Nothing should make sense until everything makes sense.
How to learn a new language, quickly
Simple mnemonic devices to help you learn language quickly and easily
This was a post I wrote here on Thinker's Playground a few years ago, before I relaunched the site.
The original post was a little too long, so I've broken it up into separate posts:
How To Develop A Super-Power Memory
Memory, Association, and The Link System Of Mnemonics
The Peg System Of Mnemonics
How To Memorise Pi To 30 Decimal Places
How To Memorise A Deck Of Cards
How To (Quickly) Learn A New Language
In his book How To Learn Any Language, Barry Farber dedicates a whole chapter to Harry Lorayne’s method of remembering new words. Farber writes:
“I think I actually cried in rage at all the time I’d wasted attempting rote memory of foreign words during the thirty-one years I had studied languages before I met Harry Lorayne”
At the time of writing (1993) Farber could speak twenty-five languages.
Learning new words and making them ‘stick’ doesn’t have to be difficult. As in the examples before, we can use mnemonic associations to remind us of how each word should sound as we learn them.
Here’s an example from personal experience: In Norwegian, the word for bridge is ‘bru’. In Scotland, we have a soft drink called Irn Bru (iron brew). When I first heard the word, I made an association in my mind between Irn Bru and bridges. I wont describe the association I made, just know that it was a weird one.
Using this method I was able to pick up Norwegian quite quickly and, surprisingly, I can still remember where I was and who taught me each Norwegian word I know.
Tony Buzan, educational consultant and general brain-box, claims that around 50% of conversation is made up of around one hundred words. Whilst these numbers are obviously estimates, it’s a good starting place when learning a new language. Learn these hundred words and you’re halfway there. All you have to do then is learn all of the various nouns, adjectives and verbs that go in between them. Here’s the hundred as taught by Buzan:
to come (came; come)
to do (did; done)
to find (found)
to get (got)
to go (went; gone)
to have (had)
he - him - his
her - hers
it - its
to know (knew; known)
my - mine
no - not
our - ours
to see (saw; seen)
show (showed; shown)
to take (took; taken)
to tell (told)
their - theirs
to think (thought)
up - upon
you - yours
I’ve seen variations of this list in a couple of places so it’s by no means a strict rule of language. If you learn these though, you’re at least making basic conversation in other languages easier.
Farber offers a few other handy tips for picking up languages, but I feel these two are the most useful.