Yo! After a 1.5+ year long nerve injury and the general life changes of graduating from college, I'm done with Powlyglot. If I find myself sharing my language experience in another format later on, I'll probably link to it here, on my personal site, or on Twitter at @mpvboehme. Thanks for reading.
Duolingo Review: The Green Owl Enters

Duolingo Review: The Green Owl Enters

Today I’m going to tell you about a great resource you can use to learn several languages – Duolingo.

Duolingo is a completely free website that you can use to learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or English (if you’re a Spanish/French/Portuguese/Italian speaker). It’s also one of my favorites out of the resources I’ve found so far, and not just because their mascot is a green owl (though that does help a bit…).

It’s also available for iOS and Android, and it’s updated frequently – in fact, I’ve had two languages get new lessons since I started using Duolingo just a few months ago.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

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4 Ways to Stay Motivated When Learning a Language

4 Ways to Stay Motivated When Learning a Language

Learning a language takes time, and with anything that takes time, sometimes you’re just not feeling it. Maybe you’ve hit a roadblock because of a concept you find difficult, or you’re simply bored – either way, you’re just not motivated.

I had this feeling most recently with Japanese. Schoolwork kept me from studying it very much for a couple weeks, so I lost my drive due to stagnation.

I knew that I wanted to learn Japanese – I just didn’t feel it. So I took a few measures to get myself back where I need to be.

Here are four things that helped me get back on track with my language studies.

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3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Language Class

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Language Class

At the end of this semester, I will have taken five years of language classes. One thing I’ve noticed in that time is that I’m handling these last couple of years far better than the first few.

When I stop to think about it, I think I can attribute my success now to three core things that I try to do with language classes now that I never did before. So let’s get to it.

Here are the three philosophies I try to follow now that keep me on top of my language studies in school.

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Stress-Free Memorization with Anki

Stress-Free Memorization with Anki

No-one likes studying. Well, I don’t, at least.

Among many other reasons, this is because it’s hard to optimize exactly what and when you should be reviewing, lest you end up simply wasting your time going over things you already know (and spending too little time on the things you don’t).

Luckily, science has thrown us a bone.

The spacing effect is the psychological phenomenon where we remember things better if we study them bit by bit over time instead of trying to cram everything into our heads all at once.

The spacing effect is an amazing tool for helping you memorize things, and as you may have noticed, language-learning involves a lot of memorization.

So how can we incorporate the spacing effect into our learning strategies?

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Spotify + TuneWiki for Listening Comprehension

Spotify + TuneWiki for Listening Comprehension

I love Spotify. I’ve been using it since it first came out in the U.S., and I’ve probably listened to more music since then than any time before.

It wasn’t until a few weeks into my use of Spotify that I thought to search for the only Spanish artist I knew at the time, Chenoa.

I was amazed when she was there, until I remembered that Spotify was in Europe long before it came over here – which had some pretty good implications for its foreign-language content.

Since then, I’ve expanded my knowledge of both Spanish and French music drastically. There are months where I’ve listened to Spanish and French music more than English music.

I thought I had hit the peak of Spotify’s usefulness toward my language-learning, but then, TuneWiki showed up – a Spotify app that scrolls through the lyrics to a song as it’s playing.

Suddenly, Spotify became a serious tool for working on my listening skills.

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6 Essential Skills for Language Learning

6 Essential Skills for Language Learning

Over the last few years, I’ve found there to be six major skill sets involved in learning a language – six distinct skill sets that you need to develop in order to best achieve fluency.

Why six?

Well, the first four are probably obvious to you, even if you don’t usually separate your language abilities into different parts – speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

The last two are pronunciation and memorization. These serve as a sort of backbone for everything else.

A problem that many people face is that they only work on a few of these, and then lose confidence when they fail at something they’ve never practiced. They’ve spent all of their time reading and writing (as is often the case in schools) and feel like they don’t know anything when they can’t hold a simple conversation. This can be devastating to your confidence, which is probably the single most important thing you need to learn a language.

They don’t realize that these are completely different skill sets. They need to be worked on specifically (but not necessarily separately) or you can’t possibly expect yourself to be good at them!

So, without further ado, here are my full explanations for each of the six, along with some tips to help you practice each.

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