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...
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.
A Bad accent makes you sound, look, smell, and feel like a jackass
In The Flow Series Courses, I teach foreign language songs syllable-by-syllable. After working through the song-training materials for a lyric, Flow students record themselves singing/rapping the lyric and submit it to my Soundcloud Dropbox for feedback on their pronunciation. Using Soundcloud's timed-comment feature, I then pinpoint each pronunciation error, explain what the error is, then provide step-by-step instructions for fixing it. After providing feedback on over 1,000 submissions to students singing/rapping in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Mandarin, I have identified four errors that account for 80% of the accent Native-English speakers have when speaking other languages. My arch nemesis - Dr. No-Flow - insists on speaking, singing and rapping foreign languages with a horrendous American accent. He recently attempted to jack my swag (as always) and do his own rendition of the Colombian rap song"Somos Pacifico" after watching my video of me rapping the same song. As irritating as this man's tracks are, they do actually make for great Flow case studies. This track is rife with examples of all four of the errors that I cover in this post.
The four errors that so characterize Señor No-Flow's Flow (or lack thereof) can be traced back to four features of "The Flow of English" that are so ingrained in the speech organ motor memory of native-English speakers that most are completely oblivious to their existence.
As deeply ingrained as these habits are, however, they're not hard to fix; it's just a question of awareness. Develop a physical awareness of your errors, and you will eventually phase them out.
In this post, I will review these four errors and provide tips for developing your awareness of them so that you may avoid the fate of No-Flow.
My personal approach to language learning is really quite simple.
- First, I familiarize myself with the sound and articulation of each of the component sounds (phonemes) of the language.
- Then, I use Rhythmic Phonetic Training teach myself the lyrics of rap songs to develop my mastery of the Flow of that language and hone my mimicry skills.
- Next, I immerse myself in the place that speaks the language and learn through mimicry.
In future videos, I will show you exactly this last step of mimicry actually goes down in practice. I will also discuss how I went about the first step of familiarizing myself with the component sounds of French.
For now, we'll focus on step 2 - teaching myself how to rap songs without understanding the lyrics. In this video, I teach myself the song "Soul Pleurer" ("Soul Cry") by the Old School French Rap group from Montreal - Dubmatique
The Montreal Skyline
Welcome to "The Flow Blog
" I started this blog a few months back but put it aside to focus on developing my Flow Series Courses
. I figured no one would want to hear what I had to say about language and learning until I had proven that my ideas were worthwhile. I mean who would ever believe some crazy guy who talks about the virtues of rapping in foreign languages
Well as it turns out, quite a few people have found the idea compelling, and a growing number of people are trying out Rhythmic Phonetic Training
to learn to sing and rap in Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese (French coming soon!).
But now that people are starting to really feel the Flow of their target languages, I've been getting a lot of emails from students similar to this:
"Hey Idahosa, so I can sing and rap a couple songs now which is great!
But what now? How do I actually learn the language?"
For my business, I am trying to carve out my own niche in musical accent training, as accent is the most underdeveloped (yet the most crucial) aspect of any language learning program. So to keep people's attention on what I believe has been ignored for too long, I have remained staunchly silent on the rest of the language-learning process.
But now that I have a decent-sized following of students putting faith in my methods, I feel a duty to complete the entire story. So I have reinvigorated this blog to explain my language approach in detail, using my current mission to learn French in Montreal, Quebec, Canada as a case study.