A friend of mine, Lauri Goldenhersh, runs a wonderful website known as Laurislist. Basically, if you want a job as a classical singer in Los Angeles, you get a subscription to Laurislist, she sends out emails like “URGENT: Baritone needed for Christmas caroling job TOMORROW. $100 in Culver City,” you call, and poof, you have some work. Alternatively, if you have a Christmas caroling job tomorrow and you get laryngitis, you can send an email to Laurislist and someone will call you immediately and offer up his services. Back when I was living in LA, Laurislist was a pretty essential resource.
When talking to Lauri about my workshops, she suggested I guest post for the Laurislist blog, Singerpreneur. Singers, after all, need to learn lots of languages, and a big group of Los Angeles singers would be great candidates for my Los Angeles workshops. I took her up on it.
The article I wrote is geared towards singers, but it covers a theme that resurfaces all over the place in language learning: how we remember. Singers have particularly insane memorization needs; we have to memorize long foreign-language texts all the time. So I wrote out a method for memorizing texts that takes advantage of all the memory research I’ve done over the past year.
In most grammar classes and textbooks, you learn words ingroups. You might learn about animals on one day and fruits the next. This is comfortable, both for language teachers and students. Your teacher gets to have a clear lesson plan (today is about numbers), and you get to accomplish something (today, I learned the numbers!).
But is this the most efficient way to learn vocabulary?
If you look at the research on vocabulary acquisition, you’ll find a surprising result: weirdly enough, learning groups of similar words (apple, pear, banana) is significantlyharder to learn. You’ll be much better off if you either learn words in unrelated groups (apple, dog, red) or in groups that form stories (apple, sweet, to eat).
To learn a language, you need to memorize a lot of vocabulary, and memorizing lots of vocabulary can be tricky. You’re faced with unfamiliar spellings and unfamiliar sounds, which makes foreign words significantly more difficult to remember than words in your native language. In this article, I’ll show you how to remember words more easily with the help of mnemonics.
A few months ago, I realized that I had forgotten a great deal of my French. My book was taking up 40-50 hours of every week, so I didn’t have extra time to study, and I didn’t really want to study French, either. This year is my Hungarian year, and what little time I have, I like to spend on that language. Languages benefit from focus, and so I try to avoid studying two of them at once.
I needed some way to bring back my French without actually having towork at it, and I found it in the form of television. Continue reading →
I’m an Anki nut. In some sense, I owe three of my languages to Anki. One of my favorite things about Anki is its flexibility; you can make flashcards in any way you choose.
Once you’ve created and memorized a lot of flashcards (I recently passed 20,000 flashcards…geesh), you’ll start to notice that not all cards are created equal. Some flashcards are easy to remember, they teach you precisely what you want to learn, and they generally make you smile when you see them. Others make you want to throw your smartphone out the window. Good flashcards can make the difference between sticking with a language until fluency or giving up after a few months, so I’m making this guide to help others learn from some of my terrible, terrible flashcard-related mistakes.