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Hack Your Language Learning.
“You get to meet different parts of yourself by going through the process of learning other languages.” – Gabriel Wyner
There are people who are fluent in multiple languages: are they freaks of nature or do they have the “language gene”? Or are there tricks, tools and life hacks the rest of us can use to learn and remember foreign languages?
Our guest today is Gabriel Wyner is the author of Fluent Forever, a book about how to learn languages quickly and how to retain them forever. Join us as we talk about his techniques for learning a language quickly and retaining it, what the tremendous benefits are to fluency, the obvious and not-so-obvious ones, and where to get started when you decide to learn a foreign language…and loads more!
Even though Gabriel Wyner has authored Fluent Forever, a book on language learning, he wasn’t always a language aficionado. He was a good language student in middle school and high school, but only in the respect that he tested well. He couldn’t speak any language he learned outside of the classroom and after awhile, he had forgotten much of the vocabulary he had learned.
In college, he double majored in Mechanical Engineering and Voice. He always wanted to be an engineer so he opted to go that route, but he also loved singing so he wanted to make that more than just a hobby. As a voice major, he had to learn to sing in Italian, Spanish and German.
Not knowing a lick of German, his friend suggested he go to a school in Vermont called Middlebury and take a summer program. If Gabriel opted into one of their programs, it meant he had to speak the foreign language of his program for the entire time he was there. If he slipped up, he would be kicked out and would lose all of the money he had paid to be there. It sounded crazy enough to work, so he signed up and spent the next 7 weeks immersed in German.
At the end of those 7 weeks, he was a B1 or a B2 on the European fluency scale, meaning he could order in a restaurant and carry on an in-depth conversation with ease. But that wasn’t enough for him, he returned the following summer and earned a C1 certification in German. That certification meant he was fluent on the European scale; in Europe, if he had wanted to, he could teach in their school system and he could write an academic paper with ease.
Even though immersion works, Gabriel realizes not everyone has time for that. Most of us can’t take 7 weeks off and run to Vermont to learn another language! If you’re like most people and need to learn a language within the confines of a typical life, he has plenty of suggestions for you in this episode.
His first suggestion when getting started is to learn the pronunciation of a language. Train your ear to hear the words in that language, before you do anything else like learning the alphabet or colors or numbers.
After you’ve trained your brain on how to hear the language, which will take about 2-3 weeks, then learn basic words. But here’s a critical life hack to doing so: use images. And not just any images, use the Google search tool in your target language to learn the images associated with words. Often simple words mean something else to their native speakers.
Once you’ve moved through those stages, then go on to learn the grammar. But all you need is your grammar guide, you won’t need grammatical drills…Gabriel tells us why.
One last tip he leaves us with is a way to expand our vocabulary and become fluent faster after we’re speaking a new language. When you find you don’t know a word, you can either revert back to English or you can use the other words you do know in the new language and get other people to help you fill in the blank. You’ll have the added benefit of having learned something new from someone (and perhaps giving them a laugh in the process), and having learned while under a bit of stress which makes your brain retain it better.
Please join me in thanking Gabriel for being on the show. He was a fun guest to have on. I loved that we debunked some language myths, gave you some life hack language-learning tools and generally set the foundation for the fast, easier way to learn and retain a language. Thanks for being here and we’ll see you next time.
Fluent Forever, Gabriel’s book
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