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Click What you can expect if you are as good as (or better than) I was Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki..

(lr_for_grasshoppers, written by LG Maluszka Volte.)




Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

Faithfully Presented By



L-R: LISTENING-reading system learning foreign languages on your own.


Ad maiorem 愛子さま gloriam, pro publico bono, written and compiled by a non-native speaker of Plain Broken English, so bear, or should I say bare, with me.


The latest version here:


This mirror automatically updates every week from the users.bestweb.net site:


Anything written by myself is 19902013 Phi-Staszek aYa (and LG Maluszka Volte). All Rights Reserved.

Im against any commercial use of anything by my humble self. You can repost this document anywhere you feel like it.




Theres only one rule to rule them all:

There are no Rule(r)s.




A handful of rice and a little bit of tenderness.

Here you are:


The rule of thumb: if you read the explanations below (its the most important post, you can safely ignore the rest), experiment a little bit, and the advantages are not immediately obvious, L-R is not for you.

What really matters happens in your head, anyway. So how good/bad/fast/slow your progress will be has little to do with any methods or lack thereof.

L-R is meant for hard-core learners Awe Riders Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki..

(See What you can expect if you are as good as (or better than) I was. Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki..)


I don't intend to convince anybody to learn my way or any way at all. I only share my experience. And resources Ive posted plenty of parallel texts and other language learning materials in a variety of languages. Learners of Japanese might find some resources particularly useful.


It is a loose collection of posts I have written over the years (I publicly mentioned L-R in Russian on a Russian language forum in 2002), they are in no way exhaustive (they can be exhausting, though) nor systematic in any way, with plenty of unavoidable repetitions. You cant expect anything too coherent from language fora, their nature is frivolous and chatty. The passages are taken out of context, from larger threads, but its usually clear what they refer to. I added some hyperlinks. Tried to proofread everything, but it took too much time, so dont blame me. A number of posts are no longer on line.

Some posts are by people who tried to incorporate L-R into their own learning or voiced their OPINIONS.


The rest is up to you.


More systematically about L-R in Polish written in the beginning of the nineties for an extremely smart girl in her early teens:


If you don't know Polish, hak ci w smak. I dont see why we shouldnt be put at an equal disadvantage: I've learned English, you learn Polish.


Knowledge is holographic (a system a set of interdependent elements/subsystems), writing about it is linear step by step. Hence the necessity to read everything from the beginning to the end a few times to make the system clearly visible.





English is not my cup of tea at all. But somehow I manage to drink it now and Zen.

I dont believe in learning a little bit every day. I believe in learning a huge bit every minute.

Plenty of people can drive a car. L-R is Formula One.

Now you know what to expect.


Lesson one, find your own way by yourself.

Lesson two, shooting is a straight line.

(Gun Crazy Beyond The Law)



Of course, it's none of my business how you waste your own time, so let me waste my own time my own way.



I don't believe in any methods, I believe in common sense my common sense is rather uncommon, though.

I always look for a system, I try to find all interdependent elements in a given situation, and then charge at them accordingly. ASSAULT

My only rule is: there are no rule(r)s.




The most important things happen in your head.

Your emotions, your memories, the way you think, what you already know,

they are all holographic, everything happens at once.

You cannot show or describe how you really learn.

You can only write about some tricks or tools, and thats about it.




CONTENTS (click)

There are no Rule(r)s. 1

LISTENING-Reading in a teeny-weeny nutshell 4

If you want to learn a language quickly youll need. 4

Why I think the Three Steps are useful 7

What I do before I start L-R.. 10

How much time it takes. 10

ASSAULT = massive exposure in a short period of time. 10




Stairway to Heaven:... 14

Letters Dont Talk. 16

When to start speaking. 17

The key to L-R is sensory memory, 18

AWE. 19

About L-R.. 19

A method. 20

In praise of number 6 (and 9 if you look close enough). 20

What L-R is not. 21

What you can expect if you are as good as (or better than) I was. 21

Learn your own language properly. 22

Writing between the lines. 23

Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess. 23

Texts. 24


A language in a week. 28

L-R advantages. 29

What makes L-R different 29

How to improve L-R.. 30


About grammar 36


Skills: touch typing, kanji, mnemonics, and language learning. 40


L-R.. 41

Subtitled movies and L-R.. 43

The best way to learn. 44

Near native reading skills, but basic listening skills?. 45

The most difficult language in the world. 45

The best qualities a teacher can have?. 45

Why do people lie about being fluent?. 46

Japanese L-R An inexperienced learner A case study. 46

Who are you?. 55

Whats in a word?. 55

The trouble with language textbooks. 56

About audio playlists. 59

Grammar vs texts. 59

Thinking the most underrated language skill 60

Levels. 62

The same novel in every language. 63

Audiobooks readers/narrators. 64

What I would NEVER do and some people do. 66

Exposure comes before knowledge, not after (by doviende) 67

To know a language or its culture. 67

Barriers, stumbling blocks. 69

Simple and useful, to practise every day. 69

WHO.. 70

WHY.. 70

A final note. 70

Complete gratis legal LR material 71

Examples of literary texts for zero beginners. 71


Science is not about citations, fame, authority. 72

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. 73


L-R roundup thread by LG Maluszka Volte. 73

MarcoDiAngelo. 73

Japanese (plus some Mandarin and Korean) 74


Charlmartell (= leserables) My last post 2009 08 02. 74

Iversen on 04 July 2007. 75

minus273 La Belle Dame de LR.. 76

mjcdchess (The essence, the soul, the spirit of L-R aYa) 77

Adrean. 77

hypersport on 30 March 2009. 78

Vlad on 30 November 2007. 78

More opinions. 78

For anyone interested in multilingual language learning. 86

Some links about nothing in particular 87

A good thing. 87

I believe. 88




L-R is simply beautiful and beautifully simple.


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.


LISTENING-Reading in a teeny-weeny nutshell


Beauty is in the ear of the beholder, or, to put it bluntly, LISTEN (L2) and read (L1). (And use your second favourite organ your head.)

(L1 = your mother tongue, L2 = the language youre learning)


LOVE + LISTENING-Reading (incubation period and then natural listening) + PRONUNCIATION + Assault = reading + speaking + writing.


Use LONG novels right from the outset. If the languages are different the first three to five hours should be translated word for word. If they are related (or you already know quite a bit about L2), it is not necessary.


L-R is meant for AWE Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki. riders Im sure Im not the only one. (flow)


I mean, basically, there are only two skills to master: listening comprehension and pronunciation. Usually completely ignored, I must add. The rest (reading, speaking, writing) follows almost naturally with just tiny little bits of additional efforts. Yes, and thats true even or particularly so for languages with whimsical script (Chinese, Japanese L-R).


Learning a language HAPPENS on its own. All you need is personally relevant massive exposure. And... you must pay lovingly tender attention to whats happening before your ears and eyes. And in your soul love, joy, and soul shattering awe should be your guides.

If you try to conquer or annihilate (= memorize) a language, it will rebel your own brain doesnt like to be raped and turned into a slave.


Language is a system of interdependent elements: sounds (phonemes, tones, pitch accent, stress, rhythm, intonation), words (combinations of sounds that carry meaning), phrases and sentences (combinations of words), and texts (spoken and written, combinations of all the above). Only TEXTS carry personally relevant real life meanings and EMOTIONS Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki..


What you can expect if you are as good as (or better than) I was Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki..

Being intelligent enough is not enough you must be pretty enough.




If you want to learn a language quickly youll need

1. a recording performed by good actors or narrators in the language you want to learn

2. the original text (of the recording)

3. a translation into your own language or a language you understand

4. the text(s) should be long: novels are best


You may wonder: why long texts? Because of the IDIOLECT of the author; it manifests itself fully in the first tentwenty pages: it is very important in learning quickly without cramming.


The key factor in learning a language is EXPOSURE, that is how much NEW text you will be able to perceive in a unit of time. There is a physical limit here, you cant understand any faster than the text reaches your brain. That is why you ought to SIMULTANEOUSLY read the translation and listen to the original recording: that provides the fastest exposure.

You must ENJOY (AWE) the text you're going to listen to.


Texts for beginners should be long the longer the better, up to fifty hours or even more (e.g. Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Catch-22, À la recherche du temps perdu, A History of Western Philosophy, Europe: A History or some pulp-fiction The Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter).

(Some books I used.)


The translation:

a) interlinear, word for word (3 to 5 hours of audio) (for beginners)

b) literary, but following the original text as closely as possible

The original text and the literary translation should be placed in parallel vertical columns side by side.

Then you can check almost instantly whether you understand or not.


The order ought to be EXACTLY as follows:

What you do:

1. you read the translation

because you only remember well what you understand and what you feel is "yours" psychologically


2. you listen to the recording and look at the written text at the same time,

because the flow of speech has no boundaries between words and the written text does, you will be able to separate each word in the speech flow

and you will get used to the speed of talking of native speakers at first it seems incredibly fast


3. you look at the translation and listen to the text at the same time, from the beginning to the end of a story, usually three times is enough to understand almost everything

This is the most important thing in the method, it is right AT THIS POINT that proper learning takes place.

If youre in a position to do it right from the start, you can skip Step 1 and 2. (It takes some training, but after a while it becomes second nature.) (See The essence, the soul, the spirit of L-R as well.)


4. now you can concentrate on SPEAKING: you repeat after the recording (and recite), you do it as many times as necessary to become fluent

Of course, first you have to know how to pronounce the sounds of the language youre learning. How to teach yourself the correct PRONUNCIATION is a different matter, here I will only mention the importance of it.


(5.) you translate the text from your own language into the language youre learning, no need to translate everything, of course

you can do the translation both orally and in writing, thats why the written texts should be placed in vertical columns side by side: you can cover one side and check using the other one.


And last but not least: conversing is not learning, it is USING a language, you will NEVER be able to say more than you already know.

Ptaszek-Phi-Staszek aYa


No, L-R is NOT watching subtitled movies.

No, L-R is NOT Assimil and suchlike.

No, L-R is NOT just a harmless practical joke of mine it WORKS.



Of course, its just an outline, not the Bible, some food for thought, the rest depends on the learner, it is not a recipe for a happy marriage. Experiment and see what happens.

There are variations: you can skip Step 1 and/or Step 2 and go straight to Step 3. Or you can combine Step 1 and Step 2 and ignore Step 3. Or you can do Step 3 with an occasional look at the L2 text its possible if you have vertical parallel texts with matching small cells and you are a fast enough L1 reader. If you only have an L2 audio recording and L1 text (no L2 text), you could try Step 3 straight away you never know, it might work.

Plenty depends on what you already know, what tools you have, and how good an L1 reader/learner you are.

If you have a mouse-over pop-up dictionary (Lingvo 12), you can use it, too. (You need e-texts, of course.)


A Russian friend of mine, who only cared about reading novels (not interested in listening comprehension or speaking at all), did L1 listening while L2 reading. She used computer generated voices! Out of curiosity, I tried it, too you learn pretty fast to ignore the voices, you only concentrate on the meaning.

I also noticed, while copying cassettes with double speed, that if you have already listened to an L2 recording and understand it, you will be able to understand the accelerated version. It made me laugh. Later, I read somewhere that LG Maluszka Volte did it on purpose. Peoples inventiveness seems to be unlimited.


STEP 2 (this time: Listen to L1 and look at L1) can be done in L1 to teach small children (even babies) to read. See Glenn Doman, Janet Doman How To Teach Your Baby To Read (Silent Revolution). Heres the book in Polish.

It also marvelously works for school drop-outs who cannot read or can hardly read or have forgotten how to read.

In Ancient Israel children as small as two were taught how to read that way by their parents.





To put it in a nutshell:

Learning a language is all about EXPOSURE, that is how much NEW text you're able to understand in a unit of time (a minute multiplied by hours and days).

When you start at the beginner's level your exposure is almost none.


It does NOT matter whether you understand each single word, in the beginning concentrate on sentences. The more of them you will hear and see at the same time, the more exposure you will get. Let your brain do the rest.


The layout of the texts to learn is very important.

Sensory memories visual (iconic) and auditory (echoic) are very short and disappear within a second, so you get lost when you have to look for words, they should CONSTANTLY be within your eyes and ears reach.


If you want to maximize your EXPOSURE:

Use meaningful texts (not words, short sentences).

Use LONG texts with AUDIO.

By texts I mean TEXTS (a story, a joke, a newspaper article, a poem, a novel), not individual words or sentences or boring textbooks dialogues about nothing.


Don't try to speak (or write) too soon, it is much better to listen to more texts instead, listening comprehension should be the most important goal.

I concentrate on the meaning, I do not try to learn a particular language, what I am interested in is the story, not the language.

And don't do any tests, it is a complete waste of time and a source of appalling number of mistakes. Tests are good for teachers and publishers, not for learners.


Sooner or later you will feel you're ready to speak or write, it will come naturally, and it will be easy.

Ive NEVER learned how to write English, and I am able to put across almost anything I want, (making hell of a lot of mistakes, but who cares as long as the meaning is clear). You may not believe it, but I havent written anything in English for three years, and still I can manage.


ONE thing at a time.

Remember "The Last Samurai": "Too many minds: mind the sword, mind the people watch. No mind."



As to my English. I'm not a native speaker. I am aware I might sometimes sound too abrupt or patronizing. If so, please forgive me, it was not my intention.


Be happy, go lucky.

Miss Hopper




Why I think the Three Steps are useful



You read the story to make it yours psychologically.

I added: you must be passionately in love with the text youre going to study.

Imagine youre a biologist and youve been crossing frogs with snails and cloning sheep since you were in cradle its your life, you know hell of a lot about it, it makes you happy and you cant imagine your life without it. One day you discover theres a wonderful new theory on how sheep can be grown into lions. Unfortunately its in the clitty-titty language, and you dont know it. So you decide to learn the wonderful clitty-titty in a day or hang yourself.


Notice two points:

you know almost everything about the subject and youre in love with it.

The texts in clitty-titty will be self-explanatory and highly enjoyable, you wont get tired (on the contrary, youll get happier and happier) and youll guess the meaning of at least half of the sentences in clitty-titty.


And now another real life example: La principessa, a teenage girl, is in love with Harry Potter, shes been reading the books time and again and knows them by heart. She decides to become a witch herself: to go to Hoggwart, she must learn English in a week to prove shes worthy.

No problem, she has a magic wand: audiobooks of her prince (Harry Potter), but, unfortunately she has no English texts.

She listens to the books time and again, after a few times she can understand every single word.


Notice two points:

Harry Potter is her life, and the texts in English are self-explanatory.


Im sure you remember my own example: Kafka and Nabokov.


You might as well remember I say you can skip Step 1 and 2.

They are not absolutely necessary, though they might be useful.



You listen to the text in LSD2 and look at the written text in LSD2.

If youve ever tried to listen to native speakers of any language, you must have noticed that at first you do not know which groups of sounds form words and that they (speakers, not words) speak as if they were machine guns.

The aim of STEP 2 is to cure these two small drawbacks, and at the same time to get some exposure to meaning, sounds, rhythm, intonation in LSD2.

Whether you should go from the beginning to the end depends on two things:

1. how much you understand

2. if you already can recognize the boundaries between words and the speed is no longer frightening.

If you understand quite a lot (being a free person, you yourself must decide how much is enough for you), youd better go to the end.

If you dont understand anything new after the first ten to twenty pages but you can follow the written text easily and can spot the boundaries in the flow of speech, youd better stop and go to STEP 3. If the speed is still frightening you go on until it stops being so.


You might as well remember I say you can skip Step 1 and 2.

They are not absolutely necessary, though they might be useful.


((LSD1 = L1, a joke of mine, if you didnt guess))



Paradise proper, though it seems Hell at first.

Youre reading LSD1 and listening to LSD2.

If youre a fast enough reader you can read much faster than people speak, so youre able to know IN ADVANCE the meaning of what youre going to listen to, and to be in a position to guess at least some meaning (with a good translation almost everything) of what youre listening to.

How difficult the text for listening-reading should be depends entirely on you, you might start with something relatively simple.

Because of the IDIOLECT of the author the first 10-20 pages might be a nightmare for some, but then its getting easier and easier, the longer the text the easier it becomes, but its still the same IDIOLECT, variation after variation on the same theme, more and more celestial music.


If youre not capable of doing it without stopping the tape (audio file, tempora mutantur, there are no tapes any longer), you might decide to read a page (or a paragraph) and listen to the passage once or twice and go on.



And ultimately: NATURAL LISTENING understanding completely new texts without any crutches, you only rely on your ears and what you already know. It basically means you are able to understand NEW recorded texts (usually slightly simpler than the ones you have listened-read) without using any written texts, neither the original nor a translation and without having read them in L1 before.

I might add here: garbage in, garbage out.

When youve come to the stage of natural listening to fairly difficult novels, L-R is no longer necessary.

Listening-reading is for LEARNING a language. Natural listening means using and enjoying the language. Of course, after a while, L-R will be getting more and more natural because more and more passages will have become easy.



Acquiring ANY SKILL means going through an INCUBATION PERIOD, during which you get confused time and again at first.


I found out from my own experience and a few hundreds people studying on their own:

To get to the stage of NATURAL listening you have to do about 20 to 30 hours of listening-reading to NEW TEXTS with almost full understanding.

You might get down even to 10 hours, it mostly depends on the density (= new words per page) of the texts and how difficult a text you start with is.


Listening to a short text time and again does not mean new exposure, it is still the same mechanical repetition. It might have its merits as well: youre exposed to sounds, rhythm and intonation, but thats about it, nothing more.


NOTHING SHOULD EVER BE DONE AT THE EXPENSE OF EXPOSURE until you get to natural listening to difficult texts.


Some say listening comprehension is passive.

I couldnt agree less, it is the most difficult skill to acquire. On how you do it depends a great deal: pronunciation, speaking, and to a large extent reading and writing.


I might say: God DID know what s/he/they was/were doing when s/he/they told us to listen first and then learn how to speak, and much later to invent writing.

But we are clever enough to cheat on her/him/them and use writing to acquire listening skills as well.


When youve come to the stage of natural listening you might decide youd like to say something to your beloved.

And here theres one more minor obstacle to overcome: PRONUNCIATION (phonemes, stress, tones, pitch accent, rhythm, intonation).

It does matter whether you distinguish shit and sheet in English, or prosz and prosi in Polish, or bl and bleu in French and so on.

Its not difficult at all: right amount of listening-reading, natural listening and phonetic listening does the trick.



SPEAKING is easy: almost everything depends on the above. You might decide to repeat after the recording, after youve reached the stage of natural listening it should be very easy and done without any effort. It does not matter if you repeat each word, phrase or sentence.


While repeating after the recording (professional actors in fact) youd better not look at the written text, for two reasons:

1. interference of your mother tongue, particularly when LSD1 and LSD2 use the same alphabet

2. speaking means taking SOUNDS out of your brain, not reading aloud.

I might add here as well: taking part in a conversation means first of all being able to understand what is being said to you.




are in the texts,

why should you bother with lengthy and often wrong explanations?

When LSD1 and LSD2 are not closely related, say English and Japanese or to a lesser extent Polish and Japanese (Polish is much more complicated grammatically than English, though from the point of view of a Japanese person, they are two different dialects of the same language), you might want to read some basic information about LSD2.




When youve done the right amount of listening-reading with parallel texts, you dont have to learn the skill separately.

With languages using a different script, say Japanese for Indo-Europeans (us, unlucky bastards), listening-reading saves a lot of toil, thousands of hours compared with traditional methods using textbooks and flashcards.



on the wall

together we stand, divided we fall

After the right amount of exposure to complicated texts with full and beautiful DISCOURSE, a little bit of written retranslation from LSD2 to LSD1 should be enough.

You dont need to translate whole books, though, only the phrases or sentences you feel you wouldnt be able to say or write yourself.




Listening-reading is a SYSTEM (= a set of interdependent elements that mean something as a whole, in opposition to each other in the set, not separately). If you skip or omit one element, the structure crumbles.


Let me be stubborn once more.

Listening-reading is a system and thats its only advantage. Not its particular components, not even STEP 3, or ALE as it was renamed by a guy who has his family to feed (I hope they are not hungry like some poor bastards in Darfur or Palestine).

((I meant Steve Kaufmann https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqVhgSvwWYk http://www.lingq.com/))


You can incorporate SOME elements into your own learning, but to exploit L-R to the maximum it is much better to use it as a whole. Thats what I mean by L-R.




What I do before I start L-R

1. I gather materials: audiobooks, etexts, pronunciation courses, computer dictionaries with audio, mouse-over pop-up dictionaries, reference grammars with audio.

2. I read about L2 culture: literature, history, geography, and movies. I read translated books and watch subtitled movies, I listen to songs.

3. I study pronunciation very carefully recognition stage only, I don't produce anything until I reach natural listening.

4. Grammar overview I read two or three grammar handbooks, study grammar tables, sentence patterns. I don't do any exercises, I want to have a general idea about the language. I often make my own cheat sheets and print them to have them handy for quick reference. All the necessary info usually boils down to two or three pages plus some tables.


A general remark:

If you want to do something fast and well, you must have enough materials and all the necessary tools, otherwise it is not worth beginning.

On the other had, if you can wait and you are sure you really want to achieve it, you can begin anytime with whatever you have.



How much time it takes

1. Ninety seconds a minute.

2. Everything youve done or havent done ever since you were born influences how enjoyable or miserable, fast or painfully slow your learning will be.

If you have hardly ever set your own goals, if you have hardly ever learnt anything on your own, if you have never read a novel worth reading, if you cannot tell your verbs from your adjectives, your vowels from your consonants, if you dont get enough sleep regularly, if you think your time is to fritter away and kill mercilessly, you cant expect miracles.


What you can expect if you are as good as (or better than) I was Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run.

Rudyard Kipling

Being intelligent enough is not enough you must be pretty enough.



ASSAULT = massive exposure in a short period of time


The curves of learning and forgetting and overlearning.

Any decent textbook on general psychology begs you to be read.


I don't believe in learning a little bit every day. I believe in learning a huge bit every minute. That's why when I do decide to learn a new language, I do it for 12-15 hours a day for a week or three, and then I'm able to use the language. I use my old languages to learn a new one, usually through multilingual L-R.

See AWE as well.


It might sound strange but the ASSAULT (massive exposure for hours on end) is a reward for good life.

Do you love what youre doing?

Have you ever read books for hours, days or weeks on end with constant joy and wonder?

Do you get enough sleep?


Never underestimate the power of a fraction of a second.




If you still wonder why long texts are so important, I'm sure you haven't read anything about idiolect, text statistics, discourse analysis or the curves of learning and forgetting, and overlearning.


If you don't have parallel texts, do the following:

1. read a page (or a paragraph) in L1

2. listen and look at the text in L2, trying to attach some meaning to it

3. listen and look at the text in L1, trying to attach some meaning to what you're hearing.


If you don't have the written text in L2, skip step 2, try to do Step 3 from the beginning to the end, but perhaps more times.




Acquiring L2 skills:

(L1 native language, L2 language youre learning)


0. Awareness: L1, L2, L1↔L2

1. Perception: partial full

2. Recognition: partial full

3. Reproduction: partial full

4. Production: partial full

5. (0 4) COMMUNICATION (two is company, three is a crowd)


Yes, zero awareness, and not even knowing how to count to 5.



Vanitys French bootcamp


vanityx3 wrote:

Alright, so today I listened to the first 7 chapters of Le rêve, which took about 4 hours. I took no breaks and I read along in English.


Something strange I've noticed. I'm starting to think in French, but it is just random non-sense. It will be lots of words, but it is like a noun here a verb there, past participle here, no sentence just random words. Maybe this is the first stage of thinking in French subconsciously, I don't know. I've never experienced this before.


That's exactly what happens in the incubation period. If you go on L-Reading intensively, full sentences will start to pop-up sooner rather than later. The brain is finding its way through the maze and building up a coherent system.







If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run.

Rudyard Kipling


1 000 000 your lifetime (hours), if you're extremely lucky


doing nothing:


   TV, Internet, computer games, gossiping, etc

sensory memory:

   iconic (approximately 0.3 seconds)

   echoic (up to 2 seconds)




= the best possible results in the shortest period of time with minimum effort in the most enjoyable way

1. goals (yourself, somebody else forces you, primum non nocere, illusions, an ideal, advanced organizer*)

2. tools (yourself: love, thinking, skills; time, materials, methods, friends, institutions)

3. control (yourself, external)


*advanced organizer things that should be done before (or sometimes concurrently) you start achieving your goal




= putting something new into your brain

sensory memory






   general (what and how)

   detailed: L1, L2, L1<->L2


   phonematic (minimal pairs)

   phonetic (rhythm, intonation, stress, pitch accent, tones, colloquial contractions, etc)

L-R (concurrent advanced organizer; listening to personally relevant meaning)

The Base (tongue and lips movements)




Sounds<->letters (letters, kanji, hanzi, etc)




Emotions (engine): love, joy, soul shattering awe Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki. (flow)

Long texts (novels) emotions, personally relevant meaning, non-mechanical repetition


   L-R (read L1 listen L2)

      incubation period

      natural listening



advanced organizer: L-R, natural listening, pronunciation

   speaking (repeating after the recording, recitation)



L-R is (theoretically and practically) the quickest way of delivering personally relevant input into your brain through sensory memory.






     Knowing what

     Knowing how

   Setting goals



   Gathering materials

   Time (Have you lived a million hours?)

   Language skills in your mother tongue


LEARNING (= putting into your head)


      incubation period

     natural listening


       phonetic listening


        repeating after the reader







        reading proper



       writing proper





        listening skills


        pragmatic skills





   good for nothing

        its for teachers to make you believe they are necessary and they know better

        its for publishers to trick you into buying their books

        its for school authorities and politicians to make a living and control you, and tell you what you should do and fear them







inventory of the phonemes* of your mother tongue

movements of the lips and tongue to produce the phonemes


*phonemes sounds that differentiate the meaning of words in a given language. Each language has its own set of phonemes, they are never the same as phonemes in even closely related languages. 99% of learners use L1 phonemes in L2, they are not aware of the difference.


inventory of the phonemes of the target language

phonematic listening: minimal pairs*, tones, pitch accent

phonetic listening: stress, rhythm, intonation


*a minimal pair two words with one sound different, eg (British Received Pronunciation): bit-pit, bit-beat, pit-pat; or Polish: lec-le, pasek-piasek, kasza-Kasia-kasa


careful comparison of L1 (= mother tongue) and L2 (= target language)

(Try to) listen to L2 native speaker speaking your L1 the more mistakes he makes, the better. Then try to speak your L1 the way he speaks your L1, youll become aware of how the two languages differ phonetically in a jiffy. I call it the bridge see Stairway to Heaven below.



Do not try to speak until you've reached the stage of natural listening (= only after the incubation period of L-R)


Repeat after the speaker what you only understand (the meaning) and can hear properly (phonemes, rhythm, etc)


Listen-repeat if it's correct: listen-repeat, listen-repeat

                           if it's not correct, do not repeat any more, only listen


First small chunks (even syllables) here and there while natural listening to something you enjoy, then the chunks will get longer and longer.


Shadow/echo (= repeat after the speaker/s) longer sentences and texts.


Recite: choose a few of your favourite pictures (to create "psychological environment"), put on some pleasant background music, and imagine why the people (or things) in the pictures use a word, phrase, chunk, sentence, short dialogue you've just echoed/shadowed; play all the people/things.

Recitation is a stage between echoing/shadowing and speaking proper, entirely on your own.

You can echo-recite too you repeat after the reader and imagine your own context at the same time.

If creating your own contexts takes you too much time, because you cant do it on the fly, dont do it, or learn how to do it quickly.

Recitation is not so important it's just for fun and variety.

What really counts is listening and repeating after the recording. 


Blind shadowing (without understanding) is a waste of time and effort.



Stairway to Heaven:↓



bridge L1 sounds and words pronounced the L2 way

nucleus L2 sounds, words, phrases, and sentences that you already pronounce correctly and you KNOW that.



Lets say I want to learn how to pronounce lick.

I listen to it, I analyse it: /lik/

/l/ alveolar, not palatalized,

/i/ short, not to be confused with /i:/ or Polish /i/ and /y/, /i/ slightly shorter than /i/ in lid

/k/ aspirated slightly

I listen again (a few times, if necessary)

bridge/nucleus I already know how to say Lily I listen to lick and say Lily (a few times if necessary), I listen to lick and say lick, if it is correct I listen-repeat, listen-repeat and then recite. My nucleus has grown one more word in it.

I automate:

I listen-repeat-read, I listen-repeat-read, I repeat-read, I read.

I listen-repeat-read-write, I listen-repeat-read-write, I repeat-read-write, I read-write, I write.

I use: Lily, lick! Lick, Lily. Lick Lily. I lick Lily. I dont lick Daisy, I lick Lily. Lily licks Daisy. Its a licking daisy-chain.



I remember having trouble pronouncing German r sound. Heres what I did. I recorded the sound (the sound only, not words with it) many times on a cassette and kept listening to it for a long time, I dont remember exactly how long, perhaps a few days even, I did other things in the meantime, and suddenly I was able to say it with no trouble at all.



There are two kinds of pronunciation mistakes:

1. phonematic affecting the meaning, eg. shit instead of sheet

2. simply phonetic, sounding foreign but not affecting the meaning, eg. pussy with "p" without aspiration


The first kind is to be avoided at all costs.


Is good pronunciation important at all?

It affects your listening skills, your speaking skills, your spelling and your reading. It affects your motivation and psychological well-being. It's ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.


Is good pronunciation difficult to achieve?

NO. If you get down to it properly.


0. L1 pronunciation you must learn thoroughly about it

1. do not speak, do not write, (and do not read without listening) until you've reached the stage of natural listening

2. practice some phonetic listening

3. repeat after the actor/reader only when you fully understand what is being said and you hear the sounds, tones, rhythm etc properly

4. avoid NEGATIVE exposure: non-native speakers and fellow students (garbage in, garbage out)

5. do not "charge" at difficult sounds, words etc, do not try to repeat them at all costs, concentrate on what is positive: easy and pleasant.

6. do not blind-shadow (see 5.)


It usually takes about 30 to 40 hours of active phonetic study to be able to repeat and recite absolutely correctly new words, phrases, and short sentences.



Why do teachers say pronunciation is not (so) important?

1. Their own pronunciation sucks.

2. They have no idea that they ought to teach it and how to teach it.

3. They are lazy, they do not care.


Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.

Oscar Wilde


I once witnessed the following: seemingly an ideal situation for learning a language: one teacher a native speaker of French (he didnt know Polish), and one pupil a ten-year-old Polish girl. They were reading a French book, it went like this: the teacher read a sentence and the girl repeated it. She did it almost perfectly but not quite the teacher hesitated for an awkward moment (his hesitation was audible, he was breathing differently), he didnt know what to do with it, and went on reading the next sentence. The same happened time and again for an hour or so. How the girl knew what the text meant Ive no idea, she probably didnt.

They didnt know I was present, I was behind a screen.

It would have been enough if the teacher had said a few minimal pairs for the girl to hear the difference properly, but the teacher didnt probably have any idea about phonetics and how to teach it.


Another example: I once met an American guy (a university graduate, history) who taught English to Polish university students. He told me that his students had to teach him what passive voice was. He had no idea. When I asked him if he knew what minimal pairs were he had no idea, either. (Apparently, his students didnt know, either Im sure they would have taught him.)


Whos to blame? No idea. Not me. If an engineer constructed cars the way the majority of teachers teach, he would go to jail.





My understanding, based on that, is that I can echo anything, as long as it's something I would understand in natural listening. Is this correct?



I only echo when I can hear the sounds properly, and when I understand the meaning, the sounds, the movements of the lips and the tongue I listen-repeat when I feel I'm ready if it's OK I listen-repeat-listen-repeat many times and then recite. And if it is not OK, I do not repeat more than once, I go on listening. I do not force production it is the most SERIOUS blunder people make including Arguelles, his Mandarin tones are just far from what they should be (his Russian was far from perfect to put it mildly), not to mention Zhuangzi's Russian.


Of course, you can echo anything you want it depends on how important pronunciation is to you. I know a Russian translator he translates Russian literature from Russian into English and he's very good, but when he speaks I'm sure hardly any native speaker of English understands him.



Heres how a good pronunciation course looks like (for learners of English) info:

The Sky Pronunciation Suite a video demonstration.flv

http://users.bestweb.net/~siom/martian_mountain/mL-R/The Sky Pronunciation Suite a video demonstration.flv



Myth #5:

"You are a foreigner, therefore you will always have a foreign accent"




1. learning avoid them

2. using (communication) do not be afraid of them



Letters Dont Talk

Look at this: 'to jest'

Do you know how to pronounce it?

Of course, you must be joking.

OK, say it aloud. I can't hear you. I still can't hear you. Where's the play button? The link is broken. There's no play button.


I've been looking at 'to jest' for twenty minutes and I still don't know how to pronounce it.


My neighbour has a daughter. She can read anything. Give her a newspaper, she will read it. Give her a psychology book, she will read it. She is extremely clever, but she's only four and still has trouble with some sounds in her mother tongue.


I wrote: 'to jest pszczoa' and asked her to read it. 'To jest pscoa' she said.


I wrote: '発音' and asked if she could read it. She laughed and said it was a picture, you look at pictures, you admire them or hate them, you can't read them. It's a funny picture, says she, it reminds her of a scary clown.

You can read pictures like these, I said.

So how do you pronounce it? she laughed.

'Hacuon' I said.

'Hacuon' she repeated. Why don't you write it the way you say it, then.

I wrote: hatuon.

She looked at it. But it says 'hatuon', you can't even write, she said.

You're right, I said. In fact you write it はつおん.

You're pulling my leg, says she. Those are not letters, I can't read them.

I can, I said.


Because I know. I learned how.

How did you learn?

I listened and looked, that's how...


I wrote: 'know'.

'Knof (k-n-o-f)' she read.

No, I said. You say it 'no'. And I wrote 'no'.

You're pulling my leg, she said. You say 'no' and you write 'know' and 'no'? The same?

Yes, I said. More or less. But I don't say 'no', I say '/ʊ/. So you know now?

Yes, she said. I know you're pulling my leg.

Which leg? I asked. You have two legs.


By the way, 'To jest pszczoa' means 'This/that/it is a/the bee'. Thats what it means. But you still don't know how to pronounce it.




When to start speaking

Any time you feel like it, damn it!


I start when Im ready:

1. I first study L2 pronunciation very carefully.

2. I reach the stage of natural listening to difficult texts.

3. I repeat after the recording, recite, and use L2 in my daily life I think and/or mutter under my breath.




In the kitchen.

The father to his two-year-old son:

Pete, this is rabarbar. Repeat.


His son doesn't know what he is expected to say and gets tense.


The father repeats once more, angry this time:

Pete, this is rabarbar. Repeat.


Pete gets frightened, doesn't say anything.



I take Pete upstairs to his older sister's room. We take a comic book: Tintin. Pete's sister learns English and likes the book very much, and needless to say, Pete likes his fourteen-year-old sister and her room full of books.

I open the book and just say Tintin pointing to the pictures. I do it a dozen times. Then suddenly, Pete, smiling, says: Tintin, Tintin, Tintin, pointing to the drawings. We are happy together.


Moral 1:

Pete is now eighteen. He hates rabarbar (rhubarb), but he still enjoys reading Tintin.


Moral 2:

You learn more from children than university professors.




The key to L-R is sensory memory,

usually completely overlooked by learners.


... information that first comes to us through our senses is stored for a fleeting moment within sensory memory. Because of the transitory nature of this memory system, we usually are not consciously aware of it, nor do we actively organize or encode this information. The function of this memory system seems to be to hold or preserve impressions of sensory stimuli just long enough for important aspects of this information to be transferred to the next system, short-term memory.


Visual sensory memory is called iconic memory. It includes images of what we see.


an image stored in iconic memory generally fades from usefulness within approximately 0.3 seconds.


Echoic (Auditory) Memory   You may have noticed an auditory afterimage or echo when you have turned off the radio and the voice of a commentator seems to linger momentarily. This auditory sensory memory is called echoic memory.


Research indicates that auditory sensory memory for language stimuli lasts up to two seconds.


We also seem to recall information better if we hear it rather than see it.



An educated person reads faster than anyone speaks. So we have time to analyse what we are hearing. You MUST analyse, L-R is not mechanical. If you don't analyse or are just incapable of doing it, L-R is useless for you. You must analyse quickly enough without stopping the tape too often. It is a demanding task. If you are not intelligent enough, you wont be able to do it, either. But being intelligent enough is not enough you must be pretty enough as well. To some extent L-R is similar to simultaneous interpretation. The more difficult the text, the greater the similarity.


An incubation period is needed to acquire a new skill (listening comprehension), you must get enough input. Too short a text is useless for L-R. Handbooks are too short and usually extremely boring.


You only remember what you understand and what is relevant to you. Beginners need word-for-word translation (plus some grammar explanations, if necessary).


Texts should be self-explanatory, you should know in advance the meaning of what you are going to hear.


If you do L-R not intensively enough, it will be useless for you. The more difficult the text you begin with, the more intensive L-R should be. Two hours a day seems to be the minimum for relatively easy texts.


Parallel texts are extremely useful. The more difficult the text, the more useful they become. The columns shouldnt be too wide, not more than eight cm, you can jump from one column to the other if necessary without stopping the recording too often. E-texts are more useful, you can use a pop-up dictionary, you can change the font, make it bigger or smaller it is particularly useful for Japanese and Chinese.


For Japanese texts, there should be three columns:

kanji (without furigana) spaced hiragana transcription translation plus grammar.

或日の暮方の事である。   ある くれがた こと ある。   translation in your language

A good pop-up dictionary is necessary.




Language is a system, so it's really not possible to say that something is more important than anything else pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, discourse (here: how the text is organized), listening, reading, speaking, writing.


I love stories, so I want to understand them as quickly as possible.

I use the same books I love to learn a new language. Audiobooks, the text in L2 plus translation, a good reference grammar (and sometimes a dictionary when the translation is not clear), that's all I need.


I use The Little Prince, Camus, Kafka, Anna Karenina, The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, The Old Man and the Sea, Andersen's fairy tales, Lewis Carroll, A.A. Milne. (more books)

I never get tired of them. I can start listening and/or reading any of the books and I'm always in awe: the mystery of the human soul right before your eyes, and you can constantly smile at it, or sometimes cry, but it's happiness, nonetheless.


And this AWE-state is the most important factor the beauty of it is breathtaking, you never get tired of it, you always want more and you're happy. (flow)


In Polish:

FALA NONA: co, co ci nie mczy i niesie ku niebu, rado ci sprawia ogromn.


cudowne nic

bez granic






About L-R

There are two new elements in L-R the crucial ones:

using long novels (parallel texts and audio) right from the start, even for zero beginners.

using self-explanatory texts. I mean:

Knowing in advance the meaning of what you're going to listen to and the text being psychologically yours and relevant.


The Bible for a Jehovah's witness or a book you've read many times since you were a child.


Each element of L-R separately does not seem so significant. If you put them together as a whole system, they become extremely effective, the most important ones being:


massive exposure in a short period of time

self-explanatory texts

parallel e-novels with good quality audio

Step 3 (read L1, listen L2) (See The essence, the soul, the spirit of L-R.)

learning how to pronounce properly


Learning any language in any way is not for everybody, almost everyone fails miserably.



A method



As to L-R, the only thing worth being called a method is one's own method.

I can definitely call L-R 'a method' because it works for me. No idea if you can call it 'a method.'


There are some rather extreme pre-conditions for L-R to work properly.

1. burning desire to learn

2. you must love what you're doing

3. you must be a fast enough reader

4. you must be a good listener, you need some sound/phonetic training both in L1 and L2

5. you must be able to concentrate for a long time

6. you must be a good learner in general

7. you must be able to process a huge amount of info almost on the fly

8. a regular lifestyle early to bed, early to rise...

9. very good language skills in L1

10. being intelligent enough is not enough you must be pretty enough

11. you must know first-hand or rather first-soul what GOOD literature is all about

12. ONLY THE BEST is good enough I mean both your skills and materials.


Technically speaking, you need long books you love and are extremely familiar with in languages you already know.

You need good quality audio + parallel L2-L1 etexts and a good mouse-over pop-up dictionary.

(L2 the language you're learning, L1 your mother tongue)


Then again: the most important things happen in your head.


I wish you the best of British.



In praise of number 6 (and 9 if you look close enough).

Ive been visiting language learning boards for some ten years now.

I read a post or two here and there, if its not too long....

Language learners categories

0. know-it-alls usually one, two, or three people they have hardly anything to say, but say it very loudly and actively, their posts tend to be very long, they litter almost every thread with their intellectual and scientific musings, and argue forever with anyone whos stupid enough to argue with them

1. dreamers they would like to, they make lists, they buy books, CDs...

2. grasshoppers they jump here and there, they begin, they dont finish, begin something else, dont finish

3. soldiers they charge, they annihilate, they memorize, they believe in self-discipline, they like military atmosphere at home, they rarely succeed, it usually ends in General Consternation, Major Disaster or Private Property.

4. teachers, translators, interpreters they often think they are experts but they usually arent, they overestimate their abilities (too many not so learned morons among them)

5. hobbyists they are in no hurry, they usually like what they are doing, they often succeed

6. AWE Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki. riders Im sure Im not the only one. flow


6 is such a pretty number. Good enough for L-R.


Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.



What L-R is not.

1. It is not watching subtitled movies. (See My comment about the above passage: Bd! Nie zdefiniowano zakadki.)

2. It is not just listening to L2 and reading/looking at the text in L2.

3. No, L-R is NOT Assimil and suchlike.

4. Would I be doing L-R mechanically without understanding the vast majority of what I am listening to, the way some people seem to understand L-R should be done?

NO (rising-falling intonation).




What you can expect if you are as good as (or better than) I was

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run.

Rudyard Kipling



L2 German, the book: The Trial by Franz Kafka,

translated into Polish by Bruno Schulz (his woman translated it to be exact), the translation is very good and very faithful.

It took me 3 (three) days (30 to 35 hours of listening) to be able to understand every single word in the book read in German by Gert Westphal.


What I knew before I started to L-R it:

I knew the book (I read it in Polish, Russian, etc) and loved it.

I could recognize all the German phonemes and their corresponding letter combinations.

I was able to recognize basic grammar structures (morphology and syntax).

I could recognize in speech and in writing the meaning of some 800 words. (probably less).

(I couldnt speak the language, I never try until I reach natural listening stage. Of course, I would have been able to speak survival German, if Id been forced to.)


I used cassettes and two printed books, I had no parallel texts.

When I started only listening to it I didnt understand anything, just a word here and there.

But when I started reading in Polish and listening to the German reader at the same time I was able to understand virtually everything, for a fleeting moment of course, I didnt bother to memorize anything, I was just going with the flow of the soul shattering experience that only a masterpiece can deliver/provide/drown you.


As I had no parallel texts with matching chunks, I did the following:

I read a page in Polish, I listened to German and looked at the German text, I paid attention to the meaning, grammar, and letters-phonemes correspondence.

Then another page, and so on, until the end of the book. I understood almost everything.

It was the first day.


The second day:

I only read in Polish and listened to the German reader and the same time. I understood everything.

The third day I only listened to the German reader. I understood almost everything.


I worked ten to twelve hours a day. I made 15-minute breaks every 45 minutes. I did some physical exercises.

I had three meals a day. I slept eight hours a day. I was healthy.


And then I tested myself:

I took a recording in German it was The Snow Queen by Andersen. I hadnt read the story before, so I knew nothing about it. And... I understood it...


I noticed something very interesting about intensive L-R (and then natural listening) after a while (two-four weeks, 10-15 hours a day), speaking (and writing for languages with alphabet) come naturally, there are only two conditions to activate the skills, phonetic training and repeating after the recording here and there while listening to something you understand and enjoy.



if youre unable to attach the (or at least some) meaning from what youve just read to what youre LISTENING to, you cannot say it is L-R. I would consider it pointless.

Let me say it once more: L-R is not mechanical.


If you know hardly anything about the language, the first 3 to 5 hours need to be translated word for word with some grammar commentary, the way I did for French, English, and German for Polish learners of the languages. Examples of literary texts for zero beginners. To download:




OK, but...

will it work for you, the reader?

No idea, probably not.

Theres a fundamental difference between us:

I know it works (for me), because Ive done it.

YOU think Im lying or just pulling your leg or even both of your legs.

Youll never know until you try.


It seems to work somehow for some people: MarcoDiAngelo, LG Maluszka Volte, mjcdchess, minus273, M. Medialis, Adrean, lingoleng, jeff_lindqvist, shapd, luke, Serpent, etc.

There are people who disliked it intensely, too (to put it mildly).

Some people tried to L-R mechanically without understanding, nothing could have come out of it, of course (just a headache, probably).

Being intelligent enough is not enough you must be pretty enough.


Anyway, people are usually just dreamers or grasshoppers (they jump here and there without knowing what for). They dont usually love anything, not even their own self, not to mention their neighbours or... good literature. Whats more, language learners usually ignore pronunciation and listening comprehension absolutely essential skills. I dont really know why. IGNORANCE IS their STRENGTH.

Ignorance is bliss? A fools paradise.



Learn your own language properly

0. Don't read any advice. Use your own head (if you have any).


00. Learn your own language properly.

Learn how to read, listen, speak, and WRITE beautifully, coherently and succinctly in your mother tongue.

Learn about the grammar and phonetics of your language.


000. Read some good books on psychology of learning and efficient action.


0000. Then learning any languages will be just a piece of cake.



Writing between the lines

The majority of people don't write anything in any language and yet they manage to survive.

I'd say writing if taken seriously forces you to think like nothing else, so it's always worth doing, unless you don't like thinking. Reading between the lines is difficult, but writing between the lines is even more so.




Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess


Hans Christian Andersen:

Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess, but who would have to be a real princess! He travelled all over the world trying to find one but he couldnt find what he wanted anywhere. There were plenty of princesses, but whether they were real princesses he found it difficult to tell. There was always something that didnt seem quite right. So at last he came home again and was quite sad, because he wished so much to have a real princess for his wife.


One evening a terrible storm arose. It thundered and lightened and the rain poured down in torrents! Suddenly a knocking was heard at the door and the old king, the princes father, went to open it.


It was a princess standing outside the door and the wind and rain had made her look a sorry sight! Water trickled down from her hair and clothes, down into the toes of her shoes and out again at the heels, but she said she was a real princess! Well, well soon find that out! thought the old queen. She said nothing, but went into the bedroom, took all the bedclothes off the bed, and laid a pea at the bottom. Then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on top of the pea, then she put twenty eiderdowns on top of the mattresses. This was the bed on which the princess was to sleep that night.

In the morning she was asked how she had slept. Oh, very badly!

said the princess. Ive hardly closed my eyes all night! Goodness


knows what was in my bed, but I was lying on something hard and

Im black and blue all over! Its quite dreadful! Now everyone saw that she was a real princess, because she had felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty eiderdowns! Only a real princess could be as sensitive and delicate as that. So the prince took her for his wife. Now he knew that he had a real princess. The pea was put in a museum where it can still be seen, if no one has stolen it! And this is a true story!


Is it a text for zero beginners no previous knowledge of English? Any teacher would say I'm crazy.

Any ten-year-old child can L-R it five times during 15 minutes. She won't get bored and will enjoy herself. Then she can do another story and another one. If she feels like it.

All she needs is a good recording and an interlinear translation.


The Princess and the Pea

Ksiniczka i (ziarnko) grochu

1.   Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry

Pewnego razu by ksi kto/ktry chcia polubi


2.   a princess, but who would have to be a real princess! He

ksiniczk ale kto/ktra by musiaa by prawdziw ksiniczk! On


3.   travelled all over the world trying to find one but he couldnt

podrowa po caym wiecie prbujc znale jedn ale on nie mg


4.   find what he wanted anywhere. There were plenty of princesses,

znale co on chcia gdziekolwiek . Byo wiele ksiniczek,


5.   but whether they were real princesses he found it difficult to

ale czy one byy prawdziwymi ksiniczkami on znajdowa to trudnym do


6.   tell. There was always something that didnt seem quite right.

powiedzenia. Byo zawsze co co (e) nie wydawao si cakiem poprawne.


7.   So at last he came home again and was quite sad, because he

Wic w kocu on przyjecha do domu znowu i by cakiem smutny, poniewa on


8.   wished so much to have a real princess for his wife.

yczy/pragn tak bardzo mie prawdziw ksiniczk za jego/swoj on.


It is for Polish learners of English.

The text is first to be read in literary translation, in Polish. When in doubt you can use a mouse-over pop-up dictionary.

Im not sure if the text will be displayed properly, the text is meant to be opened in Word 2003, see the pdf version.

(See Latin Interlinear Texts - a forgotten route to language learning as well.)



If you dont have word-for-word interlinear texts, you can:

1. ask others to prepare them for you

2. use a mouse-over pop-up dictionary and learn some grammar first

3. do a handbook or two for beginners (basic grammar + vocabulary)

4. use Google translate.




1. ideal:

(not just any texts) written by educated native speakers for educated native speakers (good writers, scholars, journalists) read aloud by professional actors/narrators

2. self-explanatory:

the more you BEFOREHAND know about the text youre going to study the better.

Der Prozess by Franz Kafka or Lolita by Nabokov for me, Ive time and again read and LISTENED to them in many languages, so I almost know them by heart.

3. "extra-linguistic":

they concentrate on the plot not grammar points or vocabulary

4. tool kit:

e-texts in vertical parallel columns, good translation, good audio recording (mp3, wav), mouse-over pop-up dictionary

word-for-word interlinear texts for beginners

5. JOY or/and wonder


The first ten to twenty pages (idiolect) might be extremely difficult, but if you dont give up too soon because youre scared or frustrated it will become easier and easier, the longer the book the easier it will be to understand.



Good quality literature very often has good translations.

It does not matter if it is 100% exact, words mean something only in context, and very soon you're able to guess the exact meaning, occasionally you can use a pop up dictionary.



As to making parallel texts: it takes time and effort, but it is more effective and much cheaper than buying textbooks (ASSimil, Pimpsleur, Rosetta Stoned, etc). In one chapter of a novel there are more words, sentences and text than in any language textbook.


You can use somebody elses parallel texts: I posted plenty of parallel Xlanguage-English novels/books in many languages: Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Polish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Hungarian, Latvian, and so on. There ARE people who make parallel texts you can always ask Our Mother, the Internet.


I compiled and posted plenty of parallel Japanese-English materials from pronunciation (pitch accent included), simple grammars with audio, dialogues for learners, news, to books/novels.


I already made and posted plenty of book2 (a site, 42 lanugages, amateurish, but everything seems to be recorded by native speakers two thousand words and phrases) sentence-by-sentence parallel materials for beginners, too.

You can use them instead of interlinear word-for-word translations of novels for beginners. You must make do with what you get.



Use a mouse-over pop-up dictionary Lingvo 12 seems to be the best, its multilingual, professional, on-screen mouse-over pop-up, you can add your own dictionaries or other dictionaries in any languages, you have to convert them to Lingvo 12 format first, or you can always ask Our Mother.



My idea of parallel texts seems to be different from yours. I thought I made it clear in my first entry:

1. An AUDIO recording by professional actor(s), in mp3 or wav format

2. E-texts in VERTICAL COLUMNS, side by side on one page

3. Texts should be long, up to 50 hours.


Anything else may slightly resemble the idea. A while ago I uploaded a sample of what I mean by parallel texts.



EXPOSURE: {new text (audio+written, see above)} divided by {minute times hours times days}

Hours and days should be counted from the first moment you start learning, sleep and anything else INCLUDED.

The text can be measured in pages or words or minutes (silence and music excluded).



You all seem to overlook one important factor:

if you don't enjoy (I might say "passionately in love") the texts you're going to "listen-read", you won't get much out of it, your attention will constantly be distracted and you will get bored. And then .... happy-go-lucky Miss Hopper won't be done good and proper.



"Le petit prince" is not enough, it is far too short.


What you should do in STEP 3 is

not just look at the translation but READ it before the matching texts in the recording reaches your brain, and try to simultaneously attach the meaning to what you're hearing, at least part of it, without stopping the tape (= audiofile) all the time. If you're not able to do it, you must repeat Step 2.


And it would be wonderful if you knew why the idiolect of the author is so important and why the texts should be long.


And do not forget to be passionately in love with what you're listening-reading.


The whole process is far from mechanical, it is not school. You have to use all your imagination and power of concentration.



The greatest source of audiobooks are libraries for visually handicapped people and p2p.



The layout of the e-texts is important. If you have downloaded the sample I uploaded a while ago (if you haven't, the link is somewhere in the thread), you may see the different variations.


For beginners the ideal one is interlinear the original above, the word-for-word translation below, but it is extremely time consuming to prepare such texts.


Interlinear texts are known from time immemorial, I've seen some from the seventeenth century.

There are some available now, too. The Hebrew Bible, The New Testament.

I've made some myself for Polish learners of English and German.


Interlinear e-texts should be made by people who already know the two languages. And translated word for word, otherwise they do not make much sense.

They are not absolutely necessary. It is enough to make vertical parallel columns.




Read a page or a paragraph (in your mother tongue), do STEP 2 AND 3 one to three times and go on. Do it from the beginning to the end of the novel. Then start again from the beginning, it will be much easier. The third time should be quite easy or not even necessary.

The longer the novel the better.


You might want to read something more about text statistics, IDIOLECT and memory first.


And try not to use popular pulp fiction (Harry Potter etc), they are usually very poorly translated. Use good literature it is more probable the translation will match the original.



As to Harry Potter.

You can use it if you like it very much or have no other choice.

Many people, not only children, like it.


I've made parallel texts of the HP books in English-Polish-French-Spanish-German-Japanese, and seen some translations into some other languages, the quality was rather discouraging, plenty of omissions, paraphrasing, and simply errors. But still some children liked to "listen-read" them, probably because it appealed to them psychologically.


HP has its merits, too:

1. it's easily available: e-texts + audio in soooo many languages

2. very long

3. modern

4. quite simple

I cannot stand it because of poor artistic quality and it's damn boring.

You could use it when you've reached the stage of "natural listening".



The ideal for "listening-reading" would be if the first few hours were translated word for word and commented grammatically I did it for Le petit prince in French and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in English. For Polish learners, of course, learning the respective languages.


A lot depends on how closely the two languages are related.

For instance, for a Pole learning Russian, the word-for-word translation is not necessary, and you can start from more difficult books.


The same applies to French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and even English for a speaker of Romance languages.




Vertical side-by-side texts are much easier to use. You can check the meaning or the spelling instantly without stopping the audio. Echoic and iconic memories are very short (less than one second), so you get lost when you use printed books.


Once you've prepared a bilingual parallel text, it is easy to make multilingual ones, you just copy one side and paste it into another version.


You can translate easily using vertical texts, you just cover one side.


You can see what is missing and wonder why it is so.


You can learn quite a lot about HUMAN NATURE, while preparing parallel texts:

1. CENSORSHIP ubiquitous, but North Americans excel in it.

The funniest Ive seen so far was a censored version of 1984 by Orwell (in Spanish). They censor everything, even H.C. Andersen.

2. Bungling and cheating: I once saw Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky with the label Complete and unabridged on the cover and I bought it. Then at home I couldnt believe my eyes, I checked against the Russian original: at least one third of the text was missing.


The same applies to unabridged audiobooks.


I'm against censorship anywhere any time, be it Poland, US of A or Lunapark.

I've made too many parallel novels not to be aware it's rampant everywhere. But in the US of A it is particularly so.

I don't need to live in the US of A to know censorship is RAMPANT there.

Alice used to live on the Virgin Islands but she is not a virgin, I know something about it, for sure.


Censorship has a lot to do with parallel texts.

It happens time and again, I buy books, audiobooks, just to waste the money and time and trust.


Whos a translator? A guy who wants to make some money at the expense of the author.

Whos a publisher? A guy who wants to make big money at the expense of the author and the translator.


Some authors want to make some money at the expense of the reader.

Some authors write ad maiorem 愛子さま gloriam. Some of them are the only ones who write really well.


Money is the most important goal both for the translator and the publisher. Love of literature is a contradiction in terms for them. No wonder they cheat. At OUR expense, literature lovers.


There ought to be a law enforced by God Almighty: All translated texts should be published as parallel ones, there would be less cheating and bungling.

And censorship would be more difficult.



If you'd rather use a printed version, you can print an e-text, and a computer is an excellent tool for printing.




There are tools to do it: ABBY Aligner, hunalign, etc.

They don't work very well for Japanese or Chinese. You have to do it manually.


by doviende:

How to create parallel texts for language learning Part 1


How to create parallel texts for language learning, part 2



How to create parallel texts for language learning + Japanese learning tools info




and the tool making such texts http://sourceforge.net/projects/aligner/



A language in a week

It might seem a little bit off topic, but in fact it isn't.

I've just read about Daniel Tammet, the guy who learned Icelandic in a week.

To tell you the truth, I couldn't stop laughing. ANYONE CAN DO IT and in a better way, with better results. Even me, and I am not an autistic savant, nor am I a genius (my IQ is 106, 60% of people).



And enjoying the process, of course.



I dont know how many words there are in Der Prozess (The Trial) by Kafka, Ive never counted them. However, I DO know that you can understand each single word in the book after thirty to forty hours of listening-reading, provided its done in one go, to prevent forgetting and to do the right amount of good quality input. (Garbage in, garbage out.)


If you work on it 10 to 12 hours a day (I can do it easily), after a weeks time (70 to 80 hours), youre able not only to understand what is being spoken (if it is not too technical), but youre in a position to speak as well, enough to be able to engage in small talk at least.

In 70 to 80 hours its possible to listen-read 3 to 5 average novels, and thats quite a lot. The first one will be a little bit difficult, but the rest will be much easier, youll be able to shadow/echo it (= repeat after the reader) at the same time, and I DO know from my own experience that when youve shadowed 3 to 5 hours, you can speak as well. It does not matter if you repeat every single word, it is the amount that counts. Taking part in a conversation means first of all to understand what is being said to you, and if you do, you can react accordingly.


A great deal depends on the density (new words per minute) of the texts you listen-read and echo/shadow. If its too low, it wont be possible for you to put across your thoughts in a coherent way, simply your vocabulary would be too poor.


Using a language is a skill, you cant acquire it without practicing it. If you want to learn how to swim its no use to analyse the chemical composition of water instead of plunging into it. Water for a language learner are TEXTS: spoken and written.


10 hours a day:

It's entirely up to you. If you love it, you'll be wanting to do it. LOVE IS A MAGIC LAMP.

I meant achieving relative proficiency in about a week. (Ten days if you add pronunciation practice: phonematic and phonetic listening and repeating after the recording.)


Of course, I dont mean to say that youll be as good as an educated native speaker (it takes years cultural references and so on), but what is generally considered advanced (listening) and (lower?) intermediate (speaking) is definitely within your reach.



L-R advantages

Listening-reading gives you

1. freedom from all sorts of crooks: schools, teachers, textbook publishers etc


2. joy (Ill always remember Krashen: "The best methods are therefore those that supply 'comprehensible input' in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are 'ready', recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production." Stephen Krashen

http://sdkrashen.com/ his site, you can download his books for FREE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqVhgSvwWYk Krashen interviewed by Steve Kaufmann


I particularly like the low anxiety situations. What about joy and love instead?


3. beauty: Good literature might not be as good as ASSimil, Pimpsleur, Mumble Thomas, or Rosetta Stoned, but it has its merits, too.


4. saves you tremendous amount of toil, time and money (you can throw away textbooks, lessons, dictionaries, flashcards, tests etc)



As to its components: they have all been used separately at one time or another. Some kind of listening-reading was done in ancient Israel, long before our Almighty Sister Jesus was born. Children (as young as two) were taught to read by their own parents in the following way: they learned by heart some verses from Torah, their parents baked (made cookies!!!) the passages and the children recited looking at the baked text. And after that they could eat the cookies.


In modern times listening-reading proper (reading in your mother tongue and listening to a foreign language recording) was used by some passionate adventurous people, I know two who discovered it on their own.

(Theres another one. Not a long time ago I read a post by a guy who re-discovered LR. Then it does happen people who do similar things tend to discover similar methods.)

So there are at least four of us who have done it so far. My version seems to be the most complete one, the only one that treats language and learning as systems. And with plenty of parallel texts in many languages.




What makes L-R different

ProfArguelles wrote:

the bilingual text format with recorded material in target language only that is the best method.

(DrArguelles means Assimil handbooks and suchlike.)

(his site: http://www.foreignlanguageexpertise.com/ )


It's been used for years in Poland, for instance.


What makes L-R different is:


1. using long novels right from the start in fully bilingual format, with bilingual etexts in vertical columns with matching cells, side by side on ONE page, recorded by professional actors

2. Step 3 (= listening to the target language while reading in a language you understand.

3. Using self-explanatory texts (= knowing the content beforehand, both the meaning and emotionally)

4. speaking and writing only after the incubation period, that is after getting to the stage of natural listening.

5. the Assault (= massive exposure in a relatively short time)

6. taking into account all the subsystems: pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and discourse (= how to produce texts), discourse in textbooks is artificial and often wrong).

7. And that's true, it IS the cheapest way of learning a language, both in terms of money and time.



How to improve L-R

To make it multilingual the same novels/books in many languages, with matching cells, and line-by-line audio playlists.

line-by-line audio playlist.m3u8

line-by-line audio playlist.m3u8

line-by-line audio playlist.m3u8

line-by-line audio playlist.m3u8

line-by-line audio playlist.m3u8

line-by-line audio playlist.m3u8

+ multilingual mouse-over pop-up (eg Lingvo12)







Chapitre 1

Chapter 1

Captulo 1



W gb krliczej nory

Dans le terrier du lapin

Down the Rabbit-Hole



うさぎ の 穴 を まっさかさま

Alicja czua si ju bardzo zmczona tym, e siedzi obok siostry na pochyym brzegu i nie ma nic do roboty;

Alice commenait à se sentir très lasse de rester assise à ct de sa soeur, sur le talus, et de navoir rien à faire:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do:

Alicia empezaba ya a cansarse de estar sentada con su hermana a la orilla del ro, sin tener nada que hacer:

Алисе начинало уже надоедать сидеть с сестрой на берегу без всякого занятия;

アリス は 川辺 で おねえさん の よこ に すわって、 なんにも する こと が ない ので とても 退屈 し はじめて いました。

raz i drugi zerkna do ksiki czytanej przez siostr, ale nie byo w niej obrazkw ani rozmw:

une fois ou deux, elle avait jet un coup doeil sur le livre que sa soeur lisait, mais il ne contenait ni images, ni conversation,

once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it,

haba echado un par de ojeadas al libro que su hermana estaba leyendo, pero no tena dibujos ni dilogos.

пару раз она заглянула было в книжку, которую читала сестра, но там не было ни картинок, ни разговоров;

一、二回 は おねえさん の 読んで いる 本 を のぞいて みた けれど、 そこ に は 絵 も 会話 も ない の です。

a co za poytek z ksiki pomylaa Alicja bez obrazkw i rozmw?

text polski: t. Robert Stiller

et, se disait Alice, à quoi peut bien servir un livre où il ny a ni images ni conversations?

`and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice `without pictures or conversations?'

¿Y de qu sirve un libro sin dibujos ni dilogos?, se preguntaba Alicia.

а зачем нужна книжка,  подумала Алиса,  в которой ни картинок, ни разговоров?

「絵 や 会話 の ない 本 なんて、 なんの 役 に も たたない じゃ ない の」 と アリス は 思いました。


To make good and faithful translations, no censorship, etc.

To prepare pronunciation courses.

To make interlinear word-for-word translations for beginners.

To prepare grammar/sentence patterns in bilingual format with line-by-line audio playlists.

Recordings of the same book by various L2 readers/actors.


To fully computerize it.

line-by-line audio with playlists

loop any fragment for repeated listening

built-in vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and example sentences pop-up with links to audio

highlighted chunks while audio playing


and so on...

the sky is the limit





Ive no idea if my advice will be useful.


I can only describe how I learn languages.

I don't use SRS (Supermemo, Anki, etc).

I learn entirely on my own.

I rely on personally relevant massive input audio + transcript + translation.

I need parallel texts with line-by-line audio (.mp3) and audio playlists (.m3u).


Here's an example of the layout I use Core 2000 for simplicity's sake (actually, I use long texts novels/books (or collections of stories) I like and know well in languages I already understand not isolated sentences):









それ とっても いい はなし

That's a really nice story.








わたし みる すき です

I like looking at pictures.



<n> gate in old Kyoto, Rashomon (story by Akutagawa, film by Kurosawa)


przeoy Mikoaj Melanowicz





Akutagawa Ryuunosuke (1892.3.1-1927.7.24)


あくたがわ りゅうのすけ


One day, in the evening,

Это случилось однажды под вечер.

It was nightfall.

Wydarzyo si to ktrego dnia pnym popoudniem.


ある くれがた こと ある。


a servant was waiting beneath the Rashmon gate for the rain to stop.

Некий слуга пережидал дождь под воротами Расемон.

A servant was waiting under the Rashō Gate for the rain to cease.

Pewien suga schroni si przed deszczem pod sklepieniem Bramy Demonw i czeka, a przestanie pada.


ひとり げにん が、 らしょうもん した あまやみ まっていた。


line-by-line audio: you can automatically cut larger audio files with audacity.exe, its done very quickly


This is what I do.

1. First listening comprehension.

1a. I read a sentence in English.

1b. I click the mp3/wav file in L2 (language I'm learning, say Japanese). The mp3 file is looped, I don't stop listening.


I need to hear/understand:

how many words there are in the sentence I'm listening to,

what is the grammar of the sentence,

what sounds, pitch, intonation.

For this I use the Japanese sentence in kanji and in spaced hiragana, and a mouse-over pop-up dictionary if necessary. Let me stress once more: I don't stop listening.


When I understand what I'm hearing, I concentrate on kanji for a moment I dont stop listening, I listen and look at the sentence written in kanji, I try to identify the components (I didn't use Heisig, I learned all the classical bushu and their Japanese names).


And that's it for the time being no speaking, no reading without listening, no writing. The parallel written texts are only there to help me with my listening, at this stage, nothing more.


Then the following sentence the same procedure.


After some 20-30 sentences, I click .m3u (the playlist link) I again listen to the sentences I've just listened to, in a row without stopping, I always have the parallel text ready to quickly check, in case I forget something.


I don't memorize anything I concentrate on recognizing the meaning, words, grammar, sounds in the sentences I've just 'learnt.'


Then the following paragraph. Then the following paragraph, and so on. Until the end.


Then I start from the beginning. This time I only listen, but always have the parallel texts ready, just in case, to check, if necessary.



Then... another book same procedure.


From time to time I listen to something new at the same level or easier and only listen to check if I understand it 'naturally' relying only on what I've already learnt. If I do (and like it), I go on listening.



2. After reaching the stage of 'natural' listening to difficult texts, I concentrate on speaking.

2a. I listen to something I understand (meaning, words, grammar, sounds) and enjoy.

2b. I echo I repeat after the recording.

2c. I recite from time to time I choose some favourite pictures to create a psychological environment, and imagine why someone says something (I've just echoed) to somebody else.

2d. I sometimes read something I've just echoed, without listening this time.

2e. I sometimes write down something I've just listened to, something beautiful or interesting.





It is about learning entirely on your own. It is how I learn languages.

1. get a general idea what there is to learn very important. Japanese is not difficult, it is different.

2a. learn about pronunciation, learn how to recognize Japanese sounds (phonemes, pitch accent, etc)

2b. learn kana (hiragana gozyuuon first, listen and look, learn stroke order it shouldnt take more than one/two hours to be able to recognize all the symbols)

3. get a thorough idea of how kanji work they are a blessing not a curse, not random strokes, learn how to recognize 214 classical radicals and variations (they are building blocks of kanji), learn their Japanese names, learn stroke order rules

4. learn to quickly recognize basic conjugations (V, A-i, C copula) and sentence patterns (listen and look)


L-R (LR, mLR) (multilingual)LISTENING-Reading:

5a. L-R native materials (if possible)

5b. simple natural listening (even handbooks for beginners), do natural listening as often as possible (chores, commuting, etc)

6. L-R concentrate on listening through both audio, translation and J e-text

When you understand what you hear (a passage/phrase/paragraph), concentrate for a moment on the written text: listen (dont stop listening, loop) and look at the J text, see if you can identify words, grammar, kanji components; dont try to memorize anything, if something is too difficult, just skip it, only read the translation and listen; if you think your pronunciation is good, you can repeat after the recording here and there

7. get to the stage of natural listening to relatively difficult texts

8. concentrate on pronunciation/speaking by repeating after the recordings: listen-repeat, listen-look-repeat, listen-look-repeat-type

9. concentrate on reading: listen-look-repeat-type, look-listen, look-read, look-read-(repeat)-type

10. do natural listening and reading, speak to yourself

11. listen-look-repeat-write by hand (if you need to, or like to)




Before or together with L-R

Introduction + links to many off line learning materials:

!0 Japanese Whats to learn BEGIN HERE.doc


Learn kana (hiragana and katakana).

An idea about pronunciation (hatuon):

mora (a beat, unit of rhythm; not to be confused with a syllable), long/short vowels, whispered vowels, double consonants, pitch accent, rendaku, assimilation in pronunciation of kanji, colloquial contractions, dialects (standard Tokyo), homophones (the rule, not an exception, thats why kanji are necessary; English: write, rite, right, a right, Wright)

(PLUS editions enhanced: parallel text, line-by-line audio playlists:)

!H Hatuon.doc (pitch accent included)

Hiragana First Step.doc

Katakana First Step.doc


An idea about grammar:

no articles, no plural, no grammatical gender, no cases, no persons, no modal verbs, no relative pronouns, no personal pronouns (= an open subgroup of nouns), no possessive pronouns

INFLECT (change):

V (verbs); A-i (adjectives); C copula (be, never independent word)

Dont inflect:

N nouns; AN (adjectival nouns, na-adjectives)

particles (josi) Particles go after what they modify.

adverbs (a huge subgroup of onomatopoeia)

numerals and counters

pronouns ko-so-a-do




verbs: -ru, -u, suru verbs (N+suru), only 2 irregular: suru (do), kuru (come)

copula: de aru, da, desu, na, de gozaru, de irassyaru

adjectives: A-i (its a verb: big-is, good-is); AN (+C to form a predicate)

particles: ha(wa), ga, wo(o), no, ni, ka, to, yo, wa, ne, etc

pronouns: plenty of I, you, etc they are nouns

politeness levels: plain, polite, honorific, humble

giving-receiving verbs: ageru, sasiageru, yaru, kureru, kudasaru, itadaku, morau

in-group ↔ out-group

male ↔ female speech



Topic-comment structure

Predicate: V, A-i, N/AN + C (de aru, da, etc)

predicate always at the end of a sentence, carries tense and politeness level

The modifier before the modified (particles after)

Particles: 1. after N, 2. between sentences, 3. after sentences (question, modal)

Nominalizers (abstract nouns): no, koto, mono, toki, hazu, beki, tumori, etc

Sentence endings: you da, sou da, no da, darou, koto ga aru, hou ga ii, ka mo sirenai, rasii, etc

V-nakereba naranai must (lit. if dont do V, wont become)

V-te mo ii/yoi may, allowed (lit. doing V also good)

V-te ha(wa) ikenai - may not, not allowed (lit. as for doing V, cannot go)


(See Group 1 (minus one) below)


Kanji strokes (rules are very simple with few exceptions), bushu (classifiers, radicals), a sound note (a phonetic hint), components, yomi (readings kun, on), learn 214 classical radicals and their Japanese names, theyre major building blocks of kanji

Use a mouse-over pop-up dictionary. (Lingvo 12, etc)

!Kanji Eng.doc (basic info + links to many off line tools)

!K Walsh. Len - Read Japanese TodayPLUS.doc (270 basic kanji + components + links to mp3 and audio playslists example vocab)



L-R proper:

Available materials (audio + parallel texts):

(here only Japanese-English texts)


Group 1 (minus one)

(these are PLUS editions, much more learner friendly than the original books enhanced: parallel text kanji-spaced hiragana-English, line-by-line audio playlists)

(basic grammar + vocab)

1. Hugo Japanese In Three Months.doc

2. Visualizing Japanese Grammar.doc

3. Essential Japanese Verbs.doc

(4. Japanese Core Sentences 6000)

(5. 2001 Kanji Odyssey)

(6. !book2 J-English)


Group 0 (zero)

(PLUS editions) mini-dialogues, articles, etc

1. ItiMaru from beginners to advanced

2. Hiragana Times articles, almost authentic

3. Komiks plenty of colloquial contractions


By educated native speakers for native speakers:

Group 1

1. !L-R My Book of Bible Stories SmallCells.doc ! 9h 01min.m3u8

2. !L-R Saint-Exupery - Le petit prince.doc 2h 39min

3. !L-R Carroll - Alices Adventures in WonderlandSmallCells.doc 4h 18min

4. !L-R Murray - Breaking into J literature (7 stories)

5. hukumusume Aesops Fables 3h 11min

6. hukumusume Short stories of Edo

7. hukumusume Classical stories of the world 2h 23min

8. hukumusume Japanese classical stories 2h 49min


Group 2

1. !L-R Learn From the Great Teacher SmallCells.doc ! 7h 49min.m3u8 (JW)

2. !L-R Rowling - HP1.doc 10h and !L-R Rowling - HP2.doc 11h 29min

3. !L-R The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived Japanese-English.doc 12h 25min

4. !L-R Stevenson, Robert L. - Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde JP-EN.htm 3h 44min

5. Doyle Sherlock Holmes Stories, 16x, about 1h each

6. The Secret of Family Happiness 6h 38min

7. Awake! magazines, hundreds of hours

8. Scola InstaClass (TV news), 28h so far, they usually add 5min a week


Group 3

1. 夏目漱石Natume Souseki

1. 夢十夜 yumezyuuya 70min

2. っちゃん Bottyan 4h 55min

3. こころ Kokoro 10h 40min

4. 吾輩である Wagahai wa neko de aru 22h (texts J, R, P, no English text)

5. 道草 Mitikusa 8h 30min

6. Mon 10h

7. それから Sorekara 7h

8. 草枕 Kusamakura 6h

9. 硝子戸 Garasu do no uti (incomplete)

2. 太宰治 Dazai Osamu

1. 人間失格 Ningen sikkaku 5h 37min

2. 斜陽 Syayou 5h 50min

3. 19 stories (but no English text) 17h 26min


3. 芥川龍之介Akutagawa Ryuunosukes stories 12x, 360min


4. 宮沢賢治 Miyazawa Kenjis stories, 7x, 4h 30min


5. 小林多喜二 Kobayasi Takiji 蟹工船 Kanikousen 3h 53min


Group 4

松尾芭蕉 Matuo Basyou 細道oku no hosomiti 1h 05min

百人一首 Hyakunin isshu 29min

源氏物語Genji monogatari (incomplete, both classic and modern)



L-R materials for learners of Japanese:




The Japanese somehow dont like audiobooks youll have to make do with what is available. But what IS available is enough to learn well.

If L-R-ing authentic texts for native speakers is too difficult, you might start with something graded/easier. Ive already prepared plenty of kanji-spaced hiragana-English parallel texts from elementary grammars, through dialogues for learners, newspaper articles to novels.



Japanese dictionaries in epwing format:


NHK nihongo hatsuon jiten [koe MP3] [EPWING]


How to create parallel texts for language learning + Japanese learning tools info


Japanese-English dictionary with audio:




About grammar

Language is a system of interrelated subsystems, grammar is one of them.


I will try to explain why I need grammar right from the beginning.

When I start learning a new language, there are two things I concentrate on and I find them absolutely essential:

1. listening comprehension (through L-R)

2. pronunciation


To do both 1. and 2. properly I need some kind of logic behind them:

I must know what kind of sounds there are, how they differ from the ones I already know, what phonetic features I must pay attention to while listening, etc.

If I don't know that pitch accent is important, or that Japanese spoken words are divided into morae (or moras, if you prefer), or that there are whispered vowels there, then I am bound to fail to notice them myself and substitute them by something completely different my L1 sounds, rhythm and intonation.


I must know what grammar features there are, how they differ from the ones I already know.

I must know that nouns have no gender or plural forms, that there are no articles, that the sounds -mas- carry the meaning of some kind of a polite form, that -u is the present/future tense, and that -ta is the past tense, that tenses are not only a characteristic of verbs but some adjectives as well.

I'd rather know straight away that おはようございます o-hayou gozaimasu is in fact お早う御座います and that they are forms of 早い hayai and 御座る gozaru, and that there's no 'good' or 'morning' in it and that is simply means: it is early... (usually translated as: Good morning)

I'd rather know straight away that どうぞよろしくお願いいたします douzo yorosiku o-negai itasimasu are in fact forms of  宜しい yorosii and 願う negau and 致す itasu, and that 宜しい is a honorific form of 良い yoi/ii and  致す いたす itasu a humble form of する suru and that it means something like this:I humbly ask you to be kind to me. (usually translated as: Nice to meet you)

I'd rather know straight away that です desu is a form of であるde aru and that である is made of and the verb ある that is irregular and its negative form is ない/無いnai and that ない is an i-adjective and no longer a verb.

I must understand straight away that じゃない ja nai is not something mysterious at all, that じゃ is in fact a phonetic contraction of + (pronounced wa) and that here is in fact a topic marker and that the same phonetic contraction is to be found in 死んではいけない sindeha ikenai, 死んじゃいけない sinja ikenai. Etc, etc. 


Then I don't have to treat every single expression as something completely unrelated to other expressions/words/forms, and be puzzled all the time by something that it is not puzzling at all but only made so by bunglers or (not so) learned morons who write/sell language handbooks.

And that saves me HELL of a lot of time while dealing with authentic materials for native speakers right from the beginning. I prefer books I already love and know well.


It now should be obvious why I need a good reference grammar with good audio by native speakers.

By the way, grammars don't have to use artificial sentences there are grammars that only use authentic natural sentences. Of course, if you don't like Miss Grammar, it is your business, not mine.


See Grammar vs texts as well.

Learning materials

http://users.bestweb.net/~siom/martian_mountain/JCP (Japanese)



I was amused and surprised when I read Feynman's comment. Even I didn't find it difficult to grasp the concept of grammatical politeness in Japanese. (Feynman didnt, either but he was against the concept itself; he didnt somehow manage to learn the Japanese formula: BSB bow, smile, bow. The rest is as simple as physics.)


There are two kinds of grammatical politeness:


a) directed to the person/s you're speaking to (addressative):

a1) you add -(i)mas- to verbs,

待つ matu (I/you/she/he/we/they will/wait, dictionary form)

eg. 待ちます、待ちました、待ちまして、待ちましょう

a2) you add ですdesu to nouns and adjectives,


本です/でした hon desu/desita, (it) is/was a/the book, (they) are/were (the/some) books

簡単です/でしたkantan desu/desita, (it) is/was easy

面白です omosiroi desu, is/are/am interesting/amusing, 面白かったですomosirokatta desu, was/were interesting/amusing (with A-i desu shows only respect not tense)


b) directed to the person/s you are talking about:

b1) honorific,

待つ matu (I/you/she/he/we/they will/wait, dictionary form),

eg. お待ちになる o-mati ni naru or お待ちなさる o-mati nasaru

b2) humble (about yourself and in-group),


お待ちする/いたす o-mati suru/itasu


There are only a few irregular verbs.

The only funny thing about it is that three verbs 来るkuru (come), 行くiku (go), いる(居る)iru/imasu (be) have the same honorific form いらっしゃる irassyaru.


When to use the various forms is a matter of social judgement (and that's sometimes difficult), not a matter of grammar, the grammar itself is surprisingly simple and regular.



I must add that, of course, you can combine both grammatical politeness/deference categories in one verb:


お待たせしました。 o-matase simasita. Or even more humble: お待たせいたしました。o-matase itasimasita. I do humbly appologize to have kept you waiting. (It sounds clumsy in English, but it is perfectly natural and short! in Japanese.)

The only surprising thing for a foreigner in the sentence above is that there are no personal pronouns in it, no I nor you! What's more, in Japanese, there are plenty of I and you. They can convey politeness too. And they are not pronouns, but nouns rather. You choose a pronoun (most often you don't use any) depending on the level of formality, age, gender, your attitude towards the listener or person being talked about, in-goup and out-group considerations.







Smile at kanji, they will smile at you.


Kanji are necessary a staggering number of homophones! A dozen homophones for a word is far from exceptional.



shi can be: poem, death, four, city, and many more.


Kanji are NOT random strokes.


Any successful strategy of learning written forms of kanji boils down to this: a. dissect kanji into components recurring in many kanji b. name the components and use them as building blocks to remember new kanji c. learn stroke order rules.



kuro (black) in 黒澤 Kurosawa Akira (one of the very best film directors ever) is made up of ta (rice field) + tuti (earth, soil) (etymologically so, different stroke order, though) + rekka (raging fire) {+} sato (village) and .


In other words, kanji have their own alphabet recurring elements that have their names and are easy to remember, because they mean something and you will see them time and again in many words. It only takes a few hours to learn all the bushu (the recurring elements).


Some components can be a kanji on their own, some are just parts of other kanji.


If you dont know kanji for a word, its all right to write the word in hiragana only.


Kanji are a blessing, not a curse.

They make learning EASIER, not more difficult à la longue.

There are two additional dimentions, (compared with the alphabet): a picture and an idea, very often quite poetic.

When I saw 電子 (electron: electricity + child) for the first time I knew INSTANTLY what it means and guessed how to pronounce it: でんし densi. It would not be possible to guess the meaning, if you saw it written in hiragana or romaji. The same goes for countless kanji. And reading: it's just like looking at pictures instead of describing them. It's 天国 tengoku (heaven, sky + country) paradise.


Kanji seem difficult, but they arent. They are painted poems.



I NEVER learnt kanji as single entities. I always learnt words in texts (audio + transcript + translation + pop-up dictionary). I never memorized anything. I relied on massive comprehensible exposure.


I didn't learn kanji in any particular order.

The first kanji/words I was able to recognize (hundreds of them!) were in fact proper names (film directors, actresses, actors, writers, models, historical figures, towns, islands), movie titles, book titles, etc. And long before I even started to learn Japanese. It wasnt possible for me to confuse黒澤 Kurosawa Akira with 山田 洋次Yamada Youji, 賢治Miyazawa Kenji with安部 公房Abe Koubou, 三船 敏郎Mifune Toshirou with仲代 達矢Nakadai Tatsuya, 寅次郎Kuruma Torajirou withリリー 松岡Ririi Matsuoka, 網走Abashiri with 函館Hakodate, or 広島 Hiroshima with 長崎 Nagasaki!

I've always been interested in good books and movies and have been in the nasty habit of checking the literal meaning of the original titles.


It was a very useful stage, emotionally. Japan ceased to be just a place somewhere far away. It became more real than reality itself, in a sense. The way a good poem enters your soul and stays there for ever, to warm you and smile tenderly, sometimes like your friend, sometimes like your lover, sometimes like a gentle touch of your mothers hands on a winters night.

Abashiri isnt just a string of sounds that mean nothing any longer, it is where Tora-san met Ririi for the first time. I can see their faces and hear their voices. And so on and on and on from Abashiri to Okinawa.


I got used to kanji and learned a thing or two by accident when I saw or I thought they would be Kuromiya and Mishima, and indeed they were. I discovered pretty quickly that kanji have different readings. I even discovered that they are interconnected semantically I remember looking at (heaven, sky) and it dawned on me: something big above your head. I cried for joy a painted poem.


I couldnt help noticing that kanji were made of recurring components. Later, I learned what ninben or sanzui are for example, but I knew how they looked like long before I got to know their names. Not because I particularly cared or tried hard to remember, it just happened. I wasnt surprised I already knew that learning a language HAPPENS on its own. All you need is personally relevant exposure. And... you must pay lovingly tender attention to whats happening before your ears and eyes. If you try to conquer or annihilate (= memorize) a language, it will rebel your own brain doesnt like to be raped and turned into a slave. Thats why I didnt care too much about learn-x-kanji-in-y-days-first nonsense.


One sunny day I got a present from 天照皇大神 I was


I did some research, learned about kanji (bushu, components, stroke order rules), learned Japanese bushu names, but never bothered to learn kanji in any 'proper' order or memorize any lists. I relied on massive comprehensive exposure to texts (audio + transcript + translation) I liked or was interested in for some reason.


I DID use some kind of a system to remember kanji.

I learnt 214 classical bushu (they are building blocks of kanji, I made a one-page table and printed it for quick reference).

I learnt their Japanese names. I learnt stroke order rules they are very easy to remember with hardly any exceptions.

Computer etymological dictionaries were one of my resources, too.


I didn't care about the order of learning kanji or words/expressions, how frequent or infrequent they are. I was interested in what a given text meant (be it the title of a movie, a whole story or a novel). I didn't care whether I forgot or didn't forget. I was sure to come across them again in future texts.

At first kanji were just in the background while L-R-ing, listening comprehension was much more important. That doesnt mean that I ignored kanji, they were always there smiling playfully one of the first things I did (after learning about pronunciation and kana) was to be able to recognize all the classical bushu (radicals) and get to know their etymology I just read Len Walshs book and two introductions to kanji dictionaries (one in Polish and the other in Russian).


I was slightly surprised that learning Japanese was not more difficult than learning English, German or French, just another language. It would probably have been more difficult if I had started with reading and learning kanji in isolation the way Mr Heisig recommends or just trying to read handbooks with hardly any kanji in them, or even no kanji at all romaji only. How on earth can you learn kanji if youre not exposed to them?


And one more thing: I never found learning languages or kanji difficult.


Some tips:

Make your kanji font really big you must feel comfortable, you must clearly see all the strokes and components. Then you can make the font smaller and smaller.

Change the font dont get used to one font only. It will teach you what really is important in a kanji. Kanji may look different depending on the font.

Avoid furigana it is much better to rely on parallel texts (kanji spaced hiragana) + audio as long as possible.


Neither kana nor kanji mark pitch accent youd better listen to everything youre learning, be it pronunciation, kana, kanji, grammar, vocabulary or novels.


Learning materials



If I were to use Heisig and SRS (Supermemo or its clones Anki, Mnemozyne, etc), I'm sure I would rather kill myself.

I did know about Mr. Heisig's method of learning kanji even before I started learning Japanese. I rejected his method consciously.

http://forum.koohii.com/ a good site for Heisigs fans and people interested in learning Japanese in general.

http://ankisrs.net/ Anki (SRS) site


Dont harbour any illusions. If you learn even a huge list of kanji (lets say the Heisig way 3 thousand kanji), dont think youll be able to read Japanese, not to mention listening comprehension or speaking. Youll know some Japanese, thats true 1%. (One per cent. Or less.)



Kano Chieko Intermediate Kanji Book Vol 1 wrote:

1. Kanji study is not simply the memorization of characters or shapes; it is the study of vocabulary.

2. Although knowing how to write and pronounce kanji is essential, it is equally important to know how and when to use each kanji.

3. It follows from the above that it is desirable to learn kanji in context.

I might add that learning a language is not simply the memorization of kanji, vocabulary, grammar rules or sentence patterns; it is being exposed to BEAUTIFUL TEXTS (audiobooks + e-novels).

It follows from the above that it is desirable to be an AWE rider and learn a language through L-R. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.







Skills: touch typing, kanji, mnemonics, and language learning

Both touch typing and learning/using a language are skills you learn by using, not by thinking too much (making artificial mnemonics).

You have to be aware of some basic principles, that's all.


As far as touch typing goes:

1. you have to know how to sit and where to put your fingers. (It takes five minutes.)

2. you only look at the screen, and NEVER at the keyboard.


3. the rest is done by actually pressing the keys, but not randomly:

jjj, fff, jfj, fjf, then kkk, jkj, kjk, ddd, lll, sss, aaa, etc. You just add one new element and practise new combinations with old elements. Then you try to type real words: sad, add, ass, fall, all, lass, etc. NO HURRY: first slowly with no mistakes and then faster.

Your body will learn, you won't be conscious of where to find a particular character.


If somebody asks me where 'я' is, I'll have to look for it I don't know, but when I have to type it, my finger knows and presses the right key.



The same goes for kanji there's rules and there's tools.

1. you have to learn about stroke order the rules are very simple with very few exceptions.

You watch how they are written and write them yourself.

2. kanji are made up of building blocks; classical radicals are more or less the building blocks. Learn them it takes just a few hours.


Language is a system of interdependent elements: sounds (phonemes, pitch accent, rhythm, intonation), words (combinations of sounds that carry meaning), phrases and sentences (combinations of words), and texts (spoken and written, combinations of all the above). Only texts carry real life meaning and EMOTIONS.


You learn and remember sounds, words, kanji etc, by using them (listening and looking at texts, and then repeating after the recording and writing them).


It is THAT simple. No mnemonics are necessary, they are just a roundabout way to get to the language.


An occasional mnemonic here and there from time to time is all right, but to use mnemonics first and nothing more to learn huge sets of elements (Heisig 3000 kanji) is just a waste of time. As someone said (a person who actually did Heisig, and then learned Japanese to an advanced level): Its a self-fulfilling prophecy you need RtK (Heisigs books) to finish RtK.



I am not against the way YOU learn (fortunately, the Internet is not school, nobody can force you to learn their way) or Mr. Heisig personally, I just said what I know works best.







''do STEP 2 AND 3 one to three times and go on.''



Kafka in German I did a page once and went on, but I understood everything the translation was very accurate.


Akutagawa in Japanese I did a sentence or a paragraph 3 times it was my first text in Japanese, I had no parallel texts, no word-for-word translation, no spaced hiragana transcription, I had to use a mouse-over pop-up dictionary. The literary translations I used (Polish, Russian, English) gave only the overall meaning. I could recognize basic Japanese grammar and kana before I started. I had an idea about kanji: bushu (radicals) and components I read the book by Len Walsh and could recognize 214 classical bushu and their variations.


I knew the books very well, I had read them in translation. And I LOVED them. I still do.




When doing the L-R (L2 audio, L1 text), have you found it better to let the audio play without pausing, or to pause frequently to match the words in the parallel text?


The essence, the soul, the spirit of L-R:

mjcdchess wrote:

It turns out this [L-R]is an excellent method for learning chess as well. Although not really a language, application of this method has increased my chess strength in the short time I have been doing it.


using this method with chess you do not memorize anything. You simply go over the master games using a data base. You do not need to take lots of time on each move just watch the game as it progresses and soon you get more and more familiar with excellent chess and how it is played. You pick up structures tactics and everything.

its exactly like a language. I am not sure this is proper content for a language thread but learning chess this way is like learning chess "language"


At the beginning the written texts are there only to help you with listening comprehension. You have to analyse what you HEAR. You must match the meaning of what you've jut read with what you're hearing. In other words, you must UNDERSTAND what you're listening to, though you don't memorize anything. L-R is not mechanical. It's a highly conscious process. At first, you don't have to understand every single word, but the more you understand for a fleeting moment, the better. You don't read two pages ahead. So at first, you'd probably have to stop the recording or rather loop a fragment and listen to it a few times. If you understand a lot, you don't have to pause, if you don't understand... pause or ... do something else instead.


Learn some basic grammar, too. That is you must be aware that there are cases, grammatical genders, articles, etc. You don't need to memorize any grammar rules, though.

Being aware of the phonemes and the correspondence between the letters/groups of letters and the phonemes helps a lot, too.

aYa on 05 April 2009


I must add this:

Mouse-over pop-up dictionaries are very useful.

The best one is Lingvo12.


For Japanese and Chinese:


(now its slightly old, hasnt been upgraded for some years)




  When I listen-read a book, say, in Russian, how do I know when I'm finished? Do I have to end up knowing every word of it?



 It's difficult to say. If I do not feel JOY any longer, I stop and do something new. Then I might come back to it. When I enjoy something thoroughly I listen to it many times, even if I understand every single word.


The first three to five hours (depending on the difficulty of the text) should be translated word for word (if you're a beginner), otherwise it is much more difficult, though not impossible. 


I hope you know about the idiolect and how important it is. The first ten to twenty pages are almost always very difficult, a nightmare sometimes. 

It is good to have a pop-up dictionary too.

If the base language is not your mother tongue, it might be even more difficult, unless you know it extremely well. 




Subtitled movies and L-R


his site: http://languagefixation.wordpress.com/



The other big reason I didn't mix my native language with listening in the L2, was because if it worked, I'd be totally fluent in Japanese by now! Do you know how many hours of anime I've watched with Japanese audio and English subtitles? It's a ridiculous number of hours, and I'm still hopeless at Japanese. I think I just tune out the Japanese audio because I pay more attention to the subtitles.[/quote]


My (aYas) comment about the above passage

Watching movies is NOT L-R.


L-R is LISTENING-reading, that means you must pay attention to what youre hearing, analysing it to derive the meaning (and JOY) out of it.


If youre unable (or not willing, or dont care, or refuse, or pay attention to something else jumping pix or big eyes or short skirts) to LISTEN to what youre hearing, you can spend two lifetimes on watching anime, it wont miraculously make you understand haiku or pick up chicks in Japanese.


L-R is not mechanical its not something that comes in through one ear and goes out through the other, missing your brain on the way. It requires conscious effort.


You can call a monkey Willy-Nilly Shake Speare, but that does not mean that it will produce a single sonnet, not to mention Hamlet, the Prince of L-R.


The written text (both in L1 and L2, preferably in parallel vertical columns with matching chunks) is there only as an additional tool to help you with your LISTENING. The faster you read, the more time you have to analyse what youre GOING TO listen to. It goes without saying that you must remember (and be in love with) what youve just read.


You CANNOT read subtitles in advance, they appear on the screen at the same time as the characters are speaking, you have no time to pay attention to what youre (mis)hearing, you concentrate on what is going on in the movie. Quite often, subtitles in L1 have very little in common with what is actually being said in L2. Whats more, exposure (new words/sentences per minute) is very poor.



By the way, L-R (reading in L1 with an occasional glance at L2 and LISTENING to L2) works MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than just reading in L2 and listening to L2. I know, Ive done both, girls and boys and both.


The best way is, of course, YOUR OWN way. But it takes thinking, and people somehow usually think that they think.


Its always worth remembering:

There are no rule(r)s.




If the Listening-Reading works, then...

... why aren't all the people who watch thousands of hours of Japanese anime with English subtitles fluent in Japanese?


See My answer above and below.


Another answer:

A (not so) good question, but there's nothing strange about it.

Watching subtitled movies is NOT L-R.


1. The viewer concentrates on the action, the moving pix, and not on what is being said in L2 (phonemes, grammar, meaning) s/he doesnt give a damn to be more precise.

2. The density (new words/sentences per minute) is minimal.

3. The language in movies is muffled: too much background noise, too much slang etc.

4. Subtitles are very often translated in a very careless or nonsensical way the poorer the film/anime, the poorer the translation, thats a pattern. (The same goes for literature.)

5. The majority of viewers don't read fast enough.

6. Texts for beginners should be translated word for word or the languages should be closely related, Italian-Spanish-French or French-English(??), for instance.

7. You should read BEFORE you hear to have time to attach the meaning to what is being said. The subtitles appear on the screen at the same time or after, so it's not possible. And what's more, they usually disappear too quickly, so you can't check by reading once more.


Of course, you can learn a thing or two from movies if you pay close attention, but even then it has nothing to do with L-R.


People who ask the question (it keeps popping up) seem to think/imply that L-R is mechanical. Sorry, it isnt. Its a system. Its meant for AWE riders who are capable of learning through the Assault, not for TV/computer games/Internet/cell phone addicts those are extremes that dont ever meet.


Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.


What other people think.





would this work for songs? {L-R}


If you can play the violin it might.




One more question .. do you know of a way to prepare a parallel text that doesn't involve copying and pasting each cell??





The best way to learn

The best probably means the best possible results in the shortest period of time with minimum effort in a most enjoyable way.

For me its always the same:

Massive comprehensible exposure = audiobooks + vertical side-by-side parallel texts (L2 +L1) + pronunciation. I use books I already know and love, if possible.

(See The essence, the soul, the spirit of L-R as well.)




Near native reading skills, but basic listening skills?

By slucido:

What do you recommend to people with near native reading skills, but basic listening skills? How can you adapt your method to them, so that they become near native listening too?


To slucido


Polish learners of English pronounce "love" and "laugh" exactly the same way: /laf/ the Polish way, and Polish /laf/ has nothing to do with English "love" or "laugh".

Sit, seat, Sid, seed are all pronounced /sit/ and it has nothing to do with /sit/ in English, it sounds more like /shit/ to English ears, because /si/ is palatalized and is closer to /shi/ in English.

Japanese learners of English pronounce "text" /tekisuto/, "love" /rabu/, "rub" /rabu/.

Add to that your native stress, rhythm and intonation!


When you get down to a language in a roundabout (suicidal) way, starting from reading, you actually pronounce everything your native way. No wonder you cannot understand when you listen to native speakers. You have simply learned a different (non-existent) language.


I can't tell you what you should do. I only know what I would try to do if I were you (fortunately, I am not).

1. I'd stop reading.

2. I'd do Step 2 and Step 3 of the L-R

3. I'd learn phonetics

4. I'd repeat after good actors reading novels I like

5. I'd start reading again (without listening)

6. I'd listen and read separately




The most difficult language in the world.

d-Esperanto, definitely. As some wise guy said the only difficult language is the one you don't want to learn.


I suppose all languages are about the same, none is more or less difficult than any other.

Gathering appropriate materials is the only difficulty. And THAT can be extremely difficult.



I found Mandarin to be very easy indeed. A few days ago I was studying some numbers in various languages. I still remember four of them in Chinese: , , , . To my surprise, they were the same in Japanese so I killed birds with stone.



The best qualities a teacher can have?

I believe in teaching people to be individuals, and to understand other individuals. It's the only thing I do believe in.

(E.M. Forster A Passage to India)


Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education. (Bertrand Russell)


'Be patient,' she said, 'and some day you will climb your own Mount Everest.' And I think she was right. Your own Mount Everest is what really counts. Now I understand, I didn't at first, I was too inexperienced.

Another of her sayings: 'Always expect the worst, it never happens.' She was something of a zen master, I suppose.

Gods bless her soul.



Why do people lie about being fluent?

I've never bothered whether I'm fluent or not. I'm not. What I mean to say is that it is a problem I concentrate on. I need to understand what people wrote in a thread, I have to reply somehow if I think I have something to say.

I try to do my best, but I almost always fail.


Why bother about something as insignificant as fluency? You're getting better? All right, that's what really counts.



Japanese L-R An inexperienced learner A case study

Questions by Somebody (one person)

Answers by aYa

(from old emails, I slightly edited it here and there, the questions were not necessarily asked in the order posted here, but it doesnt matter)


Background and questions

I'm in my early twenties, which makes me a little impatient sometimes. I'm Chinese (Cantonese) by background but born and raised in America. Language learning was always a source of frustration for me in my youth. I can speak Cantonese like a 5-year-old but that's about it. My parents sent me to a Saturday Chinese class for 10 years to learn Mandarin and I graduated from that program feeling like I learned nothing. It's very embarrassing for someone to start speaking very basic Mandarin to me and then they ask, but didn't you study it for 10 years???


Hobbies...I love investing and thinking about money. Stocks, bonds, real estate...it is all very fascinating to me. There is so much opportunity, and the more you learn, the more you see things that other can't see or just fail to notice. It's a bit like being an independent treasure hunter.


Learning style...I've always believed in independent learning and self-teaching. In class, I would do my homework during classtime while the teacher is lecturing on. I find that most teachers and professors are great resources to have, but learning is mostly a person's own responsibility. There are my books in my bookshelves about how to learn faster and more efficiently. That's why I think I was drawn to your "Listening-reading" thread in the forum. It seemed so efficient and fast to me, and you know how impatient I am =)


Japanese....you might laugh but I first decided to seriously study Japanese about two years ago. I downloaded a preview for "Quartett", a Japanese visual novel and I thought it looked like the most interesting story in the world. But...it was in JAPANESE!!! So I went to my university bookstore and I bought the textbook for the 1st year Japanese class. Then, I started playing the game and wrote down all the text on notecards. I used an electronic dictionary to look up the words and I began working through beginner Japanese textbook.


I was quite dumb back then so I would to try to figure out literal translations for each word. Imagine my frustration with the word ki. I remember looking at "Ki ni naru" and being totally confused because I looked up ki and naru independently and translated it as "It becomes air."


Your learning hiragana in one hour does not surprise me. I think I learned hiragana in one day as well but it probably took me about 4-5 hours. I just copied the vocab list from chapter one of the textbook over and over again until i could read it quickly. I must have written arigatou at least a dozen times or more.


I studied for about a month and tried to work my way through Quartett. I felt like I learned a lot, but it was too much hard work so I quit. Looking up words in a dictionary is terribly slow especially when you are reading for story. And of course, my listening-comprehension was terrible because Quartett did not have any voice acting in it.


As for asking for advice... I hope you do not feel too strange about it. I see you not as an expert, but as a very experienced learner. Your Japanese seems to be at a very high proficiency and I'd like to follow a similar path to get there. Upon reading your listening-reading thread, I finally decided to start learning Japanese again.


A very amusing side effect of learning Japanese is that I am beginning to enjoy literature again. I used to voraciously read books when I was little. My mom says I tried to borrow the whole children's section in the library because I read so much. I've never read le petit prince, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen or Grimm brothers, but now I have since I started studying Japanese.



I am currently using your listening-reading system for to learn Japanese for about 2 months now.  I have learned a lot but I do not feel like I can read/write or speak yet.  So far I have listen-read to:


Harry Potter Book 1 (9hr) 3 times

Harry Potter Book 2 (10hr) 3 times

Botchan (6hr) 3 times

Sherlock Holmes stories (5hr) 2-3 times

Kokoro (9hr) 1 time


Here is what I have been doing.


Listened to HP1 Japanese audio while reading the HP1 in English.  I do not have a parallel text for this.

Listened to HP2 Japanese audio while reading in English.  Also do not have a parallel text for this.

I did this three times.


I know the HP stories almost by heart since I've read them multiple times.  When I listen, usually I am reading the sentence and trying to match the English words I see to the Japanese audio I hear.


Question:  Should I read the entire English sentence (then stop looking at the text) and then listen to the Japanese audio?  or should I constantly be looking at the English text as I hear the Japanese and trying to match each word?


As a note, I never stop the audio.  Usually, I listen-read to about 1-3 hours a day.


After listen-reading to HP1 and HP2, I shadowed for about 5 hours using HP2.  It felt difficult because I can only repeat short words and phrases instead of the whole sentences.  I don't think I can handle a conversation yet. 


I felt like I had natural listening for very simple texts like watching simple scenes in anime but I still can only understand the gist and cannot understand the difficult texts.


Next, I listen-read to Botchan.  I listen the Japanese audio but only read the English part of the parallel text.  The 1st time was very difficult to follow but it got easier with the 2nd and 3rd time.


Then, I wanted to be able to read.  So I try making and studying flashcards of the vocabulary of in Botchan.  I did this for about 10 hours.  I learn a lot but I realize it is really slow and boring.


Next, I listen-read to the Sherlock Holmes stories.  To try to learn the kanji, I would listen to Japanese audio while trying to read both sides of the parallel text at the same time.  I would read the English sentence beforehand and try to follow along the Japanese text as the Japanese audio is playing.  This is simple for short sentences but I lose my place very often for the long paragraphs and complicated sentences.


Question:  Should the parallel text be done sentence by sentence or is it okay to do whole paragraphs?


What other information do you need to know?  You said to describe exactly what I am doing, but I'm not sure if I answered what you need.



Funny feeling, I've never asked anybody for any advice. I am just a learner, not an expert, I do not know what anybody else should do. I can only tell you what I am doing, find out yourself if it works for you.


You are just a cyberspace ghost, I know nothing about you learning is very personal.


1. Make sure you've read and thought over what I wrote in the Listening-Reading thread. People usually oversimplify everything.

2. I LOVE Japanese and learning, I can learn it for days on end without getting tired, on the contrary, my joy only increases.

3. I can read very fast in Polish (and almost as fast in Russian, French, and English) and remember very well what I've read.

4. I've been learning languages for over forty years now, entirely on my own, I started when I was eight and never stopped.

5. I've read and listened to thousands of books in many languages.

6. I can hear different sounds (phonemes and variations) and intonation in many languages.

7. I am ready to experiment and change everything in my way of learning.



As to L-R.

NOW I ALWAYS use two written e-texts and a (or more) recording.

If I do not have a word-for-word translation (because I cannot find anyone to do it for me properly), I use a mouse-over pop-up dictionary.

I always read about phonemes and phonetics of the language before I start to learn it.

Listening comprehension is my primary goal. I want to get as soon as possible to the stage of natural listening to simple texts or sentences even textbooks are good enough if I can't get anything else.

I NEVER speak (or read without listening to the text) before I reach the stage of natural listening and do proper amount of phonetic listening (phonemes and intonation and in Japanese pitch accent).


As to Japanese:

I first watched plenty of movies, I did not intend to learn the language then.

I've read many Japanese novels in Polish or Russian and some in Spanish, French, and English over the years. I love good literature and try to read as much as possible.


And then one sunny day, I got six films by Takeshi Kitano from a friend of mine. I watched them all in one day, and decided I wanted to learn the language.


I was in a sense lucky:

I discovered what kanji are. I read a book by Len Walsh (in Russian, now I have it in English too).

And I got Wakan (a mouse-over pop-up dictionary) the same day.

My neighbour is a Jehovah's Witness and they publish Awake! in many languages (it's recorded by native speakers, too). I asked him for some Japanese stuff I do not mind religion as long as it makes it possible for me to learn languages, though I'm not a religious person, to put it mildly. I got about three hundred hours of recordings + e-texts in Japanese and French.

I found some stories by Akutagawa Ryuunosuke on the Internet about 5 hours of audio + e-texts at Aozora and some Russian e-texts at lib.ru, I had some in Polish, too.


I learned to recognize hiragana it took me one hour. It sounds unbelievable, but it's true. I described how I did it in Polish in a file I posted on the forum. I just tried to see some picture in each hiragana sign.

Just to give you an idea:

I see a SAmurai with a big belly or balls (below) and a sword (above)

69 sex, 6 below, phallus above- AAA, that's good.

And so on, it's very easy.


What I did when I started L-R:

I read all the stories by Akutagawa once more, I enjoy them very much.

I had no vertical parallel texts. I had no word-for-word translation, no spaced hiragana transcription either.

I could recognize basic Japanese grammar (I read two grammar books and made tables cheat sheets that I printed) and kana before I started. I knew about pitch accent and the rules how it changes, but, unfortunately, I had no recordings of minimal pairs or even single words, so I couldnt hear it properly in the recorded texts.

I had a general idea about kanji how they work, bushu (radicals) and components, I could more or less recognize some 300 kanji (the book by Len Walsh and classical bushu).


I dragged an audio file into CoolEdit, highlighted a fragment and listened to it over and over again without stopping. At the same time I used Wakan (pop-up dictionary) for the meaning of the words.

My first story was Rashoumon, one of my favourite texts.

或日の暮方の事である。 was my very first sentence in Japanese. (I hope you can see it in your browser.)

I do not know why, but I did not find the story difficult at all. I found very quickly that kanji are a blessing, not a curse.

I did not try to learn them at first, just treated them as a listening comprehension tool. When I understood a Japanese sentence (often only more or less), I listened to it a few times looking at kanji, but not trying to learn them at any cost, and then the following sentence. If it was too long, I divided it into smaller chunks. If something was difficult I only got the general idea from the translation and moved on. Up to the end. And then again from the beginning.

When something was particularly puzzling I used a reference grammar Kaiser, Ichikawa Japanese A Comprehensive Grammar (it's in English) and Romuald Huszcza, Maho Ikushima, Jan Majewski "Gramatyka japoska Podrcznik z wiczeniami" it's in Polish, and the best Japanese grammar I've seen so far (and I've seen dozens in many languages).


And then new texts, and constantly listening. I worked 10 to 12 hours a day for about ten days. And after four days I felt I was ready to speak by repeating after the recording. I did repeat tentatively for a while, but then I felt I shouldnt as I didnt hear the pitch, so I just listened for a long time (both L-R and natural listening). After I got NHK Hatsuon dictionary and listened to words with pitch accent marked, I discovered it wasnt difficult to hear it any longer, so I restarted repeating after the recording, this time in earnest.


I DO NOT TRY TO REPEAT WHOLE SENTENCES at first I just listen without stopping (I already understand) and repeat a word or two here and there, then the chunks I repeat get longer and longer, a sentence or two or even more eventually, and it's easy.

I try natural listening too, I use just anything I can get. At the beginning I used textbooks and Miki's audioblog.



When I understand and can repeat after the recording, I repeat looking at the text, and then try some new texts to find out how much I understand.



When I can understand and repeat after the recording, and then read without the recording, I listen, repeat and type looking at the text I already know very well (an "old" one or a new one, it does not matter).



Now for a few questions...


1. I feel like I've gotten to natural listening already for simple texts like simple childrens stories. But I'd like to get to naturally listening to difficult texts like short stories and novels. How much study time did it take for you get to natural listening for difficult texts?


    About sixty to seventy hours  of  recorded material that means about  200 to 250 hours of  study.  I'm not sure, I did not count. (But certainly not more than that.)


2. Long sentences popping into your head... So far, only words and short phrases pop into my head. How long did it take for you get to the point where long sentences are automatically just popping into your head?


  Natural  listening +  about 3 to 5  hours of repeating  after the recording, and  then  recitation.  By  recitation  I mean remembering a sentence or two for a while (not learning them by heart), choosing your favourite pictures and then imagining why the people in the pictures use the sentences and you yourself say the sentences aloud, playing the people. 


3. Learning to speak Did you do repeat after the recording part for all of your texts that you study or just a few texts in the beginning?


 I only repeat something that I particularly like. First only words, then phrases and then sentences etc. I do not repeat  whole  texts  (only  if  they  are  worth it poems or  sayings for instance).


4. I'm trying to figure out how much listening comprehension I need before going to the speaking step. I have natural listening already but only for simple texts; not these long/difficult novels. How much do you understand before you started repeating after the text? In each text, there are some very easy parts and some hard parts. Should I spend more time on listening comprehension to learn the hard parts or should I start repeating right after I begin understanding about 50%-60% of the sentences?


  I do not spend much time on repeating I prefer to listen to texts  to maximize exposure. I only repeat occasionally here and there. I only repeat something I understand fully be it a word or a phrase. If the meaning is not clear I do not repeat it. That  does not mean I have to understand the whole text. 


5. How well do I need to be able to listen and speak before beginning to read? When did you decide your speaking/listening is good enough to begin the reading step for a text?


It depends on how  important PRONUNCIATION is to you. If it does not matter, you can begin anytime. For me it does matter so I only start reading without listening when I know my pronunciation is good enough not to suffer from reading.


6. When re-listening to a text for one or two extra times, should it be done consecutively? I find it's more interesting to go on to new texts, but I will often learn more (due to forgetting curves) if I study a single text continuously.


  If I like a text or a voice I listen to it many times, even if I understand it completely. I do not worry how fast or slow I   learn, I concentrate on JOY. It's better than orgasms. When I find I have enough, I do new texts.


7. How did you do your studying since there are multiple steps and multiple texts. For instance, did you listen, speak, read, write for a single text and then move on to another text? Or did you listen to all the texts, then try to speak from all the texts, read all the texts.


  I try to maximize exposure I can listen naturally and repeat after the recording at the same time. I sometimes type something I like. I do not worry about any order, what counts for me is listening and pronunciation, the rest is less important.


8. Grammar How and how often did you use your reference grammar? Do you actually study from it? Or do you just use it to look up things you do not understand when you are listening?


    At the beginning I used them a lot.  And then less and less,  now  I hardly ever use them. I try to make my own grammar textbook as soon as possible.  I use texts and try to figure out for myself, when I fail I use other sources. I usually have a look at some tables, if there are any.




Your repeating tips are very helpful to me. I am experimenting with repeating only the word/phrases. Also, now I just repeat the things I understand and can hear. It is much easier and joyful this time than before when I was trying to repeat every word and full sentences.


Questions about repeating after the reader (shadowing) and recitation:


1. When you finished the initial stage of listen-reading and decided you have reached natural listening and are ready to begin shadowing, did you shadow + natural listening for 3-5 hours immediately and continuously? more specifically, is this step one long session of natural-listening/shadowing or is it multiple short sessions that add up to 3-5 hours?




2. Did you continue to practice shadowing after those initial 3-5 hours or is it just a one-time event only in the beginning stages?


Continue for at lest 5 minutes  a day, every day until death. I dont need any extra time I do it while I natural-listen.


3. When you say 3-5 hours, is that time you are actually physically repeating words or is time that you are naturally listening and repeating the words/phrases/sentences you like? For instance, 3-5 hours of actual physically repeating words might be equal 9-15 hours of total natural-listening/repeating time. Please clarify.


The latter. ((I meant 3-5 hours of actual physically repeating words might be equal 9-15 hours of total natural-listening/repeating time.))


4. Recitation Can you give more details about this step and describe exactly how you did this? Do you mean to the play as the people in the story, think about the scene, and then say the words while thinking why the person speaking is using these sentences? What do you mean by remembering a sentence vs. learning them by heart? Did you do this step while listening to the audio or is the audio off? During this step, are you listen-reading with the translation or just natural listening? How much recitation did you do before being able to speak or have long sentences pop into your head?


You only recite  when you've already learned  correct pronunciation. You choose your own pictures (photos etc), and imagine your OWN situation, not from the story, you repeat the same phrases, dialogues changing the people in YOUR story you've just invented.

You remember for a while (necessary to play your scene), you learn by heart for ever. 

It does not matter if it's natural listening, L-R or just reading.

Recitation is not so important it's just for fun and variety.

What really counts is listening and repeating after the recording. 


Question about Natural Listening and Reviewing Old Texts and Allocation of study time

5. Natural Listening In your posts, you mention to natural listen to new materials that you've never seen the original text or translation for. But do you ever do natural listening for the texts after you listen-read with the translation? Is it important to do natural listening for the texts you are studying?


JOY is my ultimate guide. I do both.


6. Reviewing Old Texts When you decided you have done enough of one text, do you always go to new texts instead or do you go back and review old texts that you studied long time ago?


I usually do not review old texts. EXPOSURE = NEW TEXTS, if possible.

But I do collect charms zaklcia in Polish. I mean something I particularly like: a saying, a poem, a song, a clip from a movie, a picture, a memory and listen or watch them very often. They keep me going.


7. Out of 100%, how much time do you guess you spend on each step: listen-reading, natural listening, reading, speaking, and writing? I know you say to spend most time maximizing exposure, but what proportion of time did you spend on listening exposure and how did you split the time between natural-listening and listen-reading?


At the beginning (incubation period) L-R =  100%,  then  L-R = 60 to  70%  (you should remember that it involves plenty of natural listening as well, because more and more passages are easy). After the incubation period I do everything at the same time: listen, repeat, read, type, no rigid schedule.



I have some questions about L-R System Step 5 when you do oral translation of parallel text from your language to the language you're learning.


1. When do you start doing this step? When are you ready to do this?


   I first try simple texts, but only when I've already got to the stage of natural listening to difficult texts and after I've repeated a few hours after the recording. Then it is quite easy and fun. 


2. How much time do you spend on this step?


 Difficult to tell, I'm not a person who measures everything. I only do something I enjoy.  The five steps I mentioned are just an outline.


3. How exactly do you do it? Do you try to translate just words or sentences? Or do you translate whole texts?


I never translate words. I usually translate passages I particularly like. And only what I know I wouldn't be  able to use myself.


4. Do you try to do a perfect translation or just do a general idea of the translation?


I try to do it as well as possible, and that means at first they should be exactly as the original, then, as my knowledge becomes greater and I can feel the alternatives, I do it in a more free way, begin to play with words and ideas.


5. How does it fit with the other steps Reproduction, Recitation, and Production? Is it after you reach production stage?


Reproduction is word for word, nothing new, Recitation is at first word for word, the only new elements are your own psychological contexts, after a while you begin to change the original, adding new words, sentences, make up your own dialogues, using what you've already learned elsewhere and know it's correct. Production is using what you've learned in your own real life, eg. I brush my teeth I try to say it, I see a happy girl, I try to describe what she feels, etc.


6. Do you use texts you are familiar or completely new texts?


 Both. First only familiar ones, and then new ones, but simple and that I understand fully. I try not to guess, and always to be able to check if what I'm doing is correct.




I tried natural listening to Niimi Nankichi stories today, and I had trouble understanding them. I think I need to do more listen-reading to increase my listening comprehension. More questions for you:


1. Listening Reading Step I remember that you said to not just look at the translation but READ it before the matching texts in the recording reaches your brain, and try to simultaneously attach the meaning to what you're hearing without stopping the audio.


Can you describe more specifically how you are doing this step? I don't think I am doing this correctly because I am listening to the audio and trying to match the translation to the audio at the exact same time I'm listening to the audio. This means that I am paying most of my attention to the translation and then trying to match bits and pieces of the audio to the translation.


Perhaps I need to do the opposite where I pay more close attention to audio and try to match the translation to what I'm hearing instead?


More specifically, do I need to read a sentence in the translation, keep in your mind, and then shift 100% of your focus to audio and listen to the sentence? during the pause before the next sentence in the audio, do I need to read the next sentence in translation? If so, then this requires very quick reading, good memory, strong background knowledge of text, and close attention to the audio at the same time??? Is this what you mean the Listen-reading is not a passive process and requires all your power of concentration?



To do L-R properly you must be able to SIMULTANEOUSLY do the following:

  to read the translation and at the same time to listen attentively to the recording and at the same time to attach the meaning to what you're hearing. In other words: Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

  If you're NOT in a position to do it straight away, you must slow down.

  Step 1 and Step 2 are meant to facilitate Step 3.

  Step 2 in Japanese is rather tricky because of the script. But it IS possible.  Drag the audio file into Cool Edit (or a similar proggy), highlight a fragment (a sentence, etc, depending on how much you understand) and play it many times without stopping. At the same time use a pop-up dictionary to see the meaning of the words if you cannot guess it from the translation and/or what you're hearing I use WaKan http://wakan.manga.cz/ it's for Windows and it's free). If you have trouble with grammar, use a reference book or try to figure it out yourself. 

Do not try to remember kanji here, just treat them as a stepping stone to understand what you're hearing.  When you come across them many times in slightly different contexts, youll be able to remember them anyway.

  When you've done Step 1 and Step 2 properly, Step 3 (actual learning) should be easy. After some training you'll be able to skip Step 1 and Step 2. 



Are you trying to match words/phrases or entire sentences?


  First the gist, paragraphs if necessary, sentences and then words. I begin from the translation and what I already know to get the overall meaning, but everything happens rather quickly and it is often difficult to describe what was first words or sentences. It is holographic.



How much of the audio are you able to match during your 1st and 2nd time listen-reading to a novel? I have trouble matching because of the word order of Japanese and because sometimes the translation is too literary.


Plenty, 70 %, sometimes 100%, though only for a short period while I'm listening, I do not try to "learn" anything that is to cram to remember. I understand for a while and I'm happy and go on due to the idiolect of the author and the discourse of the story I'll be listening/reading the same words/sentence patterns, sounds, intonation many times in slightly different contexts, so eventually I'll remember them without cramming.


2. You said listening 3x is usually enough to understand almost everything. Does that mean you can natural listen to a novel and understand almost 100% of the vocab and 100% of the grammar after listen-reading to that novel 3x times?


  Yes. But I've read plenty of novels, poems, science books in many languages, and I LOVE what I'm doing. I need 3 times only at the beginning (incubation period). When I listen I pay attention to everything at the same time grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. I concentrate fully on the story, I dont force myself to learn anything.


3. When I listen-read several times to a novel, I find I remember the English translation very easily but do not remember the Japanese original very well. This is very apparent when I try to natural listen and I don't even recognize the original Japanese. Is this normal or does this mean I am not focusing on the Japanese audio enough?


See the beginning.


4. When you talk about the phases of language acquisition, what does PERCEPTION and RECOGNITION mean?


PERCEPTION hearing and reading (with as full  understanding  as possible)

RECOGNITION listening and/or reading and recognizing the  meaning (as full as possible)


Natural listening to difficult texts

More questions:


1. Can you explain what you mean by "natural listening to difficult texts"? I've done 250+ hours of listen-reading (about 100 hours of material). How do I know if I've reached the stage of "natural listening to difficult texts" yet?


Difficult texts = difficult novels, popular science, essays. 250+ means nothing to me as long as I don't know what you've actually done, how much you understood listening for the first/second time, etc. For me (I am an experienced learner/user of languages) 250+ hours would mean enough to be reasonably fluent: to understand most of the content and be able to use up to 5000 words in speaking and writing with a number of mistakes in sentence structure and usage, but understandable for the addressee.


2. Speaking skills I just finished listening-reading to all of Miki's blog (71 entries). I listen-read to each one two times. What else should I do to be able to "use" the language? How long will it take to be able to "use" Japanese to communicate?


I explained it so many times:

Using = natural listening + pronunciation + repeating after the speaker + recitation. How much time it will take you, I've no idea, I do not know you.

You need not only language skills to communicate properly. You need self-confidence, pragmatic skills, not to be afraid to make a fool of yourself, and so on. Body language is very important. You need something interesting to say, too.


3. I've studied so much already, but there is still so much Japanese vocabulary and grammar I do not understand. What happens normally when learning a language? Japanese is my first foreign language so I don't know what to expect. When are you able to read novels and watch movies without translation?


 Learning a language (or learning anything) is a life long experience. It's a constant struggle between remembering, forgetting and using. You cannot say you know any language, particularly if you only spend an hour or two a day learning/using it, and usually in a far from perfect way. You won't be able to learn all the vocabulary, it's an open system. As to grammar, it's usually about three/four hundred sentence patterns to master, so it's feasible. I learned a number of languages: was able to read novels, understand the radio and speak and write and then abandoned them, having nothing more to read I'm interested in poetry and good novels, not languages. I haven't been using English for years, and almost forgot Portuguese, for example. Now I only use Russian and sometimes French. And Japanese.

You've chosen Japanese for your first language, so it will probably take more  time to learn it. Learning is not as much learning a language but rather learning how to learn and gathering materials and experience.

You seem to concentrate too much on your goal you want to know the language concentrate on whats happening here and now. The road is much more important than the destination.


I have some questions about speaking skills and grammar.

Speaking Skills:

I went to Japanese Conversation Meeting this weekend and it was very difficult to speak. I would think of what I wanted to say in English but then I did not know how to say it in Japanese. For instance, one person asked in Japanese, "How did you find this group?" I wanted to say something like that "I found it on the Internet", but my mind struggled to find the Japanese to say this.


Speaking is USING a language not learning it. Use something simple and modern for speaking in social situations, you might have a try at Japanese101, their intermediate lessons and Miki's blog are quite good for that purpose. 



I have been shadowing about 15-30 min a day for the past week and a half, only repeating the words and phrases that I fully understand. I have been shadowing Petite Prince and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I have not done any recitation yet. Do you have any suggestions for improving my speaking skills? Do I need to shadow simpler texts?


See above. 


Grammar to improve listening:

I have lots of grammar questions.

How important is it to understand the grammar for listening? Does it make your listening-reading easier? What kinds of things did you look up in the reference grammar and what did you skip? Do you feel it's helpful to supplement the listening-reading with grammar? If so, how would you do it? Most of the grammar I know is from listening-reading only.


A language is a SYSTEM. Everything is important. I usually read some grammar books to get the overall structure and make my own tables, I posted an example on the forum, it's in Polish, but you may have a look just to get an idea. Some people do not bother about grammar Zhuangzi, for instance. It is much better to use texts instead of only studying grammar books, I use both because its faster and more reliable.



I feel like listen-reading teaches me vocabulary very quickly but the grammar comes very slow. Many times when I am natural listening, I understand most of the words individually but I cannot understand the meaning of the whole sentence. How did your grammar level progress with your listening skill?


I get the grammar quickly, maybe because I know how to analyse texts, I never believe grammar books blindly, I'd rather rely on texts and my own judgment. If it's difficult for you, just do more texts and do not worry, after a while everything should become clear. And I study very intensively, all day long. 

Now, for example I'm writing to you in English (about something I know very well, so its easy) and listening to Don Quixote in Spanish, I know the book and like the reader. It takes some time to learn how to study and do two things at a time. I've been doing it for over forty years, I spend about twenty days a month reading and/or listening and ten writing on average.




Who are you?

Short answer: aYa

Long answer.

The longest answer: I'm Socrates' daughter and Bertrand Russell's son.


WHO does not matter. WHAT matters and HOW to improve it.




Whats in a word?


When you look at, say, or голова, you might say its a symbol or a string of symbols. They are there, they dont disappear, you can look at them time and again, as many times as you feel like it. It doesnt matter who has written them, they will look the same all the time. You may wonder how they sound like and what they mean.


When you hear them, however, everything changes. First, they disappear almost immediately, second, it does matter who says them: depending on the intonation and the sounds, you can tell a number of things: if its a child, a woman, a man, old, young, native speaker or not, happy, sarcastic etc. They will sound differently each time they are pronounced. You might wonder if they are words or a group of words or what they actually mean and how they might look when written down.


To be able to recognize them you must have their image in your own brain. Both acoustic and graphic.


They have something in common: the meaning. How to covey it? You might use an actual object and say pointing: This is, it means голова. Then you might guess the meaning, but will you remember it and recognize it the next time you hear or see it?

Will you recognize them in ломать голову or 頭が悪い you might if you see them, but when you hear them? And not on their own but in a (con)text?


And what about using them yourself?

And if its not only one word but thousands of them?


One of the solutions might be to learn some pairs by heart, a word or a phrase and their meaning(s) in your mother tongue.

It is the most common way of tackling the problem.


Some questions arise:

Do the meanings in both languages really correspond to each other?

Do you use a dictionary to find out the meaning? Which meaning(s) do you choose and why and which ones do you discard and why? How much time does it take to find them and write them down?

What do you actually do while revising?

Do you listen to them or/and look at them and/or say them aloud? Do you write them?

How can you be sure you pronounce them correctly? Will others understand you? Will they be puzzled? Laugh at you? (native speakers)

How much time does it take? Is it enjoyable?

Do you learn something interesting as well or just the words?


What about forgetting?


Is it possible to learn language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) that way? How well?


Won't you have to unlearn what you've "learned" but are unaware of it?




The trouble with language textbooks

I'll try to explain what I mean in my rather clumsy English.


The trouble with language textbooks:


1. The authors (or should I say the publishers) are driven by auri sacra fames, ie. they want to make money

that's why the textbooks are prepared quickly and cheaply.

   a) they're boring (nothing interesting can be done quickly unless you're quick-witted)

   b) they're not meant for intelligent people


2. They want to TEACH you, that's why they're TEACHER-centred (the teacher tells/forces his pupils to buy textbooks and it is big money), and the teacher is supposed to be cleverer than you are, they tell you, "Do this, this and this". Why you should do this "this" is not explained.


3. They tell you, "You are sure to learn the xYx-language" using MY textbook". What they really mean is: "Buy my textbook, whether you will learn anything or not I do not care, it would be better if you didn't, then you'll have to buy another one".


4. They want to TEACH you (instead of LETTING YOU LEARN) everything at once (speaking, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary) right from the beginning ending up not teaching you anything properly. PRONUNCIATION (= phonemes, intonation, rhythm, tones) is not mentioned at all.


5. What they really teach you:

a) clumsy ways of studying

b) some illusions

c) an appalling number of pronunciation mistakes


6. EXPOSURE (texts, sentences, vocabulary) is minimal and very often NEGATIVE (too poor and artificial discourse for instance)

7. Usually they are not bilingual (ASSimil's ones are)

8. If they are recorded, there's no transcript (Pimpsleur)

9. Grammar examples are not recorded



A GOOD textbook should explain to you:



2. the overall STRUCTURE of the language in a logical and meaningful way: a few hundred carefully selected sentences with word-for-word translation and grammar codes alongside with correct natural sentences in your mother tongue

3. all examples should be recorded by at least two native speakers a male and female professional voice talents

And only then:

4. should contain natural dialogues and texts with about 3 thousand basic words, all bilingual, and natural audio by native speakers



I'd rather have a dry wit than be dry as dust. It's a matter of time rather than wits. I cannot afford to wait five years to read a novel, I want to do it straight away. I've never been interested in languages, tinkering with them, or playing with the idea of becoming a polyglot, finding it rather futile.


I have nothing against textbooks or anyone in particular, if you're happy with them, be happy. My idea of happiness is simply different. Not better, not worse, my own. I do not expect anyone to be happy my way. I'm not filled with missionary zeal, the only mission I'm aware of is the mission-ary position.


As I said before, I don't mind courses. My favourite being INTER-COURSE.The best way of achieving fluency in any language. Put your tongue into practice. And your first favourite organ (no, I dont mean your head).


It would be unfair to say that ALL textbooks are a waste of time. I've seen a few worth reading. Perhaps they are for the happy few, but....


Here are some texts from a textbooks for beginners learning English. They are by Leon Leszek Szkutnik (thanks, sensei).

Leon Leszek Szkutnik wrote:


A young psychologist. Straight from college. People are interesting material for her. I like her figure. And that puzzled look in her eyes. When I try to be an interesting case.



We live ungrateful from day to day, blind to the miracles around us, fallen out of love with the world predatory shopping animals.



Thoughts of death ought to be accepted and made part of life. A black-and-white pattern is elegant and profound. I wonder if you like geometric abstractions.



This world is a door left ajar by an absent-minded angel.



A look, a smile, an invitation. Sunshine, music, joy... A concert, a walk, a question. Till tomorrow then. Good night.



The Earth and the sky and the other requisites are not for ever. But the text is a different matter.



I am... Im not... Am I...? Yes, definitely. I buy, therefore I am. One thing at least is certain.



Dont try to look for answers. Try to find questions. Questions contain answers. I see you dont agree with me. That does not surprise me.





fanatic wrote:

I have always said that I am in favour of any method that works for you. I can't agree, however, that using a language program will hinder your fluency. Certainly, some programs are better than others and some programs work better for some people than they do for others. As has often been discussed on this forum, a lot depends on your learning style.


I have used many learning programs and I cannot say that any one of them has hindered my fluency. It is obvious that the language is formal in many of the courses. A friend heard me listening to my German course and thought it was hilarious. He said we don't talk like that. It didn't affect the way I spoke in Germany or in German speaking countries. The same with French. Some young French kids would listen at the door while my wife was learning French and they would scream with laughter. My wife got embarrassed but she still got by quite well in French. She and I both understood what was colloquial and what was formal.


I would say that all of my language courses have contributed to my fluency. As has reading books, newspapers and magazines and speaking with people. If I had a strange way of saying something my friends in Germany didn't mind correcting me or telling me the word I should have used.


My goal was simply to understand and be understood. My goals changed as I was teaching in German and doing public speaking.


What worries me more than anything is the attitude that seems to say, my way is the right way and everyone should do it like me.


My way is the right way for me and I don't impose it on anyone else. I offer it as a suggestion to help people, that is all.

(fanatic is a great fan of Assimil handbooks)


fanatic wrote:

What worries me more than anything is the attitude that seems to say, my way is the right way and everyone should do it like me.


It's only licentia poetica.

You cannot impose anything on anybody on an Internet forum.


It changes drastically when you go to school here you have nothing to say. Poor kids.


By the way, I did find out that language courses would hinder my fluency if I used them. The main reason was boredom. They dont mention PRONUNCIATION, or do it in a very clumsy way.




About audio playlists

I don't memorize wordlists, but I occasionally make audio playlists with words and expressions from the texts I'm reading.

I have a rather huge database of mp3 files that look something like this (just an example):


三宝 【さんぼう; さんぽう】 (n) 3 treasures of Buddhism Buddha, sutras and priesthood.mp3

共和国 【きょうわこく】 (n) republic; commonwealth.mp3

前住所 【ぜんじゅうしょ】 (n) one's former address.mp3

力を注ぐ 【ちからをそそぐ】 (exp) to concentrate one's effort (on something) .mp3


I use wList (a proggy) to generate Unicode playlists, and then listen to them if necessary.


I save the playlist in a file, eg: !How to be happy.m3u8


A good thing about a playlist is that you can edit it quickly, randomize the order, etc.


I can use wList to generate text files, too. I change them to vertical parallel columns with a hyperlink to a playlist.



(n) saint; person well-balanced morally and intellectually.mp3



(n) the whole life.mp3


I don't really know how many words a day I learn, I've never counted, never bothered in fact. In a word: plenty.


Playlists are much more useful (for Japanese and Chinese indispensable) for line-by-line audio links to texts, dialogues or sentences at least.


Playlists are very useful for practicing pronunciation, both phonematic/phonetic listening and reproducing (repeating after the recording).



Grammar vs texts

grammar vs texts

There's no contradiction.


I relied on authentic texts mostly listening and reading (through L-R)

knew L1 grammar (phonetics, verbs, nouns, etc, clauses)

first read target texts in L1, used the same novels/books to learn new languages


studied intensively, 12-16 hours a day for two weeks one month, on holidays

then only used the languages (great fan of audiobooks, poetry and movies)


always studied phonetic systems very carefully


Never memorized vocabulary, learned through natural exposure to recorded and written texts.



Russian no grammars (I already knew Polish)

French read two grammars, then started reading Simenon's crime stories

Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, English no grammar (I already knew French)

German read two grammars, made tables for reference, started with The Trial by Kafka


Japanese read two grammars made my own tables, printed them for reference (verbs, A-i adjectives, copula, sentence endings)

learned kana and read about kanji (Len Walsh, classical bushu and components)

started with authentic texts Akutagawa's stories and JWitnesses stuff, used a mouse-over pop-up, had no parallel texts at the beginning


Started speaking only after reaching natural listening through repeating after the recording and recitation.

Never separately learned how to write through exposure (exception Japanese, typed in plenty of texts listened (looped a fragment) looked at the text and typed in, sometimes repeated aloud, can touch type quickly)


Learned all my languages entirely on my own.

See About grammar as well.



Thinking the most underrated language skill

I somehow cannot grasp why speaking about nothing in particular should be difficult. I'd say thinking is much more important. It's the most underrated language skill.


It often takes thinking to do things properly, and the majority of people are not prepared to think systematically, they usually think they are intelligent (they are, thats true, no sarcasm intended) or experts and that they think properly.


Let me explain. When I was beginning to learn English on my own, I was a teenager, the first thing I did was to read two thick books on English phonetics by university professors (real professors the elite, not doctors). The books were all right, they explained everything: vowels first, then consonants.

After each sound was explained there were exercises, for example:

look Luke, bit beat, etc.

I was supposed to practise /u/ sound or /i:/ sound. It went like this: Listen and repeat.

It didnt make any sense to me. Why on earth was I to ignore /l/ and /k/ sounds? They were covered much later in the book. So, of course, I didnt repeat anything. I read the two books, made a system for myself I knew everything about each sound and all the sounds and how they differed from the Polish sounds. I then started to listen and analysed all the sounds and tried to repeat only when I was sure I heard what was described. To control myself I relied on what I knew, what I heard and compared what I said with what I heard (and used a mirror to see if my lips were in the right position there were photographs in the books). If I repeated correctly I went on repeating it, many times, it went like this: listen-repeat, listen-repeat, listen-repeat. But if I couldnt repeat or didnt repeat properly I just listened and repeated only the words I could repeat before.


The moral: dont trust unconditionally any experts or dont consider yourself an expert THINK, damn it. Anyone can be right and anyone can be wrong any time.




I discovered L-R myself when I was a little girl. I went to school and learned all the letters and... started to read a HUGE book (it was almost two hundred pages long, with hardly any pictures). It took me two or three weeks, I was extremely pleased. Just then L-R was born, but I didnt know it YET. (Use LONG novels right from the outset: L-R STEP 1.)

A year later, I started learning languages entirely on my own.

I noticed that if I had first read a story in Polish and then listened to it on the radio in Russian I was able to understand almost every single word. (L-R almost STEP 3)

I discovered STEP 3 proper (listen L2 + read L1) later, but basically, its just a much quicker version of Step 1 and Step 2 combined.



My independence journey had started I never stopped reading. Read during classes, some teachers did not mind, some were afraid to tell me not to I was quite cheeky, in an intelligent way. Began learning Russian just because my elder brother started it at school and I was curious. Read books, listened to the radio. Then French, I met a man who had 333 crime stories: Simenon, Chase etc. Read them all. Then Italian, Spanish just because there were some books at our local bookstore and I had enough money to buy them (pity there was nothing in Japanese, damn it!). Learned Portuguese because I wanted to read Bertrand Russell, there were no books by him in English in the library, but strangely enough more than twenty in Brazilian Portuguese. And so on.


Always wondered at ignorance of teachers.


Was I a genius? NO! I just wasnt afraid to do things my own way. And I didnt waste as much time as others did.

By the way, my IQ is 106. A childhood joke comes to mind. I would greet my best friend, Ania (we agreed that our birthday was everyday):

Sto lat!

Sto sze!

Czemu sto sze?

Przecitny wiek osaaahaha!

Le vert paradis des amours enfantines!

You dont understand? Learn foreign languages, girl or boy or both.


For some time I was an unofficial coordinator of home schooled children and teenagers they were free, brave and clever enough not to go to school and it was then that I thought the whole matter over and wrote some notes (book) on L-R for the children to use as a guide. I made plenty of parallel novels for them too.


Languages have never been important to me in themselves, what I really like are stories (told, written, and shown) and poetry. The fact that I know a little bit about languages and learning them is just a byproduct, a bonus, as it were (or sometimes a burden when Im forced by my weird sense of duty to write about it for others to enjoy the beauty of it). I dont consider myself an expert. Firstly, because I dont believe in any experts, secondly, if you think youre an expert, youre dead, you stop thinking. Im just a learner. Im not a polyglot nor a performing monkey, either. I do not give a damn if I forget a language: if I have nothing more to read in it, I abandon it as soon as possible. I can relearn it quickly, if needed.


The moral: its never too early to start thinking.




I'm puzzled. There are so many people out there who are sure something does not work just because they believe so.

It reminds me of a guy who told everybody his wife could not cheat on him. Then, some sunny day, she told him she was pregnant. And then he did know that the impossible was possible.

The moral:

Love thy neighbour and don't tell him the possible is impossible just because you can't get it up.



Rule One when dealing with other peoples ideas:

- what's good?

- how to improve?

- how to help others?


The time to be happy is now,

The place to be happy is here,

The way to be happy is to make others so.


People usually start to look for what is wrong (or rather seems to be wrong to their twisted minds) to feed their complex of superiority (because of their complex of inferiority)! And quarrel endlessly about trifles.





There's levels.

And there's rules, too.

Rule One: there are no Rule(r)s.

Rule Two: L-R.

Rule Three:


Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.



(English literature or translated into English)



Didactic texts: simplified readers: Oxford Bookworms, etc

If you're a good learner and a good L1 reader, you can skip this level.



Authentic texts: The Little Prince, Winnie-the-Pooh by Milne, Andersen, Dahl (for children), Alice in Wonderland, Harry Pottaa, Wilde fairy tales



Crime stories Christie, Sherlock Holmes

Fair stood the wind for France by Bates, The Pearl by Steinbeck, Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene, Animal Farm by Orwell



Some more difficult popular stuff (Ellis Peters)

Orwell 1984, Wilde, Kafka



The French Lieutenants Woman by John Fowels, Tess of the dUrbervilles Faithfully Presented By Thomas Hardy, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront, Anna Karenia, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller,

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Proust, Ulysses by James Joyce




Old literature Fanny Hill, Milton, Willy-Nilly Shakespeare



Of course, L2 version is not always faithful to the original, that's why you should constantly use your second favourite organ (head) and some tools: parallel e-texts, a a mouse-over pop-up dictionary, a reference grammar, and CoolEdit or Audacity for your audio files.


Youll probably need a new incubation period when jumping to a higher level.


A wise guy (my un-humble self) begins at the end: 'Lolita' is my number one. It requires more drive and power of concentration, but youre much sooner on the top of the world. Its worth it.




The same novel in every language

Andersen's Fairy Tales

Saint-Exupry Le petit prince

Dahl Fantastic Mr Fox, Matilda

Carroll Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass

Milne Winnie-The-Pooh

Wilde Fairy Tales

Collodi Pinocchio

Lindgren all her books for children are easy and nice

Spyri, Johanna Heidi

Burnett, Frances Hodgson The Secret Garden

Anne Frank The Diary

Kristof, Agota Le grand cahier

Hemingway The Old Man and the Sea, Short Stories, A Farewell to Arms

Steinbeck, John The Pearl

Lampedusa Il gattopardo

Eco Il nome della rosa

Orwell 1984, Animal Farm

Bulgakov Master and Margarita

Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment, The Karamazov Brothers, The Idiot

Айтматов Пегий пёс, бегущий краем моря

Tolstoy Anna Karenina, War and Peace

Kafka The Trial, The Castle, Short Stories

Hesse, Hermann Der Steppenwolf

Camus The Outsider, La peste (The Plague)

Simenon Maigret (various books)

Voltaire Candide

Laclos, Pierre Chaderlos de Les Liaisons dangereuses ou Lettres

Nabokov Lolita

Conrad Lord Jim

Heller Catch-22

Cleland, John Fanny Hill

Maugham, W. Somerset The Moon and Sixpence

Kesey, Ken One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

Cela, Camilo Jos La familia de Pascual Duarte

Mrquez Cien años de soledad

Guimarães Rosa, João Grande Sertão

Amado, Jorge Tieta do Agreste

Amado, Jorge Gabriela, cravo e canela

Vasconselos, Jos Mauro de Meu P de Laranja Lima

Carolina Maria de Jesus Quarto de despejo (dirio de uma favelada)

Kapuciski, Ryszard Heban

Lem, Stanisaw Solaris

Abe Kobo The Woman in the Dunes

Murakami Haruki South of the Border, West of the Sun

Murakami Haruki Kafka on the Shore

Russell, Bertrand The Problems of Philosophy

Russell, Bertrand Sceptical Essays

Russell, Bertrand History of Western Philosophy

Davies, Norman Europe A History

Fromm, Erich Escape from Freedom

Hayek, Friedrich August von The Road to Serfdom


It is also a good idea to use different translations of the same novel in one language: I used four different English translations of The Trial by Kafka, for instance. And different recordings of the same novel in one language, unabridged ones and then abridged ones or/and radio adaptations.




Audiobooks readers/narrators

Audiobooks are very easy to get in English, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, German, French, Polish, Czech, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Hungarian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch (I mean by professional readers),

not so easy in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian by they are there.

For lesser languages or the countries where they dont produce audiobooks for some reason (Korean) you have to make do with JW audiobooks and magazines in oh so many languages.


Search libraries for the blind and p2p networks.


There are free audiobooks read by amateurs out there, too: librivox, liberliber.it, litteratureaudio.com, etc I somehow cannot listen to them, too poor technical and artistic quality. But sometimes you just have no choice.



It is highly subjective what voices you like or dislike.



Gert Westphal (Kafka, anything by him is very good)

Manfred Steffen (Andersen, Grimm, Mann)



Jeremy Irons (Lolita)

Miriam Margolyes (Oliver Twist, Matilda)

Peter Whitman (Catch-22, Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Bonnie Hurren (The Bell Jar)

Cyril Cusack (Monsignor Quixote)

Cora McDonald (Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh)



Anything published by Livraphone is very good.

I liked the way Eric Herson-Macarel reads Le grand cahier by Agota Kristof. The book is a very simple masterpiece.

Albert Camus reading his own Ltranger



There are plenty of good Russian readers, and... there are plenty of not so good. The audiobook market is huge.

Семён Ярмолинец he is a genius, he reads:

Hemingway, Ernest The Old Man and the Sea (Старик и море)

Платонов, Андрей Котлован



Not too many audiobooks, Im afraid. You have to make do with what you find.

Kaseumin (Kasumi Kobayashi) she is an amateur reader, but her sad voice makes you shiver.

Saint-Exupry Le petit prince あのときの王子くん read by sarasouju (another amateur reader) kept me entranced.

Stories produced by fantajikan are all good.

Watanabe the guy who reads Kokoro by Natsume Soseki is good.

My Book of Bible Stories (by JW) read by a very nice male voice.

There are two Harry Potter books by a professional reader, he is quite good, but the book is...

Books by kotobanomori, privatebank, mioradi are all very good.

The guy who reads Sherlock Holmes stories and Dr Jekyll is good.



Not so many audiobooks in Spanish. Warning: There are plenty of audiobooks read by computer voices.


Cela reading his own La familia de Pascual Duarte


Some available audiobooks:

Saint-Exupery El principito

Camus, Albert El Extranjero

Kafka Varios

Tolstoy, Leo Ana Karenina ! 40h 22min

Falcones, Ildefonso La catedral del mar

Zafn El juego del ngel

Cervantes Don Quijote de la Mancha

Mrquez Cien años de soledad

Vargas Llosa, Mario Conversacin en la catedral (poor reader)

Vargas Llosa, Mario La fiesta del Chivo ! 17h 35min (poor reader)

Vargas Llosa, Mario La guerra del fin del mundo (poor reader)

I have plenty of popular books, too. They are much easier. The longest ones are:

Follet, Ken Un Mundo sin fin

Follet, Ken Los pilares de la tierra




Anything in the Library for the blind is good.

Zapasiewicz and Olbrychski are outstanding.



These audiobooks are worth trying, good enough for mL-R:

My Book of Bible Stories

Learn from the Great Teacher

The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived

The audio and etexts: http://www.jw.org/en/publications/

(parallel texts here:




What I would NEVER do and some people do

ignore that language is a system of interdependent subsystems

ignore my mother tongue

ignore pronunciation

ignore listening comprehension

ignore literature

ignore audiobooks

ignore Love, Joy, and AWE

ignore ASSAULT

ignore p2p and cyberspace ghosts


learn during sleep (nonsense, and there are people who still fall for it!)

memorize wordlists, huge kanji sets (Heisig) SRS, etc

memorize dictionaries (I know two guys who did it!)

take classes

learn to read first, ignoring listening and pronunciation

start speaking from day one

use Mumble Thomas, Rosetta Stoned, Pimplseur and suchlike

go to a country to learn a language with zero knowledge

start listening to a text and try to get the meaning by repeated listening to the same text

shadow à la DrArguelles

learn a little bit every day for years

L-R mechanically without understanding


In a word, Im against any brute force learning.



jazzboy.bebop wrote:

Just remember that not everyone likes or dislikes the same methods.


Couldn't agree more. That doesnt mean that all methods or people are equally efficient.

Some are wise, some are otherwise.

I'm not Everyone's spokesperson, so feel free to get offended by what I'm going to say.

I have nothing against Mumble Thomas. I must say it is quite a feat to teach some broken French to a bunch of teenagers with low language self-esteem. All that during nine hours only, fortunately.



Nothing's wrong with spreading nonsense.

If people stopped spreading nonsense, nothing intelligent would ever come into being, the Internet would soon collapse.

Nonsense can be entertaining, to say the least (vide Ziad Fazah or rather peoples reactions, I have nothing against the guy, let him be the greatest if he thinks so).


Nothing's wrong with arguments. People argue about anything. Some say black is white, some say white is black. And I believe them.

(They do sincerely believe in what they say, no need to doubt their intentions. Of course, theyre sometimes too mean to mean well.)


I have nothing against polyglots, either. Some of them know twenty languages, but, unfortunately, have nothing to say and keep saying it very loudly.

(A polyglot: A guy who tells you he knows twenty-three languages and you believe him.)



I do find language fora useful.

Generally speaking, I don't believe in General Discussions (I DO believe in sharing resources). Everyone has something interesting to say about languages they haven't learnt.

I can learn how not to learn languages from most of the posts, and that's very positive negative knowledge.


A (language, p2p, etc) forum is an excellent meeting point. PMs (personal messages, if there is such a possibility) are wonderful, the best thing under the cyber space sun. Homage to all the admins and posters out there.




Exposure comes before knowledge, not after (by doviende)


doviende wrote:

Learning a language through reading feels like reading Jabberwocky

For instance, when the Jabberwock Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, it doesnt really matter exactly what whiffling and tulgey might mean. You basically understand whats happening in the scene. You can also come up with some ideas of what tulgey might mean, because its used to describe a forest through which a monster is walking. The next time you see this word, youll have another piece of information about it, and itll make even more sense.

This is what its like to me when I read Dutch or Swedish or whatever other language I happen to be working on. With an intermediate level of knowledge, there are plenty of words you dont know, but the story still moves along somehow.

So, go out and find something to read! You dont need perfect understanding to enjoy it, and in fact youll never get perfect understanding without reading a lot of books with only intermediate understanding. Exposure comes before knowledge, not after.


When I was a child, they taught me letters (in L1) and I just took the biggest book in the library (200 pages long) and started reading it. It took me two or three weeks to finish it.

It was the greatest discovery about learning a language I have ever made.


When I was a teenager, I took a novel in French, it was Les Exils (Liebe deinen Nchsten) by Remarque, and I just read it. I understood maybe one third of it, but I do remember the joy I felt.


As to Exposure comes before knowledge, not after.

Basically, I agree, but I wouldn't be so sure about it. It is always a good thing to know something about the language: phonemes, correspondence between phonemes and letters, some basic grammar features, word order. I am even inclined to think that it is indispensable to really learn a language quickly and properly.


On the other hand, with appropriate materials you can understand (almost) everything the first time. That means parallel texts in vertical columns, a good translation and a good reader. And you just LISTEN to L2 and read the L1 text with an occasional look at L2. For me, it worked even with Japanese.

So, really, why waste your time and read something you only imperfectly understand, when you can maximize your exposure by understanding almost everything the first time you grab a novel?




To know a language or its culture

To people who know Polish.


Could you please comment on the difference between these two sentences:


1. Czy siostry Radwaskie* wielkimi patriotkami s?

2. Czy siostry Radwaskie s wielkimi patriotkami?

*famous tennis players. Agnieszka and her father are known for their right-wing views.

(Both questions mean more or less: Are the sisters great patriots?)


If you get the difference, I am sure you know Polish.



A hint:

"Dlatego, panowie, e Sowacki wielkim poet by." (Because, gentlemen, Sowacki was a great poet.)


slavonica wrote: (a native speaker of Polish)

Do you want to see if we read our books at school or what? Sorry, but I really can't understand, what's going on here.

Here you are: It's a citation from Gombrowiczs Ferdydurke, one of the best known. The construction itself isn't really correct, you wouldn't say it this way nowadays. You would say "Dlatego, panowie, e Sowacki by wielkim poet". There is a pressure on the word "by", because the children didn't have the right to have their own opinion and they just had to know, what their teacher said was right. And teachers truth was, that Sowacki was a great poet and no one could deny.

Anyway, it's not much better nowadays. You still have to analyse everything like they want you to :/


"Dlatego, panowie, e Sowacki wielkim poet by." is not incorrect, it is unusual and perfectly expresses what the author (Gombrowicz) wanted to say. So perfectly that it just became so famous that anyone even remotely educated knows what it is all about.

It is highly ironic and I might say even spiteful.


I posted the quote because it explains the first question:

1. Czy siostry Radwaskie wielkimi patriotkami s?

(Are the sisters great patriots?)


It is the title of a newspaper article. When I read it I thought that it in a nutshell illustrates what knowing a language is. It is not only about a language itself, it is about cultural references as well, or even more so.


An explanation for people who don't know Polish:

S (they are) is a form of by (to be), by is the past tense, masculine gender (he was).


When the author of the article chose the question: Czy siostry Radwaskie wielkimi patriotkami s?, she set the tone, as it were.

Anyone interested in Poland must have heard about the Smolek airplane crash where the Polish president and plenty of Polish generals and some completely innocent people perished.

Some people in Poland think (including Jarosaw Kaczski, the former prime minister, and the twin brother of Lech Kaczyski, the president who died at Smolesk in Russia) that it was a conspiracy between Putin and the current Polish prime minister (Donald Tusk) concocted to kill his brother. They say that Polish pilots and the president himself are not to blame for their decision to land in the fog (some people even say that the fog was created artificially by the Russians) on an old military airfield where some modern civilian security systems didnt work. PiS (Kaczyskis' party) are famous for dividing Polish people into 'true Poles (genuine patriots)' and the rest who are just either Jews in disguise or are selling Poland to the Russians and the Germans. According to them even Lech Wasa (Nobel Prize Winner for Peace) is just a former agent of SB (Communist Security Police).



The question Czy siostry Radwaskie wielkimi patriotkami s? might equally mean:

1. Czy Lech Kaczyski wielkim prezydentem by? (Was LK a great president?)

2. Czy Jarosaw Kaczyski wielkim premierem by? (Was JK a great prime minister?)

3. Czy Jarosaw Kaczyski wielkim prezesem jest? (Is JK a great party leader?)

4. Czy Roman Giertych wielkim ministrem edukacji by? (Was RG a great minister of education?)

(Giertych, an infamous right-wing politician, was the Minister of Education in Jarosaw Kaczyski's government. Giertych replaced Gombrowiczs books in the school curriculum with those by a true Pole Dobraczyski, a third rate writer. Gombrowicz, on the other hand, was one of the greatest writers of the XXth century, not only in the Polish language, almost as great as Franz Kafka or James Joyce, if you can compare masterpieces at all.)


So there you are.

Never underestimate the power of a small word in an unusual place in a sentence. It may be a stumbling block for many a true polyglot.



To make the topic somewhat more familiar to an English speaker.


Let's have a look at the proverb:


Curiosity killed the cat.


If you didnt know English well enough, you might think that it means: A Big Shot called Curiosity shot the cat and killed it on the spot.

If you saw it spelt like this Curiosity killed the Kat, you might think that it is a spelling mistake, cats dont like to be spelt Kats in English.

But if you knew that The Kat refers to a person called Billy Kat, the spelling would be all right, it might even remind you of Billy the Kid, the famous gunman and killer of many aristocRats.

So Curiosity killed the Kat might sound either rather amusing or even frightening, depending on the situation.




Barriers, stumbling blocks.

1. Everything youve done or havent done ever since you were born influences how enjoyable or miserable, fast or painfully slow, your learning will be.

2. Publishers are there to sell you their products, however poor they are. They dont give a damn whether you learn anything.

3. Schools, universities, teachers are there to make their living, not to teach you.

4. Start here and now and keep going. If you dont know what to do, do anything that seems sensible and improve on the way. Never consider yourself an expert, youre bound to fail.

5. So... youd better follow Miss Hopper who likes to be done good and proper.




Simple and useful, to practise every day

1. Delayed recitation in L1

You read a passage ONCE and recite it from memory word for word.

You read another passage once and recite it from memory word for word AND then recite passage 1 and passage 2, word for word (without reading),

then passage 3, and passage 2 + 3, and passage 1 + 2 + 3 and so on.

You dont learn anything by heart. When/if you make a mistake even once while reciting, you stop and go on reading another passage that will be your new passage 1.

You can start with short passages, even words.


2. You look at an object/picture for a minute and then draw from memory what youve just seen with as many details as you can remember (doesnt matter if its artistic), start with something very simple.


3. You have TWO hands write, draw and do other things with the other hand, too. Does Not matter if it is clumsy at first.


4. You cant touch type yet? What are you waiting for?

And use keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse.





Of course, I did not invent writing on the wall. Neither did I invent audiobooks. My Granny did.

Parallel texts were used in the antiquity and multilingual parallel texts were most certainly used by Komensky (1592-1670).

Ancient Jews taught their children how to read by using memorized Torah sentences.

They couldn't use e-texts with pop-up dictionaries and audio. It simply didnt occur to them.


As far as I know nobody used long bilingual novels + audio for self-taught zero beginners.

It doesn't matter who did what, what really matters here is HOW and how to IMPROVE it.

The most important thing is how to make more parallel texts with matching audio and how to share them.

aYa on 27 March 2009




The moral sense in mortals is the duty

We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.




A final note

L-R works perfectly for anyone reasonably literate. If you're a good learner, I mean a good learner in general, not a learner of languages (they tend to be very poor learners for some reason), you should have no trouble with it.

It's very easy for closely related languages.

It's relatively easy for intermediate learners (= 2 to 3K words and some basic grammar) of any languages.

It's rather difficult (or rather it takes slightly more time at first), but not impossible, for unrelated languages.


A rule of thumb:

if you enjoy Mumble Thomas, Rosetta Stoned, Pimpsleur, it won't work for you.

if you enjoy Assimil, it might work for you.

if you enjoy good literature, it will work for you.


One more thing.

I've never wanted any followers, money, You-Tube fame, perfect academy, etc. I only share what works for me and some other crazy people.


If you were Mr. Martian Machine and only saw crawling soldiers on a battle field, you'd scientifically prove human beings can't walk, let alone love one another.



Phi-Staszek aYa ( and ) Awe Rider 死をって生きる Ona patrzy i si umiecha, atamagaii頭が好い, t