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Language learning for the rest of us…

By Ben

We’ve just released our biggest ever range of new language courses!

I wanted to take a moment to explain what the courses are and why we’ve created them.

What are the courses?

The way we think about learning languages is heavily influenced by Stephen Krashen’s Natural Approach, Michael Lewis’s Lexical Approach, and other related research. Essentially what it boils down to is this:

“Communicative competence is not a matter of knowing rules, but a matter of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns” (Widdowson, 1989, if you like academic references).

Or, to paraphrase, learning a language is not about learning lots of grammar rules and then applying them to lots of words. In fact there’s a bunch of evidence that knowing grammar rules is absolutely no help at all in getting you to speak a new language. You get good at speaking by learning ‘chunks’ of the language – more than just single words – and by being exposed to enough natural language to spot the patterns in how to put those chunks together.

These courses are designed to help you do just that. They are lexical courses. They teach you useful chunks of language, and give you enough variety of examples to help you start to spot the patterns in how to use them.

Why have we made them?

The gulf between what is discovered by research and what happens in the classroom and in text books and apps is often a depressing one. More than twenty years ago Michael Lewis wrote that, “almost all applied linguistics and methodologists writing over the last thirty years have, as a key element of their proposals, tried to dethrone grammar from its central position, and de-emphasise it in the classroom.”

Personally I’ve always found learning grammar rules to be the least joyful part of learning new languages. It’s always been the part that has put me off, killed my motivation.

When I discovered that the academic world had been trying to “dethrone” grammar-led teaching for fifty years, I felt mixed emotions. I felt relieved that I wasn’t unusually stupid to find it difficult to learn languages that way. And I felt angry that I’d been made to spend so long trying!

These courses reflect our wish to correct that situation. They’ve been designed by our incredible team of linguists and second language acquisition experts to help me and other people like me to learn new languages without getting confused and losing motivation.

With these courses we can learn to communicate in a new language, and learn the grammar later!

So without further ado, here are the new courses… why not pick one and give it a try!

[note: for people who’ve been learning the previous “A1” and “A2” courses, the A1 course roughly equates to courses 1 – 3 of the new courses, and A2 equates to courses 4 – 5. The new courses are extensions and improvements of the old courses, transferred to the new database system. After finishing an old A1 course, if you move over to learning Course 4 in the new system, you’ll be in the right place!]