Study Idea – Surf the Internet

The way the French do:

Today I will check out what’s going on in “Besson Chaussures”.

Les cartes cadeaux sont en vente et valables dans tous les magasins Besson chaussures participants. Elles permettent d’acheter tous les produits présents dans les magasins participants. Le montant est libre entre 20 et 200€. Les cartes cadeaux sont utilisables en 1 ou plusieurs fois à concurrence de leur montant, et peuvent être complétées par tout autre moyen de paiement. Les cartes cadeaux sont valables 1 an à compter de la date d’achat de la carte. La date de validité est indiquée sur le justificatif émis lors de son achat. La perte, le vol, la destruction ou le dépassement de la date limite de validité ne feront l’objet d’aucun remboursement. Elles ne peuvent être ni échangées, ni revendues, ni remplacées, ni remboursées. Les cartes cadeaux ne peuvent bénéficier d’aucune remise commerciale. Aucun rendu monnaie ne sera effectué lors d’un règlement avec une carte cadeau. L’achat de cartes cadeaux permet aux clients possédant une carte fidélité d’obtenir des points fidélité.

Translated to English:

Gift cards are available and valid in all participating Besson shoe stores. They allow you to buy all the products in participating stores. The amount is free between 20 and 200 €. Gift cards can be used in one or more times up to their amount, and may be supplemented by other means of payment. Gift cards are valid for 1 year from the date of purchase of the card. The expiration date is indicated on the voucher issued at purchase. The loss, theft, destruction or exceeding the expiration date will not be subject to any refund. They can not be exchanged or sold nor replaced or refunded. Gift cards can benefit from any trade discount. No remaining money will be given at the settlement of a gift card. The purchase of gift cards enables customers with a loyalty to get a loyalty points card.


Study Idea – Read about How Languages and Your Memory Work

The inspiration for Anki, was the algorithm found originally in “Supermemo”:

and the link below is a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page for a preceding software called “Supermemo”. The developer of Anki and Supermemo cites many other interesting studies, books and the like, so it is worth fifteen minutes of your time:


First we need to draw a distinction between procedural learning and declarative learning. Procedural learning is used to (sic) acquiring a skill such as riding a bike or typing the keyboard. In procedural learning, we do not tell the brain exactly how it should perform. The brain provides “the answer” on its own by trial and error, while we only “approve or disapprove” of its performance. In declarative learning, as in memorizing a textbook, we tell the brain exactly what to learn, and expect it to encode information in memory. Procedural learning, by definition, is highly repetitive (you repeat the same moves again and again, only with a slightly improved precision). With declarative learning, we want to minimize the repetition. For those reasons we need to discuss the two types of learning separately.

Language learning is all about “declarative” and not “procedural”, in my opinion. I’m sure that is going to be a hot topic for debate, but I want you to think about it after you have read more about memorization methods.

Personally, I use several tricks that I learned at a young age, to memorize various things, like numbers, formulas, subject rules, etc. I read Harry Lorayne’s book “The Memory Book”, which he co-authored with one of my favorite basketball players at the time…I forget his name…kidding…Jerry Lucas, which is how I was introduced to visual memory systems, visual mnemonics, the loci method, number mnemonics, names, cards, foreign vocabulary, maps, etc. It is also important to physically write foreign words…

Writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront. In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’

Let me give you a simple example of something I would do while using Duolingo. The first time I was asked the gender for “pomme” (apple), I guessed “le” because it seemed logical. Since this is wrong, I had to immediately stop and create an association of a visual image for “pomme” so that I never got it wrong again. I see a red apple (red and shades of red, like pink and purple, are for me, female gender memory aids), and then solidify it with the fact apple begins with “a” as in “la”. Done. Takes less than five seconds, and I will never miss it again. The strange part is that I am more confident of words I have missed than words I have correctly guessed genders for. Until I miss the gender in Duolingo French, and then take the five seconds I need to create some kind of visual association, I’m not 100% sure, which shows the power of deliberate thought.

In my wallet, I actually have a small piece of paper that reminds me of how to memorize numbers. Yes, it’s exactly the same letters to numbers as “The Memory Book” used, and is found on this blog post:

It looks like this:

memory card

Another video worth watching, once the above video convinces you of the power of mnemonics and memory techniques based on visualization:

Dr. Peter M. Vishton has a list that is very close to the one I use. My zero uses S or Z and his just S. My six uses soft g and j, while his uses sh, and ch. My seven uses K and G, and his uses O and K. Now can you think of a way to use mental triggers and visuals for language?

What about the Loci method he discusses, as he uses his childhood memory palace? Once you find the right method for coding, decoding, and associating information with visuals, your language learning will become easier.

Study Idea – “Free Styling” Google-Translate


Most of the words and phrases that appear during a translation, are click-able and will lead you to another group of words and phrases. Sometimes I will click the synonyms that I am a little weak on, and let the website take me wherever…

I use Google Translate when I read websites in another language. I create two browser windows, and drop the language text into the browser window for Google Translate, and not only see a translation, but I can also press the microphone button, and it will read the text to me.

kids countIt’s not a perfect text-to-speech, but it will help me recognized that I am saying certain words incorrectly.


Study Idea – Optimum Learning State (OLS)

I talked a little about placing oneself in an OLS in a Duolingo post, so I’m going to expand upon the idea here. I learned about OLS from a book called “Double Your Brain Power” by Jean Marie Stine. I’ve owned the book, now for the fourth time, because every time I discuss OLS with someone, and loan them the book, they never give it back. In the book, placing oneself in OLS is listed as a procedure on page 48, called Brain Power Doubler #4. There are a total of 65 Brain Power Doublers found in the book’s two hundred pages, but this particular one has always worked well for me.

1. Find a quiet place, and sit  comfortably, spine erect.
2. Put your right hand just above the navel and your left hand just below your rig cage. Then relax your abdominal muscles.
3. Take an easy, natural breath. Perform this a few times until you fell your breathing is easy and controlled.
4. Begin to inhale slowly through your nose to a four-count. Hold your breath on the fourth count, for a four-count.
5. Exhale for a four-count.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for 5-7 more times, and visualize tension leaving your body. You are not trying to over-oxygenate yourself, merely allowing your body and mind to relax and lower your state to an “Alpha State”.

The brain has various cycles-per-second, and some are better than others for various tasks.

  • 1-3 CPS is known as Delta Waves and are best for deep dreamless sleep
  • 4-7 CPS are Theta Waves and work best for intense emotion or concentration
  • 8-12 CPS are Alpha Waves, the state we are trying to induce, works best for meditation and relaxation.
  • 18-40 CPS are Beta Waves which exist in conscious awareness and dreams.

Stine had reviewed the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his fellow researchers, for this particular Brain Doubler. To learn more about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his concepts of “flow”, go here:

In every given moment, there is a great deal of information made available to each individual. Psychologists have found that one’s mind can attend to only a certain amount of information at a time. According to Csikszentmihalyi’s 1956 study, that number is about 126 bits of information per second. That may seem like a large number (and a lot of information), but simple daily tasks take quite a lot of information. Just having a conversation takes about 40 bits of information per second; that’s 1/3 of one’s capacity.[6] That is why when having a conversation one cannot focus as much attention on other things.

What I found most interesting in 1997, when I bought the book, is how much is really known about our brain limitations and strengths. It’s been known since 1956 that our brains are not limitless computers that can function on several tasks equally, at once. Modern marketing wants you to believe that your new handheld, smartphone, or tech product enables your mind’s naturally limitless multi-tasking. It does not. When you multi-task, you do more things….worse.

To better understand the brain’s “executive mental control”–or how it establishes priorities between tasks and allocates resources to them–researchers Joshua Rubinstein, PhD, of the Federal Aviation Administration, and David Meyer, PhD, and Jeffrey Evans, PhD, of the University of Michigan, conducted four experiments that measured the amount of time lost when young adults repeatedly switched between two tasks.

The tasks, such as solving math problems or classifying geometric objects, were either familiar or unfamiliar and simple or complex. For all types of tasks, participants lost time when they switched back and forth. Moreover, the time lost increased with the complexity and the unfamiliarity of the tasks.

Drawing from their research and previous studies, Rubinstein, Meyer and Evans propose a new model for executive mental control in which the brain must make two separate preparatory decisions to switch tasks. The first, called goal shifting, involves choosing to switch to a new task. The second, rule activation, requires the brain to turn off the cognitive rules of the old task and turn on the cognitive rules of the new task.

For example, a student who has completed her math homework and is ready to begin her English homework must first decide that she is done with math and ready to begin English (goal shifting) and then turn off the rules of addition and multiplication and activate the rules for reading a story (rule activation).

Accessing the rules for the new task and activating them, the researchers say, can take several tenths of a second–a significant amount of time for some tasks. For example, a mere half-second lost to task switching can be disastrous for a driver using a cell phone while maneuvering on a busy freeway, says Meyer. Those lost seconds can also build up for air traffic controllers, pilots and office workers surfing the Web while writing a report.

The trick to learning a language, which requires several sections of your brain at the same time, is to have a quiet place, where your mental state is relaxed, your materials at hand and ready for processing (write the words out, say them over and over, feel the way they sound, use a mnemonic device where applicable, stay positive in your thoughts…etc.)

For an excellent article on “focus”, read this article:

Stine took aspects of Csikszentmihalyi’s work and combined them with many other similar studies, in order to present his 65 “Brain Doublers”. You can find the book on Amazon for under $5, and unfortunately it is not in Kindle form. It may be worth considering some of the techniques while working with and learning languages. And no, you can’t borrow my copy.

Now that you’ve learned about the ability of your mind to multi-task and focus, start your learning session with a positive statement about what you are going to accomplish during your focused study time. As with anything, if you don’t believe that you can learn a language, it won’t. Why? Because there is a core belief that is firmly placed in the way, and you simply cannot allow this idea to work because it would displace a belief that is very important to you. The result is that your mind will not allow you to succeed in contradicting a belief, in this case, learning a lanaguage.

Study Ideas – GQ Magazine France

Day after Christmas, relatives starting to get old, as they vividly recall the same embarassing moments of your life, as they did last year. Grab the Kindle and let’s look for 20 new words from GQ France or Atlantic Magazine France:

A Woman’s Magazine

A Men’s Magazine

A General Interest News Magazine


Would you share your chosen article (link) and the new words you found as a comment below?

Study Idea – Results

Yesterday, I suggested going to a website and finding twenty new words.

I went here:

and found:

le teint – skin
les nouveautés – news, new release, novelty
tendance – trend
égérie – muse, spokesmodel
de biche – doe
ses astuces – his tips
confier – to trust
une habituée – regular
le défilé – the parade
du vestiaire traditionnel – traditional wardrobe
réveillonner – to have a Christmas Eve party (verb, no kidding)
elle conjugue – she combines
grâce – thanks (many meanings)
pommettes – checkbones
l’éclat – brilliant
ecrin – jewel
a reçues – received
faux-cils – false eyelashes

Tomorrow, I will be posting my 5K French frequency list, and of the words above, only five appeared on the list, which made me feel better…but it reminds me that you need 10K words to be fully literate in French. If you think you can master a 10K word vocabulary, manipulated with proper grammar, and be able to speak and understand thousands of phrases in 90 days…c’mon. That’s nonsense. Acquiring a new language is hard, repetitive work.

Learned Four Languages in a Few Years

Above link takes you to the story of an opera singer who learned Italian, German, French and Russian, for work. How did he do it? He said that he went through four stages with each language, and they  are listed below, with links to resources found on this blog and elsewhere.

Stage 1: Learn the correct pronunciation of the language

Stage 2: Vocabulary and grammar acquisition, no English allowed

Basic List

Frequency List (1,000 words with audio)

List of Top 1500 French Words

Larger Frequency Lists
(2,000 words)

Note: You might want to use the Anki program during the learning process, to take advantage of spaced repetitive learning.

Download a copy of the ANKI program here:

Download a Mega-Word list:

Learn How to Export Excel into Anki:

Learn How to Convert an Anki Deck:

Find Shared Anki Decks:

Find Other French Language Frequency Lists:
English & French –
French –

Stage 3: Listening, writing and reading work

This blog, and the resources listed here:

Listen, repeat, and translate a french podcast, like this one:

Stage 4: Learning proper speech through practice with native speakers or professional instructors.

Learn How to Skype:

Note: Bonus 129K French word list, with frequency per million words?