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.

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.

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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

01 Welcome


So, you want to learn a new language.  Well, I’m here to tell you that you can do it, it’s easy, it’s cheap and it’s fun, and that it doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive.

My method really does work and you can relax because I’m not selling anything.