Learning by Practice用以促学
To better adapt to immigrant life, the first problem one may encounter is the language barrier. Many people have bought into the same fallacy, namely that, after more than ten years of learning English, when it comes time to engage in conversation with the non-Chinese speaking world they will stammer and stutter out of fear of making mistakes, being ridiculed and losing face.
If a foreign expat living in China asks for directions in broken Mandarin on the streets of Beijing, the native speakers will just encourage him to say a few correct words so that they can understand what he means and help him. Who would laugh at his kindergarten Mandarin?
Likewise, it is just normal for a Chinese person to speak barely passable English when they go abroad. Who would ever make fun of them for it?
I am good at self-study. When I was in school, my teachers wanted us to “learn to practice.” But I’ve always extolled an ethic that I believe is more effective, which is to “learn by practice.” No one would ever forget an expression they have used before. The same principle that applies to learning math also applies to learning a language— if you’ve used it you will never forget it.
Before I emigrated to Vancouver, the only English phrases I could say were “thank you” and “bye bye.” But I firmly believed in the method of “learning by practice.” If you want to learn a language, you’d better move to the place where that language is spoken, as it is more effective to learn language through daily use.
New immigrants who have just moved into a community had better not wander around alone; otherwise neighbors may mistake them for illegal immigrants and call the police.
So walk a dog around the
When you see a Canadian neighbor next door, say hi to her.
She may reply back, “Good morning.”
Then go to the next house and say hi again.
Your second neighbor may also reply, “Good morning.”
Practice “Good morning” two or three times and make sure your pronunciation is correct. Then walk to the third door and say “Good morning.”
Your third neighbor may reply, “Beautiful day isn’t it?”
Walk to the fourth door and say “Good morning” again.
Your fourth neighbor may also reply, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”
Practice the pronunciation of “beautiful day, isn’t it?” a few times, and when you meet the next neighbor, say: “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” “Where are you from?”
“I am from China.” “Where do you live?”
“I live there,” you answer, pointing to your home.
Your neighbor might take an interest in you and want to make friends, but due to your limited vocabulary, you will have to say “Sorry, bye bye,” and go back home. You walk your dog every day, all the while learning English in the process. Gradually, your ability in the language will develop.
If you want to learn any language, of course you need to master a very large vocabulary. But before learning that vocabulary, you should understand the truth of memory: You don’t just store away what you memorize into your brain for safekeeping; you should be able to retrieve it when necessary.
The human brain is like a locked drawer— it takes time to locate the key and insert it into the drawer before you can take out what you need. The real problem comes that there are one million keys to the drawer, so the real pain in the neck is finding the one you want.
The right memorization technique is to remember how to take what you need out, rather than how to put it in.
As you can imagine, if there are one million keys to the drawer, the bigger the key is, the easier it is to find. Similarly, a string of words is easier to memorize than a single word. Therefore, connecting words and meaningful phrases to imagery is an excellent way to learn vocabulary.
I read an article about visual memory when I was young that said memorizing five nouns that are unrelated to one another is very difficult, e.g., soy sauce, salt, watermelon, shirt and bathtub. But they are much easier to memorize if we combine them into a single ridiculous image—a person wearing a shirt is bathing in a bathtub filled with soy sauce. This is the effective method of image memory.
Using this technique it only took me three months to learn Japanese. To learn English, you don’t need to memorize words by rote. Just create images in your brain and memorize them, this way it will only take a few minutes to learn a long string of English words. (From TheGeniusand
theMaster , China CITIC Press. Translation: Chen Jiani)