Memrise News & Events

Memrise wins Best App in the 2017 Google Play Awards

Memrise has been selected by Google as the overall Best App winner in the 2017 Google Play Awards!

The Awards celebrate achievements of the developer community across the globe over this past year, and  recognise the best apps and games covering twelve categories.  Selected by a panel of experts, the winners were evaluated on quality, innovation, and major launches or updates this past year.

2017-google-play-award

Among other notable achievements, over the past year, Memrise has integrated more than 20,000 native speaker videos into the app in a new “Meet the Natives” video game and a wealth of new content to be learned was released, now offering over 100 courses created by in-house language specialists.

You can download the Memrise app here.

#io17

Guest Post

Common Homophones in English That You Shouldn’t Confuse

Learning a new language is always tough, and one thing that makes matters even more complicated is homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same when pronounced, but have different meanings. They are often a source of confusion in the English language, and even native speakers make mistakes.

Struggling to distinguish between two or even more homophones? These tips can help you take control of this tricky English phenomenon:

  • Write down and create your own personal dictionary of the homophones you come across in your new language. That way, you will have access to them when in doubt.
  • Find online quizzes featuring homophones and test your knowledge on a regular basis.
  • Use flashcards! These are a fun and effective method to remember homophones. There are plenty of apps to use for that very purpose, such as Memrise.
  • Help yourself with mnemonic sentences such as: “We didn’t see the sea, but we did take a stroll through the city center.”
  • Associate each homophone with a color, an object, or something to set it apart. For example, beat of the drum, but also red beet.
  • Draw an image for each pair. Visual memory can be extremely powerful.
  • Identify the position in the sentence that each homophone tends to come in. If it’s a verb, such as break, it usually comes after a noun, but if it’s after “the”, it’s a noun, such as brake.

Let’s check some of the most common homophones, and how they’re used in a sentence:

 

ad/add

Ad is short for ‘advertisement’, while add can mean anything from calculating a sum to joining two or more elements together.

Example: They didn’t want to add the ad to their marketing campaign.

 

be/bee

Bee is an insect, to be is ‘to exist’.

Example: Instead of letting the bee be, he attacked it, and got stung.

 

bear/bare

Bear is either an animal or a verb meaning ‘to withstand’, and bare means ‘naked’, ‘basic’, or ‘to uncover’, if it’s a verb.

Example: The bear couldn’t bear the heat, so it hid bare inside the cave.

 

by/buy/bye

By is a preposition, buy means to purchase, and bye is greeting.

Example: I will stop by the produce section, and buy some tomatoes. OK, bye!

 

board/bored

Board can be a long, thin piece of wood, or to ‘get on’ a plane or ship, in case it’s a verb, while bored means ‘disinterested’ or ‘weary’.

Example: When you board the plane for a long flight, you get bored, because there is nothing to do.

 

blew/blue

Blew – past simple of ‘blow’, while blue is a color.

Example: That blue Ferrari blew right past us.

 

break/brake

Break means to destroy, brake means to stop (a car).

Example: He had to brake suddenly in order not to break the car.

 

dear/deer

Dear means loved, cherished, while a deer is an animal

Example: Dear, I photographed a deer today.

 

die/dye

To die means to ‘cease living’, while dye is related to painting something (hair) in a different color.

Example: I had to dye my hair, because the hairdresser did such a poor job, I thought I was going to die.

 

for/four

For is a preposition, four is a number.

Example: Name four reasons for leaving the country.

 

here/hear

Here refers to a location, while hear means ‘to perceive sound’.

Example: Hear me out before we get out of here.

 

hour/our

Hour is a time interval, while our is a possessive pronoun.

Example: Our hour has expired.

 

know/no

Know means ‘to be aware’, and no is a negation.

Example: No, I didn’t know that.

 

lie/lye

A lie is the opposite of truth, while lye is a synonym for caustic soda.

Example: Lye can be dangerous, and that’s not a lie.

 

male/mail

Male refers to gender, while mail refers to letters and messages.

Example: Every male is to be notified by mail.

 

made/maid

Made – past simple of make, maid is female servant.

Example: Our new maid made all the necessary changes.

 

meet/meat

Meet –  ‘to become acquainted’, meat – animal flesh

Example: Meet our new butcher, he’s going to prepare all the meat for the celebration.

 

piece/peace

Piece – part or a section, peace – state of tranquility or the opposite of war.

Example: They had to defend their country, piece by piece, in order to fight for peace.

 

right/write

Right – correct, or the opposite of left, write – to note down words on a piece of paper.

Example: If you do this right, I will write you a glowing recommendation.

 

see/sea

See – to perceive something visually, sea – an expanse of salt water.

Example: We couldn’t see the sea from our balcony.

 

sun/son

Sun – celestial body, son – male offspring.

Example: Son, don’t go out into the son, it’s too hot.

 

there/their

There – location, their – possessive pronoun.

Example: Their car wasn’t there.

 

too/two

too – also, two – number.

Example: They too brought two presents for me.

 

wait/weight

Wait – to postpone or delay, weight – body’s relative mass.

Example: Wait a bit before you start introducing more weight into your workouts.

 

wear/where

Wear –  to put on clothes, where – location.

Example: Where did you wear that outfit to?

 

week/weak

Week – seven days, weak – the opposite of strong.

Example: The performance was weak during their first week, but they gained momentum later.

 

would/wood

Would – past of will, wood – material.

Example: He would have ordered the best kind of wood, but the suppliers failed to deliver.

 

This list is a great place to start if you are serious about learning the ins and outs of the English language. Practice and you will master them in no time!


S. AndersonSophia Anderson is an English language tutor and a freelance writer at AU Essaysontime. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, self-improvement and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Talk to her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Feeling inspired to learn a language? Check out Memrise!

Memrise News & Events

Introducing Memrise’s Brand New Grammar Chats

Memrise is launching a brand new grammar chat mode. We chatted with Memrise’s very own Grammar Guru, Matilde Betti Canuti from the top-secret Language Learning Research Team. Matilde talked to us about grammar, and what it was like to invent a brand new mode.

On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about grammar?

Right, this is going to make me sound such a geek, isn’t it?! I’m gonna play it cool: 6… Ok, maybe 7.. Fine, fine 8… TEN!!

We recently interviewed some native speakers who couldn’t really explain the grammar in their native languages. Is it really that important to study grammar?

Ha! Seen that, and been there myself. It’s not easy to think about grammar in your native language(s). In fact, when we acquire languages as kids, no one really tells us when to use one verbal aspect instead of another, do they?  And if they do, it’s not the kind of thing that would stop you from communicating. You are already fluent in that language, after all.

There are some supercool phenomena that have been observed in the way bilingual children use code-mixing (aka the mixing of different languages within the same utterance). They’re so incredibly and effortlessly aware of the language systems they’re dealing with, they can blend them to overcome what would otherwise be a communicative hiccup without really ‘breaking any rules’ in either language.

Unfortunately, when you learn a second language later in your life, and especially when you can’t really immerse yourself in it, the path to get to that kind of deep understanding is much longer and harder. That’s why studying grammar is important! It gives you the superpowers you need in order to readily access streams of language and understand how a unit of sound represents different concepts in another language. I believe that many of those who decide to undertake the incredible journey of learning a new language want to not only be able to speak the language, but also crack the mysterious ways in which that language works. That is what learning grammar is, to me anyway.

What aspect of the grammar chats are you most looking forward to?

Oooh! Can I actually say that now? Well, to be honest I’m super excited about the whole concept in general. So many of our users have been asking for grammar for so long, I’m just so happy we can finally tell them we’ve specifically created something for them! And, let me tell you, it’s really cool! It’ll make you want to learn more and more grammar, it’ll open up worlds of knowledge that you’ll be amazed to discover! Understanding the grammar of one language can create a chain reaction that you wouldn’t expect! I’m sure you’ll end up learning something more about your native language too, and you’ll have the tools to crack the grammar of whatever language you next decide to study! And all this will happen with a smile on your face and a funky professor at your side. What more could you ask for?

What were the biggest challenges in putting together the chats?

What was Aladdin’s Genie’s phrase?! Ah yes: ‘Phenomenal cosmic powers! Itty bitty living space!’. I think that sums it up quite well, haha! It’s not easy to compress the grammar of a language into interactive, effective, bite-size chats. Also, finding ways of doing so that would be easily applicable to all the languages we have official courses for wasn’t a piece of cake either. But I’m pretty sure we have something high-potential here.

What’s next on the agenda for the top secret language research team?

Well, in terms of grammar we’re already prototyping further enhancements to the soon-to-be-out chats. Apart from grammar, well, I don’t even know where to start! Let’s just say the Research Team is about to embark in a 3-day intensive adventure to put all of our months of work together and create the first mini version of our new, enhanced, greased-lightning Memrise learning experience! There’s also been a rumour about a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway to test out the whole thing in July. We’ll see how that goes 😉


5E0A0921Ciao! I’m Matilde, I’m from a tiny tiny village in beautiful Tuscany called Cetona (check it out here). I studied Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh and decided to wander down south to big old London to see if I could be of any help here at Memrise. And, hey, turns out I could!

Now I work as a Learning Innovation Specialist for the greatest Research Team any language learning app has ever seen (no jokes). My role is specifically focused on Grammar and how to make it not only fun and enjoyable for anyone to study, but also an essential part of Memrise and its learning approach.

Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!

The Grammar chat mode is available to our Pro users in a number of our in-house created courses! 

Guest Post

How to use mnemonics to remember new vocabulary

No matter what language you’re learning you’re going to need words and lots of them!

But all too often it can feel like new words just go in one ear and out the other.

It’s easy to blame yourself or your memory for this, but in actual fact, it’s not your memory that’s letting you down.

You see, if you want to remember new words, reading and repeating them once or twice isn’t enough. You need to bring attention to them and create associations that will allow your brain to easily recall them when you need them.

The greater the association you can create between the words you want to learn and something you already know, the easier it’ll be to remember those words. That’s why using mnemonics is such a powerful way to learn new vocabulary.

What are mnemonics?

A mnemonic is a pattern, idea or association that you use to help you remember something.

There are two basic types of mnemonics that we can use in language learning.

  • Word Associations
  • Mnemonic images

And what better place to talk about mnemonics than on the Memrise blog! Memrise already incorporates mnemonics into its learning platform. You know those wacky images or sentences that sometimes appear when you start learning a new word in Memrise?

Those are mnemonics! Basically, mnemonics are connections you make that you can use to remember something.

Mnemonics work because the brain remembers things much more effectively when you bring attention to them and connect them with images and existing knowledge.

“As bad as we are at remembering names and phone numbers and word-for-word instructions from our colleagues, we have really exceptional visual and spatial memories.”

― Joshua Foer, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything’

In a nutshell, this means that if you can create a wacky image for a word you want to learn or if you can connect it with a piece of information you already know, you’re far more likely to remember it.


Memrise_santésantaHow can mnemonics help you learn a foreign language?

Take a look at the French example in the image above. On its own, the word santé isn’t particularly easy to remember. But when you connect it with an image of Santa and Rudolph kicking back with a couple of beers, it becomes practically impossible to forget!

Now all you have to do is recall that image of Santa saying santé and voilà, you’ve remembered the word!

Best of all, mnemonics can be used to help you remember many different elements of a language such as:

  •  The pronunciation and meaning of new vocabulary
  • The genders of words
  • Verb or case endings

Practical examples of mnemonics in language learning

Creating mnemonics for words you want to learn can be time-consuming at first, especially when creating images instead of just simple word associations. Just keep at it and you’ll find that you become faster at it the more you practice.

Let’s look at some practical examples to demonstrate how you might go about creating good mnemonic images.

Here’s a mnemonic I created to help me remember the Spanish phrase de pie, which means ‘standing’.

The first step is to listen to how the word is pronounced and see if the word or any parts of the word sound similar to words you know in your native language. You can start creating associations by linking these sounds to words you already know.

In this case, I although the pronunciation is different pie immediately reminds me of the English word ‘pie’. Who doesn’t love a good pie after all?! This is a great place for me to start my mnemonic because I can easily create an image from this word. Most of us can imagine a warm pie fresh out of the oven and the smell of gravy, pastry and fresh vegetables.

Next, I need to figure out to remember the preposition de. The first thing that came to mind for me was the name Denzel, and this makes me thing of the actor, Denzel Washington.

So now I have images for both parts of the phrase I want to learn: ‘Denzel Washington’ for de and a freshly baked pie for pie.

But what about the meaning of the phrase? So far, I’ve created an image that will definitely help me remember the phrase itself but how am I supposed to remember what it means?

The answer is that I need to add combine my images and add some action.

So, I picture Denzel Washington standing in a freshly baked pie. All I have to is picture him standing there to remember the meaning of the word. To make the image more graphic I might imagine the look on his face as he say’s ‘ugh, my feet are covered in gravy!’. This image is pretty wacky, but that’s a good thing! The crazier your image, the easier it will be for you to remember.

Using Mnemonics to learn grammar

As I already mentioned, you can use mnemonics to learn more than just individual words. You can also use them to memorise tricky grammar elements such as the genders of words.

If you’ve ever studied a Romance language like Spanish or French you’ve likely cursed word gender at some point or another! Well, not anymore.

A great way to remember the gender of words is to create a specific element which you can add to all your mnemonics to indicate whether the word is masculine or feminine.

I recently applied this to Russian while learning masculine and feminine case endings. Any mnemonic images I create for masculine endings feature John F. Kennedy, while any mnemonics for feminine words feature Marilyn Monroe.

The characters in my images will remind me of the gender and their actions will remind me of the word itself and its meaning and pronunciation.

So, for example, to remember the masculine pronoun ‘моему’ (mo-yemu)’ I created an image of JFK (masculine) riding an emu (-yemu) and shouting loudly ‘this is, eh, … my emu!’ in his New England accent.

моему.png

Crazy? Undoubtedly! But it’s also incredibly easy to remember and that’s what’s most important.

Applying this technique to your own learning

It’s very easy to apply these things techniques to your own learning right away. All you need are some new words to learn and a little imagination!

If you’re using Memrise, you can even add your mnemonics to the words you’re learning in the app or use mnemonics that other users have already created for these words.

At first, creating these images and associations will take time. Like any skill, you need to practice!

So don’t worry if at first, it takes you 5 minutes to come up with a mnemonic for each word. The more you do it, the easier it will become and soon you’ll be creating these associations in a matter of seconds.

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James Granahan is a language learning coach and blogger from Ireland. He’s fascinated by the mindset side of language learning and methods for learning more effectively. He loves learning about new cultures through their languages and is passionate about travel and history.

You can read more of his tips on memory and many other language learning topics at Lingua Materna . You can also find him on Facebook

Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!

 

Memrise News & Events

Take Part in Memrise’s Multilingual Flashmob!

Memrise is organising a multilingual flashmob on Sunday 21st May at King’s Cross Station in London. We spoke to Diana Olifirova, one of the chief organisers who will be filming the whole thing, to find out what to expect from the day, and how you can take part.

Join the event on Facebook!

What is a flashmob?

A flashmob is when a crowd of people come together in public and do something pretty random and spontaneous, like a dance or a song. The Memrise Multilingual Flashmob is our take on learning languages through movement. By collaborating with the I=U at Open Senses Festival, which is organised by people who are admirers of different cultures and diversity, we’re going to show how easy it is to use dance and music to learn to count from 1 to 8 in 8 different languages, really really quickly!

Will we be on TV?

Ha, it might be on TV but not just yet. On Sunday we’ll broadcast the whole thing on Facebook live, and after the event we’ll edit the videos and upload them to our Facebook and YouTube channels 🙂

Where do people need to be, at what time, and what do they need to bring?

Come to King’s Cross Station on Sunday at 12:30 pm. Meet us in the waiting area right next to the main ‘tickets’ office, across from Pret. You don’t need to bring anything specific, just a smile, a good mood and lots of energy. Oh, and bring your legs – you’ll need them to jump 😀

I won’t reveal exactly what we are going to do, but everything will be very easy and fun to follow and take part in.

We will be filming you, nicely, too! 🙂

Join the event on Facebook!


5E0A1425Diana Olifirova is Memrise’s very own filmmaker and editor. She hails from Kiev, Ukraine, and spends most of her time behind a camera. She was heavily involved in much of 2016’s highly successful Membus campaign, where she travelled Europe filming people talking in their own language.

When she’s not hanging out at Memrise HQ, she enjoys travelling, taking pictures, looking around, dancing, studying Japanese, and sleeping.

Guest Post

‘My First Polyglot Moment’

Jason Bechtel’s Travel Diaries of speaking Kazakh & Burmese

Tackling Kazakh

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 18.17.26I can tell you from a personal experience that two weeks is not enough to learn “traveler’s” Kazakh.  Presumably, someone who already speaks a Turkic language would have gotten a bit further than I had.  For me it was just enough time to learn “Hello” (salaamatsiz ba), a few other greetings, and the ability to make short declarative sentences like “That is a green tree.”

Luckily, I was not traveling to Kazakhstan (where Russian, which I also do not speak, is the lingua franca), but to Xinjiang, the far northwest province of China, where Mandarin is the official language.  Kazakh is spoken by over a million people in Xinjiang, mostly in the north, but Mandarin and Uyghur are the co-official languages.  My Mandarin had reached a passable level, which made the whole trip feasible for a solo traveler on a shoestring budget.

As a target language, Kazakh does not get as much love as some of the major tongues that surround it. But Memrise came to the rescue!

My log entries show that I went for about six days straight, pronouncing sounds I’d never encountered before, learning basic greetings, set phrases, checking my pronunciation, and acquiring the basic vocabulary I would need through Memrise.

I created a couple dozen mems in the process.  Here’s a fun one:  ““Why” (ү) is there “soil” (сүл) all over that “guy” (гі)? I’ll give him a towel.”  [сүлгі (sounds like /sool-gih/) = towel]

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 18.17.18

After day 6 my log entries are pretty sparse.  By the time I encountered my first Kazakh speaker, who would be my guide and host in the Kanas Nature Reserve, literally all I could remember was “Hello” and “That is a green tree.”

Thankfully she spoke Mandarin.  But I was embarrassed to say the least and I vowed that I wouldn’t let this happen again.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 18.17.33

Next quest: Burmese

Within a month I planned a trip to Myanmar (also known as Burma), and this time I had a whole six weeks before jetting off to learn Burmese!

Again, faced with learning a less popular language and being on a tight budget, I opted for whatever I could get my hands on free of charge. As it would happen, someone had already created a couple of courses on Memrise, complete with audio clips. Brilliant! Clearly the creator had put a lot of time and thought into creating this course. It was obviously made with a traveler in mind, keeping grammar to a minimum and using plenty of English loanwords in its example sentences. This gives the learner the sense that they’re making rapid progress and will be able to actually use the language in scenarios they’re likely to encounter.  

I used Memrise every day leading up to and throughout the first week of my trip… But as it turns out, I was not required to speak much Burmese in Burma. Almost everyone spoke to me in English. But finally there came a moment when I was able to use my fledgling Burmese…

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 18.17.46It was day ten of a packed itinerary. I was road-weary, nauseated, and trying to navigate my way to Pyin Oo Lwin, for which the advice was to catch a “car share” from Mandalay.  The minibus driver wanted to leave me behind at a bus station with a bunch of taxi drivers clamoring for me to hire them.

I told them, “bus ma lo jin ba deh; taxi ma lo jin ba deh” ((I) don’t want a bus; (I) don’t want a taxi.)  Just as I was about to give up and walk away, one of the other passengers, a very kind woman from Melbourne, tapped me on the shoulder and showed me on her phone where I could find the car share to Pyin Oo Lwin. We managed to communicate this to the driver and were on our way again.

As the minibus started moving, one of the Chinese travelers in the back of the bus asked me where I wanted to go. I told her “Pyin Oo Lwin” very carefully and clearly, but she still didn’t recognize the name of the place. I switched to Mandarin and explained that it was a place for relaxation about two hours northeast of Mandalay.

My First Polyglot Moment

A few minutes later a Brit sitting to my left asked me incredulously, “So, how many languages do you speak??”  It was the first time I’d ever been asked that after an impromptu language demonstration… my first “polyglot moment”.  I explained that I’d only learned survival Burmese for this trip, that my German was pretty rusty, and that I’d been living in China for a couple years.

Later, while winding up the steep road out of Mandalay, I was able to eavesdrop a little on a Burmese conversation, just enough to pick out some numbers and some grammatical markers, not even the gist. I fell asleep toward the end of the ride, but not before reviewing some more Burmese, still high on my little triumph.


my first Creative MorningsWhen he’s not living abroad or traveling, Jason calls San Diego, California home. He’s politically active around civil & human rights and border issues.  He does tech stuff, teaches English, and tutors various subjects.  He loves sampling diverse and creative food and beer, and is forever in search of the best fish tacos.  And, of course, he’s always practicing his languages, learning languages, and planning his next travel adventure.  Jason’s currently focusing on Latin American Spanish (his first Romance language!) and dabbling in American Sign Language (ASL).  He’s planning to learn Kumeyaay/Kumiai — the indigenous language of the San Diego & Tijuana area — so he can contribute to its revival efforts. 

You can find him at Motivated English:  and at his (very) new and slapdash YouTube channel, “Your Language Life“:  

Tweet at me @thelanguagelife

Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!

Guest Post

How to break through the intermediate plateau

Ah, the joy of learning a new language… Couldn’t it always be as exciting as those first weeks and months when you’re full of motivation?

At some point, your progress seems to come to a halt and you feel a bit lost and you struggle to know what to focus on next.

Welcome to the ‘Intermediate Plateau’. You can get by, but don’t feel like you’ve ‘mastered’ the language yet.

You won’t get stuck there, I’ll show you how to overcome it and reignite your language learning fire!

‘Vocab Expert Mindset’

To get back on track after the intermediate plateau, you need to shift your mindset:

Firstly: Get rid of that paralysing thought that you need to know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING to become fluent. Instead, aim for “serial fluency“.

Secondly: Stop thinking like a language hacker. Aim to be an ‘elegant speaker’ instead.

‘Serially Fluent’

In the early stages, your textbook holds you by the hand, teaches you the basics, and shows you what to learn next. But once you’ve finished it, you might feel like you’re on your own… even though there’s so much more to learn!

Don’t feel paralysed. Remember: you don’t need to know EVERYTHING in a language to be fluent.

You only need to be able to communicate in the situations that you’ll be in. Just like in your mother tongue!

I, for one, don’t know anything about aerospace engineering. I don’t just mean the theory and concepts behind it; I mean that I don’t know the right words and expressions to talk about it.

But does that mean that I’m not fluent in my mother tongue? Of course not!

I am fluent in the situations that I find myself in every day. Since I’m not responsible for launching rockets in my daily life (sorry to disappoint, 7-year-old me…), my lack of aerospace vocab doesn’t hinder me that much.

Many people forget this when it comes to the language they’re learning. They think they’re only fluent when they can talk about every topic under the sun.

But to make progress in the short term, you need to narrow down your definition of fluency.

So how do you do that?

Make a list of scenarios in which you want to be able to communicate. Then work on these until you can have fluent conversations about them.

This is the ‘serial fluency’ method, which I discovered while training to be an interpreter.

Firstly, I’d visualise the conversation and anticipate the kind of vocabulary that would come up.

Then I’d watch videos, read articles, listen to podcasts and make a glossary of key words and expressions.

Like this, I became an expert in the vocabulary needed to talk about them.

Time for elegance!

You reach a point in your language learning journey when learning more vocabulary will only get you so far.

To get to an advanced level, it’s not enough just to make yourself understood. You need to be more precise, more elegant, and more like a native speaker.

In the early stages you improvise, use words you know to describe ones you don’t and some body language. You get good at ‘getting by’. So good, that you can get stuck there forever.

Breaking through this plateau is not necessarily about learning more grammar or complex sentences. It’s really about learning to speak like native speakers do.

For example: after seven months living in Italy, I can get by in Italian. Recently, I went to a shop to buy some shoes. I pointed at a pair I liked and said:

“Voglio compare le scarpe” (I want to buy shoes).

“Le mie scarpe – misura 42.” (My shoes – size 42).

And: “Ha più piccolo?” (Do you have smaller?)

I walked out with the right shoes in the right size, but felt clumsy.

A few weeks later I went back to the store, and listened to an Italian guy buying shoes instead.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Boy, if I ever want to become a real Italian, I’ll need to become MUCH more passionate about buying shoes!
  2. Ok, on to the relevant stuff. They say ‘un paio di scarpe’ (a pair of shoes).
  3. The shop assistant asked “Che numero porta?” (literally: which number do you wear), and he answered “Il 42.” (THE 42).
  4. Instead of “Ha più piccolo?”. The Italian guy asked ‘Ha un numero in meno?” (Do you have one size smaller?).

See the difference?

These small phrases transform you from a clumsy ‘language hacker’ into a fluent, elegant speaker.

They give you confidence that you’re mastering the language, and not just getting by.

To escape the intermediate plateau, start looking for expressions and phrases in books, interviews, podcasts, everywhere. Look for nice phrases that you understand, but wouldn’t use yourself.

If you find yourself thinking “So that’s how you say that in this language!”, write it down and start using it.

THIS, together with striving to become ‘serially fluent’ in topics that matter to you, is how you take your target language to the next level.

Your Vocab Expert Game plan

  1. Think of every situation in which you can imagine yourself using your target language (holidays, restaurants, business meetings, etc.) Be specific, and make a list of 5-10 scenarios.
  2. Imagine yourself in each scenario one by one. Which words or expressions come up?
  3. Look up the vocabulary you identified in the previous step, and check some materials. Can you find a textbook, podcast, or blog post that will help you? (Tip: Reading Wikipedia will give you lots of valuable vocabulary!)
  4. Look for words, and especially particular ways of saying things that you understand but that have never used yourself.
  5. Learn this vocabulary (maybe with Memrise? ☺)
  6. Put what you’ve learned into practice! E.g. Write down a dialogue using the vocabulary you’ve learned or practise with your tandem partner or teacher.
  7. Once you feel that you’ve mastered the topic, move on to the next one.
  8. Whenever you’re using your target language and you come across a situation/topic that you didn’t prepare for, add it to the list and become a vocab expert in it!

Like that, you’ll crush the intermediate plateau…

Good luck!


Lukas - bio pic

Lukas van Vyve is a translator and language coach from Belgium, currently living in Italy. With actionable strategies and productivity hacks, he helps people around the world integrate language learning into their lifestyle so that they can get fluent as quickly as possible. Lukas started learning French at the age of 10 and was hooked ever since. He now speaks Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and recently started learning Russian. When he’s not learning languages, he enjoys travelling, playing volleyball and the guitar.

Visit his blog, The Polyglot Life for strategies and tips that take all the guesswork out of language learning! Also find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!