The 3 S’s. (Reading, Singing and Speaking.)

Okay so clearly there aren’t three S’s, but I kind of wanted to call it that anyway, because reading is arguable a type of seeing, so it’s close enough in my own abstract way.

These are the basics. Ideally you should be doing all three of these, everyday. If you can’t then at least one of these. But realistically, if you don’t have time to listen to (and preferably sing along with) one song a day, read a few sentences and say some words either via text or, or dare you pick up the phone and call a friend…then perhaps you shouldn’t be learning a language, because it sounds like you don’t even have 5-10 minutes to yourself everyday, so you might want to figure out what’s going on and then maybe consider doing one of the three while you’re pooping.

Reading is immensely beneficial in developing, literacy and grammar, without actually studying grammar or doing grammar drills. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSW7gmvDLag  . (Also I should note that I’m not against studying grammar, I just find that it is often better served as a peripheral material or something to be examined in depth once you’ve reached a certain point in comprehension.)

Singing, is perhaps something that’s overlooked in it’s power. I attribute my French accent to having come about after learning to sing along with several French songs that I found interesting. Key point being that it was interesting, and I really enjoyed the sounds of the song as well as the lyrics.

Interest: This is something that needs to be present in all of your language learning aspects as soon as possible and as often as possible. If you’ve got boring content, you’re going to be bored and not want to continue doing something everyday for several months. I find it’s especially important in Reading.

With singing and learning how to sing along with songs, I’d even say that in the early phases complete comprehension is not necessary. There are several songs that I know in Japanese and can sing along to and only have a vague idea of what I’m saying, but often times as I progress in my study, more of the song is unlocked, or when I have a day where I’m bored I’ll actively look up more of the song, but not more than I can eat! As was mentioned in my last post.

If you’re like most people you probably tell yourself that language is language. But you’re wrong. In my opinion, you are anyway. Language is just incomprehensible gibberish sound. Until you attribute meaning. Too often, people who struggle with accents or pronunciation do so, I believe, because they’re trying to say language sounds, using the languages they already know. But forget all that. Just hear it as sound. Think of the way you might try to imitate an animal sound, like a dog barking or a guitar, twanging, you’re not going to give the dog an English or French accent, if you’re half decent at imitating, and I postulate that we all are, because we learned at least one language so far.

Another bonus to singing, is that you get practice speaking faster than you may be ready to, which can in turn help you later on or even currently, because you’re becoming more accustomed to the new way of moving your mouth and to producing new sounds.

And that brings us to the last aspect. Speaking doesn’t always have to be spoken, so long as you’re doing the other 2, it’s acceptable to miss this on occasion, the important thing that I’ve found, is to be producing comprehensible output, even if it’s only two sentences or half sentences. If you’re taking in stuff, eventually you’re going to have stuff that you’d like to express.

Some argue that you need to start speaking right away, other’s suggest waiting a certain amount of time, I think you should do what feels right. But speaking/writing is pretty high up there and I do think it’s better to start sooner rather than later, at least if you plan on ever speaking and being understood by native speakers.
So what’s important? Reading, singing and speaking in your target language. Are there other important aspects? Obviously. Otherwise I would only have one post ever. Along with listening to content, i.e television shows or podcasts as often as possible, I don’t go a day without hitting all of these three aspects. And if you’re serious about being serious then take yourself less seriously, but don’t forget to learn.  Learning when done well is fun and pain free, unless you’re learning how to enjoy sado-masochism, then you might experience some pain…
Until then.

 

 

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Only take what you can eat

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If you’re anything like ルフィ(Luffy), then you can eat a lot and of course you’re made of rubber and want to become the Pirate King. Or maybe you’re lacking the last two traits. Either way this awesome gif is food related and language relevant.

Most people don’t feel accomplished unless they’re fitting into the stereotypical media promoted study habit model, where you’re hunched over a desk with papers and computer and books scattered everywhere, working frantically for hours. (Yes, I did just say that there is computer scattered everywhere. No, that’s not what I meant. But on occasion, I refuse to kill my darlings.)

Anyway the point is simple and coated in sugar like almost everything we eat.

Only study what you can take in.

In terms of applying this to language learning, it means two things.

Thing A: Read or work with materials that you can understand, for the most part. You do want there to be a little bit of a challenge. But if you’re new to a language, don’t start out trying to read an epic novel or abstract poetry. Start with something interesting to you and something written simply.

Thing 2nd: You’re not going to learn 2,000 words in one day in the same turn you’re not going to always immediately understand everything that’s written on a given page, but if you’re following along, keep going! Don’t stress over remembering everything. Because you’re going to forget.

Fear not noble strugglers! The more you begin to understand the general concepts the more pieces will fit together, meaning, more connections, more context, easier to remember.

 

Part B of Thing 2nd:If you try to eat each grain of rice individually it’s going to take you longer to get full and you’ll probably get bored and walk away without having eaten much.

-The End of Things-(but not this post)

Sure you could learn some pretty awesome ways to improve your memory and most of them work, but if you’re lazy like most humans and you have no intention of changing your lazy status, then this works too. It may take a little longer, but it works for busy (lazy) people.

But really what I’m saying is don’t binge, don’t cram. Just enjoy. Maybe Luffy is binging and cramming, but he’s also made of rubber and in the show it somehow works. If you read five pages in your target language and you start to think about other things or you find yourself staring at the same page for 10 minutes, then put the book down. Not forever. That’s a long time and kind of hard to measure. Come back to it when you’re hungry.

Share your language learning struggles/achievements below!

 

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.

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.