Often I’ll see an article or blog post that promises to share with me the “top tips” to “do this or that”. I’ll read it, hoping to come away with a small skill or an improved insight, and invariably come away with nothing. Five minutes later, I can’t even recall what the subject matter was. Was it about essential knots? Anyway…the post linked above is not one of those, and her first tip, to ALWAYS have audio with your study sessions, is something I think you’ve started to notice in my study posts. I’ve worked hard to cue up material that has you and I putting on our head phones, and really listening to the native speakers.
I had a HUGE problem with French pronunciation because of my English brain, and it started because I was able to cruise through Duolingo French relying on my visual conversions of the French language and my ability to “ballpark” an answer, based on my highly developed test taking capabilities. I flew through the course in 74 days and that worked against me in the long run.
As strange as this may seem, it was my recent study of my fifth language, Korean, that completely shifted the way I approach language study. When faced with Hangul, although I could dissect the limited symbols used, it took me multiple stages to convert the symbols into sounds, in my head. This was very frustrating and I realized why Asian languages are so difficult for Western minds to learn (and vise-versa). As I worked through Korean, I started to avoid the symbols and instead focused on the sounds of the language. I have never LISTENED so hard to a language before, and this changed the way I listened to French, Italian, German and Spanish. I had an epiphany. The clouds parted, the fog lifted, yada, yada, yada.
When I listened to podcasts, news programs, audio-books, and songs, I stopped relying on the scripts, and allowed my mind to really listen to the material. I started feeling that I was able to flow with the sequenced sounds I was hearing, in every language, and I was able to mimic them like never before. It was almost like I was transforming into a recording device that was no longer imparting a visual connection to the words associated with what was being said. I started to treat languages as GROUPS of sounds and not sentences constructed of individual words.
The remaining eleven tips are also worth reading, so I’ll leave you to it. I just wanted to share a language learning experience with you today. I also want to propose that reading and speaking a language are as different as taking a picture and drawing: