The secret to learning many languages

I have heard of polyglots, people who can speak many languages; but now there’s a new word for me, ‘hyperglot’, people who can speak ten or more languages. How do they do it? According to the BBC it’s easy; just ‘inhabit’ the language and culture (BBC, How to learn 30 languages). That means, try to become like the speaker from that place, and temporarily abandon your own mother language and culture. Build friendships with people from the target language / culture. “Resisting the process of reinvention may prevent you from learning another language so well, says Keeley, who is a professor of cross-cultural management at Kyushu Sangyo University in Japan” (BBC). In short, try mimicking people from the target culture is more effective than trying to hold on to your old self.

However, I think that there’s one more thing that’s vitally important: a willingness to try.

Coffee Talk. CC Anna Levinzon 2008, https://flic.kr/p/4wAz5r

Coffee Talk. CC Anna Levinzon 2008, https://flic.kr/p/4wAz5r

Language comprehension

I love these internet pictures, and I’ve written about them before (5 things every new teacher needs to know). Often they include quotes and ideas on how to live a better life. Here is one that resonates so much in not just language, but human relations, too. English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students do have listening problems, and do need to improve their listening skills. However, it’s not always a lack of listening skills (both top-down and bottom-up), it can also be how information is perceived and integrated into your comprehension of the conversation. I also teach student-teachers from the UK, and I’ve noticed that sometimes the notes they take don’t quite match what I said. Listening is a complex thing. Words spoken does not equal words understood. We hear the words, but we don’t always take in what the speaker says, but instead, we interpret what we think the speaker is meaning, and sometimes what we think the speaker means is dependent on what we understand or are prepared for. There’s a lot more that can be said on this. Look up Fodor’s Language of Thought (LOT) and Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom.

I'm only responsible for what I say; not for what you understand.

I’m only responsible for what I say; not for what you understand.