Assimil language learning books are hugely popular in our polyglot community. And for good reason – many of us learn really effectively with its parallel text method.
They’re especially userful when the base language is another of our stronger languages, adding an element of triangulation. I learned a heap of Greek vocabulary from the French edition Le Grec sans Peine, at the same time as strengthening my (ever slightly wobbly) French.
Now, Assimil is already available in a great range of language pairs. But it’s not always a perfect fit. For example, some editions are more up-to-date than others. More off-the-beaten-track languages still aren’t available. And at times, you can’t find the right base language – no use learning Breton through French, if you don’t have any French.
DIY Assimil Prompting
Copy and paste this into your AI chat, changing the language (top), translation language (middle) and topic (bottom) to suit.
This prompt creates a prose-based parallel text unit. However, if you prefer dialogue-style texts, simply change the second paragraph of the prompt:
The prompt works a treat in both ChatGPT Plus (paid) and Microsoft Bing (free). I also got very useable results in the free version of ChatGPT and Claude 2. It works so well as the focus is purely on what LLMs do best: spooling off creative text.
How Do I Use Them?
So, with your shiny, new Assimil-style units spooled off, what do you do with them?
Personally, I like to copy and paste the output into the notes app on my phone. That way, they make nice potted units to browse through when I have some spare moments on the bus or train. They’re equally handy copy-pasted into PDF documents that you can annotate on your phone or tablet.
In terms of real-world use, the self-contained, chatty texts typically created make perfect material for the islands approach to improving spoken fluency. Create some units in topics that are likely to come up in conversation. Then, spend some time memorising the phrases by heart. You’ll be able to draw on them whenever you need in real-life conversation.
Enjoy prompts like these? Check out my book AI for Language Learners, which lists even more fun ways to get results without paying hefty course book price tags!