If you have even a little bit of experience with Machine Learning, you understand that the human brain is, in fact, a large neural network. And if it is so, then you can work with it according to the algorithms known in Machine Learning.
When you’re tired of promises from salespeople…
Probably almost every one of us wanted to find really useful information on the topic of learning foreign languages on the Internet. In the end we got everything: a lot of interesting stories, anecdotes and facts about languages and language learning, but nothing about how to actually learn a foreign language. It’s a similar story with YouTube – a lot of interesting information, but almost no useful insights, which are really needed at the beginning of the journey. That’s why the main goal of salesmen is to get the audience interested and to lure them to their not-so-cheap courses.
Unfortunately, such stories happen quite often. Those who know best how to learn a language prefer to talk about it in their courses and for money. People come to open lectures hoping to get good advice and leave with nothing. We were really hurt by this, and we decided to try and write an algorithm that is guaranteed to help you learn a foreign language in a short time, as efficiently as possible. That’s how the Langavia free guide was born.
But today we will talk with you about something else. Namely, about an interesting method that can complement (but not substitute) your study process which we described.
What to expect from this method
Don’t think that we have invented some new method of language learning. No, this approach has been known for a long time. The fact is that until recently, this method was as labor-intensive as “traditional” methods and was mostly available to people with a very stubborn mindset or very capable people. Fortunately, the development of modern technology has reduced the amount of effort required and made it more simple and interesting.
The method does not require you to have special abilities in languages. The only thing is to be able to concentrate on one task and work on it independently for an hour or two. We think this will not be a problem for our readers.
The method works best in the beginning stages and up to an advanced level, but then you have to think for yourself about how to move on.
The peculiarity of the approach is that, at first, you need to make a serious effort for a very short period of time(about three weeks). But the further you go, the less you have to exert yourself.
We hope we’ve piqued your interest, so we’ll get to the heart of the algorithm. Let’s describe how it works, and the optional, but important, preliminary steps it makes sense to take.
What is the phenomenon of polyglots?
There are people who do not forget the language, even if they do not use it. For example, polyglots can know dozens of languages. Obviously, they don’t use them all every day and aren’t able to spend the time to maintain them. Anyone who has learned a language well will never fall back to the level of a beginner. Looks like there is a certain point in time in the studies after which knowledge is retained.
So, on the one hand, there are people who, after a long break, forget 90% of what they have learned (beginners), and on the other hand, there are people who lose only a few percent (experts). In mathematics, there is the Bolzano-Cauchy theorem, which states that if there is a continuous function that is less than zero at the beginning of a segment and greater than zero at the end, then there is a point in that segment at which the function is zero. In our case, this means that a person learning at some point will inevitably find himself in a state where he has not yet learned the language completely, but already knows enough to forget no more than, say, 10% in case of a break.
This may seem like some silly juggling of numbers, but in practice, it becomes a new reality for the student. If you don’t forget much, learning a language turns from a feat comparable to that of Hercules into a mere chore. Your learning function becomes virtually undiminished; the more time you spend, the better you know. You get bored or don’t have time, and you stop learning, and a year later, you start again from almost the same place. We will use a physical analogy and call it overcoming a potential barrier.
So, the sum of knowledge is the product of the rate of knowledge acquisition over time. One variable, time, is strictly limited. There are literally a couple of months, six months at most, to overcome this barrier. The amount of knowledge required cannot be reduced. The only thing that remains is the speed of learning.
Why taking the barrier is not a problem
Is it possible, in principle, to overcome this barrier in a short time? Surprisingly, yes. We can demonstrate this with another analogy: neural networks. Learning a language, especially at the beginning, is a lot like training a neural network. Each of us has a speech center in our head, and it can be trained to “see” another language just as you can train your brain to see some object. It is our innate superpower, and learning happens by itself.
Once the brain begins to recognize structure in another language, the linguistic information is given high priority and almost ceases to be forgotten.
We can tell you from experience that this happens so quickly that it would be more correct to call it enlightenment rather than overcoming a potential barrier. One minute you were in the dark, the next, you realized that you actually know the language.
As with the neural network, the brain needs to be introduced to as many different examples as possible. To do this, you must get acquainted with the most common words in as many contexts as possible. So, it is necessary to provide the maximum flow of information to the brain. To do this, you need to use the most effective sense organ – vision. That is, it is necessary to read texts.
The essence of the method
The method is based on the approach of the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who spoke at least fourteen languages. When he wanted to learn a new language, he took a book in that language, found its translation, and read them in parallel. Since it was difficult to use a dictionary in those days, he read the book several times to memorize all the words.
Another key to success was the regularity of study, an hour every day. He also wrote essays in a new language, read them to the teacher, and memorized all the corrections. To learn proper pronunciation, Schliemann went to local churches and listened to preachers speak.
We are not Schliemanns, of course, but times are different now. Nowadays, there is no need to compare parallel texts; any passage can be translated quite decently by an electronic translator. Also, there is no need to read the same thing many times because looking up the meaning of the word in the electronic dictionary is not difficult.
This method can also be used with adapted audio books. These days, there are plenty of e-books, YouTube videos and word dictionaries, listening to which will also help you improve not only your understanding of the foreign language, but also your pronunciation.
All we need is to take an interesting book in electronic format, a good electronic dictionary, and read for at least an hour a day. After about two months, you will have overcome the potential barrier and can continue to learn the language at your own pleasure and pace.
Yes, we realize that for many people, the idea of picking up, for example, the book “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in Spanish and immediately starting to read it will seem a bit wild (although it is absolutely a working method).
Generally speaking, there are ways to simplify your first steps. We recommend visiting Ilya Frank’s website english.franklang.ru, and getting acquainted with his reading method, as well as reading his articles on language learning. Frank offers beginners specially treated (not adapted, i.e., simplified – this is important) popular books, where the entire text is provided with a literal translation and comments.
Such a book will allow you to learn the most important words, get acquainted with the grammar in general, and understand that an unadapted book is quite possible to read and understand, even if you have just begun to learn the language.
Frank, because he is a teacher first and foremost, suggests reading as an auxiliary method, but in reality, you can do the opposite. First, learn the language by reading, and only then, supported by a teacher, learn what you need to learn.
In what follows, we will describe an algorithm that can be used. It is not cast in stone, of course, and you can make your own changes. The main thing is not to violate the basic principle: learn as much as you can with the initial rush.
Attack on the language – the algorithm
- Preparatory stage. It is necessary to find all the necessary materials, electronic dictionaries, interesting e-books, and good grammar books. Find out the rules of reading and pronunciation; in most languages, they are not so complicated that you do not need to learn them. In the case of common languages, pronunciation and transcription can be found in the dictionary (good dictionaries have a voiceover).
- An optional initial step. Read one or two books on the Frank method to get a basic knowledge of the language; prepositions, pronouns, most common words, sentence construction, verb tenses, etc. You should not read more than two books because Frank’s specially developed books are a crutch, and you need to learn to walk without them and make your brain work independently.
- First step. It is necessary to choose the time so that you can study for two months without interference for an hour or two a day (very desirable two). Regularity is important. At this stage, knowledge is quickly forgotten, so you need to reinforce it every day. Choose books that are interesting to you, not too long, by different authors. You can try to choose an easier book for the first time. You should give preference to originals over translations and to serious authors over tabloid reads for reasons of language quality. Also, books should be of medium length so that, on the one hand, you have time to get used to the style and vocabulary of the author. And on the other hand, you can quickly move on to the next book and thus increase the variety of topics and words.
- Start reading. The first two or three weeks will be very hard, and progress will not be very noticeable. Each new topic will make you feel as if you are starting from scratch and nothing works. This is the stage where it takes maximum willpower. Fortunately, it is in the beginning that it is easiest to show it. Do not pay attention to the fact that you do not understand half of the text. This is normal. If you want to understand, you can translate certain portions with an automatic translator. Also, ignore the fact that you forget the meanings of words. This is also normal. You will eventually learn them anyway. You don’t have to look up all the words in the dictionary, either. If you see that a passage is difficult, just skip it. You don’t have to overdo it, nor do you have to strive for perfection. As Frank correctly points out, learning a language is a marathon.
- Keep reading. When you get to the second book, you’ll probably feel like you’re starting from scratch. That’s okay. You have very little knowledge yet, and the new author and the new book will be very different in theme and style. Be patient for a couple of days, and things will get better. By the end of the second book, your progress will probably be obvious to you, and your doubts about success will disappear.
- Roughly at the end of the second month of study, you will have already reached a level of fairly fluent reading, albeit with a dictionary. The time frame depends a lot on your personal ability, language, and other factors, but two months is a conservative estimate. In any case, at this stage, it will be obvious to you that the potential barrier has been overcome, and further, you have developed a matter of technique. From this point on, you can allow yourself to rest or reduce the intensity of training. The acquired knowledge will never be forgotten. But this does not mean that you already know the language. In general terms, you need to know at least 10,000 words to have a good vocabulary, and you won’t learn them in two months. Also, your understanding of grammar is still too weak. It will take a couple more similar approaches to deepen your knowledge.
- When you feel like it’s coming (after about two months), you can think about moving on to learning other manifestations of the language: listening, grammar, and speaking. There’s no point in rushing, though. The reading method is still extremely effective, and the time invested in it will make learning much easier later.
- Next, you have to evaluate your own progress and make the right decisions. Reading will give you a foundation, but what, when, and how to build on it is up to you. If you just keep on reading books, even with long interruptions, in nine months, your skill will start to change qualitatively. You will learn to understand the meaning of words, even out of context, shades of meaning, etc.
What to do with grammar
Many people think that you need to learn a language as a scientific theory. Start with the basics, with basic definitions. Then move on to more complex things, etc. And only at the end of the course, when you pass an exam, do you have the right to use the language legally.
Grammar is central to this approach. For unknown reasons, some grammatical constructions are considered more difficult than others and are studied later. The future tense, for example, may be introduced several months later than the present. In reality, of course, there is no sense in such an artificial order. You can learn anything whenever you like. Language is not physics, much that one needs to know about its grammar is contained within it and can be learned naturally. The most boring things like irregular verbs, rules of conjugation, and declension are especially good this way.
Nevertheless, the grammar of the language is a summary of the most important information about it, and in this form, it can help save time if something is not understood. Also, you must study it if you want to speak and write the language really well. But even then, it’s much more effective to first learn the language “as it is” to build up the vocabulary, and only after that start polishing your knowledge with the textbook.
Breaking down the language barrier
By the language barrier in learning, we mean a situation where you, like a dog, understand everything, but you can not say anything. This phenomenon has acquired even a kind of mystical coloring and causes fear in many students.
In fact, you can’t say anything, as a rule, because:
- You have had little practice.
- You do not know the purely technical skills of transforming words (in tenses, cases, declensions) and composing sentences from them.
- You have a small active vocabulary.
Using the method suggested in this article, you will quickly eliminate the last two problems. Moreover, if you study the language intensively, it will burst out on its own. You will involuntarily recall individual words and phrases and try to form simple sentences. And then the success you have achieved should be secured by full-time learning. Just remember that the ability to speak is a skill. If you don’t use it, it’s gone.
Prioritize it. If you need this skill at a high level, then focus on it. Additionally, listen to audiobooks and communicate with native speakers and your teacher (if you also use classical learning methods) to develop your listening and speaking skills. If you don’t really need this skill at a particular time, focus on developing text comprehension and grammar – don’t spend a lot of time doing things you don’t need at that moment.
Even in their own language, people talk in different ways. Some people can barely string a few words together, while others can make a speech that wouldn’t be embarrassing to publish as a hardcover book.
Accordingly, if you want to learn to speak, you need to practice it with a living person. Remember that it is one thing when you try to talk, knowing 500 words and 10% of the grammar rules (Tarzan talk as we used to call it), and another when you know 10,000 words and all the grammar (albeit passively). In the second case, learning becomes more fun, and you can also save a lot on individual lessons; you will need far fewer of them.
Disadvantages of this method
Is the Frank method a magic pill? Of course not. Let’s take a closer look at the disadvantages we’ve noticed with this method:
- Perhaps the main disadvantage is that the method works more or less well only for those who like to read a lot in general (and do it quickly enough). If you don’t really like to read even in your mother language, the method may seem boring and tedious.
- Most of the books are not written in modern language, but are presented by the works of world-famous classic authors. Of course, this is useful for language learning. But this vocabulary has little to do with spoken language.
- Frank’s library is quite limited. Many books, in fact, are not free. So be careful when choosing literature from this library.
- We can not say that the books are 100% suitable for beginners, although that is how they are positioned. And this applies to all foreign languages in the library.
- Ilya Frank’s method is certainly quite effective. However, we repeat, it should not be regarded as the main source of knowledge or a magic pill. Still, it is better to practice reading by this method in addition to your master study plan.
The truth about the method of learning a language through reading
This method does work, but (as mentioned above) it can not completely replace the traditional teaching method.
You need to keep a record of the words you learn in a personal dictionary. Moreover, you need to periodically repeat the words you have learned. Although this “reading” method will teach you the general meaning of phrases and subconsciously think of the translation and meaning, it will not teach you to understand the language in detail (which is actually very important for basic learning).
In addition, using a one-sided approach as part of learning a foreign language is a bad idea. It can get boring, external conditions do not always allow us to do that, the schedule doesn’t always fit us, etc.
It’s better to notice these risks right away. With that being said, the Langavia Team has prepared a special guide on how to learn a foreign language as fast and efficiently as possible, from beginner level to fluency. This mini-book is FREE, but the information it contains is in an easy-to-understand format and can save you a lot of money in your language learning journey.
Click the “get it now” button and get your version of this guide right away.