The Brain Grenade
Last fall I brain-grenaded all my facebook friends when I posted the above screenshot of my $5 airline ticket from New York to São Paulo, Brazil. The comment I attached to it was :
"Shout out to my man @Erik for putting me on Travel Hacking!"
Within the hour, the post received 50 likes and 20 comments ranging from the heavily Caps-Locked: "OMG WTF!!! PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT TRAVEL HACKING!!", to the bitterly sardonic: "I hate you...fml."
Of course a strong response was to be expected. As a friend of mine so aptly put it to me the other day:
Everyone wants to travel, but nobody can afford it.
Of course, world travel is most definitely achievable if it's important enough to you. I personally would never let money get between me and a destination that I am aching to visit. But I represent the minority; most people let expensive airfare deter then from going the places that they want to go.
Good news is, it's not only possible to both have your cake and eat it...you can even bump yourself up to first class for free and eat even more cake!
I teamed up with a friend to put together a comprehensive course showing you how to Travel Hack and book absurdly cheap international airfare the way I do. We're offering a discount on the course and 2 private consultations to help you travel hack your next trip.
Read on to learn more about the offer and how I hopped the equator for $5.
Forget about The Mimic Method approach and all the other language philosophies out there for a moment and take some time to consider this simple fact:
You learn skills ONLY after many hours of practice
People are always amazed at how polyglots like Moses McCormick and I are able to acheive fluency in a foreign language in a matter of months when they themselves have spent years studying the language and still struggle to hold a basic conversation.
The flaw in their thinking lies in their perception of “time”. You may have taken a language class for 2 years, but in a 1 hour class you’ll be lucky to get your lips moving for more than 10 total minutes; the rest of the time is typically spent listening to the teacher, other students, or writing some stupid stuff.
So even if you got to class three times a week, you’re only getting 30 minutes tops of speaking practice per week, not to mention that the quality of that practice is low since it’s an artificial classroom context instead of a real world one.
Calendar time is irrelevant for polyglots like Moses and me - we focus on output.
Moses makes a point to get at least an hour of raw conversation output on his single level up missions. It takes me a good 30-40 total hours of intense flow-training in a language before I develop a strong enough command of the accent and flow to start learning through mimicry. Moreover, I only start learning to communicate through mimicry once I get to the target country/locale, where I end up spending the majority of my waking hours speaking the target language. So in the same week the average classroom student accumulates 1 hour of artificial output, I’m putting in between 50 and 70 hours.Do the math and you’re realize that there’s absolutely nothing amazing about what Moses and I have accomplished. As Moses puts it simply in the video:
“The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. That’s just how it is.”
The Self-recording Challenge is our way of encouraging YOU to put more into it…
Instead of treating language as the fluid and beautiful thing that it is, certain people want to confine language to a strict set of spelling and grammar rules. Then to get everyone to conform to their rules, they create a stigma around people who don't spell or conjugate the way they do, labeling them as "uneducated" or even "unintelligent."
This is why people get super embarrassed whenever they realize that they accidentally wrote "there" instead of "they're," or answered the phone "this is her" instead of "this is she."
Seriously, who cares?
The point gets across either way, so don't ever think for a second that you're better than someone because you know the difference.
I find spelling and grammar nazis irritating enough, but what's most insidious about our society's obsession with rules is its negative effects on our ability to learn second languages as adults. Since all "educated" adults have been socialized to value "familiarity with rules" over "ability to communicate," second language education focus has always been on stupid, and ultimately arbitrary things, like the difference between "they're" and "their".
If you obsess over such insignificant things, you inhibit yourself from "feeling the flow" and learning to communicate fluently.
That's why there's nothing more refreshing to a Flow-Junkie like me than languages with no rules, like Montreal Joual...
The Mimic Method philosophy was conceived from my experience studying Afro-Brazilian Percussion in Rio de Janeiro
In my last post - "Words are Imaginary, Syllables are Real - Learn Syllables!", I explained how words have no physical reality to them and are actually mental abstractions. This is problematic for anyone approaching foreign language exclusively through words, since oral communication is fundamentally a physical activity.
As an alternative, I presented a more "physical" approach to language-learning - the syllables approach. In contrast to words, syllables can be transcribed in a way that accurately represents the acoustic reality of speech. This is extremely useful, since all human speech can be broken down into strings of rhythmic syllables.
At first, most people will struggle to hear speech in syllables, since literacy training has caused us to hear speech in terms of imagined words. Nevertheless, Syllables Perception CAN be trained. I've trained syllable perception extensively through both my rap-training in multiple languages and my Cloud-Tutoring of hundreds of other people’s accents (currently I have over 4,000 Soundcloud comments, 700 of which are publicly viewable here).
Training this ability has dramatically improved my ability to mimic and learn any human language. As I will write about soon, one of my goals for 2013 is to develop a free and open curriculum for "Flow-Training,' and syllable perception will be a core competency of this program.In this post, I will discuss in detail the most important element of syllable perception - rhythm perception.
This photo has nothing to do with the post. I just wanted to rub it in certain people's faces that I'm on the beach now! : p
Almost everyone considers words to be the fundamental building blocks of language. This being the case, almost everyone approaches the learning of a second language through words.
It seems to make perfect sense - just keep memorizing words and the grammar rules that govern them, and eventually you’ll learn the language, right?
WRONG- Language is NOT made up of words, it’s made up of sounds.
When you hear speech, you first process the sounds, then you reconstruct these sounds into mental abstractions called “words.” In other words (no pun intended), words are merely figments of our imaginations.
Because words have no physical reality to them, this creates several complications for anyone who centers their foreign language studies exclusively around words. In fact, the main reason why most people struggle at foreign languages is because they focus too much on words and not enough on sounds.
Allow me to explain...
As adult second language learners, our ears and speech organs need a bit of time to develop the sensitivity and motor coordination to process foreign sounds correctly. So when you first try to mimic speech in your target language, you will inevitably hear and pronounce sounds incorrectly.
To make things even worse, you're probably not going to know when you're hearing/pronouncing things incorrectly. As I write in my post on "How to Tune Your Foreign Language Vowel Pronunciation", foreign speech sounds often get magnetized to familiar ones in our perception, so two different sounds will initially sound the exact same to you unless you pay really close attention.
This is why feedback is so important. The very first step to error-elimination is error-awareness, so we need some sort of feedback system to make us aware of the sounds that we are getting wrong.
This was the idea behind Cloud-Tutoring. In my Flow Series Courses, I use Cloud-Tutoring to help my students identify their specific pronunciation weaknesses and provide them with detailed instructions on how to fix them. Had I not pointed these errors out to them, they would have never known they were making them, and once again, without awareness we can't fix our errors.
But you can develop awareness on your own without paying me or anyone else for Cloud-Tutoring.
Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot for doing this, but Spreading the Flow always takes precedence over money for me, so I'm going to let you in on the technique I personally use to give myself feedback on my own foreign language pronunciation - Flow-verlapping.
If you're one of the minority of people who agree with me on this point, sign up for my newsletter and get a free assessment of your accent in your target language.
If you're not quite convinced, ask yourself this: of all the people you've ever heard fluently speak a adulthood-acquired second-language, how many of them speak with really bad accents?
Dig into the history of all the best language-learners and you'll discover this, they all spoke with good pronunciation ever since the very beginning of their language-studies.
There's a reason for this, but it requires a bit of abstract thinking to understand...
Me mimicking my Brazilian Spirit Guide
Have you ever seen or heard something for the first time that deeply resounded within your being? It's as if you had a vague notion of something that ought to exist, and the moment you find out that it does, all you can think is:
Oh my God...yes...EXACTLY!
That was the feeling I had my second week ever in Brazil, when a girl I had just met shared the above video on my facebook wall with this note:
E aí Idahosa td blza?
Acho que cê vai curtir isso.
Hey Idahosa how is everything?
I think you'll like this
After a quick Google translate search of the word "curtir," I pressed the play button with low expectations. The thumbnail had some dude in a white suit playing guitar by himself, and at the time I wasn't a big fan of live one person, one-instrument shows (Oh how things have changed...)
By the end of the five minute video, I was completely blown away. But it only took 15 seconds for me to know one thing for certain - Seu Jorge was going to be my Brazilian Spirit Guide.
Without a doubt, most foreign language pronunciation errors are vowel pronunciation errors. There are two reasons for this:
- Vowel relationships are the first thing you learn in your first language, so it's more deeply ingrained in your muscle memory and native Flow.
- Vowels simply occur more often than consonants in any given language (that's why they cost more on "Wheel of Fortune!)
As any good Mimic Method student knows, an authentic foreign language accent isn't just a "bonus skill" - it's the most important step in achieving fluency.
That being the case, vowel tuning is one of the most important steps you should take when learning a foreign language. Personally, it's the very first thing I do. Let me show you how I do it...
Whenever I meet people and they ask me what I do, I find it hard to explain in a sentence. That's because NO ONE ELSE does what I do (...yet). I can't simply say "I'm a Flow-Coach" and expect no follow-up questions. So I created this short video to explain the process as clearly and succinctly as possible.
I'm trying to create a new model for sound education. Language is all about sound, but everyone focuses on everything but the sound. The system I use enables everyone to bring their focus back to the most important step of the language-acquisition process - mastering the sound.
Fortunately, the technology is out there for us to do some serious virtual education for training people's sound perception and motor skills, whether its for music or language. At the same time, the technology allows educators to be more profitable and have a wider impact. I honestly think this will be the next big thing in Sound education.
Maybe some years down the line when someone asks me what I do, my answer of "I'm a Flow-Coach" will get me a simple nod of understanding and no follow-up questions.
Until then, keep on Flowin'
If you're a music or language educator, be sure to sign up for The New Sound Educators League newsletter to learn more about how to create a small virtual business like mine for yourself.