Public Service Announcement 2009

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


Public Service Announcement

How to do well in college


Had quite the weekend involving PCD, WM, a pool in Jersey City and copious amounts of charred meat and meat products.

But enough about me, let’s chat about you. Realized that I’ve got a lot of younger readers – which isn’t too hard as I’m ancient. School’s about to start so, thought I’d let you know about how I did college. Graduated cum laude from an Ivy League; this is not to brag but to let you know that what I’m about to tell you worked for me and might for you:

  1. Took mostly lecture classes.
  2. Crammed all my classes into M-Th.
  3. Never missed a class and wrote down almost everything the teacher said. (1x)
  4. At night, transcribed all my notes into a computer, rearranged and sorted. (2x) Any questions I had, I cleared up with my TA and rearranged my notes again. (3x)
  5. Printed out all my notes Friday morning, and headed to NYC. Read notes on bus. (4x) Used time to write any reports that needed to be written.
  6. At Penn Station, put notes away and meet girlie. Work. Go to clubs. Limelight, Paladium, Red Zone, Mars, Nell’s. All gone now. So sad. I digress.
  7. Sunday, took bus back to school, read notes again on bus ride up (5x). Watched Simpsons.
  8. Last weekend of month, reread all notes from the month. (6x)
  9. Weeks before finals, read notes again. (7x-100x)
  10. Repeat for remaining semesters.

Man, I knew that stuff cold. It’s what happens when you re-live a lecture class 7-100 times. Still remember that the acceleration of a free falling object under the influence of gravity is 9.8 meters per second, per second.

Added bonuses

  • Always had a three-day weekend.
  • Always had those weekends free.
  • Didn’t read the books. Stopped buying textbooks when I realized that teachers just wanna hear their own words when they read essay exams (be careful with this one – I dunno what your teachers are gonna be like).
  • Didn’t do the homework. If it wasn’t graded, I didn’t do it. Just knew my notes, cold.
  • You actually learn what you’re supposed to learn.
  • Could sell my notes for $50 a pop.
  • Can have interactions 17 years later like this:

Me: Did you know that the acceleration of a free falling object under the influence of gravity is 9.8 meters per second, per second?
Her: I’m sorry what?
Me: Ah, nuthin, just geeking out. But enough about me, let’s chat about you….my name’s Logan. And you are?

Location: 15:00 yest, Port Liberte, NJ
Mood: accomplished
Music: Oh academia you can’t pick me up