An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two

 Luca Lampariello

This article was originally posted on

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Luca Lampariello’s language learning method…

To refresh your memory of Luca’s previous post, An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One, here are the main points of his language learning method:

  • The timeframe of the method is: Quality, then quantity.
  • The method is based upon a strategy of: Often, natural, and sà-nùk.
  • The strategy consists of: Listen, read, repeat, translate, translate back.
  • Often: Study Thai on a daily basis.
  • Natural: Don’t bother with the heavy tomes of grammar.
  • Sà-nùk: Make your language learning experience entertaining, not stressful.
  • Full circle: Thai (source files) => English => Thai

To explain the three phases of the method, I hand you over to Luca…

The elementary phase…

For this phase of the method, I often use the Teach Yourself series. You might be familiar with David Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai.

It does not matter if you don’t have Teach Yourself Thai. What does matter is choosing a quality course with Thai script and sound. Benjawan Poomsan Becker‘s Thai for Beginners, and Yuphaphann Hoonchamlong’s Thai Language and Culture for Beginners 1 both come to mind. And when they update (soon), the free FSI Thai materials are recommended too.

Note: The bulk of my method concentrates on the dialogues – listening, reading, translating the Thai into English, translating your English back into Thai – but do not ignore the lesson plan that comes with your Thai course.


The elementary phase consists of:

The Method Thai English Thai

  1. Listen to the audio files.
  2. Repeat the audio files.
  3. Read the materials with and without the audio files.
  4. Translate the Thai dialogue into English.
  5. Translate your English translation into Thai (transliteration or script).

When you translate the Thai dialogue (audio, transliteration, or script) into English first, then translate your English version back into Thai (transliteration or script), you come full circle.

Note: It is important to translate into English first. I am only emphasising this point because it is often misconstrued by those following my method (and I don’t want you to lose out).

Full circle: Thai (source files) => English => Thai

The full circle attributes of my method are what makes for a quality outcome.

For this phase, spend an hour a day on your lessons. If studying for a full hour is too much for you, break the hour into 15 or 30 minute sessions.

Below is a potential two week schedule:

Days 1-5: Listen, read, and repeat. Take notes on grammar.
Day 6: Listen, read, and repeat. Translate the first Thai dialogue into English.

To give you an idea on how it will work, Catherine contacted the publishers of Teach Yourself Thai for permission to share the first dialogue.

Official notice: Teach Yourself Thai reproduced by permission of the author (David Smyth) and Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

The sound files for the first dialogue:

The Thai sound files translated into English:

What is your name?
My name is Peter.
Peter, you are American?
I am English.
I come from Manchester.
Excuse me.
What is your name?

Day 7: Either give your studies a rest, or review what you have learned.
Days 8-14: Follow the same schedule for Unit 2.
Day 15: Take your English translation, and translate it back to Thai (script or transliteration).

The English translated back to Thai (transliteration):

sà-wàt-dee kâ
kun chêu à-rai ká
chêu bpee-dtêr kráp
kun bpee-dtêr bpen kon à-may-rí-gan châi măi ká
mâi châi kráp
bpen kon ang-grìt kráp
maa jàak man-chét-dtêr
kŏr tôht kráp
kun chêu à-rai kráp

The English translated back to Thai (script):

สวัสดี ค่ะ
คุณ ชื่อ อะไร คะ
ชื่อ ปีเตอร์ ดรับ
คุณ ปีเตอร์ เป็น คน อเมริกัน ใช่ ไหม คะ
ไม่ ใช่ ครับ
เป็น คน อังกฤษ ครับ
มาจาก เเมนเช็สเตอร์
ขอโทษ ครับ
คุณ ชื่อ อะไร ครับ

Tip: When you translate, work line by line. It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember everything, just do your best. Oh, and be sure to check your work for any mistakes.

Complete the rest of the course in this manner: Listen, read, repeat, translate the Thai source files to English, and then translate the English back to Thai.

After 1 month, start talking. Even if you don’t have a native speaker in front of you, imagine that he/she is there. Make an attempt at simple conversations.

Partway through this phase, you will be able to get by in an actual conversation. This is because translating the dialogues back and forth gives your brain the necessary rehearsal time to eventually speak in real time.

After 6 months, everything will be enormously easier.

The secondary phase…

The second, or intermediate phase, is very similar to the elementary phrase. You will use slightly more complicated texts, which will also need to be translated to English first, and then translated back to Thai.

I depend on Assimil for this phrase. Assimil offers one of the top Thai courses out there, but to get the most out of it you do need to read French.

Here are a three alternative Thai courses: Everyday Thai For Beginners by Wiworn, Ph.D. Kesavatana-Dohrs (don’t be put off by the title, this book is not for raw beginners); Thai for Intermediate Learners, by Benjawan Poomsan Becker; and Thai Language and Culture for Beginners 2, by Yuphaphann Hoonchamlong.

The secondary phase lasts 6 months, more or less.

The advanced phase…

This phrase is centred around talking with locals, watching movies, singing Thai songs, and reading advanced Thai materials. You might have nibbled away at each already (especially the Thai movies, songs and conversations) but this phrase concentrates even more so.

  • Movies: Watch Thai movies. Take notes.
  • Talk: Whenever you can, talk to the locals you meet (in person, or via Skype).
  • Sing: Take the time to learn Thai songs.
  • Read: Get stuck into Thai books, newspapers, and Thai language sites.

Movies: YouTube is a treasure trove for Thai movies. If you want to follow along with subtitles, here are a few of the excellent channels available: EDIT… even though they are educational, the videos have been taken off line.

Talk: If you do not live in Thailand, you can always join one of the online language learning groups which utilize Skype. As there are too many to list here, go to WLT’s Learn Thai for FREE resources page, then scroll down to ‘Online language exchange partners with Thai learners’.

Awhile back, I was talking with some Americans who asked, “Luca, how can you speak English like that, if you’ve never even been to the US before?”

My answer? For those who praise mp3’s as incredible for learning languages, think further: Skype.

Skype is the real deal. Audio-material – although the old-fashioned tape sound quality was often miserable – has been around for over 40 years. And while Skype has only been around for a short time, it is excellent for learning languages.

Bottom line: Conversations with native speakers are a must.

Thai songs: Learning to sing in your target language is a part of the sà-nùk factor we were discussing earlier. Again, YouTube is the place to go (search to find your music style). A decent site for Thai songs with lyrics is (offline for now). And AnothaiDara not only translates Thai movies, but Thai songs too.

Other advanced Thai learning resources: To progress in your reading, download Hugh Long’s triple package of free: Advanced Thai Reading and Vocabulary Building. Also advised is Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Thai for Advanced Readers.

Again, an overview of the method…

  • The timeframe: Quality, then quantity.
  • The strategy: Often, natural, and sà-nùk.
  • Strategy breakdown: Listen, read, repeat, translate, translate back.
  • Full circle: Thai (source files) => English => Thai

If you use my method, after a year and half (2 years max) you will be very good. And it won’t be a miracle, but a reality.

Anyone, I repeat, anyone, can use my method for self-study and get to an excellent level in a foreign language.

Luca Lampariello
Web: thepolyglotdream
Facebook: Luca Lampariello
YouTube: poliglotta80

WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One
WLT: Luca on Active Learning vs Passive Learning

34 thoughts on “An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two”

  1. Catherine, thanks a lot I think the good rhythm for me is the same in the article I feel is good for me. And I would you say thanks a lot for this article who help me a lot.
    good continuation

  2. Hello
    I will be sure about the listening,reading and repeating. I can to spend a one day for this step or I must to cut this step ?

  3. Hi Jake, sorry for not getting back to you asap (your question came in while I was on holiday and it fell through the cracks).

    I haven’t used this method in awhile … but if it were me, I’d translate back again. For me, being involved does more than reading.

  4. Hi Catherine! Thanks for sharing this. I had a question though. Is revising completed lessons / units every few weeks or so necessary to retain the vocabulary? If so, how would you go about revising old lessons? For example, after translating Unit 1 from English into Thai (L2) would you translate it again from L1 —> L2 again in a few weeks or would you just read over it ect?

    Would love to hear from you.

  5. Dear Catherine!
    First of all, thank you for sharing so-called Luca’s method, it’s quite complicated to find it at the internet explained that simply and clear, as in your blog. However, I did not get one point and i’d like to clarify that: at the potential schedule at the phase 1 it’s written to spend days 1-5 by reading listening and repeating dialog No1, and then to translate it into native language (day 6). at the day 15 to translate back, while studying dialog 2. does it mean that whole first 5 days you supposed to spend with the first dialog? isn’t it a bit boring and slow? =) spending an hour daily with relatively small dialog for 5 days.. I suppose I didn’t understand something correctly. or units could go on each 3-4 days for example with the fact you should keep translating to english and backunit by unit?
    many hanks for clarification from Czech Republic!

  6. Artigo muito bom.
    Estou aprendendo francês (minha língua é português-BR) e estou usando para começar o “Teach Yourself French”. Já encomendei também o ASSIMIL. Iria comprar a versão em português (“O novo francês sem custo”) mas no Brasil alguns livros são extremamente caros e acabei comprando pela Amazon a versão em inglês “New French with Ease”. Ficou muito mais barato importar. Minha idéia inicial é progredir em torno de 1 lição por semana do Teach Yourself, até a chegada do Assimil, que deve demorar em torno de 1 mês pela minha experiência com compras na Amazon americana.
    Certamente irei utilizar o método do Luca.
    Pelo ritmo de 1 lição por semana, devo demorar cerca de 6 meses para completar o Teach Yourself, e depois, na fase intermediária, iria utilizar o Assimil, correto?
    Muito obrigado aos 2 (Luca e Catherine) pela divulgação destas informações.

    Great article
    I’m learning French (my mother language is portuguese-BR) and i’m using Teach Yourself French to start. I’ve already purchased the Assimil. I would buy the portuguese version of the method (“O novo francês sem custo”) but in Brazil some books are extremely expensive and I found out it was better to buy the English version “New French with Ease” from Amazon. It was much more cheap importing the book. My idea is to progress about 1 lesson each week of Teach Yourself, until I receive the Assimil book, wich should take about 1 month from my experience importing books on .
    I will certainly use the Luca method.
    With the 1 lesson/week pace, I should take about 6 months to finish Teach Yourself and in the intermediate fase I should use Assimil, right?
    Thank you to both (Luca and Catherine) for sharing this information.

  7. Thank you for answering my query 🙂 It’s taking some time to work with my texts but I’m persevering. Thanks again.

  8. Hi Anne, Luca is busy travelling but he’s sure to stop by eventually to answer your question.

    For me, if I get it wrong (word or grammar) I just correct myself and keep going.

  9. I really enjoyed reading your article and I’ve started to use the method this week. I was wondering what do you do when you go to translate, for me, English back into my target language (Mandarin and Japanese – I’m doing two languages) and you get it wrong? Also what happens if you have forgotten a word but the grammar is correct.?
    Thanks for the article

  10. Salut Lukas !

    Ta méthode est géniale; elle fait aimer les langues. je voudrais savoir comment tu travaille la prononciation. Merci pour ta réponse

  11. Ciao Francesco. Grazie per i complimenti. Mi fa piacere che ti siano piaciuti i video e soprattutto che ti abbiano dato voglia di imparare altre lingue

    Lasciami dire una cosa: non c’è un’età per imparare le lingue. 10,20 o 45 anni. Il gusto della scoperta rimane lo stesso.

    Per quanto riguarda il cinese..ho cominciato con ASSIMIL (non so se conosci questa collana, la trovi a Feltrinelli). E’ una delle migliori in circolazione. Per il cinese è “discreta” per iniziare ma è meno buona rispetto ad altre lingue. Per migliorare sono passato poi ad un libro che ho scaricato da Internet, e poi ho usato un paio di siti fenomenali per ampliare la conoscenza del cinese scritto e parlato.

    Se vuoi altre informazioni, puoi andare sul mio sito web (quando è stato creato questo thread non ce l’avevo):

    Ci sono alcuni articoli e cercherò di scriverne altri ogni settimana, anche in italiano. Là puoi farmi tutte le domande che vuoi 🙂

    Un abbraccio e grazie ancora per le belle parole, fanno sempre piacere


  12. Caro Luca,

    ho passato un periodo della mia vita, fino ai 35 anni, in cui anch’io ho studiato con grande interesse le lingue, senza comunque aver raggiunto neanche lontanamente il tuo livello. Ho imparato abbastanza bene inglese, francese, tedesco e spagnolo, poi ho studiato un po’ di portoghese che comunque conosco superficialmente.
    Poi mi sono fermato, anche perchè mi accorgevo di far fatica a mantenere le lingue che avevo imparato e perchè volevo dedicare il tempo che avevo a disposizione ad altre cose.
    Trovo comunque il tuo metodo di studio veramente interessante.

    Vedendo i tui video mi hai fatto venire una mezza idea di imbarcarmi, alle soglie dei 45 anni, nello studio del cinese, lingua che non ho mai affrontato perchè mi ha sempre intimidito.
    Visto che lo stai studiando ero curioso di sapere quale materiale di studio stai usando.

    Ciao e ancora complimenti, sei un vero fenomeno.

  13. Grazie a te Paola. Sì, la parte attiva è il tallone di Achille di molte persone. Il motivo è che tanta gente è convinta di imparare lingue solo ascoltandole o leggendole, cioè in maniera passiva, attività necessarie ma da integrare con altre

    Vivo a Parigi ma ogni tanto ritorno a Roma, se sono là e mi fai un fischio magari ci prendiamo un caffé 🙂

    Per quanto riguarda il sito..è un “work in progress”. Sono oberato di cose da fare al momento ma mi sto rendendo conto che sarebbe un’ottima idea di cominciare un blog o qualcosa di simile. In fondo (a parte fare qualche soldino che non guasta mai) fare un blog e condividere la mia passione in maniera ufficiale con tutti è un’esperienza che vale la pena di vivere. “A ver”, come dicono gli Spagnoli. Un abbraccio! Luca

  14. Sei stato utilissimo, seguirò alla lettera i tuoi consigli.
    Giù la testa e step by step, curando la parte attiva che è il mio tallone di achille!!!

    Magari se dovesse capitarmi di passare per Roma ti avverto, così ti offro qualcosa in un ristorante giapponese e parliamo un pò;-)

    Ah… Perchè non crei un sito tutto tuo, magari una community? Con le giuste strategie commerciali e la tua preparazione potresti guadagnarci bene e costruire qualcosa di bello.

    ありがとう 😉

  15. Cara Paola,

    innanzitutto grazie per le belle parole, fanno sempre piacere

    Per quanto rigurda il problema dell’inglese e giapponese: migliorare l’inglese è importante per tutto. Il mio metodo si applica dall’inizio, ma da quello che ho capito sei una principiante per quanto riguarda le capacità espressive ma non per la conoscenza complessiva della lingua. Ti consiglio di cominciare a vedere film e prendere appunti su frasi e espressioni che non conosci. Chattare con la gente on-line (prima a livello scritto) e poi orale potrebbe aiutarti molto se lo fai poco tutti i giorni

    Per quanto riguarda il giapponese..arrivare già con una base più o meno decente in un paese ti mette in condizioni ideali per espandere le tue conoscenze nella lingua stessa. 6 mesi sono pochini per una lingua come il giapponese (io sono al sesto mese di ASSIMIL proprio con il “giappo” come lo chiama amorevolmente qualcuno e ho sono a metà del libro 2) ma se studi ogni giorno puoi formare una base da espandere in loco. Ti consgilio di comprare subito entrambi i libri di ASSIMIL ma su base italiana

    Per quanto riguarda il sito che mi hai mandato..non ho avuto tempo di ascoltare l’audio ma parole come “alla perfezione” e “velocemente” non rientrano nel mio vocabolario, ma in quello di strategie commerciali acchiappa-cliente su Internet. Non conosco gli autori del sito, ma la maggior parte delle parole chiave riguardano proprio l’aspetto di qualità e velocità. Se hai visto il mio recente video, sono convinto (la mia modesta opinione, ovvio :-)) che c’è una velocità di apprendimento che aumenta man mano che passa il tempo. All’inizio siamo un po’ lenti. Possiamo anche studiare 10 ore al giorno ma il cervello si deve abituare. La mia strategia si basa sul seguente principio: all’inizio rilassati, abbassa la testa, guarda per terra e prosegui lentamente, tutti i giorni, passo dopo passo. Poi potrai cominciare ad accelerare e ti verrà più facile. Se nella fase iniziale cerchi di studiare 5 ore al giorno farai un grosso sforzo, ti aspetterai risultati eccezionali subito e quando vedi che non arrivano ti frustrerai e abbandonerai tutto. Invece se sai che ci vuole tempo, ti rilassi e otterrai i risultati voluti. Una lezione di ASSIMIL sembra una “cacchiata” ma solo se la leggi una volta. Se la leggi, la rileggi e la riascolti, la riscrivi in italiano, e poi 3 giorni dopo la ritraduci (mentre fai altro), ci metterai un tempo maggiore, ma molto utile. Avrai assorbito la lezione veramente, invece di esserti illuso di averla acquisita, di averla “fatta tua” solo per averla letta un paio di volte. Leggere è la nostra prima attività fondamentale in libri di lingue, ma non è nè deve essere l’unica. Quindi ti consiglio: compra ASSIMIL (tutti e due) su base italiana, inizia a studiare una lezione al giorno e soprattutto leggi mentre ascolti e SCRIVI. Su foglio, su internet, ma SCRIVI. E’ importante. Per velocizzare il processo..ti assicuro che se arrivi in Giappone dopo quei due libri (ricorda, non basta solo leggere!) fatti bene, la tua conoscenza del giapponese comincerà a decollare. E non sarà una sorpresa 🙂 Un abbraccio e spero di esserti stato utile. Luca

  16. Ciao Luca,
    ti stimo dal profondo del cuore, per me sei un esempio. Volevo chiederti un consiglio: io tra 6 mesi dovrei andare in giappone per lavoro. Nel progetto sono previsti due corsi di lingua, nei quali la lingua base è l’inglese.
    Poichè il mio Inglese zoppica, nel senso che riesco a capire facilmente qualsiasi testo o film, ma non so parlarlo e scriverlo,
    vorrei chiederti quale secondo te è la strategia migliore da seguire per ottimizzare i risultati.

    Dovrei studiare solo l’inglese seguendo il tuo metodo?

    Ci sono degli accorgimenti che posso seguire nella mia situazione per velocizzare i risultati? Nel senso che se prendo la prima lezione di assimil mi sembra una cacchiata, studiarne 10 al giorno per i primi tempi potrebbe essere utile?

    Iniziare con il corso Assimil per il giapponese usando come base l’inglese la reputi una buona idea?

    Cosa ne pensi delle strategie suggerite negli audio gratuiti di
    Potrebbero, se integrate con il tuo metodo, velocizzare il processo?

    Grazie di cuore

  17. David, desculpe do retraso da minha resposta, estive bastante ocupado nas últimas semanas. Aprender inglês é posivel e mais facil do que achas. Pensei fazer o mesmo video nas outras linguas (vou a fazer um video sobre a minha maneira, o meu “metodo” em ruso com certeza). Fazer traduções é muito importante, sobre todo ao principio: inglês => português(importante para perceber o que estas a estudar) mais o proceso de tradução português => inglês é MUITO mais importante. E’ a parte fundamental, essencial do proceso: assim pensaras direitamente na lingua que qieres aprender. Luca

  18. E só mais uma coisa , no caso para aprender ingles preciso fazer traduções ? porque ja vi muitas pessoas falando que fazer tradução , do ingles do portugues por exemplo , vai dificultar para pensar na lingua.

  19. Ola luca , meu objetivo é aprender inglês , mas seu video ‘An easy way to learn foreign languages ‘ está todo em ingles e nao entendi quase nada , em um futuro proximo é possivel você legendar o video ? obrigado.

  20. Dear Ariel, thanks so much for the nice words. I have been contemplating the idea of making a further and more detailed video on my method (plus some other things on other aspects of language learning). Unfortunately I currently lack the time to do so, other than the problems related to the camera I record my videos with. I need to get hold of a real, professional one. It is a matter of respect for all those who take the time of watching my “Youtube production” and have to suffer the annoying background noise (produced, halas, by the camera itself). I promise though that I haven’t finished making videos. As soon as I have some free time I’ll try to do my best to explain my method and share my enthusiasm with all you guys 🙂 L

  21. Luca –
    Thanks so much for sharing your method with everyone 🙂 The explanations are concise but I want to be sure I am getting everything. I follow you on youtube and if you had some free time I think it would be awesome if you made a video describing your method, in depth, with examples and whatever else you think would help.

  22. Dear Magdalena,

    The technique consists of analysing the dialogues numerous times, always in different ways. I first read a dialogue (day X), then read it again while moving on to another one (day X+1), then read it another time (day x+2) (while doing other things in parallel)and writing it down on MS Word in my native language. Some days later (say, dax x+7) I translate it back into the target language. By doing so, I’ve “revised” the dialogue at least 4-5 times and with a progressive level of attention. Forcing yourself to translate it back and forth makes you aware of a lot of details, helps you correct your mistakes, and you learn words and phrases in-context. Once I’ve done this, that is, once I’ve translated it back into the target language, I consider the lesson “absorbed” and I don’t read it or analyse it anymore. Hope this will help you clarify what I mean by “revising” material (you can call it “dynamic revising if you will :). If you have any more doubt, I’m here 🙂


  23. Hi, I really like it and I plan to try this method to learning portuguese. But I have one question. How often do you revise what you’ve learned? Do you revise each dialag the next day? I would appreciate any feedback on revising.

  24. hi. i’m montri and i’m thai native speaker. i want to practice english from anybody and I can help you with your thai.Pleae Contact me by SKYPE name “Boyz Montri”. I’m look forward to talking with you

  25. I too have major problems recreating the Thai alphabet, a lot of it comes down to the chicken scratch I call hand writing. The bigger problem is usually one of time …while what Luca lays out is all nice and tidy my all too real life often seems too messy to accommodate this kind of schedule.

  26. Martyn, did you try using transliteration instead of Thai script? It will be a lot easier, and putting all those little twiddly bits on top forces you to pay attention to the tones you are hearing.

    Thai script being like artwork is why I like it so much I guess. I can’t do the teensy stuff though, I need room.

    No mention of Leo, Chang or Singha.. darn, did we forget to add that in? 😀

    Over the next few weeks I’m going to get my new learning schedule tidied up too. But I’ll wait until after the hols to get stuck in.

    Enjoy your flight out here!
    (I’m on my way out there soon)

  27. Catherine and Luca – I am using David Smyth’s two disc and book package myself so that has given me a big boost in itself. The major problem for me is that I find the Thai script to be so complicated to reproduce, it’s almost like art work for every letter. The book does show you how to reproduce the Thai letters in good detail but it does mean cross referencing pages all the time. Cross dressing would seem easier and more natural. I will continue with my short daily learning spells and attempt to follow your phased schedule although there’s no mention of Leo, Chang or Singha in it. Was that an oversight.

    I’ll be hitting Thailand very shortly so the talking with the locals part will be easy although their Isaan language mix does throw me a bit. I’m taking my book with me and will get a few afternoon classes in, with the aid of your omitted bits of course. Thanks for the boost.


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