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Monday, July 2, 2012

How to Learn a Foreign Language


How to Learn a Foreign Language
Subtitle: Your choices are Spanish or Chinese my friends.  Because that is the future. Don’t believe me? Watch Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” 
Step 1: Select your language.  Doesn’t this sound familiar? (Search old posts if not). While it seems fun to choose a nice unique language such as Hungarian or Swahili, they’re pretty much useless.  There are over a billion Chinese, and even though they have reproduction rules (I know, right, they’re brilliant!!) if they each only produced one offspring that would be two billion Chinese (stop over thinking this with death rates and the fact it takes two people to make a baby, you get my drift).  And, Hispanics are Catholic, and they are pretty much told by the church to just keep breeding.  Ergo, us English speakers are VASTLY outnumbered.  If you can’t beat em, join em. So, just flip a coin; heads Spanish and tails Chinese.  See, problem solved.  
Step 2:  Know your learning style.  This is IMPERATIVE to learning anything.  I could, and trust me as an educator I could, lecture you on the different ways to determine exactly what type of learner you are but let’s simplify this with a flow chart. 
Do you like to watch shit ?  ...... Then you are a VISUAL learner. 
Do you like to listen to shit? ..... Then you are an AUDITORY learner. 
Do you like to touch shit? ..... Then you are a TACTILE learner.  
Really, that sums it up.  I like to look at what I am doing, so I am visual.  It’s that simple.  Now, let’s look at learning approaches based on your category.  
Step 3: Learning Foreign Languages for the Visual Learner.  You will need three books.  Yes, books, we went over this in a previous posting.  Paper, bound, sold at that giant coffee shop.  Good, you remember. Here are the three books you need: 
  1. Spanish/Chinese NOW!! with CD (buy used from Amazon, they are like $.01)
  2. A whateverthehelllangaugeyoupicked to English dictionary
  3. The filthiest book in said language you can find 
Here is what you will do: You will work through the lessons in the NOW!! book, checking your answers in the back like a good student and listening to the CD when told.  Then, when you get bored and ask yourself ‘Why in the hell am I doing this?’ you pull out the dictionary and dirty book and start translating that.  That will tell you why.  They have far fewer taboos than we do (Thanks Puritans for that one...) and just as the story gets really good you will suddenly realize that you need to know the correct verb tense to carry on and switch back to the textbook to learn said tense.  Amazing what a little motivation can do, isn’t it? 
Step 4: Learning Foreign Languages for the Auditory Learner.  You my friend, need a passport.  Like now.  Here is how you get one if you live in the USA: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. Can my foreign readers tell me how to get one in your country? Honestly, I want to know, it is probably a heck of a lot easier than here.  And cheaper.  Hmmm... why haven’t I moved to Canada yet??? Hot men (one in particular...), much better TV, free health care, no food stamps.... Oh wait, it’s cold.  Bri don’t do cold.  Even for Michael Shanks. And I ADORE him. Anyway, as I was saying, you will need to completely submerse yourself in the culture.  Completely.  Just pack your bags and GO! You can come back home if it gets hairy, but you probably won’t want to.  Foreign wine is pretty damn good.  
Step 5: Learning Foreign Languages for the Tactile Learner.  Yeah, yeah, for you big-vocabularied folks don’t even go there. We will be keeping our hands to ourselves.  Sorta.  For the Tactile learner, I suggest computer games. Yes, you have to read and listen to things, you cannot avoid that, but websites like quia.com make it fun by letting you learn a language while playing hangman.  To an extent.  Look, I hate to burst your bubble here, but eventually you need to stop all this touchy BS and realize that you actually have to do some real work which involves reading, writing, listening and speaking. I mean, you had to read to get your driver’s license, right? You didn’t just go to the DMV and give the mean lady that hates her job a foot rub, did you? Oh, you did?That explains a lot....
Step 6: Drill your language.  Repetition is the best teacher, because regardless of your learning style, you will need to repeat.  Drill your language. Repetition is the best teacher, because regardless of your learning style, you will need to repeat. Drill your language. Repetition is the best teacher, because regardless of your learning style, you will need to repeat. Drill your language. Repetition is the best teacher, because regardless of your learning style, you will need to repeat. Drill your..... see, you started to repeat that step out loud, didn’t you? Eureka! It works!
Step 7: Learn slang.  No, really, if you hope to ever do more than speak on a Dora the Explorer level, you need to learn this.  And learn the dirty words first!!! And the swear words!! This is not because they are like 250% more fun than anything else ever, which they are, it is because you do not want to get yanked out of a pool by your hair by your godmother because when you thought you were yelling “Hey Girl!” what you were really yelling was“Hey F$*%ER!” and had every single Mexican in said public pool in Texas look at you angrily.  This is something we would like to avoid, both the accidental swearing and the hair pulling.  Learn slang, it could save your roots.  
Step 8: Practice your language.  Now, I do realize that the passport and kicking you out of the USA might be a little much, and considering this economy you may be also paying for those education classes I suggested you take.  In that case, there are three excellent forums for practicing your language.  
  1. Ethnic restaurants.  Go to ANY Chinese or Hispanic Restaurant.  Simple say “Ni-Hao” or “Hola.”  After that, there will be no more English spoken for the REST of your meal. 
  2. TV.  Foreign TV is SOOOO much better than our TV in that is makes no damn sense most of the time, in the best possible way.  I used to watch a Spanish hospital drama in which one of the attending surgeons was a chimp.  I am not even trying to be funny, these people were dead serious letting this chimp make life or death decisions.  These programs force you to use your language if not for any other reason than to make sure you heard it correctly when the hot nurse called the other a slut for stealing the chimp from her.  
  3. Music.  Thanks to the way music itself is composed and how good it is for the brain, learning the lyrics to your favorite foreign song, translating them, and then singing along helps with pronunciation. If you can sing.  If you can’t, forget I mentioned this, ok? Best for all of us.  
Step 9: Brag about your language.  On Facebook, on Twitter, on every damn homeschool website and list serv to make people think that you actually freakin speak Spanish when in reality I hear you talking to your kid in public and you really sound like Peggy Hill!!!! (My Athena! Blogging can be so cathartic ;) ) I hope you know that I am kidding, because while you should be proud of yourself, stop being an asshat. Some people don’t have time to take up new things, and you need to shut up and leave them be. Just be happy, inside, that you are smarter than everyone else.  That should be enough.  
Step 10: Reward time right??? You’ve made it to step 10 and you probably went and got the bottle of Spanish wine back at step 8, but let’s change it up a bit.  Let’s go for beer.  Yeah, I drink beer too, you got a problem with that? I recommend Dos Equis for you Spanish students and sorry, I know it is cliche, but I really like TsingTao beer for a Chinese selection. Bottoms up! Oh, and did you order that in English? You’d better not!!

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