Last year, I learned German in a matter of months. People felt inspired, but they were also doubtful. "Obviously, this Idahosa guy has a natural gift for languages. But I'm just a normal person. Could I really learn this fast?"
I wish I could tell you that I flunked every Spanish class in high school and college. That my accent was horrendous and my ear was tone-deaf. Then you'd think "If The Mimic Method can work for this guy, then it can work for anyone!"
But I've always been good at languages, so to convince you that The Mimic Method works, you need to see a normal person succeed with it.
I happen to know the perfect 'normal person' for the job - my friend, business colleague, and polar opposite- Mike...
full episode list
- Ep. 0 | Introducing Mike
- Ep. 1 | Week 1 – Singing Practice
- Ep. 2 | Week 2 – Faking Accent
- Ep. 3 | Week 3 – Chatting w/ Strangers
- Ep. 4 | Week 4 – Script Building
- Ep. 5 | Week 5 – Blending w/ Locals
- Ep. 6 | Week 6 – Immersing in Italy
- Ep. 7 | Week 7 – Hacking Shyness
- Ep. 8 | Holiday Update
- Ep. 9 | Spontaneous Conversation
Michael Gaeta - My Polar Opposite
A year and a half ago, I hired Mike to help run operations at the Mimic Method. For the next few months, he has a new job: Learn Conversational Italian in 2 months.
Mike and I are quite different. In fact, some might consider us polar opposites. I'm extroverted, full of energy, and feel most at home in the chaos. I love entertaining crowds, improvising in the moment, and coming up with new crazy ideas.
Mike is introverted, calm and collected. He plans out his life weeks ahead of time and is happiest when he can fall into a routine and work bit-by-bit on his projects in long uninterrupted solitude.
That's why I hired Mike. I needed someone methodical and detail-oriented to execute all my crazy ideas.
But will Mike's introverted traits serve him well on his mission to learn Italian?
My natural traits served me well in my language missions. Moving to a foreign land, befriending randos and immersing myself in a new culture comes natural to me.
But Mike doesn't like jumping into the chaos without a plan. He's doesn't strike up conversations with random strangers in the street and crack jokes at dinner parties. In fact, the mere thought of doing so makes him shudder.
Will the same system that works so well for me also work for him?
How Mike Will Use The Mimic Method to Learn Italian
I already know that The Mimic Method will work for Mike, because The Mimic Method works for everyone.
Let's review the three stages of learning a language by Ear:
The Mimic Method is our system for accelerating through these 3 stages as fast as possible. Here are all the steps:
Let's take a look at how Mike will go through these steps with his mission to learn Italian quickly.
Stage 1: Capacity (Hearing and Pronunciation)
The first thing Mike needs to do is tune his ear and mouth to the sounds of Italian speech.
He'll start by doing an inventory of the "Elemental Sounds" of Italian. He'll identify the sounds he already knows and focus on the ones that trip him up (Sound Capacity).
Then he'll work to perfect his pronunciation of the 500 most common Italian words. This ensures he can pronounce each elemental sound in combination (Syllable Capacity).
Finally, he'll focus his attention on the melodic patterns of Italian (Sentence Capacity).
Then Mike will be able to listen to an Italian phrase and mimic it WITHOUT knowing what the phrase means.
This will be the key to Mike picking up new Italian words and phrases by ear. I predict that he will complete the capacity stage in 2-3 weeks of daily study (1-2 hours per day).
Stage 2: Conversation (Understanding and Speaking)
As soon as Mike can command the sounds of Italian, his next task will be to attach meaning to those sounds.
First, he is going to use Pimsleur to learn the basics. I like Pimsleur, because it is one of the few "Learn by Ear" courses out there. All the other ones make you use your eyes to read stuff, which causes interference.
With some Pimsleur under his belt, Mike will be able to hold a simple conversation with an Italian tutor. He won't do anything fancy here. He'll just what he knows to hold a basic conversation with a real human (Simple Conversation).
Once Mike finishes Pimsleur, he will start to develop "Scripts" with his tutor. Scripts are things that Mike will end up saying all the time. For example, answers to the questions "Why did you decide to learn Italian?" and "What do you do for a living?" Since these situations come up often, they make great practice for speaking "well."
He will prepare these scripts and practice them with as many random Italians as he can (Scripted Communication).
Then with the confidence of his accents and his scripts, Mike will travel to Italy and try to speak as much Italian as possible.
Clocking Hours in Italy
At this stage in the learning process, Mike's only concern will be "Mat Time." In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, "Mat Time" is the cumulative number of hours you spend sparring live.
No matter how much you study, you won't internalize anything in until you "spar" with a real opponent.
With enough practice, he will eventually reach a point I call "The Shift." The Shift is the point when Italian conversations finally stop sucking. Before this point, thoughts are hard to express, and people are hard to understand. After this point, everything starts to flow, and it feels glorious (Spontaneous Conversation).
I predict that Mike will reach "The Shift" after 4 weeks of daily conversation.
After that, Mike will have completed his Italian Mission. Then it will be up to him to decide if he wants to continue with the next stages of The Mimic Method system:
- Sophisticated Conversation - Systematically rooting out all the grammar errors
- Scholastic Command - Learning how to read.
- Stylistic Command - Learning how to write.
Why is Mike learning Italian?
Mike doesn't have much experience learning foreign languages. He's always had an interest, but never really made the effort until now.
When I asked him what language he wanted to learn, he said Italian, because his ancestors are Italian. It was his great-grandparents who first immigrated to the US in the early 20th century. So neither his parents nor his grandparents speak the language.
But he did find out that he has some living family members who still speak Italian, so he's hoping to connect with them in their native language. Then when he comes back to New York for the holidays, he hopes to impress his family with his new skills.
Maybe he will inspire them to get back in touch with their roots.