As an American, I’m embarrassed by our serious inability to speak languages. It’s not our fault that the North American continent is a predominantly English language continent and Europe is a predominantly multi-lingual continent. But I’m embarrassed nonetheless whenever I hear people from a different country forgiving Americans for not understanding their language or stumbling through their customs like a rhino on a rampage. It’s sad that even with a bachelor’s degree in any language, we can hardly make claims to “know” a language other than English. That’s why, based on the teachings and concepts of Barry Farber and A.G. Hawke, I came up with this 30-day language challenge. I don’t think it’s impossible or improbably to assume that given the right motivation and right materials, one could, within 30 days, learn a new language. Obviously, no one can become a “Native” speaker of any language they aren’t a native speaker of, but I believe that within 30 days, any person with a sound mind and clear focus, could learn enough of any language to be beyond the help of any “100-level” or “First Year” college language course. I’m inspired by the amount of language advertisements I’ve seen on the internet these days to take on this challenge myself to prove it.
I speak Japanese and Korean, though the skills have atrophied in recent years because I haven’t been back to Japan or Korea since 2010. I have tried my hand at Mandarin, Indonesian and Russian. Russian was pretty hard, but I can still remember the basic greetings, “Sto” and a smattering of other vocabulary. Indonesian is worse, but when looking at it, it comes back to me quickly, only to leave quickly again. Mandarin is a bit better, but my tones still suck.
I just finished a Masters of Arts in International Conflict Management and I’m now 32 years old. It’s hard to believe that I came up with this challenge 5 years ago, but hey, time flies. I still agree with my perspective 5 years ago, so I left the intro above. But at 32, engaged, and an Advanced Degree Graduate, I’m a different person. I’m a Freemason and I do believe in charity. So I offer the world my thoughts on learning languages.
The program that I compiled works like this: Follow the rules, study often, overwhelm your brain, and become a speaker in 30 days. It requires a series of materials and a serious effort –no slackers accepted. Here’s what I (you) need for the program to work:
- Coursebook in the target language (“Teach yourself Chinese,” etc.)
- Grammar book for the target language
- Dictionary for the target language
- Phrase book for the target language (Both Farber and Hawke recommend Berlitz)
- Blank 3x5 cards
- Language CD/MP3’s
- A Quick Reference sheet
- Newspaper or Magazine
- Interactive Computer programs to do instead of computer games
- Movies and music in the target language
- Highlighter pens
Rules for learning the language
- Never take a day off
- Utilize all hidden moments to review 3x5 cards
- Set aside at least 30 clear minutes a day to update your 3x5 cards on the language or to read more lesson from your book
- Study a few vocabulary words from the previous day each morning when you wake
- Study a few vocabulary words from the day before going to sleep each night
- Use Harry Lorayne's magic memory aid - Tell a story to remember the words your studying. Ex. In Indonesia, my family all lives in one roomah. (Rumma=Family)
- Study words together with opposites, it's easy to remember (hot/cold, etc.)
- Pick conversations with other speakers of the language like drunks pick fights (with gusto)
- Use Word-Denial games (Don't let yourself have dessert until you can remember a word, etc.)
- Don't study profanity, but do study idiomatic phrases
- Keep it simple at first, don't try to outpace yourself by knowing words like "megalomaniac."
- Try to find a community within your town that speaks the target language natively (or close) and find reasons to hang out with them (go to their restaurant, etc.)
- Choose to listen to the target language music instead of your own when listening to music. Better yet, choose to listen and interact with the language audio instead of music
- Remember to interact with language audio, none of them work without interaction
- Watch Target Language movies instead of American films when watching movies
- For the first 30 days, live, breath, and eat your target language
So, for the next 30 days, I’m going to blog a day at a time, just to show the progress someone who doesn’t know a language would go through. Check back daily to see the progress.