漢語 tones

Tones in Mandarin are easy, except when they’re not, which is every time a native Chinese speaker talks or tries to understand what you’re saying. It’s commonly taught that there are only five tones (four tones, plus a neutral tone). You can learn those five tones quickly. I guess that’s really easy. Let’s look at […]

Speak like a Diplomat

One of my absolute favorite perspectives on language learning comes from the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI), in particular: Theory and Practice in Government Language Teaching. It’s written as an academic paper, but it’s by far the most useful thing I’ve ever read about language learning. I’ve summarized each of the 12 sections below (along […]

舒適區

Following the outside-in approach, start with danger zone responses, and then develop learning zone phrases. Remember to condition these as responses. Imagine you’re in the appropriate situation and then say the phrase. Repeat until it becomes automatic, such that the real-life situation will trigger the response. 危險區 I’ve compiled a list of danger zone responses […]

bad advice

I love trying new things. I’m quick to believe anything that seems helpful or promises to make language learning quicker or easier. I’m also anxious to test everything — to see how great it works. Most of the time I’m disappointed, but I’ve come to relish bad advice. Knowing what is bad advice can be […]

FSI difficulty ranking

The US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) created a list estimating the length of time required to learn each of the languages taught by the FSI. The estimates are based on native English speakers with no prior knowledge of the language. Here is an overview: Category I: 24-30 weeks (600-750 hours) (“World Languages”) Languages closely cognate […]

Islands

Notes on “How to Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately,” by Boris Shekhtman. This book was interesting, although it would have been better as a magazine article than as a book. Here’s a summary of the sections. Show your Stuff + self explanatory Build up your Islands (foreign language is like swimming…) + linking, segue to […]

Introverts and Language Learning

When I take one of those silly online personality tests, I will score moderately high in extraversion; which is funny because I am introverted by nature. I’ve learned to emulate the skills of an extravert — such as speaking confidently in a meeting or lecture. Introversion is often conflated with shyness or sensitivity (such as […]

中文

My goal will be to learn Mandarin Chinese and traditional Chinese characters. Specifically, to read a newspaper, write and type, and converse well-enough to (for example) ask meaningful questions at a museum. 做清單 + currently deferring study 建議 These are resources that I have found the most useful, and would recommend to anyone learning Chinese. […]

Multilingual

All of our thought processes are conducted in language, so really our entire existence or essence or soul, however we phrase it, is inextricably bound to and with the languages we speak. Try to think without language for instance. However, we see that the language is in essence superficial, since many languages exist. To understand […]