"Using the brain-friendly Birkenbihl method, you never waste time cramming vocabulary and you don't need to learn any grammar rules."
M7: How far is the Birkenbihl method’s idea of ‘learning a language need not be difficult’ serving its purpose of making language acquisition effortless?
EB: Let me say 100%. Because the "classical" way to learn a language is totally different from the way our brain works. Our brain is trying to find new things to discover, to get new experiences and so on. What is there to discover when you use a vocabulary list? For example, table - Tisch / table - la mesa, etc. it could also be shown as table - Katze (cat). There is no sense, no meaning, no context.
If you learn it the brain-friendly way as a full sentence, and you "de-code" it, your brain has enough context, and there are new words to learn.
So it works, and it takes a minimum amount of time because our brain is memorizing everything in connections, like synapses, and that works very well, making it fun and available to use for the rest of your life.
The newest thing we have developed is the Movie(c) courses. Birkenbihl told us all the time, "a movie is the closest experience to real life". Watching a movie is like experiencing an actual event.
When the "de-code line" is integrated into the movie, entertainment and learning become cohesive. The "de-code line" in the movie, works as a karaoke player. The spoken word-pair is synchronized and highlighted. So you can close your eyes or your brain will automatically follow the decode line, and you will absorb the language. Repeat it, and you become perfect. It’s the digital way to learn a foreign language.
M7: How do you develop the movies and what is the approach for making users learn new languages easily with these movies?
EB: The classical way to learn a language is to cram grammar rules. Understanding and speaking are two processes in our brain that we have to learn separately. The idea developed by Birkenbihl was to find out how to use the mother tongue to understand a foreign language. She had done a lot of research and observed neuroscientists and decided to call the it the decode line which means you have two decoding lines – the upper line is the foreign language that you want to learn, the lower line is the word-by-word translation where you get the information about the meaning of the words.
It’s easy to follow them if you like to follow, but it’s enough if you just watch the movie. Your brain is automatically looking at the decode line and getting the information so if you repeat that you become more familiar with the sentence and you’ll understand it.
M7: How has your working with Vera F. Birkenbihl for more than 10 years helped you to come out with an intuitive method of language acquisition called the “Birkenbihl Approach”? What was the idea behind this?
EB: Birkenbihl told me that she’d had an experience with teachers and children. The problem was that the children didn’t enjoy learning vocabulary. It was, and still is, a pain. After a couple of days, all of the learned words go. So she thought, if most people have this problem then the problem couldn't be the people, it must be the method. There must be a better way.
After that, she started researching, and she found old documents, detailing how the aristocrats (the European marriage expansion) learned languages. There were many connections between the European Aristocrats, and this old document described how they learned. There was a transcript, a direct translation underneath and a live speaker. So the learners followed the speaker and read the word pairs.
All of the experiments she did, worked very well. I remember, it was approximately 2008, there was a teacher in Odelzhause who gave the children private English lessons Coached by Birkenbihl, in 3 months, the whole class were able to speak English very well and had no problem with vocabulary tests. That was the point we realized we were onto something. Based on our findings, my son built the first application for Windows. However, if you think that’s it, no. It took a lot of time to optimize it and to do all the beta tests. But after a while, we saw that it worked, and my experience was. WOW! - I got it.
"Watching a movie is like experiencing an actual event. When the "de-code line" is integrated into the movie, entertainment and learning become cohesive."
M7: How is the “Birkenbihl Approach” assisting people around the world to learn more languages efficiently?
EB: Thanks, that’s an excellent question. You can do it, totally without any app, with paper or music. Take the lyrics of the song you love and start to “de-code” (translate it word-by-word). Yes, with the app, it’s much easier, and if you have a device ready, you can fit, learning a language, into every spare moment you have. So you waste no time, get entertained and learn simultaneously. After a while, you begin to speak automatically like a baby, who is listening for a long time.
When it becomes a year old, it starts with some words, after the second year it begins, from one day to the next to speak full sentences, only by listening. So while you improve upon your spelling skills, in your mother tongue or foreign language, always listen (day and night) in the background. Your sub-conscience will do the rest.
It is a kind of democratization of language learning; everybody can do it, independent of age or origin.
M7: You have played a vital role in digitalization of this language acquisition method. What inspired you to take up this challenge and what was your vision behind this?
EB: Yes, first, it was a curiosity about the possibility and a challenge for myself to learn a language up to a level to be able to sell anything. Remember, I was a weak student.
Additionally, it was the feedback from the first beta tester, later from customers that they had the same experience I had, and they are now happy and successful. So it was sensible. Yes, a little bit also to make it easier for people. So now, I see that the end of the traditional way to learn a language is coming.
Think about it... you can watch a movie, it doesn't matter which one, and you get automatically delivered the “de-code” line. I think we'll be able to get it in the near future, we are still working on it. So you don't need any teacher, because every child is learning it like their mother tongue, additionally. For example, a Hollywood movie uses about 1000 to 1500 unique words, a daily newspaper uses about 500 to 700 unique words. So let's watch Spanish movies this weekend, and that's it. My idea is that no child should have to suffer the cramming of vocabulary.
"While you grow up your spelling skills, in your mother tongue or foreign language, always listen in the background. Your sub-conscience will do the rest. It is a kind of democratization of language learning."
M7: As a language instructor, how important is resolving the problem of language acquisition as a barrier to businesses and marketing when globalization is the trend?
EB: It is vital. In two cases, one of them is, that companies spend a lot of money, year by year and nothing is changing. The costs go up, and success is equal to or less. Especially the production industries who have many difficulties, i.e. when the company is based in Germany, and the production is in Mexico. In this case, we can help. We can produce a learning movie for the technical process and add the “de-code line”, so the employees get both, the knowledge and the language. I think this is an excellent opportunity for all instructors and trainers of language. They can supply companies to work with the Birkenbihl method, and it gives more success with less time to spend.
M7: Do you think that the Birkenbihl method will encourage more people around the world to learn languages swiftly?
EB: Yes, that's what I hope, and it is essential to tell everybody that with this method it is possible, yes it works. Also, my hope is that it could connect people and bring more happiness. It's okay, if you start now and only spend 10 minutes every day. After approximately 6 weeks, you will get about 400 to 600 unique words. However, you can also do it in 2 weeks if you spend 10 minutes, 10 times a day (less than 2 hours). Alternatively, if you spend only 10 minutes every 3rd day, it takes a little longer. Do it when you want with the time that suits you. Overall, you get it.
M7: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
EB: Not much, except one thing: Whatever you do, if it doesn't work, find out how it could work, there is surely another way. But, just do it.