I had forgotten how hard it is to learn a language and just how much Korean and Japanese I actually know.
You see when I’m writing to you here in English, I’m not thinking in Japanese, and no Korean words are popping up in my head either. It’s only the reflexes of English that have been trained into my head since I was born that spew out onto this blog post.
If you were to acquire a new language how would you do it? Let me reiterate this again. It can’t be stated enough. You have to get this concept in your head:
Is Translation Bad?
I will say this. Understanding through translation counts. If you were to review a bunch of vocabulary through flashcards with translation or pictures, you would understand the message. That will work. And sometimes that’s a necessity. Especially for higher concept words. It’s also the quickest way to understanding. You can reinforce the responses through experience later, right?
For example, you might need a strong foundation of Japanese before you could understand the word “悪循環” (vicious circle). Although with Japanese if you understand the meaning of those Kanji, you could probably figure it out. However, if you heard it “あくじゅんかん” you might have a harder time understanding without a dictionary. You’d need a lot of good context.
The point is, sometimes translation is the quickest way to understanding messages for most adult learners.
Building a strong base of working vocabulary first however, it much better than trying to reach out to those fancy newspaper words all the time. Why? Because if you know the word “あくじゅんかん” try using it in conversation. I’m not talking about “それは悪循環です” (That is a vicious circle). I’m talking about all of the context the precedes it. All of the stuff you should understand before you get to use that expression.
You can build a base through programmed learning.
Some people might call this “Deep Learning” as opposed to “Wide Learning.” Though that’s not necessarily true.
Programmed learning is training yourself for responses.
The way it works is, you start from very basic words and phrases and build yourself up through repetition and training. You get positive or negative feedback depending on your response. Just like as you were a kid, you got positive or negative responses from your parents if you said something good or bad. You train your responses with questions and practice. As long as you understand the phrases and what’s being said, you are on your way to fluency.
You can do this with computers too. There are some software programs that do this fairly well.
Pimsleur is good too. Notice how if you train your mind with Pimsleur Audio the native speakers will think you know a lot more (vocabulary) than you actually do. There are limitations. Eventually you’ll need to acquire vocabulary through narrow listening and extensive reading.
But I think the personal attention you might get with a Tutor on Skype is better.
There are many ways of learning that I’ve mentioned in previous posts that all do this “Deep learning.”
Here are some of my favorites:
Watching Kid’s shows
I started learning French on Thursday when I discovered a video from Christophe Clugston about the best way to learn French. He recommends getting the whole package and attending a class to get the full benefit, but I am just watching the videos that were shown on PBS.
It’s a really cool immersion program put on by a professor of French at Yale University filmed in the late 1980’s. So far so good. There are 52 episodes. I plan on watching one or two of them a day. They are 30 minute long episodes. You can find them here: French in Action