About Us – 3 Strategies for Language Learning

My name is Sam, I’m married to Natalie.

This is us in Tokyo, where we live.

(Do you enjoy our serious faces?)

Right now we’re learning 3 languages together.

Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese.

Many people want to learn Mandarin nowadays because of the economic benefits. Is that why you want to learn Mandarin? Most economists are forecasting that China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s #1 economy.  And they think that to keep their children competitive they’ll need to speak Mandarin.  This is a smart idea on their part.

Before I get into the 3 strategies for learning multiple languages, let me explain when I started learning language.

It was wayyy way back when i was a wee lad, just shy of 18……. just kidding, let’s get to it.

Strategy #1 – Rescue Time (Learn on the Go)

Are you a commuter? Do you work on a computer? Do you go to the Gym?  – This may be cliche, but the best way to learn language is in bite size chunks, and if you’re like me, you always have a bitesize chunk of time lying around that you could multitask your language learning into.  15 minutes a day is 91 Hours per year, it takes most people 20 hours of dedicated practice to learn something proficiently.  Think about how many words you could learn from a flashcard app in ten minutes per day?…. Probably about 3,000-4,000 per year.  That’s enough to read a newspaper in Chinese!!!

Strategy #2 – Mix Business with Pleasure. (Learn from movies and music.)

Do you like music? Can you not stop yourself from singing?  One of the easiest ways I’ve been able to improve my pronunciation is by listening to songs and memorizing them.  If you’re not a singer, maybe you like to watch movies. Did you know that one of the best ways to practice listening comprehension is to watch a movie in your target language without subtitles?  There are so many forms of digital entertainment online that can be used as tools to help you to perfect your pronunciation.  How many movies do you watch per week? How many songs do you listen to?  Remember that 3 movies per week is 6 hours of listening comprehension practice!!

Strategy #3 – Memory Maps

Human Beings have location specific memory.  Have you ever moved to a new city? How long did it take you to figure out the subway? We just did, and it took us about a week before we were capable of getting around almost anywhere we needed to go without having to look at a map.  Most human beings can visit a place once and instantly remember how to get back from it.  We’re wired for locations as a survival instinct.  Some really smart people have transplanted this concept into a memory exercise.  Pick a location that you know so well you can describe it to someone who’s never been there.  Then travel through the location in your mind, placing a vocabulary word in each room with a very vivid image.  (I often use jeff goldblum juggling cats in my memory map.)  It allows you to memorize things quickly so that you can rapidly build your vocabulary.


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