Top 10 Ways NOT to Start Learning a New Language

In an effort to assist any learner of any language get started in their exploration of said language, here is a list of the top 10 ways not to go about beginning your studies.   This list has been formed out of 10 ways that I tried to learn new languages but then failed epically.  May you not make the same mistakes that I did.

Easy Language?

Easy Language?

10) Easy Phrase Books. Unless you intend to kill your desire to learn any language right from the start, I suggest you steer clear of such books as these.  Books that offer 101 easy phrases in ____________ (insert language here) are sure ways to get frustrated and give up.  The content is often scattered and colloquial, filled with phrases that are at a level far beyond that of the beginner or even intermediate learner.  I have picked up books in Japanese and even Spanish and been befuddled as to the content.  Oftentimes, such everyday phrases are so wrapped in complex grammar structures and vernacular that there is no way that any learner could actually learn any of the individual parts.  For example, in Spanish

Could you speak more slowly? Puedes hablar más despacio, por favor?

If you speak Spanish already, you don’t count.  Please take a minute to imagine yourself completely incapable of any expression in Spanish, and your pronunciation is horrible.  How can you be expected to learn anything (as a beginner) from such a phrase?  The book this was from has no explanation on what any of the words mean, nor is there an explanation on conjugation of verbs etc.  It is a dead-end for language learning.


Language Absorbtion

Language Absorbtion

9) Repetitive Drama/Cartoon Viewing. I once had a friend who, in his attempt to learn Japanese, watched anime…a lot of anime.  In fact, he had so convinced himself that he could learn Japanese simply by listening and absorbing the language that he watched over 100 episodes of Naruto or One Piece before he decided to call it quits.  What was his result?  Very basic listening skills at best, and right next to zero comprehension when it came to grammar and building his own unique sentences.  Though, admittedly, his vocabulary was okay (unfortunately limited to such phrases as found in cartoons, however.) Continue reading

Teaching vs. Playing: Classroom Techniques

Everyone is a Teacher, Student.

Everyone is a Teacher, Student.

Several weeks ago I was informed quite to my pleasure that amongst all the teachers and all the classes at my middle school, I had been voted (by the students) as the favorite.  I was, of course, flattered by their kind words and humbled to be so warmly welcomed in such a short amount of time but I could not help but wonder why it was that I was chosen and whether or not it was actually desirable to be so.

Given, there is not much more rewarding and motivating as praise from your peers for your good work.  To me, the worthy and sincere congratulations and appreciation from others is better and more self-satisfying than my paycheck–especially on those sour Mondays or long Wednesdays.  Yet this was something different.  I was not chosen by my peers as the best teacher in Sindorim Middle school, I was chosen by the students.

In college I remember one such professor that all the students admired (and still do) who was formally known as Professor Ackerman (though he preferred to be called simply by his first name) who won similar recognition from us students when I was a senior.  All of the students adored him!  We were positively enthralled to see him anywhere on campus, he was always volunteering and participating in student-let activities, in the classroom he always maintained a high energy level and even managed to remember every single student by name (and he had quite a few students!) Yet, when it comes to what I learned in class I will admit, and not a bit proudly, that my reports and final marks were quite mediocre.  Despite his enthusiasm and personable character, I found it easier to be his buddy so to speak and talk with him as such rather than as a professor.

Then what is the objective of being a teacher? Continue reading