Archive for the 'Language' Category

So, You Want to Learn a Language?

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

You can learn (but not master) any language in one hour or less. Don’t believe me? Well, that’s what Tim Ferriss says. He says most language learners neglect the most critical first step in learning a new language: deconstruction. He claims that the fastest language learners deconstruct the language they want to learn before they start memorizing lists of vocab words. His reasoning is that for native speakers of a particular language to learn some languages might be very easy, while others might be nearly impossible.

I took an intro to Linguistics course in Southern California and the instructor also happened to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Most of his students were Japanese students who wanted to learn English, so they enrolled in student exchange programs. My Linguistics instructor and Ferriss both point out that Japanese and Mexican Spanish have very similar sets of sounds (phonemes) in their languages. Many students would become frustrated learning English and wound up learning Spanish from other students at the college.

Treat Language like a sport. If you are very short, you might have more work to do to be a successful basketball player. The same holds for languages that are very different from those you already speak. Learn how to deconstruct a language first so you know what you’re getting yourself into.