SSIW Criticism 5 - 

         These are extract from Aran's Saysomehin Website blog.


July 2, 2013 · by aranjones · in Accelerated learning, Dutch, Spanish, Welsh. ·

        I first started thinking about accelerated learning as I worked on the framework for our new Welsh course – at the same time I was getting stuck into finding out how/if we could promote our Spanish course on Google Adwords

        Two things seemed clear: that everyone would like to be able to push a button and speak a new language instantly, and that people are (understandably and extremely!) cautious of promises that you can ‘learn a new language in [x] days/months’. 

         Of course, every single language advert ever that says ‘in [x] time’ means ‘learn a certain amount of the target language in that period of time’.  For two reasons: one, achieving conversational fluency takes more than a few days, and two, there is no agreed and easy measurement of ‘being able to speak a language

H.G. This is clearly illustrates he knows this, but he ends up in the Isle of Manx claiming he learn Manx from scratch to a conversational level in two hours.

     As I thought about doing a better job of making early stage learners on our new Welsh course capable of engaging in real conversations, I started wondering at what point they would start to sound like confident speakers.  

        We know from experience that anyone who has completed our old Course 1 is capable of surviving for a week without using any English – although it can be a frustrating experience!  The aim with the new Course 1 is to make that experience better, smoother and more enjoyable – but how long should it take to do the course?

H.G. He  is  claim ed that can apply Welsh fluently to live their everyday lives. Not using English must use Welsh.

        After I did that, Louis and Susanna took on the challenge of doing the same thing with our Spanish tourist course, when it was only 10 sessions.  Here’s Louis, who has kindly put his Facebook video on YouTube no

    We always tell people to take their time – learn at their own pace – and that freedom is importann the other hand, we’ve seen people fly through Course 1 in a couple of weeks – so

        it’s not clear cut how long it should ta
nce I started thinking along those lines, it was only a matter of time before I was going to have to try some experiments!  

        The first was to see how much of the 10 sessions of Dutch Louis had built I’d be able to get through in a day [this is a very hefty video – the meaty stuff, where you get to see me being tortured by Louis, is in the last ten minutes or sond here’s Susanna, with some great ‘walking through the snow’ shot

       Louis, Susanna and I managed to achieve in terms of communication on our first day of learning seems really exciting to me

        Since then, I’ve fine-tuned the sessions to go into a bit more functional depth, so the ‘tourist’ package has grown from 10 sessions to 20 – and now, we’re about to take the next experimental step, which is seeing how well someone does if they spend an afternoon doing the 5 sessions that focus on using the language in a restaurant, and then have a meal out in a restaurant
here the waiters/waitresses speak that language – without using any  English…:-)

H.G. He is implying some can spend an afternoon they can use the language (Not a few words)

Unfortunately Aran does not understand the concept. It was used in schools, but Gardiner theory has been discredited, the concept of multi-sensory learning has replaced it. Aran is just using then concept to market that learners can learn more effectively if they use his unique method.



July 18, 2013 · by · in Accelerated learning. ·


     I had a comment on the blog the other day from an unfortunately anonymous guest (I always think it’s so much more interesting and friendly when people use their real names)      which was something I’ve heard quite a few other people say.  Here it is in full:

         Often find that having a mix of learning tools helps the memory, coming away from SSiW audio lessons, the sounds fade from memory but supporting written matter can more readily recalled.

        In one guise or another, I’ve heard this a fair bit – people either say that they’re ‘visual learners and need to see the words, or that they can learn faster from a grammar book, or that they just can’t understand the words being spoken because they’re too fast or not clear enough.  In fact, the comment above is one of the milder ones, because he or she is suggesting a mix of tools, rather than throwing the SSiW baby out with the bathwater.

      So I should shut up and accept people’s individual preferences, shouldn’t I?!

H.G. What Aran is suggesting  that is that if this ladies claims were valid then SSIW is trash. She was right. it is. I proves that Aran have never read a second language book in his life. It is extremely well documented in the literature that spoken language is transitory. It is also fast. Learners do not even hear the ingredients o f the words. There is no spaces in spoken language. Learners find it difficult to identify individual wprds.

 Aran has read a book on Accelerated learning either.  If he did, he did not understand it. Learners do not exclusively learn visually or aurally. He  notion is stupid. He does not know how to learn.

       That’s exactly what I used  to do, in the early days of SSiW.

       If someone said the lessons didn’t work and that they were going to pack it in, I might humbly suggest that they give it a little more time, or use the pause button a bit more, but I never really pushed any harder than that.  

        I know that in general education, different ways of learning can be extremely important – I have a cousin who specialises in the differences between how boys and girls learn, for example, and a properly adapted scheme of work can make the world of difference.  Knowing this, I suppose I just accepted that some people wouldn’t like the lessons I’d written, and that was okay.  

H.G. There is no evidence that in pure learning terms boys learn differently to girls. Apart from males are more skills at scanning the horizon (Hunting) and females looking for things. We are all evolutionary designed to hunter gathers. I have know a educationalist specialising in gender.

       My attitude started to change as we began to hear more people on the forum talking about how they’d always been ‘visual’ learners, and always enjoyed studying grammar, and found the SSi method very unconvincing – but that they’d stuck at it, and had unquestionably learnt more, faster with us than they’d ever done with a grammar book.

       Gradually, I become convinced that there are some important neurological differences to learning to speak a language by producing it and hearing it, and learning the component bits of a language by looking at them on a page.

      I strongly suspect that the moment when you have an English phrase in your head, and have to produce the equivalent of that phrase in Welsh or Spanish or whatever, is a process which matches the neurological process of a conversation as closely as is possible for a learner.

H.G. If anyone can work this out, can they please email me.

      I suspect that it triggers real, measurable neurological growth of a kind which is immediately usable in conversation – unlike the neurological growth that happens when you learn grammar or word lists, which then still requires the gear-shift to actual speech.

 H.G. Aran clearly believe that learners are 'parrots' they can learn language through memorise phrases. His Manx in a Day podcast illustrates this. He was merely repeating phrases said to him and then engaging in conversations.

      So these days, when someone says they’re a ‘visual’ learner, I’m much more likely to say that, simply put, I think they’re wrong.

      I think they may well be a ‘visual’ learner for every single other aspect of knowledge, but I believe that languages function differently (and perhaps uniquely, with the possible exception of music).  

       I believe that languages are such a fundamental part of what we are as human beings, and that the process of speaking is so central to our experience of them, that no-one can learn a language faster or better from the written page than from the spoken word.

H.G. All he has to do is create aural recording to offer his service,

     I believe that language is  speech, and that speaking gives us language.

If I’m right, that means that time spent on ‘a mix of learning tools’ is time wasted.  If that time were spent on speaking and listening, I am convinced the learning process would be accelerated.

          Even just a few months ago, I would have tempered that by commenting that of course, any extra practice is all grist to the mill – but what I’m seeing in the haphazard trials of accelerated learning we’ve been doing is that repeating learnt material more often than we actually need to is almost certainly unnecessary.

H.G. Language is and will never be instant process words need intense, revision to bring them into fluent usage,

        It can be a huge effort not to over-revise.  As I look ahead to visiting Holland with Louis in August, I’m suffering the agonies of the damned in resisting the temptation to start listig    to his tourist lessons for Dutch several times a week.

         I’m not going to do it, though.  I’m going to run through them briefly before we get to Amsterdam – maybe even on the plane! – because I know  that will be enough.

    So, if you’re convinced you’re a ‘visual’ learner, or that you need a ‘mix’ of tools to remember newly learnt material, how about suspending your disbelief for a couple of weeks, having a couple of ‘intense’ days with some SSi material, and then revisit it only occasionally, and see if that ends up feeling like a more enjoyable, and easier, and faster-moving experience?…:-)

This illustrates the degree of Aran's misunderstanding. It also illustrates that Aran has been to ignorant to open a book on the issue (Smith 1998). Visual learning is strong in all learners, but it is stronger in some learners than others.


The Seventh Stage of Language Development

  And here you are, at the giddy heights of Stage 7 – congratulations!  And if you haven’t reached Stage 7 in your own learning yet, hey, just look at the view – that’s got to inspire you…:-)


Stage 1
, you get yourself 5 questions and answers.

Stage 2
, you start listening to recordings of conversations using what you’ve learnt.

H.G. Conversations are advanced language interactions. It unclear why learners need to listen to them. It appears Aran wants learners to memorise them.  It is assumed these are related to the five questions an answers. This illustrates there is no structure or thought to what is practiced.

Stage 3
, you build one new domain-specific conversation.

Stage 4
, you introduce a real, live person, and start talking to them for 5 minutes a week.

H.G. This is abjectly insignificant amount of time.  It requires hundreds of hours to develop even a basic applied language capability.

Stage 5
, (once you’ve done 5 cycles through Stages 3 and 4) you start doing bulk, accelerated listening.

H.G. If learners taught properly,, the develop an understanding of grammar and familiarity with the phonology of language, then their capability to learn a language is accelerated timescales will increase. Aran is essentially expecting learners to memorise phrases. If they succeed it inspite of what Aran advises, de-Accelerated learning, He does not take into account that learners learning potential is not equal.

Stage 6
, you spend an entire day listening to radio and TV, and another entire day talking to people.

H.G. This is silly. All learners struggle to cope with speed of unfamiliar languages even when they achieve basic fluency. If they cope and benefit from this experience they could not be classified as language learners. The claim is delusional.

Once you’ve done Stage 6, you are an official Stage 7 learner.  That doesn’t mean you won’t go back and cycle through Stages 3, 4 and 5 again (I’ll give you tripwires for when to stop doing that in a moment) – but it means you are firmly in the complicated, glorious and rewarding heights of Stage 7 from here on in.

Stage 7

You can now speak this language.

Let’s not beat around the bush here – if you’ve spent an entire day talking to people in this language, You Can Now Speak This Language.

I can already hear you protesting.  I bet you’ve got one of these lines going on right now:

‘But, but, but I can’t say everything I want to exactly how I want to say it!’

‘But, but, but I can’t understand everything other people say!’

‘But, but, but there are loads of words I don’t know!’

‘But, but, but look, I know perfectly well I’m not fluent!’

Here’s the thing:

All those lines are completely true.

They’re also entirely irrelevant.

Languages aren’t about perfection, they’re about communication.  If you can communicate in a language, You Speak That Language.  Fluency is just an ill-defined abstract concept that helps you undermine yourself (and lets alpha polyglots engage in pointless bragging competitions).

H.G. This is newspeak to try and suggest that learners are not fluent in a language are. He is referring to fluency being an ill-defined, abstract concept, but in his invitations to treat he is referring to learners having conversations with anyone them meet. He claims that his method is the easy way to learn a lenguage.

So now You Speak This Language, what are your next steps?

What are the action points for Stage 7?

There are just two things to do in Stage 7 – one of them is familiar, and the other is challenging.

First up, you keep expanding your range of language.

This means:

– revisiting Stage 3 whenever you have enough new material

– keeping Stage 4 ticking over

– revisiting Stage 5 whenever you’ve done 5 new runs through Stage 3

…and that’s it.

It will seem like a slow process – you’ll often fall into the trap of believing that you’ve hit a plateau – but that’s just mathematics.

No, seriously.

If you know 10 words in a language, and you learn 10 new words, you’ve doubled what you know (or even more, if some of them are handy modal verbs and suchlike).

If you know 1000 words in a language, and you learn 10 new words, that’s a hefty 1% improvement – you won’t even notice it, and you’ll think you’re on a plateau.  But you’re 

learning At The Same Rate as you were at first!

H.G. This illustrates Aran concept of ' Bostick' instant stick learning. He is referring to word learning is that it is like saving money.  it takes a lot time to bringing even ten words into applied usage. He using to concept of 10 words and jumps to a 1,000. He is just playing games with people.

So don’t try to measure yourself – just revisit Stage 3 when you find enough connected new vocabulary for it to be worth it, carry on with Stage 4, and run Stage 5 whenever you’ve done 5 rounds with Stage 3.  That’s all you need, and it will keep you moving forward steadily (until you get to the tripwire).

Aran is too ignorant that spoken language is very transient. It also illustrate how ignorant Aran is of the literature.  Learners will find if difficult to recognise individual words let alone their meanings in fast normal learning. Even when learners develop basic fluency they will find difficulty in understanding native speed language. (Newcombe, 2009)


September 6, 2013 · by · in Accelerated learning, Dutch. ·

I know, I know, two posts in two days – what is the world coming to? You can put it down to my computer being away from home at the moment – I’m hoping to get it back from the workshop today, but in the meantime I’m stuck on Catrin’s tablet, which means I can’t do any real work…;-)

So, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last week Louis and I had the fascinating opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the extremely interesting company of Esther van Berkel, Director of the Regina Coeli Language School. Esther was extremely generous with her time (and is probably wondering why I haven’t answered her on LinkedIn – it’s because I can’t work out how to on this tablet, Esther, but I promise I will as soon as my real computer is fixed!) – and it was enormously inspiring to see a language school that really, seriously pushes the boundaries.

Now, I’ve been involved in a lot of different language teaching organisations, as learner and teacher – from the genuinely effective (hat-tip to the month-long intensive Wlpan course in Aberystwyth) to the truly dreadful (two different institutions for the teaching of Arabic shall go nameless at this point!). 

H.G. Aran has not teaching qualifcations. Wlpan is an appalling learning method. Aran is demonstrating his ignorance,

I have never seen anywhere half as impressive as Regina Coeli, though, and I believe they’re a gold standard which we desperately need to emulate in Wales.

What’s so remarkable about them?

First off, they do NOT give you an easy ride. On a Regina Coeli course, you can expect to be clocking in ten hours a day, in a mixture of instruction, production and socialising. I’m fascinated by this, because I’ve never seen any course, even so-called intensive ones, that expect students to do more than about five hours a day – if it’s possible for people to put twice the effort in without suffering from burn-out (which it obviously is, or Regina Coeli wouldn’t exist) then it’s clearly going to speed up the process enormously – probably much more than doubling it, since I’d expect a cumulative effect.

H.G. Aran has no concept of how learners learn.

Second, all their instruction is one-to-one, based on a personalised learning structure with personalised (and clear) targets. Inevitably, this means that they are extremely expensive – but it is without question the ideal approach, when backed up with regular opportunity for social interaction and production (as happens at Regina Coeli).

Thirdly, because they were originally established by nuns, they’re not driven by a profit motive – when they make profit, they tend to spend it on worthwhile causes. This frees up their leaders to focus on improving their results, and it’s clear that they’re paying close attention to developments in a number of fields including neuroscience – they’ve built a gym to encourage students to exercise in their breaks, and even if the massage chairs are the most popular part of the gym, its very existence must mean that more students exercise than would if it wasn’t there, and the relevant research is very clear on the benefits that will be having.

So, are we going to shut down SaySomethingin and just point people to Regina Coeli?

Well, no – they don’t do a Welsh course…;-)

There are other interesting differences between us, too. Because they aim to use full time staff for all courses, they have to establish and maintain demand, and that means they can’t offer courses that won’t generate enough income.

They offer seven languages at the moment, and will almost certainly never be in a position to head off in the direction of languages like Latin and Cornish, or Chickasaw, or Dharawal, as we enjoy trying to do.

H.G. Chicksaw is some obscure American langauge. Dharawal is an obscure Australian language.

They also have a slightly different take on grammar – instead of trying to avoid it entirely, as we do, they have a grammar section every day in order to draw out the most useful points for each individual student.

H.G. Chicksaw is just making an excuse for not teaching grammar

I can imagine this working in a one-on-one situation where the teacher can make sure the student isn’t responding negatively, but I don’t think it would work as well for a purely online course like us.

Oh, and because we don’t have the physical infrastructure, we can of course keep costs much lower, and reach more people, which I believe strongly is a valuable contribution. I would dearly love to spend a week at Regina Coeli, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to persuade Iestyn to free up the £3k or so we’d need! In fact, I’m not even going to ask, because I don’t want to give him a coronary…;-)

We can and will be inspired by Regina Coeli, though.

In particular, their expectation that students put in 10 hours a day will keep me motivated as we move towards testing our first 48 hour intensive kick-start for Welsh. 

H.G. This is sheer trash

 I’ve been concerned that it might be asking too much of the student – but if people can do 10 hours at Regina Coeli, they can get through 10 half-hour sessions of our material in a day, with appropriate intervals and sessions for production (oh, and maybe food, too…;-)).

H.G. Aran things that learners are simply vessels that languages can be poured into.

I’m also keen to draw the attention of the Welsh for Adults Centres and the Assembly to what’s being done at Regina Coeli. I think the Assembly should fund a similar centre of excellence for the teaching of Welsh, although I suppose it’s not very likely that they actually will


If they don’t, we’ll just have to figure out a way to do it ourselves.

Which means I need to see if my computer is ready, and get back to importing the last few sessions of our new Spanish tourist course – Phil and Alison’s terrific video is waiting patiently at and we have a system in place to offer the rest of the tourist sessions as a single purchase, so as soon as we actually publish the lessons, we can start testing some advertising. I hoping that will be before the end of next week…:-)

I’m also hoping we’ll stay in touch with Regina Coeli. They want to provide more online support for their students after they finish courses, and while elements of that (the continued need for/interest in one-to-one support) will be very different to what we do, if there’s anything we can share with them about our experiences of maintaining online support for 30,000 students, we’ll be very happy to do so.

We’d also be more than happy to let them use any of our materials that they’d like to – our production standards may not be high enough for them yet, but we’re going to carry on improving our processes, so it might become a possibility at some point.

It would also be fascinating to share results of new ideas that they and we will be testing in the coming months and years, particularly if we can get to the point of generating enough material to justify a follow-up meeting.

H.G. Aran i is once again promoting  his site by claiming to have a relationship with respected institutions.

I’d enjoy a follow-up meeting just for the pleasure of talking with Esther again – she’s a fascinating polyglot – but also because we’ve agreed in principle that if we meet again, it should be in De Efteling. No-one could ask for more!

[Incidentally, for our early stage Dutch learners – Louis and I have already got our eyes on De Efteling as the perfect location for our first SSiDutch Bootcamp, so now would be a good time to start saving

Aran is simply trying to creating an impression.


Hi Elias, and thanks for your comment – which was particularly interesting, because I’ve never heard of the Defense Language Institute or the Interagency Language Roundtable – and it’s always fun to hear about things for the first time…:-)

Ah… American stuff… I’ve heard a bit about intensive armed forces stuff in America… is this like that?

We don’t have a Korean course yet (although we’re hoping to take some serious steps forward this year with our course creation tool)… and I’m not sure what those 2+/3 rating levels are from… if you could point me at something that would help me compare them to the Common European Framework, I could do some figuring out…

But my initial response is that I would really like to look at the 50 minutes of work you were doing… because I would expect 6 to 8 hours a day to lead to very serious fluency in far, far less than 16 months (although of course you’ve got all sorts of possible individual and methodological variations in there).

With our courses – it’s hard to say how many lessons gets to what sort of level, because it depends so much on what use they make of their language – someone who does extra time on listening exercises, and puts themselves into communicative situations for a couple of hours every day, will progress far faster – if you’ve got optimal external stuff, then I think a very high level of competence is possible with just our Level 1 and Level 2 (a total of 50 half-hour sessions).

We’re focusing mostly on what’s possible in very short timescales at the moment – we’ve had some fascinating results with 5 day intensives (which we’re seeing get people from zero to good initial conversational interaction) and we’re hoping to test a 10 day intensive in the autumn, for which I have great hopes. Once we’ve done that, we’ll start measuring those results more closely against external frameworks, and see where we get to…

It appears that Aran wants to create a course for every language in the world apart from English.


Refers to Aran's global ambitions.


July 15, 2013 · by · in Accelerated learning, Latin. ·<

We had a particularly interesting comment on the SSiLatin thread on the forum from Peter (RedGreeninBlue) – you can get involved in that conversation here:

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