We have a language-learning machine hidden in our brain?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It
by Gabriel Wyner 

I finally finished reading this book and it is a very, very good book. Highly recommended if you want to learn a new language. I find what Wyner says make perfect sense, and his learning strategy and ways workable. 

He talks about "comprehensible input" and refers to the "language-learning machine hidden within the brain of every child." He says, "Kids don't learn their language from just any kind of language input. The only input that seems to matter is input that kids can understand. In linguistic circles, this is known as comprehensible input. The basic idea is this: kids need to understand the gist of what they hear in order to learn a language from it."

If you try to learn languages in the way Wyner proposes, "you can feel your new language building itself in your mind. Instead of wasting your time on monotonous grammar drills, you're constantly encountering new words, new grammatical forms, and new ways to express yourself--a torrent of comprehensible input that feeds your language machine and helps you understand more and more every day...and you are not working; you are having fun."

Doesn't that sound awesome?

I now understand why I am finally learning to read and write Mandarin in stride. I have come a long way with the HSK decks I purchase that consist of flashcards with Mandarin sentences. I am revising these cards everyday with understanding and comprehension. 

Seriously, I have been trying in vain to learn the language all my life, formally when I was just a 7-year-old kid and when I was in university. After that, it was a half-hearted dabble here and there trying so hard to learn, memorize and recognize the characters but to my dismay, nothing seems to stick. 

It has now changed. I mentioned recently that it have only taken me two weeks to learn up all the 170 characters in HSK1. And given the fact that I have learnt HSK1 a couple of times before and that I have not done any work on HSK2, I thought it would take me much, much longer to master the second set. 

But it has only been 11 days since I started on HSK2 and I already know almost 90% of it. 

This book and the Anki deck really comes highly recommended if you desire to pick up a new language. And the beauty of it is that, as much as it really is hard work, I'm actually having loads of fun. 

Go get a copy of Fluent Forever and read it. Get the Anki app and use it. 

I promise you, it works. 

pearlie

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