When I study language, there is a moment when I understand my first word without translating it from English that I feel a new person is born. A code has become clear and a new vision of the world appears.
I love studying vocabulary. When I was in high school I would read through SAT Vocab trainers for fun. Words fascinate me. Why do we call everything what we call it. How did that word develop through time to become the word we use today.
I also had a habit of analyzing the way people said certain words and phrases. I didn’t realize it until recently, but I was studying the way people used intonation and rhythm to influence how they sounded. The other people may not have been conscious that was what they were doing, but I used this hobby to practice my changing my voice based on the circumstance.
I thought grammar was okay. I had my favorite rules (firmly pro-Oxford Comma), but overall I found grammar to be pretty boring. Sure, verbs and nouns go in certain places in a sentence, we change words based on time and number, etc. It’s just doesn’t seem that interesting to learn a bunch of rules that aren’t even that important.
Okay, grammar is important, the rules kind of matter for comprehension, sometimes. Then we have sentences like ‘Go.’ This word can mean a whole phrase based on context and intonation. So I’ve never been that invested in the idea of perfect grammar.
When I decided to start teaching language, I couldn’t help but focus on speaking ability. The way we hear a language changes how we understand that language. When we become attuned to the intonation and rhythm patterns, the speed of the speech is never a problem. You pick up the ability to fill in the bits you might miss because the overall pattern is so familiar.
I teach awareness skills. Learn the patterns and fluency becomes easy.
I know there’s lots of research on why adults can never achieve full fluency in a new language, but I always question people who doubt the capacity for humans to achieve any mental feat.
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