Today marks a major language-acquisition milestone for me. I just did my first 90-day streak–in three foreign languages.
- English: My mother tongue.
- Japanese: Got to the equivalent of about a B2 level in the 90s and am now refreshing.
- French: Worked with some over the years, but have focused on since the pandemic and am at B2.
- German: Started three months ago, working on A1.
Here’s my approach and online tool set. With all the advances, especially in AI, I’ve refined and redefined my approach and am open to more ideas.
Comprehensible Input (Reading) - LingQ plus online content
For my most advanced language (French), I don’t really use any content already in the LingQ library. Instead, I use the web plug-in to import whatever interests me. Often, it’s an article or other online piece of content I’ve come across that I simply want to read where the reading experience is a) aided by LingQ and b) I keep my vocabulary up-to-date in LingQ. For my beginning language (German), I don’t find LingQ at its best at the A1 level, however, I’m going through mini-stories and similar, believing that keeping my vocabulary up-to-date in LingQ will pay off later when I get to an intermediate level. For my refresh language (Japanese), I’m mostly using content already in the LingQ library just to bring vocabulary back from the recesses of my mind.
Comprehensible Input (Audiovisual) - YouTube plus Netflix
For my most advanced language (French), I mostly consume native content in YouTube and Netflix. Often, I import the content into LingQ to read and work through the vocabulary either before or after listening. I find it productive to read the content first as a LingQ lesson when the content is more conversational in nature. When the content is more informational in nature, I tend to import into LingQ for reading after listening to and watching first. For my beginning language (German), I think I’ll start using more YouTube language learning content creators’ channels (e.g., Easy German) when I get to the A2 level. For Japanese, I’ve found a few podcast-style language learning content creators’ channels (e.g., Bite Size Japanese). Often, I listen to this kind of content when I run my dog.
Structured Classroom Learning (Grammar, Writing, and Multi-person Conversation) - Lingoda plus ChatGPT
Having learned Japanese years ago with traditional methods, a few years ago I was very open to comprehensible input-based methods. I went all in. This though had downsides. French grammar has complexities of subjunctive, plus que parfait, conditionals, etc. that it would take HUGE amounts of comprehensible input exposure to acquire through immersion. I signed up for Lingoda six months ago and attended all of the B1 grammar classes. I’m now participating in all the B2-level classes. As such, I’ve shifted to being an advocate of comprehensible input as a primary method, but not an exclusive method, of language acquisition. With this experience, I started German Lingoda A1 lessons three months ago. I do typically five or six French and/or German Lingoda lessons a week and spend usually one hour in prep for each lesson. This prep includes drafting responses to the discussion prompts of the next class. Much of what I write I will ask ChatGPT to “confirm the grammar and suggest modifications for improved native expression or fluidity.” I’ll evaluate and try to learn from the feedback ChatGPT suggests.
One-on-one Conversation and Pronunciation Correction - iTalki
The final online tool I use is iTalki. It takes some effort to find teachers you enjoy spending time with and that they enjoy spending time with you. Initially, I used iTalki for one-on-one conversation. I think I had too much conceived language learning as being about to “talk” in a language. Now, more and more, I think it is quite proverbially important to “seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” Anyhow, I spend much less of my iTalki time in conversation and more in fairly structured correction of my pronunciation. I pick a text to read and have the teacher provide me real-time correction of the feedback. Naturally, much small talk and other one-on-one conversation occurs, such as in discussion of unfamiliar vocabulary. Right now, I do this mostly in French because French pronunciation is rather difficult and the French have such an innate love and need for good pronunciation. I also do it in German too, my beginning language.
There are so many online tools now and each have their unique philosophies and thus strengths and weaknesses. [In my fantasy world, private equity would acquire and partner with the above and fuse them together in more seamless language acquisition.]
Anyhow, I’m glad to share what I’ve cobbled together with others and am also more than open to new ideas, suggestions, and recommendations as such incredible innovation is occurring in virtual language acquisition.