Our Official Beta app provides the basic tools you need to get learning, but it doesn’t yet have a lot of guidance in terms of showing you what to do with each day of study. We’re working on that as fast as we can (along with a bajillion other features!) but that doesn’t mean you can’t get started right away.
If you’re an Intermediate/Advanced student, skim through this beginner guide, knowing that you may be jumping past pronunciation and perhaps even past simple words. If you’re a beginner, here’s what your first few weeks will look like:
Get oriented & start learning
On your first day, we mostly just want you to get oriented within the app. You’re going to log in, then answer some simple questions about your current level in your target language (TL) and how comfy you are with your TL’s pronunciation system.
Our Official Beta will show you 3 screens:
- HOME: Whenever you’re not sure what to do, tap on Home and we’ll give you a suggestion of what to do next.
- LEARN: This is where you’ll learn new material and build flashcards to help remember what you’ve learned.
- REVIEW: Here’s where you review your customized flashcards. This will push your language into your long term memory.
Every day, you’ll want to alternate between building flashcards in the LEARN section, and reviewing those flashcards in the REVIEW section.
Let’s head over to the LEARN section. If you said you were a beginner in your TL, you’ll see three tabs for learning Pronunciation, Simple Words or Grammar. For today, we’ll start with Pronunciation.
- On the top of this section, there’s going to be a video to watch. On your first day, that’s an intro video. Watch that.
- Tap on ‘Pronunciation Lesson: Basic Spelling’ and pick 1-4 pictures for each example word. Those will show up later in the pronunciation flashcards we’re building for you.
- Tap on ‘Pronunciation Lesson: Ear Training’ and listen to 2 words. Replay the recordings until you can just barely hear the differences between those words. Then hit ‘Add Card to Deck’ and listen to the next pair of words. Do this 3 more times.
- (Optional) If you have lots of extra time today, do steps #2 and #3 one more time to make twice as many custom flashcards
Now head over to the REVIEW section.
- Tap the ‘Begin Review Cycle’ button.
- You’ll see a flashcard. Answer the question out loud or in your head (feel free to guess if you don’t know), then tap to reveal the answer. If you got it right, swipe right. If not, swipe left. Throughout this process, when you hear a recording, repeat it out loud if you can. That’ll help ingrain the words and if you’re on public transport, it’ll convince folks around you that you’re slightly crazy and they’ll give you extra seating room. Repeat until you’re done with all the flashcards in this set.
- Nice job! You’re done for today!
- (Optional) If you have extra time, on the “Nice job!” screen, tap ‘I’m done’, then go back to the Review section and keep doing review cycles until you have 0 cards left to study.
- (Optional) If you have a BUNCH of extra time, head over to the LEARN section, scroll way down to the bottom of the Pronunciation tab, and you’ll see all of the available pronunciation videos. Watch as many as you like!
Keep at it
At first, just keep focusing on pronunciation, and following the steps I laid out for Day 1. Whenever you have extra time, follow the optional steps. If you’re ever not sure what to do next, go to the HOME tab and we’ll bounce you to the Learn section or the Review section, as is appropriate for where you’re at.
Add simple words to the mix
If you’re a beginner, then your top priority should be getting through all those pronunciation lessons. But by Day 8ish, your ears are going to start feeling accustomed to your new language’s sounds and you’re likely ready to throw in a few simple vocab flashcards. This will add some extra variety to your reviews (more fun = more retention), and it’ll also get you familiar with more of our app.
So today, we’ll mix things up a bit:
Start with Pronunciation, as normal. Do a video (if you still have some left), a Basics of Spelling lesson, and an Ear Training lesson.
Now tap the ‘Simple Words’ tab. You’ll see 10 words.
a. If you see a word that you know, swipe it and tap ‘Know It’. b. If you see a word that you don’t care to know, swipe it and tap ‘Skip it’. c. If you see a word that you’d like to learn, tap on it!
Pick 1-4 images for your word. Tap on the + if you’d like to perform a custom search. Then hit ‘Add Image(s)’
On the Preview screen, you can tap on the top left card to preview the cards you’re about to create. This section will get more elaborate when you’re learning grammar. Tap on ‘Add Cards to Deck’ to add them.
Repeat a few more times. Once you get rid of all 10 words, the list will re-populate, so you can keep doing this for a loooong time, but for today, just try a few of them.
REVIEW Section: No changes. Do your reviews as normal!
Keep at it
Keep up with your pronunciation lessons until you’re all done with them. That’ll happen sometime between Day 9 (if you’re learning one of the simpler sound systems and you’ve been religiously doing 4 Pronunciation Lessons every day) and Day 45 (If you’re learning one of the more complex languages and/or just doing 0-2 pronunciation lessons per day).
When you don’t have a lot of time, just do a review session, watch a pronunciation video and do and a pronunciation lesson or two.
When you have extra time, here are your priorities:
- Take care of extra review sessions. These are going to provide the most value for your time.
- Watch extra pronunciation videos. The more videos you complete, the more you’ll get out of every review session.
- Do extra Pronunciation Lessons (Basics of Spelling & Ear Training). These will push you through pronunciation faster, but they’ll also give you extra review sessions to do.
- Learn some Simple Words.
Finish pronunciation and try out grammar
As mentioned above, you’ll be finishing up with your pronunciation lessons at some point between Day 9-45. Fur the purposes of this guide, let’s say that happens on Day 22. Once you’re done with Pronunciation, your main focus will be on Simple Words. Learn 10 of these per day. If you have extra time, learn 5-10 more.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, then let’s try out the Grammar tab under the LEARN section:
You’ll see a list of 10 words, similar to the Simple Words tab. You can swipe on any word if you Know It or want to Skip It. Tap on a word you’d like to learn.
Now you’ll see some example sentences with various difficulty levels. Choose the sentence you’d like to learn. If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably want to stick to the easy sentences for now.
Choose 1-4 pictures for your word. If you tap on the + button, you’ll find a much more sophisticated image search engine that allows you to search for any combination of words from your sentence with just a few taps. Or you can search for word combinations from the English translation of your sentence. If your chosen word is abstract (E.g., “By” in “My homework was eaten by my dog”), then choose pictures that fit the story in the sentence (E.g., a guilty dog, eaten homework).
On the Preview screen, you have three types of flashcards you can create. You can preview what they look like by enabling them and then tapping on them on the top of the screen. Make whichever ones you think will be interesting to you. I’d suggest the following:
- Vocabulary: Always do this one - Word Order: Only do this if the word you’re learning is in a surprising place in the sentence (e.g., “Norbert es un perro lindo” ‘Norbert is a dog cute’) - Dictionary Form: This teaches you when a word (e.g. “teaches”) is different from its dictionary form (e.g. “to teach”). Skip whenever the dictionary form feels obvious to you.
Once you’ve made your first flashcards, you’ll have the option of learning more words from the sentence. Say yes. Then swipe on words from the sentence to mark them as known, tap on ones you’d like to learn, and make more flashcards until you’ve really consumed all the meaty bits from the sentence.
Tap on “I’m done with this sentence!” and do a review session.
Days 23 and onward
Keep at it!
At this point, you’ve tried out all the sections of our Official Beta. If you haven’t finished pronunciation yet, finish that first. Then you’ll have to choose between whether to focus on Simple Words or Grammar. I’d recommend moving to Grammar and staying there as soon as it feels comfortable. For some folks, that may be immediate, and for others, that may take several weeks of working on simple words. This isn’t a race so choose the path that feels most comfortable for you. That said, DO move on to Grammar at some point, because it links all your words together and brings life into your language.
Where do the tutors come in?
There’s a phenomenon I discuss in my book, relating to Personal Connections. The short explanation of that phenomenon is this:
MY DOG’S NAME IS NORBERT ← This sentence is great for learning words like “Dog” and “Name” and even abstract stuff like “Is” and “My”
MY DOG’S NAME IS [Your dog’s actual name] ← You can memorize information from this sentence 50-100% faster than the first sentence, and you’ll retain it for 50-100% longer.
In the Grammar section of the app, you’re choosing from our pre-made example sentences. Those sentences are as high quality as we can make them, but they can never be as good as a sentence that relates directly to you. So if you’re going to use a tutor, you could spend that time chatting about random stuff, and that’s always a great use of your time. But...a much more efficient use of your tutoring time is to have your tutor help you create personalized example sentences for the words you’d like to learn (i.e., “My dog’s name is [your dog’s actual name]”). We’re currently in the process of building a tool for users to make their own example sentences and collaborate on those sentences with a tutor. Since it’s not ready yet, I recommend sticking to the daily plan described above. You’ll learn fast and I think you’ll have a lot of fun internalizing your new language’s sounds, vocab and grammar. That said, if you have lots of extra time, DO try out chatting with a tutor and seeing if you can find someone who’s a good fit for you. Chatting with native speakers is always a good use of your time, particularly when you actually like your tutor. Then, before you know it, you’ll already have a native speaker friend that you know well, we’ll release our tutoring tool, and you’ll be able to maximize the efficiency of each tutoring session with your friend. For the moment, we suggest tutor platforms like iTalki to connect with native speakers – read this blog post for a detailed guide on how to maximize your time on here.