There has been a lot of discussion on this site and on my social media profiles about my 10 week course that is launching in January 2019. However, I haven't really given any details whatsoever about how it is going to work. As such, today I thought I'd give you a brief summary of what you can expect from this course and why I am convinced it will help you to learn a language from scratch in 10 weeks. I won't be giving everything away or setting out exactly what you'll learn week by week as I want you to follow the course in real time. However, this blog should give you a good insight into what you're going to be focusing on and why I am convinced it will work so well for you.
The course will be based around 10 Youtube videos which will be put out on my Youtube channel every Sunday from 6th January to the 10th March 2019. This means that the course itself will officially start on Sunday 6th January and end of Saturday 16th March. For those of you who complete the course in 'real time' (rather than finding it later in the year or in the years to come) I am convinced that if you commit massively to following the course by Sunday 17th March you will be able to have a conversation in the language you are learning without switching back to English. After that there will tonnes more content on here and on my Youtube channel to help push you on towards fluency or to inspire you to get to this conversational level in a range of other languages. As I've said before, this is the approach I have taken because, for me, I'd rather be conversational in a huge range of languages than outstanding in one or two. This is hugely about personal preference though and I will be here to help you on either route because although the fluency route is not, at this stage, my area of expertise I have spent months finding the best resources and ideas to spur you on in that direction. However, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. After all, why I am so convinced that it will work for you that I'm already discussing your next steps in language learning?
Having taught in schools for the last 12 years I have a developed a really good understanding of how people learn. Whilst it is true that everybody likes to learn in different ways the similarities that unite us in our learning are far larger than the differences that divide us. The bottom line is that all humans learn through vast amounts of repetition and we all learn most quickly when we focus on developing what I like to call 'context based learning'. Repetition is the key to all learning. If you do something once there is next to no chance that you will remember it. This is true of anything from trying to remember your latest social media password (I managed to lock myself out of my new Instagram account before I confirmed my email address... genius!) to learning how to ride a bike to learning how to speak Spanish. What we learn once we almost certainly forget and what we do repeatedly we become good at. This is absolute common sense and it makes perfect sense from a evolutionary viewpoint. The success of human beings is in their intelligence and adaptability so we are literally programmed to learn new things and change our behaviours throughout our lives. Whatever we do regularly is clearly important to us so our brains remember it. What we do just once or twice clearly wasn't vital so we quickly forget it. However, having said that, and this next part is crucial, once you start learning quite a bit about a topic, subject area or idea you can quickly add lots of new ideas into that part of your knowledge and become very proficient in that are very quickly.
The rapid learning associated with a strong foundational context in a subject is what explains why somebody who knows a massive amount about football will learn a new football related fact far quicker than somebody who knows nothing about football. It is why, when it comes to Trivial Pursuit, I immediately learn nearly all the Geography questions I didn't previously know the answer to but why new Arts and Literature facts are in one ear and out the other. I have a pretty decent map of the world in my head and know a lot of geographical facts already so can just locate new geographical facts on my map and put them in their true context. However, as I have absolutely no contextual understanding of historical (or popular!) culture these disconnected facts mean nothing to me and because I can't hook them onto anything they fall out of my knowledge base almost immediately. The ramifications for this when it comes to language learning are massive because whilst most language courses treat you like you're me approaching an Arts and Literature question I'm going to help you realise you are more like me approaching a Geography question. As Jonno pointed out in his blog, you know way more about all languages than you think and when it comes to Western European languages you are virtually an expert already without even knowing it!
The 10 week course begins but getting you to realise that despite my claim that I'm helping you 'start from scratch' you are not actually starting from scratch at all! You already have a great context to fit new learning around. It's called being able to speak, listen to, read and write English. This gives you a massive, massive head start in all languages because your brain is used to speaking, listening, reading and writing. When you were a baby and a small child you genuinely did have to do all of this learning absolutely from scratch. That is why it took you years to achieve these milestones. This time around it is massively different! You can already do all of these things and, what is more, if you are learning a European language loads of the words you use every day in English have direct cognates in the language you are learning. As such, your main task in the first week of the course is going to be to really familiarise yourself with as many cognates and as many 'cognate rules' as possible (eg words than end in 'ty' in English tend to end in 'dad' in Spanish). This will involve repeatedly familiarising yourself with these rules because they won't necessarily be 'common sense' right from the start. Nevertheless, once you start to truly understand how easy it is to nail these basics with practice the belief will start to flow and, in reality, believing you can achieve this goal is a massive, massive milestone in this journey. Once you've got the cognates nailed the course will focus on building your context bit by bit by focusing on helping you to absolutely nail things like greetings and basic predictable conversations ('Hi, how are you?' 'I'm great thanks, you?' 'Yeah, not bad thanks.') so that they just become absolutely natural and just flow out of you as easily in your target language as they do in English. From there you will learn how to construct simple sentences in the present, past and future tenses and how to use simple verbs like 'to have', 'to be' and 'to want'. The rest of the course will focus on giving you the key vocab you will need to make sense of the basic world around you and allow you to have a good chat with locals about a range of topics. Provided that you absolutely nail these things through massive amounts of repetition (which is inevitable if you commit to 25 minutes learning a day) you will be utterly astonished with how much you can say by the time you come to the end of the course. Equally importantly, because you'll have learnt nearly all of this stuff through listening to vast numbers of videos on Youtube your listening skills will be far, far better at this notoriously difficult skill than most language learners who tend to rely on reading from boring text books. I have a whole host of tips on the listening front too that I'll reveal as time goes on.
Crucially, after 10 weeks you will have such an amazing context in the basics of the language that you can than focus on adding personal specific vocabulary that is crucial to your life. For me, for example, I'd want to learn about football terminology and about language learning vocab. For you that might be popular culture or historical literature. It doesn't matter. Once you have the basics nailed your context will be so huge that learning new words in your target language will be just as easy as it is to learn new words in English. How long did it take you to add 'Chav', 'Brexit' or 'legit' to your internal dictionary? No time at all. They just slotted in once you'd hear them a couple of times in context. This is the position you will be in after this 10 week course. I will train you how to think in the language you are learning (trust me this is totally possible very, very early on) so that this new language just becomes part of who you are and these new words just become things you simply know how to say and don't need to think about before uttering. This is how you remove the need to constantly translate and how you end up being able to truly speak a language. So, make sure you subscribe to my Youtube channel and stick to the 10 week course so that you don't miss out on this golden opportunity to kick start your language learning journey!