Do We Learn Languages Subconsciously?


Steve: Hi, Steve here on my seventieth birthday. I’ve got my two sons visiting, Mark, who is with LingQ whom you know and, Eric, who’s manning the camera.

Mark: Hi, all.

Eric: Hello.

Steve: Hello, right. So we thought we’d change the venue a bit.

Eric: We’re ready to go.

Steve: Okay, here’s the list of questions. We, unfortunately, don’t have time to get to all of them, but we’ll do as many as we can. Please keep sending them in and we’ll try to fit all questions in, if not this time then next time.

Mark: For the first question: Steve, would you or have you considered doing live meetups?

Steve: Live meetups. I mean yeah, sure. We can do them, we have done them.

Mark: We have done them.

Steve: We have done them. We use Google Plus on occasion or Skype.

Mark: Well, no, live meetups. Like face-to-face meetups, I think, when you travel.

Steve: Oh, yeah, when I travel.

Mark: You do them in Europe, for sure, when you go travel there. I don’t know if there are LingQers in the desert here, but I think you’re always quite happy to do any meetups that people want to do.

Steve: Absolutely, let us know. If you know where I’m going to be traveling we’d be happy to meet up, we’ve done it in the past.

Mark: And we’re happy to announce it on our forum and spread the word. The next question: You’ve talked about learning foreign languages as a subconscious process. What do you think? When we choose words…

Steve: I think what he means is when we speak do we deliberately choose words or do they just come full out.

Mark: Right.

Steve: I think it’s a bit of both. It’s a combination of both. I think one thing that’s very important when you learn a language is to trust your instincts. So rather than worrying about, did I chose the right word, is this the right word, is it grammatically correct, just let it flow out as much as possible.

Also, sometimes we have the time to think about the word, to think about the right form. To some extent we do that, but the more we can just trust our instinct and have the confidence to assume all the work you’ve put into your listening and reading is just going to enable you to speak more or less correctly. I think we just go with the flow is my advice.

Mark: Sounds good. When you’re using LingQ and you link a new word, what do you do with it? Do you study it; take it up to learn it?

Steve: Well, you know, I love linking. Particularly, I like using this sort of auto link mode where I’m using the arrow keys and then just going from blue word to yellow word to blue word. So if it’s a blue word of course I’m selecting it if I need it or if I know it I mark it as known. If I come to a yellow word, then I get to review it again.

Much of my reviewing of words is when I’m reading on LingQ. In fact, I’ll often read a text where I have no more new words. It’s all yellow words where I have created links and I go through again, sometimes I change the status and sometimes I change some of them to known. So linking words, it’s sort of my first contact with a new word and I know I’m going to meet up with these words again and again in the text, so that’s what I do with it. A lot of people like the flashcards; I do my word review more in the context of my reading.

Mark: For those of you who aren’t familiar with the different modes, if you click on the settings control on the lesson page you’ll see the different available modes. Auto mode is the default mode when you start, but some of you may be on different modes. Auto mode is certainly our preferred mode, but obviously there are few different options there you should probably get familiar with.

Steve: I tell you auto mode, once you get used to it you go through the lessons very quickly.

Mark: Especially using the keyboard shortcuts.

Steve: If you look at my statistics here on my 90-Day Polish Challenge, I don’t know, I think I’ve increased my known word total by 10,000 words, I think I’ve linked 5,000 words. I mean I’m right at the top in terms of the number of links I create and the number of words I learn. It has a lot to do with using that auto mode, so I recommend you have a look at it and get used to it.

Mark: Next question: How do you deal with proper nouns on LingQ, do you treat them as normal or do you ignore them?

Steve: Again, by enlarge this comes up particularly in Slavic languages where proper nouns, names of people, names of places and so forth can have many different forms because they’re declined just like any other noun. Mostly, I X them. I ignore them, simply because, if anything, I want to understate my statistics. In a Slavic language, you’re getting so many words as words that you have learned or known words and because you know one or two forms you know all the other forms. So I tend to not count the proper nouns, but you can go either way. It’s not obvious that _______ in Prague is the same noun as ________. I think it doesn’t matter. The statistics are for your own use, whatever you feel comfortable with.

Mark: Sounds good. The next question is: I always say obrigada because I am feminine, at least I think so. Whether I say ______ or _______ depends on what I’m referring to.

Steve: The agreement is always with what you are referring to. So when you say ________ you are referring to yourself and if you are a girl or a woman, obviously, the agreement there is feminine because you are saying I am obligated or I appreciate it, whatever. So if you say ________ my, my mother, it’s because mother is feminine. So the agreement is always with the noun that you are referring to.

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2 comments on “Do We Learn Languages Subconsciously?

Jeffrey Oliveira

Great video, Steve. Happy Birthday!! You are a great polyglot. I am your fan. You will always be an eternal inspiration.

Kati Pálinkás

Dear Steve,
First of all Happy Birthday to you! I am so grateful, because of I found you on the Internet, some years ago. You are the one of the best English teacher all over the world (the another one is AJ Hoge :)). You teach me, not only English, but humanity, equality, enthusiasm, freedom, optimism… so on, all that things that made us full and happy in our life. I wish you many many happy years on your life. I hope, there is a chance you will come to Hungary, the land of Kató Lomb, who is the famous polyglot, as you know. All the best for you Steve!

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