How to learn any language in 6 months | Chris Lonsdale (TED Talk Summary)
November 2, 2019
Anybody can learn a second language in six
months. There are five principles and seven actions. The first rule, first principle for
learning a language is focus on language content that is relative to YOU. I had a colleague
many years ago, we had 48 hours to deliver a training manual in Chinese. In 48 hours,
she learned to type Chinese because it was relevant, it was meaningful, it was important.
So the second principle for learning a language is: to use your language as a tool to communicate,
right from day 1! When I first arrived in China, I didn’t speak a word of Chinese, on
my second week, I got to take a train ride overnight. I spent 8 hours sitting in the
dining car, talking to one of the guards on the train, in Chinese. He was drawing pictures
and making movements with his hands and piece by piece by piece I understood more and more.
2 weeks later when people were talking Chinese around me, I was understanding some of this
and I hadn’t made any effort to learn that. Which brings us to the 3rd principle: When
you first understand the message, then you will acquire the language unconsciously. And
language learning, it’s about physiological training! Because we have filters in our brain
that filter out the sounds of languages that we’re not familiar with and if you can’t hear
it, you won’t understand it. Speaking takes muscle – you have to coordinate those in a
way that you make sounds that other people will understand. And the final principle,
if you’re sad, angry, worried, upset, you’re not going to learn, period! You need to be
tolerant of ambiguity. If you’re one of those people who needs to understand 100% every
word you’re hearing, you will go nuts! If you’re comfortable getting some, not getting
some, paying attention to what you do understand, you’re gonna be fine, you’ll be relaxed and
you’ll be learning quickly. What are the 7 actions that you take? Number 1 – Listen alot!
Doesn’t matter if you understand it or not. You’re listening to the rhythms, you’re listening
to patterns that repeat, you’re listening to things that stand out. The second action:
Get the meaning first even before you get the word. From body language you can understand
a lot of communication. The third action, start mixing! If you’ve got ten verbs, ten
nouns and ten adjectives, you can say 1000 different things. Focus on the core. With
every language, there’s high frequency content. In English, 1000 words covers 85% of anything
you’re ever gonna say in daily communication. Start with your toolbox. How do you say that?
I don’t understand. Repeat that please. What does that mean? By week 2: Me, this, you,
that. And by the 3rd or 4th week: Although, but, therefore. You should get yourself a
language parent who will communicate with you essentially as an equal. First of all
they will work hard to understand what you mean even when you’re way off. Secondly they
will never correct your mistakes. Thirdly they will feedback their understanding of
what you’re saying so that you can respond and then they will use words that you know.
The sixth thing you have to do is copy the face. You gotta get the muscles working right.
And the final idea here, what you need to do is realize that everything you know is
an image inside your mind. If you talk about fire you can smell the smoke and you can see
the flames. There are five principles, seven actions, do them all, you’re going to be fluent
in a second language in 6 months. Thank you.