Language learning has problems!
- query_statsA leaker from a major publisher revealed that 0% of customers finished reading their language books.
- thumb_downOne study found that 1/3 of language teaching methods didn’t work, and 1/3 made no difference!
- hourglass_bottomMost people forget everything, or nearly everything, they learn from language books and classes.
So what’s the solution?
A long-forgotten method
Back in 1968, a researcher from the University of Michigan proposed an “outlandish” method for language learning...
His new method appeared to work better than the usual ones.
But nobody cared.
Let me tell you what it was...
Pretend that Italian words are English!
“Come qua to see the view.”
qua = here
“They’re strolling su the beach.”
su = on/upon
“Let’s go là to eat ice cream.”
là = there
Mix Italian words into interesting facts
The Colosseum was used for gladiator shows, ma with the Empire’s decline, it underwent various uses.
ma = but
Un’excursion along the Amalfi Coast reveals un’incredible variety of landscapes.
un’ = a / an (before a vowel)
Chianti is a region che boasts a long history of wine making. It’s believed che they first planted grapes 2,000 years ago.
che = that
We’ve done it for centuries!
The majority of our English lexicon consists of foreign words that our ancestors gradually amalgamated into their current verbiage.
English is mostly “foreign” words
About 70% of English words are ‘borrowed’ from other languages:
Start with the most common words
What most language courses teach:
Hello, Thank you, Please, Yes, No, Good morning, Good night, Goodbye
The most common (and useful) words in real life:
We remember rarely-used English words
How often do most people use...
Rarely! Yet we remember them!
It’s always easier to remember words in your native language. But even simple Italian is hard to recall when learned as “foreign” words.
We learn new English words all the time!
The Oxford English Dictionary now adds new words four times a year; in March 2015 alone 500 new definitions were added, including 207 completely new words.
Over the past century, English has adopted:
- karate from Japanese
- parkour from French
- robot from Czech
- glitch from Yiddish
...we could go on and on.
We only have so much time...
One language course I bought started off teaching words for things like dishwasher and paper towels...
Does that make sense to you?
What about ‘and’ or ‘with’?
We don’t need many words!
One study examined the text of hundreds of popular English-language books. They contained 850,000 different words, BUT...
...just 100 words covered 53% of the text!
Note: Such studies count all the different spellings (inflections) of a word as one. For example, “walk”, “walks”, “walked”, and “walking” would be counted as one word. But the point remains valid.
“Real books vs reading schemes: a new perspective from instructional psychology” by Jonathan Solity and Janet Vousden, Educational Psychology, 29:4, 469-511, doi: 10.1080/01443410903103657. This reference does not imply endorsement.
Many language teaching methods don’t work!
One study looked at different methods used to teach French.
It found that:
- arrow_circle_right About 1/3 of the methods had no effect.
- arrow_circle_right Another 1/3 actually harmed the students’ test scores.
- arrow_circle_right Of the ones that worked, their effectiveness varied depending on how often they were used.
To this day, few teachers even know about this research.
Source: “Reflections on Good and Bad teaching behaviours” by Robert L. Polizer, Language Learning, June 1970. doi:10.1111/j.1467-1770.1970.tb00043.x This reference does not imply endorsement.
In the Middle East
In 2014, researchers tested the same method I use in my books with Persian-speaking high school students trying to learn English. What happened?
Students using the new method scored almost doubled their score on a test!
Yes, on a test scoring out of 25, students using the method I promote scored 23 out of 25, whereas normal students only scored 12 out of 25.
Researchers have reported its use in some Chinese kindergartens. Teachers use the method to make “sandwich stories” for teaching English. They mix English words into Chinese versions of classic children’s stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood.
Parents prefer the kindergartens using the method because their children speak English far more quickly.
“The Effect of Teaching Vocabulary through the Diglot-Weave Technique on Vocabulary Learning of Iranian High School Students” by Azadeh Nemati (Islamic Azad University) and Ensieh Maleki (Payame-Nour University). Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 1340 – 1345. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.551 This reference does not imply endorsement.
“Communicative Language-Teaching through Sandwich Stories” by Yuhua Ji. TESL Canada Journal / Revue TESL du Canada Vol. 17 (Winter 1999) 103-113. doi:10.1017/S0266078402001049 This reference does not imply endorsement.
No more linguistic jargon!
Some “beginner” books will say “indicative present subjunctive” – with no explanation!
That’s why my books use my own simpler terms that everyone can understand.
|Official terms||=||My terms|
|present participle||=||-ing word (for descriptions)|
|gerund||=||-ing word (for actions)|
Yes, it works with grammar
Compare how we teach the Italian ‑ato/‑uto/‑ito word endings...
How it’s often taught:
“The Italian past participle forms vary based on the verb endings of the infinitive form. They are ‑ato, ‑uto, and ‑ito; they are used for each of the three conjugation verb groups (‑are, ‑ere, ‑ire) respectively.
“Additionally, the spellings must change to match gender and number. For example, for the ‑are conjugation group, ‑ato/‑ata are used for singular masculine and feminine subjects respectively, while ‑ati/‑ate are used for plurals.
“This is not to be confused with the imperfect or past historic tenses.”
How my books teach it:
In English, we add the word ending “‑ed” on to words to say things like:
- “I have walked home”, or
- “We have talked about it”.
Well, Italian speakers instead add the word endings ‑ato, ‑uto, or ‑ito:
- I have washato the dishes.
- They have receiveuto a package.
- She has finishito reading the book.
We shall adopt these endings into English.
There are other ways to put things in the past, but we’ll adopt them later.
My books for Italian
Each book teaches the most useful words for a particular part of the Italian language. They’re designed to be short and easy to read.
Here’s the first one:
This book mixes the following Italian into English...
|1||un = a/an (masc.)||“I'd like un cappuccino, please.”|
|2||uno = a/an (special)||“I want uno xylophone.”|
|3||e/ed = and||“I like pasta e pizza.”|
|4||ma = but||“I'm tired, ma I need to study.”|
|5||una = a/an (fem.)||“I would like una pizza.”|
|6||un' = a/an (before vowel)||“I would like un'orange, please.”|
|7||o = or||“Do you want tea o coffee?”|
|8||perché = because||“I can't go out perché it's raining.”|
|9||l’ = the (before vowel)||“L’Italian opera is world-famous.”|
|10||‘the’ is used more often||“The Italy is beautiful.”|
|11||con = with||“I'm going to the movies con my friends.”|
|12||qua = here||“Come qua to see the view.”|
|13||là = there||“Let's go là to eat an ice cream.”|
|14||per = for/to||“I study Italian per three hours a day.”|
|15||quindi = so/therefore||“I don't have money, quindi I can't buy pizza.”|
|16||il = the (masc.)||“Il Colosseum is in Rome.”|
|17||lo = the (special)||“Lo zoo is really fun.”|
|18||se = if||“I'll go to the beach se the weather is nice.”|
|19||né = neither, nor||“I like né coffee né tea.”|
|20||tuttavia = however||“I'm not hungry; tuttavia, I'll eat chocolate.”|
|21||dunque = so/therefore||“I didn't study, dunque I don't know the answer.”|
|22||i = the (masc. plural)||“I museums in Italy are famous.”|
|23||gli = the (masc. plural before vowels)||“Gli spaghetti is tasty.”|
|24||poiché = since, as||“I'm coming poiché you invited me.”|
|25||nonostante = despite, in spite of||“Nonostante the rain, we went out.”|
|26||la = the (fem.)||“I ate la pizza.”|
|27||le = the (fem. plural)||“Le girls have arrived.”|
|28||affinché = so that||“Study affinché you can pass the exam.”|
|29||benché = even though||“Benché it's late, we keep talking.”|
|30||pure = although||“Pure he feels tired, he keeps working.”|
|31||su = on/upon||“I like walking su this beach.”|
|32||a = to/at||“I'm going a school.”|
|33||in = in/at||“I live in a house and work n’office.”|
|34||di = from/of (possession)||“The recipe di my mother is originally di a book; it’s a work d’art!”|
|35||dai = from/of (characteristic)||“The girl dai brown hair comes da Milan.”|
|36||che = that||“I think che he is tired.”|
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