Education, Favourites

Stop “Learning” Languages

Long time, no write. I have always been meaning to get around to writing a new blog post… but then I’d get stuck for ideas. I started writing again a few times, but my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t want it to feel forced. But my goodness I just have to tell the internet abyss about this video I watched that has honestly been blowing my mind. For you curious critters, I’ll link it down below. Disregard the intense facials of the guy in the thumbnail, ughhh such a good watch. And in the video he acquires the Arabic language over the course of a year! Goals ❤

Disclaimer: while the first minute or so feels like a set up for some weirdo clickbaityness, it’s honestly genuine and brilliant. My attention span is not typically the greatest, but I watched the whole hour in one sitting… (new procrastination level unlocked?).

I realise that the video is an hour long, so the tl;dr version is this:

This polyglot dude explains the difference between learning a language versus acquiring a language. The former is typically done in classrooms, where one consciously learns the rules of a language, the grammar, the conjugation, etc. The latter focuses on listening and speaking. When one acquires a language, as a baby does in their first language, they acquire it through “comprehensible input”. This term basically just means words you hear that you can understand the meaning of, be it through context, gestures, with repetition and exposure. Acquisition of a language seeks to mimic the way children are able to speak their first language without even thinking about it. It happens naturally, and it happens slowly, overtime, when immersed in the language, and spoken to at an age appropriate level.

The video below explains how one can go about acquiring a language through language exchange, if you’re at all interested:

My response to this information has been extensive. I’ve joined some of the apps recommended like Tandem, and found some people to potentially do language exchanges with. I’m watching les films français encore, avec les sous-titres en français… I stumbled across a fantastic podcast aimed at intermediate level French learners (or acquirers, I should say), which is available on Spotify and iTunes for freeeeee – check it here if you’re interested! They even talk about learning vs acquisition in the first episode. It’s perfect because they speak slowly and the vocabulary and sentences structures used aren’t too complicated. It’s about getting used to hearing spoken French and maximising comprehension – yusss. I wish I hadn’t shied away so much about speaking French at high school. I still kind of have a panic response but it’s important to get over it imo

In terms of te reo Māori, I’m trying my best to seek out more immersion environments and practice my speaking and listening too. Next year, I really hope I can snag a spot in an immersion te reo course at Te Whare Wānanga o Aotearoa – I tried to apply for this year at the end of last year but they’re so popular and they were full by the time I got back after summer. I’m increasingly finding it frustrating that my lectures at university don’t offer that same immersion experience – our classmates are at varying levels and sometimes it feels like a culture of “that’s too hard, tell me in English”, or, English instruction is the default method of explaining concepts. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are heaps of cool language opportunities on campus – particularly the more casual weekly meet ups to practice speaking and listening skills. But I need moreeee :O

Lastly, I’ve started going to a Hindi class (Shud dialect) and have been practicing with my partner in their native Bihari/Fijian dialect. I want to try to initiate conversation with speakers and utilise the acquisition techniques in the videos above… though this is a heck of a lot more daunting, as my level is a lot lower. That said, I also have more immersion opportunities in this language than the other two, so that’s something. The only way is up I guess? And who doesn’t love a good Bollywood film 😉

While I still do want to actually acquire Arabic as a language also, I feel like it’s a bit much to juggle and I don’t have as many resources available to me with which to properly get started in this language. Also, I have no idea which dialect I’d pick? Of the little knowledge of Arabic I already have, it’s pretty much mostly written (i.e. the alphabet lel), which is Modern Standard Arabic and maybe some of the Bahraini dialect. But nobody speaks in MSA, and there are heapssss of different spoken dialects. So this is more of a to be continued, one day in the future area for me.

Anyway, that was a lot. Hope someone out there found this language acquisition concept half as fascinating and exciting as I do! Hopefully my next blog is written sooner than this one was…


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