Website for Tim Ferriss' 12 Sentences to deconstruct a new language

Hey guys, I put together a resource for deconstructing foreign language grammar using Tim Ferriss’ ‘golden sentences’ method, that some of you might be familiar with. The idea is simple sentences like ‘I give him the apple’ can give clues about how a language fits together.

For each language there are the translations and audio recordings of the 12 Sentences by a teacher and native speaker of the language.

So far there is French, Italian, Russian, Persian and Esperanto :slight_smile: If anyone wants to contribute translations to the project please let me know, or if you have any feedback!


Honestly, the only thing Tim Ferriss really knows something about is marketing and selling quick fix solutions that are appealing to the lazy (similar to Benny Lewis “fluent in 3 months”).


Yeah, I always felt that the “12 sentence” bit by Ferris is the weirdest bit of hokum on the language scene. I would be really surprised if he, a) came up with it himself, and b) ever actually used it to “deconstruct a language” himself. For the primary reason that doing the 12 sentence deconstruction from scratch would actually be more work than either just using a proper beginner course, or doing some other, better activities recommended for beginners.

In any decent beginner course, the gramatical concepts of those 12 sentences are introduced fairly early on in with better context and with better deconstruction for better retention. (And as much I hate typing this, even Duolingo would teach you that stuff fairly early on.)

Regarding Benny, I for one feel that “Fluent in 3 Months,” as gimmicky as it is, actually has some decent things going for it. I mean, it’s hard to argue against the benefits of going to a country and immersing yourself and practicing for 3 months – even if you won’t get fluent. And in the absence of such a freedom, to try recreate such and immersion at home actually could work. So yeah, the title is gimmicky as hell, but I always felt Benny was ok – if taken with the right amount of salt.

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I ran these 12 sentences through Google Translate, but I didn’t find that they helped me see the patterns in Polish. That’s because there are 7 cases, 3 genders (sometimes more), plus plurals. 12 sentences is not enough to allow me to see the patterns. (Although I can see a lot of patterns just looking at it in French, which I do not know at all. So maybe it is helpful with simpler languages.)

But I like the idea as a sort of grammar cheat sheet. I would really like to have a sentence demonstrating each case with each gender, plus its plurals. I know more English grammar than most and I can’t deconstruct a sentence anymore. Telling me that when a direct object takes an indirect object, but only after the subject, but not before a preposition is when you use the X case doesn’t help. An example sentence does.

I did look at fluent in 3 months again today. As a language teacher I did not understand how he thinks with 40 hours you can have a 15 minute conversation. 40 hours is just the tip of an iceberg and you will sink fast when you hit a read conversation. Also, the program was almost $100. I spend at least 20 hours a week reading, listening, and studying.

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Thank you so much for those reviews. I review a variety of programs and I have used many. This is the first program that has all of the major pieces needed for success. I did briefly look over Olleys program but just did not want to spend the money for his program at this time.

how he thinks with 40 hours you can have a 15 minute conversation.
I’ve been following Benny and Shannon for a while now, and I’d say they’re both experienced language learners and teachers, so they know their stuff!
However, the real value of the “Fluent in 3 Months” challenges is probably more on the psychological side and less on the language side. That is, inexperienced language learners who are afraid of speaking and making mistakes might find the experience of “speaking early” liberating.
But, is it possible to have a 15-minute conversation after learning a second language from scratch? Yes, provided that

  • the topic is simple and familiar, e.g. talking about one’s life / interests / hobbies, etc.
  • the conversation is basic
  • the conversation is slow, i.e. it doesn’t have the fast pace of a native speaker conversation
  • the conversation isn’t free flowing, but has been rehearsed/prepared
    Is this conversational fluency at a B1 or B2 level? No, this is just a very basic conversation that can give learners a boost on their language learning journey. Nothing more, nothing less.
    To achieve conversational fluency at a B1-B2 / B2 level, learners have to invest more hours (for languages that aren’t too distant from their L1 / the L2s they know: about 400-600 hours - only for listening and speaking).

I agree, Tim’s “12 sentences” are probably only useful for “simpler” languages.
However, there are much better “warmup” approaches like Michel Thomas, etc. available to get a feel for the basic variations of (morpho)syntactic patterns of an L2.

I like the idea as a sort of grammar cheat sheet.
I agree, but you could use LingQ’s “grammar guides” instead. They are longer than cheat sheets, but short enough to get a feel for the L2.

I agree. I had many more hours than that before I got a tutor and I spent 30 minutes not understanding her, even when she repeated my own sentences back to me (with the grammar corrected). I could speak for 15+ minutes, but I couldn’t understand anything that I heard. Now, even after many more hours of listening practice and weekly tutoring for months, I still only catch 2-3 words per sentence. Based on those and the context, I can often guess at what’s being said/asked, but I still have the conversational ability of a toddler.

That being said, reading Benny’s blog years ago gave me the confidence to try Spanish again and now I am serious about learning Polish. So his theory of “it’s okay to make mistakes” was definitely something I needed to hear. I needed to get away from the mindset of school and being graded and get to the real point of learning a language, which is being able to communicate with another person.


Your “Benny Experience” was exactly mine with Spanish as well. This was more than 10 years ago and while I was following Master Steve on and off, I had yet to pull the trigger, pay, and sign up for LingQ. (I did that in 2012 and it has made all the difference).

I had just returned from Spain after a weeklong trip and was looking to keep the momentum going. Benny has much the same outlook as my close friend who I went to Spain with had (he passed a few months ago). He convinced me to saying saying I spoke Spanish “a little bit.” “You speak Spanish!” …I read Benny’s book right after that and sought to recreate his immersion/language missions, even making my iPhone Spanish. LIngQ was the ultimate at home immersion re-creation, and I see the 90 Day Challenges as achieving the same as “Fluent in 3 Months”: to make a true “breakthrough.”

I already knew a lot of Spanish when I found Benny, but I was “speaking from day one” in that I learned it school and learning “how to say” something was motivating for me. However, the “breakthrough” only happened after the intense reading and listening.

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After reading a lot of books and blogs and watching people’s vlogs and lectures, I have come to the conclusion that everyone has to try all the techniques until they find what works for them. There are some people who are auditory learners. They do better with podcasts and television shows. Others are very extroverted and learn best when they can talk to someone; that’s what holds their interest. Then others (like me) learn best visually, so reading is king. And some people are very methodical and they love drills, so they make great strides with flashcards or the Gold List method.

You just never know what works for you and will hold your interest until you try. Obviously everyone has to spend some time listening, talking, and reading, but one way is how you will learn; the other two will just be practicing what you have learned.