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Learning a language in six months-Watch

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Learning a language in six months.Watch this video.
Very interesting


That was quite interesting actually. I groaned at the start because it seemed to be one of those typical TED talks that always promises to tell you how to do something but just ends up throwing endless worn out clich├ęs at really skips on the useful info. Don't get me wrong, this talk was still full of that but I found some of the stuff he said at the end to be quite like how I forced myself in foreign languages, especially the 'one box different path' method. I don't even remember if at some time in the past I learned it and applied it and it became unconscious, or if it was something I had thought about and decided to try.

Having said that, six months still seems like a pretty short amount of time and I don't buy that for a second. Not that it isn't possible, but the average person doesn't have that amount of time to dedicate to such a goal. I don't like the way he discounts the learning that is useful from reading how a language is organised. It's like he takes that principle that language books are horribly old fashioned and representative of school learning that needs to be abandoned (which has some merits) but a lot of people take it and completely wipe out the need for any sort of rule-based learning. I think as linguists we are more disposed to the usefulness of such methods because we like learning facts in such a way, but there are just too many ways that a learner's confusion could drag on for months trying to uncover some rule in the language that five minutes in a good language description could clear up in an instant.

Anyway, I always take TED talks with a pinch of salt because they really aren't suitable for explaining complicated learning methods or really multi-faceted issues in such a short period of time, so they dispense with the complications and give a somewhat false pretense to the topic they purport to want to explain. However, if it gets people interesting and provokes them into giving language learning a shot, then it has my support (though in my mind this is understood as the-end-justifies-the-means).

I had a lot of the same reactions - I found it interesting, but 6 months even with all the methods he outlines still seems a bit short, since there is so much time needed to apply it all successfully. I would have apreciated a bit more explicit examples of applications of the method he was talking about, just so we don't automatically nod along with the theory, but aren't mindful of what the practise would really look like.  But I thoughts there were some good pointers - one that stuck out to me was when he said to tolerate ambiguity! This is a good tip I think - just take as much and use as much language as you can, but don't halt the big steps because you are hung up on the small details.  Allow yourself to make lots of mistakes :)

I was hoping this might be a time lapse video of someone learning a language and showing their progress over 6 months though.  That would be fun to watch!  If anyone's starting learning a new language, you should give it a try and post it in 6 months for my entertainment ;)

I'm not sure if we ever mentioned it on the old forum, but there was a show on UK TV last year I believe that looked at random people's skills and assigning them tasks based on their responses and you got to follow a young guy's journey to learn - I believe it was - Turkish, over a few months and then have a live TV interview at the end. I should be revising for my exams now but if I find the link I am definitely going to watch it again tonight because it was just that interesting/fascinating the first time. I'll edit back if I get a link (or even just the programme name).

Got it. It was Arabic. Link.

Aw the videos not available in my country :( Sounds fascinating!


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