Idahosa Ness is an accomplished polyglot, world traveler, musician, and the founder The Mimic Method, which helps language learners adopt more native-like pronunciation through the power of listening, phonetics, and mimicry. In the interview, we discuss:

  • Idahosa’s origin story: how he went from a monolingual speaker in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to a globetrotting polyglot who speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Mandarin Chinese.
  • Why he focuses on pronunciation and speaking first.
  • His language learning adventures in Mexico and how his conversational fluency helped him out of a jam with the Mexican police.
  • The role of identity in foreign language learning and the power of mimicry, body language, spirit, and alter egos.
  • Why he believes “mimicry,” “learning,” and “growth” are all synonyms.
  • How mastery in a language is ultimately the result of careful practice, not innate talent.
  • The importance of pronouncing tones accurately in Mandarin Chinese (e.g. mǎ 馬 vs mā 媽).
  • Why accurate pronunciation is not simply a matter of will.
  • How the Mimic Method was “brewed” from Brazilian Portuguese, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Brazilian music.
  • The similarities between music and language, and how Idahosa figured out how to apply the lessons of effective music education to foreign language learning.
  • How the baby’s brain prunes away unneeded sounds not used in the local language.
  • How reading and spelling can cause “friction” when learning to pronounce languages correctly.
  • How you can never unlearn a habit; you can only override it with a stronger signal.
  • The fine line between “hormesis” and “trauma.”
  • Why you cannot learn to pronounce foreign sounds until you learn to hear them first.
  • Why music makes language more memorable and engaging.
  • Why rap is an especially powerful form of language learning input.
  • The importance of getting sufficient “pronunciation reps.”
  • The power of fun in language learning.
  • Common myths Idahosa sees in the language learning world.
  • The importance of personality differences in learning and how one size never fits all.
  • The role of social dynamics in language learning.
  • The daily routines and habits Idahosa uses to work toward conversational fluency.
  • Why you should commit to trying out a number of language tutors.
  • The “low resistance” activities he sticks to on busier days when willpower is lower.
  • The power of mimicking even at a subvocalization or visualization level.
  • Why it’s all about the people, not the language.

 

Transcript

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