Polish

Language Learning without Grammar

I just read a post on Steve Kaufmann's blog about language learning and Web 2.0, which included a link to this YouTube video he made on the same topic. As a guy experimenting with creating Web 2.0 language learning applications, I feel like this message is aimed directly at people like myself.

I completely agree with the general message of the video: Focusing on grammar in language learning is detrimental and yields very little in the way of actual proficiency in using the language. But its the specifics I keep getting hung up on.

Knowledge Ain’t Nothing

I've been studying Russian and Polish language for about four years now. It has been a great experience for me. I discovered that not only do I love learning languages, but I seem to be pretty OK at it. During that time, my thoughts on how one should learn a foreign language have been constantly evolving.

In the beginning, I was largely focused on grammar. This was primarily because the class I was taking focused on grammar. This agrees with a general trend in modern American education, which emphasizes understanding the ideas rather than memorizing the facts. In general, this is good thing. Language courses of the past focused on memorizing vocabulary. Now understanding grammar is the main focus.

Also grammar was easily interesting to me in its own right. Its like math with words. My programmer brain liked it. And it was comfortable. I didn't have to go out on a limb and risk personal embarrassment like with speaking.

Morning Rain

As I biked into work today at the usual 6.30am, I was listening to this wonderful pod-post on my iRiver. I know, biking and listening to head phones might not be the safest thing, not to mention, in the rain!

But inspired by the blog and book by Steve Kaufmann of The Linguist, I decided that I need to fill every spare moment with Polish language input if I ever hoped to become truly fluent. And I spend a TON of time biking from place to place.

I just came accross Steve's work yesterday, and I plan to discuss some of his ideas in later posts, but let me just say now that what he says strongly reflects my experience of language learning and the evolution of my thoughts about it.

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