How to keep the fun in language learning!
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  • Why it must be cool!

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 Mairo Vergara 5 comments

    language-baby-coolToday I want to talk about coolness in language learning. Language is much more than a bunch of words combined in sentences and paragraphs. Language is much more than be able to ask “What time is it now?” or “Where’s the toilet?”. It’s much more than capability to say “I love you” in 24 different languages. All these things are the boring part of language learning. Language is communication. Through language we communicate and interact with people, we tell stories, we share our knowledge. Can you image ourselves without language, without being able to communicate? Almost certainly you can’t, because language is something so inherent to us, that we can’t image ourselves without it.

    As you can see, language is really important and crucial in everyone’s lives, and even when people can’t talk, they find ways of communication. But language is not only important,¬† it’s also damn cool! Why do you talk to other people? Why do you read books? Why do you watch movies and listen to music? Because it’s boring? Of course not! You do all these things for these things are cool! Because it’s interesting, because it makes you laugh, it makes you smart, it pleases you. And if you want to do it in the coolest way, you can do it in different languages! More languages mean more access to the enormous quantity of cool stuff out there. That’s why every language learner should learn English. Because English is so widespread, because there are so many English books, movies, music, articles, blogs, games, etc. To know English means to have access to all this content, to be able to watch Lost without subtitles, to be able to read zillions of super cool blogs, listen to The Beatles, and play World of Warcraft. Not that you can’t do it in other languages, but if you are serious about language learning and want to do something cool with you language skills, I highly recommend you learning your target language and also English.

    All languages give access to cool stuff. If you learn Japanese, you can watch Dragon Ball Z, if you learn French you can read Sartre, if you learn Spanish you can talk to “caliente girls” from Argentina, and so forth. Language is all about fun and cool stuff. As I once said: Cool stuff is at the core of language learning.

    The problem is that our schools, universities and institutions apparently don’t care about it and seem to turn everything in a complete boringness. C’mon! Language classes are one of the most boring things ever! You have to pretend to talk to your classmates about stem cells using the present perfect! You have to read ridiculous texts about a Michal Jackson [I like Jackson’s music, but I have no interest at all in texts about his life or career]. You have to play stupid games in order to memorize the numbers… C’mon again! I ain’t no kid! I do not learn Japanese to play kid’s games inside a classroom with my classmates! I learn Japanese because I want to hang out with my Japanese friends, watch Miyazaky’s anime and listen to Koda Kumi [also watch her]. I want the cool stuff! Not the boring crap!

    Khatzumoto, grand master from AJATT already told us all about it. In order to learn a language you have to surround yourself with the language, and of course with cool stuff in the language. One of the reasons for why I’m writing this blog is that I know it will improve my English writing skills, and also because I like to write, I like to share my ideas through the Internet and see what other people think about it. I write this blog because it’s cool and because it will improve my English. If it wasn’t cool, I probably¬†wouldn’t do it. Moreover, I don’t learn English to write this blog, I write this blog than I learn English.

    My final recommendation for this post is: look for the cool stuff! It varies: some people like music, some people like to read. The important is to find out what you find cool, what you’re are willing to do/read/listen/watch. Just remember the simple rule: if it’s cool, if you want it, and if it’s in your target language, then it’s for you. Now you just have to find tons of cool stuff. The more cool stuff you have, the more you are going to do/read/listen/watch it, therefore the more you are going to learn.

  • What’s the best method to learn a foreign language?

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 Mairo Vergara 1 comment

    languageDuring these last years I have been learning a lot about language learning. Although at the university they seem to care more about language teaching, if you check out the Internet or ask language learners out there you will find out that what really matters is learning. It’s all about learning and how to do it, how to learn a language. Once you know how, you just do it, without further questions. There are many methods, many ways in which one can learn a language. We are, naturally, always looking for the best method, the fastest way, the easiest path to mastering English, Japanese, Spanish, whateverish…

    In fact, there are good and bad methods. Take language schools for instance; Language schools, when combined with poor teachers, can be amazingly awful. I’m not saying all schools are bad, but you probably know that guy who spent years and years learning English (or any other language) at that school and ended up not being able to maintain a basic conversation or read the newspaper in English. On the other hand, good methods when used wrong can produce poor results. Some methods can be too hardcore for our simple minds, although we know the method itself really works, we just can’t follow/do it.

    In the end, what you should know, what you should (at least you should…) notice by yourself is that there isn’t A SINGLE METHOD for language learning. Each student has to find his own method, his own way of learning. Of course, this isn’t an easy thing to do. I have been studying languages on and off for about 7 years, and still don’t know what kind of study suits me better. I know some things work and some don’t, but to find out exactly what does work isn’t that easy.

    All methods have good and bad points, so what you have to do is notice the good points and use them in your own way. As I said, each one has his own method of learning, so maybe what works for you isn’t going to work for me, but you still have to check it out, try it out. Take a look at AJATT, learning about exposure, RSS and 10000 hours of hard-work. Check out Steve Kaufmann’s ideas on language learning, and try his system “LingQ“. Watch YouTubes from professor Arguelles and Stu Jay. Go to a language school near your house. Write something on Lang-8. Try out Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, Assimil, etc. There are many, MANY, methods for language learning. None of them will ever be THE METHOD. Lisa can learn 10 languages using only Assimil, Thania can learn the same using AJATT method, and Claudia can learn just going to classes. Of course I’m being a bit theatrical, but I just want to show that there isn’t one method that rules over all others. Your method will probably be a combination of many methods. That’s why you have to try out different approaches, and once you find out your way, stick to it and keep going!

    If you work hard on it, you probably will not only find out which learning methods and strategies suit you better, but you also will start to notice some universal principles about language learning. The average language learner, who usually follows just one methods (like many English teachers here in Brazil who have taught English using the same method for more than 20 years), will probably not learn these principles and, therefore, become kind of limited when it comes to how to learn a language. The union of knowing the principles of language learning and what study methods and strategies suit you better is certainly the best method (your best method!). You just have to find it out!