Instead of Just Studying Languages, Explore Them and You’ll Learn has been transcribed from Steve’s YouTube channel. Original video was published on Jan 3, 2019
So we’re out for a walk in London. It’s kind of a cool day, but it’s lovely to walk. It’s not raining. What I thought I’d talk about today is how in language learning I’ve often quoted this Sufi, which is a Muslim philosophy of some kind. I don’t know much about it, but there was a saying that said you can only learn things that you already know. I have this thing about learning. You can only learn things that you’ve been exposed to before. So I’ve said before, don’t study languages. Expose yourself to them and gradually you will learn them.
One of the things that happened to me was in preparation for going to Morocco I studied my Arabic hard. We had five days in Morocco where I used some of my Arabic and then since I left Morocco and have come to London I have been working on Farsi for like 10 days.
The other day I went to the store, a short walk, and I turned on Arabic on my mp3 player and low and behold the Arabic was much clearer than before. I seemed to hear the different forms of the verbs. I heard the words more clearly and it made me realize that one of the things I’ve read and I can leave a link in the description box is about how we learn best from things that we are already familiar with that we are relearning. So I go back to the Arabic which I’ve left and I’m learning it better.
Explore before studying languages
I think we should learn languages backwards. We shouldn’t start by trying to learn grammar. We should first, as I’ve said before, expose ourselves to the language so that some of that socks in there so that it’s now already something that we’ve been exposed to which we’ve kind of learned without studying it. I never try to learn anything, I just try and expose myself to it and when I go back to it again I learn it better.
I have the same feeling when I’m going through new texts now in Farsi. There’s lots there that I’m not going to remember, new words that I’m not going to remember. It doesn’t matter. I will maybe study something else and some of those words will show up where I’ll go back to the old lesson again and slowly these things will start to stick.
I think we do a great disservice to language learners when we expect them to remember what was taught or when language learners expect of themselves that they’re going to remember what they’re trying to learn. You won’t. You’re just exposing yourself to something and you’ll go back and revisit it again and forget it and go back again and eventually these things start to stick. I think if we have this attitude of exploring without trying to retain anything actually in the long run we will retain a lot, so maybe we should try to learn languages backwards.
That’s all I have to say and now we’re going to continue our walk. Bye for now.