Language Learning: Janina on Breakthrough Success

Language Learning Success

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Language Learning: Breakthrough Success

Welcome to the Five Week Linguist Show. If you want to learn a language or you teach a language, you’ve come to the right place. Join Janina each week for tips, resources, and advice for making engaging language learning happen anytime, anywhere.

Welcome to the Five Week Linguist Show. I’m in the UK and I’m still in lockdown. And I wanted to share with you an interview I did on Marc Guberti’s podcast about Breakthrough Success. This kid is amazing.

So he’s this young guy who decided at the same time to pursue a very formal education in finance and in business, traditional college education, etc, or semi-traditional, he spent a little longer doing it than four years. Because at the same time he was starting a business. So he was constantly theory, practice, theory, practice, theory, practice, and he became obsessed I would say with success. What does it take to be successful?

And he’s interviewed all these interesting people. I’ve really enjoyed listening to his episodes and his interviews with people who are really knowledgeable about all different kinds of things, so real estate, finance, blogging, I mean, you name it. So if you want to learn something, please go to his podcast. But we talked about learning languages. And some really easy, fun ways to do it.

So this is for an audience of not people who are interested in learning languages, this is a hundred percent for an audience of people who could get languages into their life. I really enjoyed the interview with this absolutely amazing young man, please go visit his website. I’m going to leave all the links in the show notes. Enjoy. Learn a language anywhere during lockdown.

This episode of the Breakthrough Success Podcast is brought to you by Jobber. Jobber is your business’s command center. The easy-to-use app powers your sales, operations, and customer service all in one place. Go check them out at to receive 20% off your first six months.

What is up Breakthrough Success listeners, Marc Guberti, the podcasting coach here. And one of the things that you want to do to really be able to expand your horizons is to learn new languages. I feel like this is something so many people want to do, but they don’t necessarily know how to do it. That’s why I brought on someone who teaches people how can we turn downtime into language learning.

Our guest who joins us today, she teaches people how to learn new languages, she has taught languages for over 20 years on three different continents, and she knows six of them to various levels of frequency. Our guest has led workshops or language teachers online at the BETT Show in London, the annual ACTFL Convention Language Show Live in London and at schools in Europe and the US. So she has been leading a lot of people through this process. And it’s been featured on several podcasts, Breakthrough Success being one of them right now. And Side Hustle School being another she’s been featured on in the past. So our guest who joins us for this episode is none other than Janina Klimas.

Klimas, Klimas. It’s a difficult one. I’ve been living with it for a long time. I know it’s not …

My apologies.

It’s all right, it’s not every day you see it.

Yes. It is a pleasure to have you on the show.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited. Okay. So yes, I’m Janina Klimas, I’ve been teaching languages for a long time. And I think that we live in an absolutely remarkable time where you can learn languages anywhere at any time, so easily. Our smartphones are a sort of ultimate language learning lab. I mean, I’m in Cambridge, England right now and I think you’re in New York, right?


I mean, how amazing is this, and we’re just sitting in our living rooms and we’re able, or studios or wherever, and we’re able to connect and talk. So imagine what this means for learning languages now that you could be, in the next hour, you can be talking to someone in China. You can be talking to someone in Italy, you could be talking to someone in France and you can do it on your phone. It’s just amazing.

Language Learning Success: Downtime

So before I talk about how to turn downtime into language learning time, because it’s unbelievably easy, I just want to talk a little bit about some of the benefits. And so your audience I’m thinking is pretty young. These are people who are going through their formal education, getting started in life and really building up for success. And so it’s probably not something they’re thinking about right now.

But I don’t know if you knew this, that learning a language, and you don’t have to be fluent in another language to get the benefits, will delay dementia by four to five years. That’s research proven. That’s better than any drugs that are out there, will only delay that by a few months, this is four to five years. And it doesn’t have to be knowing a language to fluency or super competency. So, that’s pretty astounding I think. That’s one reason.

And so many young people now are global. You have the whole world at your fingertips. I mean, I didn’t have that. I had to go and travel and study abroad when I was younger than you. When I was really studying languages and getting my degrees. You don’t have to do that now. You guys have whole markets, the entire world at your fingertips.

And even knowing a language well enough to be able to say a few words to someone in their native language can go a long way in building that relationship. And we all know this is all about relationships. We’re all people. And we all want to get along.

So, before I get into the how, I just want to talk a little bit about those benefits. I mean, even just being able to order the wine or compliment someone on their home is huge. I mean, and realistically people speak English all over the world and they do so really, really well. So, technically you can get by with that. But I mean, people are so kind and so much more willing to open up to you when you speak their language.

Language Learning Success: Apps

And I mean, language learning, I feel like a lot of people get the benefits. It does come down to that time factor. And it’s definitely easier now than it was ever before with the smart phone being this language learning tool. And I’m wondering if you could share with us some of the ways you use a smartphone to learn language. And how do you … Because with smartphones you’ve got so … Language learning tools are not the first thing I think of when I think smartphone, you’ve got social media, you’ve got all these different things. So how do we learn languages on our phone and actually do it instead of getting distracted by the other apps?

Okay. Okay. Oh, excellent question. Excellent question. So really, I mean, I say the smartphone, but it’s really all those different apps that are on it that are going to enable you to learn languages. So for example, and this is depending on your level, so I’m going to give you five concrete, little examples of ways that I do it every day.

So one of my very favorite ways to use my smartphone to learn languages at every single level is my Audible app. And I mean, I know there’s Equivalence and there’s Free Audiobooks, and so whatever works for you. But personally I like the Audible app because of the amount of content that’s in there. I get a subscription every year to and I get to pick my books. And as a busy person, that’s one way that I’m able to continue reading really regularly is by listening.

So I would listen, as a very beginner, I would listen to audio courses. So Pimsleur is a great example, they use space repetition, and it’s available in tons of languages. That’s one example. I love for beginners another course called Collins. They put out a lot of language courses. I love short stories. So there is a whole lot of companies that publish these short stories in different languages that are geared towards learners. So, that’s one example, my Audible. So I would use that as a beginner.

And then also when I’m getting into advanced, I would listen to really authentic content. So for example, I might listen to self help books when I’m in the advanced stage that are published for that audience. I’m going to just really soak up all that content. I’m going to listen to novels, I’m going to listen to plays. That’s one example, Audible.

Another one is Spotify. I mean, people are publishing all these podcasts, really great, free content that you can use your Spotify app and learn a language. Just amazing. Some really obvious ones are Duolingo, which I actually quite like, but it’s only going to take you so far. But it’s definitely really I think worth people’s time. If you’re a beginner, Duolingo’s great. And they’ve added all kinds of cool, little chat bots and stories and really fun things to different languages. So I like that.

Another one I like is, I like Drops, Memrise, go in the app store, it’s amazing. Another one would be your FaceTime or Skype, Google, whatever you use to connect with people to learn languages. And you can go on a site like Italki, which is essentially, there are private language teachers all over the world that you can sign up on their calendar for lessons. You pay for individual lessons or just conversation practice. So in the next hour if you wanted to learn Japanese, you could be talking to someone practicing your Japanese, or they could be teaching you a few words on your phone.

So those are just a few examples. Maybe I gave you more than five or less than five, I don’t know. But I’ve got even more. But it’s astounding what we can do today.

I mean, just one of the big things that I’ve heard is you want to immerse yourself in the culture. And for people who that’s not an option, you have these different apps. I mean, Audible, I love Audible, I just didn’t think about using it in that way. But it is really fascinating all the different options we have. And obviously we build up because some of these options are super simple. While just buying a self help book on Amazon that assumes you already know the language is a really big next step. I’m wondering how long does it take to see the results where you’re able to know a little bit about it?

You’ve got so many great questions. Okay. So really as an English speaker, different languages, or for speaking any language, it’s all relative. So as an English speaker, there are different categories of languages. Meaning if my native language is English then a language like French, which we actually share tons of vocabulary with French, French is a lot easier than it looks or sounds. We share so much with that language. That’s going to take me a certain amount of time. And I’ll get into that in a second. Whereas learning a language like Mandarin or Arabic that doesn’t share the same writing system or culture, they’re completely different. It’s going to take four times as long to get to that same point of competency. Does that make sense?


Language Learning Success: Time, Difficulty and Fluency

So, to get really specific, let’s just use as a baseline of a level of competency and I’m going to call it B2. I mean, because that’s the official name in Europe. We say B2, that’s a certain level of fluency. In the United States, we call it advanced low, intermediate high. And it’s when you can sort of … It’s what a lot of people would consider being fluent in another language. So you can … You’re not perfect, you’re far from perfect, but you can converse with people. You can function in that language. And so to get to that point, a lot of English speakers, it would take maybe a thousand hours for one of those easier languages. And if you get really competent at languages you know how to speed that process up. For a language like French or Spanish or Dutch, languages that are really pretty close to English. Think the countries that are close to England for the most part, their languages and cultures are more similar than far away like Korean or Japanese or Arabic. That’s going to take 2000 to 3000 hours.

And then you have some languages that are in between like German’s slightly more difficult. And then after that, Russian is quite a bit more difficult than German for an English speaker to learn. So I always like to think in my five … I like to think in terms of five weeks. And I do that for a few reasons. As a school teacher, I’ve always had nine weeks off during the summer. And for different reasons, I’ve always wanted to spend part of that summer improving my language skills in one language or another. And so 200 hours is a good … If you can get 200 hours of focused practice and study in, you can make an unbelievable amount of progress. You can be really pretty good at it. And at every level.

For a beginner, you can see results right away. And I would tell you to focus on something called chunking, which is learning language in meaningful chunks. So, you would want to think about not just learning a bunch of words and phrases that don’t seem related to any theme. But thinking about completing what we call a task in languages. So for example, a task might be greeting someone appropriately, let’s just say.

Okay, so you want to be able to meet and greet people for the first time appropriately, focus on that task. And learn all your words and phrases in chunks that are meaningful. So for example, instead of learning just the word I, maybe it’s good to learn, I would like. That would be a really useful chunk to learn. Because you can use that at a restaurant, you can use that at someone’s house.

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Learning a language, I mean, it’s not like knowing … Like in English there’s a lot … I know obviously a few different ways to say the same thing. But the the phrases and sentences we use the most and the words that we use, I would like is a very common one. So it’s just a matter of, based on what I know, and you could double me on this if not, but it’s based on knowing very basic phrases just to get you by in a very basic conversation then building from there.

You got it. And then what happens is you start learning all that grammar from what you know. You’re like, “Oh, wait a minute, that’s this verb tense, that’s this.” Then you can start adding the endings and you can start creating with language. And that’s what we do when we become intermediate level.

And also you learn enough words and phrases at the end of the day, they start working together to where you start creating your own sentences. And that’s where you become fluent. When you can start taking all the words and phrases that you know, not just the things that you memorize, and you can communicate.

Yeah, I mean, it’s just little things like that. And being able to build up. But if you get the start of the sentence down, then it’s just easier for you to figure … You can figure out what goes at the end based on the conversation based on what you learned. But getting that beginning part down is really important. I do feel like some people view language learning as it can be tedious and can be, you got to get through a ton of hoops. It’s something that, you got your business, how do I really squeeze this on the side? So I think if we make, and I know you help people with this, making learning a new language fun. How do we do that?

Yes. Okay. So, I have a few things to say about that. So, the very first thing that I want to say, back to those five weeks, so I used to do five weeks just during the summer. And then as technology has evolved, I started doing them all year round because it’s possible now. So for example … And I change it up every five weeks so I don’t get bored.

Language Learning Success: Fun

And so let’s get into the fun stuff. I mean, these apps that are out there are super addictive and fun. There’s one called uTalk. And it’s really basic. They don’t promise anything like Rosetta Stone might promise you. But they’re like games. And a lot of Duolingo is like games. It’s fun. Spend a few weeks working on that.

Language Learning Success: Binge Watching

I love binge watching. I think people, we all binge watch now, you get on Netflix. Well, there’s a plugin Netflix for language learning. And watch shows in Spanish or German. There’s a site called Lyricstraining where you do basically karaoke while you learn languages at the same time.

Language Learning Success: Exchange

I love going on Language Exchange is great because you are meeting other people. HelloTalk is one that I’ve actually just started on, I haven’t had a lot of experience on it, but it comes highly recommended. Where you’re going to go and you’re going to offer someone to practice their English, and they’re going to practice … Or you’re going to get to practice whatever your target language is. Meeting people is fun.

Language Learning and Success: Reading

Reading for pleasure. That’s another thing too. I mean, really taking the time out to read trashy stuff like blogs and magazines. It doesn’t have to be academic to work. Read stuff that you like. If you like reading about video games, read video games in your target language. If you like learning dance, you can learn salsa in Spanish online, on YouTube for free, for example. So combining it with things that you love.

So, I mentioned Audible first because I love listening to books. That’s how I get most of my reading in. Because I just don’t have time to sit down and read as much as I would like to. So to me, that’s fun. Another person might think that’s torture. I don’t want to read 20 books in the next three months, whereas that’s fun to me.

So cooking is another good example. So there’s tons of free cooking tutorials online. If you enjoy cooking, you can get recipes for free online and cook. You follow the target language, you can cook foods from other countries or watch the tutorials on YouTube. So those are just a few examples of making it fun.

Language Learning and Success: Travel

Another really fun thing is travel. So a few years ago I went to Paris for five weeks and I stayed at an Airbnb. And a lot of language schools abroad in some of these big cities, and there’s millions of them, they all work for the most part in the same format. So you go and you do grammar for a couple of hours, and then you do conversation. It’s basically four hours of language study in the morning. And then you get out at lunchtime and then you have the rest of the day to do whatever you want. So how amazing is that? You can go be a tourist all around Paris every day, and then study French in the morning.

And I stayed at an Airbnb. And I didn’t Airbnb my place out, but you could do that. You’re in New York, who doesn’t want to go to New York. So you rent your place out and go stay at someone’s place in Paris. You can get smart about the finance side of it and do something like … Now I live in England, so I’m able to get a pretty cheap train ticket to go to Paris. That’s not really an issue. But if I were in the States, I’d be using my Chase United rewards or something, and make it free. So, that’s I think fun, travel’s fun.

Oh yeah, I mean, I feel like a lot of people love the travel idea, but if that’s not something that you could do, there’s a difference between going to Paris from where you are versus where I am.


And that’s where doing things you do for fun anyway, like if you enjoy cooking, having the ingredients in a different language, knowing what those ingredients are, and then just immersing yourself in the language in different ways without having to travel. I mean, it’s definitely a very sound concept for people who do want to learn the language and expand their horizons. And I think for people who do want to expand their horizons, they should definitely continue to follow Janine’s work. So with that in mind, where are some good places for us to go to continue following you along your journey?

Oh, thank you. Okay. So I share every week resources, and about half of it’s for language teachers and half of it’s for language learners, so it’s called And I’m Real Life Language on Pinterest, I save loads and loads and loads of great resources that people share on Pinterest. And on Instagram, I’m Janina, J-A-N-I-N-A at Real Life Language.

Well, Janina, thank you so much for sharing those resources and all of your great insights with us. I mean, it definitely gets you thinking, I can be learning this language during my extra time. I mean, an hour a day, I mean, to learn a new language, if you’re going somewhere new, I mean, it is definitely something great for all of us to be thinking about. And you gave us that thought in this episode and different ways to do it. So thanks for coming on the show.

Thanks so much, Marc, keep up all the great work. Bye.

Check out this amazing young guy here:

This episode of the Breakthrough Success Podcast was brought to you by Jobber. Jobber is your business’s command center. The easy-to-use app powers your sales, operations, and customer service all in one place. Start a free trial or sign up today to receive 20% off your first six months. Find out more at

Thank you for listening to the Five Week Linguist Show with Janina Klimas. Join us each week here. And visit us at for more resources for learning and teaching languages.

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4 People reacted on this

    1. Hi Julie Anne- I have a few courses, so it depends on what you are looking for. I have quite a few mini courses for travel and beginners (here and itunes), some free Spanish courses and a French course.

      I also have a free course on measuring proficiency My other course (help you master a language in the next year) is here: .

      Can you let me know what you’re looking for?

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