To read the first article: Education in China. Let’s learn from it! #1
The other day I went to see a Chinese friend of mine. She was seated at a table reading and writing something. I asked what she was doing. I was happy when she answered that she was learning French. But I was so surprised about the method.
The first day learning French and she was going through the words of a paperback dictionary while silently copying words and verb drills on a sheet of paper. What a boring way to learn a language! And a big part of the vocab and verbs she copied are not useful ones! Although there is nothing bad to copy a French dictionary, it is a bit sad as a first French lesson, don’t you agree?
So I told her to drop this book because, in my opinion, it will not lead anywhere except blocking the fluency and only let it live in her mind. Chinese usually learn languages like this. They learn foreign languages the same way they are taught their own language. Learning and memorizing word lists is nothing wrong again, but the problem with all of us is that we are missing a balance.
A balance between mind and body.
Our mind is the adult part of us. The intellectual part and the one we are proud of. Smart people are always praised and intellectual professions always have a good image in our societies. Language hackers try to provide hacks, always useful but seldom balanced. The language has not that much to do with the brain. The brain is useful to understand logical concepts and analyze information. We need it for a lot of things. But, like eyes, the brain is a body sense that is over-used. That is why in my opinion, when we learn a language we need to free our ‘kid part’ of us.
As a kid, we learn a lot, but we don’t understand what we learn. We are just told it is like that, and as kids, we have to adapt to the world so actually, we don’t ask too many “whys” when we learn our mother tongue. The kid part, is the intuitive part, the “stupid” part. When you ask a French why this rule or that rule, he will not being able to tell you. However, they speak better than you. It should make you think. Yes, they are in a French environment, but they only have their intuitive part to learn.
The problem of most of us is that we need a structure to feel safe. We need to know that at the end of the day we will know 10 words, and that fluency means perfection. But the structure keeps you out of yourself, and that is why I always tell my student not to speak French but to BE French. Big difference, you see. Feeling safe refrains you from speaking and making mistakes.
So how to do to balance your learning and learn French better and faster?
Trust yourself. If you don’t understand today, by keeping your practice regular, you will end up to understand. And most of the time, your goal is not to understand but to be able to speak. Most people are afraid of not knowing. But you cannot learn how to swim in theory. Being able to speak a language is not only the words, but it is also a culture, gestures, state of mind, behavior, etc. Words are just a part of it! But we think it is the whole thing. WRONG.
Learn dialogues and sentences instead of words. Always. Repeat stupidly using the shadowing technique. Get rid of the resistant mind part that wants you to be clever. Accept the frustration of not knowing. You will go further and deeper. Being more stupid is also forgetting a bit about the adult you are and the identity you created. Act now and free yourself from your old judgmental brain! Try Rosetta Stone, Assimil or Michel Thomas methods. They are good medications for people who want to know and analyze everything.
Set up your goal. Whether you want to learn everything, and every “why“, or just being able to have an interesting conversation with a French native, or take a French exam, you should study according to this goal. No need to know everything about a language!
Eventually, my Chinese friend was a bit surprised by my new method but she succeeds finally to trust herself and she gave me a good positive feedback! She doesn’t know many words, but her understanding of French and intonation is already better than university students who studied for 2 years. Can you believe that? The good thing when you know how to use your kid part is that whenever you can still use your logical brain to study more!
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