Monday, March 11, 2013

Language Bridge review: Like the multifaceted exposure, the mandated texts not so much

Last week I wrote about Arkady Zilberman's pessimistic evaluation of language learners and what how he thinks that can be overcome. But Arkady hardly stopped at theories; he has made a product based on his take on language learning called Language Bridge.

This is what I'll call a "mini review" of Language Bridge. I'll call it that because I haven't actually purchased the product (it ain't cheap, at $149 a pop) but I think the information available online is enough for me to understand how the product works and to put my two cents forward.

The following video is their marketing take on how it works:

The core of the method seems to be reading, listening and speaking simultaneously. According to Arkady, this "imposes a significant load on the brain and automatically eliminates cross-translation".

While I'm not so sure about that (if you're still relying on a mnemonic to recall a word, you'll need that mnemonic regardless of what's going on), I do like his idea of getting multiple kinds of exposure at the same time. However, while this kind of exposure would generally be good, my first issue with this method is that this particular exposure is not meaningful. You're supposed to pick up the meaning and grammar rules eventually through exposure, but as I've laid out in respect of grammar rules before, getting enough non-meaningful exposures before they become meaningful (which still puts you 15 to 20 exposures away from actually committing it to memory) is inefficient.

My second point of criticism is that it just looks boring. Just like with a text book, you're given texts to learn from. You don't get to pick what you like; you just get what they give you based on what they think is best for your learning. Even though the multifaceted exposure you're getting is good, prescribed content is the same recipe for boredom that's made textbooks so painful for oh-so-many years.

My last point of criticism would be that I don't see how feedback is being incorporated. Reading along with spoken text is great, but how would you know if you're totally mangling the language to the point where native speakers wouldn't understand you? There doesn't seem to be any mechanism to handle this.

Language Bridge says that it's four times more efficient than traditional language classes; given the catastrophically low bar set by traditional language classes, even if we take this at face value, I'm not impressed. (Back in high school, I studied on my own for maybe a month or two and tested out of two years' worth of high-school French. With the nine-month school year that we had, that in theory makes my method at least 9 times faster than those traditional classes.)

The core feature of Language Bridge—a tool that lets you read, listen, and speak at the same time—could very easily become a useful tool for language learners, but it would have to go from being a prescriptive "you learn this" sort of thing to the kind of free-for-all that tools like Learning with Texts and Lang-8 provide, which allow you to use any content you like. How this would work for Language Bridge—namely, how they'd get native-speaker recordings of long texts—is unclear, but I'd be very much up for a tool like that.


  1. In my opinion my suggestions below are more helpful in English
    language practice than Arkady Zilberman's Language Bridge instructions (guidelines). Just try them for yourself to be convinced of what works better for you.


    In order to have good skills in listening comprehension in English and
    to speak it fluently, a learner should practice listening to audio and
    video aids in English (dialogues, thematic texts and narrative stories)
    with subsequent speaking. It is preferable to have English transcripts
    of audio and video material. I suggest that learners practice listening
    comprehension with subsequent speaking on a variety of topics and with
    materials for all levels on a regular long-term basis in the following

    1. Listen to each sentence several times. Alongside listening see and read each sentence in the transcript.

    2. Make sure you understand everything clearly in each sentence in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

    3. Without looking into the transcript, try to repeat each sentence (say
    it aloud) exactly as you have heard it. Being able to repeat a sentence
    means that a learner has remembered its content.

    4. Listen to that particular conversation or text (story) in short
    paragraphs or chunks, say each paragraph aloud, and compare to the

    5. Listen to the whole conversation or story without interruption
    several times, and try to tell the content of the whole conversation or
    text (story) you’ve heard. You can write key words and phrases, or main
    ideas as a plan, or questions on that particular dialogue or text to
    make easier for you to convey the content in English. It is important to
    compare what you’ve said to the transcript.

    It is a good idea to record one’s speech on audio aid to compare it with the original audio/video recording.

    I believe that for practicing listening comprehension and speaking in
    English it is a good idea to include various practical topics for
    potential needs of learners with comprehensive vocabulary on each topic.
    As you know the content of materials matters a great deal.

    Ready-made thematic dialogues, questions and answers on conversation
    topics, thematic texts (informative texts and narrative stories),
    grammatical usage sentences (in the form of dialogues and texts), and
    sentences with difficult vocabulary on various topics, especially with
    fixed phrases and idioms can be used in practicing listening
    comprehension in English.

    It’s possible and effective to practice listening comprehension and
    speaking in English on one’s own this way through self-check using
    transcripts, books, audio and video aids to provide additional solid
    practice and to accelerate mastering of English.

  2. Have your ESL students heard of all the holidays you celebrate? Mine haven't, so I am sure to teach them these holidays in an effort to build their common, cultural knowledge

    ielts speaking model