Latest Posts

Understanding Word Lists

One of the biggest hurdles language learners face is memorizing vocabulary. Not all words are equal, however, and this daunting task is further complicated by figuring out which words are the ones worth learning. I was in a class the…
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What Does the Future of Language Learning Look Like?

What does the future of second language learning really look like? I picked up “Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era” by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. For anyone who is thinking critically about the future…
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Not as good as you think you should be?

Learning another language is an interesting process. Imagine a racetrack. You begin at the beginning and move forward towards the finish line. The racetrack metaphor is fantastic for visualizing your language learning.

Intensive English Program at University of Illinois

Are you an English learner? Join us this summer at the University of Illinois for an intensive, academic English program! Read More on Intensive Language Programs Intensive Language Learning Programs and Learning Styles Intensive Language Course Pre-program Checklist What Is…
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How We Forget Languages


The other day a language learner asked about forgetting a language he’d already learned. How does forgetting work? What could he do to prevent this?

Using Dialang to Assess Language Skills


What’s a diagnostic? It’s a test that tells you (or a teacher – or even an employer) what you can and cannot do. For language learners, this means what you can and cannot do in your second language.

MUST KNOW: Essential language before traveling abroad?

Speech bubble

Based on a true story: You will be traveling abroad in the next few months. You have that nifty little phrase book or app you’ve purchased. What language do you really need to know?

Strat Chat Newsletter Goes Out Today!


Have you ever come to a point when you’re trying to do something in your new language and you just can’t?

Create Opportunities for Language Learning Success

Language learning websites and newsletters are filled with discussions about making language learning your New Year’s resolution. Awesome! I heartily support this resolution, but … let’s fast forward three months… Life happens. We all get busy. There are groceries to…
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Learning Styles: Controversial but Oh-So Compelling!

This past week I gave the following presentation to a group of colleagues:

The First Step to Become a Self-Directed Language Learner

I was working with an English learner from China the other day, and she mentioned that she was getting her driver’s license. In China, the first step in getting a driver’s license involves studying for and taking a 100 question…
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Are you a self-directed language learner?

So there you are. Sitting in front of your computer. You suddenly get the urge to learn Cantonese. Do you know what to do?

What’s wrong with language learner compensation strategies at the higher levels?

A common attitude held by language learners is that one course or a series of sequential courses will allow them to meet their individual goals. The reality of proficiency development is that while the lower levels breeze by for learners,…
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What is an individual difference? How to accommodate?

What are your individual differences? I was completing a book review the other day and I came across the term ‘individual difference’ for language learners. Then last week I was finishing an article with a colleague and we got stuck…
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Not Everyone Is A Master Language Learner

What’s the connection between culture, class (as in social-capital) and language? Check out this article from The Atlantic, the story of a mid-career, African-American professional enrolling in an intensive language program. Coates, the author, highlights not only what it means…
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How long does it take to get from advanced to superior?

How long will it take you to achieve a superior level? This is a fair question and deserves a fair answer. It will take you longer to move from the advanced level to the superior level than it did for…
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The Difference Between Advanced and Superior

Most learners can get to an advanced working level in another language in a relatively short amount of time. To get to a comfortable working level, you’ve probably been through an intensive immersion program or taken several years of academic…
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What Makes a Great Language Learner?

This is a variation on an earlier post. Last time I focused on what researchers found to be the traits of highly successful language learners. But what about learners? What do they think? Here’s what one of my language learners…
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2 Strategies for Older Language Learners

We know that the verbal skills and social skills remain strong with senior language learners, well into a person’s 70s and 80s (see this post), but these are more general findings towards learning overall. What about language learning specifically?

Are you an older language learner? Read on…

I’ve been reading a wonderful book examining language learners from different perspectives, one of which is the 55+ age group. With baby-boomer retirees going back to school to take up that conversational Italian or Spanish course before heading out on…
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Step-By-Step: How to Listen

Finally, a definitive, 8-step guide on how to listen to audio in your foreign language! I ran across this in a classroom the other day.

7 Characteristics of Near-Native Language Learners

I had the opportunity to listen to 2 interviews of near-native language learners this afternoon. Here are the common characteristics between the two. Perhaps they will provide insightful for you highly-motivated learners. 1. Perfect pronunciation: Native speakers cannot tell that…
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Quotes about Teaching and Learning

Are you ever inspired by quotes? Here’s a list of teaching and learning quotes from a teacher-training. Which do you agree with? For me, I know I identify with #6 and the second to last as well. The best teacher…
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SWCOLT Presentation 2014

Here’s my Southwest Conference on Language Teaching 2014 presentation: