4 Misunderstood Keys to Learning a New Language (Part 2)

Billions are spent annually on learning second languages, yet the majority of that money is wasted, with little to no results.  I think we can all agree on that, so why why do we continue to attempt the same methods over and over?


I totally learned it, but now I can’t remember

The third piece of the puzzle is the ability to recall what you’ve learned.  I was so proud when I learned to count from 1-9 in Vietnamese, but it wasn’t very helpful when I drew a blank trying to tell the cab driver the address of my hotel.  With a serious sad-face, I resorted to writing it on the back of a business card.

There are lots of tricks to enhance our ability to recall information that’s been stored in our memory bank.  At LingoBox, we’re relying on a trick where you attach new material to something that will really stand out in your mind.  The method is adapted from the memory castle theory.  For example, are you more likely to remember the phrase when life gives you lemons, make lemonade if you read it from a book idioms or if Will Smith tells it to you in an interview?

Last, but not least: Speaking and Usage

The same is true with all new endeavors, which is that you need to get out and try it, in order to make real progress.  Tim Ferriss wrote a great blog post titled, How to Learn (but not master) Any Language in an Hour.  For my purposes, it was difficult to apply Tim’s method, but I love the approach.  My two key takeaways:

1. Learning a language isn’t impossible and doesn’t need to take years and years.

2. You don’t need to be fluent, in order to start using a language.  Language learning isn’t a zero-sum game.

Even learning a little bit- a few key words and phrases, is enough to show people that you’re trying.  In my case, just being able to say hi (xin chào), thank you (cảm ơn), movie theater (rạp chiếu phim), and counting from 1-9 completely changed my daily interactions.  Locals thought it was great!  It changed their perception of me, just like my perception of individuals was changed when they spoke to me in English.  Suddenly people seemed more friendly, but in reality they were friendly all along, many just didn’t know how to communicate with me.

Disclaimer: the reason Tim’s method was less-effective for me is that vocab and sentence structure aren’t my biggest problem with Vietnamese.  Pronunciation is by far my biggest problem.  I can think I’ve learned a word, only to use it and find that I’m saying something completely different than I thought.

What methods have you used in your attempts to join the ranks of the bilingual?  I can use all of the help I can get!

Back to Part I


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