How to Learn Any Language

How to learn any Language

There are many theories of how we as humans learn languages, and going through all the data it seems to come down to two key ideas:

  1. You can't learn what you don't understand.
  2. You can't repeat what you can't hear.

The good thing being an adult is that unlike babies, we already have some serious cognitive development that's already taken place.

1. Learn to Listen

Spoken language fluency is all about sound.  Some people, despite studying a language for years, still struggle to just follow what's going on in a normal conversation.

Stop trying to listen to words in isolation, or translate through your mother tongue. You won't understand it if you can't hear it, and you can't hear it if you don't know how to hear sounds and meaningfully represent them internally.

Train your ear to hear sounds outside of the framework of your mother tongue - and then learn to repeat these sounds without the influence of the muscle memory of your mother tongue. IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) is the perfect tool for this. Understanding even just a few of the basics will open your ears up to a whole new world of sound and this is why it's introduced from Day 1 in Mindkraft.

2. Learn to Imitate Sounds and Rhythms

I'm not talking about accent. I'm talking about making the right sounds, and delivering the language with natural rhythms.  Once you can hear sounds using tools like IPA, the next step is to try to reproduce them faithfully, initially consciously making an effort to not just use your mother tongue's version of that letter.  Any language's sounds fit together with each other like a glove.  When you mix sound systems, that's when you sound foreign and un-natural, and the rhythms just won't flow in native speakers' ears and they'll have trouble following you.

Check out this young guy's Thai and Mandarin

3. Watch Movies with Subtitles

Yes, I was told when I was little that we should watch movies without subtitles on so that we get used to hearing the language. This might be true if you are two years old, but subtitles can be a powerful learning tool when you're older. First run through a movie with your mother-tongue's subtitles to understand the framework of the movie, then watch it again in your target language's subtitles. As you're doing this, another powerful tool is 'shadowing' what they say - that is, you mimic everything - what they say and the way they say it.

4. Record Yourself Speaking

Start talking to yourself. Record it, play it back, and fix what you don't like until you sound normal. The good news is that once you train your ears to hear outside of your mother tongue, you start to get very good at self-correcting.

Maybe if you have friends who speak that language; ask them to make a comment. You need to be careful as to whose language you model yours on. If your goal is to sound like Queen Elizabeth, asking Travis from Texas might not serve you well. If you're looking to do business with a certain crowd in a foreign country, you'll want to learn language from people who speak like them.

Many people learn too late that it's much more difficult to unlearn something that has been learnt incorrectly, rather than to learn the right way from the get go.

5. Build your Own Learning Resources - Get Authentic Language

Apps don't teach you language - you learn language from exposure. Where before, there were just newspapers and magazines, now with all of our communication having gone digital, that data is available to us to use for our own learning benefit.

Learning a little bit of tech to take your learning a long way. With just some basic HTML and CSS, you can even make your own bilingual texts and glossaries from all of these sources, and even speech and spaced repetition files to help get the language into your muscles and your subconscious.

In this clip, you can see how Stuart Jay Raj collects all the tweets from one day in Jakarta, remotely, then analyses the colloquial language to make learning resources to teach him the 'spoken' language that people are using on the streets - and even learn what topics people like to speak about.

Finally, Find yourself a community of like-minded people who have their sights set on fluency.  One perfect place to start is the Mindkraft Discord Server group.

If this article has resonated with you, you'd probably love the Mindkraft Course Syllabus.  Click the link below to check it out.

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