Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How can you start speaking a new language quickly?

Really easy, open your mouth and speak. I mean, you don't need to care about understanding the language or even correct pronunciation, to "speak a language"... now, people don't usually mean that.

If you want people to actually understand you, you need to practice a little in the "repeat after me"way. There's plenty of places where native language speakers say words and sentences for you to parrot.

If you want to be a bit more than a parrot - or an actor who learned e's lines by heart - it is necessary to actually also learn what it means that comes from your mouth.

If you want to be able to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in another language than your mothertongue... it won't happen quickly.

There is no magic pill that makes you go from "I no spiik inglis" to advanced fluency in a week or so.
It is actually possible... to some extend ;-)

No, you won't master a language in a week or a month.
If you never sleep, it takes about a year.
If you sleep, it takes two years.
If you study about 8 hours every day, weekends included, it will take about 3 years
If you study 4 hours every day, it will take about 6 years.

The good news are that you don't need that kind of mastery of a language to be able to "manage" using the language.  :-D
Just look at Benny Lewis. One can disagree about what is "fluent", but the thing is that he can manage. One can question his vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, width, but what cannot be questioned is that he is actually speaking the language. He has a good base to build on, if he wants to improve his language skills.

This is actually important. YOU DON'T NEED TO BE FLUENT.

I mean... I can walk. I wouldn't win any prizes for my speed or style or anything, but I can walk.
I can sing. I wouldn't sell any records or break any records either, I wouldn't be able to teach anyone to sing,or so, but I can sing.
I can ride a bicycle. I wouldn't manage to mountainbike a steep hill, probably not even ride down a hill on good road without breaking or falling, my balance is awful. But I know how to ride a bicycle.
So - languages... can anyone really claim mastery in second and third language or are all of us "just learning"?
I know a lot Finnish, Swedish and English, and a little Danish, Norwegian, French, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, German, Italian, Spanish, Maltese, Albanian...:-D

How much is "a little"?

There is a Finnish song in which the lyrics are:
Osaan sanoa kymmenellä kielellä kiitos,
osaan hyvää uutta vuotta toivottaa
Mutta aamuöisin loistavaa tähteä en kiinni saa."

I know how to say thank you in 10 languages,
I know how to wish happy new year,
but I can't catch  the star shining in the "morning night" (the hours when it's no longer night but not yet morning. I don't know if that time has a name in English.)

I do know. I can also count to ten in several languages :-D I can wish not only happy new year, but good morning, good day and good night as well.

You know, my definition of "knowing a language" is being able to do what one wants to do with the language. If one wants to read books in original language, that has one set of skills and requirements. If one wants to sosialize and make friends all over the planet, that's another set of skills. That is why it is so important to DEFINE YOUR GOALS FIRST. You could easily ignore whole parts of a language if it isn't that essential for your goal. People who just read and write, don't need to be that particular about pronunciation, people who just talk everyday stuff with friends don't need to know much grammar, and so on.

Things I find fascinating might not be that to others. I love grammar and parsing languages, I love etymology and the little whys behind idioms. I like writing paper flashcards and using them. I like color co-ordinating things :-D So that's what I do.

Bah. Now I'm just babbling. I'll go and watch some Kdrama :-D

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