Language Learning Guide

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How to learn Foreign Languages

Advice on Learning Languages

This section aims to outline our approach to language learning, how our offering can best match your needs, what tips you could benefit from, and how you can start using Active Language© Learning straight away!

1. Eurocosm Research into modern language learning
2. Why Learn Languages?
3. What is Active Language© Learning?

4. To whom is Active Language Learning aimed?
5. What makes the Active Language Learning so special?
6. What difficulties am I likely to encounter as I embark on Active Language© Learning ?
7. How can I make the most of Active Language© Learning?

8. Which is the best foreign language to learn first?
9. Isn't it enough just to be able to speak English?
10. Which are the hardest languages to learn?
11. Why move from being bi-lingual to multi-lingual?

12. How do I start using the Active Language© Learning approach?

1. Eurocosm Research into modern language learning

Eurocosm has an established research programme and is committed to continually growing its competences in modern language and cultural learning. One of Eurocosm's major research efforts has been into modern language learning, in particular to see what lessons can be learned from successful language learners, who learn languages alongside a busy career.

Active Language© Learning is the result of a study by Eurocosm professionals into modern language learning opportunities - covering a very broad range of research topics, not only in core areas, such as learning methodologies and new technologies, but also in peripheral areas such as motivation and personal benefits. Key inputs into this research included not only published literature and interviews with thought leaders and multi-lingual business professionals, but also inputs from teaching staff, language students and, of course, our own experiences of gaining fluency in multiple languages. The study was lead personally by Eurocosm's Managing Director, Johl Garling, who is English and who, in parallel to his international career with Fiat and Andersen Consulting, has managed to gain fluency in Italian, German, French and Spanish - if anyone knows how professionals learn languages , he does!

The major findings of this study reveal some though-provoking issues:
  • There are often differences between traditional language teaching methods and the methods used by successful multi-lingual professionals.
  • Professionals who have had to master a range of foreign languages in parallel to their profession, often devise their own efficient methods that allow them to cope as quickly as possible in new language environments, and to be able to refresh their capabilities quickly in preparation for certain events, such as presentations or meetings.
  • These methods, on which Active Language© Learning is based, usually require a minimum of financial investment, and are often totally free.
  • These new methods can be used by other people to improve their language-learning capabilities.
Some interesting issues:
  • It is quite possible to become fluent in a language, even if you already have a demanding schedule. In fact, the most successful language learners often already have very demanding agendas, usually need languages to help them with their main activities, and find the learning process a form of relaxation!
  • Too often, people are prevented from gaining great satisfaction from language learning owing to unfortunate experiences, such a traditional language teaching in the classroom, or by taking basic courses that force them to study subjects in which they are not necessarily personally interested, or courses that come to an end and that don't provide the means to reaching the next step.
  • There are two areas of traditional language learning that remain an important part of the most modern and effective approaches, and should not be ignored: grammar and learning vocabulary.
  • Many language courses still focus too much on learning single words, and too little on learning phrases.
  • Focusing mainly on learning phrases instead of individual words leads to a quicker path to fluency, since the student is better able to learn constructions and context.
  • While many language courses cover basic language levels, few offer a full programme leading to fluency and beyond.
  • Languages go hand in hand with cultural awareness and understanding - it is through language learning that true cultural understanding can be reached.
  • People learn languages more efficiently when the subjects correspond to their personal needs and natural interests.
  • Too often, people requiring languages, such as those who move to another country to work, take a passive approach to language learning, in which they hope to "soak up" knowledge over a long period of time. The problem with this approach is that the end result is usually not very good (eg difficulty understanding newspapers, grammatical mistakes etc) and, owing to reduced language capability, make fewer friends and overall do not enjoy their stay as much as those who take a more active approach to language and cultural understanding.

As well as confirming some current ideas in modern language learning:
  • Speaking the language remains key to building fluency.
  • While new technologies are offering new ways to learn languages, they should be viewed as only a part of a range tools to enable efficient learning.
  • Language learning effectiveness is greatly increased if it is combined with cultural learning.

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2. Why Learn Languages?

People may learn languages for a wide variety of reasons. However, there are some important trends that are making language learning - especially in Europe - increasingly a factor in enabling people to create a fulfilling life for themselves. The opportunities are there, and the challenges are being taken up by an increasing number of people.

European integration has, after the introduction of the Euro, and the (in some cases) entire removal of internal border conrols, become a reality for many people in Europe. The expansion of the EU is further increasing awareness of what being a European means.

Many professionals will increasingly become aware of the limitations in their career, as those who have a more international outlook, gained through travel and language learning, will be able to understand the big picture better, build more powerful networks, and enjoy greater opportunities. For mature professionals, the message is "don't be left behind". For younger people, living and working in, and understanding Europe has already become an important condition for building a management career. In addition, by expanding your own cultural and linguistic horizons, you will be in a position to pass these values onto your children who, more than anyone else, will need this understanding if they are not to be left out n the new economy. Through Active Language Learning at, we will show you how to jump aboard the Euro train, and guide you along as far as you wish, up to fluency and cultural understanding in (at present) five major European languages.

Languages bring more benefits than just career rewards. Many families, through mixed-nationality marriages already contain members from different countries and, especially in Europe, this trend will continue. To mixed-nationality couples, language learning offers the chance to understand one's partner better, and to integrate different sides of the family more smoothly. To grandparents, this may mean being able to build a closer relationship with their grandchildren.

Perhaps the greatest reason, however, to learn languages is the sheer sense of satisfaction that it can bring. Making oneself understood, recognising words on advertising billboards, understanding television, reading literature in it's original form, making new friends - all of these bring a huge amount of personal satisfaction.

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3. What is Active Language© Learning?

Active Language© Learning is the name given to Eurocosm's approach to learning multiple languages and cultures, and is the result of a study by Eurocosm professionals into modern language learning opportunities - covering a very broad range of research topics, not only in core areas, such as learning methodologies and new technologies, but also in peripheral areas such as motivation and personal benefits.

The word "active" is used to emphasise the active nature of our approach:

  • Students learn languages in a way that actively supports their own needs and interests
  • Students move from vocabulary learning to active language application in a very short time
  • Students use our knowledge to actively seek out the literally thousands of opportunities afforded to language learners
  • Students are motivated

Key goals of this approach are to help our customers to:

  • Build a solid language-learning ability
  • Learn a language from scratch to fluency quickly and with minimum financial cost.
  • Maintain a high level of motivation.
  • Move from expertise in one foreign language to expertise in a range of foreign languages.
  • Provide multi-linguists with the tools to be able to communicate in a variety of languages simultaneously, and be able to refresh their capabilities quickly in preparation for certain events, such as presentations or meetings.

The main features of the Active Language© Learning programme:

  • A range of electronic tools and paper-based products, which can be used individually or together as part of a tailored and complete language and cultural learning programme.
  • The possibility to work both on-line at the website, or off-line using our website CD (a full copy of our website on CD, that reduces your telephone costs, enables you to study more easily when your "on the move", and eliminates download time).
  • Focus on vocabulary to build competence in a huge variety of practical situations, reflecting personal needs and natural interests.
  • Tools to help practise vocabulary.
  • Tools to use language skills to discover and build cultural understanding
  • Advice regarding application of newly-acquired language skills in a wide variety of easily acquired sources.
  • Focus on real-life application of newly-acquired language skills.

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4. To whom is Active Language© Learning aimed?

Whether you are yourself a working professional, seeking to build your general multicultural and management capabilities, a language enthusiast already able to speak five languages, a language teacher, student, or even a beginner preparing for a holiday, you can benefit from the Active Language© Learning programme at

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5. What makes the Active Language© Learning so special?

Active Language© Learning allows you to learn languages in accordance with your own needs and interests. At the heart of our offering lies the Active Language Database - a vast collection of language usage, compiled over a number of years, and written in five languages, and sources of information regarding language learning and application.

If your interest is cooking, we will teach you the language of cooking, provide you with regional cookery recipes, show you what is required to achieve the same results as the "locals", make recommendations regarding restaurants, point out the best cookery courses for your chosen country, and even help you find an e-mail penpal interested in cuisine, whose mother tongue corresponds to the language you are learning.

If you are starting work in a new country, Eurocosm's Active Language© Learning programme will teach you the language you will need, show you how and where to undertake the administrative tasks, give you tips on settling in, help you meet new people.. and much much more!

The methodologies and tools that comprise the Active Language© Learning programme have been developed by looking at really the best experiences of real live people who have achieved a significant level of success in language learning.

Also, you will see, by visiting Eurocosm's Active Language© Learning homepage, that phrases belonging to a huge spectrum of circumstances can be seen side-by-side in up to 5 languages - people learning multiple languages may have longed to see such a representation, but will probably never have had the chance - well here is your chance!

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6. What difficulties am I likely to encounter as I embark on Active Language© Learning?

Active Language© Learning, as its name suggests, encourages an active approach to language learning, in which students actively seek out new learning opportunities, in harmony with their own needs and interests. Unlike a passive approach to language learning, which often brings poor results, a certain level of self motivation is required. If you find your motivation levels drops off at any time, review again exactly why you decided to learn languages and compare these goals with your current progress - either the goals you defined originally need to are no longer valid, and need to be altered, or maybe progress is slower than you expected, a point which is covered below.

More often than declining motivation, the more common problem is frustration with the rate of progress. On this theme there are a few important comments to note:

  • If you are new to Active Language© Learning, remember that language learning becomes faster the more experience you gain.

  • On the road to fluency, it is quite natural to experience cycles, in which you have periods in which you feel very good about progress, and periods in which you feel less optimistic. These cycles often begin and end every two weeks, or so. In fact, when you experience such a cycle, it means you are on a good learning path. Why? Because learning new vocabulary or grammatical ideas often challenges to some extent what you already know, reducing your overall capability for a short while your mind tries to integrate the new with the old. During this short period, you may feel somewhat depressed about your overall progress, but once you feel comfortable with these new ideas, your overall capability rises very rapidly a step higher than it was before, bringing a great feeling of satisfaction. In order to reduce frustration, it is usually very helpful to use your time reviewing vocabulary that you have already learnt before - simply sit down in a comfortable place and read our paper-based phrase learner - and you will see your competence bounce back very quickly. What is also interesting, is that the further you come with a language, the longer the optimistic part of the cycle becomes, and the fewer problems the negative part of the cycle causes.

  • On the path to fluency, comprehending the language in conversations or on TV requires some concentration. This can mean that you can become quite tired, even when you are sitting in a meeting. Tiredness then reduces you ability to communicate, and this can be sometimes a bit frustrating. However, this is also very natural, and is actually a good sign that you are on a good learning path. Tips to reduce this problem include keeping meeting times short, and switching to your mother tongue once you feel "saturated" (if, of course, your colleagues will understand you!). What is also important to remember here is that this feeling of tiredness becomes less and less, the more time you put into Active Language© Learning.

  • Another difficulty is the feeling that one cannot formulate clear logical sequences of ideas when trying to formulate sentences in a foreign languages. Trying to answering questions like "What is your opinion on this matter" can sometimes lead not only to challenges regarding "how" to say something, but also "what" should be said. For some, especially working professionals, this can be an important factor in deciding NOT to learn languages. However, our research has shown that successful language professionals devise clever ways to avoid these problems. In important business situations, such as presentations, make sure you prepare your script well in the foreign language, and try to memorise this script a few days beforehand. Then practise your presentation a few times without this script, if possible with a native speaker. Our Active Language Databank can help you to find the right phrases for your script, as well as showing you how to pronounce them. You may wish also to stick to your mother tongue, for certain situations - but don't worry, people will understand this. Remember also, that you can and should speak in all "non-critical" situations whenever the opportunity arises. Lastly, linking sentence building and idea formulation will become easier and easier.

  • In addition, some people find that although they try to make the effort to speak in a foreign language, sometimes their interlocutors reply in your language, either because they want to show you how good they are in foreign languages, or because they feel that by doing so the discussion will be quicker. In this case, it absolutely necessary to emphasise how important it is for you to learn the language, and how you must insist on speaking in their language. This is a very sound argument, and most people will understand this and respect your determination. If this problem occurs with people you see regularly, you may also arrange that some periods are for one language, and other periods for the second. Or that each person speaks in their foreign language, and corrects the mistakes of the other. Such agreements can be mutually very rewarding.

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7. How can I make the most of Active Language© Learning?

As with all learning activities, motivation is the most basic requirement, and represents the major reason why students give up learning before they have reached a level where they can truly gain the full satisfaction of being a linguist. Important is to understand why you want to learn a language, and what benefits this will bring you. This includes recognising where your natural interests lie, and choosing study areas that correspond to these.

Do not believe you can learn a language simply by sitting in front of a computer screen. While Eurocosm's Active Language Database will certainly help you with phrase learning, pronunciation, and comprehension in 5 languages (and, especially for students of Italian, even how to understand and use hand signals through on-line video clips!) we recommend you supplement this work with off-line activities that do not involve computers.

An important part of off-line learning is being able to relax while learning vocabulary. Eurocosm has developed a number of printed products that enable comfortable learning away from the computer screen. These handy products, which reinforce our electronic tools and content, are designed for taking with you, and using anywhere, anytime, even if you only have, say a few moments while waiting for the bus, or 10 minutes respite at your desk after lunch! In fact, our managing director uses his copy every morning in the bath!

Realise that language learning to fluency requires building also cultural understanding - take time to use Eurcosm's cultural tools to help you uncover the secrets!

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8. Which is the best foreign language to learn first?

If you consider yourself a beginner, with perhaps some language background at school, probably your best option is to choose this language to begin with. It is easier to build on some existing knowledge than to start a new language from the very beginning.

If you have no language background, then choose a language that supports best your own interests - if you enjoy holidaying in Italy, then Italian may have more relevance to you. If you wish to be able to communicate with the widest variety of nationalities, then perhaps English would make a good start.

Other points to consider include language difficulty, as described after the next point.

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9. Isn't it enough just to speak English?

English is a good language to learn if you wish to be able to communicate with the widest audience with minimum effort, especially in business contexts. For many non-English people, this language is therefore the first foreign language they wish to develop. However, to really understand and make the most of opportunities in Europe, it is important to study a range of languages - language an culture go hand in hand.

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10. Which are the hardest languages to learn?

The answer to this question depends to a large extent on your mother tongue. An Italian will recognise greater similarities between Italian and Spanish, than say between Italian and German.

In fact, students often see the greatest similarities among the romance languages which, owing to a strong Latin influence, contain similar constructions and word roots.

German is often viewed as the most difficult language, and English by some to be the easiest.

However, beyond these general points, each language contains aspects that are more difficult, and some that are easier.

English contains fairly simple grammar constructions (for example, verbs are usually quite straight forward, and there are very few words that are denoted either as masculine or feminine - an exception is ship, which is usually referred to a feminine "I name this ship 'Southampton', and may God protect all those who sale in her"). However, some pronunciations are difficult to make for some people (try saying "hither and thither"), and spelling can also cause some problems (eg Slough has two pronunciations, depending on whether you mean the town in southern England, or the slow-moving animal).

German contains some quite complex grammatical areas (for example, their are three genders - masculine, feminine and neuter, four cases - nominative, accusative, genitive, dative). In addition, German word ordering is often quite different from those of the other four languages. However, German spelling is easy - being a phonetic language, words are spelt exactly as they sound.

French also contains fairly complex grammatical areas, but these are not often viewed as being as challenging as those of German. Many often find the French accent is sometimes difficult to imitate.

Italian grammar lies roughly on the same level as French, however many often find Italian a bit easier. Like German, Italian is a phonetic language and spelling and pronunciation are not usually a problem.

Spanish is viewed by many to lie on approximately the same difficulty level as Italian.

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11. Why move from being bi-lingual to multi-lingual?

You will see when learning one European foreign language, that there are many similarities to be found with your mother tongue. When you learn two foreign languages, these associations become even more vivid. Learn all five major European languages, and you will see how intertwined and similar European languages really are.

Learning more than one foreign language, will also help you to build in your head a complete cultural picture of Europe - one that will certainly broaden your outlook, help you to become more effective in your career, becoming an attractive part of your personality.

Of course, there is another simple reason - the more languages you learn, the easier it gets! While learning your first foreign language to fluency can take a few years, a second foreign language will take much less time. By the time you reach your fifth language, you may only need six months!

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12. How do I start using the Active Language© Learning approach?

The best way to start using the Active Language© Learning approach is to visit our web-site at This will enable you understand better exactly what we are offering our customers, and what opportunities are open to you.

Secondly, decide on the languages you wish to learn, and familiarise yourself with the specific range of language tools and advice that are on offer.

Thirdly, consider registering yourself as a member of our site, as this will enable you to take advantage of some of its more advanced features.

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