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!

 

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Want to sound like a native?

Sure speaking correctly and understandably is probably more important for someone who’s just beginning their new language acquisition journey, but I’d like to think that everything is equally important.(And I have reasoning to back this up, but you won’t find it here yet.) If you have flawless grammar but speak french with a heavy american accent then, you’ve lost half the battle. I could be wrong, perhaps your goal was to sound like an american speaking French, but then isn’t part of the draw to a new language also the new (sexy)accent?

Many people struggle with this and I know why. Not because I’m all knowing, although I sometimes imagine that I am, but because I’ve gone through it with several languages. Whether or not this will help you in your journey to sound like you’re a native Chinese speaker or whatever language it is that you’re learning, is mostly left up to you, the scientist and experimenter. Here I offer only, the why and some potential how’s to fix this.

The problem:

1)You’re not listening to the sounds of the new language.

2)You’re trying to say words from another language through your own list of pre-ordered language sounds.

Okay, so what does this all mean and how does one fix it?

The solution:
 1) Stop trying to hear language. There is no language. (Remember the Matrix scene with the little bald boy and the spoon? Well he’s right. “There is no spoon.”) What you think is language is really just an agreed upon series and pattern of sounds, which themselves are nothing but varied vibrations that turn into electrochemical impulses in the brain.

The point of all that is, stop listening for words and stop trying to make sense of things, because then it’s as if you have a wooden box with circular and triangular holes, (these holes represent your native language.) Your new language however is made up of Circles, triangles, squares and hexagons. Excuse the rudimentary example but this serves, hopefully, to highlight what so many of us do wrong. We try to fill in the holes with things that don’t fit.

The solution continued:

2) Pretend that you’re listening to music. In the same way that you usually wouldn’t try to hear English words coming from a violin or a drum, you don’t want to try and hear words in a foreign language. Because they’re not going to be words to you for awhile. Try to only hear sounds. Get good at imitating those sounds or parts of those sounds. And one day when the sounds become words you’ll be better able to speak like a native!

 Admittedly, this is more of a teaser article, as I’m deathly sick and can’t talk without coughing, so when I’m better in a few days I’ll probably make a video discussing this in further detail and possibly offering more tips and demonstrations as to how this can work in practice.

As usual feel free to leave electronic words or open a discussion 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.