Translator: Hoa PhamReviewer: Denise RQ Learning a language can feela bit like rocket science, something out of this worldand out of reach for the vast majority of us.
This isn't a belief, however, just held bymany English monolinguals on our island.
It's also sharedby many of our linguistic cousins further afield, say, in the United States or Australia.
Let's be honest: when it comes to learning languagesor speaking them, we are the kind of peoplethat likes to think we're fluent in a multitudeof diverse languages such as Geordie, Kiwi, Cockney, or what about Canadian? Don't get me wrong.
I'm very, very proudof my Mancunian heritage, but I wouldn't suggestit's a separate language just yet.
After all, we don't need subtitles when we are watchingCoronation Street, now do we? Although I can see you two saying, “I do.
” (Laughter) Yet, despite this, if you wereto cross the Channel, or say, if you're feelingslightly more adventurous, cross the Severn Estuary into Wales, there you would find that speaking another languageor being bilingual is simply a reality.
Yet, there and further afield, many are still convinced of the fact this is a long, challenging, somewhat painful, and dare I say, daunting task.
In this room of 100 people, I'd guess that at least 15 other languagesare spoken besides English.
In fact, the last census of 2011 revealedthat a staggering 22% of Londoners – that's 22%, one in four, almost – speak another language at homeapart from English.
I myself, even as a Mancunian, speak approximately 20 languages, and of those, around half I speak fluently.
And the question I get askedby people the most is, “Why?” (Laughter) Well, the answer, for meat least, is rather simple.
I'm convinced learning languages, any languageper Se, is actually easy.
And I want to show you how.
As a linguist, a polyglot, and a lecturer, I know what it entailsto learn and study a language.
And one of the biggest obstacles we're faced [with]when learning are myths.
And I genuinely believethat we have to debunk them.
In order to rememberthese more effectively, I came up with the niceand friendly sounding acronym D.
(Laughter) which funnily enough, if you write it outnot pronounce, if you write it out, it's one of the words for 'the' in German.
Myth number one: learning a languageis simply too difficult.
I will never be able tospeak another language quite like the language I was born with.
Technically, you're not bornwith a language.
All of us here could have ended up, with say, Japanese as our first language.
We were simply surroundedor immersed in the language generally from a very early age.
There are people, however, out there – many of them, in fact – who started to learn a language, the second or maybe even the third, much later on in life.
And guess what? They're now completely fluentin this language or these other languages even perhaps more sothan in their so-called mother tongue.
Why is this? Because there is no cutoff date by which you have to have learnedanother language.
Think about how many peopleyou know who say, “Ugh! My kids are doing French in school.
I really want them to become fluent.
But I can't, no way, it's impossible.
I should've simply paid more attentionwhen I was at school.
” Well, studies reveal that whilst childrengenerally are much faster at picking up a new languagethan people older than them, it's actually us – you can justbreathe as a sign of relief – It's us, the adults, who aremore effective at learning them.
Why is this? Because we havethe experience of learning.
We know how to learn already.
Myth number two:languages are simply irrelevant.
I don't need to learnanother language at all.
And as we hear, and unfortunately hear quite a lot – I was going to do in a cockney accent, but I won't do it at all.
I'll spare myselfthe embarrassment of doing that – languages .
everyone speaks English, anyway.
Well, besides the obvious benefitsof speaking another language – for example, financial benefitsand mental benefits, i.
, better pay, more job opportunities, keeping us mentally fit, and actually helping to stave offneurological diseases such as Alzheimer's- there are real hidden gems we can discoverwhen we speak another language.
How about getting an upgradeon your hotel room, as was recently the case with my unclebefore going to Turkey on holiday? He asked me if I could send him over a few phrases and greetingsin the language that he could try out in the hotel.
Turns up, caught over this suitcase, throws out a few sentences in Turkish, and bam!, he's given an upgradeon his hotel room straight away.
(Laughter) You might not always getan upgrade on your hotel room.
I can't promise you this.
However, I can promisethat you maybe just maybe, through another language, will meet the love of your life.
We all remember Jamie from Love Actuallylearning Portuguese for Aurélia.
And in fact, almost one in ten Britsis married to someone who was born overseas.
Furthermore, the Guardianreported on research showing that people who are able tospeak two languages or more better adapt or are better equippedat dealing with problems, that they're better at multitaskingand prioritizing tasks.
This is definitely a muchsought-after skill in our day and age when all of us appearedto be glued to our phones.
I wonder how many people nowwho're watching this will be glued to their phones, and how many areactually going to bilingual? Myth number three: you have to be an expat and be in a placewhere the language is constantly spoken, even to just get a grasp of the language.
There's no harm in simply packing up and moving to a villagein the middle of nowhere, but it's not actually necessary.
Now the great unknown: my brother and I -I'll leave you to decide who's who; he's actually my twin brother – my brother and I whilst being basedin Berlin, Germany, decided to undertake the challengeof learning Turkish in just seven days.
We decided to undertake the challengeof learning Turkish in just seven days in order to show what you can doby simply putting your mind to it.
I'm not saying we all need to be going out thereand learning a language in a week nor that it's actually possible to learn absolutely everything there isin such a short space of time.
I can assure you, it isn't.
Perfection isn't the goal here.
The goal, however, is to getas good as we possibly can in a particular language, in the shortest time possible.
This means to the dismay of school teachersall throughout the globe, “Take shortcuts.
” The best thing about these shortcuts is we can apply them to any languagethat we would like to learn.
And furthermore, they're so simple, you might be left thinking at the end, “Why didn't I think of that?” So let's take a look at these shortcuts.
Number one: analyze the similarities, focus on similar elements.
As speakers of English, we already know so muchabout other languages, given the fact that our language itself, essentially, is a Germanic language with the wealthof influences and vocabulary from a multitude of different languagesas diverse as Latin, Hebrew, or Hindi.
Doing this will help developpatterns in the language and also will help us to guess the meaningand formation of words and things that we don't yet know.
As you see in this slide, for example, we can see how closely related English isto fellow other Germanic languages and even to languages that are, in this case, Romance languages, despite the fact that English isa Germanic language essentially.
Shortcut number two: keep it simple.
At first sight, you might thinkyou're learning a language that doesn't have that muchin common with our own, but by focusing on easy elements, we will be able to learn it much quickly because every languagehas easy elements to it.
Some languages only havetwo or three tenses.
For example, you end up saying'I had, ' in this one form, for 'I had, 'I have had, 'and 'I had had, ' and 'I am' also can be'I will be' and 'I would be.
' In other cases, if we look at, for example, German, we have a case of advanced vocabulary that is derived froma few simple words or verbs.
In this case, we havethe verb 'sprechen' which is 'to speak, ' which has now gone on and lent itself to become 'besprechen' – to discuss, 'entsprechen' – to correspond, 'versprechen' and 'absprechen, 'and so on, and so on.
Shortcut number three: keep it relevant.
Especially at the beginningof our process, we need to make surethat it's relevant to us.
Not everyone is learning German in order to discuss businesswith colleagues in Berlin.
Think about this.
As speakers of English, we don't know every single wordin the Oxford English Dictionary.
So why should we fret about remembering every single wordwe encounter in the new language? We simply have to make it relevantto our own specific situation right now.
When it comes to learning a language, perhaps the most crucial element is time.
And by time, I don't meanyears upon years of endless learning as some people still like to think.
How long does it take to learn a language? How about if I were to tell you that 30 minutes per dayare a great and effective start? Thirty minutes – these areminutes we all have.
Be ten in the morning, ten in the afternoon, ten in the evening, or 30 minutes in simply one go on the way to work, to university, to school, out in the evening, meeting friends, whilst we are on the train or bus.
We all have all these minutesthat we can commit to learn.
Furthermore, by learning forsmaller periods and regular intervals, we won't feel so overwhelmedby the language.
And even better, learning for regular periodsmeans that it's more effective, because chances are that if you're learning foronce a week or once a fortnight, by the time you next come to learn, you'll already have forgottenwhat you initially learned.
The goal therefore is to fit language learninginto our daily routines and not the other way around.
And by doing this, there's no reasonwhy after simply one month, you can't get by in your new language.
These active forms of learning, we need to compliment them with what I'd like to refer toas passive forms of learning.
Having breakfast: switch the radio onand listen to a station in the language, become acquaintedwith the music of the language.
The music will not only help youget used to the sounds, to the intonation, and to the rhythm but the words you'll hearwill also help you associate them; because you know the songs, and you'll be able toassociate them with these songs, thus expanding our vocabulary.
Had a hard day? Treat yourself to a TV seriesor a film in the language, and put subtitles on, in English, and then, others can joinand watch with you as well.
We all know how everyoneseems to be going crazy about this Scandinavian TV crime seriesat the moment – some of which have beendubbed into English; keep it original.
By doing this, this will get you off to a great start to go on and to actuallymaster your language.
There are three rules, I like to refer to themas the golden rules of language learning, that each and everyone of usshould be doing when going about learning a language.
The first rule is – wait for it – the first rule is live the language, speak it, read it, write it, dream in it, sing it even; sing to yourself.
My brother and Iwhen we started learning Greek, we decided to write songs in the language.
Don't worry, I'm not aboutto embarrass my brother, and I certainly won't be singingfor you all this morning.
That said, in order to master the language, you have to make it yours, own the language.
So why not put your phone or computerin the language you're learning? Number two: make mistakes.
Yes, you heard me correctly.
Make as many as you want.
Why? Because we learn by making mistakes.
It's actually the only waywe can get things right.
As children, we're evenexpected to make them.
But as adults, we are apprehensivebecause they make us feel vulnerable.
Admitting from the beginning we don't know absolutely everythingthere is to know about this new language will not prevent us from learning it.
Furthermore, it will actually give usthe freedom to go on and to master it.
So go forth and makeas many mistakes as you like.
The last rule, and this is the most important one, and this is essential: make it fun.
Grammar rules aren't always fun.
I mean, I love grammar, but I understand that not everyoneis so enthusiastic about it; not sure why, though.
But remember, whatever you can do in English, you can do in any other language, so make it fun.
And actually, by making it fun, by making the process entertaining, you're helping yourself stay motivated.
And the more motivated you are, the better your chances are of succeeding.
So go out and letyour creative juices flow.
The best thing as well is why not try and get people, other people, involved? Say, colleagues, friends, and turn itinto a small, friendly competition.
Actually, studies showif you get a friendly competition going, that your chances ofsucceeding are much better, and they enhance your performance.
Languages are often perceivedto be the great unknown.
We like to think of themas something unfamiliar, and yet, we know so much about them because all human languages havetheir own peculiar yet beautiful ways of expressing ideas, concepts, and reality, even if we're not aware of it at first.
By now delving into the unknownand realizing the familiar, we will be able to master one of the most fulfilling, rewarding, and efficient skills we possess as humans: human communication.
And who could resistwanting to learn a language with these linguistic pearls? The first one would be, as you say in French, (French) Ayez Les dents longues, (English) which is 'be ambitious.
' It literally means, however, 'have long teeth.
' (Laughter) Mine aren't that long.
I'd like to wish you all in Italian (Italian) In bocca al lupo, (English) which is 'good luck, ' but literally means'into the mouth of the wolf.
' (Laughter) And finally, as we say in Ukrainian, (Ukrainian) Skilʹky mov ty znayesh -stilʹky raziv ty lyudyna, (English) which means “The more languages you know, the more people you are.
” Enjoy learning a new language.