The tyranny of the written word

This post is about how reading and writing in a second language before being able to speak it can cause problems, why those problems happen, and how to avoid them.

In traditional foreign language courses, reading is one of the first things that students are taught. It’s not uncommon for the first few lessons of a beginner’s language class to introduce the sounds of the letters in that particular language or the alphabet of the language in the case it uses a different one. It seems very logical to do so. You need to know the letters to be able to use any kind of textbook, which, after all, is what you’re in school for, right?

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You’re not stupid

I don’t think most people believe themselves to be stupid. So why is it then that we treat ourselves as if we were stupid when we are trying to learn a foreign language? We do that by seeking an explanation for every detail of the grammar, a translation for every word, as well as explanations of when and how to use those words.

In this post I talk about how the brain is a really good pattern-finding machine. It is perfectly able to learn a language without us having to spoon-feed everything to it in the form of grammar rules and translations.

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The Mythical Visual Learner

Can you learn a language visually? Imagine that you listened to audio recordings of Picasso while he was painting his masterpieces. Imagine that the sound was detailed enough that you could hear every brush stroke. Could you ever become a good painter by just listening to those recordings? No way! Why do we think that the opposite is true? Why do we believe that we can learn to speak a foreign language by looking at the written word?

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How to play a foreign language

Would you teach a child how to swim by having the child read a book about swimming? I doubt it. Different abilities require completely different approaches to learning. In this post, I’m going to talk about the differences between becoming fluent in a foreign language and learning other abilities, and why insisting on applying concepts that belong to other abilities is preventing us from learning foreign languages as well as we could.

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Be a child

Adults can’t learn a language as well as children can. Everybody knows that, right? Lots of research papers “prove” that after a certain age we can’t learn grammar and pronunciation to the same level as a native speaker (nevermind that nobody seems to agree on what that age is). Well, I beg to differ. In this post I’m going to discuss why  both popular belief and all that research are a result of flawed reasoning and how adults can learn a language as well and as effortlessly as children. Here’s a clue: be a child.

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Language education is broken

In this post I’m going to share some observations that I made while learning foreign languages. These observations contradict the common beliefs, as I found out that that we don’t need to study grammar rules, to practice speaking or writing, or to get corrections. This realization is what brought me to try to find alternative learning methods and alternative explanations to the different phenomena encountered by language learners.

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