About LLS:

Throughout my career, I have received thousands of questions regarding languages and I have finally decided to answer them objectively with no strings attached. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave your comments below.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Latin, Germanic and Ancient Greek! What for? I am not a priest!

Learning Latin and Ancient Greek are perhaps one of those things you believe belong in realm of religion, law and medicine, but it couldn't be further from the truth. The reason I recommend learning a solid foundation of Latin and Ancient Greek is that it will help you learn other languages and especially improve your academic grades in whatever field of study you decide to pursue.

In the end, if we break down what going to school means, it would all amass to learning words of a certain field. When you study economics, you literally go to school to learn new words and their definitions. The summation of all those words compiles into what we could term "knowledge in economics". Wouldn't it be easier to learn all those fancy words and definitions if you could guess their meaning without actually having to read about them?

You probably recognize many words above.

You are no doctor, but could you guess what "Hypothermia" or perhaps "Eosinophilia Esophagitis" means?

Let's break it down:

Hypo means under
Thermia means temperature

Eosinophilic Esophagitis:

Eosin - A known chemical
Philic - love, like
Eosinophil (White blood cells)
Esophagus - stomach
itis - inflammation of (redness, pain, and swelling)

Let’s try in the world of Law:

Ad hoc - for this
Per annum - yearly

Maybe in the world of history:

A.D Anno Dominium - The year of the lord
AM Ante Meridiem - Before the meridiem (half of the day)
PM Post Meridiem - After............

In the world of finance:

Inflation - Towards blowing
Depression - Pushing down

In the English language:

Hard (In Swedish, Norwegian, German; very similar hård)
Demi (Half) God (In Swedish, Norwegian, German: Halv Gott & so on...)
Hippopotamus meaning Under(Hypo) the River(Potamus)

Latin is the basis of most European languages; mainly French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek and it serves as the backbone for most Nordic and Slavic Languages. Any person who wishes to gain knowledge throughout his life should know the basic Latin, Germanic, and Greek:


now you ask, where am I supposed to learn all this? Well it’s quite simple; whenever you learn a word, try to break it down into pieces. Consider having a short course of Latin or Greek in order to grasp the main essence and about 200 words. Attempt to learn languages of the same family as yours or perhaps venture into the unknown.

Here is a very interesting list. Take your time, because it’s worth reading:




A final word. If you are able to master all those basics, you can expect your future academic studies to improve in whichever field you wish to pursue. Knowledge is made of words, let’s not memorize everything, logic and roots will make it easier for us in the end.

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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Windows OS: How to turn your frustration into unconscious learning.

In modern society, we all have had the opportunity to browse around the ever popular "Windows operating system" which most of you are perhaps using this very moment. The endless debate whether Windows OS is better or worse than its main competitor the "MAC OS" is questionable because it all comes down to this simple fact; programming is never perfect and no matter how careful you are, computers have the tendency to malfunction. 

How is this relevant to learning languages? Well, imagine being a busy student who wishes to brush up his German, but can't find time nor the motivation to do so. One morning before going to school, he suddenly decides to reinstall his Windows operating system (or any other OS) into German rather than a language he is familiar with. Now you ask, what happens then? Many do not realize the amount of exposure we get from computer screens on a daily basis. It is almost impossible for me to imagine a person in this day and age who doesn't at least spend a couple of minutes in front of a computer daily, either at work or at home, even if, just to check the champion's league football scores.

The fun truly begins when your computer starts having problems which require your resourcefulness so as to fix them. A window pops up with an error message. You then proceed to search on Google translate the meaning of the message and in some cases make your way to blog sites, forums and tech support guides as to solve the issue.

Can't understand? Imagine solving the problem.

The best part is that nowadays most websites on the internet are capable of detecting which language your OS is using and in turn translate every webpage you browse, but it gets better than that. As you spend time arranging your PC to reflect your life, you realize that you need to start getting some vocabulary in order to read all the folders and filenames you need to learn as to get things done. It might bring waves of frustrations as you glue yourself to Google translate and go over the error messages word by word, but after a year's time, you will have perhaps learned several hundred words and all that anguish becomes self-gratifying.

Count on the internet to spice things up even more!

Maybe, some might consider it extreme, but I know for a fact that I have learned a tremendous amount of vocabulary at the cost of my sanity. However, the benefits no matter how difficult to perceive outlast the effort.


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Reaching fluency: A neverending frustration

If any of you have had the opportunity to learn a language well enough to be able to communicate, then you must understand the constant issue of being passively frustrated at all the never-ending vocabulary which keeps coming your way no matter how many pages of textbook you run through.

As a person becomes more apt at a given language, the requirements to reach perfection seem to triple with each advance and often lead to loss of motivation. The very moment you reach a different skill level, it seems as if you need to take a break and find another boost of energy to get you across the escape velocity of laziness. Nevertheless, somewhere deep down, you tell yourself that you have learned so much until now and that with time, improvements will come, only to misjudge the amount of time it would normally take to get over and done with it.

Ironically, the amount of vocabulary in my native language never ceases to amaze me as I still find countless words in bestsellers which can only reinforce the popular saying "we never stop learning".

According to my experience, there are perhaps 2 methods to deal with advanced language plateaus, but before getting into it, please take a look at this chart below:

Simplified Chart of Fluency (Between B2- C2):

Weak B2 - Being able to read newspapers

Average B2 - Being able to communicate clearly with native speakers
Strong B2 - Being able to discuss complicated topics with native speakers
Weak C1 - Understanding movies with the aid of subtitles

Average C1 - Understanding movies without subtitles
Strong C1 - Understanding music on the radio

1 - The passive way:

Make it a journey, not a mission!

After getting to a certain point within the realms of fluency, a good way to get better is to stop putting priority on studying but rather on casual conversations, music, movies and newspapers. Instead of setting goals, you should simply try to start enjoying the language. Your level would allow you to read newspapers on a daily basis listen to music on the radio or even watch popular box office hits with subtitles, assuming that you have Google translate on standby to help you cover news words.

Finding some foreign friends or joining some kind of language tandems weekly would make a tremendous difference over a period of years. This method is probably the best one due to its high degree of realism related to the obvious fact that one cannot learn to describe the world in a foreign language by cramming up vocabulary in one sitting. Make it into a lifestyle and don't focus on it so much! If it happens in 5 years, so be it! But then again, would you notice it? Imagine 4 years from now, waking up one day and noticing superb fluency.

2 - The active way:

There is another way to get good quickly, but it requires a lot of effort and tremendous amounts of motivation. My take on it would be to cover concise materials from exam books. Grab a couple of "B2-C1" and "C1-C2" exam books and do a few pages daily while attending conversation classes. Realistically, it would still take you a year or two even with strong dedication. Furthermore, "the passive way" as mentioned above could also be a good addition to bind it all together.

This road is rough and dry, make sure you have enough fuel!


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is it worth becoming proficient in a foreign language while living in your home country?

Today's debate is whether it is worth to learn a foreign language proficiently while living in a country where the language isn't spoken. Don't get me wrong, trying to improve your level is never a bad idea, but I was thinking rather in terms of becoming as adept at speaking as a native speaker. The proficiency level is described as C1, C2 and above according to the EU-Assessment grid which is displayed below.

Become familiar with this table!

The issue arises when I start to compare the results to the time spent gaining them. Usually, when a person begins to learn a language, it’s easier to progress from total beginner into intermediate. The reasons are quite obvious; since we don't know anything our brains tend to soak in information much faster. In most parts, the information in question is very basic making it extremely easy to just remember single words and structures rather than complex arrangements of grammar. Hence, students beginning always learn faster than those who are already advanced. If you are able to keep up a conversation, those small mistakes that one makes are usually the hardest to get rid of.

The better you want to be, the longer it takes!
As a person interested in languages, I have found that students are able to learn on their own up to B1-B2. Afterwards it becomes extremely difficult to advance on your own without having native speakers surrounding you. Even if you have somehow managed to take the C1 test and passed it successfully, I doubt that your level in speech is equal to that of a native speaker. Anyone can memorize grammar and take their time to answer questions. Furthermore, non-native speakers usually conduct the spoken part of the exams which makes it even less accurate and objective.

- " Spend this time on new languages because it's simply not worth it unless you are abroad! "

If you happen to be one of those students who are endlessly stuck at B1-B2, don't give up! It would be more advisable for you to save that money up and plan a trip to wherever in order to go over that plateau. 
Therefore, I have concluded that it is better to develop your language skills up to B2 on your own than to struggle stuck and frustrated. I think that B1-B2 level is the most accurate level in order to go abroad to develop your skills further. If on the other hand you are unable to travel due to a confined lifestyle, it isn't a bad idea to continue studying, but keep in mind that your progress will take years and years.

I personally tend to study a language from A1 until B1-B2 and then I leave it behind me to begin another one. This is a method that many hyper polyglots use in order to have such a broad knowledge in the field, and if I somehow have the opportunity to go abroad to take advantage of this language once again, I just have to brush up my knowledge before heading on to the airport. Nothing will ever beat the exposure one will have when going abroad!


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Common mistakes students make when studying languages!

There are a bunch of common mistakes students make when attemping to learn a new language. I won't go as far as to say that these mistakes can make a huge difference, but in the end they could boost results.

1- They try to learn everything at once and cram whichever words they encounter:

Unless you need them at work, don't start memorizing words like "heritage" or "accountancy" just because you have seen them somewhere along the book. You should approach a new language with some prudence. In the very beginning, words such as big and tall can replace more unusual ones such as "humongus" or "giant". If you are able to memorize such words effortlessly, then more strings to your bow, but i wouldn't recommend it. 

Start by making a list of all the basic essentials. For example: Street, house, bar, wall and so on. Afterwards, practice them to get a good feel of the language before attemping more advanced vocabulary.

Take it easy!

2- They don't cover the basics and attempt to get into more advanced structures:

If you don't understand why verbs have certain endings and sentences are built in a certain manner, there will only be confusion awaiting you further along the way. Make sure you leave no stone unturned and grasp the essentials. A language is not memorized, but understood. Schools don't really care if their students have knowledge gaps; they just want to fill as many groups up as possible for monetary purposes.

When i used to teach large groups, students from B1 to C1 would often try to appear at the same level, at the expense of their true abilities. The amounts of mistakes determines the level and knowledge of a student. The only true way to know what you lack is to have a brief conversation with a teacher capable of properly evaluating. As long as you don't make a mistake, even without using more advanced and stylish structures, the teacher can't say anything. Never think of a language as a race.

You can lie to others, but not to yourself.

3- They don't understand the grammar and attempt to go around it with vocabulary and pre-made sentences:

If you really believe that your memory will remember 10,000 sentences and expressions from the very beginning, then you are really waiting for the challenge of your life. Don't focus on idioms from the very beginning, but rather on getting your point across. Rarely will I see someone integrate expressions on an A2-B1 level. The quicker you try to understand how the sentences are built according tot he grammar, the easier it will all unveil in your mind.

4- They try to speak, basing their understanding on sounds rather than lettering:

Just because your friends taught you some bad words here and there, doesn't mean that you actually know what you are saying. The phonetic value of a word needs written validation. It is important to at least see how the word is written to truly know how to pronounce it. For languages using another alphabet than the classical latin one, it might be a way to get yourself started. In the end, learning how to read is inevitable.

5- They sit down for hours staring at their books without any day to day regularity:

I don't believe the brain can endlessly stare at books without overheating. I keep repeating myself over and over again about the same thing; it’s better to study 5 minutes 3 times a day, than 2 hours staring at your book on a lonely weekend. 

The biggest mistake ever made by students.

6- They don't understand the universal difference between nouns, adjective, verbs and adverbs:

If you can't seem to comprehend what a noun is and why it has a certain position in a sentence, then you truly require emergency help. Every language has those elements, and I wouldn't see how languages would even make sense without them. When I open a book up, whether it is in German, I can still recognize what is a verb and what would probably be the noun without actually speaking the language.

If you understand those elements in your own language, then new ones should be a piece of cake. 

7- They study 2 languages at once:

Some people might be able to pull this one. I personally don't study this way, because I do believe that the brain requires certain breaks and certain periods to absorb new knowledge properly. I simply don't believe that 2 languages can easily divide the learning lifestyle of a student. Another reason is that languages can mix themselves and create confusion.

A good example would be to learn spanish and portuguese which essentially have the same vocabulary. The brain is remarkably good at confusing words with other similar ones. I remember once that a ukrainian teacher said that it was easier to teach Ukrainian to an African than to a Polish person.

8- They don't practice with others:

Spoken practice shall never be outmatched by any other method, but one cannot behave like a parrot expecting to speak without knowing the grammar.

Il never stop repeating it, practice!


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Can't seem to learn? A few tips for hard learners!

The "Bell Curve" is a theory which dictates distribution of talent amongst the population. It accounts for talent as much as it does for appearance, intelligence and most important of all; the ability to learn languages. The theory claims that the majority of the population is average, and that a small minority is either very gifted or not at all. This theory was originally designed to talk about crime, education and income, but I find it extremely versatile and universal.

More information about it at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Curve

The "Bell Curve"

For those who don't understand the amount of effort involved in order to break from one extremity to the other, look at it from a very simple perspective. If you are one of those people who simply can't seem to lose weight, then you understand that in order to get physically fit you would have to endure much more than the skinny nerd living next door. Is all hope lost? Well technically you could shift from one end of the curve to the other, if you changed your eating habits and began a disciplined sport regime.

The point is that, talented or not. Some individuals have it easy. Don't worry, with today's article we will take a look at the options available, if of course, you aren't one of the lucky ones.

Firstly, let’s identify on which end of the curve you are:

- How many languages can you speak? (B1 level and above)
- How many years have you been trying to learn a language unsuccessfully?
- Have you been studying seriously or just messing around?
- Do you consider yourself "bad" at languages?
- Do you find it hard to learn other subjects?

There is no way to say for sure, but no matter how bad you think you might be, these tips will be helpful.

The brain also needs a good workout routine.

1- Mix plenty of materials together:

If you have finally decided to learn the language of your dreams, it would be a good idea to get different sensory input. What I mean by "sensory input" is that you can try to listen to audiotapes, read books, do grammar exercises and use some kind of interactive programs in order to mix from different sources, thereby greatly increasing the amount of material learned. The more you mix, the better your results will be.

2- Know yourself:

One must know exactly how lazy one is. Try to cheat your laziness with slow steps without forcing yourself to stare at grammar for hours. Try to remember 5 words every day. How much of your time would you actually have to invest to accomplish such a feat?

3- Make it into a lifestyle, not a task:

People often make the mistake of making education into a mission or a completable task. A language is something that you improve and polish as years go by. Don't expect to just learn everything after a summer course. Pick a language you like and just let it be the background of your daily activities. Many examples include listening to music, going to foreign concerts, reading about the history of the country, having posters in your room in that language.

4- Establish a list of goals and reach them one at a time:

Series of realistic goals can have a tremendous impact on motivation. Instead of saying "I want to speak English" try to say "I will cover the English Conditionals". Give yourself some time to do it and advance as you go.

5- Stay motivated:

Even if you're having a bad week, don't quit. You're planning to go on a binge drinking spree? As soon as it’s over, continue where you left off. Take a break and get back to it after a while. It doesn't matter how motivated I am, I still have my ups and downs. 

6- Routine and daily habits:

A good way to get something done is to do it regularly. Don't think about convincing yourself that you’re not lazy. Just make it into a habit! How do I that? Start doing it and try to maintain steadiness for a few days until "Habit Mode" kicks in. Once you make something into a habit, it becomes hard to break.

7- Find people and places to practice regularly:

The best way is to integrate business with pleasure. Luckily, languages can be practiced in the field where most of the drinking, rambling and flirting occur. Find language tandems and bars that offer opportunities to speak. Nowadays with the advent of Facebook and other social websites, places such as these are everywhere. A good place to start would be to look into "Local Language Tandem Exchange" and "Couch Surfing".



Creative Commons License
LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available athttp://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.