My Pursuit of an Efficient and Effective Method of Learning a Foreign Language. Part Two

For those who did not have the chance to read Part One here are the main points:

  • When adults learn a foreign language and speak it fluently, they form a new language speech center in the brain that is separated from the native language center.
  • We don’t think in our native language; we think in a code language of symbols, images and associations.
  • The majority of adults (approx. 95%) loses their linguistic talent after the age of 18 and thinks the loss is irreversible.
  • A small proportion of adults (less than 5%) somehow preserve the child’s ability to learn a new language without reverting to cross-translation to the mother tongue.
  • When adults learn a new word in a foreign language, they subconsciously associate it with a similar word in their native language and not with the image or situation. This subconscious activity is called cross-translation.
  • A method that does not explicitly address the problem of cross-translation cannot succeed.
  • The advice “learn like a child” is wishful thinking: adults need to employ particular tools or techniques to switch their brains to learn like a child.

Judging from the comments the concept of “subconscious cross-translation” (SCT) has raised a few questions. Here is a very nice explanation given by Ria Smit, a seasoned English teacher from Australia, who works now as EFL teacher in China:

“Of course I have always, since I learned Chinese, been aware that the students are speaking Chinese with English words.  I do not have that problem with the majority of the students that I teach now.  They come when they are 6 and they learn all the English in English and they won’t have that problem until they get to a Chinese who will insist on translating every word in every text and so make the kids think in Chinese while they learn English.  Well, we all know it doesn’t work.”

SCT is association of images or situations first with the words in mother tongue and then with words in the target language. Because it is subconscious activity adults have no control or ability to stop or change it. This bilingual information cannot be memorized or used in speech since when we speak we automatically use one language. That is why, in my opinion, SCT is the main barrier in acquiring a foreign language for 95% of adults.

Another explanation of SCT: 95% of adults when learning a foreign language try to add it to the mother tongue. Very few people can do it: think in mother tongue and speak in English since it requires extraordinary concentration. Usually such people speak very slowly and still have great difficulties in understanding spoken language.

The modern history knows three cases when SCT was eliminated:

  1. The Callan Method is used exclusively in language schools and requires a Callan Method-trained teacher who can speak to his students in English at the rate of 200 to 240 words a minute. This is faster than normal conversational speech, which is only about 120-150. The teacher’s accelerated speed approach prevents boredom – that was Callan’s objective. He was not aware of SCT and did not realize that his method worked because his students did not have time for subconsciously using their mother tongue. The Callan teacher is allowing students to hear more words repeated more times. This makes it easier for students to understand English outside the classroom, and, of course, makes them learn faster. The Callan school is unique in providing a written warranty that their students will learn English four times faster.
  2. Entrepreneurial English teacher extraordinaire Li Yang introduced “Crazy English” in Beijing on a large scale in 1994. Since then, his method has become very popular, especially before the Olympics in China. It has approximately 20 million practitioners. The essence of this method is well-portrayed in this video. Rehearsing English instead of learning is more efficient for adults since when they shout English phrases in a crowd the SCT is turned off.
  3. The patented Language Bridge Technology (LBT) offers an efficient alternative to Callan method and to “Crazy English”.

LBT contains two major components: new methodology (no grammar, no memorization and no translation) and self-study software that incorporates the possibility to export lessons to any device or add new lessons according to the learner’s objectives. It is a perfect tool for implementation of blended learning: a combination of self-study software, which could be customized according to the EFL learners’ needs, and public online or offline classes. Language Bridge learners automatically turn off cross-translation and they start forming an English language speech-center in the brain using simultaneous repetition instead of consecutive repetition which is traditionally used in all conventional methods. This 3-action activity – reading, listening and speaking simultaneously with the speaker – imposes a significant load on the brain and automatically eliminates cross-translation, i.e. association of new English words with the words in the mother tongue.

Now, let us elaborate on the issue of conventional methods of learning. One interesting story is described here: Before and after case studies

Jane had shown great results according to the excerpts of her conversation recorded before and after. The great linguist Stephen Krashen interviewed Jane and asked her: “How long have you been learning English (from what age to now)? You’re 27, right?”

Jane: I’ve been learning English since I was eleven, the fourth year in primary school, until now…total sixteen years.

Jane explained how she improved her English (after 16 years of learning!): “I downloaded every recording when Jason had posted them online. And I put them in iPod, listened them when I was free.”

What surprised me most that Stephen Krashen did not elaborate on the main fact in this story: why after 16 years of learning English Jane was still on the beginner’s level?

Traditionally Chinese learners think that English speech is formed by taking separate words and sticking them together. Presently, there are 14 million registered college students on campuses throughout China. Every single one of these students will have to pass the CET exam (College English Test) in order to earn their degree.

All free time students spend on memorizing English grammar rules (they do it in Chinese!) and the 4,500 English vocabulary words needed to pass the test. Native English speakers use about 3000 words in normal conversations! So why couldn’t Chinese students speak in English when they knew 4,500 words?

Most students who pass the CET test don’t speak English. 4500 English words are memorized as translation from Mandarin and they are not able to be used as the foundation for the automatic speech process. In fact any spoken language is built from word chunks and phrases. Our goal is to achieve real fluency when the words come out of your mouth fast and you understand instantly without subconscious translation to the mother tongue.

I agree with Leslie A. Hart: “… the traditional approach of “teaching” children and adults to speak another language is simply brain antagonistic.” To help language-incapable (95% of the adult population) in acquiring fluency in English we need to promote a new learning paradigm:

  • Stop studying separate words in English. Don’t use flashcards.
  • Learn words in phrases in interesting contexts using your emotions and feeling and preferred senses. Phrases are GROUPS of words that naturally go together. Research by Dr. James Asher proves that learning with phrases is 4-5 times faster than studying individual words.
  • 4-5 Times Faster. Also, students who learn phrases have much better grammar.
  • These three dinosaurs of the conventional methods: “Listen and repeat after me!”, “Memorize this dialogue”, and “Let me explain the grammar rule for the day” should be acknowledged as extinct. Learning grammar of the target language in the mother tongue has no value since the bilingual information cannot be applied in creating natural fluent speech in the target language.
  • The inner ear grammar works perfectly well in the mother tongue and will be acquired in EFL if you learn it as a skill on a subconscious level.

With the Language Bridge method, the students speak throughout the whole lesson, at least four times as much as they would be with any other form of language teaching.

I have selected examples from China for two reasons:

  • China is the country where English Mania originated and where it should be satisfied in the first place.
  • About half of all EFL learners in the world are located in China.

Reminder: for those who are surprised by the number 95% of language incapable I offer this statistic given by Dr. James Asher:

96% of students who voluntarily enroll in foreign language classes give up after three years. Only 4% continue to achieve at least minimal levels of fluency. More damaging: Not only do our students give up but they are now convinced that they cannot learn another language. After all, they tried but the results were negative.

In Part 3 of this series of articles I will discuss the following topics:

  • Will the software and podcasts and device applications for learning English substitute teachers?
  • Blended learning in the digital age – objectives and the problems solved.
  • Online language learning portals – will they survive the challenges of the digitization process?
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  • chinamike

    More theory, more quotes, more nonsense.

    Your theories as I can understand them go something like this:
    1. Most language learners learn English by translating (ignoring of course a definition of what translating means).

    I'm curious if I define a word in Chinese for one of my students and then don't use Chinese again in association with that word was translation involved? Is this a matter of degrees? Is it an absolute? How much translating is enough to qualify the approach as involving translation.

    2. Chinese learners learn by translation (oops, we are still missing a definition of translation). Moreover everyone knows that Chinese learners don't learn English well so because they learn using translation it stands to reason that translation is the problem.

    But wait, over the years Chinese students have definitely improved. But that is impossible since, because they are still translating, improvements could/should not take place. But wait, maybe improvements can take place while students are still using translation between language. But how is this possible? Is there some kind of inherent limit on a student's progress while using translation? How much is too much, just right? too little? But then maybe these improvements are occurring because the schools are moving away from a strict reliance on translation? But what then is responsible for this improvement? Ah, but how can I even be having this discussion when I haven't even defined what translation means……………….

    3. Arkady's method (along with only two others) completely prevents translation. Therefore having eliminated translation now all learners can magically achieve a level of excellence that before only 5% of the people in the world were able to achieve. Ah, would it be to much to ask for PROOF of this INCREDIBLE claim?

    Note to readers: The biggest mistake made in assessing the English system in China is to assume that fostering communication is the goal. It isn't. Generally speaking passing tests is. But heck, that is immaterial right?

    Arkady you could avoid all this by telling us what results you are able to produce. Here are some possible examples:

    The student's listening abilities improved by….
    The student's vocabulary expanded by…..
    The student's speaking speed improved by………
    The student's ability to read increased by…..
    The student's ability to identify symbols and images in the target language improved by…

    Note: Please also tell us how you tested their levels to access their base levels, who the students were that you tested, how they were taught, and what environment they returned to when they left your classes.

    Finally, tell us how long it took to achieve these effects and give us an idea of how motivated the students were to learn.

    Until I receive figures I will continue to use about 3-5% of my class time with young children to do translation. I find it is a great way to discover what students don't understand so that I can rapidly get an insight into how they are understanding the differences between the two languages.

    In Arkady's world I might be in translation hell and doing untold damage to my students. So you see I do have a vested interest. But I won't be scared off by this version of pseudo-science.

  • jasonoutthere

    Firstly, sorry I haven't got back to you after our chat. Secondly, China Mike might not have grasped that the cross-translation Arkady refers to is in the learners head when they are trying to speak (do correct me if I am wrong).

    Thirdly, thanks for referring to my case study with Jane, a Chinese learner of English. Stephen Krashen was not surprised that Jane still spoke like a beginner after 16 years of learning English because there are lots of Jane's and the phenomenon is fairly well documented, as you know. What did surprise him was how quickly I managed to help her to speak at a comfortable intermediate level (6 lessons, about 18 hours).

    I'm interested to know what you think happened in Jane's case, and why she improved so much in such a short period of time?

    • chinamike


      Thanks for helping me make my point. If after reading Arkady's explanation you still don't understand what is meant by cross translation (by inviting someone to correct you if you are wrong) then I would say the concept has not been well explained, or defined.

      Secondly, did I miss something here? If I invite my student to translate then obviously that translation is occurring in the student's head. Are you saying that some kinds of translation differ from the kind that Arkady is trying to eliminate? If so, which kinds and why?

      Is it mistaken of me to ask for clarification on this? Since I DO ask students to translate (from English into Chinese) and I REALLY value what comes out of these experiences I would like to know how this is preventing my students from joining the select 5%.

      • jasonoutthere

        @China Mike, fair point, we all translate, especially when we learn, use a dictionary etc. the specific event Arkady and I are interested in is the moment where a student wants to speak and is formulating the words in their mind before they speak using them. if they translate and sentence form here and are nervous and intent of perfect formation of the sentence before they speak they can struggle for a number of reasons. Getting them to think in English…and go with the flow is the what we are trying to do and is what happened with Jane and others who use our materials and follow the process. Does that explain a bit better?

        • chinamike

          Thanks Jason. On the surface it sounds like you are trying to stop a pre-existing, probably learned behavior as well as reduce a student's affective filter. This is not actually instruction. It is more akin to therapy or un-learning.

          But since you are trying to do two things at once how do you know that any results you obtain (and I haven't seen any yet) have to do with eliminating translation instead of lowering the affective filter? What is more, it sounds like you are only talking about one kind of translation (native to foreign). Have you tested when this translation actually occurs? I would imagine that this Acute Translation Syndrome is not evenly distributed across all language tasks.

          And where do all Arkadys numbers come from (5% of the lucky few, etc)?

          If this is therapy what markers would a teacher look for in students that might have this problem? Do students actually learn something as they go through Arkady's “therapy” or do they only unlearn previous behaviors? If I am right and this is a therapy then Arkady should be looking for ways to diagnosis this illness (tests) rather then convert teachers who mostly don't see themselves in the unlearning business.

          • jasonoutthere

            @ China Mike, you make it sound like I work with Arkady, I don't, we have

            some common interests and have had a chat.

            Therapy and un-learning are interesting terms and to some extent they could

            possibly apply. Illness might be bit too much. What EOT does it facilitate

            and support useful and memorable social learning experiences.

            The results that we get are not ones we can see, but anyone who listens can

            hear them.

            Jane's comments about starting to think in English suggest to me that she

            had been and had stopped translating. Her affective filter was probably

            lowered because that is one our chief aims. Lowering the filter and starting

            to think in L2 might not be mutually exclusive phenomena. EOT is a process

            and it can be instructed (has been since 2001).

        • chinamike



    • bridge2english

      Dear Jason,
      You are absolutely right that the cross-translation is in the learner's head. It is impossible to think in the mother tongue and speak in English. Experiment with Jane is not a “pure” proof of your method since she had 16 years of study before she came to London and started speaking (not learning!) with you and strangers. Although in this situation we have rehearsal and not learning and that is why Jane was able to stop her cross-translation and move forward fast. Her progress was remarkable!

      Kirsten was the first educator who told me to contact you when she learned about Language Bridge. I believe that if you would introduce the fundamentals of Language Bridge into your school and methodology, your students would become more successful.
      I have cited you in Part One (you may find it here:

      • chinamike


        It is also impossible to think about pink flowers and talk about iceburgs. So what? And what is this nonsense about translation occurring in the learner's head? Where else would a translation take place? The foot?

        It is ironic that you would mention proof in relation to Jane given your aforementioned letter from Sasha.

      • jasonoutthere

        Hi Arkady, seems things are kicking off a bit here, debate is good, especially in the area of language acquisition which is so contentious to so many people. A couple of clarifications/comments to your reply:

        1. Jane did not come to London. She self-studied with PDF lesson plans I gave her access to and she printed off and worked offline with a dictionary, she then did the speaking task at the end of each lesson with me a and then a few other fluent English speakers on Skype (audio only, not even video).

        2. It is the best and purest proof of English Out There precisely because she had been trying to speak English comfortably for 16 years but failing despite continued formal study. In a few hours she achieved what she had been striving for for years.

        3. I do think the process we support learners through helps them to cease translating in their head before they speak…this is Jane's comment about that and is on our website,

        “…they (the EOT lessons) made me not only enrich my vocabulary quantity, but made also the English speaking become a kind of habit to me. I think that is my improvement.”

        I'm happy with Jane's progress, and so is she, as is Waldeck (the Polish learner in the other audio case study I did), he sent me an email this Christmas saying it was an amazing experience and he has set up an EOT club in the library in his small town in Poland.

        Finally, testimonials (as someone commented above) are produced by every English course provider in the world, but they mean very little. What I have sought to do is to provide real audio case studies, in other words irrefutable proof of what can be achieved using our materials and the process they support.

        I've Googled far and wide to try and find any other course provider with audio evidence….it's not easy and am still looking. Why don't you join me and do it? That's not me being bolshy, just the obvious thing to do to prove your product.

        Thanks for the mention in part 1. Speak soon.

  • Rickinalbi

    The Chinese woman discussed in the article does not credit her achievements to Language Bridge. As far as I know, she has never even heard of Language Bridge or Mr. Zilberman. She certainly does not credit her progress to Language Bridge, the Callan Method, Crazy English, or efforts to avoid “subconscious cross-translation.” Dr. Krashen also did not interview this woman, contrary to Mr. Zilberman's statement.

    I have serious issues with just about everything in this article. My schedule this week will dictate how extensively I can carry on the discussion. I felt it important, however, to point out the two facts above.

  • Louis George Machlan

    And so begins round two. I like this article a lot. It is clear and concise. Unfortunately, it is what I and the casually informed public would want, not what China, Ricki and Ben do. I think they wish to pursue an investigation of your method in a very scholarly way. Alas, I have little to add to such a conversation. Perhaps in another venue we could discuss the merits and problems with your premise and presentation.

    • chinamike


      By the casually informed public do you mean non-professionals? Or do you mean casual teachers? I would think that literature that is designed to address professionals is more appropriate in this forum.

      Moreover Arkady has just done something which has been a no-no in our field for 30 years. He has determined, as far as I can tell, that there are only three exemplars in language teaching and that his method is among them.

      As far as I can see, this approach to setting himself above the rest is equivalent to calling into question my approach and by extension, probably yours.

    • Rickinalbi

      We seem to be quite able to discuss the merits and problems with Mr. Zilberman's premise and presentations in this forum. Why should we change? Mr. Zilberman also chose to present his argument in a scientific and scholarly way. It's only natural that he receives challenges along the same lines.

  • bridge2english

    Dear Rickinalbi,
    You are absolutely right, Jane did not credit her achievements to Language Bridge, it was clearly stated in the article that she credited her success to Jason. I decided to include one testimonial from a Russian woman who clearly credited her success to Language Bridge. Here is her testimonial.

    Dear Arkady,
    While I am waiting for my friend’s E-mail address to order your program, I want to say: thank you for this great, exceptional product. I came to US 10 years ago at the age of 35. Single Mom with a 10 years old son I lived in San Diego, CA. I needed my driving license and a job FAST!

    Yes, I had my formal English education in school, and later in Medical University… However, when I arrived, I could not produce a sentence, felt very much intimidated by talkative “Americans”, and had no clue where to start. My self-confidence in my language abilities flew out of the airplane window when I was not able to even ask for a blanket.

    I cried first, then I went to free ESL classes, then I went to Community College English classes, then I read children’s books with pictures of a bathroom, an elephant, dolls and cars… The TV screen was still foreign to me and useless; I could not speak with my apartment manager without feeling “dumb like a fish” – meaning producing no words. This is when I realized (being a medical professional) that I was in need of a radical approach, before my ‘zero-English” situation became a chronic issue. And this was the time when I have found the Language Bridge book and audio tapes.

    I was waiting for my book and audio tapes hoping that I finally have found my ‘magic pill”, and at the same time I understood that there is no such thing… Well, what can I say – I loved the texts of all lessons and vocabulary. I loved the stories. I loved the introduction, which I was able to understand, read, listen, and finally speak in a month. Yes, in one moth of dedicated work. You have to do your part – repeat out laud, and review. I was even writing what I’ve learned. I’ve basically made a copy of the book by writing the sentences, the small, beautiful, useful stories.

    In a few months I was a happy human being living in California with a car, a driver license, a job, and opening my own business… It was the first investment of my time and my money, that have worked so well, that I felt confident enough to speak, participate in a conversation, apply for a job, continuing my professional education, and most importantly, participate in teacher-parent meetings that I was terrified before:)

    Well 10 years later it is still first learning program I recommend to my friends in US, and in Russia. Young or not so young – you’ll learn fast, you’ll have enough of vocabulary to hold an intelligent conversation, to understand people around you, and they (finally :) will understand you.
    Best wishes,
    Sasha S.

    • chinamike

      Dear Arkady,

      This is a testimonial; it isn't proof of anything.

      When I give a student a book to take with them on a trip to an English speaking country and they come back speaking better English I don't ascribe their improved speaking and bigger vocabulary to their daily 30-minute study of my book.

      Furthermore, in my experience a student is a lot like a flower. It may seem like the flower suddenly appears from nowhere one morning but we all know that this blossoming is a result of many weeks of previous (hidden) growth.

      You claim that you produced this blossom. I am skeptical. Moreover, I doubt the flower really understands why it blossomed when it did.

      Oh, you also might want to look into something called the Placebo effect.

    • Rickinalbi

      Any teacher worth his salt can produce testimonials. Indeed, every program on the market can produce testimonials. The fact that this one is anonymous makes it even more suspicious than usual, but it as least a start. It isn't anything close to what you need to legitimize your product, but a start. All of Chinamike's observations are accurate.

      I'm also not letting you get away with your misrepresentation about Jane. Jason's program is nowhere explicitly mentioned in your article. Your discussion of Jane comes immediately after a full paragraph extolling the supposed virtues of Language Bridge. Jason's name is mentioned as an afterthought, and one can easily read the text to say that Jason was a colleague of yours that posted the recordings. Your failure to appropriate cite Jason's program is misleading, at best.

      You also implicitly concede that Jason's program works, yet his program is not one of the three that supposedly eliminates this translation problem you keep talking about. You provide no explanation for this inconsistency. Moreover, are you conceding that Jason's program works as well as yours? If so, why should we favor Language Bridge over Jason's curriculum?

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  • Rickinalbi

    I hate to beat a dead horse, but the term “subconscious cross-translation” (“SCT”) seems even more ambiguous than before. First, Mr. Zilberman says SCT means an association of a new word “with a similar word in the[] native language and not with the image or situation.” Later, he says it means the “association of images or situations first with the words in [the] mother tongue and then with words in the target language.” This, however, contradicts the prior definition: is the new word associated with the image or situation, or isn't it? Mr. Zilberman also refers to the words of Ria Smit, and suggests that SCT occurs when teachers make students translate. In this case, however, the translation is not subconscious.

    Mr. Zilberman fancies himself a scientist. He therefore should know the importance of precise definitions. Despite this, he fails to deliver what the science demands. The term SCT, moreover, provides the foundation for his argument. Without clarity on this term, the reader has no idea what Mr. Zilberman is talking about. This lack of clarity, added to the absence of scientific evidence of what exactly happens in the brain in bilingual people in response to various stimuli, renders his paper useless from a scientific or educational research standpoint.

    Mr. Zilberman also says that “adults have no control or ability to stop or change” the fact that they “subconsciously cross-translate.” If that's true, however, then Mr. Zilberman's efforts to suppress SCT are doomed to fail. Since Language Bridge is constructed around a principle that apparently cannot work, and since we have nothing but extremely weak evidence that it in fact does work, it doesn't make sense for rational teachers to even think about using Language Bridge in place of what they already have.

    I would be interested in ChinaMike's observations on Crazy English. The New Yorker carried an article on this program several years ago.… The article suggests that while the program was quite popular, the owner is more interested in making money than anything else. He is quoted as saying, “The secret of success is to have [students] continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached….How can we make them pay again and again and again?”

    • chinamike


      My take on Crazy English is that it has passed it prime. I recently saw Mr. Li selling his wares on a 24-hour TV sales network. He has started to push things like understanding “fast spoken English”. This was important to his pitch as he was selling tapes or CDs with hundreds of hours of recorded English. Of course the prices were quite high.

      I know he has schools and hosts summer camps. I had a student that went to one of his camps two years ago. It sounded like an English boot camp. The work was intense but unfortunately of little lasting impact because it wasn't connected to anything she had studied before or was likely to study in the coming year. I firmly believe that as teachers (and curriculum writers) we have a responsibility to make remembering easier and help move students up a well defined developmental ladder.

      Mr. Li is less a teacher that steadily drives students forward on a gradual upward curve than a figure that aims to transform student's lives. He certainly had that effect in the 80s. He gave people hope, courage and motivation. He did that by “teaching” people in large venues, with tens of thousands of people. He became a cult figure who made the people he touched believe that they could succeed at English at a time when succeeding at English translated into great opportunities.

      His technique was to get people to shout out English sentences together in large venues. Can you imagine what it must have been like when 30,000 came together to shout out English sentences together in unison?

      My take on Crazy English is that it was motivational and transformative. Presently, his standard English programs are merely passable. His schools seem to pop up in 2nd and 3rd tier cities rather than 1st tier cities like Shanghai where the English language consumer is quite sophisticated.

      He created a cult in the 80s when people all had the same problems. Now, as student’s problems can’t be handled by a one-size fits all solution, his influence has waned.

      Transforming student’s lives is heady stuff. But I am very skeptical of anything that bills itself as being transformational while at the same time recognizing that such a program probably needs to be held to slightly different standards.

      I wish Arkady would decide if he trying to be transformational or a steady builder. I am confused.

      • bridge2english

        Dear Jason,
        I totally agree with you when you write: “I do think the EOT process helps learners to cease translating in their head before they speak.” It means also that you agree with my definition of SCT.

        What concerns your audio evidence I doubt that it would have any impact on those who are looking vigilantly on anybody who resembles bolshy and is going to challenge the no-no list that was created by academia linguists for the last 50 years.

        If you decide to continue with audio evidence I may suggest you using a faster semi-automatic and quantitative method which I have developed. It is called Active Vocabulary Testing and Spontaneity Training Program, briefly LBT Testing.

        It tests the skill of speaking fluently and automatically and not the knowledge of grammar and rules of English. Testing software is designed to be used by a student and/or by a teacher. If interested contact me.

        I would like to ask your opinion on that part of the article where I describe simultaneous repetition as an alternative to consecutive repetition.

      • bridge2english

        Dear Chinamike,

        Your last statement is remarkable: “But I am very skeptical of anything that bills itself as being transformational while at the same time recognizing that such a program probably needs to be held to slightly different standards.”

        You are absolutely right a transformational program needs to be held to different standards.

        LBT is a transformational approach and should be held to different standards.

      • Rickinalbi


        Thanks for the insight. As I say, the New Yorker article seemed to equivocate on the efficiency of Crazy English. It focused more on the creator's enthusiasm and passion, and the enthusiasm of his students and devotees. I have this desire to analogize Mr. Li to Richard Simmons of exercise fame. The program may work to a greater or lesser extent, but the message and the enthusiasm seem more important.

        We now have Mr. Zilberman saying Language Bridge is “a transformational approach” to teaching English. You're right in saying that a transformational approach must be held to a different standard. That standard is much higher, and includes all of the criteria used to analyze an ordinary program.

        We now have Mr. Zilberman writing sentences like the following: “What concerns your audio evidence I doubt that it would have any impact on those who are looking vigilantly on anybody who resembles bolshy and is going to challenge the no-no list that was created by academia linguists for the last 50 years.” I have two responses.

        1. This is not the first mistake in English Mr. Zilberman has made, though it is among the worst. Of course, anyone can err when they write, especially when quickly writing a comment. The grammar, syntax, and attentiveness to detail of someone who claims to have written an effective English curriculum, however, should be taken into account when deciding whether to analyze that proposed curriculum.

        2. I have no interest in Mr. Zilberman's nationality, politics, or personal history. I'm interested in whether his theories have a sound basis, and whether his proposed curriculum has a reasonable chance of helping my students. So far, the answers to these questions seem to be resoundingly in the negative.

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  • bridge2english

    Dear Jason,
    I totally agree with you when you write: “I do think the EOT process helps learners to cease translating in their head before they speak.” It means also that you agree with my definition of SCT.

    What concerns your audio evidence I doubt that it would have any impact on those who are looking vigilantly on anybody who resembles bolshy and is going to challenge the no-no list that was created by academia linguists for the last 50 years.

    If you decide to continue with audio evidence I may suggest you using a faster semi-automatic and quantitative method which I have developed. It is called Active Vocabulary Testing and Spontaneity Training Program, briefly LBT Testing.

    It tests the skill of speaking fluently and automatically and not the knowledge of grammar and rules of English. Testing software is designed to be used by a student and/or by a teacher. If interested contact me.

    I would like to ask your opinion on that part of the article where I describe simultaneous repetition as an alternative to consecutive repetition. Are you aware that they have totally different mechanisms?

  • chinamike

    Good, since you agree with me. We are getting somewhere.

    I contrast transformational with a program that makes steady progress. I assume that we can now conclude that you do not try to produce steady gains or even rapid gains but gains that show a sudden transformation in the individual.

    Now your evidence is a bit easier. You simply need to show us what initial measurements you used to measure the malady and then describe your treatment and the effects this produced. We then try to duplicate these same things in another place (outside a native speaking environment).

    To be transformative it doesn't need to improve someone’s English it only needs to rid him or her of the malady in a short time.

    Something like this would be helpful:

    Malady: in behavioral terms
    Measuring device:
    Post treatment observation:

    If you notice I have used medical terminology. This is because it seems your program seems to have more in common with diagnosing and treating hearing loss, than education.

  • bridge2english

    Dear Chinamike,

    LBT is a transformational program. The situation in practical linguistics has changed: before most English students were from lucky 5% (language capable) and you had no problems with most of your students, nowadays most students in the world (not in your language schools!) are from 95% (language incapable) and they need transformational approach to get fast results. I will describe this situation in some details in Part three.

    The exemplary academia linguistics programs ensuring steady progress were OK in the past when less than 5% of population have learned and acquired fluency in EFL. On this ground you were able to ignore the conclusions of bolshy-linguists that most fail in language learning.

    John Fotheringham in his presentation l2mastery ( gives a hard-hitting look at why most language learners haven't yielded good results despite years of effort. Most of today's EFL learners can appropriately be labeled as “Digital Learners”; their learning habits have dramatically changed. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

    You are absolutely right in your assumption that LBT is aimed to produce a sudden transformation in any individual. I strongly believe that without solving the problem of SCT we can’t observe a sudden transformation.

    Here is a new visual how LBT works using your own terminology:

    Malady: due to SCT 95% consider themselves as language-incapable. LBT allows learners to start speaking English from the first moment (before they learned it). Due to 3-action methodology learners very soon start thinking and speaking in EFL automatically.

    Measuring device: Active Vocabulary Testing and Spontaneity Training Program, briefly LBT Testing, is offered for free to any EFL teacher that allows quantifying the success of learners in mastering active vocabulary. It is used regularly during the course and gives unequivocal proof of gradual success when using this transformational technology.

    Treatment: In contrast to the conventional methods LBT attains positive results faster because it uses blended learning. Learners have their own Trainer in the form of LBT software which they could use 24/7 and they also have a support of LBT-trained EFL teacher whose main objective is to become a facilitator and guide in this transformational process. The EFL teacher uses his own materials but in the new 3-action teaching paradigm, his new task is adding new lessons to LBT software using built-in module that allows import of any new resources.

    Post treatment observation: Your learners will acquire fluency in EFL four times faster since they speak four times more than in conventional schools and they use a different learning paradigm. You will duplicate this result yourself. You would also come to the conclusion that there is one level in learning EFL – learners speak fluently without thinking and it does not matter how many words they know. Remember that American Laborer uses in his everyday speech only about 1000 words. Beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of EFL are used in a different system of coordinates – in academic linguistics and not in transformational methods like LBT.

    I have a strange feeling that Chinamike is changing gradually from one of opponents of LBT into an open-minded EFL professional who is thinking: what do I loose if I will duplicate this approach with my new EFL learners? You loose nothing but you will definitely acquire new tools and tricks. The results? You will see yourself. Only one request: don’t do it without being retrained. First, visit my free Wiziq class for retraining. If interested let me know, I will email to you the date of the public free class.

    If you notice I have used your own terminology. This is because you probably know that learning EFL is not acquiring knowledge but a new skill. This seems to have more in common with learning to play piano then in learning medicine or physics.

    • chinamike

      My final post on this matter:

      FIRST, the numbers you use in your discussion are either worthless as evidence or given my experience as a teacher almost fictional.

      SECOND, the “fact” that 95% of the population considers themselves as language incapable does not of itself either mean anything or surprise me. I would, for example, imagine a much higher percentage of people would call themselves incapable of piloting a nuclear submarine. What separates the language capable from the incapable? A transformational experience? Rarely! It is learning and practice- gradual and steady- that is built, first and foremost on comprehension of meaning.

      THIRD, you give us delusional numbers but refuse to give us numbers that substantiate your own claims. I have concluded that these numbers are not producible. In fact, I have concluded that any numbers coming from you are subject to such bias and interference that your numbers are useless. As such, I do not intend to engage in any further discussion with you until you get “outside, independent, empirical confirmation of your approach”.

    • Rickinalbi

      I have to agree with ChinaMike. Mr. Zilberman has thus far failed to support any of his theories, and has failed to provide independent evidence that he has created anything of value. I strongly believe that no such support or evidence exists. I also see no reason for anyone to explore his product any further. This is a shame, because I am always looking for ways to improve the curriculum that I use.

      For an example of a study on the effectiveness of a language curriculum, I suggest Mr. Zilberman look at http://resources.rosettastone….. I am not endorsing the report’s conclusions and have not analyzed it in any detail. At first blush, however, it strikes me as having value because of its independence and methodology. In terms of structure, moreover, it is what one would expect to see in this type of study.

      The reference to “bolshy-linguists” has no place in a serious discussion of EFL or ESL curriculum. Mr. Zilberman's use of this term only serves to further undermine his credibility. I also would suggest that Mr. Zilberman proofread his commentary more carefully. Passages like “what do I loose if I will duplicate this approach with my new EFL learners? You loose nothing” should make every competent English teacher cringe.

      • bridge2english

        Dear Rickinalbi,
        Below is the conclusion from the RS proof that you cited in your response:

        Language Proficiency Gain
        Of the 89 participants who took the ACTFL OPI-C pretest, 84 scored in the lowest category, Novice Low. The remaining five scored in the next level up, Novice Mid. At the posttest, 69 participants (77.5%) gained one to two levels of language proficiency. Only 20, or 22.5%, remained in the same level as the pretest.

        To me the proof is not persuasive at all! It was taken in 2009; long after the RS became the leader of language market. 22% remained in the same level and 77.5% gained one or two levels of language proficiency (out of 12 levels?)

        You want me to spend $300,000 on this type of proof?
        Only then you will start reading about the LB concepts?
        Please, read nothing about LB.
        It also means stop writing comments on a topic which you personally never studied or researched.

        • Rickinalbi

          I'll try this again. I don't endorse the report's conclusions, and I am not endorsing the underlying product. The report is nevertheless of the form and uses a methodology similar to what we should demand from curriculum producers. Without this type of report, we cannot know if a curriculum has been properly evaluated. I would also note that the report's conclusions are far better than anything Mr. Zilberman has produced to date regarding Language Bridge.

          Our students are not guinea pigs, and our classrooms are not laboratories for untested curriculum. If Mr. Zilberman does not wish to spend money to verify that his materials are effective, that is his choice. He should not be surprised, however, if his choice leads teachers to express extreme skepticism as to his claims, and extreme reluctance to examine his product. This is particularly true after his steadfast refusal to answer questions directly related to that product and the theory as to why it works.

          I assure you, Mr. Zilberman, that I conduct my research before I write. I have noted elsewhere that I have watched large segments of your videos, read the articles in this blog and part of your patent application, and gone through your website. As far as I know, there is not much left about Language Bridge for me to read. The fact remains that neither your product nor your assertions about “subconscious cross-translation” have been properly tested. As such, your claims remain speculative, and we have no reason to believe your product works any better than what we currently use. Readers have a right to know this, and I have no qualms about continuing to point it out.

          Were I Kirsten, you would not be writing a third post on this blog. I would also post a disclaimer saying that I do not endorse any of the views you express. That, however, is not my decision. If I have time and feel that I have something to say, I will not hesitate to comment on your third post. If that post provides original and interesting insight, and is supported by appropriate evidence, I will be delighted to say so and to further the conversation. If it continues along the same path as the first two, however, you should be prepared for an appropriate level of criticism.

          I would specifically note that Mr. Zilberman explicitly claims his product “is more effective than the leading methods of learning English,” and that “students reach the same level of fluency as those who spend four times as long learning through a conventional language program.” Mr. Zilberman also seems to insist on printing these claims without having conducted adequate testing to support them. One is not free to make unsupported representations in advertising and promotional materials. In my opinion, Mr. Zilberman would do well to take seriously the criticisms raised in response to his articles, and revise his materials accordingly.

          • bridge2english

            Dear Rickinalbi,

            I am not a curriculum producer so I don’t need to produce any proofs.
            The series of articles is designed for such EFL professionals who use the same logo that Jason West uses:
            I Teach… Therefore I Test.

            There are a lot of new concepts described in the articles that such teachers may test in their private experience, for example:
            • Use simultaneous repetition instead of consecutive one and you will see amazing results.
            • Stop studying separate words in English. Don’t use flashcards.
            • Learn words in phrases in interesting contexts using your emotions and feeling and preferred senses. Actually it is similar to introducing TPR invented by Dr. James Asher.
            • Learning grammar of the target language in the mother tongue has no value since the bilingual information cannot be applied in creating natural fluent speech in the target language.
            • Blended learning is the only option in solving the problem of English Mania in China.

            None of these concepts needs a proof, it is a matter of your own personal preference to agree or disagree to test something new with your students.

            Your choice is well known. Stop reading and stop asking questions; it is a waste of time on my part trying to answer your questions. Five different descriptions were given in the article and in the testimonials about subconscious cross-translation (SCT) and you continue asking what SCT is?

            I feel that your comments are a real case of harassment and attempt to derail the whole process of describing new concepts in language teaching on Kirsten blog.
            You write: “Were I Kirsten, you would not be writing a third post on this blog.”

            Another pearl: “He should not be surprised, however, if his choice leads teachers to express extreme skepticism as to his claims, and extreme reluctance to examine his product.”

            Rickinalbi, you have no right or obligation to express or predict the opinion of teachers or trying to have an impact on their opinion.

            Here is one email I have received from EFL teacher: “It's funny that you've been asked to produce proof that your ''curriculum'' is successful, while no-one has ever asked for such a proof when EFL/ESL textbooks are purchased for schools. I guess you have a really good product with such a fuss from your competitors or those who are simply afraid of any changes.”

            This is my final reply to your comments. I do not intend to engage in any further discussion with you.

          • Rickinalbi

            Mr. Zilberman,

            It is your choice whether to respond to my comments. Quite frankly, I don't care. Your lack of response certainly will not impact my decision as to whether I continue to analyze your writings. I also stand beside your two quotes from my commentary.

            I don't have time right now to fully discuss your response. As a result, I must limit this reply to the following:

            1. You say that I have “no right” to try to impact the opinions of other teachers. This statement is wrong, dangerous, and offensive. Every single one of us has the right to influence the opinions of others. If you don't like the pressure I am putting on you, I suggest you start supporting your claims.

            2. You claim to have provided “five different descriptions” of SCT. The problem is that all the descriptions are so different from one another that they deprive the concept of SCT of any meaning. I don't think I have ever seen a serious paper introduce a new term without providing a precise definition. I also know of nothing that would exempt you from this extremely sound practice.

            3. You raise the idea that schools have not asked for proof as to the effectivness of their EFL/ESL curricula. I generally agree with that observation. We have also ended with materials that many people find unsatisfactory, largely because they don't seem to work very well. We can reduce this lack of satisfaction if we demand evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of these products, instead of simply buying into catch phrases, bells, and whistles. When companies refuse to provide this evidence, we should refuse to buy their products.

            4. Let's put aside the semantical debate about whether Language Bridge is a “curriculum.” You view your product as competing with Rosetta Stone. Your webpage even says the Language Bridge “approach” is more effective than that of Rosetta Stone. The study I found gives certain results about Rosetta Stone's effectiveness. As a consumer of products to help students learn English, I now have a company willing to publish test results about their product, and I have a competitor who says “trust me.” Does anyone seriously think I should listen to the competitor? If they do, then I have a tower in Paris to sell them.

            5. Your theory of providing “concepts” that don't need proof verges on the ridiculous. We aren't debating subjective notions or personal preferences. You have proposed certain ideas that can and should be tested. Indeed, you claim yourself a scientist, yet you reject elementary concepts of the scientific method being applied to your ideas. No one critically examining your writing can let this ploy succeed. I also hope for your sake that no one challenges Language Bridge or your theories in court. If they do, you will quickly learn that “concepts” in many cases are “representations” that must be established with evidence. The penalty for making unsupported representations can be quite severe.

  • Nick Lvov

    My experience of Language Bridge

    When I started to use the method of Language Bridge, I already knew English. To be precise, I knew the rules of grammar, and knew quite a lot of words. While studying in university, I translated a large number of technical texts, and could respond to standard questions about the
    lesson's content. However, having arrived in the U.S., I quickly
    realized that my knowledge is of very little use: I could not speak
    What happened was something like this. Phrase, addressed to me, I've perceived as a set of English words, and though the words were generally familiar, I couldn't grasp the meaning without thinking about appropriate grammatical structures. Only after finding the Russian equivalent of the phrase I could grasp it. The construction of the phrase on my part was generally the inversion of that process.
    I recited in my mind the answer in Russian, found the matching English words and grammar rules. The result was far from the natural English speech. The person I was talking to hardly knew what I wanted to say, because the phrase sounded very artificial. It also must be noted that the very conversational process took quite
    a long time. This created negative feelings in me and my companion during the conversation.

    Although I have a Ph. D in computer science my attempts to get a job failed since I could not pass job interviews. About the same thing was happening when I was reading fiction. Reading for pleasure turned into a painful task. Obviously, this unconscious habit of translating into Russian so as to be able to grasp the meaning of said or written phrase turned into stumbling block. My wife is a professional translator, she told me many times: do not translate in your head.
    But I did not know how to stop this process.

    At this time I heard advice from my friends, also Russian immigrants, to try Language Bridge book and tapes. Here is what happened when I started using the methodology of Arkady: I looked at the English text, already knowing what was going on, because I first read the Russian translation and imagined situation without trying to remember anything. Then I repeated the phrase after the speaker. After several repetitions I did not know the text by heart, but came to know what word will follow after the word which I just heard, in other words, I was able to hear and produce rather short semantically meaningful text snippets. To my great surprise the translation in my head to Russian stopped!

    Because these repetitions went automatically without any tension, my speech soon started to outpace the speaker's speech for a tiny
    moment. I could even think about unrelated things in the course of
    simultaneous repetitions. Approximately after month of the training, I was surprised to find that in my head some phrases started to form which were not in the text of the lesson.

    My brain would combine the semantic components, which I have found in the text. And the combinations were grammatically correct, to my great surprise since I did not think about the grammar anymore. Just now these skills have become active. The same textual blocks I started to use in my speech and recognized them in reading. This recognition, along with the understanding was instantaneous. I suddenly realized that I no longer have the need to translate in my head. I just knew what was said and how to answer automatically! Likewise, I was able without any delay to formulate a sentence or an answer.  Roughly the same feelings I have experienced in my childhood when I realized that I could swim without any support.

    The merit of Arkady's techniques, in my opinion, is not that it is a new course of learning English language or that it describes a new linguistic theory, but that it really transforms the style of perception and consciousness of a student, and as a result dramatically accelerates and facilitates the learning process. Previously I acquired the knowledge and now I've got the ability to understand spoken language and speak without thinking. More precisely, I think about my feelings which I want to express but I don’t think how to express my thoughts.

    Nick Lvov

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  • n/a

    We are living in the century of highly developed technology. Our minds and views are improving of the influence of net. Learning styles are increasing as well. Nothing will stop in its own place. So learning English in different methods is also one of them. I think your method of teaching English gives good results. As you mentioned many countries like Japan, Korea, Chine many people want to learn English in different ages. But they don’t have time to attend any courses or tutors. In this case they will be able to use net, or Microsoft. This method is also good for when you are on the way to work or walking in the street. In one word learners can easily learn English remembering the whole sentences through listening. I really enjoy of reading your blog. Thank you very much.

  • Michael


    Why do you think my suggestions below are less helpful in English
    language practice than your Language Bridge instructions (guidelines)?


    In order to have good skills in listening comprehension in English and
    to speak it fluently, a learner should practise 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 practise 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 practising 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 practising listening
    comprehension in English.

    It’s possible and effective to practise 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.

  • Jake

    Can you provide a link to a paper or resource for the 5% 95% you meantion as the number of adults who can and cant learn language in a childlike way or are these numbers just estimates? There doesnt seem to be any science behind this. Thanks.