Some language learners are not attracted to the formal side of learning and are not willing to book an online or in-person course. Some others are forced to be inventive as it is difficult to find people teaching the language of their dream. In any case, if you are consistent and performs well as an independent learner, why not try sentence mining your way to being competent in a foreign language.

What is sentence mining?

As the word suggests, Sentence mining is mainly the process of gathering sentences in the target language, saving, learning, and reviewing them.

How does it work?

You must be committed in immersing yourself in the language you wish to learn, listening and watching topics and reading materials that interest you.This is how you will find the resources that will provide you the right sentences that you will learn.

Always choose simple sentences that render evident the meaning of the words you wish to learn.

Save theses sentences in your notebook. Transfer them individually into flashcards either physical ones or electronic.

The secret lies in studying and reviewing them periodically. This is where spaced repetition software like Anki might be useful.


It is extremely simple. Read books and other materials that fit your level. Listen to podcasts about topics that interest you, watch TV programs and movies in your target language with subtitles. Listen to songs as well.

Think about the amount of time you want to spend daily actively working on your new language.One third of this time should be for active listening, one third reading and watching with subtitles and one third on the flashcards.

Divide your immersion time int two: -Active and -Passive listening.

During the active listening period I recommend you have a notebook with you to annotate the new word sentences.

Passive listening time can be any moment outside the dedicated language learning time. It is just for fun and to consolidate pronunciation, tone, and familiarisation with the language’s sound.

When reading or watching with subtitles, keep the notebook handy. It is where you will write down the sentences that interest you.

Choose sentences that you understand automatically once you look up the target word. Learn words you feel you’ve seen before. This translates that you have encountered them repeatedly during immersion and that they are of common usage. Your brain will be more than ready to memorise them. It is through these sentences that you will be able to develop your skills.

When making the flashcards- either manually or Anki cards – one third of your time should be for that purpose, and the rest should be about reviewing these cards.

Remember that you have a limited number of cards to make daily (10), so make the most of each card produced. When you encounter a new word that you will be able to remember by association or any other method, skip it and choose one more relevant. The sentences in each card should have between three to seven words. If they are too short you won’t have enough context for the sentence to be meaningful. It they are too long, the process of memorisation won’t be easy. When this is the case, try to split the sentence into two meaningful ones.

How many cards should you learn daily?


The question is always how many cards should you learn daily? About 10 cards are usually recommended especially at the beginning. It gives you the opportunity to get used to the process without feeling overwhelmed. As you progress you might wish to add more cards but never more than 30. Keep the new word you are learning in the original sentence you heard it.

Remember the main part in this method of language acquisition is immersion. So, if you still have time at the end you can always carry on with more immersion.

If a word has different meanings, learn the most relevant to the sentence in which you found it. You will be able to pick the other meanings through immersion further down the line.This is the best way to avoid confusion.

If you are unable to remember the meaning of a word -that you’ve previously studied- during immersion. Don’t worry. These things happen. This is a normal piece of the learning process. Go back to the card as many times as needed, to refresh your memory, and you will see that with time and practice this too will come to pass.

As you can see, the secret of sentence mining is immersion. Once you start understanding 80% of your immersion content you will be ready to start speaking without much effort.

Have you studied a language with sentence mining? Let me know your results in the comments below.

Download the Sentence Mining Cheat Sheet.