Like every other normal human being, if I want to remember things long term I have to review them from time to time. Recently, I went through a bad patch in my reviews getting only about 75% right. It was a painful, frustrating and annoying experience – fortunately, it was short lived. It did nothing to endear me to the language at hand (Italian) and nothing to encourage me to look forward to tomorrow’s session. And it made me wonder. In the school system 75% would be seen as a good performance wouldn’t it? So what chance do the people who are “only” B grade students, perhaps getting 65% right during review, have of finding learning languages fun, inspiring and motivating. Of finding language learning a positive confidence building exercise that gives them a mindset that helps them be successful in other subjects too?

You see one of the problems with us humans is that we tend to notice failure more than success. To be fair, it wasn’t always that way. When we were very young it was the other way around. But after around 5 years old we start to notice failure more. And so even though at 66.6% right you are getting two things right for every one you get wrong – it doesn’t feel very good. Five years of such feelings could be quite destructive and often are.1 Is that a good idea, do you think? Torturing a human over a long period of time.

The Total Fluency method is designed so that a person using it properly will get between 85 and 95% right during review. That’s normal for us. And even if you have not yet liberated yourself from noticing failures more than successes 85%+ still feels good. There is no benefit to structuring a programme to obtain much lower scores – it would not save you time, it would not improve your fluency, it would not assist yourmotivation, yet there it is – common, frequent and definitely accepted. So the take-away tip here is don’t accept the low scores such as 75% so treasured in education as a good idea. Structure your programme to obtain between 85-95% right. It will transform your experience of language learning. The other day I got 98% during a review session – I can’t tell you how happy it made me, how much it endeared me to the subject. How much I was looking forward to doing more. Remember there are laws against torture for a reason!

1 I find it sad, if unremarkable that the vast majority of people who engage me in a conversation about how they would LOVE to learn a language follow up very quickly with - "I am no good at learning languages." Are you sure about that? Or is it just that the method you have used in the past had caused you to despair?