Table of contents:

6 effective methods of learning foreign languages
6 effective methods of learning foreign languages

Compose funny stories, use matrices, and create fun games with your friends.

6 effective methods of learning foreign languages
6 effective methods of learning foreign languages

1. Nikolay Zamyatkin's method: we learn like children

Sounds promising, right? After all, the statement is widely known that new knowledge is given to children much easier than to adults. And besides, everyone was once children: each of us has a successful experience of learning at least one language - our mother tongue.

Nikolai Zamyatkin is a translator, teacher and linguist writer who has lived and worked in America for a long time. He wrote the book "You Can't Teach a Foreign Language", in which he described in detail his matrix method.

Matrix - because it is based on the so-called language matrices. These are short dialogues or monologues that contain frequent vocabulary and grammar. A total of 25-30 texts are required for 15-50 seconds.

The essence of the method is that you first need to listen to these texts many times, and then, copying the speaker, read them loudly and clearly until both of these processes become easy and natural. The brain and all the muscles involved in this get used to it, assimilate new sounds and images of letters. The meaning of words and grammar of matrices can be parsed in parallel, and in the process they are well remembered.

In addition, a study by scientists David Ostry and Sazzad Nasir shows that the longer and more clearly you speak and, accordingly, the more the vocal apparatus adapts to new sounds, the better you will recognize speech by ear.

What are the similarities with children? The fact that they learn the language in the following sequence: listening - hearing - analysis - imitation. They listen to adults, gradually begin to distinguish sounds and their combinations, and then try to copy them.

When the work with the matrices is completed, you can proceed to the second stage of the method - reading the literature.

You need to choose books that are voluminous and interesting and read them with minimal use of vocabulary.

Gradually, based on the material from the matrices, the context and the fact that words are often repeated, it is possible to understand and remember more and more vocabulary and grammatical structures, without memorizing anything on purpose. At the same time, there are always examples of how all this is used before your eyes.

It will also not be superfluous to listen to various audio recordings, podcasts, watch TV shows, series and films. In general, the more you immerse yourself in the language, the better.

Cons of the method:

  • Someone may find it extremely boring to rehear and reread the same dialogue over and over again. However, you should not immediately reject the method: it lays a solid foundation, and you will have to do this only at the beginning. In about a year, you can master the language to a degree sufficient for everyday communication, watching TV and reading.
  • Matrices must either be bought (from Zamyatkin himself), or time must be spent searching or creating them.

2. Ilya Frank's method: read and repeat

And we repeat again.

Ilya Frank is a teacher and philologist-Germanist. He offers books in which he first gives a text in the original language with a translation and an explanation of vocabulary and grammar in brackets, and then - his own, but without translation.

Those who are just starting to learn the language can first read, referring to the prompts, and then move on to the original. There is no need to memorize anything on purpose or watch one fragment over and over again - you just need to read the book from beginning to end.

As you progress, it becomes much easier than at the beginning. Words and grammar are often repeated, due to which they are remembered. This is often sorely lacking in curricula in schools and universities.

For complete immersion, you need to read quickly and often enough - this is very important for learning languages. You can do it wherever and whenever you want: even in transport, even in a comfortable chair at home.

Ilya Frank's method is not a stressful lesson with cramming, but a pleasant pastime with an interesting book.

It also provides visual examples of the use of words and grammar. And sometimes you come across very interesting elements that it would not even occur to you to look in a dictionary or somewhere else just like that.

Cons of the method:

  • It is not always possible to find a book that I would like to read, but it must be exactly interesting. At the same time, very few works have been adapted for some languages at all.
  • The method gives a passive vocabulary, so it can only be used as an addition to other methods of learning - you cannot fully master the language with it.
  • Some are too relaxed by the presence of a translation - they involuntarily look into it even when they do not need it. And this reduces the effect.

3. Mnemonics: fantasizing and writing stories

Mnemonics (from the Greek. Mnemonikon - the art of memorization) is a system of various techniques that facilitate memorization with the help of associations. The method of combining images for memorization has been used for a very long time - it is believed that the term "mnemonics" was introduced by Pythagoras.

There are so many ways to apply it - here are just a few examples. These can be any associations: auditory, visual, semantic, with words from the native language, and others.

For example, in Japanese, the word か ば ん is a bag, read like "boar". Everyone knows what it means in Russian. It remains to come up with a funny image:

Learning a foreign language is easier with a creative approach: the method of associations
Learning a foreign language is easier with a creative approach: the method of associations

Or English:

Be, bee, beer, bear - be, bee, beer, bear. Not only do these words sound similar: "bi", "biy", "bie", "bea" - I just want to sing. So you can also make up some silly sentence like "It's hard to be a bee that drinks beer and attacks bears."

The funnier and sillier it is, the easier it is to remember. The brain requires novelty!

You can make mini-stories inside one word: well, let's say, it's difficult for someone to remember the word butterfly - butterfly. Let it be something like "Oh, for me these flies (fly) - butterflies trampled on butter (butter)!".

Or even write poetry:

Came to us ghost-

Transparent the guest.

We drank tea, Then he had to go away.

Etc. You don't have to be a great writer or poet - you won't even have to show your works to anyone if there is no such desire. We have fun as you like!

Cons of the method:

  • Sometimes it is not so easy to come up with some kind of associations - sometimes it requires quite sophisticated efforts.
  • The association sometimes turns out to be too abstract or not bright and strong enough to be guaranteed to learn something: to remember it itself, not like a foreign word.
  • In long or too intricate associations, there is a risk of getting confused in the words that were used there. You can recall the main direction, but doubt what exactly the wording was. It is best to come up with the most clear, unambiguous options, but this can take time.
  • Not all associations can be represented in the form of an image, and words without a picture are less memorable.

4. The method of substituting letters: learning the alphabet without cramming

We take the text in our native language, and then gradually substitute the corresponding sounds from the foreign language into it - we add one more sound to each new paragraph. Memorization occurs through repetition.

For example, the Japanese alphabet:

A - あ

And - い

And so on, until you substitute all the sounds. This can be done with any language - this will help the replacement function in some text editor, which can speed up the process. We come up with offers ourselves or just take any that we like.

Letters should also be additionally prescribed: the more, the better - this is how motor memory develops.

Cons of the method:

  • There is not always time and effort to come up with a text on your own, but finding a suitable ready-made one is also not easy: the words in it must be chosen so that in each paragraph you often encounter not only a new sound, but also the previous ones.
  • It must be remembered that the sounds of the native language often do not coincide with the sounds of the foreign language. The method gives a certain association, but the correct pronunciation needs to be dealt with additionally.
  • This way you can only learn letters, not words.

5. The 90 Seconds Method: Concentrate

And we speak ordinary phrases as if we were addressing the Queen of England! Funny, isn't it? Actually, this is not necessary, but emotions will help you remember the material even better.

This method uses spaced repetition - returning to the material at regular intervals. The variant described here was developed and tested by Anton Brezhestovsky - bilingual, linguist and English teacher.

  • We write out the new word along with the sentence in which it was encountered (that is, in the context).
  • We somehow highlight it for ourselves (for example, with color or underlining).
  • For the first week, every day we read the sentence once or twice for 10 seconds.
  • Next week is a break.
  • We do one more approach: we repeat the sentence now three times within 10 seconds. One day is enough this time.
  • Then there is a break of two weeks.
  • The last approach: read the sentence three more times. This makes 90 seconds in total.

You don't need to make special efforts to memorize new words.

The most important thing in this method is complete concentration while reading. This is not a mechanical action: it is important to be well aware of the meaning and translation of the phrase. You need to read clearly and necessarily aloud - for the same reasons as in the Zamyatkin method.

Cons of the method:

  • In fact, it is not as easy to really concentrate as it seems: you can unconsciously begin to read purely mechanically. You have to go back all the time to the place where you lost concentration, and repeat again. This means that the execution time will increase.
  • In the language, there are also such elements for which the mentioned 90 seconds may not be enough simply because they are quite complex or simply cannot be given.
  • It is not immediately clear how many words and expressions should be learned at a time so that there is no overload.
  • It is not always possible to quickly determine whether you have really grasped the material already. Often this becomes clear only after a while, during which you do not pay attention to specific words.

6. Play methods: eliminate boredom

We have already said that one of the most important components of language learning is interest. This was insisted on by Jan Amos Komensky, a Czech teacher who laid the foundations of scientific pedagogy in the 17th century. In his Great Didactics, he was the first to clearly formulate the basic principles of teaching, on which many rely to this day.

In addition, during the game, you often need to give out information quickly, without hesitation - and this, according to the observations of Dr. Pimsler, is one of the strongest ways to intensify the assimilation of the material.

Here are just a few of the games you can use if you decide to learn a language with someone else.

Word game

  • You can, as usual, just name the words on the last letter of the previous ones.
  • Or, using flashcards with words, in a limited time describe to your opponent what you came across until he answers correctly, and then change. It is interesting to do this in teams: the one with the most guessed words wins.
  • This can be the well-known game of "Hangman", where you need to guess the word by one letter at a time until you are "hanged". Or "Crocodile" - everything needs to be shown in silence.

Composing stories

  • One participant composes the first sentence of the story. The second quickly comes up with another one. The third one continues and so on. You can also play together.
  • If there are many participants, it is better to start with one word, and each next player must name it plus a new one - which is associated with the first. The more people, the more difficult - after all, if there are, say, 20 people, then the latter will have to remember 20 words. Then you can go in a circle. This not only helps to learn the language, but also develops memory in general.
  • We take out a few cards with words and quickly come up with a story out of them.


Immediately we describe anything: the dignity of the interlocutor, the beauty of an object or place, our feelings at breakfast, and the like.

Cons of the method:

  • You can only learn a language this way with someone else, and finding suitable participants is sometimes a real problem. Someone is lazy, someone is busy, someone is not at a high level, or in general, there is simply no one around who knows the required language.
  • It is not always possible to preserve the atmosphere of the game: it is very easy to abandon the idea if it seems too difficult for some of the participants - you want to have fun, and not strain like in a lesson at school.
  • Not suitable for those who generally prefer to study alone.

A full-fledged language learning requires an integrated approach. You need to pay attention to speaking, and reading, and writing, and listening - all these aspects are inextricably linked and affect each other. Therefore, you can combine different methods, and also remember that immersion in the environment of the language that you are learning is very conducive to progress.

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