What is Language Journeys?
Language Journeys is an educational platform for independent learning so that you can become your best teacher. It is a new way to learn languages that tries to break away with the traditional language learning methods based on modules. It is based on progressive learning and the idea that you can learn a language while traveling. On your journey you will be placed in situations that you might encounter if you decided to start a journey in real life.
How does it work?
While other websites use a topic-based learning system, Language Journeys combines a story-based approach with a new linguistic rewiring technique. Besides, following a journey will give you a reason to continue, making the process more meaningful. In other words, you don’t get to the next unit to learn all “colors”, “family members” or “weather conditions”, but you learn them progressively, just like in real life.
What is linguistic rewiring?
Linguistic rewiring, or progressive language retraining (PLR), is the result of my research and development of a language learning theory that provides a smooth transition from your mother tongue to the target language. As an adult you are not learning a language, but RElearning it. When you learn a new language your mother tongue reacts, creating a barrier. Transformation exercises help break this barrier and take you from known to new structures so that you can retrain your brain to the new system in a smooth way. Besides, these exercises are similar to the way you learned your mother tongue – when you sometimes made mistakes and received the correct feedback, which made you notice them.
What is the difference between PLR and Audio-Lingualism?
PLR has been created with the objective of striking a balance between focus on form (FonF) and focus on meaning (FonM). Its differences with the audio-lingual method (ALM) are:
- Audiolingualism discouraged translation. PLR encourages it, allowing for more progressive learning. We need to remember that the more inductive the learning, the more difficult it is for some learners.
- PLR gives a context in each transformation activity, thus turning “mechanical drills” into “meaningful drills”.
- At determined stages during the learning process, we introduce “translation audiocards”. The idea is to help create new patterns in the new language through “transformation audiocards”, and put them into practice a more communicative way through “translation audiocards”. This combination of transformation and translation did not take place in audiolingualism.
What type of exercises are there?
- Transformation audiocards are exercises where you transform sentences through changes in tense, mood, voice or aspect so that you retrain your mental patterns to the new system.
- Restoration exercises are a subtype of transformation audiocards where you have to restore a sentence to its original form through a series of words that have been removed from it.
- Memory blocks is a type of mental gymnastics exercise where you have to memorize some language chunks so that you end up pronouncing a popular quote in the target language.
- Translation audiocards put you in communicative situations where you can apply the knowledge that you have acquired systematically in the other audiocards. In other words, you are placed in situations where you can put your new mental patterns into practice. Please note there is NO example step in translation audiocards, since there is no pattern to follow.
You will know the type of exercise you are going to carry out thanks to the corresponding icons:
1. Transformation 2. Restoration 3. Memory Blocks 4. Translation
What is the difference between transforming and repeating?
When you repeat you exercise your memory. When you transform, you exercise both your memory and your intelligence, as you practice new structures with old words or old structures with new words.
But I can also “break the linguistic barrier” in other ways, can’t I?
Sure, but with more effort. You can even go to the target country or marry a native speaker, but any learning that is not scaffolded requires more mental effort. It’s like learning how to swim by throwing yourself into the ocean. If you’re lucky and talented for swimming you’ll learn quick because of your need to survive, but most people would need other people to rescue them. This is why you have swimming schools and instructors to provide scaffolded learning (just like you have language schools and instructors).
What is the difference between a traditional course and a journey?
You usually take courses in formal education to pass exams and get an official certificate. On a journey the focus is on language learning itself, not learning in order to get a certificate. This resembles more the way in which natural learning takes place. On your journey you focus more on learning the language in context. Upon finishing the journey you will be able to pass exams – just like you are able to pass an exam in your mother tongue – but it will be a consequence, not the goal of the journey.
What is the difference between a journey and a trip?
We understand that on some occasions people need the language for a specific purpose. With that in mind we have also created trips, which consist of a series of transformation and translation. audiocards around specific topics.
Trips will allow you for example to improve your conditionals, prepare for a job interview or practice famous lines from movies, songs, or popular quotes.
What is the structure of the website?
Your journey is composed of chapters (lessons) that get unblocked progressively as you complete them. The same applies to the parts inside each chapter. This linear learning prevents you from getting lost between too many options and gives coherence to your learning experience.
Audiocards are exercises that help you create new linguistic patterns in the target language. They help you retrain your brain to the new system in a similar way to the cognitive restructuring techniques used in psychological therapy. For best use of the website you should practice each audiocard until you don’t hesitate in your answers and can do it with minimal effort. The purpose is to internalize the language progressively.
Audiocard cover images are usually related to the topic being covered. For example, if the main character in the “Journeys” section is at the airport, the cover image will be related to an airport. If an exercise in the “Trips” section is related to the book “The Catcher in the Rye”, the cover image may be an image of “rye”.
In certain cases (especially in the case of grammar audiocards), the cover image may be related to any sentence that forms part of the exercise.
As you can see above, the description field gives the context for the exercise. You may also find a “Notes” button to clarify certain grammatical features that you will find in the exercise. Then you can start the exercise (see image below), which can be either “transformation” or “translation” type. They are all oral exercises. After hearing the example sentence, you will see an ellipsis, which prompts you to speak. After you pronounce the response, you will see two buttons: “correct” and “incorrect”.
If you answer correctly, click on the “correct” button to continue. If your answer is incorrect, click on the “incorrect” button. In that case your answer is kept in store and reappears at the end of the exercise. You may practice several times until you no longer hesitate in your answer. The exercise is considered finished when you can do it naturally, without the least effort of reflection.
It is important to connect what you have learned with real life. The diary is the place where you keep a travel journal to customize your experience. Picturing yourself in your destination will help you learn the language at the same time as you create a virtual life that could turn into real some time. The diary is a place where you can experiment with the language and make mistakes, just like you did when you were a kid. Keeping a journal will allow you to relate the words you learned during the unit with real life and provides a more emotional type of learning.
You can write in your mother tongue and get help with the translator. At first you will be lost, but eventually you will be able to detect patterns and self-correct. In this way you will pass from covering grammar to discovering grammar. As you progress in your journey, you will be able to look back on the past, just like in real life. You can decide to keep your entries private or share them in the Meeting Point. All entries are stored in your diary.
3. MEETING POINT
The meeting point is the place where language travelers share their journeys and correct each other. It is a place where people grow together instead of competing against each other.
In this section you will be rewarded for accomplishing certain things on your journey. It consists of different types of badges that you can earn through completing certain activities or doing side quests. As in real life, you need to keep your passport updated, so keep an eye for new activities!
This is where you can check your progress. As you finish the different sections, the menu underneath them turns to green, and the progress is stored in this section. This allows you to see how you progress in a practical way.
What languages are available?
We will be testing English, Spanish, French and German, and will add new content regularly. We may even add more languages depending on users’ response.
Who can use this website?
Journeys are suitable for people aged 12+, while most A1 trips are also suitable for children 8+.
What type of subscriptions are there?
For the time being Language Journeys is offered freely in beta mode for testers who sign up through email or social networks. In the future we are planning on a Fremium model, where users will have free access to certain parts of the platform and will only be charged if they want full access. You will be able to cancel any time and will have access to the platform until the paid period expires.
How many levels are there? Can I access all levels?
Both journeys and trips are organized by levels according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, a guideline used to describe the achievements of language learners. Since the “Journeys” section is organized in the form of a story, if you access for example the B2 level directly, you will find a summary of the story up to that point.
- Texts in the “description” sections are machine-translation friendly. However, there may be some minor inaccuracies which do not prevent the user from understanding the general meaning.
- Tables within the Notes section are intuitive enough and do not get translated. If you have doubts, please consult an online dictionary (e.g. WordReference).
- The system shows the most prototypical translations. Based on users’ response we may add a “Discuss sentence” option.
- Along the journey you will meet different characters. Some voices remain the same for all characters. Based on users’ response we will be able to customize more character voices accordingly.
- When translating from a second language (L2) to our first language (L1), we translate meaning, not words. This is why literal translation does not always work. “Hindsight is 20/20” translates differently in other languages, and the other way round. A good tip for language learning is to tolerate ambiguity.
What is the best way to learn a language?
The best way is during your early years. For adults there is no “best” way to learn a language. If there was, everybody would be using “that way”. Language learning is not easy, just like algebra or advanced math. You can learn a language deductively (focus on form) or inductively (focus on meaning), but not subconsciously. The “best way” is to choose the method which best suits your learning style. Ultimately, language learning is a combination of both deductive and inductive learning – the more you advance, the more you can rely on your previous knowledge to find out the meaning of new words.
What is the fastest way to learn a language?
How fast you learn a language will depend on your motivation, hard work, the L1-L2 distance, the target level, the method you choose and your language aptitude. The “fastest” way would be to lower your target level – the lower your objective, the less vocabulary and structures you will have to learn. Shortcuts are usually detours disguised as less work. And this does not only apply to language, but also to other fields. To learn anything, you have to go from 1 to 5. You cannot solve cubic equations before you know how to add. No one wants to hear that their surgeon took shortcuts in med school. Of course there are good tips and techniques, but ultimately you learn out of study and practice, just like with everything else.
Besides, you feel better when you get something thanks to your effort, and not just through shortcuts.
Why is language learning difficult?
Actually, it is not difficult for children, who acquire any language simply through exposure and interaction. The problem is that adults are not learning a language but relearning it. When you learn a new language, your first language reacts, and creates interferences. This is why breaking those mental patterns is so important. The confusion comes when we compare the emotional way in which children acquire their first language with the systematic way adults use to accomplish the same task. This is why adults need to find good techniques to make the most of their analytical abilities.
Why should I choose independent learning? Don’t you learn by talking?
Language learning is not “either…or.” It is often a combination of several methods. In many types of learning there is an element of mechanical repetition before you reach your ultimate goal. Someone trying to play a Beethoven violin concerto or trying to break a 1,500m record will have to spend a certain time doing mechanical activities until they reach the final objective. While the ultimate purpose of language is to communicate, independent learning gives you the tools to lay strong foundations so that you feel confident in your speaking endeavors. Ultimately all learning is self-learning.
Can I learn with a language partner?
Sure, as long as you understand the difference between practicing and learning. Throwing balls over a net does not mean you are learning how to play tennis. To make progress you need to be exposed to new vocabulary and structures so that you can move from lower to higher levels in a progressive way. Otherwise you may reach a plateau where you keep on practicing the same vocabulary and structures over and over again because you feel comfortable in your comfort zone.
How long will it take me to learn a language?
It depends on your target level. If all you need to say is short sentences like “Where is the library?” or “Two beers, please” then you could learn a few expressions like those in less than a week with a language phrasebook. However, reaching a fluent level will be the result of your motivation, hard work, the L1-L2 distance, the method you choose, and your language aptitude. You should see language learning as a challenge and be content with your ability in each step of the process.