Interview with Gabe Wyner from Fluent Forever

Today we are going to talk to Gabe Wyner from Fluent Forever about his app project.


1. Tell me a little about you.

I’m a 34-year-old author, living in Chicago with my wife and dog. I was born in Los Angeles and grew up as a nerdy kid obsessed with video games and science. I sang musical theater and classical music as a hobby, and in college, I got dual majors in opera and mechanical engineering. Eventually I decided to become an opera singer, and moved to Vienna, Austria to pursue masters degrees in that field.

I came into language learning because of my opera background; I was studying to become an opera singer and I needed to learn French, Italian, German and Russian for that reason. But engineering never left me. As much as I enjoyed singing, I was, and always will be an engineer at heart. I enjoy solving problems and looking for ways to maximize efficiency in everything I do. So as I started learning languages for my singing, I became obsessed with the process, looking for ways to make it go faster.

2. How did you learn languages?

Badly at first! 🙂 When I was a kid, I floundered for 7 years with Hebrew, then continued to flounder for 5.5 years with Russian. The first times I found any success were in strict immersion programs: I spent two summers learning German at the Middlebury immersion programs, and one summer over in Perugia, Italy to learn Italian. I came to my current methods while studying French; I started by learning pronunciation (for my opera degree), then used a Spaced Repetition System (the app ‘Anki’, to be specific) to teach myself the language, making flashcards that were 100% in French, with pictures. Using this method for 3 months, followed by a 2 month immersion, I ended up reaching C1 fluency in French in 5 months.

3. What is the difference between the Fluent Forever app and other flashcards apps like Anki or Memrise?

The Fluent Forever app is based on research about how we store information. It’s different from other methods in two central ways: it changes what you’re learning every day, and how you’re learning it.

In terms of what you’re learning, this app starts with training you in pronunciation, because if you can train your ears to hear your new language’s sounds, you’re going to have an easier time remembering words and grammar. Then it teaches the rest of your language without using translations: everything you see on a daily basis is exclusively in your target language, so you can focus on building fluency, rather than decoding skills.

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When to study grammar?

Those who follow my blog know I’m not a fan of studying grammar, but that does not mean that I ignore the grammar completely, I just don’t make it my priority, especially at the beginning stage.

When I think about grammar, I remember my English classes at school. I remember hating the classes and not learning anything. Twelve years of English classes and I was not able to speak it. For me, the explanation of this phenomenon so common around the world is simple: teaching methods based on grammar. A person can know all the grammar rules of a language and still not speak it. Unfortunately, this is the experience of several students around the globe.

After I started studying languages, I understood that grammar is not the first thing a student should learn, but the last one. For me, the first things that a language student must do is learn vocabulary, pronunciation and begin to understand the language. Only after that, he should start studying grammar. Of course, if you like grammar you can begin to study it before. I prefer to give priority at the beginning of the understanding of words and phrases (understand the context). Therefore, I usually choose courses that do not explain grammar explicitly or do not give priority to grammar, such as Assimil and Pimsleur. Continue reading

Resources for beginners in language learning

Learning a language is one of the most common resolutions in the beginning of the year. And, I always get emails from people asking for advice. To help these people to learn a language in 2016, here are the resources I recommend.


Aslogoassimilanimesimil is always the first course feature on my list; Assimil took the first place on my list after I finished the French course, see the review here. The course is simple; the lessons are short and progressive. Grammar is explained, but it is not the focus of the course and the vocabulary is fairly extensive.


All FSI courses are alike, but some are better than others. They are old, some more fitted to diplomatic situations. The courses are dense, sometimes difficult and boring. Take a look at my review of the FSI French course here and decide whether to use it or not. For me, is the perfect complement to Assimil. Here you can find the courses for free.

Grammar book

Grammar is part of a language, and to speak and write well you need to know at least the basics. There is a wide range of books; I made a post about the books that I know here. But don’t overdo it. One grammar book is often enough.

Language partner


There are several websites that offer linguistic exchanges. The most famous of them is italkiVladimir Skultety who was interviewed here, created another option the website SharedLingo.

Vocabulary & Writing

Use an application for learning vocabulary, as Duolingo, Anki or Memrise. Each has its own style and you can customize your own phrases with photos, audio, etc. Moreover, what about to train your new vocabulary writing a bit? Two good options are Lang-8 and again, Italki.

There are many more resources. But to get start and achieve a good level (B1, maybe B2) these resources are more than enough.

Interview with Gustavo from the site

gustavo olivaresToday’s guest is Gustavo Olivares from Chile. Coincidentally, we have all languages ​​ in common, but on different levels. He is the owner of the website, where he gives advice on how to learn languages.

  1. What languages do you speak and at what level?

Native Spanish, English B2, French C1, German B1, Portuguese B2. All languages ​​are certified, except Portuguese.

  1. How do you choose the languages you learn?

I learned my first language at school. Before the Internet, I learned by the old methods, i.e., for 14 years of primary and secondary education I had at least 8 hours a week of English classes. I learned by osmosis without any special effort: I just sat and learned. It was a very inefficient learning.

I also learned a little French. At that time in Chile, French was taught, differently from today. Back in college, I decided to improve my French and I began German. I decided to learn more languages ​​for two reasons: to have a professional advantage and to meet exchange students who came to my school during college days.

  1. When did you begin learning each language?

I learned English at school. The French I started again at the university along with German. I finally began Portuguese last year.

  1. How often do you use each language?

I use a lot of English because I read a lot online. Portuguese I use daily now because I have a Brazilian girlfriend. The French and German I should use on purpose to not forget them.

  1. What materials and methods do you use?

My method is explained on my page. It is basically a combination of websites, starting with Anki to learn vocabulary, after that I begin to read to follow with Duolingo and to watch TV series. And to improve my grammar I start writing in

  1. Share any thoughts/tips you’d like with the readers.

The most important thing is motivation. Enjoy the study. Do not think about studying for money, do it for yourself or to grow as a person. So they’ll gain a greater worldview. Seek someone to talk to and ask for help and visit pages from polyglots: we have already a proven method based on our own experience. Do not be discouraged: here tenacity is well rewarded.