We all like the idea of learning a new language, but the time and effort involved can be off-putting. Gabriel Wyner, who wrote our previous post on learning languages as quickly as possible, has revised his method to help you learn faster and better retain what you learn.
The key difference with this round of refinements is that there is a greater focus on remembering your chosen language long term. Previously, Gabriel focused on pronunciation, but this time he encourages you to “hear” sounds in the new language the way a native speaker would pronounce them. As Gabriel says: “How could I remember a word like tyúk (hen) if I can’t even hear the sounds in it, let alone repeat them aloud?”
From there, you can use flashcards to learn the spelling, pronunciation and meaning of the basic words that offer a grounding in just about any language. Use Google Image searches to create visual links between words and their meanings. Gabriel offers a new trick for remembering gendered words too:
If any of you have studied a language with grammatical gender, you know how much of a pain it can be trying to remember whether chairs are supposed to be masculine, feminine or neuter. Some of the friendlier languages may give you clues — perhaps masculine nouns usually end in ‘o’ — but those clues aren’t always trustworthy. So what can you do?
There’s a simple way to make abstract information like grammatical gender stick. Use mnemonic imagery, and for this particular case, use vivid, visualizable verbs. Make your masculine nouns burst into flame, your feminine nouns melt into a puddle, and neuter nouns shatter into a thousand razor-sharp shards. You’ll find that mnemonic imagery like this makes gender extremely easy to memorize, right from the start.
Learning grammar is pushed back to the third stage of this new learning technique. Again, there is a visual approach to this, which helps with long term retention. The final stage is the most flexible, and essentially involves taking things as far as you want to — learning new words, tailoring your vocabulary to certain tasks, speaking, and becoming “fluent”. Gabriel is quick to point out that fluency need not mean talking like a native:
Fluency in speech is not the ability to know every word and grammatical formation in a language; it’s the ability to use whatever words and grammar you know to say whatever’s on your mind. When you go to a pharmacy and ask for “That thing you swallow to make your head not have so much pain,” or “The medicine that makes my nose stop dripping water” — THAT is fluency. As soon as you can deftly dance around the words you don’t know, you are effectively fluent in your target language.
Click the link to Gabriel’s post on Tim Ferriss’ blog for a full rundown of the revised learning methods. He has managed to learn six new languages in this way, and it could work for you too.
How to Learn Any Language in Record Time and Never Forget It [The Blog of Tim Ferriss]