There are no true shortcuts to learning a language to fluency. But there could be far more efficient and enjoyable ways to get there.
Several years ago when I was learning Chinese, I encountered a guy at a language meetup.
He had lived in Taiwan and spoke fluent Mandarin.
As I remember it, he remarked that the vast majority of foreigners in Taiwan failed to learn the language.
He also said that the people there wouldn’t understand you if your pronunciation was even slightly off—even with very common words in their language like numbers.
I remarked that all these failures and difficulties pointed to a need for better resources to support language learning.
“You’re looking for a shortcut,” he told me with what sounded like a hint of annoyance.
I tried to explain that I was looking for better opportunities to learn languages—not so much a shortcut.
“And I’m telling you there isn’t one,” he reiterated.
He said that you had to put in the time and effort, and there was no way around it.
I am putting in the time and effort, I protested; I am listening to Chinese.
Continue reading “Looking For a Shortcut?”
Crosstalk is a term for multilingual communication where each person speaks their own language, using non-verbal tools as needed to make themselves understood.
It can be used to implement the Automatic Language Growth approach to language learning, which theorizes that adults can learn languages as well and as effortlessly as children do if they learn them like children—by picking them up through experience instead of study, and listening and understanding before speaking much.
Dr. J. Marvin Brown, the originator of ALG, found the adult propensity to try to speak a new language before having a sufficient foundation of listening experience to be responsible for many of the problems adult language learners face, such as pronunciation difficulties and “broken” grammar.
Seeing the pressure his students faced to speak from early on, Brown developed Crosstalk as a way for them to gain more listening experience and communicate with speakers of the target language without having to speak it themselves.
Continue reading “My experiences using Crosstalk to learn Mandarin Chinese”
When discussing language learning and input-based approaches like Automatic Language Growth (ALG), I encounter many people who insist that you need to have someone correcting you in order to learn to speak a language properly, especially if it’s a “difficult” one like Thai or Mandarin that has tones and other features that don’t exist in English.
They are often quite adamant about the need for instruction and constant correction and can’t seem to conceive of an adult learner being able to pronounce a language correctly without study and practice.
In my experience, it is possible even as an adult to learn to speak a language pretty clearly, to say the least, without any explicit instruction or practice.
Continue reading “Is correction needed to learn to speak a language well?”