Memorising a textbook

Hola hipsteros,  it’s been a while but I’m back.

I have lots to report, but first up I wanted to let you know that I am attempting to memorise a textbook.  My 13-year-old son is learning Spanish in high school, and for various reasons that I will explore in another post, I think that the way his studies have been arranged, he is almost guaranteed to have the typical secondary high school language experience of at a least a year of study, followed by failure to be able to communicate, and the conclusion that learning a language is just too hard.

So, together we are studying, with the assistance of Anki, Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish.  We have been going through it for five weeks now and are almost at the end of Chapter 7.  There are 45 chapters in all, so we should well and truly finish it by the end of the school year here in the southern hemisphere.

I am doing this because he is interested in mythology, history, religions, art and science, and I can easily envisage him having to learn another language in the future in order to further his career.  When that time comes, I want him to believe that he is capable of learning another language.  And the best way I can think of doing that is to teach him an effective way of learning another language now.

I will report on our progress as we make our way through the course.

Lots of Languages

One of the benefits of this method is that it allows you to learn just enough to get by in lots of languages.

I haven’t posted much this year —  I’ve had a lot on my plate– but I started memorising an Italian phrasebook, iSpeak Italian, essentially learning the same phrases I’ve already learnt in French and Spanish, but this time in Italian. I’ve customised my Anki deck so that I’m learning Italian via Spanish.

I should finish memorising the Italian phrasebook in a month or so.

Is it going to rain?

Something that continues to surprise me is just how useful the phrases in your average phrasebook are, and how much knowing just a little bit of the language can add to the enjoyment of your trip.

One of my favourite places in the world is Kanumera Bay on the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia.

Kanumera Bay, Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

If you arrive on the island via a cruise ship or ferry, you can walk there in 10 minutes or so.

Most of the beach is exposed to the wind, but if you keep walking to the far end, you will find the Oure Tera beach resort, which is protected from the wind by the headland.  There is a café right on the beach, and you can hire a kayak if you like.

If you take a snorkel and some reef shoes, you can walk into the water and snorkel above the coral reef, which is only 20 metres from the shore.  It is truly amazing – like swimming in an aquarium.


My family and I were doing exactly this.  We decided to stop for a break, and while we were doing so, there was a tropical deluge which lasted for half an hour.  We took shelter in our small portable beach tent (the blue one in the photo at the end of this post), other passengers on our cruise ship took shelter in the beachside café and ordered lunch.

Then the rain stopped.  And the dilemma became apparent.  Should we make our way back to the ship before it started raining again?  Or should we stay at the beach and hope that the storm clouds would clear?  If only we could ask someone who was familiar with the local weather conditions.

Nearly all of our fellow cruisers decided to walk back to the ship.  Then I spotted Tony, one of the resort’s staff.  After exchanging pleasantries in French, I was able to ask him Il fera pleuvoir encore aujourd’hui? (Is it going to rain again today?)

Tony. Don’t let his poker face fool you – he’s a very friendly guy.

He was adamant that it would not rain again, so we stayed at the beach for another hour or so, and had this little piece of paradise all to ourselves.


I managed to have quite a pleasant chat with Tony for five minutes or so, using only my phrasebook French.  C’etait magnifique!


05 Recommended phrasebooks

Memorise the Phrasebook to Learn a New Language


I heartily recommend the iSpeak and All in One series by Alex Chapin, published by McGraw Hill.

Like all good phrasebooks, they contain extremely useful, practical phrases and vocabulary, but these books (actually CDs with about 1500 mp3 files on them) also have an audio recording of each phrase in the target language, which is then repeated in English twice, then finally repeated in the target language again.

View original post 110 more words

04 Disadvantages of this method

It doesn’t teach you grammar…

but a bit of research on the internet or at the library goes a long way here.

I’ve found Michel Thomas’s method to be particularly helpful when it comes to grammar.  You can download a free booklet of his courses (no audio) here.

Margarita Madrigal used a similar method to teach grammar.



You may have to find someone to practise with.

Not really a disadvantage though – rather an opportunity to meet new people.  In a multicultural city like Sydney or Birmingham, it’s actually quite easy to find people who speak almost any language.  If you can’t find someone nearby, you might like to consider iTalki.

01 Welcome

02 This is why it works…

03 Advantages of this method

04 Disadvantages of this method

03 Advantages of this method


It’s fast.

Learning 10 phrases on average per day , it will take you 4 to 5 months to memorise the entire phrasebook.

This takes about half an hour per day, but once you stop learning new phrases, the time required to retain the phrases you have already learns is about 5-10 minutes per day.

It’s cheap.

If you’re reading this you probably already have access to a computer, and the memorisation software is free.

Phrasebooks are usually cheap too. There is a list of recommended phrasebooks here.

It’s easy.

There are no exams.

There is no writing involved.

It’s convenient.

You can set your own pace and study wherever you like.

It works.

01 Welcome

02 This is why it works…

03 Advantages of this method


04 Disadvantages of this method

05  Recommended phrasebooks

02 This is why it works…

  1. Phrasebooks contain extremely useful, practical words and phrases that cover nearly all situations.
  2. They are concise, so there is less to memorise.
  3. We are going to use free computer software to make sure that we learn the phrases in the most efficient way.

A phrasebook has about 1,000 words and phrases.  Learning 10 phrases per day takes about half an hour.  If you do this for 100 days you will have memorised the entire phrasebook, and learnt the language.

I have used this method to learn French, Spanish and Chinese.

01  Welcome

02 This is why it works…

03 Advantages of this method


04 Disadvantages of this method

05 Recommended phrasebooks