End of excuses! Let’s have a look at some awesome free language learning tools to get us all fast on the route to fluency.


Second week of my language challenge has been and gone. And so did the third.


How typical! First tree weeks of January are over and I have hit a plataeu.


When you hit the plataeu just find new motivation and push through


The fact that I am a language learning entusiast has not prevented me from losing my motivation and drive to push through the hardest bit of the challenge – the first 20 hours (watch this awesome video by Josh Kaufman on TEDx)

Last week I have mostly just pottered along following the previous week’s resources. There were quite a few days where I procrastinated with my German session to the point that I fell asleep before even starting.


Yup! Guilty as charged.


I have been hiding behind extra work load which I had to deal with. But, let’s be honest here, although I really did have a lot more work to do last two weeks, the matter of fact is that I was finding German hard and so I subconsciously avoided it wherever possible.


So in reality in last couple of weeks I have only managed to squeeze in mere 4 hours of learning.


Taking me to a grand total of 9 hours of learning in 21 days.


Pathetic, I know!


But I am not a quitter. I have a plan!


And I’m pulling out the big guns (such as Ice cream, pizza and chocolate). Reward for good work completed is always a good idea.


Now back to learning.


Since there is not a lot of proggres I could bubble about, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite free language learning tools and apps that help me skyrocket my learning right from the word go.




I have been singing praises for YouTube in my previous posts and I still maintain that YouTube is my number one “go to” resource whenever I want to learn just about anything.




Apart for YouTube, one of the fantastic free tools for language learning is Duolingo.


Awesome little app, that helps you to learn vocabulary, practice pronunciation and improve your listening skills at once.


You get all of that, and more in fun, engaging way.


It also keeps you accountable and allows you to create community in which you can learn and progress alongside of your friends. Heck, you can even compete against each other.


For those who already speak English, the selection of languages available for learning is quite extensive. For other languages, not so much but it keeps improving all the time.


You can install it to your phone, tablet or computer so that you can always spend those 5 minutes a day, getting closer to your dream.




There is also Memrise which is to a degree similar to Duolingo and is also quite fun and engaging.

Memrise is focusing mainly at vocabulary growth.


I personally like Duolingo a little bit more, but more tools means more learning and more learning means more fun.


iTranslate online dictionary


Another invaluable helper on my journey is iTanslate app. Clever little mobile app dictionary. The scale of languages is vast and the accuracy is astonishing.


I use the free version and am delighted with it. I believe there is an paid upgrade too which is add free and offers some advanced features, for those who just want that little bit more luxurious experience.


Children’s books


There is nothing that will beat a good book.


Of course good books in your target language are rather challenging bite to swallow, if you have only just started and are huffing and puffing over basic vocabulary.


So rather than starting with Shakespeare, I like to reach for nice and easy children’s books.


Whilst that is not necessarily my reading of choice for languages that I already know, it is an amazing tool to ease you into the language through a lot of repetitions.


Children’s books are structured in a way suitable for beginner and usually designed for native speakers to start learning their first few words and sentences.


I have written a whole article that I will publish soon. So keep your eyes out for it and have a read to find out more.


Extr@ TV show


Yet another cool resource is Extr@.


Extr@ is a little TV series, following group of friends through their everyday situations.


This is a great way to practice your listening skills as well as learn some everyday vocabulary. And it’s fun.


It is only available to a limited number of languages. I believe they are English, Spanish, German and French.


You can watch it on YouTube and even select the subtitle option which certainly helps at the very beginning.


Tandem mobile app


Major part of language learning is to actually speak the language.


My favourite tool for that is mobile app called Tandem.


This clever little app allows you to connect with native speakers and fellow learners all over the world and you can choose to chat, record messages or even have a video call with them.


It’s absolutely free as long as you are on WiFi and it is a great way to get you talking.


BBC Languages


Whenever I start to learn a new language, I inevitably bump into BBC Languages.


Here you can find anything from beginner’s lessons with most common phrases and vocabulary, games, native speaking TV’s and Radio and a lot more. That makesw it certainly a useful website to check out.


So those are just a few out of tons of free resources you can find on the internet. There us a lot more to be found yet. And I will be adding them along the way, so watch this space.



What are your favourite language learning resources?
Share your tips in comments bellow and don’t forget to share this article with your friends, if you think they find this useful.


100 hour language challenge – My week 1

The week 1 of my challenge is coming to an end and I am pleased to announce that I am making a nice progress.
I have started by setting my goal more clearly.

I can’t stress enough how important this is! Because, if you don’t know where you’re going, you may as well stay at home.

My plan for the next 100 hours of learning is to get good enough at German that I can hold a comfortable conversation with a native speaker for an hour or more. Easy! I hope πŸ™‚

I am not going to obsess with a grammar too much. With my previous experiences I found that learning grammar adds unnecessary stress and extra learning time at the beginning stage and in later stages of learning impacts my confidence in negative way.


I have learned 5 languages by learning to speak in words, simple sentences and eventually in more complicated structures on fluent level without ever opening a grammar book.


Is my grammar perfect? No! I honestly do not believe that my grammar is perfect even in my own mother tongue, which I have been practising daily for hours my whole life. But it’s good enough, to get my message across. In the case of English, good enough to even get me few compliments here and there, on how my grammar is better, than today’s native English speaking teenager’s grammar. Of course that may be a bit of a friendly exaggeration. Either way, I am quite happy with my English grammar level, considering that I have learned it mostly organically.


So now that is done, next step is to break apart my goal into bite size chunks.


It is only a week 1, so I am not going to try to eat an elephant in one sitting (not only because I am a vegetarian, it would also be too much to handle of course)


I’m not going to go about this scientifically. My bite size chunks are for the start going to be quite simple.
On Monday I looked at sounds and letters that are new to me.
Since I have already studied German in the past, this step was merely reminder and it did not take much time to refresh it.


There is only few sounds that are different from my native language and so one short video by Sunny Suphot on YouTube sorted that step out sufficiently. That video is quite cool. If you also want to have a go at German, this is a good place to get started.


For the rest of the week I focused on getting used to native speakers and the language again using my favourite tool – YouTube.


I have spent on average 30 minutes almost every day watching Peppa Pig in German.


I love Peppa Pig for language learning. It’s basic enough not to be scary and challenging enough to push me a little. Downside is the, sometimes quite annoying, pig grunting. But hey, that’s a small price to pay for such an awesome resource, right?


So what exactly I was doing?


I started with just plain watching. I usually watched few episodes and just took in the plot of each episode, without trying to focus too much on understanding the words. I’ve just let my brain to process what I saw.


I than watched the same episodes again at later time. This time I tried to focus on distinguishing the words from each other. At this point I was trying to notice words that I know or that sounded familiar.


I have also started noticing words that were used repeatedly or words that seemed to be direct reference to the item or action on the screen.


If I thought that I know what certain word means, I have looked it up in my translator (I love my iTranslate app for this. It’s free and quite versatile).
Often times I found that the meaning I assumed was correct or very close.


That is always a good thing πŸ˜‰


This technique is adaptation of the very basic language learning process that we’ve all used as kids to learn our mother tongue.
It gives you direct exposure to language in pure, uncomplicated form. For this stage I always choose preschool TV shows and programs.


With English and Spanish I had to go one step further and look up some videos that where very specifically designed to teach children few words such us days of the week or colours( video here), but it appears that my German vocabulary from my school days is not all gone, so I could step my game up a little.


What I found most challenging was the distinguishing all the words from each other. That was something that school had not prepared me for at all. All my exposure to German in school was done by either the teacher or my class mates. None of them were natives of course and their pronunciation was very different to the natives (including the teacher).


So at this point I have “cheated” a few times and looked up videos which offered subtitles/transcript option. That helped me to see the words written and to match them with the corresponding sound. I found that quite usefull on few occasions and it definitely helped me to speed up the process a bit.


I would have had to watch each episode few more times to reach the same level of ability to recognise all the different words without this tool.


I highly recommend this step and I will definitely use it in my future learning stages as I progress to more challenging videos.


There is also one more secret step which I used to accelerate the learning a bit.


I have played the same videos at night as I went to sleep.

I am not sure if this acctually does something but I like to believe that it helps the brain to get more target language exposure and therefore helps with the learning. It may be just a myth. I plan to do bit more research on it so watch this space.Β  Either way this is something I have always done and it definitely does not hurt.


I have also covered my room in “post it” stickers with the items names in German. That was fun project and I focussed on making them nice to engage as many parts of the brain as possible.


Most of my learning sessions were in the evening.
There are different schools of thought on what time of the day is best for learning.


In my opinion there is not just one correct way to approach this question.


The true is that we are all different. We all have different life rythm and body clock and we also all have different other commitments that we need to take care of during the day.


I work full time and am usually out and about from 7am to about 7pm. I am also not an early bird so idea of getting up earlier to learn German does not tempt me at all. For that reason most of my learning sessions were after dinner, just before I go to the bed. It became my little ritual.


One of the other challenges that I encountered in my week 1 was a motivation. I have found that I was more motivated to practice languages that I already do quite well at and I had to go an extra mile to motivate myself to give time to my German.


This is the way in which my brain complained about having to work harder. Of course it’s easy to do something that I am already good at.


So I had to push through my comfort zone quite a few times this week and stop myself from spending all my free time on practicing Spanish and Polish.


I remember having the same feelings of procrastination when I was starting with Spanish. So this time I was prepared and made sure I schedule specified time for my “new” language.


I know that my motivation will grow as I get better at it. For now I just have to keep on going even if I don’t quite feel like it.


What are your biggest obstacles and challenges in language learning?


Share your experience in the comments bellow and if you feel generous, you can drop in a tip on how you overcome it.


I look forward to read it πŸ˜‰


It’s a new year today and that is without a doubt a time to set some nice and useful new year’s resolutions. Mine for this year is to re-learn my German in my 100 hour language challenge.


Let me explain.
I have spent years!!! learning to speak German. I started learning at school when I was 9 years old and I passed my final exams when I was 18.


That is 9 years.


Nine long years of drilling vocabulary and grammar to the extend good enough to pass a series of tests over the years.
I didn’t do great at it either. I ended up with what mark 3 which would be equivalent of C in British system.
And be assured that I do not mean the elusive fluency CEFR C. At that time I had no clue about the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. I mean the basic Primary school marking of achievement.


If I did know about the CEFR, and took the test at the time of my final exam, I would have maybe just by the skin of my teeth reached to perhaps A2. And even that only if the examiner was an old creepy man with false teeth and side sweep and I gave him my cutest smile and a cheeky wink.


Yuck, what a thought!
Let’s forget about that (if I ever can)


The point I was trying to make is, that after 9 years of lessons 3x a week (which equals roughly to some 800 hours of learning without even including home works and home studying) I was left with very pathetic level of skill to show for it.


That’s sad, right?


So now is time to look back and see where it all went wrong.


And also NOW is the time to fix it and finally learn to speak German.


I have learned two other languages since leaving school. And I dare to say that I have learned them in far less than 800 hours.


How long it took me? I would lie if I tried to come up with number of hours.
However, now that I know that I can do it and also how, I can try to measure it too.


I have set myself a challenge.


I want to see if I can relearn German in 100 hours. Technically I should have a bit of an advantage of my past education.

Maybe once I start it will all come to me and I may reach my goal in a blink of an eye and it would not be a challenge at all.

Or maybe I find that my German education was as useless as it appears to be now and I will have to start right from the scratch.

Perhaps it will even slow me down.


I am curious to see.


One thing is for sure, this time I will use my own learning methods. The ones I used to successfully learn all 5 of the languages I can currently speak without even studying or ever trying to memorize a word.


In the process I will also look at other ways of learning. Ones, which the most skilled polyglots in the world use to learn languages in a matter of hours (you can read more about it in one of my favourite articles by Babbel, where 4 of the world’s best polyglots took a 1 hour language challenge)


I invite you to share my journey and learn with me (whatever language you wish to conquer)


My goal in those 100 hours is to get communication skills good enough to have a conversation in German with a native speaker.


I would appreciate your support tips and comments. I also hope that my story will help you on your own journey. So let’s get started with the challenge and have some fun.



I had the pleasure of spending over 3 weeks with a dear friend of mine, Lucy this summer.


Oh boy, I never realised what a “treat” I was in for. Lucy’s visit has opened my eyes in a very unexpected way when it comes to language education in schools.


Let me explain! Lucy is an English language teacher in a small primary school in the Czech Republic. She came to stay with me in England for few weeks to gain back her confidence and improve her language skills after nearly 5 and half years off work on maternity leave.


Prior to her visit I have arranged for my friends, acquaintances and clients to meet her and talk to her.
I have also found primarily speaking radio station ( you know, the one where they talk about books, politics, movies, plays and other stuff that I personally find mostly boring. But hey, they use nice and proper language and the use of slang or dialects is somewhat limited, so it was kind of fit for the purpose) and I’ve lined up a wide range of movies and programs of various levels of difficulty.


On the day Lucy arrived, I offered to speak only in English to her to allow her to get fully immersed and to get the most of her stay.


I figured, when you come to a country to practice language that would be exactly what you would want, right?


However she politely refused and stuck to our mother tongue – Czech.

Not a problem. There will be plenty of other opportunities for her to get immersed, I thought.


Well, as it turned out there was not. Or rather Lucy was reluctant to make the most of them.
She was shy and afraid of making mistakes.


Three weeks later she left for home and I was left bit unsure whether her visit actually made any difference to her English at all.


To be fair, she did get more confident and she had started to communicate more as the time progressed.

But was that enough for someone who was, upon her return home, to start teaching young minds their second language?


I was not convinced!


This experience had got me thinking and reflecting back on our conversations about the educational system and their approach to languages.


To cut the long story short, in Czech educational system, the main emphasis is on correct use of grammar. The vocabulary is second whilst listening and conversation in the language are often overlooked or there simply isn’t enough time to practice it.


so much to learn so little time

When Lucy was here, she struggled to understand native speakers, because she didn’t have a sufficient vocabulary and on top of that she was over-analysing their use of grammar.


She was certainly not afraid to tell them, if they have made a grammatical mistake and she was comfortable in explaining what mistake they made and how was the sentence supposed to be structured ( after all that is her job, right?)


She missed the point however. Whilst she analysed the sentence, she failed to understand its meaning. That, of course, then led to her inability to respond to it.


It took several grammatical imperfections from my native English speaking friends, for Lucy to finally realize that until she lets go of her quest for perfection, she will struggle to move forward.


However, that still left her in despair. Now she has to go home and teach young children language in accordance to national syllabus, whilst knowing that conversation and ability to understand are actually far superior to grammatical perfection.


Whilst her grammar was perfect (or close to it) she was not prepared to take a risk of making a mistake and speak.
What if she uses the wrong form of the word? Or incorrect ending? What if the succession of her words in sentence is wrong?

Would they lough? Would they judge her?


This is a teacher! If she is afraid to use her skill, how can we expect young kids to go on holiday abroad and perform a conversation in a language that they may have studied couple of times a week for year or two?


But they should! They should be able to speak, to get their point across, to ask for direction or order food in a restaurant.


This experience has prompted me to take action. To, at least, try to do something about it.

Would you guys please help me with it?


I would love to know your experience with learning languages in a school?
Were you able to go out and speak after few lessons or are you stuck with few random phrases and stillΒ  unable to understand, many years later?


What worked for you and what has put you off?


With your experiences, a bunch of case studies and a bit of research amongst my polyglot friends, I should hopefully be able to put together an appeal for the educational system to improve their way of teaching language ( perhaps not only in the Czech Republic but in other countries also)


Please go wild in comments bellow and ask your friends too. The more the merrier πŸ˜‰

And don’t forget to subscribe, so that I can keep you in the loop on the progress πŸ˜‰