Fluent Forever – Gabriel Wyner
Learning a new language.
Five principles of memory
- Make memories more memorable. Make foreign words more memorable by learning the sound system of your language, then connect those sounds to images, then connect those images to your past experiences.
- Maximize laziness. Don’t do rote repetition. Study a concept until you can repeat it once without looking, then stop.
- Recall rather than review. Make and use flashcards containing images and personal connections for words, pronunciation or grammatical construction.
- Test yourself just before you think you’ll forget.
- Rewrite the past. When you recall a memory, you can rewrite earlier experiences.
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Train your ears, mouth and eyes
Ears. Your brain is hardwired to ignore the differences between foreign sounds. Train your brain to listen to similar-sounding words, such as niece and knees.
Mouth. Improve your accent by using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Learn the position of the tongue, lips, and vocal cords.
Eyes. Every language contains a pattern of connections between its spelling and its sounds. Try to internalize that pattern using a spaced repetition system (SRS). Create flashcards to memorize every spelling pattern you need.
Learning only a thousand words can help you recognize almost 75 percent of what you read.
Learn 625 words from word frequency lists. Each language has its own list.
Use games to create deep multi-sensory memories for words.
Game 1: Spot the differences.
Search for the words in the native language, then switch to the basic version. Look for differences, then add one or two good images to flashcards for that word.
Game 2: Memory Game
Look for a personal memory related to the word. Try to remember the word rather than the translation.
All language learning follows the same pattern: we go from simple sentences (doggies jumped), we change their forms to -ing forms (doggies jumped), and then we go to irregular past (birdies went). Then regular past tense verbs (Doggie jumped) and third person present tense (Daddy eats).
To make sentences:
Take the first example out of your grammar book. and make a flashcard.
When you see new words or word forms that surprise you, make flashcards based on them.
Learn with language games
- Start with the top 1000 words in your new language.
- Add keywords based on your interests.
- Use a thematic vocabulary book.
- Use Google Images to find quality example sentences and pictures for your words.
- Write example sentences and definitions, get them corrected.
- Add a dictionary when you have enough vocabulary.
- Read a book.
- The first book should be familiar to you.
Learning with a new language contd.
Watch movies and TV.
Read an overview of the series or movie first. Don’t use subtitles.
The game of taboo
The only rule is that no first language is allowed.
Do video chatting.
Take language holidays.
Takeaway 1 – Images are a great language learning tool
- When you associate a word with an image it becomes much easier to remember.
- Images are easier to recall than words because we think conceptually.
- The trick is to make the images personal so you remember the words more effectively.
Spaced repetition is key to learning a language
Another issue with just translating words into the language you want to learn is that if you don’t repeat the exercise a few times, you’re not going to remember them in the long run.
There are a few instances where you might remember a translated word because you did it in a moment where you were conversing with someone.
The reason for this is that the word or words will be associated with the memory of speaking to that person as opposed to the act of translation itself.
If you think about your time at school, one of the ways you remember what you need to for a test is by revising the information over and over again until it becomes entrenched in your memory.
Thankfully, we don’t need to go through a whole phrasebook and write down the most important phrases. Nowadays, you can find multiple apps to help you learn a language through the art of spaced repetition.
Turn language learning into a game
Think back to your time at school and you’ll understand why. Schoolwork is boring, but whenever it was time to play a game, everyone was happy and lively.
It’s the same principle with learning a language. One of the ideas in the book is to turn speaking and learning a foreign language into a game of taboo.
This applies more to intermediate and advanced learners, but you could do it as a beginner, though it would make life difficult. However, you would likely learn faster as a result.
Fluency: The Bottom Line
If you can express yourself in your chosen language even when you forget words, that is a form of fluency. Every time you do this, it’s a small step in the right direction. If you’re in a country where they speak your chosen language, your life is much easier.
All you have to do is go to a shop, a cafe, or talk to people on the street, and you can practice. It becomes harder when you’re in a country that speaks a different language from the one you’re learning, but there are still ways to learn.