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Why studying grammar by hard is NOT the best way to learn a new language

grammar Mar 28, 2019

If accurate intuitions can be results of learning, although explicit understanding of why those intuitions are right is missing, what implications are there for education?

One way to acquire a skill is to know consciously how to do every step (=explicit approach). With time, the procedure is automated. For traditional education it is typical to make sure students have as much of an explicit understanding as possible. The resulting knowledge should be automatic at some point (=implicit). However, it mostly doesn’t get that far. Why? Because taking explicit knowledge to the subconscious is a long, difficult way. Compared to the process of explicit knowledge acquisition, with implicit learning, the acquired knowledge is unconscious from the start.

Approaching a task explicitly from the start is not always the best way in order to arrive at an explicit understanding. Moreover, there is even the question whether explicit knowledge is needed at all.

For example, what we require...

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Easy Language Learning by Vera F. Birkenbihl - The Decoding Method

birkenbihl Mar 28, 2019

Forget about cramming vocabulary: the best way to learn a language is by using decoding exercises. Translate a German sentence word-by-word into your native language – thus you will learn the word’s meaning as well as the language’s grammar.


Definition of Decoding

Decoding means to “decipher”. The native language serves as a supporting factor as we know it inside out. By translating a foreign text word-by-word into the native language, we learn to understand the foreign language.


Every word is being translated separately, which enables the language learner to easily learn:

  1. the word’s meanings
  2. the word’s using in context
  3. the language’s sentence structure
  4. the language’s grammar such as conjugation, tenses and prepositions
  5. the differences and similarities to our native language


How to decode a text?


On paper:

Write down on a piece of paper two to three sentences of your foreign text, preferably on A3...

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Learning is Fun - Learn a Language by Listening to Music

Uncategorized Jun 05, 2018

Mmmh mh mhhh mh laaa laa la mhh.... I’m driving in my car, and I’m humming my favourite song… I manage to sing the song’s refrain already after only two weeks in the charts – even with correct lyrics, that’s what I believe at least ;)

It would be so much fun to learn a foreign language with my favourite song. But how does it work best? I was wondering about that question, and I found a method which I enjoy and which is absolutely efficient at the same time: Decoding. I’m going to explain to you today how I use music to learn a language.


How to find music to learn

Which song do you prefer at the moment? My favourite song is currently “Colors” by Jason Derulo – by the way: it’s also the official FIFA World Cup song 2018. The song’s lyrics are easy to find on the internet – use Google for example. Choose a song in the language you want to learn. At songtext.com you can also search for the...

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Why We Need to Train Our Mind

Uncategorized Apr 03, 2018

The Swiss tennis star Roger Federer wins over and over again. Whenever a situation requires it, he is 100 % focused. Is it a coincidence? He shows, in any case, enormous mental strength. Nowadays mental training is gaining more and more attention in sports, economics as well as in daily life.

”We are what we think.” Buddha


Better results with mental training

In addition to cardio and technical exercise, athletes also train their mind. Mental training focuses on the ability to concentrate completely on your goal in any given situation. As a result, the best performances can be guaranteed. Another positive factor of mental training is being able to regain your motivation after bad results.

I’ve got experience in mental training too. My Japanese piano teacher asked me not only to practice the piano at home but to also do mental exercises. She told me to take my piano notes with me every single day and to think of the piece – the tone, the sound and also...

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7 Tips for Efficient Learning

efficient learning Mar 27, 2018

How to learn efficiently

7 simple tips for students and autodidacts


1. Be focused

An important factor of  learning efficiently is to concentrate completely on what you’re  doing. Every kind of distraction should be avoided. This is only possible if you’re consciously concentrating. Different sounds, radio broadcasting informative material, television, telephone calls as well as other interruptions are distracting. Even the environment can influence your concentration. Things to consider when arranging a room where learners and teachers feel comfortable can be found here: The perfect classroom.


2. Supply your body and brain with energy

Your brain has to be supplied with energy during the learning process. To do that, remember the following facts:

  • Well-working blood circulation is an advantage, which can be supported by regular physical exercise.
  • Your body needs time to recover. Enough sleep is therefore vital. 8 hours per day is the ideal amount...
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10 Reasons for DECODING, instead of cramming vocabulary

Uncategorized Feb 26, 2018

What does DECODING mean?

To decode means to “decipher”: a text is translated word for word into a foreign language. Then you can understand the meaning of every single word as well as the context. Example:

A French sentence has been translated word for word into English. Vera F. Birkenbihl drew attention to this language acquisition method decades ago. Back then, a text was strictly translated word for word – almost 1:1 to the word’s stem. Brain-friendly, however, worked on developing this method further. Today decoding has been adapted to the mother tongue, but to understand the meaning of the full sentence is most important, because our brain only memorises what has been understood.


What a decoded sentence looks like: 

J’ai                     été        à      l’école           en...

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Faster Language Learning

Learn a New Language in Six Weeks

There are a lot of long-term benefits that come with learning a new language. Multilingualism can be useful in one’s career, a forthcoming vacation, a semester abroad or a new love. For all these reasons, timing is essential. Many people want to learn as quickly as possible.

How Long Does It Take to Learn a New Language?

Different factors influence the speed of learning:

  • What languages do you currently speak? Is the new language like a language you know? For example: if you know Italian, you can learn Spanish in no time.
  • What is your reason for learning a new language? Is there a deadline motivating you?
  • What do you strive for? Would you like to learn the basics or of conversation business?
  • How do you prefer to learn? Learning a new language amongst native speakers is the easiest method, since you experience constant exposure.

Cramming vocab and reviewing grammar rules is the hardest and slowest method. You don’t learn the nuances,...

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Repeat It to Keep It: Third Time’s a Charm!

Repeating learning material is essential for retaining what you learned. Big surprise? Not really. Now, did you know that you should repeat every new topic at least three times for effective learning progress?

Within 20 minutes we forget 40% of what we learned. After another 40 minutes, we forget half of it. One day later, we will have lost more than 70%.

What’s left is the things that touch us or interest us most – the top 30%. Unfortunately, we need to know more than a third of a foreign language to be able to speak and understand it fluently, just as one must retain a certain amount to play a musical instrument or to pass an exam on school.

The percentages mentioned above were tested and proven by the German philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus (1859 – 1909). In an experiment, subjects examined a list of 15 fictitious syllables, such as NAK, DIB or DAF. At different points of time afterwards, he tested how much they could still remember und reproduce.

The result:...

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5 Exercises for Better Language Learning.


Would you like to learn a foreign language? These five exercises will boost your learning progress immediately!

TIP: Most exercises require a brain-friendly learning course. Fortunately, you can adjust the exercises a bit so that they fit in with other language learning material, as well.

No 1: Karaoke Exercise

Listen to a text passage on loop. Listen to the native speakers in the movie and read along the word-by-word translations in your native tongue. Concentrate on the second line only (the translations). The word pairs are highlighted in sync with the speakers – just like a karaoke player.

With this exercise, you will intuitively learn:

  • The meaning of the words (instead of cramming vocab)
  • The grammar of the foreign language (how to use words in context)

Repeat the text passage regularly until you understand approximately 85% of all words. Then, move on to the next passage/lesson.

No 2: Background Listening

With this exercise, you can start to speak the language...

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Be creative! Through ABC-lists

Uncategorized Feb 26, 2016

Vera F. Birkenbihl developed ABC lists. This creativity and thinking tool can be applied to all areas of life. Decades ago, Elizabeth Loftus found out that people remember information by listing them according to their first letter. This is the reason, why it’s easier for us to recall information by using ABC lists. 

To create an ABC list, you should start off writing down the topic, called the problem. You can do that by hand on a sheet of paper or electronically. Then you need to write down the alphabet vertically. There should be enough space to the right of the letters. Now you can start creating your list. Take about 2 – 3 minutes and write down everything that comes to your mind. You only need to comply with 3 simple rules.


The 3 rules

1. Run over the alphabet – up and down!

You don’t have to start at the top and go down all the way. In fact, this is counter-productive. Wherever some association pops up, write it down and move on. By moving...

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