Why people still use bad study methods and language apps

Summary

Discover the secrets to mastering Italian with our no-nonsense guide! Learn why traditional methods fail and how mimicking native speakers can skyrocket your language skills. 🚀

  • Speak to Learn: Ditch the textbooks! The best way to learn Italian is by speaking, listening, and imitating native speakers. It’s how babies do it, and it works wonders for adults too!
  • Self-Study Smarts: Can’t afford classes? No problemo! Use self-study resources that simulate real conversations. It’s the next best thing to chatting with an Italian nonna.
  • Avoid Bad Habits: Memorizing grammar and wordlists? That’s a no-go. These methods might feel productive, but they won’t get you speaking like a local.
  • Question Old School Methods: Just because you learned a certain way in school doesn’t mean it’s the best. Be open to new, more effective strategies that focus on communication, not just rules.
  • Ignore Flashy Marketing: Don’t fall for the “fluent in 3 months” trap. Learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. Look for substance over style in your learning resources.
  • Be Wary of Addictive Apps: Apps that keep you glued to the screen with gamification might not be improving your Italian. Choose tools that prioritize real progress over points and badges.
  • Seek Genuine Progress: Don’t be fooled by false achievements. Real progress is measured by your ability to communicate effectively in Italian, not by the number of flashcards you’ve flipped.
  • Try Impara Con Me: Ready for a change? Give Impara Con Me a shot. It’s all about listening and repeating after a native speaker, which is pure gold for your Italian skills.

My thoughts

What makes a good method of learning a language?

To me, a study method is good if it delivers results.

Typically, people want to learn Italian to communicate. Thus, progress in communication skills is what makes an effective study method.

After studying 12 languages, I know for sure that the best way to learn a language is by speaking – listening, and mimicking native speakers.

As a beginner, this means taking expensive classes with professional tutors.

A more affordable second-best solution is self-study with resources that try to replicate a conversation with a native speaker.

However, there’s a plethora of apps and courses out there that just don’t get you to practice speaking while they make you addicted to using them.

Some interesting insight comes from an inquiry I received some time ago (Glossika is a popular language app):

good apps bad apps

 

The bad methods underlying those materials include:

Why are bad methods and bad resources still so popular among students, teachers, and app makers?

To explain that, I’ll draw a parallel with a singing technique based on my experience as an operatic tenor.

why language apps don t work

A parallel with singing technique

To sing opera, you need a solid technique, achievable after years of daily practice under the guidance of an experienced vocal coach.

There’s a different singing technique and a teaching method for every teacher. Some give excellent results, while others don’t really teach anything, and others even end up harming vocal cords.

Since opera has been around for centuries, you might think that we sing better now than we used to sing before, but that’s not the case.

The overall level of singing technique reached a golden age around the mid-20th century and dropped significantly. Just ask an opera buff, and they’ll tell you that opera singers nowadays are not what they used to be.

There are many reasons for this, but I’ll only mention those that I need to draw a comparison with language learning:

  • Singing teachers are jealous of their method
  • Singing teachers are skeptical of others’ methods
  • Singing students keep their best guidance secret from other students to maintain an edge over them
  • Since it’s hard to judge objectively by yourself if a technique is working on you, students end up believing in bad techniques and teachers, as in a religious sect.

bad methods language apps confused

Why bad methods are hard to die

There are many reasons why bad language learning and teaching methods are still popular.

Some depend on learners, others on teachers, and app or course makers (service providers).

Familiarity from school

Many people study at least one foreign language at school without being able to speak it, mainly because the teaching methods are skewed toward grammar and translation.

And also, because there’s just not enough time to practice speaking in a 30-student class.

Skeptical students

If you’re used to what you did at school, you can’t even think of a fundamentally different way to learn.

That’s why people feel anxious when they can’t find a 1-to-1 translation or miss a word, or don’t understand a grammar rule.

bad language learning apps

Cognitive dissonance

Admitting that there’s a better way to learn also means that what you’ve done so far was wrong.

That’s why many casual learners prefer to rationalize: “he can’t learn so easily because he’s talented, I’m too busy, etc.”

Too simple to be true

Indeed, the best way of learning – listening and mimicking – sounds too simple to be true.

After all, we follow grammar rules, and linguists spend their lives studying how languages work. That knowledge must be necessary, right?

Skeptical teachers

Older generations of teachers are just happy with the translation-grammar method used in schools.

Typically, these teachers are not fluent in any foreign language.

Marketing claims

“Master Italian in 3 months!”

“Memorize thousands of words with flashcards!”

“Learn while sleeping!”

I only wish that the marketing claims of language-learning apps were only vaguely realistic…

If you set such unrealistic expectations, there’s just no learning resource that can help you meet them.

Affiliate programs

Many language apps offer juicy affiliate rates to popular bloggers and website owners who promote their products.

That’s the case of all major providers you know, like Rocket Languages or Rosetta Stone.

Affiliate marketing is not bad per se, but when the commission is so high, you just want to push that product even if there are better options.

language study methods

Misleading courses

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

Modern language apps are not made to be effective.

They’re made to be addictive.

Since many language learners fail because they lack motivation and give up, it’s not a bad idea to keep them running.

However, language apps continuously flatter you with trivial means like avatars, points, and badges just to keep you stuck to the screen, whether you’re making progress or not.

Authority

Some courses have an impressive range of languages taught and have been around for decades.

For example, I don’t know why Rosetta Stone is still around. It made sense when I was in high school, but now there are better and cheaper alternatives.

On the internet, it’s easy to build a brand with a relatively small marketing budget (but certainly larger than mine!) and look popular with dubious reviews.

Give it a try!

I hope that, after this insight into the dynamics of language learning products and consumers, you know what to expect from and how to choose your next Italian language course.

I’m talking about Impara Con Me, the plan for full access to the audio lessons Ripeti Con Me, and the readings Leggi Con Me.

This material is excellent to listen to and mimic an Italian native speaker (me). Besides, you can practice what you’ve learned, ask questions, and communicate with other students using the community forum.

Start a free trial today!

Italian word of the day
passeggiata
Example
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
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