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.

Review of Pimsleur German – I, II & III

This is one of the reviews I was eager to do. Pimsleur is a very famous course, loved by some, hated by others. And, I finally tested it to see how Pimsleur works.

The course

The linguist Paul Pimsleur (1927-1976), based on his research on language learning, developed a method of organic learning that brings together three factors, these factors are: verbal intelligence, auditory ability and motivation. The result was the Pimsleur method.

The course is audio-based. There are 30 units per level, each of which lasts about 30 minutes. In addition to the regular lessons, they offer a booklet, the only written material of the course (accompanied, of course, by audio). Each of these small lessons lasts between 2 and 5 minutes, they help to improve pronunciation. In total, there are more than 53 hours of audio.

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Beginner’s mistake: in search of the Holy Grail

When we begin to study a new language, we make a lot of mistakes. Today, I will talk about one of the most common errors: the search for the perfect method/material.

The perfect material/method does not exist

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There are good and bad materials/methods. Some are better than others. Some will be better for you and your goals, but none is perfect. You will not learn a language well, using only one method. Of course, you can learn the general basis of a language from one method, but learning it well? I doubt it, and you should also be suspicious of any material or method that promises you a good level without effort and using only one material/method. Continue reading

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.

How to improve listening and reading at the same time – Part 2

Finally the second part of the post

Previously, I showed the most common ways to improve reading and listening at the same time. I’d rather hear natural dialogues than dialogues in language courses.
The way that is most effective for me is to extract the audio and dialogues from movies and TV shows.

First Step

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Dutch movies

Come As You Are – Hasta la Vista

The film is about the adventures of three friends: Philip (Robrecht Vanden Thoren) is quadriplegic, Lars (Gilles De Schrijver) is paraplegic and Jozef (Tom Audenaert) is blind. They want to go to a brothel in Spain to lose their virginity.


Lena (Emma Levie) is a chubby and depressed teenager. One day, by chance, she meets Daan (Niels Gomperts) that different from other guys treat her well and truly like her. Facing problems at home, Lena moves in with Daan and his father Tom (Jeroen Willems). However, Tom begins to feel an affection that is more than paternal by Lena.

Dusk – Schemer

The film tells the story of six friends. Jessie (Gaite Jansen) is one of them and always causes disagreements within the group. So, her friends led by Caesar (Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen) decide to kill her. The film is based on real events.

Boys – Jongens

Sieger (Gijs Blom) and his friend, Stef (Stijn Taverne), are chosen to join the relay race school team. They join two other boys, Marc (Ko Zandvliet) and Tom (Myron Wouts). A friendship grows between the four, but especially between Marc and Sieger. Gradually Sieger realizes he is attracted to Marc, but tries to suppress his feelings.


Borgman is a horror/thriller movie that depicts the changes within a bourgeois family, when a strange beggar knocks the door asking to taking a bath. Since then, strange events begin to occur and disrupt this family.

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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