Thursday, December 11, 2008

Languages (and fluency)

Okay, so it's been a while since I updated this thing. And, unfortunately, unlike the last post, this is not going to be all that interesting. It will be significantly shorter though...I really got to get on top of this blogging thing.

Anyway, I was up at 4am this morning, for reasons I can't explain very well. I wasn't able to sleep and so I just turned on my computer started working on stuff, making headway into some of my projects.

Let me explain what I've got going on.

Because I was annoyed at the lake of Korean Grammar books (or the inefficiencies of those books), I started making my own Grammar book, based almost entirely on the "Dictionary of Japanese Grammar" series (I say series, but it's really only two extremely thick books). I think that the one I will complete here will be the "Dictionary of Basic Korean Grammar" as I'm hard pressed to get anything too overly intricate. I'm trying to take the stuff that you really need to know in order to communicate effectively in most circumstances and calling them "Basic", which is working out fine. I'm also trying to give easy-to-understand explanations based on how I've come to understand the grammar principle.

In order to do this, I'm compiling info from several sources: "Navigating Korean", Seoul National University's "Korean Conversation" books, "Korean Grammar for International Learners", Cambridge's "Using Korean", Ganada's "Korean for Foreigners", and's Newbie, Beginner and Intermediate lessons.

In the end, I've come up with a ton of grammar principles that I find to be fairly necessary for most conversational needs. The book "Korean Grammar for International Learners" has a whole lot more grammar than I'm using, but Korean Grammar for International Learners is so complex that it requires: 1) A basic understanding of the Korean language beforehand, and 2) that you understand linguistics. Both of these are broad assumptions, hence the inefficiancy of the book. I predict that there will be 2 or 3 books totally before I can call this project "complete".

But anyway, that's what I worked on. In the end, I was bored and started walking myself through a lecture I might give on language study. I did this because of my second project which is going slower because of the lack of neccessity behind it, which is "Japanese Fluency in 6 weeks or Less." Yeah, I've got this delusion of graduer that I might be able to create a race of superhumans capable of speaking Japanese after only 6 weeks of learning. This would be an intense program, but I think I could pull it off.

As I walked through my fake lecture seminar thing in my mind, I came up (rather, was inspired with) with 6 steps (or laws, I have to test these things) to fluency. I decided that I'd put them in this blog and call it good. So, here we are.

6 step process to gaining fluency in a language
1. Step 1: Determination
a. You have to decide that you want to learn the language. If you don’t want to learn, not matter what happens, you won’t learn hardly anything. You may pick up random basic phrases, but that’s only if you are listening and if you want to keep those phrases in your mind.
2. Step 2: Dedication
a. You have to put effort into the language. You have to pay attention to anyone speaking the language and listen to the words they say and how they say them. You can have translations all the time, but if you aren’t actually listening, you aren’t actually putting forth effort, you won’t learn much more than if you didn’t want to learn the language.
3. Step 3: Language does not exist
a. Communication does exist, but languages do not. Language is an arbitrary word we’ve attached to a method of communication. All communication is articulations and established orders and reasons is arbitrary
4. Step 4: Learn Grammar
a. Despite the fact that language that does not exist, grammar is like the roads of a civilization: without roads, you can’t connect cities and people, and without grammar, you can’t connect sentences or ideas.
b. A language is like math, you plug in the parts in the places they should go. Once you’re past that, it’s all vocabulary.
5. Step 5: Get a dictionary (but don’t just read it)
a. Dictionaries are useful to learn a word, but the people are your best source for learning new words. As they say them, look them up.
i. 1st time: won’t remember it.
ii. 2nd time: You probably won’t remember it, but you will kick yourself for not remembering (which will cause your brain to mark it as important)
iii. 3rd time: You will likely remember it after this point because your brain has already marked it and now it’s becoming repetitive. It won’t necessarily be integrated into your vocabulary, but it will become fairly high on the scale of words you suddenly understand.
6. Step 6: Become involved in that culture
a. A lot of what we learn in communication comes in context, and without context, we don’t understand. A phrase or word in a different context may means something different or may mean nothing at all. When we give ourselves a cultural background, we will learn much more from context alone, and have more things to talk about, than if we don’t get involved.

Well, hope things are going well for you guys. Happy Trails people.