Saturday, October 27, 2007

Effortless Japanese Update

Some of our longtime members know that Tomoe and I have wanted to do Effortless Japanese lessons for a long time. In fact, Tomoe actually started working on lessons at one point.

But she stopped. She realized that most customers would be total beginners in Japanese. We talked a lot about the best way to teach total beginners and realized that beginning with TPR (Total Physical Response) would be best.

But there was a problem-- TPR requires video, not just audio. In TPR, the teacher gives commands, and the student responds with actions. For example, a super-simple lesson might start with "Stand Up". The students then stands up.

Of course, the commands get more and more complex as vocabulary and grammar builds... for example, "Walk slowly to the door, knock 4 times, turn around, then return quickly to your chair". The power of TPR is that you learn a lot of vocabulary VERY quickly. Even more powerful-- you learn the vocabulary without translation. Because of this, you learn it deeply, naturally, and understand it instantly.

Once past the complete beginner stage, Tomoe will use TPR-Storytelling-- just as we do in Effortless English.

The good news-- we bought a video camera and microphone! We are currently planning the set and lighting. Tomoe is planning the lessons. When we return from Central America, we will start shooting. Our plan is to shoot the lessons as quickly as possible,... then I will edit them later.

We'll offer the lessons as download videos (similar to the way Effortless English Lessons are sold). You'll watch them on your computer-- or iPod.

I'm very excited about these lessons because I know they will be the best Japanese lessons available anywhere in the world. I know a little Japanese-- very little ;) I tried textbooks, and found them difficult and boring. I tried Pimsleur tapes, liked them, but learned only a very small amount of vocabulary and phrases. I listened to Japanese podcasts-- but found they are mostly talking in English.

To say it simply-- the Japanese lessons currently available suck! They are terrible.

So I am doubly excited about Tomoe's Effortless Japanese lessons. I'm excited to help her with this new project. And I'm excited as a student, to finally learn with fun, powerful, effortless Japanese lessons!

Look for more updates in December about Effortless Japanese.

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Sigmund died yesterday. Those of you who listened to my old podcasts will remember him. He is Kristin's cat, who was diagnosed with cancer over 14 months ago.

At the time, we were told he had only 3-4 more months to live. But Kristin gave him alternative treatments, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, and herbs. He lived for 14 months. During that time, he got love and attention and was able to be with Kristin, with whom he has a special bond.

He died yesterday in their apartment; Kristin was with him.

He was a very sweet and affectionate cat. He loved to put his head on Kristin's shoulder, cover his face with her long hair, and purr.

Kristin has had him since we was a kitten, so of course she is very sad now... as am I. We have been meditating and praying for him, and have been reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying-- a wise and beautiful book about life and death.

Through all of this, I am reminded that love and compassion are for all sentient beings. Its the reason I became a vegetarian, for I do not wish to contribute to the suffering of ANY being.

I believe that animals, in fact, are wonderful teachers and companions. Their innocence and relative helplessness challenge us to expand our loving-kindness to embrace all. For this, I am grateful.

Most of all, I'm grateful for the happiness that Sigmund gave Kristin, and myself.

[I'll post a picture of Sigmund once I get home to San Francisco].

[Audio for this podcast will be available for this post in the future... at the moment I'm out of town and can't record audio].

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bad Choices Lessons

"Bad Choices" is one of my Lesson Sets.

The lessons use a real letter from an advice column/article. In American newspapers, there are many different advice articles. People write about their problems and ask for advice. The author (of the advice article) then tells them what they should do.

"Bad Choices" is a letter from a woman who always dates the "wrong" man. She has a bad habit of dating bad guys. She says she wants to meet nice guys, but instead she always has boyfriends who are bad. She then asks Dr. Tracy, the author, for advice.

I use a lot of Advice Letters in my lessons. Why?

1. They are REAL. These letters are written by real native speakers, about real problems, using real English. You learn REAL English. No fake textbook English.

2. They are CONVERSATIONAL. The style of these letters is very casual and conversational. You do NOT learn formal written English, you learn the English we use in everyday conversations.

3. They have a lot of IDIOMS. Because the letters use conversational English, they always include several common idioms. You learn the common idioms used by native speakers.

4. They are INTERESTING. These are real people and real problems. These letters are interesting (and sometimes funny too :) You enjoy reading and listening to them.

5. They show American CULTURE. You learn a lot about American culture-- especially families, dating, and work-- by reading these letters.

As you know, each Lesson Set contains several lessons. You read the original letter. Also, you listen to the letter because I give you an audio version too.

You also listen to a Vocabulary Lesson-- where I explain the vocabulary (especially the idioms) used in the letter.

Finally, you listen to the Mini-Story. In the Mini-Story, I take key vocabulary (especially idioms) from the letter, and then use them in a completely different story. Why?

Because you remember more when you hear the same phrase in different situations. For example, you first read the idiom in the letter. Then you hear it several times in the Vocabulary lesson. Then you hear it in the Audio version of the letter.

Then you listen to the Mini-Story. In "Bad Choices", I tell a crazy story about a short guy who always fights big tall guys. In the story, I use idioms like "no matter how you slice it"... which come from the original Advice letter. So you hear that vocabulary again, but this time in a very different situation.

In this way, you understand it better. But that's not all, because I use a lot of questions to help you remember this new phrase forever. You don't just listen, you listen and ANSWER.

By the time you finish using the lessons in the set, you know the phrases, vocabulary, and grammar very DEEPLY.

[Note-- Audio is unavailabe for this post right now. I am currently in Indiana, visiting my family (and dog). I'm unable to record audio at this time, but when I return to San Francisco, I will record audio for this post and put it on the podcast]

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Idioms are phrases that have a different meaning than the individual words in them. Often, it is difficult to guess the meaning of an idiom-- though sometimes you can.

Idioms, however, are VERY important. Normal American speech is full of idioms. Most Americans don't realize that you didn't learn idioms in school. They will use idioms constantly when they talk to you.

This frustrates many students. Even students with high TOEFL scores and big vocabularies have trouble with normal conversation... because they don't understand the idioms.

You must learn idioms. Unfortunately, schools and textbooks don't teach them. I don't know why they don't-- its just another example of how textbook English is NOT real English. Also, you won't learn many idioms from reading-- we use them much more in speech than in writing.

How can you learn idioms?

1. Get a Dictionary of American Idioms
2. Review the 80 Most Frequent Idioms
3. Use American movies to learn idioms.
4. Get Lessons That Use Idioms and real English.

If you want to SPEAK and UNDERSTAND English, not just read it, you must learn idioms. Without idioms, you will never understand normal speech. Without idioms, you will never understand native speakers.

But when you learn idioms, speech suddenly is easy. You understand native speakers! They understand you! Its a great feeling!

Idioms are the key to real English conversation.

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Kiss

"A Kiss" is the name of the first Lesson Set on the Effortless English Club Album. The central story for "A Kiss" is about a boy who gives his car to a girl to get a kiss from her.

"A Kiss" is a mid-beginner level lesson. The vocabulary is simple. I speak quite slowly in this lesson set. I pronounce more carefully and clearly.

Many intermediate and advanced members may want to skip this lesson. They might think, "This is much too easy for me." But I think that is a mistake.

In my experience, most advanced English students NEED simple practice with very basic English. I have taught many students, for example, who have large vocabularies and great TOEFL scores-- but who constantly make mistakes with common past tense verbs.

For example, many advanced students will use "go" when they should use "went". They know that "went" is correct, but "go" is stuck deep in their brain. They know the grammar rules, but they do not FEEL the grammar automatically.

To correct these very basic speaking problems, you need to use the easy lessons. These lessons will teach you to use correct grammar automatically. You'll also learn to use common vocabulary in the correct way-- without thinking.

Remember, Effortless English is a DEEP LEARNING system. Just knowing a rule or definition isn't enough. You probably know most of the rules, but you still constantly make mistakes when you speak. You don't need to know rules, you need to FEEL the correct forms Deeply and Automatically.

I recommend that ALL members start with The "A Kiss" Lesson Set. And I recommend that ALL members use every Lesson Set for a full week (or more). By listening to the lessons and answering the questions, you learn deeply, and teach yourself to speak correctly without thinking. English speaking becomes AUTOMATIC.

So, whether you are a beginner... or have a huge English vocabulary... start with "A Kiss"!

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Listen and Answer

Today Kristin, Tomoe, and I went to a TPR-Storytelling (TPRS) workshop. TPRS is the central technique of Effortless English. It is the technique we use in all of our Listen & Answer Stories and Point of View Lessons.

The workshop was taught by Blaine Ray-- the creator of TPRS. He is a master. It was great to get more training from him. It was great to be reminded, again, of the most important principles of language learning.

What are those principles. In my free 7 Day Email Course, I discuss the 7 secrets to speaking English easily, and fast.

But what are the principles-- the MOST basic rules that are behind these secrets? What are the MOST basic principles of Effortless English?

There are three:

1. Understanding (Comprehension). To be powerful, a lesson MUST be understandable. This seems obvious, right? If you don't understand the lesson, you won't learn anything. Yet textbooks and schools are filled with lessons that are hard to understand. Sometimes I even have trouble understanding the grammar explanations in textbooks! I'm a native speaker with 2 Masters degrees, including one in Teaching English... yet these books confuse me! Imagine how a normal English student feels.

At Effortless English, when we say a lesson is understandable, we mean that you understand 99% of it. Not 50%. Not 80%. 99%.

After listening to our Vocabulary lesson, our Listen & Answer lessons, our Point of View lesson, and reading the Text... you understand ALL of the main article or story. And when you understand, you learn-- you learn deeply and you never forget.

2. Repetitive. To be powerful, a lesson MUST be repetitive. This means you hear the vocabulary and grammar many, many, many, many times! As you know, hearing a sentence a few times is not enough. To learn deeply, to understand immediately (without translation), to speak quickly... you must hear words and sentences many times. You must hear them hundreds of times, until they are automatic.

This is deep learning. You forgot most of your textbook lessons. Why? Because there wasn't enough repetition. You learned it, you took a test, then you forgot. Because Effortless English Lessons use a lot of repetition, you learn English and NEVER forget.

3. Interesting. Finally, To be powerful, a lesson MUST be interesting. Obviously! If the lesson is boring, you won't learn. So why are textbooks and schools so boring?!?

Effortless English lessons are interesting, funny, crazy, and controversial. You laugh, you learn, you are excited when you listen to our lessons. Because they are interesting, it is fun to use them. You enjoy English. Its fun!

These are the three Basic Principles we discussed today at the TPRS workshop. We learned a lot and hope to improve as teachers-- so that our lessons always get better.

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Learn English With Movies

Members of The Effortless English Club have asked me,
"What do I do after I finish the lessons? My speaking is much better, but I want to continue learning. Do you have more lessons?"

Unfortunately, I don't yet-- however, Kristin and I are working on new lessons right now. These lessons use an American movie to teach you real English.

Every scene of the movie has a lesson set that includes: Text of the script, a Vocabulary Lesson, 2 or more Mini-Story Lessons (including some Point of View Lessons), and Audio from the scene. Some scenes also have Commentaries.

By using all the lessons, you understand all of an American movie. Also, you learn a lot of slang & idioms from the movie-- the kind used everyday by Americans.

But you don't have to wait for our lessons. You can use this same method yourself, with any movie. Movies are a great way to learn-- but you must use them correctly.

Most English students don't use movies correctly. They rent a lot of American movies, watch them, return them, and then rent more. They may understand the basic story of each movie, but they don't improve their English.

Here's a better method for learning with movies:

1. Rent or buy ONE movie

2. Watch all of it, with subtitles in your own language

3. Next, watch only one scene of the movie (a scene is usually 2-4 minutes long). Use ENGLISH subtitles.

4. Rewind. Watch the same scene again. This time, pause for every sentence. Write down phrases/words you don't understand.

5. Use your dictionary to learn these new words. Search the internet for strange phrases (probably slang or idioms).

6. Watch the scene again at normal speed-- 2-3 times. Turn the subtitles OFF. Try to hear and understand the new phrases.

7. Watch the scene again-- 2-3 times. Pause after every sentence, then say the sentence yourself. Don't just "say" it. Copy the actor! Try to sound and move exactly like them. Copy their emotion. Copy their face movements. Copy their voice. This will improve your pronunciation.

Using this method, you can probably learn 1-3 scenes per week. Don't go too fast. Learn deeply. Repeat steps 3-7 everyday. If a scene is difficult, you can do this again and again for several days. Its important to learn every scene very deeply.

It may feel slow, but when you finally finish a whole movie, your English is fantastically better! Use this method, it is very powerful.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Guatemala & Honduras

Next month, Tomoe and I will be going to Guatemala and Honduras. I'm excited about both places.

In Guatemala, we will go to an intensive Spanish school. The school advertises that they use TPR-Storytelling, so I'm quite excited. I may finally be able to learn with a method that is close to the way I teach English. I hope they really use the method in the correct way-- because when used correctly, it is the best language learning method I know. That's why I use this method in most of my lessons at Effortless English.

The name of the school is Casa Xelaju, and its located in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. We'll stay with a host family, enjoy the town, and study Spanish 4 hours a day.

Unfortunately, we're only staying a couple of weeks-- not enough time to become fluent in Spanish. Mostly, this is a test trip... I want to test their teaching methods and see if they are really using TPR-Storytelling. If so, we will return again for a much longer time.

The Honduras trip is pure fun-- we're going SCUBA diving. Tomoe just got her open water certification. I got mine in Thailand. We will spend over 10 days diving off the island of Roatan. Its supposed to be great-- lots of beautiful coral reefs.

I love diving. Floating underwater is a lot like meditation-- it calms your mind and body. I feel a little like an astronaut when I dive-- floating weightless in a strange new world.

On Roatan, we're planning to get our Advanced Open Water certification. That will allow us to dive to 35 meters. Also, we'll be able to do night dives.

Which is important, because we are planning a big diving trip to Thailand next March. Many of my friends will be going-- we're planning to get a live-aboard boat and spend several days diving in the Similan and Surin Islands (some of the best diving in the world-- as most Thai people will tell you :)

I'm also looking forward to visiting Thailand again-- I miss it. Part of our visit will be business. I want to eventually open an "English Resort" (not a "school" ;) in South Thailand.... a place where people could come from all over the world to learn English and enjoy it. We'd learn using Effortless English methods... in a beautiful tropical area, while learning about Thai culture and ecology, Muay Thai, and SCUBA diving. That's my dream project-- to build an Effortless English Resort where learning English is so fun, you do it as a vacation!

But first, we're off to Guatemala and Honduras.

Read My Old Articles...

New readers of my blog can find my old articles at:

The Effortless English Archives

You'll find my story, my experiences with schools in Thailand, Japan, and the United States. You'll also learn how my teaching methods have grown over the years. And you'll find a lot of useful links.


I want to express my support and admiration for the heroes in Burma-- the monks, the students, the men & women who are fighting, non-violently, for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the true dharma.

Thousands of these brave and peaceful people have been killed by the horrible military government. The people in Burma knew what the military would do. They know their lives were at risk. They knew the government would imprison, torture, burn, and kill any who stood against them. Yet, the monks and people stood anyway.

The events in Burma remind us what is truly important. Let us support the Burmese people any way we can-- with our thoughts, by giving to Human Rights groups, and by pressuring our own governments (and companies) to cut support for the military government.

To this effect, I am working on a new policy for Effortless English. We will give a percentage of every membership fee to Human Rights organizations.

Meanwhile, please support these Recommended Burma and Human Rights Groups:

Amnesty International
Campaign For Burma
Democratic Voice of Burma
Human Rights Watch

Take care... AJ

Welcome To The New Blog

Hi. My name is A.J. Hoge and this is the new Effortless English Club blog. In this blog, I'll write about learning English, teaching English, member's stories, cool stuff for English learners, and myself.

I hope those who have bought my lessons and those who have joined my free
7 Day Email Course, will enjoy this blog. I will continue to give you suggestions and tips for learning to speak English better.

I will also share more about myself, and the Effortless English story.