Learning new languages isn’t my best skill set (some people might say I struggle with English – lol!). Here are some great tips from an opera singer on how he was able to become fluent in four languages in a few years – wow! Details from Lifehacker:
Lifehacker reader Gabriel Wyner was tasked with learning four languages in the past few years for his career as an opera singer, and in the process landed on “a pretty damn good method for language learning that you can do in limited amounts of spare time.” Here’s the four-step method that you can use, too (and you don’t have to invest hundreds in a language course like Rosetta Stone).
This is the method I’ve used to learn four languages (Italian, German, French and now Russian); it’s the method that got me to C1 fluency in French in about 5 months, and I’m currently using it with Russian (and plan on reaching C1 equivalent fluency by September).
I go in four stages. The stages will take different amounts of time for different languages and depend on how much time you have available per day, naturally. The US Foreign Service Institute makes estimates for language difficulties for native English speakers, and they seem to be spot on in terms of comparative difficulty—Russian seems to be taking twice as long as French did for me, and they estimate languages like Chinese to take twice as long as Russian. That being said, let’s say we’re talking about a language like French, and you have 30-60 minutes a day to spend on it, I’ve included estimates for how long each stage might take.
Stage 1: Learn the correct pronunciation of the language.
Time: 1-2 weeks (or longer for languages that have a new alphabet that will take some time to get comfortable with)
Starting with pronunciation first does a few things—because I’m first and foremost learning how to hear that language’s sounds, my listening comprehension gets an immediate boost before I even start traditional language learning. Once I start vocabulary training, I retain it better because I’m familiar with how words should sound and how they should be spelled. (Correct spellings in French, for example, are much easier to remember when there’s a connection between the spelling and the sound), and once I finally start speaking to native speakers, they don’t switch to English for me or dumb down their language, which is awesome sauce.
If you’re learning a language with a different alphabet, this is where you learn the phonetic alphabet(s) (Kana, for Japanese or Pinyin for Chinese, for example).
How do you learn pronunciation?
There are a few routes here, and a lot of excellent online and in-print resources (Pronunciation guides with CDs or mp3s are usually very good). Personally, I think it’s worth the (short) time to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) for the English language first (Wikipedia / some video tutorials I’ve been producing), and then see what sounds are different in your target language. In the process of learning IPA, you learn the components of each vowel and consonant and you’ll really understand what makes a French word sound French, and a Chinese word Chinese.
Stage 2: Vocabulary and grammar acquisition, no English allowed.
Time: About 3 months. This stage involves two different time commitments: building your vocabulary and grammar flashcards and reviewing the deck.
This stage takes advantage of a few valuable tricks:
First, I’m using Anki, a wonderful, free flashcard program that runs on smartphones and every computer platform. Anki is a spaced repetition system, which schedules reviews of flash cards based upon how often you’ve successfully remembered a card. In the end, it helps you put a huge number of facts in to your long-term memory very rapidly—you can typically learn 20-30 new words a day in about 30 minutes on your smartphone.
Second, I use a modified version of Middlebury College’s famous language pledge—No English allowed! I use pictures and whatever limited vocabulary I have to build the rest of my vocabulary. By skipping the English, I’m practicing thinking in the language directly, and not translating every time I try to think of a word. This results in quicker learning and better vocabulary retention over time, and a much faster transition to comfortable fluency in the language.
Third, I’m using frequency lists to guide my vocabulary acquisition. These lists show the most common words in a given language, and learning those words first will be the best use of your time—after 1000 words, you’ll know 70% of the words in any average text, and 2,000 words provides you with 80% text coverage. It’s not enough for fluency, but it’s a pretty phenomenal base!
Since I’m starting out with zero words, I have to go in a few steps:
- To save time, I start with a basic list of 400 words that are common in English and extremely easy to picture – things like man and woman, dog and cat, to run and to cook, etc. I find good (!) translations of these and put them in my Anki deck without any English – just the word and its picture.
- After those, I grab a frequency list and mark off any remaining words I can portray with pictures alone (basic nouns and verbs), and put them in my Anki deck. Once I have some words to play with, I start putting them together. I use Google translate (Exception to no English rule – just be careful there’s no English in your Anki deck) and a grammar book to start making sentences, then get everything double-checked at lang-8.com before putting them into my Anki deck. Fill-in-the-blank flashcards let you drill your grammar and connecting words, and you can usually just type these straight into Anki from your grammar book.
- As vocab and grammar grow, I eventually move to monolingual (French – French, for example) dictionaries and writing my own definitions for more abstract words (again doublechecked at lang-8.com). This builds on itself; the more vocab and grammar you get, the more vocab and grammar concepts you can describe in the target language. Eventually you can cover all the words in a 2000 word frequency list as a foundation and add any specific vocab you need for your own interests.
- Most people’s eventual goals (by, say, the end of stage 4) will be ~2000-6000 words, plus around 1000 grammar cards, depending on how far you want to go (Here, we’re talking about words that are in your Anki deck – you’ll pick up a bigger passive vocabulary from reading). As a very rough estimate, if you end up with ~5000 cards, it will take you a bit less than 6 months to learn them with Anki if you’re doing 30 minutes a day (half that if you do 60 minutes/day).
Stage 3: Listening, writing and reading work
Time: This stage overlaps quite a bit with stage 2 and 4. Once you’re comfortable reading or writing anything, usually a month or two into stage 2, you can start stage 3. Stages 3 and 4, the immersion part, combined took me about 7 fairly insane weeks where I spent any free time reading, watching TV, and writing.
Once I have a decent vocabulary and familiarity with grammar, I start writing essays, watching TV shows and reading books, and talking (at least to myself!) about the stuff I see and do. Every writing correction gets added to the Anki deck, which continues to build my vocab and grammar.
You should read and watch anything that’s enjoyable to you—it’s more about quantity than anything; I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter series in translation, and dubbed versions of the TV series 24 are insanely addictive and not that difficult to follow after the first few hours—you can literally spend all day in front of the TV, and it’s actually productive! As for writing, you can (and should) write whatever you want—journals, opinions, what you did today, your grocery list, anything. The goal is to get something down on a page that you can submit to lang-8.com, get a correction, and put that correction into your Anki deck.
Stage 4: Speech
At the point where I can more or less talk (haltingly, but without too many grammar or vocab holes) and write about most familiar things, I find some place to immerse in the language and speak all the time (literally). No English allowed or else you won’t learn the skill you’re trying to learn, which is adapting to holes in your grammar or vocabulary by going around them rapidly and automatically without having to think about it). I prefer Middlebury college, but if you don’t have 7 solid weeks where you can cut ties to the rest of the world and just speak the language, you’ll still get a lot from even a couple of weeks in your target country as long as you stick to your target language and spend as much time as you can talking. There are internet exchanges and Skype videochats that will absolutely help you practice speaking, and if you surround yourself with foreign language TV and movies, read books and videochat with people frequently, you can sort of simulate the immersion experience on your own.
The more intense you can make it, the faster your brain will adapt and learn how to put all the info you learned in stages 1-3 together quickly enough to turn into comfortable, fluent speech.
About Gabriel Wyner: “I am an opera singer, and part of my job involves singing in Italian, French, German, English, and Russian (and sometimes Czech, Spanish, Hebrew and Latin). After several unsuccessful language learning attempts, I tried my first immersion program in German in 2004 and got hooked. Since then, I set out to see if I could become fluent in all of these languages. I’ve gotten through German, French, and Italian and I’m aiming for fluency in Russian by September. I’m currently living and singing in Vienna, Austria, where I’ve been teaching English using these methods and have recently finished a book on language learning. The companion website is at www.TowerofBabelfish.com, where these ideas are described in a bit more detail.”
Who knew Croatia could be so gorgeous! Wow – I want to go there now!
Spring morning by Boris Frkovic
After you’re done enjoying a nice bottle of wine (perhaps with a slice of pizza), don’t toss the wine cork. Recycle it into a plant label for your garden.
With a bamboo skewer or other stick to hold the cork, you can make this label as tall or short as you need, and the cork will really stand out in your garden.
Cork as plant labels | Recycleart
How creative! These are really fun pictures of Jason’s daughters from PhotographyBlogger:
Wedding photographer Jason Lee has upped his cool dad status by taking some awesome photos of his own daughters over the years. Both girls come up with most of the ideas and he helps put together the creative scenes filled with a bit of humor.
brush your teeth!
And more here.
More good utilities for GMail – this one gives you stats about how you are using GMail – from the Official Gmail Blog:
One day I was looking at how many messages I have in my sent mail, and realized there are a lot of things I wanted to know about my email habits. How much of my emails do I read, and do I reply fast enough? As luck would have it, Romain Vialard, a Google Apps Script Top Contributor, developed a tool called Gmail Meter powered by Google Apps Script.
Gmail Meter is an Apps Script which runs on the first day of every month and sends you an email containing different statistics about your Inbox. In a similar way to how recently introduced Google Account Activity gives key stats about how you’ve used your Google Account, Gmail Meter gives you different types of statistics that will help you analyze your Gmail habits.
- Volume Statistics show you the number of important and starred messages, the number of people who sent you emails, and more. Volume statistics can be very useful in determining how you are using email efficiency tools like Priority Inbox.
- Daily Traffic gives you an estimate of when you receive messages and when you send them during a given month. For example, in the graph below you can see how the peaks in my “Sent” curve indicates that I write emails in spurts.
- Traffic Pattern lets you get a sense of your overall email activity over the past week.
- Email Categories tells you how you are managing your Inbox. In the pie chart below, you can see that the majority of my emails are labeled. My Inbox is tiny compared to other labels which indicates that I keep a lean and mean Inbox.
- Time Before First Response shows you how long it takes you to reply, and how long it takes others to reply to you. By looking at this chart, I can infer that I reply faster than others I communicate with.
- Word Count tells you whether you are writing long emails. The example below shows that most of my emails are shorter than 200 words.
- Thread Lengths help you understand whether you participate in long conversations resulting in long threads. Top Senders and Top Recipients help you identify who you communicate with more frequently.
It is easy to set up Gmail Meter. First, go to Google Docs and open a Spreadsheet. Click on Tools > Script Gallery. Search for “Gmail Meter” and click Install. You will now see a new menu item called Gmail Meter on your spreadsheet. Click on Gmail Meter > Get a Report. You can then choose the type of report. Preparing a report may take some time and you will get an email once the report is ready. If you would like to know more about how this script works, be sure to check this tutorial.
I haven’t posted a timelapse in a little while – here is a cool one of one of my favorite cities – Los Angeles:
Timelapse taken all over Los Angeles in a day. Hope you all enjoy!
Take a look at my website: michaelmarantz.com
This is really clever and simple! Perfect MacGyver solution! Details from Lifehacker:
If you want to watch videos on your iPad or other tablet from afar, without headphones, its speaker is pretty worthless. This trick can boost the sound significantly with almost no work at all.
We’ve shared a bunch of ways to do this in the past—from sticky notes to blocks of wood to drilling holes in the tablet itself—but this is one of the best methods we’ve seen yet. All you need is a plastic cup and some scissors. Cut a hole in the end big enough for your tablet to fit in, and press play. You should find that the sound is significantly louder, so you can hear it from far away. Obviously, this won’t boost the soundquality in any way—so music listening still won’t be great—but for listening to podcasts or watching TV, it’s a very clever solution.
iPad Amp | Reddit
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