I spent the day at Orlando Science Center with my friend from Ohio (after leaving the house of my other friend where we had a bonfire the night before). Little did I know that, along with getting some fantastic pictures of the animals on the bottom floor of the place (esPECially the bearded dragon and crayfish!), I would also get a chance to practice my Japanese with real Japanese natives.
After spending time in basically every room the museum had to offer, my friend and I happened upon a Japanese family of about 5-6 people messing around with a specific attraction, one where it was emphasized that if you increase an object’s orbit, it’ll slow down considerably. This was done with a large chrome marble that the family was throwing into orbit constantly. They seemed very happy and approachable, and I had already identified their language as Japanese a few minutes prior, so I jumped in to talk to them. I was still a little shy, so I only said a handful of one-word phrases, but the reaction was incredible! As soon as I said 凄い/Sugoi! (“Amazing!”), they all looked up at me. The little boy present even repeated what I said in the more masculine fashion, which sounds more like “suge”. My interaction with them prompted the little girl to hand me the marble with a big smile on her face! I repeated what they did, and since the way I threw the marble made it take longer to fall out of orbit, I whined 速く/Hayaku! (“Hurry up!/Faster!”) Now they knew that me speaking their language was no accident. The oldest lady there turned to me and said “You speak Japanese?” and I said “A little bit,” returning her smile. Boy, there was a lot of smiling going on! 🙂
Continue reading Speaking Japanese with the Japanese
Today was a good day that reinforced even further my desire to travel. As I was standing on the beach looking out over the Atlantic Ocean from about six stories in the air, I realized just how small human beings are, and yet how incredibly interesting each one of them can be. Here I was with a friend gazing at this vast, blue ocean, so tranquil and serene, and it hit me that humans can make me feel that way, too, just like the calm evening waters of the ocean. I enjoyed this day very much, if for nothing else, than certainly for this realization, among others.
I was able to encourage a friend to begin Michel Thomas’s Language Learning Method today, and he blazed through the first disc of French mere hours after he started it! I’d normally suggest he go a bit slower, but as long as he’s motivated, I won’t get in his way! This made me feel pretty accomplished given that he had a seriously stubborn attitude about language learning beforehand, even calling me overconfident and cocky for thinking I’d be able to speak Dutch this December! All it takes is the right materials to get you started, and once you’ve gained the insight that learning languages is not hard, you’re one step closer on your way to becoming an efficient language learner!
One of the best language tips I can think of would be to sing to music in your target language. The number one area on which this works is pronunciation, which I like getting down to a science before starting to learn too many words if at all possible. It takes a lot of the average person’s stress out of learning a language, being able to look at at least 75% of words and say “I know how to say that aloud.”
I’ve also noticed that singing a song in another language can have a slightly different system from the way the language is usually spoken (I’m looking at you, Japanese!). For instance, sentences or words are often pronounced a certain way in a song to sound more melodic or gentler. This makes it easy to recognize individual sounds since they’re often exaggerated, and when you study sung language as opposed to just conversational language, the way words are sung can make you more familiar with different phonemes. This process has indoctrinated me the pronunciation of Dutch, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. Sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised; for instance, Japanese and Spanish have remarkably similar pronunciation on the vast majority of words, but you wouldn’t expect that from a Latin vs. an Asian (more specifically Japonic) language!
One of the two white girls outta place!
Ever since I’ve found a method of learning languages that works for me, I’ve found that the academic approach I used in school for four classes’ worth of Spanish is vastly different and focuses FAR too heavily on writing. I didn’t actually SAY much in Spanish until the fourth class, which often required it. This meant that I only began speaking about the time I was in an atmosphere that was almost entirely dominated by native Spanish speakers. This can do a number on one’s confidence! I had always spoken to myself to practice, but taking three classes where others were also a bit unsure about speaking and then reaching the fourth – which only students genuinely interested in Spanish volunteered to take – meant that the difficulty of my lessons changed drastically!
This is a short snippet of my thoughts on the Michel Thomas Language Learning Method, which I use to introduce myself to a language before speaking it with natives. The Michel Thomas method is one I regard very highly. It is an audio software, but don’t let that discourage you! I’ve had my fair share of terrible audio materials before, or ones that were unsatisfactory at best. However, with Michel Thomas, I went through the Japanese course a few months ago, but what I learned I still remember quite well! I love the pacing and the vision is incredibly unique: the teacher really does the majority of the work and you’re just there for the ride and to reap the incredible benefits! This method is how I introduce myself to a language (provided it’s one of the 12 that Michel Thomas covers, of course; I’ll have to look elsewhere for Swedish, for example); I am currently going through the Dutch version and am learning a TON in a very short period of time. After I finish the course, I speak to natives for the rest and continue studying every now and then, especially vocabulary. I 100% recommend this method to ANYONE, esPECially if you’ve been let down by language-learning materials in the past. You’ll learn quite a bit with Michel, but not only that; you’ll REMEMBER it!
Highly recommended! 🙂