14 August 2009

Influential Books

Barry Farber: How to Learn Any Language

This was the first book I read on the nuts and bolts of learning languages. Apart from being a good story he recommends practical ways of learning words that rely on imagery, for example the Spanish word for curtain is “cortina”. I used to have a Ford Cortina car and all I need to do is imagine that car with little curtains at each window, by making the image connect with the word I have no trouble recalling it. In fact every time I see an old Cortina on the road now I think “curtains”. This technique works surprisingly well and I find that with some words, even though I’ve forgotten the associated image, I somehow still remember them.

Barry also mentioned where he got this technique from, a book by Harry Lorayne a famous memory man.

Harry Lorayne: How to Develop a Super power memory

This book is full of techniques for memorising stuff, everything from telephone numbers to foreign vocabulary, names and dates. I found it very useful.

Richard Koch: The 80/20 Rule

Reading this book caused me to think differently about many things but I am mentioning it here because it led indirectly to my decision to study a third language and because it prompted me to analyse the process of language acquisition to look for the 20% of what I could do that would give me 80% of the desired results.

Maxwell Maltz: Psychocybernetics

The original book came out in the 1960′s so the style might seem a little old fashioned but his advice works, I particularly like his advice to set a goal and do a little bit towards it each and every day. The other technique is his “Theatre of the Mind”, a visualisation technique that lets you practice performance until it becomes second nature.

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Bill Ferguson
Bill Ferguson

Spanish Teaching Resources

Getting good quality teaching and resources

The information I am going to share is an honest account of what I have tried over the past year and my opinions are just that, opinions. I will share my likes and dislikes, what works for me and what doesn't. This is a personal experience, I am not an expert but if you share my ambition of learning to communicate in a third, foreign language, then maybe we can help each other along the way.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche: "One who speaks a foreign language just a little takes more pleasure in it than one who speaks it well. Enjoyment belongs to those who know things halfway."

I think he is right. Its hard to define halfway but I think the fun starts when you know enough of a language to be able to make yourself understood, given sufficient time to think. At this stage you are not merely tolerated but treated as an honoured guest in a foreign country. People see you bravely struggling to speak and understand, and give you credit for trying. They are nearly always kind and supportive.

Go beyond this to fluency and its like a toddler growing up, you are no longer cute and vulnerable. You are competing for resources, in the adolescence of language acquisition unless you have a definite role you are treated with suspicion. Maybe that is the stage to consider moving on to another new language ...

Getting good quality teaching and resources is vital to success: encouraged by an influential book by Harry Ferber I now view language acquisition as a military campaign, I need to use my resources efficiently to overcome all resistance, I need to capture vocabulary and not let it escape. I need to wear down the opposition by attacking daily and not allowing it time to regroup. I need to learn the predictable tricks that the new language will play on me and be ready for them (this means learning grammar). Like any military campaign good quality intelligence is vital.

Learning a Third Language

My current ambition is to be able to communicate comfortably in English, French and Spanish. I began to study Spanish in 2008. I have been a student of French, on and off, for about 30 years and up to last year ....read more

Strategic Planning

When I started to think about taking on a third language I realised I had two main worries: firstly I didn't want to lose my second language ...read more

Fear of Losing French

As I see it there is a simple choice ....read more