A few months ago, I surveyed you guys about the type of content you’d like to read on 5-Minute Language. Many of you told me you’d like to see more reviews of the various language products available out there. Here’s the first one in the series – a review of Benny Lewis’ Fluent in 3 Months Premium 2.0. Enjoy!
Language hacking and immersion
You won’t be surprised when I tell you Benny is all about language hacking and immersion – changing your mindset to maximise your learning, making mistakes, ‘smart’ learning and, of course, speaking from day one.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see language hacking and immersion at the centre of Fluent in 3 Months Premium. The package also contains language learning FAQs and a resources library, but for me it’s all about the hacking and immersion – these parts of the product are the most prominent and contain the most practical, hands-on advice about language learning.
Can I really speak from day one?
The ‘Speak from Day 1’ video series, which is part of the ‘Language Hacking’ section of Premium, has some very useful advice about how to get to the stage where you’re actually using new words and phrases as you learn them, not after you learn them.
It’s an important shift and something that many language learners and teachers never make. It’s more like a mindset – using words as you learn them becomes your second nature once you’ve done it a few times, and Benny’s advice will help you find the way to get there.
Words, words, words
The ‘Speak from Day 1’ section contains some useful tips on using image and sound associations to memorise new words and phrases.
I’ve found these techniques particularly useful when learning German. It’s a language full of long words – do you know what I mean? I find long words difficult to remember and Benny’s tips have helped me develop some useful strategies for memorising the German mega-words I’ve been struggling with.
Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän? No problem!
I often wonder why a lot of language courses for beginners focus so much on vocabulary around colours, animals, clothes, etc. How likely am I to actually use the words ‘giraffe’ or ‘yellow’ when speaking any language?
That’s why I like Benny’s approach to learning vocabulary. He doesn’t just give you advice on what to learn but he also suggests what you should not learn – skip anything that’s not relevant to your goals and focus on the things that will help you communicate. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Fi3M Premium has lots of useful advice on how to expand your vocabulary and start using it in conversation, and Benny’s tips on when to learn grammar.
I like his approach to learning grammar. Grammar was something that put me off learning German about ten years ago. I’ve now come back to German with a different approach – less focus on grammar and more focus on communication, and I’ve found it to be very beneficial. If you’ve ever been put off learning a language because of complex grammar rules, you will find Benny’s tips encouraging and motivating.
Each module in the video courses that form part of Fi3M Premium has a section that asks you to reflect on what you’ve just learned. Watching the videos is not enough – it’s all about active watching and ensuring that you’ve really understood the specific points included in each module. This is followed by an interactive ‘checklist’ of things to do before you move on. You actually have to tick them off!
I like this active learning/checklist approach because it forces you to make sure that you’ve really internalised your learning – as opposed to just watching the videos and moving on. Active learning has always been something I’ve aimed to do when learning languages. It’s the opposite of the traditional learning methods (such as listening or reading without a purpose, or memorising long lists of words without ever using them again) and something that’s worked for me particularly well.
The purpose of what Benny calls ‘conversation connectors’ is to make your conversations more natural and comfortable (both for you and the person you’re talking to). They are supposed to give you some more confidence and ultimately, make you sound more fluent!
Conversation connectors are essentially words and phrases that connect your thoughts with your other thoughts, or with what your conversation partner has just said. They’re what makes a conversation flow.
Fi3M Premium contains links to conversation connectors in a range of different languages (including Polish – yay!). Each link opens a spreadsheet with tabs in which the different connectors are listed. You can save the spreadsheets and add to them as you go along.
Interviews with successful language learners
Fi3M Premium contains five interviews with successful learners of multiple languages, as well as some additional extended interviews.
It’s great that Benny reached out to different people for their advice on effective language learning. A lot of online language courses focus on one person’s method and, as you know, we’re all different and we all have different ways of learning languages. What works for Benny or myself may not work for every single language learner out there. That’s why it’s good to see that Premium combines advice from different people.
In the ‘Language Immersion’ section of Fi3M Premium, you can choose from 10 different languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Not a bad choice! Although I’ve been really tempted to have a go at Arabic for quite a while now, I’m going to stick with German for now – I’m trying to get ready for the Berlin polyglot gathering next year!
What I like the most about the language immersion section of Premium are the examples of daily language learning routines.
You know I’m all about incorporating language learning into your daily routine so these tips really ring true with me. They are things you can do without really knowing you’re learning! Even if you’re crazy busy.
Each language bundle in the ‘Language immersion’ section is accompanied by an ‘Ultimate Resource Collection’. These are truly ‘ultimate’ collections of resources for learning vocabulary, examples of free online lessons, dictionaries and apps.
Hands-on, easy to implement advice
Fi3M Premium also contains some really hands-on and easy to implement video tutorials about:
- How to use forums to maximise your learning (I haven’t been on a forum for a while but having heard Benny’s advice, I might head to a couple to practise my German!)
- How to set up your first language exchange on Italki (It does sound a bit scary and daunting if you haven’t done it before but Benny has some useful tips on how to make it sound easy)
- How to make the most of apps such as Anki and Memrise
I’m a big fan of active learning and being quite methodical about tracking your progress. That’s why I like the checklists, the note-taking functionality (you can take notes as you go along) and the ability to create your own interactive daily learning schedule inside the Fi3M Premium members’ area.
The most useful thing about Premium for me, though, is the breadth of its resources and their variety – there are videos, sample schedules, reading resources, tips on using apps and arranging meet-ups, interviews, and much more.
My other favourite thing is the practical nature of the advice that Benny gives you – it can be implemented straight away, in the spirit of ‘speaking from day 1’.
Less favorite parts
The ‘conversation connectors’ are a great learning resource although I didn’t find their layout and design particularly appealing – they are just plain spreadsheets.
Having said that, many learners will find them useful because the spreadsheets are editable so you can just save them on your device and edit as you learn more phrases. And, of course, not everyone is as obsessed about making pretty, colour-coded spreadsheet as I am!
The other thing are the ‘pro tips’. Each module of the different courses in Premium has some ‘pro tips’ attached – for those of us who really want to maximise our learning and get fluent quickly. If I had to complain about one thing it would be that there weren’t enough ‘pro tips’ – or maybe I’m just a little bit too obsessed about learning languages…
Fi3M Premium is a good product jam-packed with useful resources.
If you do go ahead and try it, do let me know what you thought!