Friday, February 11, 2011

what this blog is about

The current title of this blog is "Keith's Voice on Extreme Language Learning." Let's take a look at what this means.

We'll start with the obvious. This blog is not entitled, Fluent in 3 months. Fluency is not in the title of my blog. Neither is there a time frame, such as, "pretty good in 2 months." It's also not entitled, Quick Foreign Language Acquisition. Quick is not a keyword that I use. The title is not Secrets of Successful Language Learning. Nor is this blog the How-to-learn-any-language Forum. Those are all good sites to visit, by the way.

The next obvious thing is what I put in bold when I wrote the title of this blog in the first sentence. I like to try out the most extreme and unusual thing you can think of to learn a language. Let me tell you why. I go to extremes because I want to do what very few have ever even attempted to do. I've decided I'm more interested in going past the native-speaker level, while most other learners don't even think about getting to the native-level. I don't want to just learn the language, I want to be the language.

OK, that's pretty big talk for somebody who hasn't reached full fluency in a foreign language yet.

Hey, I'm just telling you where I'm coming from. I've decided that if I'm going to learn a language, I'm going to go all the way with it. In order to do that, I feel it's best to learn a second language the same way I learned my first language. I write posts to tell you what I'm doing, what I believe, and to leave a history to show that I didn't just make things up one day. I don't actually write posts to try to convert people to my beliefs.

I'm not the Language Messiah. I do what I believe in. I think it's important that if you're going to do something, you need to believe that what you're doing is the thing to do. Especially when it's going to take a lot of time. That's why I don't ask people to try to do what I'm doing. If you don't believe in it, you'll just quit anyway.

Actually, natural language learning is not extreme. It's kind of silly to say that letting something happen naturally is extreme and that we should force it to happen as soon as possible. Well, that can be the topic of another post. I don't think that natural language acquisition is extreme.

I plan to use the languages I learn, for the rest of my life. Therefor, I don't want to spend a lifetime being mediocre at a language. I find that too frustrating. So I want to try to do what I can to learn a language the best way possible. I'm not saying I am doing it the best way, just that I'm using what I know about. I also want to know what actually works on its own, so I want to eliminate other influences for a certain period of time, even if the combination of things would be better. Again, a good topic for another post.

I focus on the long-term and the outcome that I will have to live with. I have this strange idea that doing it right the first time is better than having to go back and try to fix things later on. So it doesn't matter to me how long it takes. Being concerned about the time invested is not something I do.

I hope this post gave you a good idea of where I'm coming from and what I'm doing with this blog.


  1. Great post, keep up the good work Keith ;)
    The bigger a blog becomes, the more confusing comments you get from people who have no idea what you're trying to do.
    I disagree with your approach to learning a language (and especially use of the word "naturally" when it comes to use of a cathod ray tube as your main source of language info...), but if you're having fun with it and feel it's helping that's what matters!

  2. [removed previous version to correct a typo, that's all :-)]
    I guess few blogs can be entirely accurate. I love reading Fluent in 3 Months, and have a lot of respect for Benny, but as far as I can tell he hasn't yet achieved fluency in 3 months :-) Still, that name is more of a goal to push him harder, and I guess that applies equally to your blog.

    One thing - I am assuming that you didn't learn english by purely sitting in front of a TV for 2 years :-)

    The only other thing I think you should be more upfront about is that you spent 2 years on Mandarin with FSI and Assimil, and even had a recorded conversation (well, 10 seconds of audio) before your 2 years of watching TV, correct?

    Do you think the time you spent repeating Assimil phrases will affect your long term goal of "going past the native-speaker level" (sorry, but what does that mean? Do you mean "past the average person" - ie., to the level of an educated person?)? And will that effect be positive or negative?

    Or do you think that watching TV for 2 years has really just helped reinforce what you learnt in the 2 years prior?

    Keith, I really envy you. You had at least 3 hours EVERY DAY and your WHOLE WEEKEND to devote to your language learning task for TWO WHOLE YEARS. There was a time in my life when I probably had just as much spare time - except that I didn't show anywhere near as much dedication as you to language learning, and I didn't get anywhere near as far as you (compared to your japanese) as a result.

    So what's the plan from here? I guess you're still watching TV, but surely the plan is to have lots of conversations now? How about 3 hours of conversation every day, and the whole weekend? There must be plenty of chinese people living in Japan to go talk to. That might be considered by some to be the extreme version of conversation!

    Anyway, Good luck with it all!

  3. btw, my own language learning blog is called "Yet Another Language Blog" and is, therefore, an entirely accurate title. It is not, however, an interesting or sexy name. Much like the blog itself :-)

  4. Crno Srce, thanks for the comments. I will be writing a post to cover all of my history of attempts to learn Chinese, which is why I'm not answering the questions in the comments. Everything I have written about it in the past is still there. All of my threads on the How-to-learn-any-language forum are still there. I have a log there about what I did with Assimil, which was definitely not repeating phrases. I will include that in my history post.

    I also took an entire 6 months off from Chinese during the TV-only time.

    I wish I could have hours of conversation in Chinese everyday, but that's not working out that way.

    In my view, there is a difference between native-speaker-level and native-speaker. Such as, you can be at a NS-level even with a foreign accent. But that's not the only thing.

    Watching TV helps tune the brain to the frequency of the language. You can learn a lot from the visual information that you don't get from pure audio. Once you have a certain level, just audio is effective also at tuning your brain. You can do both too.

    I've already reduced my TV time. I have about a month and a half until I begin my renewed efforts with Japanese.

  5. Keith. You've a great blog. I think it is important because it is part of the corpus of writing about language learning that is so needed to create a productive conversation about how we can better learn languages. There is no one "best" blog or highest authority out there, but we are all like iron sharpening iron - pushing one another to explore new ideas and methods which allows the "regular guy" to be inspired and informed. Keep up the great work.

  6. What's your next step, Keith? What kind of studying have you been doing lately?

  7. I have a question for you Keith:

    Do you think the result of your 2000 hours of study would have been different if, instead of watching TV, you had been listening to live conversations among native speakers? Not from TV and not from a recording, but in person.

  8. I think if the audio was very basic, then Keith could have made larger gains as it would have aided comprehensible input, but if he doesn't find kids' tv to be interesting then that's fine. It's a question of time; if you want to become fluent using a natural tv approach, then you have to give it at least five years or so. I wish him luck!

  9. Nice blog! I can't find a way to follow it, though...

  10. Keith hope you are well and safe considering the recent events in Japan.

  11. Yeah, I hope too. I see you online on your skype badge sometimes but still you can write something about your situation now.
    Btw, I started a blog I'll be glad if you check it sometimes.
    All the best.

  12. Just a quick note here to commend you on your honesty, openness and courage throughout this experiment. It's been fascinating following your log so far, and I hope you'll be back soon to update us on your progress. I think the activation stage could prove to be very interesting. Best of luck, mate!

  13. I hope you could give more tips about Spanish language. BTW, Your blog is very intellectual.


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