel excited about learning again!

Useful links and more french resources