Sunday, October 24, 2010

How Can You Learn Any Language Effortlessly

Effortlessly? Did I say effortlessly? Well, almost effortlessly anyway.  Contrary to what many believe, language learning does not have to be a boring, tedious, complicated task.
In fact, the more fun you, or your kids, have while learning a new language, the more successful you will ultimately be. I stare, in awe, at howling mothers sitting in the club on gorgeous Saturday mornings wasting their time forcing their children to etch in wretched notebooks line after line of smothering sentences : " Good morning Hassan. My name is Khalil and I like bananas." Pffff! This is , supposedly, an attempt to teach kids English in Kindergarten/first primary. Then comes of course the endless hours of grammar, whether it be English  'if sentences' or French conjugaison.
After years and years of that in traditional school systems, how many students became fluent speakers of the second languages they were taught? Not enough I would say!

So what IS the secret of language fluency ?
It is as simple as this: to speak a language fluently you must process your thoughts in that language and not perform a literal word for word translation from your mother tongue into that language.
Yes, it is true, believe me. To speak a language well, you have to think in it.
Why? You may ask.
The virtues are too many to count but most importantly you tend to speak faster, hesitate less, and always find the right words. Choice of words, in the context of a conversation especially, is not easy when you try to translate from another language.

I'll give you a simple example. You are a native Arabic speaker. You met an American  friend  and you started chit chatting with him. He asks you a question and you would like to reply mish a'wee or nos nos*, but can't exactly find the right words, so you hesitate and stop to think. If the friend was asking you how you did on an exam for example, and you weren't too happy with how you did,  you could reply : "I did OK, wish I could've done better though." This is a much more eloquent answer than the awkward translation many Egyptians use: "so and so." Or even the Ridiculously literal " half and half," evidently because nos literally means half.

In part two of this series,  I will indulge you in fun and relatively easy ways you can start to think in the language of your choice.

*mish a'wee/ nos nos are Egyptian slang terms used to indicate that things aren't going too well, but not too bad either.
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