While searching for self-directed language learning tips and resources, I came across Chris Lonsdale’s TED talk, in which he describes 5 principles and 7 actions of becoming fluent in a foreign language in under 6 months.
First he talks about two language learning myths:
- Talent – one doesn’t need talent to learn another language
- Immersion per se doesn’t work. A drowning man cannot learn to swim.
The 5 Principles of Rapid Language Acquisition are:
- Focus on language content that is relevant to you.
- Use your language as a tool to communicate from Day 1.
- When you first understand the message, you will acquire the language unconsciously.
- Language is not about accumulating a lot of knowledge but is rather a type of physiological training.
- Psycho-physiological state matters – be happy, relaxed, and most importantly, be tolerant of ambiguity; don’t try to understand every word.
The 7 Actions are:
- Listen a lot –> brain soaking; it doesn’t matter if you understand or not. Listen to rhythms and patterns.
- Focus on getting the meaning first, before the words. Body language and facial expressions can help.
- Start mixing and get creative. Use what you’ve learned right away in daily life.
- Focus on the most commonly-used words; use the language you know to learn more. Start with your Toolbox – What is this? How do you say that?
- Get a language parent – someone who will work hard to understand what you mean, use positive reinforcement to provide feedback in words that you know.
- Copy the face – observe native speakers, their face and mouth; pay attention to how their face moves while they’re speaking
- “Direct connect”– find ways to connect words directly with images in your mind.
At the end he says, “These are things under your control as the learner. Do them all and you’re gonna be fluent in a second language in 6 months.” I like that he encourages learners to take the matter into their own hands and actively work on a new language, rather than wait for it to be delivered by a teacher. 80% of learning happens outside the classroom and this talk speaks to that.
That said, I am unsure of two things: language parents and no corrections.
When it comes to ‘language parents,’ I would rather see a different term used, e.g. language partners, peers or coaches; someone who will be on equal terms in that learning relationship, for the word ‘parent’ creates hierarchical distance, which may be discouraging for adult learners.
Speaking of correction, mistakes help us learn, but to learn from them we need to know about them. Since not every learner notices/is aware of their mistakes, I would ask them if and how they want to be corrected. My preference would lean towards delayed correction for free communicative practice and immediate correction for situations when we sit down to work on a specific language task. Avoiding correction may lead to fossilization of errors.