Sunday, September 21, 2008

How to Learn A Foreign Language in One Hour

How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in One Hour

In his article entitled, “How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in One Hour”, author Tim Ferris (pictured) details his techniques or what he calls “deconstructing” a foreign language. His argument is that by deconstructing the foreign language main elements such as alphabet, key grammatical structures, rules of pronunciation and sentence structure, you can gain a basic understanding of just how the foreign language functions. That way you can relatively easily determine if you will be able to pursue fluency in communicating in that foreign language within a reasonable amount of time.

How to Learn Any Foreign Language

His general belief system is similar to my own in that I state in my foreign language learning techniques book entitled, “You Can Learn A Foreign Language” that if a foreign language is similar in grammar and structure or pronunciation to your own first language (L1), then it should be fairly easy to acquire using your first language as a point of reference. An example would be a native Spanish speaker learning another foreign language such as Italian, Portuguese or even French. These foreign languages are all in the same language family.

On the contrary, if the foreign language that you are considering is vastly different in structure, grammar or pronunciation to your own, then you will likely tend to have increased difficulty in acquiring that foreign language. That is not to say that you cannot learn a foreign language radically different from your own first language, but simply that learning that foreign language will have greatly increased difficulty for you in comparison to a foreign language in your first language family group.

Languages Come in Families

Languages, like people, come in families. In my book, I go into detail about language families and which foreign languages are grouped into the same ones. English, for example, is in the same language family as German – not French and Spanish as many language learners initially believe. While there are a substantial number of true word cognates between the three languages, which often can help considerably with communications, there is a distinct “caveat”. What is it, exactly? It is the presence of a considerable number of false cognates. That is to say, words which look and are spelled in similar manner but have very different meanings in the two languages.

An Anomaly of the Chinese Language

But being in the same language family can also have its problems and idiosyncrasies for unwary foreign language learners. Chinese is a good example of this. Although there are nine major “dialects” of Chinese, most of them are virtually unintelligible to speakers of the other Chinese dialects or variants. Speakers of Cantonese cannot “talk” directly to speakers of Mandarin, although they can read the written form of Mandarin since most of the dialects in Chinese have the same written form! They can easily read and understand each other’s writing, but cannot speak to one another.

Treat Language as a Sport

Author Ferris advises would-be foreign language learners to “treat language learning as a sport”. Learn the rules of the language first to determine if you’ll be able to manage it, before investing any substantial amount of time in trying to learn a foreign language which may be somewhat “out of reach” or at the very minimum, a “broad stretch” for you to acquire up to even a mediocre level. His clearly laid out and well-defined points are well taken in my opinion.

Learn a Foreign Language

Can you learn a foreign language in one hour? Normally, most certainly not. But you could do enough deconstruction of a foreign language in one hour, more or less, to determine how well or how difficult it would potentially be for you to learn that foreign language. This could definitely go a long way in helping to avoid the disappointments and frustrations of trying to learn a foreign language that was too far out of your league for easy acquisition. And that my dear potential foreign language learner, is certainly something well worth considering.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

1 comment:

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