It’s Not Just How You Learn, But What You Learn

If you’re a conscientious language student shopping around for a place to learn a new language, you’re probably interested in knowing how you’ll be taught. Is there a particular method? Are you going to be sitting around memorizing rules or are you actually going to be speaking? What is your time with the instructor going to be like, and are you getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to that time?

You definitely need to know how you’re going to learn to be sure that you’re putting your time and money in the right place. But don’t forget to ask about what you’ll learn.

You want to learn with good, practical, thoughtful, content.

Creating good language learning content is like walking a tightrope. It needs to be usable, useful, and user-friendly. (Yeah, I know, the three Us are a bit corny.)

Usable, because you want to learn things that you’ll actually want and need to say in your new language, whether you’re traveling or making new friends or impressing colleagues or just learning for fun. For instance, you’ll probably want to commit neurons to memorizing how to say door rather than gate or postern or portcullis.

Useful, because along with vocabulary, you’ll need to slowly and gradually learn the grammar that will help you make the most of that vocabulary. You probably want to be able to say and understand close the door before you bother with this door has never been closed. So a good language content creator will assemble the stuff that you’re learning in a way that lends itself easily to a practical and gradual understanding of the glue of the language.

And user-friendly because, depending on the language you’re learning, a simple expression like close the door probably involves more than meets the eye. It’s a command. Does the language have different types of commands for level of formality? Do you really need to be hit over the head with all of them at once or does it make sense to just learn one? Door is a direct object in close the door, and if grammatical case (the thing that’s being closed rather than the person that’s closing it) matters in your new language, how much of it do you need to know at this particular moment, and how much can be put off until later? Does mentioning it at all help you when you’re learning that expression, or is it unnecessary pain? And if you really do need to know it, can it be explained in plain, simple terms, connected to stuff you’re already familiar with, without resorting to a bunch of grammatical jargon that’s going to seem like a language inside of a language?

We know how to make language courses. Not just because we’ve created gobs of them for major publishers and language trainers, but also because we’ve been teachers and we’ve been students. We know what it’s like to teach well, and we know what it’s like to learn pleasantly and effectively. So we’ve walked that tightrope and created content that you can actually use, that’s optimized so that you can get the most mileage out of it, and that will not make you feel like you’re sitting in a high school classroom wishing you were somewhere far, far away.

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