It's really very simple:
Most people say they're terrible at learning languages (including me!) but the fact is, the problem is the method, not the student. There are many details to a good program and many common problems experienced by most students.
The simplest, most effective way to learn any language is begin reading, listening and speaking something that is at your level. Note that 'speaking' in this case means reading out loud after hearing a native speaker read it. First you have to develop the physical ability to make the sounds. Then, when you begin to try expressing your own ideas, words and expressions will come out 'automatically', because your mouth has been doing it already, and already 'knows' even though your 'conscious mind' is still 'in the dark'.
- Don't waste time having to flip through a dictionary. Dictionary definitions are too detailed and confusing anyway.
- Students will 'forget' seconds after they've been told. (Same as with people's names.) So, let them hear/read it again.. and again.. and again. After 5 or 6 times with proper spacing (giving them time to 'almost' forget), everyone will remember the new word.
- Most language material is boring and magazines, newspapers, comics, etc. are too difficult. So, develop interesting material that stays within the ability of the student, keeps them reading/ speaking/listening, and adds new words and expressions one at a time (with the 'spaced' repetition of course).
- Before hanging a picture on the wall, you have to put in a nail, or the picture will simply fall to the floor. Similarly, before explaining any grammar, you need to have already given the student an intuitive understanding; a 'hook' so that the explanation 'sticks' in their head .
- For every minute spent giving explanations, you've missed out on being exposed to 100 words or more. The normal speed of talking is 250 to 300 words per minute! You do the math. Looking through a dictionary, struggling with material that's too difficult, and explaining grammar takes time that is better spent elsewhere.
Students should be able to catch the meaning fairly quickly and new words and expressions should be limited and presented repeatedly as we've said before. Give the equivalent word or expression in the students native language. Don't make them look it up in a dictionary and write it down on their own. That's a waste of time. Also, don't dwell on it and try to memorize it, just keep reading and with properly designed material you will come across the word or expression again within a few sentences, then a few paragraphs, then a few pages, and by then you will know it without any memorization.
A language program can start anywhere, but starting in a traditional manner (introductions) allows very little opportunity for repetition and variation over a small pool of known vocabulary. By starting simply with: What's this? What's that? Where's...? Here. There. You quickly have a large range of variations to work with. Working back and forth and around with this small
pool of vocab is exactly what is needed to overwhelm your 'logical mind'
and give the opportunity for your shy 'intuitive mind' to take over, and
he's the real genius! Adding the word 'who' allows switching with
'what' and you have all you need to get you learning, and REALLY
absorbing the new language.
There is absolutely no need to begin a language program explaining anything, including phonetics or a strange alphabet. First, you need to practice hearing and making the sounds, and that is accomplished most effectively by reading "What's this?" ...etc. Notice that in English, these are extremely difficult sounds to master; their is a LOT of physical movement required. Also in English, there are many word pairs that are easily forgotten unless they are learned 'physically'. Likewise with the verb 'to be' and the pronoun 'a/an'; they're very, very easy to forget if your native language doesn't have them. If you learn them by memorization and rules you will undoubtedly forget them most of the time. If you learn them 'naturally' and make it a 'physical reflex', you'll do it correctly all the time without even thinking.
Most methods, especially phrase books, get you
memorizing bits and pieces but you're not gaining any fundamental
understanding of how the language really hangs together. It's like learning to cook ready-made meals; it doesn't really teach you anything about cooking. On the other hand, if you learn to cook some basic things with salt, pepper, garlic and a few other
basic spices, then you will be learning to REALLY cook.
It's also very, very important to develop a 'feeling' for a language as
quickly as possible. That's why all our basic material is adjusted and
modified depending on the language, and is then developed specifically for
that language. Language is like music, even if you understand technically
how to play a song, you still need to develop a 'feeling' for the
different styles (classical, jazz, blues, rock, etc).
Honestly, I could go on for hours telling you why our methods work so well (and I DO when people show interest!) but let's leave that for later and get you started learning Indonesian!
Thoughts, comments? Drop Brian a line. If you're interested in learning other languages you can also drop me a line since we're working on those as well.
| ||This is the way I've always felt when trying to learn a new language. |
|I studied French in high school, but never learned to be
able to say anything. Learning Bahasa Indonesia was a similarly
frustrating experience but not nearly as bad since I was living there and
could practice talking to people every day. 'Bahasa' as it is often
referred to is also a fairly simple language to learn, except when
they start by trying to teach you grammar. Then, the result is always the
Similarly, many people, especially diplomats, receive
a lot of language training before arriving in Indonesia. When they arrive,
they quickly discover that it's very difficult to speak to people. What
they studied and learned back home doesn't really match the language
spoken in every-day conversation. Even in formal situations, what the learned is still unnatural.
Teaching Bahasa is actually great fun because, with a good method, it's amazing how quickly people learn. On the other hand, with traditional teaching methods students can become severely handicapped, frustrated and confused. I had a Japanese lady start English lessons with me, and even though I suggested she learn Bahasa also, she refused; she did not like Bahasa and didn't want to learn it. Of course this seemed crazy to me since she'd been here 8 months and her husband's posting was 5 years! I later discovered that she'd already had 25 private lessons! After 3 or 4 English lessons, she said to me, "Okay, I'll try your Bahasa program." I guess she saw something different in the way I was teaching. During the second Bahasa lesson, she started going "Ahh..., ahh...". The light was finally coming on and she was understanding.
I have seen the problems and frustrations time and time again, and I have seen the success when people try our methods. That's what motivates us: seeing the smiles and the relief on students' faces.
Please, try out our material and see for yourself how 'easy' and enjoyable learning a language can be.
More material about learning methods:
Accelerated Learning & PhotoReading