What helps me to maintain my language learning goals

Motivation: connection with people

Learning from years of experience what got me going, I should continue to use low-entry apps such as Duolingo. It’s low effort to open the app or a browser tab, press D, hit enter and start a lesson in one of my target languages. That way I improve a bit, but not every day and the language and skills learned are not as natural as… yes, a natural conversation with real people. Cause that is a strong motivation for me to learn other languages.

Tandem – language exchange platform

So I can go to Tandem to have a natural conversation with real people, but the words are lacking. Back to study. I’ll start with some basic phrases, that I want to know in my target language and can use with any new person I meet on Tandem, on (polyglot) conferences or out in the real world in town or on trips abroad.

Basic and common phrases for any language

My personal goal is to learn over ten languages now, maybe dozens eventually. I suppose you are not that crazy, but my efforts and experience can still help you in multiple ways.

-You can use the common phrases that I’ll create in my many target languages. It’s based on my 30 years of learning other languages, 10 years working with different methods in language education and my creativity, especially for the common language that I’ll offer in story format.

-You can learn from my successfail experiences. It’s a term I coined for the combined experience of what we often call successful or fails, which I think can both be helpful for future learning.

Language Learning with Netflix

I’m learning languages in multiple ways, but doing so while watching my favourite series and video’s makes it a lot of fun. I love the options to optionally auto-pause after each spoken sentence, show two (target) language subtitle lines at the same time. I’m currently usinh it for Russian, Swedish, Italian, Spanish and French and can’t wait to practice other languages that I’m learning. Sometimes I’m doing it instead of language lessons if I’m bored. Then I’m letting it pause after each sentence so I can dig into known and new highlighted words at my level, which users can indicate. Thanks so much for making this app! Find it in the store to add it for free to Google Chrome.

Learning week 8


Today I’ve been very busy with work, but I decided to do two a couple of exercises to practice my Arabic, Russian, Chinese and Arabic learning on Duolingo. I didn’t feel much energy after a long day, but it made me keep my 19 day streak.


Again a very busy day, so it took a real effort to do my daily exercises after dinner. I just finished my lessons in four languages on Duolingo. I must admit that instead of Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Turkish as the past 19 days, I now replaced the last one for easier Swedish.

Concluding learning Week 7 – Day 5

Reaching my daily goal is not enough

Even though I promised myself to keep up the daily exercises in Chinese, Turkish, Arabic and Russian, I realize my progress is minimal. It’s good that I followed up on my daily goal, but while maintaining my daily learning, I way to rethink the most efficient way to improve all my skills in my target languages. But not after 11 pm on a Friday night!

Language learning week 7 day 3

Hello, Duo! To get me started today, I’ll let the green owl help me.

Diving into Arabic lessons

He is generous and he is your husband, Judy. هُوَّ كَريم وَهُوَّ زَوْجِك يا جودي. Also, it’s interesting to realize that before ever learning some Arabic, I wouldn’t even have known where these Arabic words ended, only knowing spaces between words in Latin, Greek and Cyrillic alphabets and Chinese characters. In fact, Arabic is just the same, but since all letters have four forms of writing them (at the beginning, middle and end of a word and separately) I wouldn’t have known that a word like  زَوْجِك in that sentence was just one word ‘husband’.

At this moment, I can’t picture yet when I’d be using such a sentence at any point in my life, but maybe Duo knows better.

Still, I’m pretty happy with my progress in Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Turkish the past two weeks!

moving on to Chinese

Ok, I already feel that this sentence is more useful:

His stomach hurts, I don’t know what he ate. 他的肚子很疼,我不知道他吃了什么。

Also, it’s interesting to look at this Chinese sentence order: He | possesive | stomache | very | painful, |I|not|know|he|eat|past tense|what.

What I like about Duo too is that you get listening practice. And you can replay the same audio a few times in order to understand the sentence. Try to challenge yourself by replaying it a few times at normal speed. Only if your target language or the new words in an exercise are too difficult, play the slower version.

Russian today

I’m using the on-screen keyboard as much as I can to better write Russian myself.

Last Duo exercise for now: Turkish

I just did one Turkish exercise today, to reach my daily goal, cause I need to do many things today.

Now it’s time to read today’s news and manage the translations to multiple languages on my self-study app!

Language Immersion Week 2

During my personal language immersion last week I learned some Swedish, Spanish and Chinese.

Learning Swedish by watching (SVT) news and TV series and (YouTube) videos

To practice some Swedish listening, I watched this video about Swedish exceptionalism and news episodes from Nyheter pa latt svenska, Nyheter Direkt and I downloaded the SVT Språkplay app to watch more serieson Swedish TV that have subtitles, which is very useful for Swedish learners.

Spanish Immersion

Being in Spain, I had many conversations with locals. How fun it must be to be called a local, like you are some touristic highlight. But the residents here who speak Spanish at a native level are one of the reasons why I’m here. Why not immerse myself with others, all on a safe distance of course? ☺ I try to have conversations to the max. So many times it’s not necessary at all to have an extra chat with the waiter at a coffee place, at the counter of a supermarket or store or engage in long-lasting conversations which might be the start of a new friendship. But they’re all good ways to freshen up my Spanish and to get to understand the lives of others here. So challenge yourself to speak your target language(s). When it doesn’t feel easy, it’s means you’re learning something. And not just to actively apply what you learned or learn some new words, but also to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, which will remove social barriers. That way you’ll feel closer to the people around you and feel more part of the culture of the language that you chose for some reason. It might feel uncomfortable, but you’ll get much out of it, if you try it. Even if it doesn’t appear to be the case at first. And eventually that skill will enable you to repeat that with other new languages later on.


For instance, in many shops run by Chinese people in Spain, I try to listen if I hear the people behind the counter speak Mandarin, one of the languages I’m currently learning. Then I put myself at social risk asking and ask the shop employee: 你是中国人吗?Are you Chinese? In my experience, they seem to like it me asking them that question, even though they don’t always expect a guiri to speak in a language other than Spanish or English. They always ask me if I’m learning Chinese. I always reply that I want to learn it, but that I don’t really speak it yet. That’s where the convo stops, at least in Mandarin. To many, that would be a reason to not even try. But my perspective is that it not only helps me to practice that sentence, but it opens up a need to study more, cause I want to be able to say more than those two lines and to not feel embarrassed. So I feel that putting myself in the awkward position of not being able to say more actually helps me to later on actually learn such a difficult language. They often ask me why I want to learn it and I answer that I like the challenge and love the characters. So I guess I can prepare for a short typical dialogue about that. Not cause I’d feel that I can speak Chinese, but cause it’s a necessary start, for me at least. I also got to know the perfectionist learner. They take lessons for ever, until they speak the language perfectly and they’re waiting for the moment that they will feel comfortable speaking, a moment I don’t believe that will come without practicing.

Language Immersion Day 7

08:00 De Moien hunn ech um Lëtzebuerger Radio nogelauschtert. = In the morning I listened to Luxembourgish radio.

09:00 Etterpå hørte jeg på radio i Norge. = After, I listened to Norwegian Radio: NRK Radio P1

10:00 Efteråt lyssnade jag på radio på svenska. = Then, I listened to the radio in Swedish.

11:00 Depois ouvi rádio em portugues.= After, I listened to (the) radio in Portuguese.

Language Immersion Day 6

08:00 Duolingo lessons Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Greek and Italian. Just those 5 today to reach my daily goal to maintain my streak.

09:00 Escoltava les notícies de la ràdio catalana.

10:00 J’ai ecouté radio Montpellier en francais sur radio.garden pendant une heur

11:00 Jeg hørte på radio i norge.

12:00 Durante el almuerzo he hablado en español.

13:00 Ho ascoltato radio in italiano.

14:00 Jag lyssnade på radio på svenska.

15:00 Später hörte ich deutschsprachiges Münchner Radio (an).