Five Common Problems with Language Exchanges (And How to Fix Them)

A language exchange is a session–usually over Skype but sometimes in person–in which two people practice speaking each other’s language. It’s been popularized in recent years by the site iTalki. For example, consider a Spanish speaker learning English and an English speaker learning Spanish who meet up. In a common setup, the first half of…

Ojiya Balloon Festival
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Day in the Life of a Language Learner

Here’s how I’m studying right now. So far it’s been extremely effective for my specific goals. I’m studying for a reading proficiency test and ultimately a translation test, so I’m tailoring my efforts toward passing my exams. I’m trying to improve my listening, as well, because I think that good listening skills lend well to…

US Soldier Studying Arabic
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Learn a New Language, Grow Your Brain

A Swedish study recently discovered something interesting: Learning a new language makes your brain grow larger. Researchers used MRI scans to measure the brains of students at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy before and after an intensive 13-month training program. The students started out with no knowledge of their target language–Arabic, Russian, or Dari–and…

Fruit stand in Madrid.
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Three Reasons to Fail Often During Language Learning

Failing is bad, right? Well, it’s probably not the best thing in the short term. But if you “fail forward”–that is, improve from the experience–then it’s one of the best things you can do to succeed in the long term. My friend John from Leith Literary recently linked to a great article in the New…

I'm more like this.
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21-Day Motivation Project

Motivation is a tricky thing. I try not to make this blog too self-help-like. What I mean is, I want to help you with specific tips and I want to encourage you. But I try not to make things too cheesy. By nature, I’m a little cynical, and I try not to be too phony.…

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How Many Vocabulary Words a Day Should You Learn?

With languages, I definitely tend to use a lot of what I call “organic” learning methods. Actually using the language–reading, listening, speaking, and writing it–is vital in the language acquisition process. That doesn’t mean, though, that I never study. Almost every successful language learner I’ve ever met sits down and studies. Specifically, they study vocabulary…

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Vacation Post: Five Articles You May Have Missed

Right now, two things are going on with the site. First, quite a few new people have begun following the site recently, thanks to a couple articles that have been shared and re-shared across language-learning circles. If you’re a new reader, welcome! Second, I’m on vacation this week and don’t have time to write a…