Learning a new language

I took a week off my current project to take part in intensive German lessons. I figured having some full time theory would help round out what I’ve learned from audio guides since working in Berlin, and it’s a good opportunity to do it whilst still in Germany. In talking about “The Beginner’s Mind“, I thought I’d share how I’ve been applying these to what I’ve been doing.

Recognising I’m still a Novice
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about experts requiring this magic “10,000” hour number. I’m well far from that. Models that describe how we learn, such as the Dreyfus Model of Skills Acquisition, point out different levels requiring a different environment to further your skills.

For example, if I could speak German fluently, I would want to further hone my skills my taking part in public speaking classes such as Toastmasters or reading a book on philosophy, in German. I’m well far from that.

As a novice, I need to build a base vocabulary. I need strict rules on how sentences are (generally) formed and lots and lots of practice.

Drinking from a firehose, one mouthful at a time
When you know you don’t know everything, it’s tempting to want to take in everything. I see someone in my class writing down everything, asking about complex sentences and all the variant manners of how to say something (German is full of these!) For me, I recognise it’s just too much at a time. Learning occurs through repetition, growing a wide base, and at the same time, building on top of what you already know.

Knowing when to say enough is enough is the key to not simply being overwhelmed.

Building stronger knowledge networks
The prerequisite for building knowledge is first having a wide enough vocabulary set. This means simply getting more words and experience under your belt. As I’m growing this set, I’m searching for links between words, trying to find patterns or relationships between words. I think it’s working out relatively well with the limited set that I have, though I know that if I can find ways to remember these, it’ll be easier to remember them later.

2 comments

  1. Pingback: thekua.com@work » Applying learning theory to a real language
  2. English

    The important thing to remember about learning any language is to persevere, when the going gets tough, people often give up on the language. Once you hit the hard bit you need to carry on and work through it, in the end it will be worth it.

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