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Learning Article : Learn Languages The Brain Friendly Way

Discuss the Article : Learn Languages The Brain Friendly Way

Learn Languages The Brain Friendly Way

Many language course authors and learning institutions offer a grammatical approach that promises a sound grammatical base so that you can construct your own sentences. Vera F. Birkenbihl, a German best-selling book author and language course publisher, passed away in 2011, but left behind one of the most interesting methods that there are to learning a new language.

Mar 12, 2018 12:00 AM
Comments · 28
The total immersion technique of language learning is nothing new or innovative. It's been around a long time, but the real question is, does it work? If there were evidence that it did, I'd be all for it. But, Im skeptical. Not because I don't like the idea, but only because I see no evidence that it is more effective than the "old-fashioned" grammar based techniques. Of course, the target language should be used extensively in beginning courses, absolutely, but never using the learner's native language seems like a bit much, at least for total beginners. One problem that comes to mind with this technique is that it is based on an assumption for which there is no evidence: That a child's ability to acquire language stays constant throughout that child/ person's life. There is no neuro-scientific evidence that this is true. In fact, prominent linguistic experts and neuroscientists, like Noam Chomsky, say a child's language acquisition is the product of the child's growth, just like growing a limb. Of course a child is not "taught" his native language . It's something that just grows in the child's head. But, the experts tend to agree that this growth process ends at about age 10, at least for learning the fundamentals of the child's native language (pronunciation, grammar, basic vocabulary). Of course, their vocabulary continues to expand throughout their lives, but the basic foundation is laid at an early age. I'm sure there are anecdotal reports by some who say they learned a foreign language in a matter of a few months,  but I'm not convinced. People can say anything they want, but that doesn't make it true. Where are the large scale studies? If the author's premise is true, you should be able to take a 60 year old, place him or her in a total immersion environment and have the person speaking accent free and like a native by 70. I don't believe that will happen. Big claims like this one require big evidence, and I see none in this article. 
March 22, 2018

People want to debate learning grammar rules versus full immersion or whatever.  Truth is you need multiple approaches.  Everyone wants to use the “learn like a child” argument, ok.  A child has full immersion with immediate access to a teacher at all times.  And then people forget one more thing, how many years of formal grammar, reading, writing, etc did you take in primary school?  In the USA Kindergarten-10th grade at minimum is still covering grammar, and literature and composition continues through college.  

So while you can get to a certain point without and formal learning, even in our native languages we spend years studying traditionally to reach “native fluency” (Or whatever you want to call it).  

Just some food for thought, I think people often forget how much studying of our native languages who do even after being “fluent”. 

November 15, 2018
I'm not surprised that your students get stressed out when you forbid translations. Nearly everyone who learns foreign languages uses translation at some point, simply because it is efficient. In fact, the method you yourself espouse clearly relies on it in a big way, so I don't see what the problem with it is. Of course translation alone is not going to get you very far. To learn another language well you need to interact actively and passively with it. Translation is a means to an end: comprehending and being able to express yourself, and I would argue that once we know one language, ANY learning method which purports to teach us a new one is essentially a form of translation.
March 22, 2018


Very interesting. For me the best method.

For French, this method  exists since 1929. Its name is "Assimil". Indeed, you learn like a baby, without grammar or words to learn. The length of time varies acccording to the languages: 6.5 months for English, 5 months for Spanish, Portuguese and German (for French natives, of course).Now, this method is available for foreigners in various languages.

For the last years, I have learned English and Spanish to level B2, within less than one year (I'm not young!). The way I did: assimil, 15 mn every  day +1 to 2 hours of weekly conversation with a native on skype* + listening to university lectures.

*Do it since the beginning, and with a beginner like you (to be klutz at the same time is more fun than embarrassment!), and, if possible, without the bridge of a third language.

At the moment, I'm beginning to learn to speak Portuguese, this way.

Anecdotally, my father, during world war ll in a camp (KG), learned German with this mehod: assimil+" linguistic immersion"! :-)

It's my modest experience.  Hope that helps.


March 18, 2018
It is good method, but only for beginners.  Why? Because every person starts learning grammar (of native language) in age of 10 at school. That's why we must know the rules - if you want to speak like 10-years old kid or uneducated people - go on! But for all the rest grammar is necessary. 
September 19, 2018
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Stefanie P.
Language Skills
English, French, German, Spanish
Learning Language