The thought of learning and speaking a new language can be exciting and yet daunting at the same time. Millions around the world have done it. However there’s millions also that are struggling, even though they want to learn so badly.
Nowadays it is an essential skill, especially at work, to speak multiple languages. Not only does it demonstrate to others that you can communicate in their language, but also that you’ve dedicated yourself and showed discipline by learning the language. The act of learning the language itself is a skill to be noted and recognized.
Just some of the many reasons why people fail to learn another language:
“It’s too overwhelming.” The thought of an entire language can seem too much.
“It’s too difficult.” Some people are just bewildered by seeing written texts or the language being spoken.
“Don’t have the time.” People are busy. Time is of precious value. Priorities take hold.
“Takes too long.” Persistency doesn’t work well with some people. Or they could be trying incorrect methods to learn hence being unproductive in their approach to learning a language.
Loss of interest. They were learning, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it had somehow taken a backseat, or even forgotten about altogether.
What if learning a language wasn’t so difficult, overwhelming, and time consuming?
In 2013 I spent a year as a participant in the Asialink Leader’s Program. This program allows leader’s in various professional fields to initiate projects that engage and build Asia and Australia relations.
As a ‘memory guy’ I knew exactly the project I wanted to do, which was to apply memory techniques to learning the Chinese Mandarin language in the most effective and efficient way possible.
I couldn’t just open any book on Mandarin and start to memorize. I had to develop a plan, just like how I memorized two Yellow Pages phone books, in order to create the learning program.
The overarching principles were;
1. Develop the memory strategy
2. Find the suitable memory techniques
3. Develop the learning program incorporating the techniques.
My project helped me develop a template for not just learning Chinese Mandarin, but any language. And the cool part is that anyone can learn to speak in a month. Yes, a month to speak the language. Here’s how.
Many people out there believe we need to learn and memorize a certain number of words to be able to learn and speak a language. While this may be true in one sense, it makes no sense to memorize hundreds, even thousands of words to think you’ll learn a language.
This is because words on their own are out of context and meanings can differ in various situations. When we were children our parents spoke to us in phrases like ‘come here’, ‘hello how are you?’, and ‘what the hell do you think you’re doing?’. (Okay the last one was inspired by my wife yelling at my three year old).
We picked up our mother tongue by learning phrases that were repeated over and over again. So it makes sense for us to memorize phrases instead of individual words. The trick here is that memory techniques help us bridge the gap of repetition, enabling you to learn much faster, with better longer term recognition.
Memorizing phrases can help us put things into context and get us speaking a lot quicker than learning individual words. An added bonus of memorizing phrases is that it allows you to learn the word in context, which is much more effective. The concept is thus — the more phrases you memorize, the more you will be able to speak the language.
Below is an example of how to memorize a phrase in Chinese Mandarin. For those who are new to memory techniques I suggest you read my article on memory principles to give you further knowledge and insight.
Using the Yellow Elephant Memory Model we have the below:
1. The abstract (phrase) — nǐ hǎo ma — How are you?
2. The images — nǐ (knee) hǎo (how) ma (ma — as in mother)
3. The association story — You hit your ‘knee’ on the table and started to scream in pain. You hear a voice behind you asking you the question, ‘Howww’ did you do that? You turn around and see that it was your ‘ma’ to which she then asks, ‘How are you?’.
Try and visualize the story, feel the pain and the sounds around you. Do this right and you won’t need to repeat phrases over and over a hundred times to learn them. A simple association with some emotion will reduce the time significantly and you will be on your merry way to learn any language in record time.