The more than one “Exponential” secret (hypothesis)

The initial 1-6 months of language learning is slow and brimming  with days, sometimes several in succession, where I feel that I am making no or marginal progress or I’m frustrated with my own lack of comprehension and ability to output, recall or retain. But I keep at it. Because a little bit every day is better than a lot once a week.

(Partially tangential parenthesis attack!)(Study everyday. Even if it’s only for 10 or fewer minutes, study. Even if it can only be a disrupted series of 30 second stints, accumulating to 10 minutes. You must do it. Every day. Okay so the world won’t end if you miss a day, but if you’re at all like me and you miss one day, you’re 50 percent more likely to miss a second and by the third day you’re 75 percent more likely to miss again ad infinity. Or however you write fanciful superfluous terms.The point is study often and regularly. Whatever method you use, if you’re only doing 30 minutes a week, you’re doing it wrong.)

Eventually after all that…

A day happens, where I’m able to express myself, in more than one sentence. It may not be perfectly grammatical, but it is understandable and I too am receivable, in that I’m able to receive corrections and input and make sense of it all. This is the turning point. Where I feel the beginning of fluency strings. (“Fluency strings” is an abstract neurological/physiological sensation that happens to me when I start being excited to express my views in a foreign language and listen to what people have to say in response.)

It’s generally from this point on that actual fluency comes very rapidly, as though all the previous time I’ve just been storing and analyzing and I’m finally ready to perform. Yes, I probably should have made this about memorizing lines and practicing a series of scenes over and over to build up the performance aspect, in lieu of talking about storing and analyzing but I can always do things backwards so long as I know what I’m doing after the fact. That’s right. Isn’t it?

The secret is, once you reach a certain place in your study/learning, your rate of learning increases significantly. I even dare say, exponentially from that point on. Because instead of having to translate into your native language or any other language with which you’re already acquainted(as I know some of us like studying a foreign language vis à vis another foreign language,) you can start translating into the language you’re learning and from there, comfort and habitude happens and before long fluency runs rampant.

What do I mean, translating into the language you’re learning?

I mean, you can listen to more complicated conversations and break it down into simpler terms that you already know, or better yet, reword it. There are so many different ways to say the same thing. Some see this as a problem, but it is most definitely a bonus. Maybe you’re not familiar with the japanese word 学ぶ but you are with the word 習う  or 勉強する. Although each of these may have their own nuances and collocations, the fact that you can hear one and recognize it and realize that it more or less has the same meaning as something else, or in this case, two other things else that you already know, you’re expanding into the language. Deepening your roots. Understanding the part, if you’re looking at it as a role in a play.

Of course that is a fairly simple example of how this can take place. It can and most likely will happen with more than individual words, when you rearrange entire sentences, perhaps changing the voice from active to passive. Whatever it may be, when you get to this point of being able to say and receive more than one thing in your target language–let me specify–more than one involved/critical thing,(meaning you’re not asking about the weather and the time of day), then you’ve reached a critical point. A point where you have the potential for exponential growth in your new language. This is also a point where at least for me, vocabulary starts becoming much easier, because I’m able to use new words in context and sometimes a variety of contexts.

Anyway, that is all the partially coherent thought I have to offer this evening. Grazie Mille. Please let me know if this happens to you, or if I make any sort of sense ever.

What’s a Polyglod?

So you may not even know what a polyglot is and here I am, giving you this word that’s nearly identical and very likely Google is banging on your door asking you if you meant to type polyglot instead of polyglod. So to clear up any future, present, past, omnispace time continuum confusion, I’ll introduce Polyglod.

Polyglod is my child. It may  grow into something worthwhile, useful, remarkable, or all three. Or, it may die terribly and alone on the plains of the Internetara Desert. (But corny jokes will live on!)

Polyglod is the future space where all language enthusiasts, dreamers and doubters can come to speak honestly and inquire strangely about language. It is an imaginary internet brain place/space that, through its articles and the voices of its people will hopefully give rise to a new term, it’s namesake: Polyglods or speakers of multiple languages who take it upon themselves to create a better community of language learning, connection, intelligence and genuine human being-ness, all aiming towards improving our ability as a species to communicate freely with one another, because there are too many problems in this world and a lot of them would be fixed if we tilted our heads to one side for like thirty seconds, to realize that different people think and see the world differently.

So this place is about coming together and sharing. Whether you speak 400 million million languages or just one. You’re welcome here. Whether you hate me for my anarchic writing style that teeters on dorky, or you think what I say in electronic word images is swell, you too are welcomb.

But you’ll have to get used to words that are either made up or misused intentionally. Sentences that end where other’s should begin or not at all. Because this, although you may think it trite and immature or all of the above and beyond, is how language evolves: play.

 Play is where and how we really learn and develop. You may call it something else, but I choose the arbitrary english word, play. For me it’s about testing limits. If you’re too serious about testing your limits then you’ll never arrive at anything worthwhile, because you’re likely to spend all of your time fretting over what goes where and who know’s what and how many is the sum of two and four and so on and so forth.

So join me language learners and burners. Haters and lovers of society. Poets. Despots. Maybe even cats, (they seem to have a really strong internet presence nowadays.)

Let’s make the language a better place to learn the world and each other! (and stop being such hatey dooshfulls of bottleknobs!)

((I apologize if any Bottleknobs  were offended by the previous statement. They were merely referenced as a point of 最初(beginning) to the descriptors of hatey and dooshfulls.))

 

So you’ve found a language that you want to learn…Now what?

People will tell you, the first step is the hardest, but they’re liars, or they’re just lacking the ability to differentiate semantic variations among words. It’s not the first action that’s difficult, it’s that inside your brain/mind lost in the stream of thoughts and bombarded by internet salesmen who didn’t fail salesmen school and who can sell you the same crappy product twice by calling it something different. That’s the tricky part. So let’s talk about it.

Before we get tumbling down the black hole of my mind that likely leads to tea parties and giant underaged blonde women in torn stockings, you’ll need two things.

A)You know that you want to learn a particular language.

 

And 2) or more importantly you know why.

This number of the second has got to be a good reason too. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, don’t come in here with any of that, I want to learn it because I’ll make more money crap. Money is a lie, at least for the purposes of this example, it is. 

Okay so you’ve gotten past those two major hurdles. Now you search the internet and find…WAY TOO MANY THINGS. And either end up staring at pictures of people you might know on Facebook, or you get roped into buying something useless, or you end up reading someone’s blog who knows more than I do but has way too much information and leads to you spending hours speculating and reading and not doing anything.

So, I’m going to do a plug here. And I’m not the first in the very large and ever expanding polyglot community. Get Assimil, if possible for the language you’re learning, or any other comparable dual language translation text. I won’t go into details as to why it’s great, but it really is. I’ve tried everything out there. Which is why I’m now 27 and no longer 15. Thanks for stealing my life. Not complaining really, I learned a lot and there’s really nothing useless out there. Something can be learned from even the crappiest language program.

So in short check out Assimil. It will get you reading and listening and learning words in context instead of isolated. My favorite part is, you don’t have to deal with stupid sometimes creepy pictures of random children holding balloons or being eaten by dogs.

Reading and listening are your two greatest tools. But also, you’re a tool.

Yeah I just called you that. I’m one too. (More on this toolness in a bit.) Before or while you’re waiting for whatever dual language text to arrive via mail, or however else you obtain things, start finding movies, television, music, podcasts in your target language. Listen to it as often as you can stand and then listen to it some more. One fellow for whom I have respect is ,Khatzumoto of http://www.ajatt.com. He also has a ton of great advice for anyone learning ANY language. (Hopefully one day I’ll be lucky enough to share an awesome conversation in Japanese with him about language and other things that are cool, but regardless, he’s got a pretty great approach and a ton of resources.)

Back on track with being a tool. Eventually you’ll start recognizing words or sentences and having questions in general, that’s where you need to use yourself and the internet and friends and books to discover those answers to your curiosities.

How many times did you have to hear『ばか』(baka) before you looked up it’s meaning? Something like that. Be a tool. Just as language isn’t an unchanging piece of something that only ever sits in one place giving strangers dirty looks, learning a language isn’t a statue. There may be no one way that works everybody, which makes it great and terrifying that there are so many options out there.

And if you don’t like the idea of trying some random product I recommended then do your research and find a book or method that seems to fit your style. But in the meantime listen and watch media in your target language, you’d be surprised at what you can pick up. And at the very least you’ll be getting used to the sounds and hopefully trying to imitate them when you’re alone or walking down the smelly streets of Manhattan.

Also find a buddy to talk to. There are a few free programs, like sharedtalk or italki. If you’re going to talk to someone though take the time to learn basic things like greetings, introducing yourself and talking about the weather. Because everybody talks about the weather and there’s always so much to say about it. I’m half kidding, and half sleep deprived and all hungry. So I’m going to wrap up this sort of ramble here. Things will probably be more cohesive as I progress. But for now I’m just trying to bring up general truths that are not specific to any one method.

You found a ridiculous hat now start wearing it. It will seep into your brain and you’ll internalize the hat and then probably have to go to a surgeon, because that’s kind of scary and shouldn’t happen. Good luck with that.

 

LEARN TO SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE OR (BUY A AWESOME NEW HAT)

It’s a bit cheesy, I know, but I’m going with it because I’m improvising.

In fact, one of the most useful tools in learning a language is improvising. That’s not to say, you shouldn’t ever study, but that is to say to not give up easily the moment you feel completely lost. Which at first, is frequent.

Right now, I’m one voice out of many, many–(so many, many’s)– polyglots, most of whom are probably a lot further along in their abilities and personal language libraries than I am. However, one must begin somewhere and so I begin here, at the beginning.

If you’re looking for academic writing and technical, widely accepted use of the English language, this is not the space. Language is not a stagnant old rotting grandmother to be tucked away in a retirement home– it’s a living beast. It’s carnal. It’s dynamic. It’s sexy.

This first post is more of an introduction and a greeting. To the world of people, (especially Americans) who are tired of being the only people at a party who can’t speak a second language, hello, from backwards greeting land!

If you’re not interested in learning a second language or don’t think you have the time to, then you’re who I’m chasing after. I’m here to convince you that you really want this, that you really need to pick up this awesome new hat. (Well not really) I failed out of salesman school because I refused to lie and give strangers blow jobs. (Not that I’m against giving, it’s just got to be the right person, you know?)

Anyway. Learning a language is as easy to start as buying a ridiculous hat. You don’t debate with yourself the pros and cons of whether or not that hat will benefit you or how long until it gets blown away by the inevitable winds of Time and mortality, or the sun roof of your car–you just buy it because it’s fun and you like it.

It doesn’t have to be a ridiculous hat. Maybe you like fun socks, or overalls, or both, (god help you); whatever it is that you buy at random because you like it, that’s how language learning should start.

That’s to say, don’t tell yourself that you should be learning Spanish because it might help you get a job, if you want to learn Swahili because it sounds cool. Do it. You’ll have fun and meet great people wherever you go. Unless. Unless, you have a time machine and use it to go back and learn German from the Nazis then, perhaps you may not meet great people. But I’m not judging. Greatness, like good and evil and kinky and vanilla are all subjective. But I die grass. Yes that’s a cheesy intentional typo. Because in truth language is a ridiculous nonsensical thing that is fun to play with. So play. Learn a language and butcher it, and maybe even go on to becoming a master butcher.

That’s all I’ve got for now. This ought to serve as a good introduction to someone who’s bringing the weird and hopefully the fun back to not being trapped in one hat for the rest of our short wonderful little lives.

Step 1: Buying an awesome hat

Step 1: Buy an awesome hat