What is the IPA & Why Should You Learn It?

What is the IPA & Why Should You Learn It?

I’d like to talk about one of the most underappreciated tools available to language learners: IPA. No, I’m not talking about “Indian Pale Ales,” though slight inebriation certainly can help some overcome the fear of conversing in a foreign language. The IPA I am referring to in today’s post is the “International Phonetic Alphabet.” I first learned about this powerful phonetic transcription system while studying Linguistics in university, and it has been an indispensable part of my language learning toolkit ever since. So what is so darn useful about the IPA? And why should you bother learning it? Read on to see my three key reasons.

Interview with Gabriel Wyner of Fluent Forever

Interview with Gabriel Wyner of Fluent Forever

Gabriel Wyner is a polyglot, former opera singer, the author of the book Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It, and the creator of the new Fluent Forever app, the most funded app in crowdfunding history. I highly recommend his book and app, especially to anyone who struggles with foreign language pronunciation or making new words stick. In the interview, we discuss: 1) How opera led Gabe to learn French, Italian, and German. 2) How a summer German immersion program proved he was not “crappy at languages” as he had previously believed. 3) Why opera is the perfect career for those who want to get paid to become multilingual. 4) The visceral difference between simply “pronouncing” a language and actually “thinking” and “feeling” in it. 5) Why you shouldn’t learn a language through translation (“It murders you before you start.”) 6) How images are a faster, more effective way to build new linguistics connections. 7) Why you should start with pronunciation training first. 8) How minimal pair training helps you learn pronunciation quickly and better notice your progress over time. 9) Why you can’t make old memories go away (the groove remains!), but how you can make new memories more powerful (making the groove deeper). 10) Why images (and the meanings they represent) create stronger memories than spelling and sound. 11) Why personal connection (“self-reference”) is the ultimate memory “supercharger.” 12) How self-testing with flashcards can make your study time five times more effective than simply presented yourself with information. 13) The critical difference between “recalling” and “reviewing.” 14)The power of “uh….?” moments and how spaced repetition can help optimize them. 15) Why modern digital flashcards are not really “flashcards” at all, but rather “computerized tests.” 16) Why language learning doesn’t take nearly as much time if you can actually hold onto what you learn. 17) Gabe’s “minimum viable” daily and weekly language learning habits. 18) How to get immersion “chunks” wherever you are. 19) Why frequency dictionaries are linguistic gold.

Interview with Mike Campbell of Glossika

Interview with Mike Campbell of Glossika

In this episode of the Language Mastery Show, I catch up with my old friend Mike Campbell, the founder of Glossika. A lot has changed in the seven years since we last spoke at a Starbucks in Taipei, Taiwan, and it was fun to learn more about the innovations he’s made at Glossika, his work to save endangered languages, and how his views on applied linguistics and language acquisition have evolved. In the interview, we discuss: 1) Mike’s journey from Latin to French to Mandarin to the aboriginal languages of Taiwan. 2) Why language teachers should laugh at their students. 3) Why children make good language teachers. 4) How native Mandarin speakers use pronunciation shortcuts to speak more quickly and easily. 5) The importance of learning the International Phonetic Alphabet. 6) How to sound more like a native speaker by learning allophones. 7) Why real Mandarin tones in the “wild” rarely match what you see in textbooks. 8) Why Chinese characters are more like roots than vocabulary, and why this makes Chinese much more “semantically transparent” than English. 9) Why you should learn to speak before you learn to read. 10) Why “culture” and “language” are distinct entities. 11) Why there is no such thing as a “primitive” language. 12) Why there are no vague languages, only cultures that express politeness through vagueness. 13) Why you should focus on verbs and mostly ignore nouns when starting out in a language. 14) How to learn indigenous or minority languages. 15) How people can help save endangered languages. 16) Why the media has grossly exaggerated the current rate of language extinction. 17) Mike’s effort to use Glossika as a tool for empowering speakers of minority languages. 18) Why Glossika’s “Mass Sentence Method” is more effective than isolated vocabulary and how it differs from other spaced repetition systems. 19) Why Glossika is like a gym (just like with building muscles, you have to stick with the regimen and put in sufficient reps before you’ll see results). 20) Why maintaining the “habit of the habit” is more important than your study volume on any given day. 21) Why Glossika is especially powerful for rejuvenating languages you’ve previously studied. 22) Why Mike leverages “role and reference grammar” in Glossika and how their tagging system overcomes the limitations of other grammatical hierarchies. 23) Mike’s favorite classic novels and stories for learning foreign languages. 24) The power of creating immersion in your daily life by changing your phone’s display language. 25) The role of language in identity and cultural pride. 26) The power of having a language in your biology instead of just in your technology. 27) How languages expand your worldview and improve your problem solving abilities.

How to Apply Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies” Framework in Language Learning

How to Apply Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies” Framework in Language Learning

The author Gretchen Rubin has long been fascinated by human nature, and wanted to know why some people easily adopt new habits while others struggle to change. After years of investigation, she realized these differences could be explained (and better managed) by identifying how a person responds to expectations. It turns out that certain people respond very differently to inner expectations like New Year’s resolutions or personal goals and outer expectations like work deadlines or requests from family or friends. The personality framework she developed—detailed in her book The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better—divides people into one of four basic personality groups depending on how they respond to inner and outer expectations: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Read on to discover which Tendency best describes your personality and how to apply the framework in language learning.

The 4 Stages of Language Learning Competence

The 4 Stages of Language Learning Competence

The journey to full fluency in a foreign language can be roughly divided into what psychologists call the four stages of competence: Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence, and Unconscious Competence. You can think of progress through the stages like climbing up a mountain peak all the way from sea level. Read on to learn more about the stages and how to keep going when the going gets tough.

Is Texting Killing Language as We Know It? Linguist John McWhorter Says, “No, LOL”

Is Texting Killing Language as We Know It? Linguist John McWhorter Says, “No, LOL”

Every few months it seems, another article or blog post comes out making sensationalist claims like “Texting is destroying our language!” and “Kids today don’t know how to write anymore thanks to texting and emoji!” In this great TED Talk, linguist John McWhorter makes the case for why texting does not mean the death of good writing skills, and even shares some positive linguistic and cultural aspects of this new communication medium.

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