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An undervalued skill which is the best-kept secret to your learning success


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Everyone links being able to speak another language to the ability to freely respond in a conversation without searching for specific words or structures. However, there is a skill, which is totally undervalued, but actually the best-kept secret to your learning success: telling and summarizing stories.


Practicing summarizing a story has the enormous advantage that you already have a grammatically perfect model text as a base: the story itself. If you select the parts or episodes of your most favourite stories, which you know so well as if you experienced them yourself, your learning effect will double instantly! You basically internalize the situation and the corresponding words and phrases like building blocks. And you´ll be able to use these “building block structures” in similar situations and manipulated the structures according to your needs.


How do I do it?


Re-narrating a story or useful episode can be done in various ways: you can stick to the original story as much as possible, simplify it or freely re-tell the story in your own words.


First, you take the story you´ve selected to work with. Ideally, you´ve selected a situation or scene you can apply to your own experience. Now, you underline the structures you´d like to focus on.



Am Montag habe ich das Haus morgens um 7.30 Uhr verlassen. 7.30 Uhr ist für mich sehr früh. Zu Hause hatte ich keinen Kaffee mehr, deshalb beschloss ich, im Café an der Ecke zu frühstücken.  Dort hatt ich schon öfter gefrühstückt. “Milchkaffee wie immer?”, fragte Johanna, die Inhaberin. “Ja, gern. Und ein belegtes Brötchen mit Käse und Salat, bitte.”

On Monday, I left the house at 7.30am. 7.30am is very early for me. At home I was running out of coffee and decided to have breakfast at the coffee shop at the corner. I had had breakfast there before. “A Latte as usual?”, Johanna the owner asked me. “Yes, please. And a cheese and salad sandwich.”


Now, think about the parts of the selected situation and find out why a certain tense is used and which phrases are the correct ones to use in this situation. Write them down and learn them with this situation in mind.


If you want you could even learn this text off by heart, so you can freely `quote´ or reproduce it at any time. Note down beginnings of sentences or a key word per sentence to remember what you want to say. This will make it a lot easier. Soon you´ll start to re-call the sentences without using your key words and notes. The more you practice the easier you will be able to use these structures as “building blocks” in your real-life situations.


In order to maximize your success with this method, start to play with these structures and phrases: Tell a similar story or situation, tell the story in the 3rd person, come up with a similar situation or story and role-play it using different nouns and adjective.


What can I do to get better results?


  1. Do you use at least 5 min a day to re-call the situation and practice the corresponding phrases?
  2. Do you notice that it becomes easier to respond naturally every time you revise the situation?
  3. Do you recognize the feeling of reassurance when you KNOW that the structure you´ve just used is grammatically correct?



Now I want to know from you: Have you ever used this technique or something similar? How did it go? Hit reply and let me know.


Do you have any questions? Send me an e-mail.



Lots of love,

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