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A review of Linkword Polish

Another language I've been working on for a while in this polyglot journey/experiment of mine is Polish. There are many reasons why I wanted to learn this language. I've met a lot of Polish people in my life and have always found them to be polite and decent people, so I thought it'd be nice to be able to speak to them in their own language. Even with all this furore over Brexit, there are still a lot of Polish people in the UK so it's easy to find opportunities to practice as I go about my everyday life. Polish is also perceived as being one the most difficult languages to learn, and I wanted to prove that's not really the case, and that it's perfectly possible for a native English speaker to learn it.

With that, I'd like to review a course called Linkword Polish which I've gone through this week. In the past I've successfully used the Linkword method to help me learn various other languages, including Spanish, German, French and Arabic.

I've already explained numerous times what Linkword method is, however for those of you who can't be bothered to read my previous posts, in a nutshell the methodology involves teaching you the core vocabulary and grammar of a language with the help of mnemonics, i.e 'linkwords', to help you remember everything. You take a word or phrase in the foreign language, think of a word or phrase it sounds like in English, then create a mental picture of it your mind's eye for at least 10 seconds before you move on to the next one. For example, the Polish word for cat is kot, which sounds like the English word 'cot' (as in a baby's cot), so you could make a mental picture of a cat in a cot. Linkword courses give you ready made mnemonics for each word, so you do not have to come up with your own. You just follow the instructions, relax into the process and you WILL see results.

Why learn this way, you might ask? Isn't it a lot of work to have to make mental pictures every time you learn a new word, phrase or grammatical point? Well no - if you think it's a lot of work, try learning WITHOUT using the linkword technique and you'll soon see how much harder that is! If you want to actually REMEMBER what you learn and make it stick in your brain, you need to do something more than just rote learning, and that's where Linkword comes in. Not only that, but the Linkword method engages both sides of your brain, both the logical and creative parts, and research has shown that the brain remembers images far better than it does words alone, therefore it makes sense to learn languages this way. It's also a fun and stimulating method of learning , meaning you're more likely to stick with it to the end and not get bored of it, unlike traditional methods.

What is covered in Linkword Polish?

First of all, Linkword Polish is a software course for PC or Mac, also available as an Android or Apple app (with exactly the same content as the software courses). Unfortunately there is no mp3 audio course for Polish, however there is audio in the software courses and apps so that you can hear how the words sound.

It also only has 1 level, split into 10 sections, whereas many of the other Linkword courses have 2, 3 or 4 levels. I guess this is just down to supply and demand - fewer English speakers are likely to want to learn Polish than, say, Spanish or French, so they didn't feel it was worthwhile to make more levels for Polish.

Each of the 10 sections in level 1 covers vocabulary from several topics, as well as key grammatical points. You are taught nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions etc in batches of no more than 10 at a time, then tested on them (English to Polish and vice versa), then given a basic grammatical point followed by some sentences you're asked to translate (again both English to Polish and vice versa). Vocabulary topics covered include animals, furniture, colours, time words, numbers, days of the week, food words, travel words, business/word related words, car words, family members, clothing, body, illnesses, everyday adjectives, adverbs and verbs - basically many of the core words we use in our everyday lives. You can complete the entire course in about 7 to 10 hours of learning time, depending upon how quickly you go through each section.

Easy and difficult aspects of the Polish language and how Linkword Polish teaches you them

First of all, whilst it is true that a lot of Polish grammar is very complicated in places, such as the 7 cases systems it has, perfective vs imperfective verbs, etc, much of Polish is actually EASIER than a lot of other languages! For example:

- Polish has no words for 'the', 'a' or 'an' (articles)

- Polish nouns are 1 of 3 possible genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), however there is NO NEED to memorise the gender of any word because you can tell what the gender is by the ending of the word. It's just a simple set of rules that you learn, and then it's plain sailing from there. 

- There is only one past tense in Polish, which covers all the different past tenses you'd encounter in English, so once you've learned the pattern then you have that covered, whereas in English you have at least 5 or more different ways to express different shades of the past tense (for example 'I ate', 'I did eat', 'I have eaten', 'I was eating', 'I have been eating', 'I had eaten' etc). 

- The present tense of verbs in Polish covers the 3 different present tenses in English (e.g. 'I eat,' 'I do eat', 'I am eating'), so there is no need to learn progressive present tenses with 'ing' in Polish. 

All the above are explained in Linkword Polish, ensuring the learner isn't intimidated by Polish grammar and reassured that a lot of it is actually pretty easy.

Some other things about Polish that make it easier than you've been led to believe:

- The writing system is almost entirely phonetic and the stress patterns of words are regular, unlike in English!

- Polish word order is quite flexible.

- Many Polish words have Latin and Germanic roots, just with a slightly different ending from the same word in English, so there is a lot of vocabulary in Polish that isn't massively dissimilar to English. For example 'culture' is 'kultura', etc.

And now let's discuss the aspects of Polish that DO make it more challenging that some other languages:

- Although many Polish words do have Latin and Germanic roots, being a Slavic language also means that a lot of the vocabulary is very different to English. Fortunately that is where Linkword comes in, and by utilitising the mental pictures/mnemonics in the course, you can easily blast through this barrier and memorise Polish words no matter how different they are to English.

- Case systems. The fact that Polish has 7 case systems is often touted by people as an excuse not to bother learning Polish, which I think is just a totally defeatist attitude. Without getting into the technical names of them all, a case system isn't anything particularly difficult at all. In simple terms, a case system simply means changing the ending of a noun or a pronoun to indicate its grammatical function in a sentence (i.e whether it's the subject, object etc). This allows word order to be flexible without affecting meaning, because you will know by the ending of the word what its function is in relation to the other words. The downside is that it does make learning the language more difficult as there's more grammatical rules to learn, however the good news is that case systems usually follow a predictable pattern, so once you've learned it then it's not actually that difficult. Polish is no exception.

Whilst Linkword Polish doesn't delve into all 7 case systems (at least not to my knowledge, but I'll stand corrected if it does), it does cover several of them without specifically referring to them as case systems. What it does is give very simply and clearly explained grammatical points that discuss where, when and how to change the endings of nouns in certain situations. If you simply learn and apply these rules as described in the course, you will find yourself effortlessly mastering the respective case systems these rules relate to without even realising it. Linkword also reassures you that even if you get the endings wrong, people will still understand you, so you should never worry getting them perfect right away.

Potential downsides of Linkword Polish

Alright, so to make this a more balanced review I'd like to write about a few potential downsides of Linkword Polish. First of all, as I've already mentioned, there is no mp3 audio version (the other languages in the Linkword range DO have mp3 audio course versions). This might not be a problem for some people, but many people might prefer to learn a language in purely audio form, at least to begin with, especially if they're out and about walking somewhere with an mp3 player and a set of headphones, as I frequently like to do. Not only that, but when we are children we first learn a language by sound, only later adding in the writing system, and I've found even as an adult this is the most effective way to go for me. So I personally would've also liked to have had an mp3 version of this course.

As a result, the course is taught in text form, and the Polish words learned are not written/spelled as they are in Polish but rather they're written phonetically. (However each word is accompanied by audio spoken by a native Polish person, so you can at least get to hear how they sound). I can totally understand the reasoning behind this: although Polish is written with the Latin alphabet, there are several letters and letter combinations that, if taught from the beginning while trying to memorise the words, might prove to over-complicate things and be a hindrance to the learner. Therefore Linkword decided to write the words out phonetically, so you can first drum the words into your brain by sound (and with mental pictures) without having the added pressure of working out how to pronounce the Polish writing. This approach actually works fine, but might not suit everyone. However, there is a reference page on the Linkword website that teaches you how to pronounce Polish letters, which you can go through after you complete this course:

https://www.linkwordlanguages.com/alphabets/Polish_Alphabet.htm

If you then want to go further and learn how to spell the words from this course in proper Polish writing, you can use an English - Polish dictionary such as www.wordreference.com or https://www.polishpod101.com/polish-dictionary/

As I've also said, there is only 1 level available, however you still learn a fantastic amount of vocabulary and grammar that gives you a foot in the door to the language and allows you to communicate in a wide variety of situations. But more levels would've been great too!

In terms of grammar, the future tense is not covered in this course, nor the conditional.. However with only 1 level we can't expect everything to be covered.

How Linkword Polish worked for me

It pretty much worked as described. I found the mnemonic mental pictures generally very well thought out and made most of the words stick in my memory. I found the grammatical explanations clear and to the point. I might not have mastered the case system endings taught in the course yet, but I understand the general idea of them and can always go back and review those sections and practice sentences as many times as I want. Upon completing the course, I feel I have a better overall understanding/overview of Polish grammar and a good enough working vocabulary to be able to communicate in many everyday situations. 

Conclusion

I definitely recommend Linkword Polish to anyone who's serious about learning Polish or who just wants to get a good grasp of it in a short space of time. It is effective and does work. It won't make you fluent, but it will take you a lot further than you think, for much less time and money than other courses, and when you do study Polish further you'll find it easier because you've already gotten a headstart in the language thanks to Linkword. Overall, the positives of this course outweigh any negatives. At only £17.49, it's a bargain too. To find out more, and to try a free demo of it, please visit https://www.linkwordlanguages.com/polish/

The sorry state of language learning in Britain today

A few days ago I was flicking through a copy of this week's 'Big Issue' magazine (Scottish edition), which I sometimes buy from a local vendor to help them out. Little did I expect to see a short article written by the magazine's editor on the subject of language learning in Britain today. Being the passionate language learner that I am, the article really stood out to me. I suppose with the Brexit situation constantly dominating the news, something about the state of language learning and the British attitude towards it was bound to be deemed a relevant enough subject (i.e. a 'big issue') for a British media platform to write about sooner or later.

In summary, the editor acknowledged the fact that there is indeed an issue in Britain when it comes to foreign languages. He went on to say that the British are generally indifferent to learning languages, that we're usually quite poor at it and that the root causes stem from deeper issues in the education system and the British attitude/indifference towards foreign languages and cultures. He also added that if Britain wants to be seen as relevant on the global stage, we must embrace and raise the priority of learning foreign languages, otherwise Britain risks isolating itself from the rest of the world (especially in the light of Brexit too).

So today I felt inspired to write this blog post on this subject, and give my own thoughts about it.

The current stats on languages spoken in Britain today

It's well known that the British simply don't regard language learning as a major priority; we're generally viewed as a nation of monoglots who can barely stumble our way through a few badly pronounced words or phrases in another language, and blindly expect every foreigner we meet to be able speak English. It's quite rare for a native Brit to be fluent in another language besides English, let alone speak 2, 3, 4 or more of them, and even more rare if the person learned these languages as an adult rather than simply be brought up as bi-lingual/multi-lingual from childhood. If you're a polyglot in the UK, you're in a very small minority of people, let me tell you! The same could also be said of  most American and Australian citizens too.

According to statistics, 62% of UK citizens cannot speak a second language, and less than 6% of the population speak 3 or more.

(source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_United_Kingdom)

Sure, that link above does also say the following:

Throughout the UK, many citizens can speak, or at least understand (to a degree where they could have a conversation with someone who speaks that language),[clarification needed] a second or even a third language from secondary school education, primary school education or from private classes. 23% of the UK population can speak/understand French, 9% can speak/understand German and 8% can speak/understand Spanish.[8][60]

In general, 38% of UK citizens report that they can speak (well enough to have a conversation) at least one language other than their mother tongue

 

However, it also adds 'These figures include those who describe their level of ability in the second language as "basic", and you should also note that it says there is 'clarification needed' about its claim that many UK citizens are able to have a conversation with someone who speaks another language. I think if we're truly honest about it, most Brits simply have very poor ability in other languages.

 

Of course, English isn't the only official language in the British Isles - both Welsh and Scottish Gaelic now have official status in Wales and Scotland respectively, however both of these still have a relatively small number of speakers in comparison to the overall population of the UK. And as much as I appreciate Celtic languages and think it's still great to learn them, what I'm talking about in this blog post is the British attitude to learning languages from outside of Britain. I'm also talking about British citizens and not migrants who have come to live in Britain (as many migrants are of course fluent in 1 or more languages besides English).

 

Contrast all this to countries outside Britain - most people in Asia, Europe etc (or at least a greater percentage of the population of their respective countries), are multi-lingual and able to speak 2, 3 or more languages fluently. They're simply brought up that way, and living their everyday lives through several languages is simply the norm and not seen as anything difficult or special at all. 

 

Why things are this way

 

I think the main reason most Brits simply don't place much importance on learning more languages is because of the myth that 'everyone speaks English'. Ok, whilst English has in many ways become the world's 'lingua franca' (i.e. 'language that has been adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different'), the fact is that there are still many people in the world who don't speak English, or who don't speak it to a high enough level to be able to use it fluently.

 

The education system is also largely to blame (more on this below).

 

Another reason most Brits simply don't bother learning foreign languages and see it as a waste of time could be because they falsely believe that technology has made/will make such a task obsolete since they can just use a translation site or app to communicate with foreigners. What a shame, because nothing can really beat actually knowing a language and being able to speak/read/write/understand it without the use of technology as a crutch. 

 

There is also an argument that most Brits just don't see the need to learn another language as they wouldn't really have much practical or everyday use for it. However, given how multi-cultural Britain has become in recent times, and given how easy and cheap it is to travel abroad these days, as well as the easy accessibility we now have to media and content in other languages thanks to the internet, I find this a terribly closed minded and limiting attitude that serves only to make one stay in their own self-imposed monolingual reality.

 

I've noticed that most Brits I know or meet who find out I'm a language learner/polyglot fall into 1 of 2 types: those who are really impressed by it, and those who are indifferent/don't care. Of course, I don't learn languages to impress people, I do it for my own fulfillment and enjoyment, however since many Brits seem to regard learning languages as some huge, insurmountable task that isn't a real possibility for them to achieve, many are easily impressed when they meet someone who has learnt/is learning many languages. Yet, as I've already alluded to, outside of Britain most people don't see language learning as any kind of impressive feat at all. Then there are those people I meet who simply shrug their shoulders when they find out about my interest in languages and simply don't care, as learning other languages is seen as pointless to them and isn't even on their 'radar screen'.

 

On the contrary, whenever I speak with foreigners in their native language, I almost always get a positive reaction from them; they are genuinely surprised and delighted that I, as a Brit, am making an effort to speak their language with them.

 

I want to add, I'd never be big headed enough to say that learning languages makes a person better than anyone else, and nor do I state that anyone has any kind of obligation or duty to learn more languages. After all, it's their right to be monolingual if they want to. All I'm saying is that I believe learning more languages is definitely a worthwhile and relevant thing to do that will enhance your life in many ways.

 

What needs to change to improve the current situation

 

So what can we do to change this situation? Of course, no one person can change the world; only the collective attitudes of many people can do that, and change rarely happens overnight. We also cannot change the entire attitude of a nation towards other languages or cultures just like that either.

 

For me, it comes down to one main thing: teach students foreign languages from a younger age, starting in primary school, and instill into them the importance and relevance of it. This also includes improving the way languages are taught in school. The methods used to teach languages in schools are generally very ineffective and not stimulating enough to keep students interested in them. We only need to look at the fact that after studying languages in secondary school for 3 to 5 years, hardly anyone comes out being fluent in them (or even competent enough in them to be able to get by, or hold a conversation with a native speaker). This says it all about how ineffective the current strategies are.

 

Yet, if we look at the polyglot community of language learners that has arisen in recent times, we see people have developed methods that can accelerate language learning and actually get one to fluency, and in a much shorter space of time. Such methods are usually dismissed by the education system, who blindly and delusionally cling onto their current ways of teaching, despite the evidence right in front of them that it simply doesn't work. I suggest that the education system needs to leave behind these outdated methods and be willing to embrace and adopt better and more effective ones, perhaps using the polyglot community as inspiration.

 

I also suggest schools broaden the range of languages they offer too. Whilst French and German, the languages most taught in British schools, certainly have their merits, I believe we should add ones that are more relevant to our current world and Britain's place in it, e.g Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and even Polish (given the number of Polish migrants in Britain today). Placing more emphasis on Spanish would be useful too, given the fact that it actually has more native speakers worldwide than English, that Spain is such a popular tourist destination for us Brits, and that it's a relatively easy language to learn compared to some others.

 

I believe teaching children about other cultures and their customs would be a good thing too.

 

These changes to the education system need to be initiated by our government, who need to supply the necessary funding and overhaul of the current language learning methods in order to improve them, and who also need to realise the positive impact it would have on Britain's future as a nation if we would only embrace being multi-lingual instead of monolingual.

 

Of course, we also need to include everyday British adults in all this too, and it would go a long way to improving the situation in Britain if more adults were to make an effort to learn one or more foreign languages. However, realistically I simply cannot see how it would be possible to achieve this as you cannot simply convince the entire adult population of a country to start learning languages or change their current attitudes about it. This change would have to start with the individuals themselves.

 

Conclusion

 

We have a long way to go as a nation in order to improve the state of affairs when it comes to foreign languages in Britain. Whilst I like to believe change is always possible, unfortunately the reality is that it will take a very long time or may not even happen at all. However I can do my part by continuing to learn languages and refuse to be the 'typical monolingual Brit'.

 

Adventures into Arabic and my thoughts on linkword survival courses - a quick way to boost your vocabulary in a language

Not one to rest on my laurels, and always keen to keep moving forward with my language learning goals, since the start of this year I've been learning Arabic. This is a language I wanted to add to my repertoire, not only because I find the language and Arab culture interesting, but also because it could provide me with good career prospects for the future, as Arabic is in quite high demand for translation and interpreter work compared to other languages (possibly because fewer western people are likely to learn it, as it's perceived as being far more difficult than languages such as Spanish and French, for example). Of course, it's going to take me some time and a lot of effort to get to that level, but I will remain committed to the journey until I get there. I also love a challenge, and reading and writing in Arabic sure is challenging - the writing system is totally different as it uses Arabic script and not the latin alphabet, not to mention the fact that it's written from right to left too! But I'm getting there and it's actually not as difficult as you might think once you understand the logic of it.

Since there are various dialects of Arabic, depending upon the particular Arab country/region you're focusing on, I've decided to start with Modern Standard Arabic and then move on to various other dialects after that. I've been using a variety of resources, including Michel Thomas Method, Arabic For Dummies, Pimsleur Modern Standard Arabic, LingQ, as well as reading short stories and even connecting with some local people I know who speak Arabic and have been kind enough to help teach me the basics.

Anyway, in this blog post I'd like to write about the Linkword survival courses (in particular the Arabic one). As anyone who has been following this blog will know, I'm a big fan of the Linkword method and have used it to help me learn several other languages, including Spanish, French, German and Japanese. The man behind these courses, well renowned memory expert Dr Michael Gruneberg, has been kind enough to let me try some of these courses free of charge (so much so that last year I decided to purchase all 15 main Linkword courses in the special offer bundle they have) and recently sent me the survival courses, so I wanted to try them out too. I remain impartial, of course, in order to make my reviews authentic, and as usual I will give my honest thoughts based on how effectively they work for me.

A quick rundown on the Linkword method

So what is Linkword method? If you haven't read any of my previous blog posts/reviews of Linkword courses, in a nutshell, the method involves learning the core vocabulary and grammar of any given language by using mnemonics to help you remember the words (or phrases or grammatical concepts). The mnemonics involve taking a word in the foreign language, thinking of something it sounds like in English, then creating a mental picture of this in your mind's eye for about 10 seconds so that it burns itself into your memory. For example, the Arabic word for bed is 'sareer', which sounds a bit like the English words 'sore ear', so you could imagine you go to bed with a sore ear. This way of learning vocabulary is both effective and enjoyable for the learner, especially as it engages both sides of your brain too.

Words in Linkword courses are usually taught in batches of 10 or less. You're then tested on the words later on to recall them, both from the foreign language to English and vice versa. After that you're taught some grammatical points in an easy to follow manner and given some sentences to translate each way too. Contrast this to trying to remember words parrot fashion without mnemonics, and you'll soon see how effective Linkword method really is.

The main Linkword courses are available in 15 languages, but there is a separate set of courses know as 'survival courses' for 30 languages. Unfortunately there is no main Linkword course for Arabic, which is a pity because it really would be amazing if there was, especially given how well the method has worked for me with other languages, so I decided to give the Linkword Arabic course a run through to see if it could help me to improve my Arabic.

How the Linword survival courses compare to the main Linkword courses

Alright, so the first thing is to compare the Linkword survival courses to the main Linkword courses. The main courses range from 1 to 4 levels (depending upon the particular language - more popular languages have more levels than less popular ones), each level containing roughly 10 or 11 sections, each section taking the learner anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and half minutes to complete (*approx times only - every learner will vary). Each level teaches grammar and a vocabulary of between 300 - 400 words. What you are taught is the core vocabulary needed to live your everyday life through the language, and Linkword courses have been cleverly designed so that by the end of studying them, the learner is well equipped with enough vocabulary to deal with life in a wide variety of situations. For this reason, I believe they are a truly excellent foot in the door to a language.

In contrast, the survival courses focus ONLY on vocabulary. No grammar is taught in them at all. Also, unlike the main courses, they aren't available in audio or software versions; they're taught in text format only (either as pdfs or word files). They're designed so the learner can go through them in a short period of time - a few hours maximum - and come out having memorised around 200 words, in order to help them survive in basic usage of the language in a variety of situations. This is especially useful for those who need to quickly learn some of a language in order to get by, e.g when going abroad etc. You won't be able to create any sentences or phrases after studying a Linkword survival course and nothing else, so as long as you curb your expectations and understand that they are not designed to be complete courses in any way,  you will find they achieve their objective very well. 

Each survival course is split into 4 sections, and each section teaches various categories of words including food and drink, clothes, family, emergency words, time words, days of the week, question words, travel words, medical words, restaurant words, numbers, colours and other generally useful words (such as 'yes', 'no', 'please', 'thank you', etc). You're taught a list of maybe 8 or 9 words at a time, given the mnemonic visualisation and also a phonetic pronunciation as a guide so you can be reasonably sure you're pronouncing it correctly (as close as possible without hearing any audio, anyway), and then you're tested on each batch of words. At the end of each section you're tested on all the words from that section, then after the final section you're tested on all the words learned in the entire course. In addition to this, there's a glossary at the end of the course of all the words you learned, written in alphabetical order, which provides a handy reference to look words up and/or test yourself on them again in the future for consolidation.

So how did I get on with Linkword Arabic survival course?

First of all, there is no mention of what particular dialect of Arabic this course teaches, but having been studying Arabic for a good few months now, I noticed it seems to be mostly Modern Standard Arabic, which is a good safe bet for a learner to give them the maximum change of being understood by Arabic speakers they'll encounter.

The Linkword memory hooks/mnemonics worked absolutely fine for me, and I was able to recall the vast majority of words by simply working through the course as it is taught. It hasn't given me any better understanding of Arabic grammar (but I've learned that from the previously mentioned courses) but I am delighted to have boosted my vocabulary by around 200 words in such a short period of time, so it's definitely furthered my ability in the language (to be fair, I knew some of these words already, though it was still helpful to see them here again to consolidate them into my memory even further). I suppose being a 'survival course', it would've been good if a few basic greetings and phrases were included too, but we can't expect any given language course to include everything. I feel I now have enough basic vocabulary to help me communicate in many everyday life situations thanks to this course, so it's a great platform to build upon, but of course I'll need to learn a lot more in order to become fluent. 

The words taught are written in the latin alphabet format, not in Arabic script, in order to make things easier on the learner. If you're looking to learn the Arabic writing system or any grammar, you'll need to look elsewhere. However it's much easier at the start of your Arabic journey to learn a basic vocabulary using the latin alphabet (and ideally audio too) to instill the pronunciation without the added complication of the Arabic script writing system, so this format works well for this course. You can always learn the Arabic script later on, should you wish to do so.

An alternative use for Linkword survival courses

Although labelled as 'survival courses', I'd like to propose that these courses can also be used by the serious language learner to quickly give them a useful starting point of vocabulary in the language they are learning. Since they focus on core everyday vocabulary, they almost remind me a bit of the 80/20 rule in action. In this case that means utilising a small, highly targeted cross section of common vocabulary in a language that produces maximum results for the the shortest amount of time and effort - the vocabulary which is of high relevance to everyday usage and can be put into action immediately (i.e the 20%), whilst ignoring the rest that isn't relevant to your immediate survival needs (the 80%). I don't know if these courses were consciously designed with the 80/20 rule in mind, but the basic concept is in action here, if not exactly, but you get the idea.

So if you're a serious language learner, and let's say you've done something like a Paul Noble or Michel Thomas course to give you the basic grammatical structure and core of a language, you could go through a Linkword survival course to add another relevant 200 words to your vocabulary in about 2 - 3 hours. You won't be fluent of course, but it will give you an excellent starting point which you can build upon as you work on the language more. How many courses do you know that can teach you 200 words in just a few hours (AND actually help you memorise them)? When you look at it that way, you'll see these courses are a great asset to anyone learning a language.

Of course, the serious language learner would do even better to go through the longer main Linkword courses, but to simply give yourself an immediate foot in the door to a language I would definitely recommend the survival courses in addition to your other studies, especially if you don't have a lot of spare time and want a course that produces results quickly.

I intend to give some of the other Linkword survival courses a run through at some point too, as well as more of the main courses, so look out for more blog posts/reviews on this in the near future!

A tip to check your pronunciation in the survival courses

One further point I'd like to add before I wrap this post up is that, although the survival courses give you the phonetic pronunciation of each word as well as a memory hook, if you want to actually hear how they sound then I suggest using the following online dictionaries that allow you to look up any word and hear audio too:

https://www.arabicpod101.com/arabic-dictionary/

(In fact, as far as I know, all the languages available on Pod101 have free dictionaries with audio).

www.wordreference.com

How to find out more about the Linkword survival courses

Ok, so hopefully now I've peaked your curiosity, so to find out more about the Linkword survival courses, as well as their main courses, please visit https://www.linkwordlanguages.com/survival-courses-ebooks/

And https://www.linkwordlanguages.com

A review of Linkword French

Hello everyone. It's been a while! I can assure you I'm still dedicated to my polyglot journey, despite me not writing any blog posts for a while. I'll make up for it soon anyway, as I am planning to write more often on this blog. Anyway, for the past few months I've been working hard learning French, as well as improving and maintaining the other languages in my repertoire. Anyone who has read this blog before will know that I've gone through several Linkword courses (European Spanish, Japanese and German), and I've given them glowing reviews. Since completing them, I've been steadily working through the Linkword French audio course and I'd like to write a review of it here.

A quick overview of the Linkword method

Alright, for those of you who know nothing about Linkword, or who can't be bothered to read my previous Linkword course reviews, here's a quick rundown of what Linkword is all about. Created by memory expert Dr Michael Gruneberg, it's basically a method by which you learn vocabulary, phrases and grammar by using mnemonics to help you memorise and recall everything you learn more effectively. You take a foreign word or phrase, think of an English word or phrase that it sounds like, then you visualise in your mind an image linking the meaning of the foreign word with the English word/phrase that it sounds like. You do this for at least 10 seconds so as to etch the image into your mind, before moving onto the next word, and you review the words you've learned at regular intervals so you don't forget them.

One such example is the French word for rabbit, which is 'lapin'. This sounds a bit like the English word 'lapping' (as in lapping liquid out of a container), so you could make an image in your mind of a rabbit lapping water out of a bowl. Once you understand the concept, you'll be amazed at how simple yet extremely effective it is, compared with simply trying to memorise vocabulary 'parrot fashion' without any mnemonics.

The Linkword method is not simply about memorising a ton of vocabulary and grammar in isolation, however. It is in fact a comprehensive language learning system designed to get you actually using the words and grammar points you learn, as it has extensive sentence practice where you're asked to translate sentences from English to the target language, and vice versa. This trains up your reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension skills as you work through the course. All in all, it amounts to a pretty serious amount of content.

An overview of what's included in Linkword French

Linkword courses are available in several different formats, though the content is identical in each, so it just comes down to which format you personally prefer. You can get them as an audio course (in mp3 or cd format), a software course (for desktop computers), or as an app for Android or Apple devices (the latter which can only be purchased via the iTunes store). I believe all formats are included as a bundle when you purchase.

The courses are split up into levels, and each level contains around 10 or 11 sections, each section taking between 45 minutes to an hour and half to complete, depending upon the complexity. Some languages in the Linkword range have 4 levels (Spanish, French, German, Italian, i.e. the more popular languages), whereas others have 1, 2 or 3 levels. Each section is split up into vocabulary subjects/topics, usually taught in batches of 5 or 10 words at a time, followed by tests on them, followed by a short grammar point being taught, and then you're asked to translate sentences so you can apply the grammar point and the words you've just learned within the context of actual sentences. There is also a useful glossary of all the words learned at the end of each level, for easy revision/reference.

You learn around 300 - 400 words per level, so with a 4 level course you'll reach a vocabulary of 1200 - 1400 words, which is a perfect starting point to reaching fluency when you consider that studies have shown that the core of everyday language is relatively small in most languages, ranging from 500 - 1500 words. I'll no doubt write more about this in another blog post, but it's a point worth noting here. Of course, total fluency is going to require a lot more words than this, but it's an excellent foundation from which to build upon.

In terms of the images you have to visualise, Linkword has done the hard work for you. You don't need to come up with any images of your own, but simply relax and follow the instructions in the Linkword course and see what happens.

Vocabulary topics taught in Linkword French include: animals, furniture, colours, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, items of clothing, family words, numerous everyday adjectives and a comprehensive list of verbs, question words, food and drinks, travel and leisure words, car parts, shops/places in town, parts of the body, emergency words, outdoor words, DIY words, school and education words, time expressions, sports words, computer words, musical instruments, feelings, the weather, letter writing, as well as basic phrases/pleasantries you need to survive.

Grammar points taught in Linkword French include: definite and indefinite articles, plurals, word order, adjective endings and order, genders of nouns (more on this later...), negatives, asking questions, prepositions, different types of pronouns, comparatives, superlatives, verb tenses i.e. present tense, future tense (with 'going to' and 'will'), the conditional tense (technically a mood, not a tense, I know), the imperative/command form, the simple and perfect tense for the past tense, the pluperfect tense, and the imperfect tense, as well as modal/auxiliary verbs such as 'can', 'must/have to', 'want' etc, reflexive verbs, irregular verbs, and a whole lot more.

The audio course is presented by a native French speaker, so you can hear the correct pronunciations of words. The software and app versions all appear to have native speakers pronouncing the words too.

Some tricky aspects of French and how Linkword deals with them

French is quite a difficult language in places, and I've heard a lot of English native speakers complain about this to me. Often thay have tried to learn French but given up or only gotten so far. I'll outline below what I believe to be the most challenging aspects of learning French, and how Linkword deals with them:

Genders: Every noun in French is either masculine or feminine, and in most cases you simply have to memorise the gender as there is no way to figure it out otherwise (unlike in Spanish, for example, where most masculine words end in 'o' and most feminine words end in 'a' - this is not the case in French). Fortunately, Linkword utilises a memory technique to help you memorise the correct gender of every noun by associating 2 extra images into the Linkword images as a trigger to tell you the gender of the word (all will be revealed as to what these extra images are if you go through the course...). You are then tested on the genders, in order to further consolidate them into your mind. 

Endings of words: Some aspects of French pronunciation can be very tricky and confusing for speakers of other languages, for example a lot of the time consonants in French at the end of words are not pronounced. This can lead to total confusion. Fortunately Linkword comes to the rescue again, as the grammar explanations discuss the difference between plural forms of nouns and adjectives (despite endings not being pronounced any differently), the difference between masculine and feminine forms of adjectives, having two vowels together, and the fact that consonants at the end of words are pronounced if there is a letter 'e' after them. 

Endings of verbs for different verb tenses with same sounds but different spellings: I've noticed something 'funny' about French verb tenses - many times, although the spelling of a verb changes when you're in a different tense, the sound of it will often remain the same. This can also lead to confusion for the French learner. An example of this is: 'you eat' is 'vous mangez', whereas 'you have eaten is 'vous avez mangé'. In both cases, the 'manger' and 'mangé' are pronounced exactly the same. Of course it's understood from the spelling, plus the fact that you're using 'avez' in the latter, that these are different tenses....still it can be tricky because a learner might mis-spell the form of the verb, given that they sound the same. 

This phenomenon occurs across many other French tenses too, for example  'I was eating' is 'Je mangeais'....in this case 'mangeais' sounds exactly like (vous) 'mangez' and 'manger' (the second person and infinitive forms of 'to eat', respectively)... same sound, but different spelling. Fortunately, this point becomes clear with Linkword....though more so for the software course, because you also get to see the spelling of the words. But even with the audio course, you can just gloss over the spellings and focus on the sounds, getting the sounds patterns in your head for each tense, before moving onto the software course to look up the spellings, so it isn't a major issue in the end. I especially liked how, with the conditional tense, the grammar explanation uses the future tense endings of 'will' as a starting point, and then thus making the necessary adjustments to these sounds to form the conditional tense...using what you already know to learn more things, effectively.

No difference between the simple past and perfect forms: In English, we differentiate between the simple past and the past tense with 'have', for example between 'I spoke' and 'I have spoken', whereas in French, these two tenses are covered by one tense, using 'have'. So 'I have spoken' covers both 'I spoke' and 'I have spoken' in French. Again, Linkword explains this point so you're not left scratching your head wondering why the simple past wasn't taught.

Contractions of words: Often in French, two words together will contract in terms of spelling and sound, for the purpose of making them easy to pronounce and so that they roll off the tongue more easily, however this can  trip up a lot of learners. One such example is when the article 'le' precedes a noun beginning with a vowel, e.g. 'le animal' becomes 'l'animal', etc. Another example is 'Je' and 'aime', which becomes 'J'aime'. Again, Linkword grammar points go through contractions so you won't find them a problem at all.

Position of pronouns in different tenses: Yet another thing about French is the position of pronouns such as 'me', 'he', 'she', 'it', 'us' etc in different tenses, particularly for the past tense with 'have'. Again, this becomes a non-issue as Linkword grammar points explain and drill you on this point so you get the hang of it without a problem.

The use of verbs with 'to be' vs 'to have' in the past tense: Something else that can catch out those learning French is that verbs of motion use 'to be' in the past tense rather than 'to have'. Linkword's grammar explanations effortlessly go through this point, making it clear.

Irregular verbs: Ah, those pesky verbs that don't follow the usual patterns you've learned! As with most languages, you're almost always going to encounter some irregularities...but don't sweat, as Linkword French covers most of the ones that you need to know.

My experiences with Linkword French and how it worked for me

As I've already alluded to, I went through the audio version of the course, though I do plan on going through the software version in the near future too in order to work on the reading and writing aspect of French and also to further reinforce what I've learned.

Generally I went through one or two sections a day. It is in fact possible to go faster than this if you have the time, but for me it's very challenging juggling everything in my life with learning several languages too, so this was the pace that worked best for me. 

Having already learned Spanish, I found this in some respects helpful to learning French, as both these languages are from the same latin based/romance family, so I did sometimes notice similarities in terms of vocabulary and grammatical strucute, but on the flip side French is very different to Spanish in a lot of ways too. For starters, the grammar of French is a lot trickier, in my opinion, as is the pronunciation of words.

I found the course layout/design very logical, the Linkword images for vocabulary were very good and most of them stuck in my mind no problem (though of course, regular revision will be needed to make them stick long-term). The grammar points were all well explained in a very easy going way that made them simple to understand. Of course, nobody is going to perfectly memorise EVERY word first time out, nor grasp EVERY grammar point straight away, but the beauty is that you can go back over the material as many times as you like and the second, third, fourth times it does get easier. I like how the grammar explanations are fairly short, usually between 1 to 4 minutes long, which makes them much more easy to 'digest' than if they were longer than that.

I did find Levels 3 and 4 quite tricky in places, as these deal with more advanced grammar points and longer, trickier sentences, but I kept persevering and by the end of the course I felt like I had a very good basis in French. Of course, I will need to revise all the content I've learned and continue studying further after that, but I'm very happy with what Linkword French has taught me.

So, any downsides to Linkword French?

I can't think of any major downsides, but no one language course is going to get you to total fluency or teach you absolutely everything in a language. But Linkword never promises that anyway, which is another thing I like about their marketing techniques.

There are a few of the advanced/compound tenses that Linkword doesn't cover, but still you learn enough tenses to be able to use the language quite fluently, and you can add the further tenses in from other sources after you complete the course.

Also, the fact that the tracks on the audio course are not labelled as the what vocabulary/grammar points they cover might be a minor annoyance to some people, as they might wish to go back and find certain tracks to revise them and it could take longer to find them than necessary. I got round this by labelling the tracks as I went along (by renaming them in the folder on my computer). Fortunately, the sections are labelled in the software and app versions. 

But besides that, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with, nor any major downsides, to Linkword French.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a comprehensive, systematic and effective language course for learning French and actually works, I have to recommend Linkword.

What you'll come out with at the end of the course:

- A vocabulary of approximately 1200 - 1400 words across a broad range of topics, allowing you to communicate in most situations you'll encounter in everyday life

- A solid understanding and practice of French grammar, including most verb tenses, allowing you to create your own sentences/express what you want to say in wide variety of situations

- (If you do the software course) the ability to read and write all you learn with the course in French

- The confidence and a firm foundation with which to continue learning more advanced French

In effect, the course systematically teaches you most of the vocabulary and grammar you need, and by the end of the course you'll be at a very good level indeed, unlike many other language course where they promise you the earth but don't deliver. And Linkword courses are VERY reasonable priced too, compared with a lot of other courses on the market. So what are you waiting for? 

If you liked this review and want to find out more about the Linkword language learning method, head on over to www.linkwordlanguages.com. They have some special offers going on right now too, meaning their courses are even more value for money.


 

A comprehensive review of Linkword German and how it has helped me learn German

Years ago when I was in high school I studied German while there, but upon leaving could not speak the language, and years later could not remember hardly a word of it. Having developed a passion for language learning later in my life, I decided to try learning German from the perspective of an adult and someone who now has some real world experience of language learning. But more to the point, I was keen to see how the Linkword method would work for learning German.

I want to start by saying that I'm a big fan of the Linkword Method, created by Dr. Michael Gruneberg. I'm not in any way affiliated with Linkword, so this will be an unbiased review based upon my own experiences. For those of you who haven't read my reviews of the Spanish and Japanese courses, Linkword involves learning vocabulary and grammar using visualisations to create a little memory hook/mnemonic in your mind's eye. You essentially think of an English word or phrase (or part of/more than one word or phrase) that sounds like the word in the foreign language you're trying to learn, and you create an image in your mind linking this with the meaning of the foreign word, which then serves to help you remember and recall the word for later use - hence the term 'Linkword'. 

For example, the German word for railway is 'Eisenbahn'. This sounds a bit like the English words 'ice' and 'barn'. So you could imagine in your mind's eye a visualisation of a person shoveling ice into a barn next to a railway, thus helping you remember the German word for 'railway' more easily. Because you are using both the left and right sides of your brain, recall speeds up and it also makes the process of learning words much more stimulating than simply trying to memorise them parrot-fashion.

All Linkword courses give you ready made visualisations like this for every word, so you do not need to come up with any of your own.

Of course, there is much more to Linkword Method than simpy memorising a list of words. You are also taught grammar and asked to construct/translate sentences using what you've been taught, which gets you using the language in the context of real sentences and phrases so you can actually speak and use it. 

So anyway, let's get onto how the Linkword Method is applied to German, and how it worked out for me!...

An overview of the German Linkword course

Linkword German comes in 4 Levels, each level consisting of 10 or 11 sections, and it takes roughly 45 minutes to an hour and a half to complete each section depending on its complexity. Each level teaches approx 300 - 400 words, meaning you will have learned around 1200 words by the end of all 4 levels. 

Generally, words are taught in blocks of between 5 and 10 at a time, then you are given a test on the words, followed by a short grammar point tutorial, and then you are given some sentences to translate from English to German and vice versa. This keeps things manageable and you get a real sense of progress as you go through the course.

As with other Linkword courses, you can choose which format your prefer to learn with - when you purchase, you get the course in mp3 audio format (or on cd), PC or Mac software, as well an app for Android. The content is exactly the same for each version, the only difference being that the software and app versions include writing practice in addition to audio. For me, I started out by going through the mp3 audio course first, then I went through the PC software version to learn the reading and writing element of German. One can equally start with the software version first, but it was simply my personal preference to do it this way.

Categories of vocabulary taught include adjectives, common everyday verbs for the present and past tense forms, auxilliary/modal verbs, adverbs, common everyday phrases, as well as nouns for animals, furniture, colours, household items, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, food and drink, shopping, business words, travel and tourism, illness and ailments, clothing, family, car words, places in town, countryside, weather, tools, parts of the body, household items, emotions, musica instruments, sports, flowers and plants, cinema and theatre, prepositions, etc.

Grammar points taught include the present tense, future tense, simple and perfect past tense verbs forms, reflexive verbs, auxiliary/modal verbs, most types of pronouns, sentence order and structure, comparatives, superlatives, as well as covering some of the more difficult aspects of German such as adjectives, plurals, as well as how articles change in certain parts of sentence (i.e. whether they are before the subject or object of a sentence) and after prepositions, and not forgetting 

In short, this course is extremely comprehensive in terms of what is covered. There is also a glossary at the end of each section, which is invaluable in helping one revise the vocabulary they've learned in that particular section. I should also mention that Linkword German also applies the method to teach the genders of each noun, which I'll discuss in the next section....

The tricky aspects of German, and how Linkword deals with them

Although many words in German are similar to their English equivalents (since part of English comes from German; English vocabulary for the most part being a 'hybrid' of French and German words), certain aspects of German grammar are very tricky and pose learners with quite a challenge when trying to become fluent in the language. In this respect, German is quite a bit different from English. I'd like to write about these challenges in this section and how, in my opinion, Linkword makes them much easier to understand than with traditional methods:

1) Genders of nouns - unlike English, German has 3 different possible genders for each noun (der, die and das, for 'the' and 'ein' or 'eine' for 'a' or 'an'), and in many cases there is no way to figure out what the gender is by looking at the word alone (note: there are some particular word endings and word groups in German that follow certain gender rules, but for the vast majority of words it's not possible to figure out the gender in any logical kind of way, unlike Spanish, for example where you can mostly tell by the ending of a word as to where it's masculine or feminine). This means that genders must be memorised when learning a word.

To make things even more difficult for a learner, if one gets the gender of a word wrong then several knock on mistakes will happen later on down the line - you see, the der, die, and das articles change into den, dem etc at certain points in a sentences and/or after prepositions etc, so if you get the gender wrong in the first place then you will inevitably get the den/dem forms wrong as well. To put it mildly, this can be really frustrating for the aspiring German learner!

How Linkword deals with this issue: Fortunately, the Linkword method is applied to learning genders, making it no problem at all to memorise the particular gender of a word. After you've been taught a block of nouns, you are then taught (and tested on) the genders of each one. The way Linkword teaches genders is to visualise each word with something feminine for feminine nouns, something masculine for masculine words, and something more neutral for neuter words (hint: it's to do with a boxer, a little girl and fire...but you have to get the course to find out more!). You're given easy to remember images for each one, making it easy and enjoyable to learn genders. 

Dr. Gruneberg mentioned to me that some people favour learning genders of words in the same visualisation as for the initial word, whereas Linkword teaches separate visualisations for the gender. I see no problem with this, and it was very effective for me (more on that later).

2) Word order of sentences - When forming sentences in German, the word order can be tricky. For example if there are 2 verbs in a sentences, the second always goes at the end, and certain other words can send the verb to the end of a clause or sentence too.

How Linkword deals with this issue: Once again, Linkword comes up trumps. Word order is explained in amongst the grammar points taught, in a short and concise way that makes it easy to understand and apply. Also, by doing the sentence practice exercises in Linkword, word order becomes more second nature.

3) The case with 'den' for nouns - You'll have forgive me, dear reader, as I don't know the technical grammatical term for this point, so don't send the 'grammar police' after me....however in German, if a masculine noun is the object of a sentence rather than the subject, the article 'der' changes to 'den' (and likewise, 'ein' changes to 'einen'). This can pose problems if one doesn't know this grammar rule, or worse, if they don't memorise the genders of nouns in the first place!

How Linkword deals with this issue: As I've already mentioned, the first 'issue' Linkword solves is that of memorising genders. But the grammar points for the 'der to den'/'ein to einen' case is once again explained in a short and sweet way that makes it uncomplicated to comprehend. It's just a simple rule, that once explained and practiced becomes second nature also.

4) Articles changing after prepositions, and inactive vs active prepositions - Yet another potentially problematic element of German grammar is that fact that after prepositions, the articles der, die and das (and therefore ein, eine) can change to dem or der (and following on from this, ein, eine to einer and einem). To make this doubly difficult, there are 2 main categories of prepositions in German - inactive and active - and the rule for how the articles change after these is different for each category. It's enough to drive even the most dedicated language learner crazy!

How Linkword deals with this issue: As ever, good old Linkword breaks this down into the clearest, most concise to follow explanation, and you are given ample opportunity to practice this grammar point in the context of sentences until it is etched into your mind and seems totally natural. Yes, I know it sounds like I'm repeating myself a bit here, but I'm just making the point about how well explained the grammar in Linkword German is :-)

5) Adjectives - Another maddeningly frustrating facet of German is adjectives. The ending of an adjective can change depending upon many different things - the position of the adjective in the sentence, whether it's after a definite or indefinite article etc. How on earth can the language learner get their head around such a dilema?

How Linkword deals with this issue: Luckily, there is actually a logical pattern to German adjectives, and unlike most grammar books which just over-compicate things and make your head spin, Linkword breaks it down and explains the pattern/rules of German adjectives nice and succinctly, leaving it clear in your mind as to the endings, especially after you've practiced sentences with adjectives for a while. This point is also revised at various points in the course too, further reinforcing it.

6) Plurals - Unlike English, Spanish or a lot of other languages, there is no simple or definite pattern to making German nouns into their plural form, thus potentially leaving the learner with a lot of head scratching.

How Linkword deals with this issue: At the risk of sounding like I'm contradicting myself here, there ARE actually a few logical patterns/rules to forming plurals in German, although the fact remains that even if you follow these patterns/rules you won't always be correct all of the time because there are often exceptions to these rules. However, Linkword once again teaches these patterns/rules so that you won't be confused at all, and further reassures you that even if you get a plural wrong, natives will most likely still be able to understand you, therefore you shouldn't be put off from trying to speak German with them for fear of getting a plural ending wrong!

7) Forming the past tense form of verbs with 'have' (the 'perfect tenses') - In German, when one uses the past tense with 'have', for example 'I have eaten' or 'I have spoken' etc, although there is a general pattern for the 'have' part and the fact that most past tense verbs add 'ge' at the beginning in this form, there is no set way to tell what the ending of the verbs in this form will be (they can either end in 't' or 'en'). So how on earth is a learner supposed to handle this, without having to memorise them parrot fashion? 

How Linkword deals with this issue: Fortuntately Linkword comes to the rescue again! Everything is made really simple - if a past tense verb ends in 't', you are asked to visualise it with with a 'tea' (the kind that you drink, obviously...), and if it ends in 'en' then you visualise it with a 'hen'. You're then tested on them to make sure they've sunk in. This is a simple yet ingenious way of handling one of the frustrating aspects of the past tense in German.

8) Forming the simple past tense of verbs - One more tricky point about the past tense in German is with the simple past tense, i.e. the past tense without 'have', for example 'I ate', 'I spoke', 'I bought' etc. Like a lot of verbs in English, when you go into the simple past tense in German there is no obvious way to know what the verb changes to. As a result, a lot of German learners are left with no option but simply memorise parrot fashion the simple past form (as well as the past tense form with 'have'). Surely there is a better, more efficient way, right?

How Linkword deals with this issue: In answer to the question I just typed, yes there is a better way to deal with the simple past tense in German, and to my mind this was the most creative and impressive part of Linkword German. Essentially, Linkword notes that verbs in the simple past differ from the infinitive form by either adding a 't' or by changing certain vowels into other vowels. The result is that you are given simple visualisations of some words beginning with these vowels, thus meaning you can easily remember the vowel change for the simple past form, without any parrot fashion type straining. I was super impressed by this point and have never seen anything like this explained anywhere else.

So, how did Linkword German work for me?

As the old saying goes, 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'....so let me examine how Linkword German worked out for me. I'll start by saying I found German a harder language than Spanish, and possibly even Japanese, mainly because of the more complex grammar that German has in comparison to these other languages, and as a result it took me a fair bit longer to get through than the previous courses. That might also have been down to the fact that I have been learning several languages at once this year, which inevitably made things take a bit longer.

However, I can confidently say that Linkword German worked out great for me and is a really impressive course. I started with the mp3 audio version, and generally would go through 1 or 2 sections each day to make it manageable for myself. If you have more time, you can definitely work through it a lot quicker; this was simply a pace that worked for me. I found it easy to remember most of the words and genders taught (and it was no big deal to forget the odd one, because it's easy enough to revise the ones you don't get right), and therefore the memory hook visualisations were effective.

As for the grammar, I really liked how Linkword explained everything, including the more complex aspects, in an easy to follow and concise way. I find most grammar books a bit frustrating - often it's like reading a scientific manual because they are written in such a dry and formal sort of way, and you don't end up helping you to actually speak or use the language. However, the explanations of the grammar in Linkword made it clear and accessible to me. Sometimes I had to listen to/read through the more complex points a few times to truly get them, but that is to be expected for anyone really.

Where I'm at now is that I feel I have quite a comprehensive vocabulary in German, and that I could communicate in many everyday situations. I feel I've also got a pretty good command of the grammar too, but that I'll have to continue practicing it to make it second nature to me. 

I've also recently started reading various music and sports articles in German, and can understand a decent amount of what I'm reading thanks to what I've learned in Linkword. There is still a long way to go before I am able to understand in more detail what I read, but Linkword has provided me a very good start with that.

I wouldn't say I'm fluent in German, but again I feel Linkword has given me a really good overview of the German language and a great foundation to build upon, as well as all the tools I need to expand my vocabulary and master the grammar with continued study. And most importantly, I can REMEMBER what I have learned.

In summary, from what I've looked in, I think Linkword German is one of the best and most comprehensive German courses on the market, so I'd highly recommend it. I've learned more German in the last 6 months than I did in my entire time at high school, so I think that speaks volumes about the quality of this course (as well as the failings about how languages are taught school - but that's a subject for another blog post!).

I'd also like to thank Mr Gruneberg for creating the course and for his generosity in allowing me to try it out. Linkword is definitely helping me to achieve my polyglot dreams :-)

I am looking forward to learning more languages with Linkword Method (in fact I will be going through Linkword French very soon) so expect more blog posts about that in the future.

Auf Wiedersehen, meinen Freunden!

By the way, if this review has peaked your curiosity about the Linkword method, please visit their website at www.linkwordlanguages.com to find out more. They also have a special autumn offer of all 15 of their language courses for only £24.99 (yes, for all 15, grab it while you can), as well as a FREE BONUS of all their language 'survival courses' when you purchase their language courses (subject to end at any time, so don't blame me if it's gone by the time you read this post :-) )

How to immerse yourself in a language on your own, without native speakers or moving to another country

It has often been said that a good way to improve your skills in another language is to practice with native speakers or even to visit or move to a country where it is spoken, the idea being that you will get to immerse yourself in the language a lot more. Whilst there certainly is merit in this advice, I'd like to share some of my thoughts on what you can do by yourself. Is immersion in a foreign language really possible without moving abroad? Here are some ways you can integrate another language into your everyday life even if you live in a country where it's not the main language:

1) Start thinking in the language

Everybody has an 'internal voice' that they use when processing thoughts inside their own head. As you go about your day, you will no doubt talk to yourself internally, thinking about things you need to do that day, mulling over the past, the future, about how you feel etc. I have no doubt also that you probably do this in your native language. Well, here's a novel idea - start thinking in whatever language you're trying to learn!

Ok, I haven't gone completely mad by recommending this! It is actually a really good idea, and an excellent way to internalise a new language. You see, you are thinking thoughts all day long - it could be things like 'I have to go to the shops to get some bread and milk''I need to reply to John's email', 'I'm getting hungry, I should make some dinner soon' or maybe 'I need to sleep soon because I'm tired' etc. But you could do this in another language too!

It won't be easy at first. You have to consciously make an effort to think in another language, but once you get used to it, it's not too difficult. If you can't figure out a way in the foreign language to think whatever it is you were thinking in your native language, try to think of another, simpler way of expressing the same thought, and if that still doesn't work then go online and find out how to say the word or phrase that you're stuck on. If you make a conscious effort to think in another language, it will soon become a lot more natural, but not only that - you will be simultaneously practicing and improving your knowledge of the language!

2) Read anything you currently read in your native language in the language you're learning instead

You probably read the news, or articles about your favourite subject or sport etc fairly regularly, perhaps on various websites on the internet. You might like to read music news, blog posts, articles about your favourite sport, business, current affairs, celebrity gossip, the weather, etc. Well, why not start doing this in another language instead? Again, at first it won't be easy, but what will happen is that over time your reading skills will improve, and you will find yourself understanding a lot more of what you read.

I've recently started reading music and Formula 1 news in Spanish and German. I have found it has massively improved my reading skills to do so. Obviously you have to have a certain amount of ability in a language to begin with, but once you've gone through a course such as Linkword or Michel Thomas Method, it's time to move on to reading in the language.

Here is the key to making this work: do not stop to look up words your don't understand in a dictionary (at least not at first). Just keep reading, and your brain will figure out the gist of what you are reading. What I have personally found is that you do not need to know what every word in a sentence means in order to understand the overall meaning of the sentence. I realise this sounds totally contradictory, but as I said, your brain has a way of 'filling in the blanks' if you understand some of the words, but not all of them.

The other key point is simply to relax and enjoy your reading - do not strain and do not try to figure out what you're reading, and do not translate it back to your native language in your head. Just keep reading. After a few weeks, months etc you'll be amazed at your progress.

Now, if you keep seeing a word repeated that you are not sure of, THEN you should look it up in the dictionary and make a mental note of it. The fact that you have seen this word repeatedly means it is used fairly frequently and is therefore worth looking up. But I am confident you find reading in another language very rewarding.

3) Write things you'd normally write in your native language in the foreign language

Of course, this might not always be possible if you are writing to people who only speak your native language, but perhaps you need to write down a list of tasks you need to do on a particular day, or make a shopping list of items you need to buy when you next go shopping. Why not write these things in the language you're learning instead?

4) Watch videos of tv dramas, cartoons, news, films etc in whatever language you're trying to learn.

Watching videos of people speaking the language you're trying to learn is a great way to improve your listening comprehension skills, and all helps you to put everything you're learned into context rather than it just being something you learned in a language course. The easiest way to do this is via Youtube, though you may be able to find sources online to enable you to watch tv from other countries from the comfort of your own computer. Start with simple things like kid's cartoons, then move on the drama series', news programmes, documentaries, films, and even interviews with famous people.

At first you might find it a struggle to comprehend what you're hearing, but after a while your brain will start to figure out what you're hearing and it will get easier. As with reading, you do not need to be able to understand every word you hear spoken to be able to understand the gist of what you're hearing.

It is my recommendation that you do not use subtitles or a transcript when watching videos in another language. Let your brain figure it out. Let your brain, in conjunction with your ears and eyes, 

5) Listen to music with lyrics sung in the language you're learning

One thing that can really enrich your life, as well as enhance your knowledge and appreciation of different cultures, is to search for artists who sing in whatever language you're trying to learn. For example, if you're learning Spanish, look up some famous Spanish rock or pop artists and then check out their songs on Youtube. You should also be able to find translations of their lyrics online too, which will help you a lot too. Feel free to sing along with the songs too!

6) Find radio stations and podcasts in the language you're learning

As with watching videos, if you listen to the radio and/or podcasts in the language you're learning, you will also improve your listening comprehension skills over time too. 

So there you go - I hope I have convinced you that you can 'immerse' yourself in another language all by yourself. Follow the tips in this article and you won't go wrong.

Continuing my Japanese studies by learning the plain form of verbs, plus the Hiragana and Katakana writing systems

Earlier this year, I started learning Japanese with various courses such as the Michel Thomas Method Japanese (both the Foundation and Advanced Courses), Linkword Japanese, and a method called Earworms Japanese which involves learning via music.

Whilst all these course were really good, one thing that was not taught was the plain form of the Japanese verbs, nor any of the writing systems used in Japanese. You see, there are two main levels of Japanese - the polite form, which is used when talking to people of higher status than you or to those in positions of power etc, and the plain/casual form, which is used only when talking to friends and family and those close to you. The Michel Thomas Method Japanese concentrates only on teaching the polite form, which is ok but a bit limiting if you wish to become fully fluent in Japanese. So I decided to read/watch some tutorials about the plain/casual form of the language, and how to conjugate the verbs etc. 

It was really difficult to find a decent tutorial that explained everything in a clear and easy to follow way. It seems to me that many websites that teach Japanese grammar do so in a very formal, dry sort of way that makes it like reading a scientific manual, thus just leaving the reader even more confused!

Anyway, I eventually found a gem of a site called www.kanji-link.com, which has some really amazing and easy to follow video tutorials about the verb structures of Japanese, including the plain/casual form of the language. I have been going through these videos recently and it's all starting to click for me. I've also started building up my vocabulary of common everyday verbs used in Japanese, and I will learn 200 to 300 of these in the next month or 2 so I can express myself in most situations.

And now onto the writing systems: Japanese has 3 different writing systems (4 if you include Romaji, a way of writing Japanese using roman writing) - Hiragana, Katakana, and then the Kanji characters. In recent weeks, I have been concentraing on Hiragana and Katakana via some excellent tutorials I found. The easiest way to learn to pronounce the Hiragana and Katakana characters (know as 'Kana) is to use mnemonics by thinking of something that the letter looks like that is also linked to how the character is pronounced - it could look like an object, and animal, a person, etc. Then you use that as a 'memory hook' in order to etch the pronunciation into your brain. For example there is one character that is pronounced 'Ya' that looks a bit like a Yak's head. The tutorials I have been going through give a mnemonic hook for every letter, then some exercises so that you can practice what you've learned. 

I have found it invaluable to start learning the Japanese writing systems, because a lot of grammar tutorials teach Japanese grammar with Hiragana, so it makes sense to learn these. Plus, there's just something really cool about being about to read in Japanese. To me, their writing systems look like a work of art. I will get to Kanji soon, which will be another big challenge as well, and I will write more on that soon.

How to immerse yourself in a language on your own, without native speakers or moving to another country

It has often been said that a good way to improve your skills in another language is to practice with native speakers or even to visit or move to a country where it is spoken, the idea being that you will get to immerse yourself in the language a lot more. Whilst there certainly is merit in this advice, I'd like to share some of my thoughts on what you can do by yourself. Is immersion in a foreign language really possible without moving abroad? Here are some ways you can integrate another language into your everyday life even if you live in a country where it's not the main language:

1) Start thinking in the language

Everybody has an 'internal voice' that they use when processing thoughts inside their own head. As you go about your day, you will no doubt talk to yourself internally, thinking about things you need to do that day, mulling over the past, the future, about how you feel etc. I have no doubt also that you probably do this in your native language. Well, here's a novel idea - start thinking in whatever language you're trying to learn!

Ok, I haven't gone completely mad by recommending this! It is actually a really good idea, and an excellent way to internalise a new language. You see, you are thinking thoughts all day long - it could be things like 'I have to go to the shops to get some bread and milk''I need to reply to John's email', 'I'm getting hungry, I should make some dinner soon' or maybe 'I need to sleep soon because I'm tired' etc. But you could do this in another language too!

It won't be easy at first. You have to consciously make an effort to think in another language, but once you get used to it, it's not too difficult. If you can't figure out a way in the foreign language to think whatever it is you were thinking in your native language, try to think of another, simpler way of expressing the same thought, and if that still doesn't work then go online and find out how to say the word or phrase that you're stuck on. If you make a conscious effort to think in another language, it will soon become a lot more natural, but not only that - you will be simultaneously practicing and improving your knowledge of the language!

2) Read anything you currently read in your native language in the language you're learning instead

You probably read the news, or articles about your favourite subject or sport etc fairly regularly, perhaps on various websites on the internet. You might like to read music news, blog posts, articles about your favourite sport, business, current affairs, celebrity gossip, the weather, etc. Well, why not start doing this in another language instead? Again, at first it won't be easy, but what will happen is that over time your reading skills will improve, and you will find yourself understanding a lot more of what you read.

I've recently started reading music and Formula 1 news in Spanish and German. I have found it has massively improved my reading skills to do so. Obviously you have to have a certain amount of ability in a language to begin with, but once you've gone through a course such as Linkword or Michel Thomas Method, it's time to move on to reading in the language.

Here is the key to making this work: do not stop to look up words your don't understand in a dictionary (at least not at first). Just keep reading, and your brain will figure out the gist of what you are reading. What I have personally found is that you do not need to know what every word in a sentence means in order to understand the overall meaning of the sentence. I realise this sounds totally contradictory, but as I said, your brain has a way of 'filling in the blanks' if you understand some of the words, but not all of them.

The other key point is simply to relax and enjoy your reading - do not strain and do not try to figure out what you're reading, and do not translate it back to your native language in your head. Just keep reading. After a few weeks, months etc you'll be amazed at your progress.

Now, if you keep seeing a word repeated that you are not sure of, THEN you should look it up in the dictionary and make a mental note of it. The fact that you have seen this word repeatedly means it is used fairly frequently and is therefore worth looking up. But I am confident you find reading in another language very rewarding.

3) Write things you'd normally write in your native language in the foreign language

Of course, this might not always be possible if you are writing to people who only speak your native language, but perhaps you need to write down a list of tasks you need to do on a particular day, or make a shopping list of items you need to buy when you next go shopping. Why not write these things in the language you're learning instead?

4) Watch videos of tv dramas, cartoons, news, films etc in whatever language you're trying to learn.

Watching videos of people speaking the language you're trying to learn is a great way to improve your listening comprehension skills, and all helps you to put everything you're learned into context rather than it just being something you learned in a language course. The easiest way to do this is via Youtube, though you may be able to find sources online to enable you to watch tv from other countries from the comfort of your own computer. Start with simple things like kid's cartoons, then move on the drama series', news programmes, documentaries, films, and even interviews with famous people.

At first you might find it a struggle to comprehend what you're hearing, but after a while your brain will start to figure out what you're hearing and it will get easier. As with reading, you do not need to be able to understand every word you hear spoken to be able to understand the gist of what you're hearing.

It is my recommendation that you do not use subtitles or a transcript when watching videos in another language. Let your brain figure it out. Let your brain, in conjunction with your ears and eyes, 

5) Listen to music with lyrics sung in the language you're learning

One thing that can really enrich your life, as well as enhance your knowledge and appreciation of different cultures, is to search for artists who sing in whatever language you're trying to learn. For example, if you're learning Spanish, look up some famous Spanish rock or pop artists and then check out their songs on Youtube. You should also be able to find translations of their lyrics online too, which will help you a lot too. Feel free to sing along with the songs too!

6) Find radio stations and podcasts in the language you're learning

As with watching videos, if you listen to the radio and/or podcasts in the language you're learning, you will also improve your listening comprehension skills over time too. 

So there you go - I hope I have convinced you that you can 'immerse' yourself in another language all by yourself. Follow the tips in this article and you won't go wrong.

The 'look and observe' method of learning vocabulary - the blindingly obvious method most language learners overlook

When learning vocabulary, I see a lot of language learners looking at lists of 'the top 100/200/500/1000 etc words in (whatever language they're learning)' as a source of inspiration for vocabulary they should focus on learning. Although this is a good method and certainly does have its merits, I would like to point out a much simpler, and blindingly obvious, method of figuring out what vocabulary is worth learning in order to reach fluency.

And what is that, I hear you ask? It's simple - just look all around you. Look and observe your life, and ask yourself:

1) which actions you perform on a daily basis (this will give you an idea of which verbs you need to learn)

2) what everyday objects/places etc do you use and/or encounter (both in and outside your house) on a daily basis (this will give you an idea of the nouns you need to learn to become fluent)

3) what are the most common emotions you feel during any given day, and what other ways do you describe nouns you use/encounter? (This will give you an idea of which adjectives you need to focus on learning in order to be able to express yourself properly).

As blindingly obvious as this is, it is a great starting point for deciding what vocabulary you need to learn in the language you're studying. See, a language is a communication system and to reach fluency in it, you need to be to able to navigate most everyday life situations within that language. Therefore by looking at and observing your life in the way I have just suggested, you will easily be able to notice the vocabulary you need to know in order to get to this level.

For example, when looking at which actions you perform each day, well the first thing we do is to wake up, then get up, then get dressed, then perhaps comb our hair, wash, brush our teeth, make some breakfast, wash the dishes. Then we might leave the house, lock the door, drive a car or take a form of public transport in order to go to work. We all eat and drink every day, and cook/prepare food. You might have to visit a supermarket and buy something, or go to the bank and deposit or withdraw money. You will definitely have to charge/recharge your mobile phone or computer during the day too. You will have to do things. You will go somewhere. You will come back. You will enter and exit buildings. No doubt you will telephone or text somebody. You will read and write something. You will speak, talk and say things to people. You will walk. You may run. You will visit someone. You probably use everyday items. No doubt you like to listen to music or watch tv, and plug and unplug things, as well as switch things on and off. You will stand up and sit down. And unless you're superhuman, you will need to sleep at the end of your day too.

The point being, is that all everyday actions, if consciously observed, are indicative of the verbs you should be learning in whatever language you're working on. The list above is simply SOME of the actions most people perform in a typical day, so I would suggest you get a piece of paper (or open a blank word document on your computer), and jot down the actions you do each day, and keep adding to it as you notice more. Make each of these into a verb in the 'to' form, such as 'to eat', 'to drink', then go to a quality dictionary such as wordreference.com and find the translations of each verb in whatever language you're learning, and write these down in your list. Then go about gradually memorisising each them.

Do the above not only with verbs, but look all around you at whatever everyday items you use and encounter, for example a knife, fork, plate, cup, cooker, door, window, car, bus, train, supermarket, bank, house etc. Then do the same with emotions such as happy, sad, content, frustrated, bored, excited, pleased, etc, and then common adjectives such as big, small, thick, thin, tall, short, fat, slim, high, low etc.

Before long you will have a good vocabulary that will allow you to communicate in pretty much any everyday situation. Whenever you notice a gap in your knowledge, something everyday that you just don't know how to say or describe, add that to your list of what you need to learn next.

Then once you've done this, you can go back to those lists of 'the 100/200/500/1000 etc' most common words/verbs etc in the language you're learning and consolidate what you've learned by learning these too. There will of course be a lot of overlap with what you already know, but that doesn't matter. 

An update on my language learning journey

Hi all, it's been a while since I wrote a blog post here, so I just thought I would write about how my language learning journey is going! In addition to Spanish, Japanese and Scottish Gaelic, I started learning German in April this year too.

Since I completed the Linkword Spanish course, I have also gone through the Michel Thomas Spanish courses (foundation, advanced and the language builder) and Earwords Spanish (Volumes 1, 2 and 3) and I have been building up my vocabulary by learning the most popular everyday verbs for most life situations. I have a Spanish contact in Colombia who has been really helpful with this. In addition to this, I've been using a Spanish flashcard website to further increase my vocabulary of nouns and other everyday vocabulary.

I joined some language exchange websites too, to practice writing in Spanish with native speakers (in exchange for helping them with their English). I regularly read articles on the Spanish website marca.com too. I am delighted with my progress in Spanish, and am well on the way to a high level of fluency.

For Scottish Gaelic, I have mostly been learning with a BBC Alba programme called 'Speaking Our Language', which I watch on Youtube. There are 4 series, 72 episodes in total. I am currently about 2 thirds of the way through series 3, and am very happy with my progress. Although I have a lot of work to do, I feel I'm getting there with Scottish Gaelic. A lot of my family speaks Gaelic, as do some people I know around Inverness, and I sometimes get a bit of Gaelic conversation practice in with them. I look forward to completing all 4 series of 'Speaking Our Language' within the next few months, and then I will move on to learning in more detail the grammar of Gaelic.

For Japanese, I completed the Michel Thomas Method Advanced Japanese course and this has helped expand my knowledge of the verb structures of Japanese, and has given me more scope for expressing myself in a wide variety of situations. I have also gradually been going through the Earworms Japanese course (volumes 1 and 2), and from time to time I revise the vocabilary I learned in Linkword Japanese. I'm definitely improving my Japanese all the time, however I still have not learned the writing systems, and I still need to learn the verb structure for the plain/non-formal form of the language. These are my next steps in Japanese.

For German, I've been going through several courses. I have completed the Paul Noble German and Michel Thomas German (foundation and advanced) courses, as well as been going through Linkword German too. I have currently finished level 3 of Linkword German, and will start level 4 soon. Once I have completed the Linkword course, I will move on to Earworms German to further consolidate what I know, then boost up my verb vocabulary etc to get more fluent. I am really happy with how I'm doing with German - it is definitely a trickier language than Spanish and Japanese, mainly because of the genders of nouns and other grammar points. I will do a review of Linkword German once I complete it, and will discuss in more depth the complexities of German and how Linkword deals with them.

So my polyglot journey is still very much alive and I am really enjoying it! I still have plans to learn French, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and more, but my current priority is to reach fluency in the languages I've been studying this year and then I will move on to more languages.

I will write some more blog posts soon on different aspects of language learning, so stay tuned!

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