Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 7

Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Yep, let's communicate! After all this is the main purpose of speaking any language, isn't it? So, let the real challenge begin!


If you don't know anyone personally who is willing to stay in touch you can connect with someone specifically for learning a foreign language. There are websites where you can find a suitable language partner for yourself italki being an example.

You can exchange messages with your language partner on this website or stay in touch via Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Skype etc. Just choose what works for you and your foreign friend.

I would keep in mind though that ideally you need to practise all three forms of communication, i.e. by email, instant messaging and speaking.

With emails it is effectively writing that you will be practising while instant messaging is obviously quite different as it's very often real time communication, so speed is vital. Also, nobody expects you to send big chunks of text, so brevity and lightness are important. Hence abbreviations and onomatopoeic words are often used.

And of course speaking is completely different and I would say the most difficult of these three. No wonder people often go numb when they have to speak a foreign language. When I first came to England with my upper-intermediate (!) level of English, my only way of communication for a couple of days was a stupid grin. Words came out of my mouth at last after a lady in a shop attempted sign language thinking I was deaf.

You might be thinking that I am exaggerating to make you giggle. Ok, let me paint a picture. Imagine you are an inexperienced lady driver trying to park into a tight spot in your Peugeot and a guy in a Ferrari is waiting for you to clear out of the way. He is watching you like a hawk. Or at least that's what you feel with every inch of you skin which is starting to perspire. Oh, the number of awkward moves you make before you actually get there! If you do at all! So, for those who didn't get it - the guy in the Ferrari is a native speaker while a lady parking like a teddy bear is you, poor language learner! And sorry for being a bit sexist, we all know that women are best drivers, don’t we ;)?

So, before you actually attempt speaking to a foreigner, i.e. put yourself in a situation where your poor brain will need to figure out not only how to say something but primarily what to say, you might want to practise speaking to...yourself. Sounds creepy but it works!

Discuss anything you like with your best buddy (yourself), just make sure your family or flatmates know that you are on a language learning mission otherwise they might think you have gone a bit cuckoo.

When you think you are ready, start looking for that perfect language partner of yours!

A good thing about italki is that it connects people who want to learn languages in tandem, so while you practise German your German language partner masters their French, i.e. your native language. Sehr einfach!

Also, when choosing a language partner, make sure you have things in common to talk about. Or not. Now let me explain with an example.

Say, you are a stay at home parent looking after a cute little sweetie pie baby who, once tired, is louder than an alarm clock which goes off on a Sunday morning when you have I-don't-remember-how-many-shots-I-had kind of hangover. So, you have just managed to calm down and put the little monster to bed. Do you want to talk about babies, how parenthood is a bliss and share 199 photos of your cutie pie on Instagram?

Well, if the answer is 'yes' then you might want to find another stay at home parent to discuss the joys of parenthood, swapping pictures of your little ones yawning, smiling, pooping and what not.

But if the answer is 'no' then you might want to find someone else who knows nothing about nappies and dummies and will tell you all about yodeling with such overpowering enthusiasm that you yourself will be yodeling up in the snowy Alps with your little one a couple of years later, casually throwing in yodeling terms into conversations about yodeling in German with your new yodeling fans friends.

So, these are all the tips and tricks I wanted to share with you for now.

Well, actually there is one more in conclusion:

even if it's difficult at times and looks like you are not making any progress whatsoever, never give up learning a foreign language. You will get there in the end so keep calm and carry on!

You have surely found what works well for you too so feel free to share your expertise and drop a comment with your tips and/or tricks below. Happy learning!

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 6

Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

It might not be too good for your neighbours who are already putting up with your TV blaring out movies in an unknown language (yep, the louder you have your telly on, the better you understand what's being said sometimes) but it's good for your language acquisition as rhythm, rhyme and melody help you retain sung words and whole sentences in your memory.


As very often singers do not think of spelling it out for poor foreigners who use their musical masterpieces for their own little needs of learning a language, you will most definitely need lyrics for the songs you love and would like to sing yourself. These can be found easily on the Internet. Otherwise you might end up singing something completely different from the original text! And Madonna's virgin will turn into 'touched for the thirty-first time' instead of 'touched for the very first time.' Oooh, those Freudian slips!

If you struggle to remember particular words no matter how catchy the tune is, drop them into a vocBlock and run some Memoriser sessions so that next time you need to sing the word 'extra-terrestrial' picturing yourself as Katy Perry you could actually pronounce it properly.

And make sure you truly understand the meaning of the lyrics. Well, at least if you are inserting famous quotes here and there. This can be real tricky at times and even with the text in front of you, you might have no idea what it's all about. 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds?' What the hell?

Also, try to use the vocabulary acquired this way appropriately and don't tell your macho mates that you (have) got (to) kiss yourself you are so pretty just because Bruno's song is so damn catchy!

Don't miss the next tip in the upcoming post, the things are about to get serious ;)

Feel free to post your comments below - we would love to hear what songs you are humming to learn the language you are learning!

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 5

Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

If you want to understand what's being said in the language you are learning, just practise listening to it being spoken! As easy as that (not that I'm saying that it's easy ;) And movies and comedy shows are fun too!


Make sure the movies, TV series and comedy shows you choose have subtitles which can be switched off. Subtitles are useful if you discover you don't understand a damn thing. That was me discovering Scottish accent for the first time with 'Trainspotting' - 'So that's English? Seriously?' And that was before I learnt that the comedian guy Kevin Bridges speaking weird English is actually Scottish too! So, thank god for the subtitles!

Subtitles are also useful at the start of the movies or shows when you are still tuning your ear to the cast. Well, only at the very start if you are lucky! It took me a good couple of episodes to tune my ear to Lee Mack from the TV series 'Not Going Out'! But once I got there, boy, this guy is hilarious!

Also, subtitles are good for capturing words and phrases you don't know at the moment but would love to learn and use yourself. Just make sure you add them to your vocBlocks so you don't lose them and actually learn (and use!) them later.

Subtitles are better than no subtitles but don't let reading them turn into a habit - switch them off if you understand most of what's being said.

Also, at the beginning you might want to choose action movies where you will probably understand the plot without much language anyway or might not need to at all! 'Expendables' for example can be watched with no sound on and you will still get the most important bit - it's cool to be big and strong! Or did I miss some deep meaning there?

As you progress with your language skills you will gradually learn to decipher dialogues from psychological thrillers if you want to watch them and, unlike me, a wimp, have nerves of steel and sleep well at night after it. The toughest one I have managed to get over so far is 'The Devil's Advocate' with my favourite Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves. Though I still get flashbacks with Mary whimpering, 'Kevin, I'm not crazy!' Brrr, something a bit more cheerful for me please!

Don't miss the next tip in the upcoming post if you fancy adding some tunes to your language learning ;)

We want to hear about YOUR experience with watching movies, shows, etc.! Feel free to post your recommendations of what to watch in the comments too!

P.S. I am not the only one struggling with the Scottish accent. And here is proof:

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 4

Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Reading them will make sure your language vocabulary is varied as you won't find, for example, a lot of popular science terms in fiction books. Well, not in that concentration anyway.


You might want to choose articles and/or books which will educate you for your particular needs, be it your career or hobby.


Once upon a time education path was simple - school, university and happy ever after. Today you have to be your own sat nav to get the job you want to have as when you were at uni this kind of job might not have even existed!

And education is becoming more and more accessible via MOOCs. And if, for example, you decide that to get to your next destination you need some accounting knowledge then you stop over at Coursera and pack your bag with this intangible asset before continuing your journey.

Even if you prefer a more clear and straight way in your career and love your current job, you will still need to keep upgrading your knowledge before you realise that you are way behind your more nimble and agile colleagues. For example, if you are in marketing may be it's time to throw in some new digital marketing tricks to shake things up?

But all work and no play...


If you are like me and are crazy about cooking then you can discover new recipes in the language you are learning. With learning English, BBC good food is a fab resource which we used while putting together our ready vocBlocks "5 A Day".

And if you love cooking and are learning Italian...Good luck with that diet of yours! By the way to boost your Italian or any other language vocabulary just copy the existing vocBlocks with fruit and veg names, add Italian or any other language translation from the built in dictionaries, record sound if you need it and you are good to go.


For Top Gear fans out there...Keep an eye on the news not to miss the next episode! It is coming back! But you probably know already if you read papers. So, why not reading them in the language you are learning? It’s so easy with news websites (e.g. BBC, CNN) ) and newspapers available online. Obviously domestic news will not be fully covered but you can always split your news reading time between two languages and read on international affairs in the language you are learning.

One more bonus from this kind of read is that you will always have what to talk about with your foreign friend(s). Or you might just discuss a movie you have recently seen. But this will be the topic of our next tip. Don’t miss it!

In the meantime feel free to share your experience of reading non-fiction in the comments below.

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 3

Get some fiction books you would love to read

Reading is one of the most effective means of learning a language. There won't be any output (your writing and speaking) without any input (your reading and listening). Since writers' means to create a fiction reality in its every detail is through language alone (no video or audio to help out!) reading is a pretty powerful means for you to acquire all necessary and even detailed vocabulary. You might even end up creating another Marcel Proust's lilacs!


Make sure these books are not too difficult for you to read, i.e. only about 5% of all the words are unknown as the idea here is to 'allow the words to wash around you, like music' as R.Dahl once put it in his famous 'Matilda', so that you learn to dance, I would add. And you don't want to keep stumbling over unknown words and difficult phrases all the time, do you?

Some people might not even think about reading, 'Books? There is no way I can read books with my elementary level!' That's where you are not quite right as British would put it, i.e. completely wrong! It will not be easy at the start of course but the earlier you do start reading books the better. And yes, there are books for elementary level too! If you study English, check out Penguin Books. Some of their adapted books come with CDs for you to entertain yourself while driving, for example.

But what about those 5%? you might want to ask. Do I just ignore unknown words? Or do I look them up? Do I learn them?

Well, I wouldn't worry about looking up and learning every unknown word you come across. Let the words wash around you, enjoy the music of the language, let the story capture you and find if Perry will beat the triangles invading his body or they will eat him up alive.

But if an unknown word is a key word and you cannot understand what's going on without knowing it, or if you have come across a word several times and would love to know what it means then I would say definitely look it up. Or even better drop it into one of your vocBlocks, which means you will kill two birds with one stone, i.e. look it up in the vocBlocks' built in dictionary and capture this word for learning it later.

Learning it will actually be easy-peasy as you will recall the context in which it was used. Capturing it in vocBlocks will make sure you are making the most of your time spent reading a book, as there is nothing more frustrating (and unproductive!) than to keep bumping into a word the meaning of which you still cannot remember or into a clever/useful phrase you have sworn you will be using yourself but still cannot recall when you need it.

And if you are a control freak like me and like things in life to be filed, colour coded and shelved in strict order based on a certain system which works like clockwork, then you might find it exciting to expand your vocabulary topically. Say, you have come across a name of an animal which is not already in the ready vocBlock 'Wild Animals', so you add it to your copy of this ready vocBlock and learn it along with other words on this topic.

And one more thing, please PLEASE try to choose modern authors if your reading time is limited! Even if you are Charles Dickens' fan (which I am with no doubt) please understand that no one speaks this language any more and the reality described is a little bit different now too! So, if you have just read Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Niggers' I wouldn't shout the title out loud as the n-word is socially unacceptable and you can get into trouble as did Top Gear guy Jeremy Clarkson!

But you wouldn't have read about the incident with Jeremy Clarkson in a book so next post is about non-fiction. Don't miss it!

Let us know about a great book you would recommend to a BFF in the comments below.

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Language Learning Tips and Tricks: Tip 2

Get a good self-study grammar book

Yes, yes, yes, grammar! It's language skeleton so don't ignore it! Otherwise you risk speaking wibbly-wobbly language that only you will be able to understand. Since arguably the main purpose of speaking any language is communication with others it's not what you want to achieve!


There will be grammar exercises in the study book you have chosen of course but you might find them not enough for you to master, for example, modal verbs. And if you are a grammar freak like me admiring its beauty and inner logic, then you might find yourself chanting three forms of irregular verbs while waltzing your way around a book store looking for the next self study grammar book to replace another finished one.

And don't get me wrong here - as much as I love grammar I would not spend a minute studying it if it was boring! Grammar does not have to be boring! The trick is finding the right book and/or other study materials. For studying English the classics is 'English Grammar in Use' by Raymond Murphy and for studying German 'EM Uebungsgrammatik' is a very good (and fun!) book.

And you don't have to limit yourself to conventional exercises when studying grammar. Discover Jazz Chants by Carolyn Graham if you fancy throwing some rhythm and a bit of performance into your studies.

Now that you are equipped with foreign language study essentials, i. e. study book and grammar book, we will be looking into other materials you can use for studying your dream language so don't miss the next post! It will be fun ;)

And in the meantime feel free to share your own tips and tricks on learning grammar in the comments below!

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Language Learning Tips and Tricks

First thing's first, just to make sure we are on the same page: no tips or tricks, no matter how awesome they are, will get you start speaking a foreign language after studying it for a couple of months as if it were your mother tongue. Nope. Not a chance. How many years have you been speaking your native language? Here you go. It just doesn't happen overnight.

The good news is learning a foreign language is SO much fun

you will not want it to stop once you've started.

Now to the tips and tricks as promised :)

P.S. There will be 7 tips in total so keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming posts!

Tip 1. Choose a good and fun study book.

These usually come with audio materials, workbook and additional materials available online. If you study English, there are loads of books available from the Oxford and Cambridge universities, for example. For German Hueber is a well-known publisher.


Whatever book you choose, make sure it's suitable for your level (elementary, intermediate, advanced), your purpose of learning the language (business, tourism, passing IELTS, TOEFL, etc.) and that the book is fun! So, if you are a teen don't choose a book for senior citizens with texts on how to do gardening and sewing! Not sure you will find one anyway but you get the picture.

Study books are a great basis for your language learning as they have all four language skills covered, i.e. reading, writing, listening and speaking, and each study unit is built around a specific topic which helps you structure your vocabulary learning, e.g. immigration is the topic for Unit 1 of Headway Advanced.

With any new topic there will be new words and phrases which  you will need to learn for you to recognise when reading and listening and eventually to use in your writing and speaking. You can write them down in your notebook in two columns 'word/phrase - translation' to learn them. But if you have other joys in life than practicing calligraphy and later trying to find 'that phrase' in a pile of old notebooks that have been gathering dust on your shelves, then you are better off using a bit of technology like vocBlocks.

With My vocBlocks you can create a separate vocabulary block for each unit of your study book and drop all the new key words and phrases there. Memoriser will organise effective learning of these words and phrases for you so you could not only recognise them while doing your reading and listening tasks but also actively recall them for your speaking and writing tasks. Another good thing about Memoriser is that it will remind you to revise your vocBlocks later so the vocabulary you spent time on learning once will not get stale.

You can also use your study book as a guide helping you to identify topics on which you could boost your vocabulary. For example, you could choose to learn or revise vocabulary from a ready vocBlock 'Countries & Nationalities' when studying Unit 1 of Headway Advanced I mentioned earlier in the post, as nationalities and countries are important vocabulary for the topic of immigration. Thus you will not only know the words and phrases given in the study book on this topic but will have built more comprehensive vocabulary around it.

I have talked a lot about vocabulary in this post and I feel some pairs of bewildered eyes staring at me and lips mouthing the sacred word 'grammar'. I admit I have been deliberately avoiding this elephant saving it as a topic for the next post. So, don't miss it!

And in the meantime let us know in the comments below what study book you have chosen and why it is good for you!

You might also like other tips and tricks:

Tip 2. Get a good self study grammar book

Tip 3. Get some fiction books you would love to read

Tip 4. Choose some non-fiction read including newspapers

Tip 5. Choose some movies, TV series and comedy shows you would love to watch

Tip 6. Get some of your favourite songs with lyrics

Tip 7. Connect with someone who has good level of your target language, native speaker ideally

Pressed for time and cannot read it all? Check out our slides with these tips and tricks.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Spaced Repetition

Have you ever studied for an exam all day and all night long and having passed with flying colours struggled to remember what the course was about a couple of months later? If the answer is 'yes' then you know what massed repetition is. But what is spaced repetition and why is it associated with remembering things you learn better?


Recent advances in understanding of the neurobiology have revealed that learning is not an event, but rather a process that unfolds over time. In this view it is not surprising that spaced repetition as a learning technique which involves repeating material over time enhances its retention. [1]

As opposed to massed repetition, spaced repetition is more effective for retention of learnt material due to the following [based on 2]:

- encoding variability;

- proficient processing;

- learning-strategy adaptation;

- sleep as a facilitator of memory.

Encoding Variability

For better retention there should be different contexts in which you learn i.e. encode the same pieces of information. So each time you learn words and phrases, you create a different context if these learning instances do not occur shortly one after another but are spaced in time.

Proficient Processing

When you space learning instances in time the new vocabulary learnt is processed in between the instances of learning which again facilitates its better retention.

Learning-Strategy Adaptation

It is more difficult to recall words and phrases you learnt some time ago so you are more likely to use more effective strategies to remember them.

Sleep as a Facilitator of Memory

This cause of effectiveness of spaced repetition might be connected with proficient processing, where in addition once you leave a gap between your learning instances of not less than 24 hours, retention improves. In English there is a phrase 'to sleep on something' which reflects it in a way that you need to give your brain a chance to process new data for better decision making which in its turn is not possible without proper encoding, i.e. learning this new data.

Effective and Efficient

Laboratory studies have also demonstrated the long-term memory benefits of studying material in multiple distributed sessions as opposed to one massed session, given an identical amount of overall study time. [1]

In other words, spaced repetition is not only more effective when you want to retain words and phrases in your long term memory but it is also a more efficient way to learn vocabulary as it saves your time and effort. For example, if you practise the words and phrases you are learning today, tomorrow and the day after, you will remember them better than if you spent the same time practising them on the same day.

Studies show that expanding time intervals are either the same or more effective for memory retention than fixed ones. Therefore it can be even more effective (and efficient!) if you practise the vocabulary you are learning today a couple of days later and then again in 4 days.

Other studies focusing specifically on retaining of foreign language vocabulary showed benefits of repetitions delayed longer, 56 days delayed repetitions being 34% more effective than 14 days ones [2, p. 38].

Very often though we attempt to learn the words and phrases we need to learn in one go just because it's simpler to do it at once rather than to remember to practise them later as well. As a result we cannot even recognise them a couple of months down the line never mind using them ourselves.

Effective, Efficient and Automated

The good news is vocBlock's Memoriser helps you organise your vocabulary study for you using spaced repetition to make learning more effective and efficient. Memoriser reminds you to practise the vocabulary you are learning in expanding intervals, i. e. in a week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months and 4 months to ensure better retention (you can always fine tune the number and timing of the repetitions to suit your needs). And it is automated, so all you need to do is follow reminder emails you get in your inbox.

So, you probably managed once to cram all of your studying of World History in a couple of days before the exam (and got nightmares of Vikings under Napoleon's command invading your humble abode as a result) but using messed massed repetition for studying a foreign language might not be the best idea especially when you have vocBlock's Memoriser to help you organise your study more effectively and efficiently with no extra effort on your part.


1. Spaced Repetition http://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition

2. Spacing Learning Events Over Time: What the Research Says, Will Thalheimer, PhD, http://www.phase-6.de/system/galleries/download/lernsoftware/Spacing_Learning_Over_Time__March2009v1_.pdf

3. Using Spacing to Enhance Diverse Forms of Learning: Review of Recent Research and Implications for Instruction, Shana K. Carpenter & Nicholas J. Cepeda & Doug Rohrer & Sean H. K. Kang & Harold Pashler, http://laplab.ucsd.edu/articles/Carpenter_etal_EPR2012.pdf

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Snoozing or Capturing, Learning and Using?

As a linguist student studying foreign languages (English and German), I used to learn loads of words and phrases. I remember having lots of notebooks, notepads, separate sheets of paper of all colours and sizes, sticky notes everywhere: endless lists of vocabulary I needed to learn. Not high tech stuff really but it worked, I learnt and used this vocabulary, learnt and understood it but also learnt and forgot it.

Looking back though I realise it was not only time consuming but also not the most effective method as the amount of learnt and forgotten and learnt but not used vocabulary was larger than that of learnt and used one.

All those notebooks, notepads, sheets of paper, etc. were like a big vocabulary cemetery, where words and phrases were buried and forgotten or at best visited sometimes and recalled but never out of the ground...

And it's not that I didn't need those words and phrases! I was sometimes straining to recall 'that expression' that would nail it but no, it's gone and you cannot just ask some one to hang on there while you have a look at your notes to find it, can you?

Later I moved to the country where the English language I learnt as a student is spoken and it started being a matter of survival LOL. Most people here are polite and helpful, they don't rush you either as they understand you are a foreigner. But, well, at the end of the day it's life, you snooze you lose...And what's more you get tired of not being able to express whatever you want to surprise the world around you with or of not being able to say it smoothly and gracefully like you do do it in your mother tongue!

Some people might say that it's all a temporary problem, you do pick up a lot of words and phrases from all around: English speaking friends and family, TV, papers, at the office, etc.

Well, I agree that it's true to some extent and you do get more fluent and savvy and even elaborate with your language at times but it takes quite some time and unfortunately missed opportunities and even failures. So, personally I prefer investing some time and making a conscious effort to master my language skills.

Actually, it's fun and I enjoy it! I'm a linguist after all! But there's again vocabulary I need to learn so that I could not only be effective but also smooth and graceful in getting that message across. And tbh it's not much fun getting back to the good (?) old lists of vocabulary. Especially if you realise you are just going to build another vocabulary cemetery.

So, that's where the study tool vocBlocks comes in nicely: you capture the vocabulary you need, learn it and use it.


Say you're watching a movie and pick up a word you just love and would like to use. You take your phone, open vocBlocks in your browser and type in the word. The transcription and translation are already there for you so you just save the entry and get on with the movie.

Or you are on your way to work (that is supposing you are not driving but using public transport). You hear a conversation of your fellow passengers (can't help it when they are so loud, can you? No eavesdropping encouraged here :) so you take out your phone and pop in the phrase you've heard and want to throw into a conversation with your colleagues later on, type in translation, save and go on gazing nonchalantly at the sheep outside.


Easy bit as well!

Say it's lunchtime in your office and you are checking your personal emails. Ta-da! There's a vocBlocks reminder email! Time to learn some vocabulary ;) You click the button in the email which takes you to Memoriser and you start doing the exercises to learn, say, human body parts in English. (It's one of the Ready vocBlocks we put together for the site users btw.) The exercises start with multiple choice questions, word-translation direction so that you could soon start recognising these words in speech, books and articles you read!

But you obviously need to use these words yourself not just recognise them. And vocBlocks will help you with that too! The learning stage finishes off with free type, translation-word exercises which will help you transfer these words and phrases to your active vocabulary.

Each time you learn a word with Memoriser, there is a picture and sound to help you remember it. So, all this vocabulary you need to learn comes alive and vivid in your mind with the image and sound! Which means no more dead vocabulary buried in the paper cemetery!

In a nutshell here's how vocBlocks works:

1. A word or phrase is freshly extracted from its context (e. g. conversation) and put into one of the topical vocabulary blocks;

2. This word or phrase is learnt with the help of exercises which eventually take it from your passive vocabulary to active one;

3. Backed by the image and sound the word or phrase is alive and vivid in your mind and once a context occurs which is similar to the one you took it from originally, you use it easily and spontaneously! Simples!

P.S. It's actually difficult not to remember words and phrases learnt using vocBlocks thanks to the spaced repetition effect it uses, see the next post for details.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

vocBlocks and your Foreign Language Journey: a Smarter Way to Travel

So, you have decided to learn a foreign language? Brilliant! It's a rewarding and exciting journey! Though at the beginning it might not seem as such. Like a mountaineer you face a challenge of climbing up the mountain before you are able to enjoy the view from the top. And not the least of this challenge is learning loads of new words and phrases, the more of which you know the more you understand and the more rewarding and exciting your foreign language journey becomes. And it's the early stage when it's the easiest to give up as the volume of unknown vocabulary is just overwhelming and the amount of time needed to memorise it seems much larger than you can actually afford to spend on it.

Luckily there's different software available like our vocBlocks (i.e. “vocabulary blocks” that's what we called mini dictionaries with words and phrases organised by topic, e.g. supermarket, car, human body etc.) which helps you learn words and phrases easier and quicker thus saving a lot of your time and energy for more advanced exercises in reading, writing, listening and speaking which you'll need to do to learn a foreign language.

So, vocBlocks is not a magic tool that guarantees you learn a foreign language but it does help you structure and automate your vocabulary learning and thus build your vocabulary quickly and efficiently so you will not give up on learning a foreign language so easily ;)

Check out the video to see how it works! It's VERY simple: you take a ready vocBlock or create your own and send it to Memoriser to learn.

If the foreign language you have chosen is English we thought it would be handy for you to have some ready vocBlocks (see the video) so you could start learning some English vocabulary right away. Most ready vocBlocks include pictures and sound so it won't be boring, we promise! We are constantly working on adding new ready vocBlocks and welcome any suggestions! If a ready vocBlock you like contains too detailed vocabulary or needs some to be added to it, you can easily edit your copy of this vocBlock before you start learning it.

Also check out shared vocBlocks created by the site users. You might find a vocBlock in a language and on a topic you need so you won't have to create your  own from scratch. You can also share your own awesome vocBlocks via our site! Just tick the box “share with other users” in the vocBlock settings and tell your friends they can check it out in the Shared vocBlocks section on our site. If you are a teacher, we are sure your students will appreciate this easy way of sharing your information with them.

Creating your own vocBlocks cannot be easier: just go to My vocBlocks, click “New” and start adding words and phrases to it. The built in dictionary will save you looking up and typing in transcription and translation for your entries and you can format your text the way you like it: choose colours, fonts, font sizes, etc. to make certain entries stand out or colour code entries within a vocBlock. You can attach pictures and sound to your entries to make learning them more effective and fun!

If you already have lists of words and phrases or you'd like to use ones from Lingvo Tutor, why not import them to create new vocBlocks? You'll then have all your vocabulary organised in one tool. And you can keep adding words and phrases on the go whenever and wherever you need: while you are out and about via your mobile, when you are at home watching TV or reading a book via your tablet or at office via your laptop or desktop - all you need is internet connection and that awesome word or phrase you want to learn! See a quick video on how to create your own vocBlocks.

Stuck in traffic? Waiting in a queue? Use every spare minute to learn your vocBlocks quicker. Choose “multiple choice” question and “word → translation” direction for your memoriser unit if you are just starting to learn these words or “free type” question and “translation → word” direction if you feel quite confident, and run memoriser sessions till the words are ticked off by the tool as learnt :)

If the vocBlock you are memorising has difficult words in it and you want to spend more time learning them to make sure you know them well, you can make your memoriser sessions longer by increasing the number of correct answers per word and/or number of words in a memoriser session. For recap learning sessions, choose more than one vocBlock you have been learning to include into a memoriser unit and you'll have a mixture of words from different vocBlocks as a final challenge.

Get organised and plan ahead your learning by setting the start and end dates and times and choosing repeat pattern (hourly, daily, every weekday, every other day etc.) with the email reminders sent to you from the tool to keep you on track. There's a short video on how it works.

We wish you a happy foreign language journey. You have a high mountain to climb there but the view at the top is magnificent! Hope you'll find vocBlocks helpful to take you there quicker, with less effort and more fun!