The Blog

Thoughts about learning foreign languages. News about PhraseMix.com

Don't just learn. Overlearn.

If you're just reading each PhraseMix lesson, you're doing it wrong.

A story

I used to teach at an English conversation school in Japan. The students were mostly Japanese housewives and businessmen who came in two or three times a week.

There was one student who had been coming to the school for years: Mr. Haneda. He was an older man, very quiet and friendly. Most of the teachers like him, but we also dreaded having him in our class. That's because it took so long for Mr. Haneda to finish his sentences. He would start a sentence and then search for the words to finish his thoughts.

The funny thing about Mr. Haneda is that he had a huge vocabulary. Whenever I tried to introduce a new word to him, he already knew it. He could talk about a wide variety of topics, but just... very......


Learning to speak computer

Old Computer

I don't spend much time these days studying foreign languages.

I used to spend a lot of free time trying to improve my Japanese. I was able to come up with new ideas for how to learn English based on my own language studies. But for the past year and a half, I haven't spent much time at all on Japanese language practice. Instead, I've been learning a computer language. I've been learning to code.

Starting is hard. Becoming OK is easy. Getting good is very very hard.

Learning a computer programming language is similar in some ways to learning a language like English or Japanese. As with a foreign language, it seemed impossible at first. I didn't even know where to start typing the code and how to make it run.

Then I learned a little bit, and it was amazing how quickly I was able to...


How to get your questions answered

Do you have a question? Here are a few suggestions for how to get an answer quickly:

If you have a technical question or a suggestion for some way to improve PhraseMix, you can send it to me from the Contact page.

If you have a question or comment about a specific lesson, post it on that lesson's page. I answer about 2/3 of the questions that people post within a few days.

If you have a general question about English, don't email it to me directly; post it on the PhraseMix Chat page so that other readers can see your question and learn from my answer. Sometimes I answer these questions; sometimes I even write a full PhraseMix Answers article about them. I don't answer every question, but I try my best.

If you just want to say how much you love PhraseMix, post it anywhere you...


The most popular PhraseMix post ever

People love lists.

That's what I've decided after looking at the recent web traffic numbers for PhraseMix.com.

There's one post which stands out as by far the most popular one I've ever written. To give you an idea of how popular it is, it gets more visitors than the actual PhraseMix.com home page!

The post is a Phrase Lists article that I wrote about The 50 most important English proverbs. This page has gotten ranked highly by Google, so it brings in a lot of new visitors each day.

Not only that, but three of the other most popular pages on PhraseMix are lists:

So am I going to drop everything and focus all of my energy on writing lists? Probably not.

Lists are fun and...


The 3 biggest improvements you can make to your English writing

I see a lot of emails and comments from English learners. Some of them are well-written, but others are filled with mistakes and hard to read.

There are so many different rules to follow and think about when you're writing in English. It might seem impossible to learn them all. But it's acutally possible to improve your writing quite a bit by paying attention to just three things:

  1. Start each sentence with a capital letter ("A", not "a") .
    When you don't capitalize your sentences, your writing looks sloppy. Some people these days don't capitalize their sentences when chatting or writing text messages to their friends. But whenever you write to someone who you don't know already, be sure to start each sentence with a capital letter.
     
  2. Punctuate your sentences.
    Every sentence...





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