Once you’ve got the hang of those key ideas, you’ll be using the SSi materials better than the vast majority of learners. You’ll be moving faster and learning better because you’re not worrying about mistakes (in fact, you’re embracing them, celebrating them!) and you’ll be avoiding the trap of repeating lessons.
However much time you put into your learning, you’re going to be making the most of it – so you don’t have to pay any attention at all to the rest of this post, if it doesn’t suit you!
Intense days – the logical conclusion to High Intensity
If you’re like most of our learners, you feel pretty tired at the end of a half-hour session (especially if you use the pause button a lot, and that half-hour session takes an hour or two!).
That tiredness is probably why most people think in terms of doing one lesson and then stopping – understandably enough.
But if you feel that one session is your maximum, you’re almost certainly wrong.
So, once you feel sure that you’re celebrating mistakes, avoiding repeats, and cutting down on the pause button, you’re ready to put it all together on an entirely different level – you’re ready to test a High Intensity Day.
Getting the most out of your High Intensity Day
The key here is very simple:
Don’t hold back.
You’re going to need to schedule a full day for this – that means someone else to look after the kids, a partner who knows that you’re not available for merry chats, perhaps some pre-prepared food, your phone switched off (er, unless you do the lessons on your phone!) and a nice big sign (optional) on the door saying ‘Go Away. Learning in Progress.’
Once you’ve arranged that, you’ve then got to resist the immediate and obvious urge To Have A Lie-In.
No, sorry, no lie-in (or should that be lies-in?!) on High Intensity Day.
Get out of the traps like a greyhound. Hit yourself with a coffee, have a proper breakfast, and get yourself in a quiet place with the lessons by 8.30. Yes, 8.30. You’ve got a long day ahead of you (but on the bright side, it’s going to change how you feel about learning languages – for ever).
Don’t let the lessons set the schedule
One day, in a beautiful, perfect future, all SSi lessons will be exactly 30 minutes long (unless you’re using the new magic online player where you just do as long as you feel like and then stop, but that’s a story for another day).
In the meantime, as Billy Bragg sings, ‘This is reality, so give me some room’ – yes, almost all our lessons go over, or wildly over, half an hour. With some of the real monsters, that can leave you far, far too long without a break.
So take a five minute break every half-hour.
Just five minutes, okay? Don’t take ‘a five minute break’, open a newspaper, start reading Facebook, call a friend and then notice it’s been twenty or thirty minutes, or an hour or more. If you do that, you’d be better off not bothering with the whole idea.
Okay, okay, take 20 minutes for lunch, fair enough. But make it snappy – there’s no need to let it run over into half an hour or more. If you’re doing this, let’s get the maximum possible results for the day, so that you find out what you’re really capable of.
An overview of your schedule
8.00 – breakfast, coffee, last minute nerves.
8.30 – Let’s do this thing!
9.00 (and every 30 minutes from then on) – 5 minute break.
12.30 – 20 minute lunch break
4.15 – 15 minute tea break
6.45 – oh, I suppose you’d better have something for supper. 20 minutes, no more.
8.10 – you’d better stop now. You’ll probably be feeling a little tired.
What you’ll discover – about yourself and about language
1) How dependent you are on the pause button.
If you still need to use it a lot, you should get through 5 lessons in the day.
If you’re managing to wean yourself off it, you could finish 10 or more lessons.
2) How language takes time to bed down.
When you finish, you’ll be exhausted, and you’ll have a worrying sensation that none of what you’ve done will stay with you. Relax. Do NOT worry. This is a misleading sensation.
You can prove it to yourself by revisiting the last lesson you did a week later (and then once more the day after that). By the second time you run through the last lesson you did, you’ll see it really has become part of your long-term memory.
3) How quickly you can learn.
If you get through 5 lessons in your day, and you can commit to one High Intensity Day each month, you’ll have finished Level 1 in just 5 months. To give you a little context, we know that people who’ve done Level 1 can survive on a Bootcamp – in other words, on a retreat where they use no English at all for an entire week – a hugely impressive level of achievement.
I’m not aware of any other approach that would give you this kind of result in five months of doing one day per month.
But if you are managing to leave the pause button alone, and you can get through 10 lessons (or more) in a day – and you can commit one day a week for five consecutive weeks – you’ll be through Level 1 and 2 in just about a calendar month, which should be fast enough to give you jet-lag. Oh, and a new language.
If you think this sounds scary, you’re right.
It’ll really test your limits, and you’ll find it exhausting.
But you might also find that it leaves you able to learn new languages faster than almost anyone else you know…:-)