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Are OptiLingo courses any good?

Sponsored postFor the past decade, I’ve worked as an endangered language activist, working to preserve and promote my ethnic language, Circassian.

Over that time, I’ve figured out how to dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to learn a language, cutting it literally in half.

I know I’m not the only person interested in this topic, but I’d argue I’m probably the most motivated guy in the field for one simple reason: if I failed, my language would die, and my cultural heritage would fade from existence.

More recently, I’ve taken my decade of experience and leveraged it into a modern language learning program under the OptiLingo brand. My courses are available in several different languages, and they work really well.

My courses follow the Guided Immersion method, however there are many methods of language learning. From taking classes after work, studying abroad, language apps, conversing with a foreign-language speaking friend, or taking an intensive language course.

The prospective foreign language student has a variety of options to choose from, so why choose this language program? And furthermore, is it any good?

To answer this question properly, we need to reframe the question. Apologies for the switcheroo here, but we first must find out what kind of student you are… only then can we determine whether OptiLingo and the Guided Immersion method is any good, for you.

When you’ve decided that you want to learn a foreign language, the next step is usually how you’re going to learn said foreign language. Now this step is a tricky one indeed, because from the untrained eye, language programsare wild animals.

However, I’m a trained eye and I’m here to show you how to distinguish each one – and further, how to determine which one is the right one for you. Firstly, you can classify them into one of four genres.

  • Self-Study / Conversational
  • Self-Study / Academic
  • Teach Program / Conversational
  • Teacher Program / Academic

Visually, you can classify any language program into one box within the 2×2 square grid below.

What Kind of Student are You?

We need to determine what kind of learner you are, right? We also need to determine what language level you hope to achieve. In Europe, there is an established framework to gauge language proficiency, classifying into three levels:

  • A1/A2: Basic User – Beginner level. Someone who can communicate using basic phrases and can understand and express the most basic sentences (usually about immediate relevance, such as personal family, location, and job status).
  • B1/B2: Intermediate User – Intermediate level. Someone who can deal with most situations that are likely to arise when traveling or during daily activities. These users may also verge on more complex communication, such as conversing about complex or abstract ideas with some degree of fluency.
  • C1/C2: Proficient User: Advanced level. We’re in the big time now. The proficient user can speak with a great degree of fluency and spontaneity without either party straining to understand the other.

Consider for a moment your language proficiency goal. What level do you hope to achieve?

Once you’ve figured that out, let’s move onto the four genres:

Self-Study / Conversational: If you’re a student who wants to get to a basic conversational level, then you’ll likely gravitate to language programs that are designed to help an individual learn how to speak conversationally.

Defining characteristics:

  • No teacher
  • No classroom
  • Often basic materials

Time investment:

  • 3-6 months
  • 30-60 minutes of study / several days per week

Although basic, these programs do a good job of getting the beginner speaking in short order. However, because these programs tend to emphasize vocab and phrases – and very little grammar – it’s difficult for the student to progress beyond an A2 / B1 level of proficiency. In fact, B1 is a reach – you’re really looking at a beginner level with these programs.

Examples include: Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone and Duolingo.

Self-Study – Academic: People learn languages everyday – while challenging, it’s certainly not hard or impossible. However, it does require consistent study and discipline. Frankly, when you’re learning on your own, you need a heck of a lot more personal discipline than you do if you’re in an academic situation.

Defining characteristics:

  • More in-depth, particularlyin regard to grammar
  • Lots of practice drills

Time investment:

  • 6-12 months
  • 1-2 hours study per day / 5-7 days per week

With enough practice and dedication, it’s reasonable to believe that one can achieve a B2 level of proficiency.

Examples include: The most well-known courses in this category are those developed by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), and they are freely available in a wide variety of languages.

Teacher Program / Conversational: These classes are for the most part verbal, with the teacher providing explanationsto concepts and then demonstrating how a phrase or dialogue would be used in-context and pronounced. In-class drills consist of verbal exercises, most often “question and answer” exercises that are organized around example dialogues. These are designed to illustrate a grammatical concept, a specific context (like buying a train ticket, for example), or a cultural issue relevant to the language being learned.

Defining characteristics:

  • More explanation
  • Not as focused on grammar as Self-Study / Academic
  • Course materials in-class
  • Homework materials outside of class
  • Oral classes, teacher gives verbal explanations
  • Practice drills
  • Out-of-class exercises are not very drill-oriented and are often somewhat shallow in nature

Time investment:

  • 6-12 weeks
  • 60-90 minutes in-class / 2-3 days per week
  • 30-60 minutes homework / 2-3 times per week

These programs are quite similar to Self-Study / Conversational programs. One may expect to achieve an A2 / B1 level of proficiency, although B1 would be a big stretch, given how little time these courses devote to instruction. Again, to reach the B1 level, it would require a lot of out-of-class self-study.

Examples include: Courses in this category might include those taught by Berlitz, or new entrant, Rype.

Teacher Program /Academic: Now we’re getting into the territory most of us are familiar with: the high school or college regimen of study. These courses tend to be dry and academic and classes are usually composed of students who are more interested in “getting a good grade,” rather than learning a language. These classes are based on an old, outdated method of teaching foreign languages.

Defining characteristics:

  • Emphasis on practice drills
  • Course materials in-class
  • Homework materials outside of class
  • Oral classes, teacher gives verbal explanations
  • Out-of-class exercises are not very drill-oriented and are often somewhat shallow in nature

Time investment:

  • 6-12 weeks
  • 60-90 minutes in-class / 2-3 days per week
  • 30-60 minutes homework / 2-3 times per week

As with the Teacher / Academic, to reach an A2 / B1 level in this program of study, it will require tremendous grit and discipline to instruction. Not to mention, as conversation skills are not emphasized in these classes, the motivated student must seek out opportunities to practice speaking outside of class.

What Courses are Available and Which One is Right for Me?

To learn my heritage language of Circassian, my goal was to achieve fluency so that I could teach the language to my children and those eager to learn the language. Over my course of10+ year self-study, I dabbled in a variety of language programs and techniques, culminating in a Self-Study / Conversational method. I call this method “shadowing.”

Although my method is the old-school “listen and repeat” style, I’ve made many modifications. For one thing, my program uses Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). I’ve honed a proprietary algorithm of introducing and re-introducing content which works very well in retaining information in the long-term memory.

I’ve also made sure to focus on what I call “essential universal phrases” into the course curriculum. These are about 1,000 common, useful phrases that also have the top 1,000 most frequently used words embedded within them. The entire course should take 30 – 60 days to complete, with 30 – 60 minutes per day, and should get someone to a high A2 / low B1 level.

So there you have it. Is my course any good? Well, it depends on what kind of student you are, your goals, and what you’re looking for in a course. There isn’t any one, single course that will work for everyone. However, I hope this blog has given you a better idea of the four genres of language learning programs out there, and where my course fits into the mix.

If you’re interested in learning more about OptiLingo, or our Guided Immersion learning methodology, check out our language learning courses here.

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