The holidays are upon us which in my house usually means long hours “boca arriba” on the couch… reading, listening to music, catching up on sleep. I am lucky in that my college has a winter shutdown period (to save on energy costs) and we are all forced to stay home for about 10 days time…and it does not count against your vacation time 🙂 So, twist my arm, I am staying home. The language center parakeets and finches are here too, the critters we have in our shop to create background noise so people don’t feel self conscious about recording into machines. My house sounds like an aviary but it is a happy, bubbling noise.
I have been trying to get back into blogging mode. Lots of drafts, not enough posts. Lots of thoughts, not enough follow-through. I don’t know what that is about. I guess not enough stuff out there on the web about language learning has piqued my interest… well, until now.
Has anyone seen this post? It was created by Tim Ferriss. Tim fancies himself to be one of those self-motivational-organizing-geniuses. (A quote from one of his devotees: “Tim is Indiana Jones for the digital age. I’ve already used his advice to go spearfishing on remote islands and ski the best hidden slopes of Argentina. Simply put, do what he says and you can live like a millionaire. -Albert Pope, Derivatives Trading, UBS World Headquarters”) OF COURSE Tim has written a book and his blog will tell you how to buy it.
Now, about a month ago he posted a little blurb about how one can learn (but not master) a language in one hour. It’s all about deconstruction, you see. I shuddered.
From his blog:
Before you invest (or waste) hundreds and thousands of hours on a language, you should deconstruct it. During my thesis research at Princeton, which focused on neuroscience and unorthodox acquisition of Japanese by native English speakers, as well as when redesigning curricula for Berlitz, this neglected deconstruction step surfaced as one of the distinguishing habits of the fastest language learners. How is it possible to become conversationally fluent in one of these languages in 2-12 months? It starts with deconstructing them, choosing wisely, and abandoning all but a few of them.
Consider a new language like a new sport.
So far, I’ve deconstructed Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Norwegian, Irish Gaelic, Korean, and perhaps a dozen others. I’m far from perfect in these languages, and I’m terrible at some, but I can converse in quite a few with no problems whatsoever – just ask the MIT students who came up to me last night and spoke in multiple languages.
Oh…my. Well if people at MIT are impressed then I guess we all need to be impressed too? Tim then he goes on to show how he “learned” Arabic and Japanese using his 5 step model. The language educators in the room cringe.
I suppose for some the learning of a language is indeed a sport, and game, a mind challenge. But there are others of us out here who think that this superficial survey of the mechanics of the language does not ever approach the deep, nuanced learning that in depth (those pesky “Wasted” hours) of immersive language learning could provide. And God forbid should anyone mention the ability, through learning a language, to learn about culture, history, and a world of people that speak that language.
Obviously, as a language teacher, I am biased against this mechanized method of learning but not educating. But I would encourage LLU readers to take a look at this gent’s post and comment here. (His followers have praised his logic and left several dozen glowing comments…)
Oh, and the favor part of his post? He needs your votes so he can boost his rating on Technorati..(Quote: “Iâ€™m around 1070 on Technoratiâ€™s rankings, and itâ€™s killing me.”) Oy.
You can read the post in its entirety here Happy reading!