Public Service Announcement 2009

Learning a foreign language as an adult is different than how you do it as a child. Here’s how I try to do, with advice my wrassln coach gave me.

How to learn a foreign language as an adult

Workmen fixing an escalator in a metro station in Washington DC

For those of you that speak geek: Spent the last 96 hours figuring out why I only got three clear QAM channels – turns out a weak signal and a kinked coax cable will waste four days of your life.

Picked up a signal amplifier, and some new cable and now I’m in business.

Knee-deep in cables, chili and rum. It’s the only way for a geek to spend Labor Day


Speaking of speaking in a foreign language, Federico Fellini once said that, “A different language is a different vision of life.”

As promised and as a supplement to last year.

One of the things about being Chinese-American is that a vast majority of my friends are at least bilingual. Heartgirl and KG Betty speak several.

Me? Was always crappy at languages. My French teacher gave me a good grade for the effort. Hate pity so decided to learn how to be a good language student in college. Didn’t work.

Funny thing’s that the guy that teaches me how to break people’s arms also told me how to learn a language way back when.

Part 1 – from R. Dreifuss (doctoral candidate at Columbia U. and general bad-ass)

See, he said, they always teach language the wrong way in school. Every language’s has the same things, the same patterns. Once you learn the patterns, you just need the words to go into that pattern.

Once you have the patterns down, you need only learn the vocabulary that goes into the patterns.

English: “(noun) is better than (noun).”
German: “(noun) ist besser als (noun).”
Mandarin: “(noun) bi (noun) hao.”English: “Rum is better than beer.”
German: “Rum ist besser als Bier.”
Mandarin: “Rum bi beer hao.”


Part Two – From Barry Farber

Believe, truly believe, that language isn’t the words you read/write. It’s the words you hear/say.

Take the word Knife.

We say, nigh-feh but it’s supposed to sound like, ka-ni-fee – cause that’s how it’s spelled. Put it another way, the letters k-n-i-f-e just makes a picture that prompts us to say nigh-feh.

More eloquently, the written word is merely the symbolic representation of the language – it is not the language itself.

So stop learning how to read/write and concentrate on learning how to communicate.

I’m illiterate in Chinese, German, and, if you read this blog, English. Doesn’t matter. You understand what I’m trying to say. Which brings me to…


Part Three – From me/NLP

Language isn’t what y’say. It’s what the listener hears.

If you want to learn a language, pick up the Pimsleur series and supplement it with the Living Language series six months after you’ve started the Pimsleur series.

Good luck.
Viel Glueck.
Jia yo.

Man, all of this talk about rum…

Location: my front room
Mood: rum-obsessed
Music: Pour rentrer dans les soirées célib à 30 ans

5 replies on “Public Service Announcement 2009”

hum did u take a trip to dc? looks like a stop on the red line.

funny thing about languages. i been obsessively watching clips on youtube of "misuda: global beauty talk" about all these foreigners who are living in korea, learning the language, their experiences in a city as an outsider, etc etc. it's pretty hilarious and amazing– their grasp of the korean language as russians, columbians, etc and i can barely order things in restaurants.

but i think one thing about languages is u gotta be immersed in it to really learn it. i mean, u can learn things out of a textbook but that's not how people really speak. anyhow i'm very envious of people who pick up on languages. it's not hard but… without practicing or using it, u lose it so quickly.

Yep – that's a shot from the last time I went. They were working on the escalator and I was thinking it was an appropriate shot for an entry about working on something.

I think it does help to be immersed in it – OR be an insomniac that has the time to just sit and read German for hours…

haha 🙂 love it. i just got back from italy, and caught a day in germany just b/c it reminded me of my france/germany trip. buon giorno et guten tag!

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