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.

Movies about Brazilian personalities – Part 2

For now, the last post on Brazilian films. This time we will get to know a capoeirista, a soccer player, a child actor, a revolutionary and an artist of the colonial era.

Besouro – The Assailant

In Bahia the black community continues to be treated as slaves and their traditions are not allowed, including the capoeira. The Master Alípio (Macalé) tries to keep the tradition alive and chooses Besouro (Ailton Carmo) as his successor. And Besouro, after the murder of Master Alípio, will follow the instructions of his master defending his people against prejudice.

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Multilingual Movies – Part 2

“Plurality of languages: […] It is crucial 1. that there are many languages and that they differ not only in vocabulary, but also in grammar, and so in mode of thought and 2. that all languages are learnable.”

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Languages: English, German, Hebrew, French and Latin

The film tells a part of the biography of the famous Jewish philosopher of German origin Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa). Established in the United States, she is already a respected intellectual when she offers to the New Yorker magazine to cover the trial of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann. She follows the trial in Israel and then publish five articles in the New Yorker. However, by putting the articles that there was collaboration of Jews in Nazi logistics, Arendt is heavily criticized, especially by the Jewish community.

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Duolingo Review

Duolingo is a free website/application for language learning. The idea of the creator of the site to make the website free was very creative. While the users are learning, they help doing translations and Duolingo customers pay for the service.

I joined the website in July 2012, when it was not yet as developed as today, and I ended up forgetting the method after a couple of weeks. I only used it again in mid-2013 when I downloaded the app on my phone. Since then, I began studying with some regularity with it until I completed the French “tree”.


How it works?

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Assimil Review

I can’t believe it, but I finished the Assimil Course New French with Ease and I’ll finally be able to do a complete review of the course.

How are the Assimil’s books?

The books of Assimil contain about 100 lessons. The method is designed to be used every day for about 30 minutes. All lessons include audio and text translation on the other side of the page; minor grammatical, phonetic and cultural explanations are at the foot of the page. The lessons that are exclusively grammatical are every seven lessons.


The waves

The Assimil courses are divided into two waves. The first phase is called passive, in this step; you only have to complete a lesson per day. The study in the first phase lasts about 20/30 minutes depending on the difficulty of the lesson. The second phase is called active and starts in lesson 50th, in this stage besides continuing to make a new lesson every day; we must go back to the first lessons and translate the text from your language to the target language. In this step, the time it takes to complete a lesson is between 30/50 minutes.

Instructions from Assimil and what I do

The book contains few instructions explain how should be used. Searching the internet, I found this blog post with full instructions. The instructions are for Dutch/English course.

1. Listen to the text with the book closed. It does not matter if you do not understand what is said. You will gain a general impression of the sounds, hearing the pronunciation without being influenced by the spelling.

I listen to the audio twice or thrice without reading the text. I think it’s important to check how much I did understand without reading.

2. Listen to the recording a second time while looking at the English translation.
3. Read the Dutch text aloud (with the aid of the phonetic transcription if necessary). Be sure you understand the meaning of each sentence, comparing it with the translation as required.

I do not follow the instructions 2 and 3.

4. Now read the Dutch text again, but this time without looking at the translation.

I read the original text, check and underline the words I don’t understand. I look the translation of words or phrases that I do not understand.

5. Listen to the recording twice, once while looking at the English translation, and once while looking at the Dutch text.

I listen to the audio only once while reading the original text.

6. Listen to the recording again with the book closed. At this point you should understand what is being said.

I don’t follow this instruction.

7. Listen to the recording once more. Stop the machine after each sentence, and try to repeat it aloud.

I listen to the recording and try to accompany the text reading aloud, or I repeat immediately after the audio (shadowing) without stopping the audio. I do this two or three times, until I feel that my pronunciation is correct.

8. Carefully read the comments several times. Examine the Dutch sentences being explained. These notes are very important.

I read the comments only once, usually when I’m between the instructions five or six. I underline what I think important. I only examine the phrase carefully when I think it’s necessary.

9. Read the exercises. Repeat each sentence several times. The exercises review material from the current lesson and from preceding lessons. If you have forgotten certain words, consult the English translation.

I accompany the audio exercises along with the steps in the texts. I.e., I repeat the exercises the same number of times that the lessons. The written part of the exercise is the end of my study and that is how I finish my day of study with Assimil.

10. Examine the examples of sentence structure. They show how words and phrases are combined in Dutch, which is not always the same as in English.


• I don’t study every day, it is difficult to maintain discipline.
• When I think I had not understood a previous lesson well, I review it before starting the new one.
• Sometimes, when I had time I reviewed the lessons just listening, or listening and reading, 20 to 30 lessons per time. By the way, I’ll never forget the first lesson.

– Pardon madame.  Où est le métro Saint-Michel?
– Le métro Saint-Michel?  Attendez une minute..
– Nous sommes au boulevard Saint-Michel.  La fontaine est là-bas.
– Oui, d’accord.  Mais où est le métro, s’il vous plaît?
– Mais bien sûr!  Voilà la Seine et voici le pont.
– C’est joli; mais s’il vous plaît..
– Ce n’est pas à gauche, alors c’est à droite.
– Voilà!  Le métro est à droite!
– Vous êtes sûre?
– No.  Je suis touriste aussi!


Voici le métro Saint Michel

Final review

The company says that the Assimil course will take the student from zero to a solid foundation in 6 months and that the student will feel comfortable with the language in just 3 months. When you finish the book you would be in B2 level.

My opinion is that three months using only Assimil, do not let the person comfortable with the language, but it can happen after six months. Despite being a great course, I don’t believe that is possible to reach the B2 level. When finishing the book, students will be between the A2 and B1 levels, depending on individual effort. The best part is that Assimil covers a large vocabulary in small time frame and it is varied. Each course has between 2,000 and 3,000 words. But to reach the B2 level one needs to know about 4000 words.

The texts are creative and the fact that after the 50th lesson he forces you to write is also positive. I would never attempt to rewrite the texts if wasn’t “mandatory” in the second phase.

The audio quality is very good and the pronunciation is quite clear. At first, they speak very slow to help in understanding, but they get gradually faster.

The Portuguese/French version on the official website: book + audio in MP3 cost € 65.90.

I used the English/French version (more lessons) on the official website: book + audio in MP3 cost € 65.90.

In Amazon the English/French version New French With Ease (Assimil Method Books – Book and CD Edition)) is cheaper. And the Portuguese / French version is not available.

Is it worth? Yes, the course has a good quality and if it’s made a commitment to always study you can reach B1 level.

French Movies – Part 2

Following the first part of the post, we will see more French movies, all kind of them: comedies, drama, romantic, horror and animation.

La Vie d’ Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2 – Blue Is the Warmest Color

The long (2h57m) and controversial film tells the story of the youth of Adèle, brilliantly played by Adèle Exarchopoulos. Adéle is a teenager who discovers her passion for a woman with blue hair Emma (Léa Seydoux), besides showing the development and growth of the relationship between the characters; the movie also shows the differences in upbringing and personality of women. The film is not just about the strong bond of love between two characters, but also about the process of maturation between the period of adolescence and adulthood.

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Using television to learn languages

I always say that one of the best ways to learn a language is to watch movies or television in the target language.

The main reason is the following:

It is natural!

One of the biggest flaws of the books made for learning languages is that the language is usually more formal and “arranged ” that the language of quotidian. Even books of slangs and swearwords are not very useful, because these words are out of context. Moreover, at least in Brazil, some curses can be addressed to someone in a positive context. Such subtlety of language will only be learned in context, i.e.: living in a country where they speak the language or seeing it happen through movies and television in general.

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Learn by Osmosis

Osmosis is a biological term, which describes “the tendency of a fluid, usually water, to pass through a semipermeable membrane into a solution where the solvent concentration is higher, thus equalizing the concentrations of materials on either side of the membrane”, this process do not require input of energy.

Osmosis it’s also a word used to describe a situation when you learn something without really seeking that knowledge. The gain of knowledge happens through assimilation, in a natural pace and without conscious effort.

In my opinion, it can be a quite efficient method. And why I think this? Continue reading

Study Methods for Foreign Language Learners – Part 3

Now let’s talk about the materials available for self-learners.



The complete course costs about US$ 200 and the basic one about US$ 30. Does worth the price? Well, if you’re a disciplined person, sure. Linguaphone method follows this simple methodology: to listen,to understand and to speak.

There is more than one type of course, and you should be aware of the differences.

The PDQ Course aims those people who want learn the basics, contains 4 CDs and the vocabulary guide.

The All Talk series contains 16 CDs and a small vocabulary guide. Aims people who doesn’t have regular time to study and affirm take the learner to the intermediate level.

The PDQ and AllTalk series are the cheaper, but I do not recommend them. The older versions would be a much better purchase, but they are a little bit hard to find. The series below are currently the best courses from Linguaphone:

The Complete CD Course and the 2nd Stage CD course; both courses claim take the student to the advanced/expert level. Besides the CDs they also have textbooks ad exercise books.

Positive aspects: you can study almost anywhere and covers multiple aspects of the language. The pronunciation is clear. Apparently, the older courses are better, so if you have the chance buy the books of the 50’s to 70’s.

Negative aspects: Learners describes that the new series like PDQ are for “tourist” type of student, as they not deepening in the main aspects of the language. Besides that, some students complain that isn’t an easy course for beginners and have a fast pace, with not enough repetition. It’s only available for the main languages. And the audio only courses aren’t good as the traditional material.


Teach Yourself series are available in several languages (60) and that is probably the series major quality. Compare to others methods it’s also cheaper, the price range between US$10-US$ 70, however some courses can be a little bit more expensive. Continue reading