Secrets of Learning a Foreign Language

This is my review of A Spymaster Secrets of Learning a Foreign Language by Graham Fuller. Mr. Fuller is a former CIA and US Foreign Service Veteran.  He explains the unique process of  learning any language. I listened to his audio-book and read the listening guide. One of the most important things Mr. Fuller says about  learning a language is the ability to imitate, to mimic, and to play a role while learning the target language.  This goes in-line with what Benny Lewis talks about ” Language immersion” in his Language Hacking Guide. In order to speak a foreign language, one has to think in the target language and even learn new tricks making strange noises to sound like the target language. The goal is to sound like a native not like a foreigner with an accent. For this is it best not to translate what is being said but associate and understand what is being said. You will have to become familiar with how the words sound in the target language. To think in the foreign language, spotting relatives or language families, digging words by their roots and stringing words together. Mr. Fuller also stresses the importance of proper grammar,  very important in the relationship among words in a foreign language. This is the difference of speaking like a native or like a foreigner with an accent. Practice, practice, practice…that’s is the key of learning a new language and sound like a native.  I highly recommend this audio- book.

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Poli-Language Matrix

Polilingua file-2 Over the past six months I have worked on a  language spreadsheet collecting  languages that I am interested in learning over my lifetime. This is a work in progress and I do not pretend to memorize all this but simply to collect single word meanings, greetings and common phrases of  English, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), French, Italian, Filipino (Tagalog), Russian, Japanese,  Esperanto and Sign language. The list keeps getting larger and there is more to be added. I urge you to take a look, save a copy, add your comments and help me to build a better, more comprehensive collection.

Visualizing words

I have practiced visualizing words as a way to mentally connect the word or phrase for easy recall in a conversation. It is a fun way to relate a word on a target language by its meaning or pronunciation. For example  to say ” I don’t know” in Russian is ” Ja Nie znaju”.  Since my native tongue is Spanish and my second language is English, I use a combination of the two to create a mental picture of  the word or phrase in the selected target language. I will try to elaborate but I admit that it may sound too confusing to explain. The word  “Ja” means “I” in English,  in Spanish “Yo” combination : ” Ya”.   For “Nie znaju” meaning “don’t Know”, I do a rough Spanish translation of  “Nie z”  as ” ni es”  in English  “it is not” and “naju” as “no you”. So it will be something like ” ya ni es no you” which in English it will sound something  in between of  ” ya it is no you”.  My visual hook will be something like me saying to myself ” it not you” to visually connect to the word or phrase.  In Portuguese ” I don’t know” is ” Não sei” . Again using a combination of English and Spanish will be something like: “Não” or “Now”  and “sei”  like the number six in Spanish. So ” Não sei”   can be visualized as ” Now 6″ or “Now sei”.  Complicated? Well yes if  I try to explain to anyone but it works for me as my unique way to paint pictures of words  and meaning on my target languages. It is still work in progress and I am having fun in the process.

Branching out

I have open up to another language, Russian. My friend and fellow language lover gave me a Russian study course by Michel Thomas. I was drawn like a magnet to this new approach, easy to follow. It is as if I was eavesdropping on a conversation.  Listening to this course on the road is fun, entertaining and I enjoy going along with it. What I feel great of taking Russian language is that I have someone to practice with and the more we do it, the easier and conversational it gets.  Don’t know how effective would be to learn multiple languages at the same time, but I am not concern about how I would do it, but that I AM doing it. Understanding the basics: vowels, nouns and grammar in comparison with the English language is important, but getting into a conversation and engaging the brain into immersing in that language works best for me. So it is Portuguese with my brother, Russian with my friend. I wonder what would be next? Japanese?

Explorando recursos

I have being  exploring the vast resources to learn multiple languages on the web. There is no excuse for anyone wanting to learn a new language, help is there  at the click of the mouse. It seems like and old cliché but it is true; whatever you’re into you can find it on the internet. Whether is learning a new language or learn how to do anything is here, online at your service. Lately, I have been 80% immersed in my target language, Portuguese.  Whenever I see my brother, who is fluent in the language, I speak in Portuguese. I also think in that language. I simply replace the thought or word whether in English or Spanish with my target language. It gets easier the more I do it. With the help of a dear friend who is also into learning multiple languages, I have been introduced to many resources that will certainly ease even enhance the learning experience by “becoming the language”.  I am exploring creative ways to learn a language, clustering or grouping words,  and even using  NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming to relate to the language.  There is much room to learn and discover.  I’ve been introduced and found web-sites like Livemocha.com and the Polyglot Club to interact with others wanting to learn  another language. I can exchange my native language for Russian or French or Esperanto, the possibilities are endless and so are the resources found online.

Language immersion

I have seen much improvement in my understanding of the Portuguese language this past week.  In addition to changing the language settings of all my devices, I have downloaded a very good application on my iPhone for quick phrases and easy translation. I also bookmarked a nice guide on the web, streamed a radio Station from São Paulo, Brazil that I listen daily and even signed up for news podcast from an online Brazilian newspaper. Reading the newspaper has become an enjoyable pastime, understanding about 85% of the content with confidence. When I am on the road, I like using YouTube to find anything in the Portuguese language to listen to. I find myself understanding what is being said on the news with ease when it is spoken slowly, like on the news cast. However, when I listen to sports cast or a commercial I get lost a little, picking up on words that I can relate and understand. It is a fascinating challenge that I thoroughly enjoy. Next step, finding someone to have a short conversation. It is time for hands on experience.

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Committment

So I started to immerse in my target language, making it visible and accessible to me on my daily activities. Since I spend a lot of time in front of my computer, I changed my computer language settings to my target language. Instantly I noticed the difference and also the similarities of the language that I was able to recognize the words and meaning. I liked it so much that I change my language settings on my social networks, my iPhone and even my digital camera. It has only been 10 days since I started making these changes and I am able to understand and relate to the words and its meaning steadily. Great start for a fun journey ahead

I wrote a list  for reference:

iPhone
contact: contatos
message: mensagens
phone: telefone
maps: mapas
notes: notas
unblock: desbloquear
add: adicionar
start: começou
inbox: entrada
updated: atualizado
recorder: gravador
calendar: calendàrio
photos: fotos
backgorund image: imagem de fundo
general: geral
sound: sons
new: nova, novo
mail: correio

facebook
like: curtir
with: com
friends: amizade
request: solicitaçoes
comment(ed): comentar, comentou
you: você
his: del
hers:dela
show: exibir
wall: mural
suggestions: sugesções
requests: solicitações
share again: compartilhar novamente
many: muitos
games: jogos
that: isso
this: isto
write: escreva
whom: quem
no: não
yes: sim
home page: página inicial
profile: perfil
news feed: feed de noticias
account: conta
marked: marcou
log out: sair
search: procurar
“what are you thinking right now?”: No que você está pensando agora?
Mine: meu, meus
liked my status: curtiu seu status
commented in his status: comentou o status dele
Information: informações
Boxes: caíxas

Changing the language settings does facilitates a better  understanding when I see everything in my target language because it makes me think in that specific language, not in English or Spanish . I am still playing with the keyboard settings and just started using “lexibar” from lexicool.com for special Portuguese characters. It is now on my tool bar ready to use.  Also, a cool web-site: smartphrase.com for general words, phrases and pronunciation help. All these makes my learning process fun and much easier to learn this language.