Speak like a Diplomat

One of my absolute favorite perspectives on language learning comes from the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI), in particular: Theory and Practice in Government Language Teaching. It’s written as an academic paper, but it’s by far the most useful thing I’ve ever read about language learning. I’ve summarized each of the 12 sections below (along […]

bad advice

I love trying new things. I’m quick to believe anything that seems helpful or promises to make language learning quicker or easier. I’m also anxious to test everything — to see how great it works. Most of the time I’m disappointed, but I’ve come to relish bad advice. Knowing what is bad advice can be […]

FSI difficulty ranking

The US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) created a list estimating the length of time required to learn each of the languages taught by the FSI. The estimates are based on native English speakers with no prior knowledge of the language. Here is an overview: Category I: 24-30 weeks (600-750 hours) (“World Languages”) Languages closely cognate […]


Notes on “How to Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately,” by Boris Shekhtman. This book was interesting, although it would have been better as a magazine article than as a book. Here’s a summary of the sections. Show your Stuff + Build up your Islands (foreign language is like swimming…) + linking, segue to your island […]

Introverts and Language Learning

When I take one of those silly online personality tests, I will score moderately high in extraversion; which is funny because I am introverted by nature. I’ve learned to emulate the skills of an extravert — such as speaking confidently in a meeting or lecture. Introversion is often conflated with shyness or sensitivity (such as […]


All of our thought processes are conducted in language, so really our entire existence or essence or soul, however we phrase it, is inextricably bound to and with the languages we speak. Try to think without language for instance. However, we see that the language is in essence superficial, since many languages exist. To understand […]


I’ve read more than I care to admit on the subject of language learning. I’ve experimented with every tip and trick I can find. Most of what I’ve tried has admittedly been bad advice, but there are bits of wisdom. Here is the best advice I’ve found. This is all general advice, there’s also advice […]