Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Way to Learn a Language Is to Live It

The Way to Learn a Language Is to Live It

The first step in language learning is to make the commitment to do whatever it takes to make your project a success. If you have the passion to do what it takes, no matter what that may require, then this will ensure that you will, soon, be able to speak your target language.

For more on my story and other thoughts on the importance of passion in language learning, check out (see website below) intro, where there are videos, links to sites of people mentioned in this chapter, and extra updates designed specifically for readers of this introduction.
The Way to Learn a Language Is to Live It

One of the biggest issues with a traditional approach to language learning is that the benefits to picking up a new language are constantly postponed. Study this and study that and then, if you’re lucky, in a few years’ time, you’ll eventually understand the language. As well as being far from the
truth, this approach removes the fun and the life from the process.

In many education systems, especially in English-speaking countries, languages are taught the same way as any other subject, like geography or history. Teachers provide the “facts” (vocabulary) so the student will “know” the language. Or, as in mathematics, students do the exercises to understand the “rules” (grammar). Except on rare occasions, this approach does not produce speakers of the target language, so something clearly needs to be fixed. A  language is a means of communication and should be lived rather than taught.

A teacher’s primary role should be as a language facilitator. A teacher should make sure students use the target language at whatever level they happen to be at, rather than keep them quiet while he or she does all the talking, trying to transfer the informational components of the language into the students’ brains.

In high school, I had to learn Irish. It was mandatory and, in order to gain admission to university, I needed to pass my exams. As a result, I only cared about learning enough Irish to pass; I didn’t care about the language itself.
My attitude toward Irish changed completely when I actually took the time to live in the Gaeltacht region of Ireland, where people still speak the language, and I started to make friends using it.

The second language I took in high school was German. I took German because Germany is an important economy in Europe, and I figured it would look good to have this language on my résumé. German language skills would help me stand out, especially since most people in my year were studying French. Once again, I didn’t care about the German language; I just thought learning it might give me secondary benefits. And, of course, I barely retained anything. I thought German was nothing more than der, die, das tables of impossible- to-learn grammar. And I imagined Germans were robots that automatically spit out grammatically correct sentences. That is, until I met actual Germans and saw firsthand how interesting and fun they were. So fun, in fact, I wanted to get to know them better.

This way of thinking allowed me to stop thinking of the German language as a barrier between Germans and me, but instead as a bridge I could cross to communicate with them. In both cases, my initial tangential motivations for learning a language were replaced by a direct motivation to live that language and use it as a means of communication and connection.

This is how language courses should work. The best tend to veer away from the traditional approach of drilling grammar and word lists into us, or providing us with old, boring, and irrelevant texts. Instead, the best courses encourage us to play games and role-play in the language.

They let students speak the language with one another, which—as I realized with both of the languages I had learned poorly in high school and then much better as an adult—is the truest means of communication. As a result of speaking the language right away, students start to acquire the language rather than learn it as they would other academic subjects.

Benny Lewis:Fluent in three months

English Idioms

English Idioms

I have a lot on my plate

have a lot to do

Q: You had a chance to retire after an even dozen years, but there is a little too much out there right now, isn’t there?

A:”We do have a lot on our plates. The SEC Network is right around the corner, and we’re dealing with very serious issues on the national scene. There is certainly enough to keep me busy.” (source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee, USA)


English Idioms

English Idioms

Off the Cuff

impromptu, not written out.

Indonesia’s president-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo does not give impressive off-the-cuff speeches, nor does he charm his audiences with fancy rhetoric.
But over the past few months, he has managed to win the hearts of millions of Indonesians across the archipelago as he traveled from one end of the country to another, securing 71 million votes that propelled him to victory in the presidential poll earlier this month. (source: Straits Times (Singapore)



English Idioms

English Idioms

Strong Suit

something you’re especially good at, forte

The restaurant’s strong suit is certainly not its appetizers. The kanom jeeb ($6.50) were like a larger Thai version of shumai with crab meat, minced pork and ground water chestnuts wrapped in pinched wonton skin and steamed. The rather monotonous dumplings got an assist from some sweet Thai soy sauce – source