The plateau of language learning. A term so often mentioned that few would dare questioning it. In this post I’m going to try to uncover its nature, explain why it is not what many believe it to be, and how knowing that can help us avoid it entirely.
I realize that I often mention Crosstalk in my blog, but I haven’t really explained what it is. Unfortunately, until now there was no other website where you could get a comprehensive explanation of what it is and how to do it. This is that explanation.
I first learnt about Crosstalk when studying at the AUA School in Bangkok, and it quickly became one of my favorite ways to learn a language. In total, I’ve spent around 700 hours doing it, so let me tell you about my experience with it.
Learning a foreign language is an amazing endeavor and something that can be very rewarding. Especially once you are able to do things like going to the country and mingle with the locals, watching a humor TV show and understand the jokes, or have a conversation with an authentic geisha.
It can however seem a daunting task. Many people, after years of studying, still struggle to have a free-flowing conversation, understand native speakers talking to one another, or have strong accents that make their communication difficult.
In this post I’m going to talk about the factors that I’ve found over the years to contribute to successful language learning. These principles have been designed to allow anybody to make steady progress towards their language learning goal. They’ve proven to hold true both for myself and for most people I’ve met who reached really high levels in a foreign language, including speaking fluently without hesitation, and a clear pronunciation close to that of a native speaker.
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?
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.
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?
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.