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...
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.
My office while in Cali, Colombia
In my last post, I posted a video of me rapping my first full verse of French
. In accordance with The Mimic Method philosophy
, the purpose of this activity is to train the motor memory in my speech organ so that I can produce French sounds at normal speeds.
Before I could rap in French, however, I needed to familiarize myself with its component sounds, or phonemes
. Every language has its own phonetic menu, or list of possible sounds. In the case of "Standard French
" (you'll hear what I think about the use of the word "standard" later), there are roughly 36 different menus on the item.
This may sound like a lot to digest, until you start to cross off the sounds that already exist in English. Of the 36 French sounds, 27 already exist in English
. From a learning perspective this makes things much easier.
In all of the courses in The Flow Series
, the first unit focuses exclusively on the "Sound System" of the language. The Sound System Primer contains:
• Detailed instructions for articulating each sound of that language's phonetic menu.
• A list of all the common "English Speaker Tendencies" and how to avoid them.
• Drills for developing the motor memory needed to articulate the most difficult sounds.
For the sake of brevity, however, this post is just going to focus on my personal challenges mastering the basic phonemes of French.
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.