Would you like to learn a Foreign Language? We at Focus Language make it feasible and enjoyable.

Easy to learn:

Many people believe that learning a new language is a difficult and boring task. We make it doable and fun for you. We provide you with the right teachers, the right materials and the right programs. We have thirty years experience helping people learn.

Fast:

We understand how to structure our programs so you can learn efficiently and fast. All you need to do is apply and enjoy yourself.

Cost-effective

We want to make it feasible for anyone to learn: students, business people, travelers, children. Our rates are always reasonable.

Customized programs:

We realize that everyone has different needs. We provide the right program, the right approach and the right schedule for you.

Excellence:

We constantly strive to find the best methods and the best resources to provide the best language programs possible. We also provide you with great support materials.

To set up a course:

Email us  at info@focuslanguage.com

*or Call anytime*

in Chicago: (630) 338 1144

in Phoenix: (602) 954 0465

The key to organizing your language study is to create a wide list of enjoyable and productive activities.

Cover all the bases: reading comprehension, oral comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, memorization, speaking practice, pronunciation.

Cover each of the bases at least 4 or 5 times a month.

If you do so, your knowledge of the foreign language will automatically and organically grow.

It does not matter which activities you engage in as long as they are:

1. productive

2. enjoyable

3. consistent through time

You can do a Google or Bing search for any of the activities which attract you.

For example: Spanish student podcast, French dual-text novels, German pronunciation exercises, Italian yoga videos etc.

Find a number (3-10) activities for each of the categories. You are not committed to any individual one. Only do what inspires you. Explore, switch, modify.

1. Reading comprehension

Novels, biographies, non-fiction books, short stories, websites, newspaper articles, comics, anime, children’s books, dual-text books, Lingq

2. Oral comprehension

Movies, podcasts, videos, language learning series, newscasts, Youtube videos, Yabla

3. Vocabulary

Anything you read, listen to or study

4. Grammar

Classic books, in-context learning, podcast series

5. Memorization

Flash cards, Anki, Mnemosyne, any electronic falsh card system

6. Speaking practice

Scenarios, spontaneous, grammar

7. Pronunciation

Reading out loud, shadowing exercise, classic exercises, anything you listen to, recording yourself for analysis.

Keep at it. Make sure that you get joy from whatever you do. Cover all the bases through time. Keep exploring and finding new activities and tools. You will grow and learn.

 

 

One of the most natural way to become fluent in a new language is to read. This is how I developed my fluency in English as a newly-arrived High School student. I used this method later with several other languages.

How do you organize yourself to sky-rocket your knowledge while enjoying yourself? Read!

There are 9 principles which will help a lot.

1. Read something which is somewhat appropriate for your level. You need to understand at least the basic gist of what is being said. Otherwise, you might become frustrated.  (I once tried to read “The Lord of The Rings” in Mandarin Chinese. It was so tough and time-consuming that I decided to stop. An hour or two per paragraph was not worth my time .)

2. Go for the basic meaning. To develop comprehension, it is far better to partially understand (40-60%) 1,000 sentences than to perfectly understand 75. This is a key point. Keep moving!

3. Use Google Translate to clarify and verify. Read a paragraph or two. If you understood – mostly – move on. If you are not sure, copy/paste, translate and see what you had missed. This saves you so much time! If you are using a paper book, have the English version available or use a dual-text edition. Do the same thing. This will keep it fun. This is far more efficient than using a dictionary.

4. Only take notes on things that are really important to you. Or, take no notes at all.

5. Learn grammar and vocab on the fly! If you keep reading a novel, the same words and constructions will keep popping up. You will “get” so much from context and repetition.

6. If you often get stuck on a particular point of grammar, research it enough that you understand how it works. (Or just extrapolate how it works from the translation – mostly –  and move on.)

7. Only read stories, articles and books which are truly interesting to you. Never force yourself. Let pleasure and excitement guide you.

8. If you can, re-read the chapters you have gone through. It will confirm and reinforce what you did.

9. If your head starts to smoke, take a break. Keep it fun! Always. Something challenging or very difficult can be fun, but make sure you don’t connect stress or obligation to your reading. Keep it light.

These are some useful principles to help guide you through your reading of the new language. Have fun with it. Your best friend here is Mostly.

 

Great pronunciation has many advantages for a language learner.

  1. It instantly creates rapport
  2. It makes you easy to understand
  3. It helps you understand others more easily
  4. You enjoy speaking the language much more

Here are 20 ways to improve your pronunciation. Use the ones you like in any order. Explore. Create new ones.

 

INITIALLY DEVELOPING GOOD PRONUNCIATION

  1. Get an overview of the whole system.
  2. Get the rules of pronunciation
  3. What sounds are mostly the same as in your own language?
  4. What are sounds that do not exist in your language?
  5. Find Youtube videos of people demonstrating the sound system
  6. Learn how to read the new language comfortably
  7. Listen to many recordings or watch videos neutrally. Do not analyze. Receive the sounds of the language as if you were listening to a song you like. (So! You’d better like the sound of the language you are learning.)
  8. Become curious. What do you hear, what do you see? What grabs your attention, pleases you, displeases you?

Once you have a basic feel AND/OR understanding of the pronunciation, you are ready to practice.

 

PRACTICING PRONUNCIATION SKILLS.

(Do some or all of the following as it suits you.)

  1. Listen to the language passively. Put on the radio while you are doing the dishes! The more you hear, the better. Soak your brain!
  2. Listen to the language. For short periods of time, concentrate as you listen. What do you hear? What are odd or interesting things you notice?
  3. Open your brain, open your ears. Imagine that you are alone in the Amazon jungle at night. How would you listen?
  4. Watch native speakers and see how they move their mouths: jaws, lips, tongue. Are they tight, loose, clear, mushy, hard, soft?
  5. Repeat, repeat and rinse. Spend as much time as you can imitating the words and music of the new language. Whenever you hear, repeat if you can.
  6. Practice the shadowing exercise. As you listen to a native recording, repeat everything you hear as well as you can. Keep going; don’t stop! Imitate the sounds, the music, the intonation. If you miss something let it go. Imitate, shadow! Do not concern yourself with the meaning at all. This is for sound. This exercise opens your ears.
  7. Read out loud. Take your time. Read slowly and comfortably. Read something you somewhat understand and enjoy (if you can).
  8. Read and focus on individual sounds
  9. Read and focus on individual words
  10. Read and focus on the flow of your sentences.
  11. Practice speaking. Simple practice conversations allow you to get comfortable with the feel of the language in your mouth. Speak slowly, stay relaxed, breathe and pronounce words as clearly as you can. Don’t worry about being perfect. Feel good.
  12. HAVE FUN WITH THE SOUNDS OF THE LANGUAGE.

If you keep listening to and practicing the pronunciation of a foreign language you are learning, you will gradually become better and better at it.

 

 

 

Here are 10 great ways to approach learning a foreign language. Use any or all of them to increase your efficiency.

Experiment with these approaches and adjust them as needed.

1. PRONUNCIATION

Pay massive attention to pronunciation of a new language. Learn how to read it as well as imitate native speakers.

Listen to the sounds. Listen to the flow. Listen to the music of the language.

Keep it fun.

2. FOCUS AND ATTENTION FOR MEMORIZATION

In order to memorize and remember new words and expressions, maximally focus your attention. Stay relaxed, keep your mind clear, and deeply focus on the new material.

3. SELF-TESTING FOR MEMORIZATION

Keep self-testing yourself. This is a vital way of keeping new material active. Every time you self-test, you strengthen your memory.

4. ENJOY YOUR OWN EXCELLENCE

Enjoy your own excellence. Be self-competitive. Enjoy the fact that you are challenging yourself and staying disciplined.

5. PRACTICAL GRAMMAR

Get grammar understanding as you go along and as needed. At some point you ask: “How do the verbs work?” “How do you make things plural?” If you enjoy grammar, go deeper. Otherwise, let your curiosity and need drive you as required.

6. IMAGINARY CONVERSATIONS

Imagine that you are having conversations with friendly native speakers. Practice, rehearse like an actor learning lines. Get comfortable. Stay playful.

7. PLAYING WITH NATIVES

If possible, playfully engage with natives. Do so when ordering food, or being in a store or at a social event. Make a simple fun connection and move on. It is enough to say hello and smile. You have just had a meaningful interaction in a new language.

8. MOVIES AND VIDEOS

Constantly watch movies and videos. Hear the language, the accent, the music. Feel the culture.

9. EXPLORE WEBSITES

Websites – containing things YOU are interested in – are a great place to expose yourself to the written and spoken language.

10. WORK AND HAVE FUN

Keep working daily if you can. Make sure you are having fun as much as possible. If you are bored, confused or stressed, take a break. Find out what you need to get back on track.

These simple recommendations can keep you on track. Enjoy your new language.

 

 

SELF-TESTING

Self-testing is the third key to efficient memorization of a new language.

Once you have created a clear image and association for a new word, the best way to hold it in memory is through frequent self-testing.

Write it, hear it, say it. Keep testing yourself.

FLASH CARDS

Flash cards are enormously useful: physical or electronic ones.

Always write complete sentences containing the word you want to remember.

It is much easier to remember something in context.

What is aragonite?

  1. a mineral consisting of calcium carbonate, typically occurring in white seashells and as colorless prisms in deposits in hot springs.
However you choose to sef-test, keep checking your new words and see if you remember them. Do this with a list, a card or a book you have studied.
READING
If you are learning vocab from a book you are reading, keep going over the section containing the new words. Focus on them, associate them for memorization and keep exposing yourself to them.
RECOMMENDATIONS
Very simply stated, if you want to improve your ability to memorize a foreign language, do three things:
1. Deeply focus on the material you want to remember, intensely for short periods of time.
2. Create interesting associations for the new material so that it “sticks”.
3. Keep testing yourself until the memory is clear and strong.

(How did we say “rainbow” in Hindi, and what was the French swan doing?)

 

THE MAGICAL ASSOCIATION TOOL

Clear and vivid associations are the key to remembering new words.

When you want to memorize something, the second step (after Focus) is ASSOCIATION.

We remember something we can relate to. If I give you the following numbers 22 45 71 90 11 14, you will not probably not remember them. If I tell you they are the password to a Swiss bank account in your name, your motivation will wildly increase.

The following technique is powerful. It is one of the most useful memorization tools available to you. It may seem trivial, but don’t let its simplicity fool you: it will make you a far more effective learner.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

When you look at a new word you want to remember, always ask these two questions.

Let’s say you want o remember the word “pingh” in Hindi. It means rainbow. Without association, you will probably forget it instantly. Your brain doesn’t care. Your pleasure drive is not triggered. Boring!

What does it sound like (and look like)? Ping pong? Ping golf clubs? Pinging a website?

1. Take the word you are learning (PINGH) and what it means in English.

2. Connect it with its meaning (RAINBOW) through an image or a story.

Imagine two ping pong players (or golfers). Each time one hits the ball, the ball makes an incredible, huge rainbow as it moves through the air.

Whether you care about this word or not, you now have a solid association that will help you remember it.

Make your image/story vivid, huge, crazy sexy, dramatic, colorful; in other words memorable.

This can be done in 5 seconds and will massively improve your memory potential for this word.

Sometimes there will be nothing that comes to mind. Checking a dictionary might give you some ideas.

The most important part of the word is the beginning. Make sure your association uses the first syllable.

Here are some more funny examples which show you how to do this process.

“Ringard” means “cheesy” in French. Imagine that a large bell rings every time the comic actor Jim carrey takes a step wearing a huge green and orange tie around his neck. Also, imagine him walking on a street made of cheese.

“Smierc” (accents missing) means death in Polish. It looks a bit like the word “smear” in English. The dead man is smeared all over the sidewalk!

“Cygne” is “swan” in French. There goes a swan. He stares at you and communicates using sign language.

THE KEY

Do this quickly, with a sense of humor. Use your imagination (or the dictionary). It can be done very quickly and will insure much better memorization

 

 

 

 

The faster you memorize, the faster you expand your vocabulary and your understanding of your new language.

There are three main pillars to the process of memorization.

1. FOCUS

2. ASSOCIATION

3. SELF-TESTING

 

1. FOCUS

Focus is vital. When you want to remember a word or a phrase, first focus all your attention on it: really look at it, listen to it, say it…consciously!

Notice the spelling, the length of the word. Notice anything unusual or interesting about it.

If you were learning the word “devastation”, for example, you could notice it has the word “vast” and the word “station” in it.

This will help you remember.

Learning the French word “lessive” (laundry) you might see the word “less” and a word resembling “sieve”.

We remember things which are interesting, memorable, odd, attractive or frightening. This is the principle behind television commercials.

By focusing intensively on what you want to learn, you guarantee you will remember more and for longer.

You want to display the new information on a huge 3D screen with the best sound system available. Multi-tasking on  a tiny screen on your phone while driving will not nearly work as well.

TIME AND TIMING OF YOUR FOCUS

The key point about focusing on new info you want to learn is that it be INTENSE. How long you focus is not important. Short powerful bursts for seconds at a time are vital. Long boring, droning, endless sessions are poison.

Time-boxing is a studying technique where you keep changing activities constantly. It is the opposite of time-blocking which keeps you tied to a single task until you are done.

So your memorizing focus is like a periscope that comes up when required. “Oh! A new word I really want to remember. Let me really look at it and listen to it. NOW! For 10 seconds!

Then move on. Staring at the page will only give you eye strain.

MOTIVATION

Motivation is an important part of what allows you to focus on anything. A car lover notices paint jobs and engines, a fashionista will see shoes and cloth.

Therefore, make sure that WHAT you are studying is interesting to you, personally.

Understand the power of Focus in your language learning and develop your memorization power.

 

 

 

 

 

Normally, when we speak about learning a language, we speak of discipline and efficiency.

Yet, a sense of Freedom and Joy are even more important to insure your success.

It is the same idea as when you are developing a fitness program. Finding a way to WANT to learn the language, and finding ways to make it deeply enjoyable, will help carry you through the months.

The beauty of the internet age for a language learner is that you have almost unlimited options for your studies. Whatever your personality, your schedule, your needs and desires, you can easily find countless materials to help you.

There is so much variety, that you never have to feel stuck or struggling.

Always remember that you are learning this language as a free and autonomous individual. The language exists to serve you, not the other way around.

Look for tools, materials, videos, podcasts, movies etc. This approach to learning will bring you joy. This joy will carry you through better than any guilt or sense of obligation.

Learning a new language is a lot of fun. As you explore, it is like discovering a new city in an exotic country. Things are different, but they have their own logic. There are many sights to see and many adventures to be had.

Therefore, as you begin or continue your journey in a new language, remember your freedom and joy. They are your greatest allies.

The most vital step in communication is understanding what someone else is saying to you.

The following questions approach how to foster this understanding.

  • How can you develop your comprehension of your new language?
  • What are the best activities to achieve this?
  • What tools and materials can you use?
  • What kind of program will most efficiently support this?
  • How can you keep this enjoyable and exciting?

 

Keep your ability to understand a language separate from your ability to speak it. They are not the same and they require different types of skills. Keep them compartmentalized. Understanding what is happening in a football game is not the same as being able to play in one.

 

Address the challenge of understanding first. The more you understand, the more comfortable you will be when you attempt to communicate. If you don’t understand, there will be zero possibility of communication.

 

HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR UNDERSTANDING?

You develop it through listening, reading and watching.

What allows you to understand when you read or listen?

VOCABULARY

The more words you know, the more you will be able to understand.

I see a ??? on the road.

I see a moose on the ???

I see a moose on the road.

(We will deal with memorization tools in a coming post.)

GRAMMAR

Knowing grammar makes your understanding much more accurate:

I eat an apple…I ate apples…… I will not eat an apple…I could eat an apple…I wanted to eat apple pie…you can’t eat an apple.

(Also a coming post)

 

A WIDE ARRAY OF MATERIALS

Have a wide array of materials available. Make sure they are enjoyable and attractive to you. Usefulness is in the eye and ear of the beholder/listener.

  1. Reading materials:

The key is always to find reading materials which are enjoyable to you and level appropriate

  • Books
  • Children’s books
  • Young adult books
  • Comic books and anime
  • Readers: books with edited stories and vocabulary notes (Used in intermediate college courses)
  • Websites (that appeal to you)
  • Blogs (that interest you)
  • Close-captions in movies. (In the foreign language)
  • Podcast transcripts

 

  1. Listening materials

Again, the key is always to find reading materials which are enjoyable to you and level appropriate

  • Podcasts
  • Radio
  • Books-on-tape

 

  1. Audio-visual materials

Doable and fun

  • Movies
  • Videos
  • Television programs
  • News programs
  • Variety shows
  • Talk shows

Once you have a variety of possible things to read, watch and listen to, begin to explore. Read or listen to each for a few minutes to see what works for you. The only rule is to find things which you are motivated to work with and learn from. If you don’t like it, throw it away. There are no “shoulds” here

 

Have fun and go on an exploration trip to find these materials. You are not committed to anything. You will keep the wheat and throw away the chaff.

 

In future posts we will talk about efficient and fun ways of developing grammar skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(This is the first in a series of posts meant to help you organize your own learning program)

 

WHAT IS THE PERFECT LANGUAGE ROUTINE?

The one that works for you through time.

How long, how often and what you do will vary from person to person and from time to time.

THE LANGUAGE DIET

You can think of a language program as a healthful diet which provides you with all the nutrients you need. What are the essential language foods which you must eat on a routine basis?

 

There are three essential elements (three main food groups):

  1. Input

Information you read, listen to or watch.

  1. Output

Your speaking and writing practice

  1. Memorization

Systems to help you remember information efficiently

 

Here are many of the types of activities which you can use to make sure you are consistently covering all three bases. (We will cover each of these activities in future posts.)

1    Reading

Books, magazines, websites, newspapers, articles, readers

2    Listening

Recordings, podcasts, radio, native speakers you meet

3   Memorizing systems

4   Watching and listening  (natural language)

programs, movies and videos

5   Speaking practice

6  Writing practice

7.  Language workbooks

8   Vocabulary development

9   Grammar development

10  Programs like www.duolingo.com

11  Programs like www.yabla.com

12  Studying language books

13  Studying recording programs

14 A skilled teacher can help you with each of the three areas

In the next post we will cover the activities related to input.