How it works | Langbird

Why is Langbird different from other methods?

To learn a new language, it is important to understand the cultural context and master the basic structure (grammar) of the language. When the basics have been mastered, vocabulary becomes important. Studies [1,2,3,5] show that foreign-language learners must master a vocabulary of around 8.000 to 10.000 unique word families to become fluent and understand common texts and conversations. Langbird is designed to build the necessary vocabulary, all forms, their correct use and grammar.

Many software or audio-based language learning courses teach a maximum of 2.000 to 3.000 unique words [4] and only a limited number of their forms. Unfortunately this is far from what is needed for fluency. One goal of the Langbird R & D team has been to find effective ways to bridge the gap between a small beginners' vocabulary and the extensive knowledge needed for fluency and accuracy. The result is a product which not only scratches the surface but contains more in-depth vocabulary and grammar than any other method we know of. This is what makes Langbird unique and why we are so enthusiastic about it. We also think this is why Langbird has become popular with users.

Langbird is free to use, our mission is to make high-quality language learning available to everyone.

A unique way to learn a new language

To understand common texts or everyday conversations on different topics, learners need to understand around 95 to 98% of the words and their forms [1,2]. With that knowledge other words can be understood from the context. So why not get started, pick up a dictionary, start at page one and read on forward? Anyone who, like some of us, has tried, knows that it does not work very well. Most of the words are quickly forgotten, and in addition to that, most words are uncommon and not likely encountered in a discussion. A comprehensive dictionary contains around 100.000 words. Most are uncommon, specialised words which are not often used. If you are in doubt, take a look in a dictionary of your own language and think about how many of the words you use every day or even every week. In Langbird, every word and grammatical structure belongs to a “level” depending on how often it is used in spoken or written language. The most common belong to level A1, followed by A2, A3, A4 and then B1 to B4, C1 to C4, D1 to D4 and finally E. When using Langbird, users learn gradually more of the most common structures. This means that already after finishing level “A”, users understand 55% of the content in a normal text. Level “B” covers a comprehension of 72% and users are well on the way to fluency and accuracy!

Adapting to your knowledge level

Questions are repeated according to users previous knowledge of the language. When using Langbird regularly, more vocabulary and grammar is added to exercises depending on how well users remember what has already been learned. Many users already have a certain knowledge of the language when starting. Langbird adapts to this so users can proceed with maximum speed and avoid tedious repetitions of parts of the language already mastered. Questions are repeated with certain time intervals according to an individual “learning curve”. To make practising as effective as possible, the "learning curve" is based on science about how the human mind remembers information.

Master the important details

To speak accurately users must master the most important details of the language. Important topics are e.g the conjugation of verbs, articles of nouns and the comparative forms of adjectives. Small bits and pieces which are necessary to use the language in a reasonably correct way. These topics are all included in different types of exercises. Langbird is tailored to each particular language to make sure it covers the particular challenges of each language. Users' progress is monitored and results can be displayed at any time by opening the results monitor. It contains an overview of how much of the language users master. Based on results, new suitable exercises are automatically selected.

We know that many users struggle to find the time to practice as much as they want to. Therefore, all exercises have been designed to make it possible to work them through quickly. Users can practice a lot of exercises in short time, their own speed is the limit. There is immediate feedback to all questions. The software does not only show what is correct or incorrect but also gives an explanation of the answer. Research shows that this makes learning more effective [6], and helps build understanding of the structure, grammar and rules that govern the language. Exercises have been structured to illustrate principles and build understanding of patterns. Important patterns have been extracted and systematically put into exercises. For example, a number of regular verbs are mixed with a number of irregular ones. A combination of principal parts and conjugations are practiced to learn important patterns without repeating identical information.

Follow your passion!

Let’s be honest – no matter how effective a tool or method is, gaining fluency and accuracy in a language will require a bit of work. Learning close to 10.000 word families and mastering the grammar and usage takes a certain time. Langbird has been designed to be effective as well as fun to use. Best results are achieved through practising a little with Langbird every day. Practising in a cultural context is both interesting and effective. It is wise to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. When you have finished the first few levels of Langbird, you can start to benefit from the internet, read texts, books and magazines, listen to podcasts and watch films. Take every opportunity to speak and use the langauge when meeting people. When talking, the capacity of finding the correct words and becoming fluent in the language is developed. If you don’t have anyone to speak to, speak to yourself when driving, taking a shower, working out or relaxing. It does not really matter if no one hears what you are saying, you will still learn to rapidly find the correct words when formulating yourself.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when speaking, you can always correct your mistakes when practising with Langbird. As one user put it: ”When practising, I’m hard on myself to learn all details correctly, but when I’m abroad and talking to others I just keep speaking and don’t bother about small mistakes. I am yet to meet someone who says my mistakes are annoying.” When selecting what to read, which podcasts to listen to or which films to watch, our best advice is to follow your passion! Are you a keen and enthusiastic traveller? Maybe you study Italian and plan a trip to Sicily. Why not start following “La Sicilia” or another on-line newspaper. Are you a lover of sports and study French? Then maybe French language news about “Coupe d’Afrique des Nations” could be of interest. Film lovers studying Spanish might want to browse through the latest “Españoles en los Óscar”, and book fans studying German could find a great time diving into the works of German speaking Nobel Prize Laureates. You get it. Follow your passion, and hard work will become a pleasure! If you are a hard-working language enthusiast, you are definitely worth it!

Our passion is languages. We have put a lot of hard work into Langbird and we hope you will enjoy it.

References & Notes:

[1] Nation, I.S.P. 2001. Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[2] Laufer, Batia 1989. What percentage of text-lexis is essential for comprehension? In: Laurén, C. & Nordman, M. (red.), Special Language: From Humans Thinking to Thinking Machines. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 316-323.
[3] Corpus Based Studies in Spanish, French, German Italian, Langbird Group, Internal Corporate Studies & Research.
[4] A note on counting words: There is a big difference between the total number of words and the number of unique words. A text, audio course or language-learning software containing a total of 15.000 words does normally not contain 15.000 unique, different, words. Common words (cf. "and", "or") are counted many times. The number of unique words in a language-learning software or text with "15.000 words" may be as low as 2.000. Langbird contains close to 10.000 unique word families. The total number of words is much higher.
[5] Laufer, Batia and Ravenhorst-Kalovski, Geke. Lexical threshold revisited: Lexical text coverage, learners’ vocabulary size and reading comprehension, Reading in a Foreign Language, April 2010, Volume 22, No. 1
[6] Michał B. Paradowski, Corroborating the Role of L1 Awareness in FL Pedagogy, Linguistic Agency, University of Duisburg-Essen, 2008, Series A, General and Theoretical, Paper No.703