I never gave much thought to language learning techniques. I learned German at school when I was very young and as far as I remember it was a very smooth process. I started learning English at middle school and ended up using it on a daily basis at work, becoming naturally fluent without much effort involved. I learned Italian when I was living in Italy just by listening to people talking. Pretty cool, right?
This year, at the age of 43 I started learning Japanese (after having lived in the country for 13 years, I know, my bad…). I went to Japanese school full-time for 6 months, and studied a lot on my own as well. I was basically learning Japanese from morning to evening. And in a way I still do. While I acquired solid grammatical bases and vocabulary I found myself to be repeatedly frustrated over my lack of progress with conversation. I felt that I had learned so much, piled up so much knowledge in my head, and yet I was unable to express myself. Why?
I do think that it is important to go through grammar basics even if it might feel boring. I’m very grateful to my teachers for their dedication and patience. Without grammar and vocabulary one cannot expect to progress, that’s just the way it is, one needs building blocks to build anything. Repetition is also important in my view. And I don’t mean just repeating a word (or entire sections, for that matter) two or three times. I mean going back to them over and over again. After a day, a week, two weeks, a month…. This will consolidate the acquired knowledge and burn little pathways of fluency in the alleys of your brain. I’m not kidding, it will!
Accumulating building blocks is of course essential. But then, what to do with them? When I was studying Japanese there were all these bits and pieces I knew by heart because that’s the way they were written in the textbook. For example, I knew how to say “this is a pen”. That path was well engraved in my brain because I acquired it through extensive studying, repetition, and I was therefore able to use that sentence. But when I had a conversation with someone and wanted to say “this is my pen”, or “this is Luca’s pen”, or “this was his pen”, or “this is not my pen”, I was in trouble. Why? Because I didn’t practice those pathways, it’s as simple as that.
That’s why I want to teach you to build as many collateral pathways as possible. It can be done starting from a very simple sentence, coming up with as many variations as you can, and practicing repeating them. We will do this with the help of texts from Le Petit Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) and Voyage En France (Sylvie Lainé). I’m very much looking forward to meeting you on the road, mes petits choux, à bientôt!