The journey to fluency in a foreign language can be loads of fun at times, but it also includes inevitable challenges and setbacks. You will misunderstand others and be misunderstood yourself. You will unintentionally say offensive things or make cultural gaffes. You will butcher grammar. You will order the wrong food and get on the wrong bus. But as frustrating or painful as these mistakes can be, it’s critical to understand that they don’t block the path to mastery. They are the path to mastery. Screwing up and figuring out where we went wrong is an inevitable, mandatory part of the leaning process. The only true mistake is the one we don’t learn from.
On this day in 1970, the first official Earth Day was celebrated at thousands of schools across the United States. Nearly 50 years later, the day is now celebrated in 193 countries, including Japan, where environmental protection and sustainability have become increasingly important issues. To honor the day—and provide an excuse for learning some Japanese—here’s a bit about how Japan has tried to help the planet through sweat, short sleeves, reducing, resuing, recycling, and rocking out in the park…
Claude Cartaginese is one of the kindest guys you will meet in the language learning blogosphere, and I really appreciate all he has done to encourage language learners, gather advice from the world’s best learners, and share his infectious enthusiasm for language learning. In 2010, he released a monumental e-book called the The Polyglot Project, a free PDF which brought together tips and advice from 43 polyglots, hyper-polyglots, linguists, YouTubers, and language lovers, including Mike Campbell, Steve Kaufmann, Benny Lewis, Moses McCormick, Stuart Jay Raj, Anthony Lauder, and many more. In the interview (recorded in 2010 as part of my Master Japanese guide), we discuss: 1) The mistakes he made when starting out in Japanese and what he would differently if he started over again. 2) Why you should focus on one language skill at a time. 3) Why you should start with listening and speaking before reading and writing. 4) Why it’s crucial to choose methods and materials that support your unique learning goals. 5) When Japanese learners should start learning kanji. 6) Why “mastery” and “perfection” are not the same thing. 7) Barry Farber on how we “marry” some languages and simply “date” others and why “expertise is a narcotic.” 8) The power of modern asynchronous learning. 9) The challenge of “resource overwhelm.” 10) Why language study should not be required in school. 11) Claude’s language learning habits and routines. 12) Why languages are not “difficult,” just “different.” 13) The similarities between learning a language and learning a martial art. 14) How the ego gets in the way of learning a language.
Gabriel Wyner is a polyglot, former opera singer, the author of the book Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It, and the creator of the new Fluent Forever app, the most funded app in crowdfunding history. I highly recommend his book and app, especially to anyone who struggles with foreign language pronunciation or making new words stick. In the interview, we discuss: 1) How opera led Gabe to learn French, Italian, and German. 2) How a summer German immersion program proved he was not “crappy at languages” as he had previously believed. 3) Why opera is the perfect career for those who want to get paid to become multilingual. 4) The visceral difference between simply “pronouncing” a language and actually “thinking” and “feeling” in it. 5) Why you shouldn’t learn a language through translation (“It murders you before you start.”) 6) How images are a faster, more effective way to build new linguistics connections. 7) Why you should start with pronunciation training first. 8) How minimal pair training helps you learn pronunciation quickly and better notice your progress over time. 9) Why you can’t make old memories go away (the groove remains!), but how you can make new memories more powerful (making the groove deeper). 10) Why images (and the meanings they represent) create stronger memories than spelling and sound. 11) Why personal connection (“self-reference”) is the ultimate memory “supercharger.” 12) How self-testing with flashcards can make your study time five times more effective than simply presented yourself with information. 13) The critical difference between “recalling” and “reviewing.” 14)The power of “uh….?” moments and how spaced repetition can help optimize them. 15) Why modern digital flashcards are not really “flashcards” at all, but rather “computerized tests.” 16) Why language learning doesn’t take nearly as much time if you can actually hold onto what you learn. 17) Gabe’s “minimum viable” daily and weekly language learning habits. 18) How to get immersion “chunks” wherever you are. 19) Why frequency dictionaries are linguistic gold.
Lindsay Williams has been hooked on languages ever since childhood when she got a taste of French—and the free croissants that accompanied the class! Since then, she’s gone on to learn Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, Esperanto, Indonesian, Korean, Guarani, and more. Along the way, she developed a passion for teaching languages, too, and has taught learners in Costa Rica, refugees in the U.K., countless learners online, and even employees at a garlic bread factory! She now dedicates time to inspiring independent language learners and online teachers, sharing a wealth of useful tips and tools on her popular site Lindsay Does Language. She has also created one of my favorite new podcasts, Language Stories, a documentary series that highlights various languages around the globe and the people who speak them. In the interview, we discuss: 1) Lindsay’s language “origin story.” 2) Her most memorable language learning experiences. 3) The most common learner mistakes and myths. 4) Her daily language learning routines and “minimum viable daily habits.” 5) How to create “onion goals.” 6) The importance of being kind to oneself and seeing mistakes as evidence of growth, not proof of failure. 7) What to do when motivation and willpower wane. 8) Why one size never fits all in language learning.
TED was once an invite-only conference in Monterey, California attended by the who’s who of technology, education, and design (which is what “TED” stands for by the way). Fast forward three decades and TED is now a massive worldwide community of lifelong learners that holds local TEDx events all over the world. While I highly recommend attending a TED event in person if possible (I attended TEDxTaipei and TEDxOlympia and loved both), most talks are recorded and posted online where anyone in the world with an Internet connection can view them. So this is all fine and dandy, but how can TED videos be used for learning Japanese? Read on to see my 3 suggestions.