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The Alpha-Male’s Manly Approach to Language Acquisition


Hi, I’m Matt and I’ll be your guest blogger today. I’m going to tell you how I study languages and why it’s totally fun and awesome and how you can be like me in every way except two or three. Take what you want from it, hopefully it helps someone somewhere somehow. If for some reason you don’t like what I’m putting out here, just drop me your phone number so I can collect call you and get your information. I’ll Fed-Ex overnight you some Johnson & Johnson no-tears baby shampoo quite promptly (because I’m a gentleman), and follow up by impregnating your nearest female relative (because I’m a gentleman).


Unchain your gluttonous cravings for visual and auditory satisfaction. Feed the beast until it’s Jerry Springer-caliber obese. All the media I experience every day is in French. “But what does that mean” you (me) ask (myself)? I’m glad I asked!

1. TV

I disconnected my cable and threw my DVR into an industrial strength meat grinder, then hooked up an old laptop to my television, along with a massive external hard drive. This laptop is packed with French television and films (both dubbed American media and original French media), and is connected to the internet so I can acquire new media at will. Something about watching films and movies on a television is much better than watching them on a computer screen (and much more likely to happen). I also hooked up a remote to my computer so it actually feels like I’m watching TV. With this setup I’ve watched hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of hours of French video. I watched Lost in its entirety, three seasons of Battlestar Galactica, 24, How I Met your Mother, and countless episodes of The Simpsons. Every time I think of a movie I wanted to see but didn’t get around to, I watch it in French (Rambo II, Zombieland, Adventureland, etc.)


2. Music

I deleted all English music from my computers and dumped all of my CDs at a friend’s house, so now all I have is French music I’ve purchased/downloaded. This means my iPod only has French music and podcasts, which means my car only has French music and podcasts, which means at the gym, on walks, anytime there is audio it’s in French.

When on a computer I recommend checking out Grooveshark. I created a free account and told it all the French music I like and now whenever I log in I just hit radio mode and BAM free unlimited new French music. Easy.

As for my house, I have constant immersion. It’s a two-story house: upstairs I have a portable iPod stereo that I just keep near me (it fits in one hand for easy transportation). In my room, in the study, in the bathroom, wherever, that sucker is always whispering sweet French nothings into my ear. Downstairs I have an iHome stereo with an iPod permanently stationed on it, so I just hit power and it releases audio throughout the first story throughout my duration there. So that covers my house, my car, and any time I’m outside with an iPod.


I don’t. Get over it. I don’t read French, I don’t take classes, I don’t do anything other than watch a butt load of French TV and get drowned daily in a sea of French audio.


Q: Does it work?
A: Yes. Case in point: I have never taken a French class or studied it at all in any way. When I first started all I heard was *blahblahblahMERCIblahblah*, but now I would place myself around 70% comprehension of whatever I’m watching/listening to. I went back and watched the first episode of Lost (the first show I ever watched in French) and was amazed – nay, FLOORED – by how much I had learned. Suddenly I understood nearly everything everyone was saying, whereas the first time I watched it I had no idea what people were saying. The other day at a Japanese market I heard two French people behind me talking about which kind of sushi was better, and knew what they were saying. This stuff is magic I tell you, MAGIC!

Q: Are there faster ways to learn?
A: Maybe. Probably. But there certainly aren’t easier and more pleasant ways to learn.

Q: Am I having a killer time learning French?
A: Yes.

Q: Does your bike have pegs?
A: Yes, and I take it off sweet jumps.

Q: Do you speak French?
A: Negative. I’ll speak when I feel like speaking. Right now I’m like a super high-functioning baby. Or a seriously-retarded adult. It’s probably a little of column A, and a lot of column B.

Q: I’m out of questions.
A: Your sister is now carrying my child.


That’s all, folks. Let the passive-aggressive (and aggressive-aggressive) attacks commence NOW!



I’ll be on my sofa watching re-watching Lost (aka Les Disparus) and hoping the ending doesn’t completely suck floppy donkey balls again.

Matt out.

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Matt is an unorthodox teacher and, above all, an unorthodox writer. He taught himself French mostly by watching TV, and now lives in Korea where he is training for the International Bench-press/Bicep Biathlon.


Bob November 19, 2010 at 2:06 pm

This is very intriguing, but I have several questions. Do you ever look any words up/read any books about French? Did you speak other languages (other than English) before starting to learn French? Roughly how many hours a day do you put in?

This all sounds pretty impressive – I wish you the best of luck with your nonstudies. πŸ˜€


Matt November 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Hi Bob,

1. I never look up words or read books in or about French. I had to google search how to spell "tout le monde" for that Dr. Nick picture because, though I've heard it a thousand times, I had no idea how to spell it.

2. I speak no other languages than English. I took some Spanish in high school and hated it, but I don't think that counts.

3. I probably watch around three hours of French TV and movies per day, but the audio immersion reaches most of my waking hours. Any time I'm speaking to someone in English, I'm listening to French. So lots and lots of hours of French audio.

4. There's nothing impressive about it, that's what is so great about natural language learning! You just simulate the environment and your brain does all the work for you!

5. Thanks for the comment, Bob. My grandpa's name was Bob, and I played soccer with a Bob a few years ago. I don't think I've ever met a Bob I didn't like.


Jay Mendoza November 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm

So no SRSing at all? I’m beginning with Korean now (switched from Spanish for various reasons) and since I can’t read any of it all (unlike with Spanish) I’m very much considering not SRSing.

What say you?


Matt November 24, 2010 at 4:46 am

What say I? I say a lot, but I sure as hell wouldn’t listen to me.

Now listen to me:

1. Invest in precious metals
2. No, I don’t SRS at all, and don’t recommend it unless you’re learning Chinese characters (which you will have to do at some point for Korean if you ever want to read newspapers)
3. Learn Korean, move to Seoul, and open a decent Mexican restaurant. You’ll be the only one.

A recommended article for you:

Thanks for commenting, and good luck with Korean!


Jay Mendoza November 24, 2010 at 10:21 am

Great site. Thanks for the advice and the link.

Winston November 19, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Date rape does not equal manly. Date rape does not equal funny or catchy.


Matt November 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Traditional language acquisition methodology has ruined millions of lives, devastating the hopes and dreams of generations of eager learners around the world. How many international misunderstandings could have been avoided, how many lives could have been saved, if it weren't for her condescending apathy and dogmatic adherence to rules that never worked in the first place? Date raping traditional language methodology is like date raping Hitler, and no one should apologize for it.


Andrew November 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I just read through it like 3 times and couldn’t find anything remotely resembling a rape/date rape joke or reference, was it edited out?


Ramses ( November 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Yes, there was an alternative title at the beginning of the article, but Matt later asked me to edit it out.


Plugmcghee November 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm



Matt November 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm

The Riverside College of Homeopathic Medicine and Aromatherapy disagrees with you.


Bakunin November 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm

This is very similar to what I do with Thai, and I can only confirm that it's a lot of fun and works like magic. There's no need to study, no need to translate, no need to read and no need to walk around with a phrasebook and talk talk talk. Comprehension comes by itself, and I guess speaking as well.

But I wonder, though… is this a real guest post or just your fantasy, Ramses?


Matt November 19, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Nothing to add. Carry on.

p.s. No I'm not Ramses. He's probably off in Amsterdam showing off his Spanish skills, kickboxing, and smoking Mary Jane – all at the same time.


Matt November 20, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Correction – He's in Germany partying like it's 1999.

Also, I checked out your webpage, I like your style Bakunin and I think you've got it right. I watched some of the ALG videos and completely agree with what they do, only I'm not interested in learning Thai. I just want to eat their delicious, delicious food. Really, is there better food than Thai? Me thinks not.


Bakunin November 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Well, as a German I'm tempted to say, nope, they don't have blood sausages, but as a matter of fact they do have them, and, what's more, chicken hearts on sticks, so I agree wholeheartedly. No need to learn Thai for that.


yvonita November 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Hi Matt,
I with the whole immersion thing and I like your method, but I actually enjoy reading and don't think I'd do very well just watching films alone. Most of the avoidable English input I get comes from reading blogs like this one, but I need this, otherwise I think my mind gets saturated. Btw, French is the third new language that I intend to tackle, after Spanish and then Portuguese.


Matt November 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Hi Yvonita,

If you enjoy reading, then read away. I'm a big reader in English, mostly of pop-up books. Also I can do 100 pushups.

As someone who is completely untrained to make any kind of suggestion, I suggest that you maximize your audio/video input, because typically the people I meet who learned English through reading have terrible, sometimes incomprehensible accents even though they can speak very colloquially.

But have fun, and be careful out there with this language passion we all have. As Senator Pat Benetar once said – "Love is a battlefield."


Delenir November 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Hey Matt, thanks for the post! Just wondering what sort of native French media that you use, especially films/TV? I'm studying both Japanese and French and find it much harder to find quality native media in the latter than the former…


Matt November 20, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Hi Delenir,

Thanks for commenting. Your name sounds like a Lord of the Rings character, which is awesome. In fact, I'll make the next article about your question, because I really like LotR. Sound good? πŸ™‚


Ritorh November 23, 2010 at 1:53 am

Good article. Ye,in your next article could you provide some of us French learners with media titles,especially for music. Also,do you watch dubbed French audio with English subtitles, French subtitles or none? And how is it that you begin to understand what they are saying.. do our minds slowly guess what people are saying or something? I don’t understand how you could just listen and listen and suddenly begin to comprehend dialogue without actually figuring the definitions of things. For now I’m doing media but I also got a inexpensive textbook to help with the basics. Thanks for the post! I enjoyed the humor.


Matt November 23, 2010 at 2:30 am

H Ritorh,

I had a pet brontosaurus named Ritorh! That’s a lie.

I already wrote the next article, and I mention a few good bands and resources to find music and media. As far as watching TV and movies, I never have, and never will, use subtitles. For some reason, be it scientific brain magic or God, when you watch and listen enough you will just know what people are saying. You watch, listen, guess, and enjoy yourself, just like you did with your first language. I’m watching Inception in the background as I write this (for the bazillionth time), and I have learned a bunch of new vocabulary just by repeatedly viewing it. For instance, I figured out that the word for ‘dream’ is very similar to the command ‘wake up.’ Neat stuff!

I’ll be sure to keep talking about French stuff, because Ramses has Spanish under control. Thanks for commenting!


Ritorh November 24, 2010 at 2:56 am

But why wouldn't you use French subtitles? To me,at the moment,a lot of the French that I hear is a lot of "vu,va vu vula voila vuos va vuvova"type of gibberish.. but when I put the subtitles on I could at least distinguish differences in the dialogue. I use my peripheral vision to get the body language. For whatever reason,subtitles help me concentrate on the material being said and,in turn,helps me comprehend the storyline (I even use subtitles for my Native language movies). I know that it's probably a preference thing,but why haven't you,and never will use subtitles,any particular reason? Can't wait for the next article. I need some media!

Anna November 26, 2010 at 7:45 pm

A good educational site for real native materials is Since they take TV and movie clips you can maybe be introduced to some stuff that you might like. The clips are graded by difficulty (all are high intermediate to advanced/fluent level – they also have an intermediate only version) with dubbed shows usually being easier, French-produced shows and movies harder and spontaneous speech hardest. They have transcripts for everything so you can go back to pick up more vocab and listen again understanding everything (I typically listen once or twice, read for vocab – especially for idiomatic expressions and slang – and then listen over and over without a transcript).

For more spontaneous speech, which is the hardest to understand with all the stops and starts, filler words, non-standard grammar, etc there is and

As for some French shows, a lot of people like “Un gars, une fille” a comedy about a couple, a French show kind of like The Office called “Camera Cafe” (episodes are 7 minutes long and were aired daily). “Kaamelot” is also popular though I haven’t really watched it. If you kind of like cheesy stuff there’s the soap “Plus belle la vie” and I also got into “Sous le soleil” once the plot lines got messed up and one of the characters gave birth to a baby that was clearly over 6 months old. There are comedy news shows like “The Daily Show” – one with puppets “Les guignols de l’info” and another one, “Groland”, which is a news program for a fictional country. For more comedy there is a famous sketch comedy group called Les Inconnus.

There are a lot of great French documentaries/travel shows/etc (the first website has some clips as examples) and some decent reality like “La Chasse aux tresors” and “Koh Lanta” and game shows like “Les chiffres et des lettres”, “Questions pour une champion”, “Attention a la marche” and many more. There’s also a sort of comedy talk show “Zapping” where they show clips from recently-aired shows and news and talk about it (I guess most like “The Soup”) which may let you find other stuff or at least let you laugh at the bad stuff. A few of these shows are on which I think has all of its video available internationally, other stuff you have to get through other means. Other tv websites have some clips available but not all.


Matt November 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Wow Anna,

I don’t know how I missed your reply until today. Great stuff, thanks for the links!

Delenir November 30, 2010 at 11:51 am

Let it be done forth, good sir!


Sarah November 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I'm a fan of this blog and it's nice to see it active again.
But seriously, I don't need 'date rape' methodologies popping up in my rss feed, regardless of whether you're talking about a person or not, it's pretty alienating.
:/ at least you're only a guest blogger.


Matt November 20, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Hi Sarah,

I knew a Sarah who lived in Canada, and she was a classy lady. I will address your complaint in the next article. In the mean time, we should all just do some squats, eat some beef jerky, and clear our heads. Thanks for commenting!


Sarah November 21, 2010 at 12:14 am

To be honest, I doubt many people would call me classy. The content of your article is awesome, the alpha male crap is unecessary, and like I said, alienating. I don't think you can address that in a way that's satisfactory, but I'll read your next article anyway.


Matt November 21, 2010 at 9:58 am

Don't worry what other people would call you- you are what you think you are. When other people refuse to admit that I'm classy, I hit the bench press, have a protein shake, and stare at a picture of Captain Kirk.

Reach for the stars, kiddo!


Tom November 21, 2010 at 7:58 am

I loved the article! Though you forgot to mention if you have your own blog πŸ˜‰


Matt November 21, 2010 at 9:54 am

Hi Tom,

My neighbor is named Tom and his kid takes out my trash sometimes, so I automatically like you. I don't have my own blog because I'm too busy a) taking over Ramses' blog, and b) doing pushups. Thanks for the comment!


doviende November 21, 2010 at 10:04 am

Good article, but rape jokes are never cool. Grow the fuck up.


Randy the Yearlyglot November 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Any joke is funny when you don't take yourself too seriously.


Matt November 22, 2010 at 9:55 pm
K September 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Wrong, any joke is funny when you don’t treat others seriously.

Jokes can trivialise very serious problems.


Matt September 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Andrej November 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Halo, Im not sure Matt, you dont even so for so far (because you not feeling like ??) , maybe without flashcards its not so effective way.


Andrej November 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

sorry , you not speak so far


Matt November 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Hi Andrej,

I would say that not speaking at this early stage is better than speaking with a butchered accent. I was at the gym working on my biceps the other day and I heard an English accent so bad that I almost dropped the barbell. For now I'd rather focus on input, and looking good naked, than try to speak immediately. Thanks for commenting!


Andrej November 21, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Sorry if I miss it somewhere, but how long you study? You have truth with early input, so how many months? Im studing Spanish 3 months now, and I can understand little bit.


Matt November 21, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Technically I started in January, but due to work and travel I probably got about 7 months of time put in. Maybe a bit more. Good luck with your Spanish studies!

Rick Henry November 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Ooh! A parody!


Ramses ( November 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm

First of all: I’m back from my weekend in Germany (lots of beers and bratwust, which I both love dearly :-D). Because I was away I asked Matt to fill in the post spot for this weekend.

I get it that some people may find certain references in the article offensive, but then again: many things are offensive. I found it a good read, and had a good laugh. Does that mean I’m a bad person? No, I also love South Park dearly, just like millions of other people. Others? Others may find South Park offensive in general.

Anyway, this blog is to wake up people, to tell them a story in both a fun and serious way, and to tell them how other people are successful at learning foreign languages. I tell more than 10 jokes a day on average, and some are offensive. But I also make jokes about myself, and others make jokes about me. I don’t care, I don’t get offended easily.

I’ll ask Matt to write more posts. So, if you don’t like his style, be sure to ignore the “guest post” category.



Matt November 21, 2010 at 8:40 pm

This Matt guy managed to lose a few of your readers in just one post. He’s a menace I tell you, a menace!!

…seriously though, can I stop playing damage control now? πŸ˜€


Ramses (Spanish-Only November 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Haha, sure :-).


yvonita November 22, 2010 at 9:28 pm

“I’ll ask Matt to write more posts. So, if you don’t like his style, be sure to ignore the “guest post” category.”

Glad to hear it Ramses. I liked the post and I didn’t find it offensive, just tongue and cheek entertaining with great advice. πŸ™‚


zanzibar40 November 22, 2010 at 6:09 am

I’ve a question for Matt. Since the method you has little or no emphasis on reading, what happens when you actually read? I personally have trouble with the way French words are spelled to the way they are pronounced.


Matt November 22, 2010 at 6:53 am

Hi Zanzibar40,

French spelling is terrible, isn’t it? Words are pronounced completely differently than they are spelled. In any language, and particularly in French, I believe learning to listen and to speak should come long before reading because a) this is the way everyone learned their L1, and b) God help you if you try to sound out French words. I usually avoid seeing written French like the plague because I immediately form an idea of how a word should sound (and it’s never correct), and this can skew my listening in subtle ways.

As for what will happen when I start reading, well, I’ll let you know when I start reading πŸ™‚ I assume it will just be a matter of matching up the written word with words I’ve already heard and said thousands of times, just like I did with English as a child.

Thanks for commenting!


zanzibar40 November 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Thanks, Matt – and may I say that I found your article funny and interesting. Definitely, food for thought.


Fairykarma November 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm

As long as we're being controversial. Um.. I have an audio book that's 40 hours long, but it's a woman speaking. Should I discard it and find another one I like with a man's voice?


Ramses ( November 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Haha, are you serious? πŸ˜‰ Use the book, it’s good enough. Only when you don’t like the voice of the reader you should discard it. If not: use the damn thing! πŸ™‚


Ramses ( November 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Haha, are you serious? πŸ˜‰ Use the book, it’s good enough. Only when you don’t like the voice of the reader you should discard it. If not: use the damn thing! πŸ™‚


Matt November 24, 2010 at 6:50 pm

It depends on the language. If you’re studying Japanese, chuck it. If you’re studying anything else you should be good to go.


Marina December 11, 2010 at 10:51 am

Completely agree with you, Matt. I'm doing the same with Portuguese. Just listen to audio and watch TV, no reading, no studying. And it works. And it is totally fun. Everybody should try this.


Matt December 12, 2010 at 3:56 am

When something works and is totally fun, people instinctually suspect foul play. Too bad for them!

So, are you learning sexy booty Portugese or Christopher Columbus Portugese?


maugrassia December 17, 2010 at 6:01 am

After being drowned in French, are you going into the writing and reading? It seems like you're learning French how a native would, and I thought that was the next natural progression.


Matt December 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

That's the plan, Stan!


Victoria Williams February 3, 2011 at 5:29 am

hello Matt thank you for your intelligent and funny post. I'm learning Spanish and am getting ready to tackle the language more aggressively. i just have a few questions. when i watch movies in Spanish is it OK to have the subtitles on or no? which is better? also, I'm still in high school so i can't get away with listening to my i pod as much is it OK if i just memorize and sing Spanish lyrics to myself? last but not least will using this method help me speak with more confidence as well as improve my listening skills or just help my listening skills. like people who can read a language but cannot speak it. did it help your speaking skills? and how were you able to practice without interrupting your favorite show? sorry for all the questions i just really need help. Gracias.


Matt February 4, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Answers from a guy you shouldn't listen to:

1. Subtitles in any language = muy, muy bad-o.
2. Anything in Spanish is awesome, including singing to yourself. To bump it up a notch, I suggest joining a Spanish-speaking gang!
3. Speaking will improve your speaking skills, listening will build your understanding and listening skills. Don't speak too soon, unless your new gang makes you say a pledge of allegiance or something.
4. I have no speaking skills, I'm just taking in the language like a baby. A sexy baby who can do 100 pushups.

Sorry for the delayed response. I'm in Hawaii, prepping for Korea, and Ramses is in Spain or lording over Egypt or something. I'm glad you're interested in this stuff so young. Keep it up, and thanks for commenting!


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Matt November 24, 2010 at 4:31 am

Serendipitously, “vu,va vu vula voila vuos va vuvova” is actually the opening line of the French pledge of allegiance!

I never have, and never will, use subtitles because I’m not interested in fully comprehending the story line… I’m interested in learning French! Trust me, once you watch and listen enough you’ll pick up enough vocabulary to understand what’s going on, then you can go back and re-watch all the stuff that kind of confused you the first time around. I recommend reading the following:

Can you imagine going through life not being able to comprehend English unless there were subtitles floating around people’s torsos? It would be an excellent excuse to stare at ladies’ chest melons, but, um… I forgot what I was trying to say, but I think you get it. πŸ˜‰


Ramses (Spanish-Only November 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

What Matt says is right. You may think you understand a lot because of the subtitles, but at the same time you actually are learning sh*t.

Take all these anime freaks for example. They're watching thousands upon thousands of hours or anime in Japanese, subtitled in English. Still, they can't even utter a simple sentence in Japanese. People that didn't use subtitles? Their Japanese is pretty good.

The brain is a wonderful part of our body, at it can do extraordinary things. If I look at myself, it wasn't until I stopped watching subtitled stuff (even things with subtitles in English) my English took off. For Spanish I didn't even bother to use subtitles, not even in Spanish (they're different anyway, never exact). The result? I learned Spanish from zero to native-like level within 3 years.

I'm just saying… subtitles aren't holy and can actually hold you back.


Ritorh November 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I can understand why anime freaks who use English subtitles don’t capture crap from their thousand hours of viewing since they are essentially still thinking in English when they are reading in English. But,well,one of my priorities is to be able to read in French as well. And to listen to French while reading it is quite gratifying right now. I am able to signal similarities often.

I think what I may do is to watch a film in French with French subtitles as my first view then watch the film again another three times (in a row?) but with just French audio,then a fifth with subtitles once again. By the way,is it best to watch the same film/tv episode consecutively or to vary it between several? I’m watching the Simpsons right now,and was thinking that maybe five times is good enough to watch an episode then to move on to another,and circle the season about three times the way I described before moving on to another season. What do you think of this proposed method,how did you go through your seasons? Anyways,muchas gracias por dejar ah Matt que escriba sobre el Frences en tu blog! Nos ah proevido con mucho contenido que me ah motivado y ayudado mucho!

When I use French subtitles I don’t fully comprehend the storyline immediately.. but it is a little easier to get the jist of the story. And,well,in order to understand the storyline one does have to begin to comprehend/learn French… It just seems like a tedious waste of time to listen to “the opening line of the French pledge of allegiance” over and over and over again. Admittedly, I’ve only done this for 15-20 hours… so I wouldn’t really know. Props to you for doing it your way man. Thanks for the link,really really interesting stuff on there! Great article again.


Jay Mendoza November 25, 2010 at 9:42 am


Think of it this way: if your brain isn’t forced to do the work involved in separating streams of sound into words, then it will never develop the ability to do so. Why would it bother?


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