|FX's essential guide to learning a language|
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Maybe seeing how not to learn a language it can help us to see more
clearly. Here are 3 common heresies about language learning :
- The hair shirt way of language learning :
Monks of some orders use hair shirt, a shirt with something inside that itches their skin.
They wear it all day long, don't ask me why. Some people seem to think that language
learning, like a hair shirt, must be painful to work. That's not true. You'll learn a
language much more efficiently with a Peruvian girl friend than with several years of
grammar at school.
- The phonebook approach to vocabulary learning :
Vocabulary, beyond the first 100 words, is best learned in context. Ask what the word
means. Look it up in the dictionary when reading. Try to guess its meaning. But some
people will tell you to learn huge word lists. That would be nice to learn all the
necessary words like this, wouldn't it ? Yes, but it doesn't work. You won't be able to
use words you learned in lists, they will never come to your mind quickly enough. All you
can do with them is to get good marks.
- The physicist way to grammar : Ask a six year
old to explain you verb conjugation and he will stare at you like if you were Freddy
Kruger. But the same boy will tell you he eats and never he eat. Grammar
is best learned by seeing examples and imitating (infering the rule) until your ear
recognize what sounds right and what does not. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to
learn the grammar book by heart, then learn a few pages from the phonebook-vocabulary
lists, and here you are, you have all you need ! It just doesn't work that way.
You can now go to the next page to
see the best way to learn your language.