Monday, February 6, 2017

STOP MAKING TERRIBLE LANGUAGE LEARNING GOALS


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Well I've been speaking with my students about their new year's resolutions and I've noticed that many of them have a new year's resolution to improve their English, or to master English.  These aspirations are great and I hope that everyone is striving to improve in some area of their life.  The acquisition of skills is a crucial part of life that helps you reach self actualization and could be the only thing that makes it possible to fulfill your life aspirations. I can't imagine living the life I'm living now without the skills that I've achieved over the past five years. This makes me reflect on my goal setting habits in the past, and I want to ask you this: Would you enjoy more happiness, and fulfillment in your life if you were better at setting and achieving goals? Well,  I'm here to tell you that there is such a thing as a bad goal.  This doesn't mean that the intention is bad or that if you achieve the goal you won't benefit.  Really it just means that you probably won't achieve it because you didn't plan and define your goal.  Personally, one example comes to mind where I failed to make high quality goals and I really regretted it, which is not a cool feeling. 
 
Be decisive and stick with it
Portuguese has been a small part of my life for the past 6 years or so.  The key word is small. When I was about twenty-three I had a goal  to know 5 languages by the time I was thirty.  Since then I've studied, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Hebrew, Romanian, Japanese, Thai, Arabic, and possibly others that I've forgotten.  But I must confess that I haven't reached fluency in most of those languages. Now isn't the time to discuss my specific skills in them but let's just say that I've only got 2 years left and I wasn't happy with my progress until recently.  Where did I go wrong? Why am I not fluent in a bunch of languages by now?  It's simple; I didn't plan well!  I made an awesome goal but I didn't plan how I would accomplish it.  

So let me tell you how I've done a complete makeover of my goal setting habits.  How can you define your goal well and create a strategy to achieve it.  

Goals with numbers and dates: URGENCY
So first I made a plan to reach my goals in romanian and Portuguese more efficiently.  I struggled with this process but here is the final result of the plan. For Romanian I decided I would complete 50 mini speeches in Romanian in 3 months.  These mini speeches would give me the basic foundation for conversation in Romanian. I came up with a detailed strategy that would help me achieve the goal and I'll talk to you more about it in a bit.

Define the parameters of your goals: ACCOUNTABILITY 
For Portuguese I decided to go into overdrive and drastically improve my conversational level. I decided I would call it conversational fluency, which is a rather common but also relative term, so I defined it even further.  Conversational fluency, to me means that I want to have a good conversation with native speakers without them getting frustrated from my lack of conversational skills. In order to do that I decided I needed to listen to native speakers. Repeat after them. Chat and converse with them.  Reading in portuguese was already part of my habits so that wasn't anything new. 
I decided that 1 hour minimum a day of focused study in both languages was a good habit to make.  But I didn't stop there!  

Minimum daily goals: Discipline and Responsibility
For  thirty days I planned to experiment with a very detailed timetable of study.  I divided each hour into 10,15 or 20 minute activities.  I set the timer before starting each activity and when it beeps I move onto the next one until my 1 hour time is finished.  I hoped that this would ensure that I didn't neglect any aspect of study.  I've finished about 3 weeks so far... My speeches are coming along well, and my Portuguese conversations with native speakers are paying off, because I've been able to really make a connection with them and have meaningful conversations.  Stay tuned, send me a whatsapp message and feel free to ask me how I'm doing. 

These short term goals are so important and are pretty straight forward but we usually don't make them. Guys, leave general behind.  He just aint good enough. Instead of saying,  "I want to be fluent," say, "I want to be fluent before this time and I will use X strategy for X amount of time X days a week.


What will you really use? What topics will you talking about when you speak the language?   
I'm going to learn ten words a day and 300 words in a month.  But what words will you learn?  How will those words connect to make sentences if you have no reason or rhyme to which ones you'll learn? I've found it best to pick a subject and divide that subject into subcategories and then you can be much more focused in your daily studies because you can choose a subcategory and work on it until it's finished.  For example.  I chose to have 50 mini speeches, but I will be focusing a percentage of those mini speeches on daily conversations like greetings, talking about my day, explaining my health and or sickness etc.  I make mini dialogues and work until I can speak all of it in my target language. My other mini speeches will be about language learning because I talk about it all the time.  Why should I learn how to call a cab if this is not a likely task I'll be attempting in the near future?  Focus on what you say in your real life or on what you consume.  Do you read about finances?  Then this should be a part of your goal?  Do you talk about action movies a lot?  Then you will need to learn how to use lots of EXPLOSIVE verbs and probably will use the past and past continuous on a regular basis, so make it part of your goal!  

Get in the Flow! 
 I can only describe flow as an intense excitement, focus and a positive feeling of butterflies in the stomach about language learning.  How do I find my flow?  I'm not sure if I can pinpoint just one thing, but I can definitely tell you some patterns I've observed that gradually gave me this unquenchable thirst to work all day and all night on languages. 

It's pretty simple guys. I found the flow by planning stuff on paper and doing them just how I planned every day.  Plan something on paper and you're much more likely to do it.  If you don't plan, you are much more likely to put it off.  Don't make too many decisions every day.  Make decisions that you can use every day.  I plan what I'll do every day for the next month and then I just do it.  So you need to sit down and come up with a customized strategy for how you're going to reach your language goal.  This goal should be measured to the minute and have specific language tasks.  Let's say you want to do flashcards every day.  Write it in your strategy and decide how many minutes you need to work on it and write it all out.  If you want to talk to a native speaker three times a week then write down how many minutes you'll do that and find a convenient time for it.  If you have an hour a day for language studies, don't just write: 8-9 language practice.  Divide the hour into multiple time slots and fill them with specific tasks!  I can't stress this enough because if you don't do this, I promise you, your practice sessions will be a disappointment... why?  because you'll spend fifteen minutes browsing for a cool youtube video, then you'll sit down and watch it, then you'll spend five minutes deciding what to do next and then another five minutes to find the resources to do it and you will get frustrated.  I am enjoying my language learning so much because the progress is measurable and planned out. 



So there you have it!  Six strategies to make good language learning goals and actually achieve them! I hope you guys enjoy this article and put it into practice! If you enjoyed it then add me on whatsapp and we'll chat and I can send you more tips!  Whatsapp +15035452855

Friday, November 18, 2016

BRITISH OR AMERICAN? LEARN WHY YOU MUST CHOOSE WHOSE TEAM YOUR ON!





Stop!  Look around you!  How many people do you know who speak English?  Can you do an impression of any of your friends?  Remember that time when you went to Texas, Minnesota, or Oregon and everyone talked a little funny?  I once took classes just to figure out how to communicate with Texans... Ok, not really, but you get the point right? 


THERE ARE LITTERALLY AS MANY ACCENTS AS THERE ARE MCDONALDS! 
you know that there are more than 2 billion people who speak English?  375 million of those are native English speakers! Here comes the problem everyone. Whether you want to learn English better or some other language, you're going to need to choose whose side you're on!  Every region has an accent.  Not only an accent but a dialect, meaning that in the south if you say "give me some sugar" you might just get a big ol kiss on the lips, but if you say the same thing in northern regions they'll probably just pass you some sugar.  Can you imagine the confusion yet?

YOU CAN'T FIT IN EVERYWHERE!
How many of you have ever taken dancing lessons?  Now, imagine you're trying to learn to dance.  If you want to learn how to break dance, do you study ballet, salsa, and square dancing?  No, of course you don't! 
 Once you've decided which dance you want to learn then you stick with it, right? 
Treat an accent the same way, because otherwise you're going to be juggling a ton of information and trying to teach your mouth to do too many weird things at once.  Muscle memory plays a big part here too, but we'll tackle that subject at a later time.  
Come on guys,  there are 2 billion people speaking the language!  Don't try to sound like all of them.  Don't give yourself more of a headache by listening to English from the U.S., Australia and India... You'll go crazy and people will be very confused when they talk to you.  Choose a region and once you've mastered it, move on to another. 
GO BIG OR GO HOME! IMITATE THICK ACCENTS, NOT SUBTLE ONES.
Now, do any of you guys play guitar?  If you play guitar, leave a comment!  Who is your favorite guitar player?  John mayer is one of my favorite guitar players.  I love getting inspiration from his riffs(guitar melodies).  If I were to try to learn to play like him, do you think it would be good to study the way he plays or would it be better to imitate some random kid doing a cover of his song?  If I try option number two, I'll probably become a boring guitar player who never    
If I imitate the best guitar players in the world though, that's how I'll be a rock star.  Again, accents are the same.  If you're planning to go to New York to do business and you want to fit in, don't imitate someone who lived in California most of his life.  Find people who have genuine New Yorker accents and use them as your model.  I'm going to be honest with you; your accent will probably not sound as extreme as the people you imitate.  That's totally fine though. With this method you'll "aim small miss small" and you'll maximize your potential to be heard clearly.  


REACH FOR THE STARS! SOUTHERN ACCENT TRAINING
Choose a celebrity because they have tons of media to watch and you can listen to the same voice talking about a ton of different topics.  Choose a region because that is where you need people to understand you.  Like I said, you probably won't get 100% to the accent you practice so go as extreme as you can. 
This is just a freebee: I've had many students who spoke a much better general american accent when they tried to copy a southern accent.  This might seem crazy but many of the vowel sounds and intonation nuances that English learners need to master are just more extreme in an extreme accent so you usually end up at the middle ground where you'd like to be anyway.


THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKIN TO IT. 
Personally, I study the Portuguese accent from Brazil and the Spanish accent from Mexico.  I listen to people from only Brazil and in my intense listen and repeat sessions, I almost always choose people from Sao Paulo.  I try to avoid regions that sound very far from the accent I am developing, but I like to dabble in some funny sounding accents here and there. 


YOU HAVE TO LEARN A LOT MORE THAN JUST PRONUNCIATION! 

Most, if not all, languages have one inflection for questions that is different from the inflection used for statements.  Particularly in English, the British are not afraid to go up at the end of a sentence even though it isn't a question.  Americans tend to f from this unless they're valley girls.  In the U.S. to let your voice go up at the end of a sentence communicates that you aren't really sure about what you're saying or that you are asking a question.  I'll be honest.  I haven't mastered this nuance in Mexican Spanish yet, and I still tend to make people think I'm asking a question when in fact I want to declare something.  "Justin: I am going to the store.  Other person: Yeah, sure, you can go to the store if you want."  Ugh, that gets old.   Take some time to record people asking questions in the accent you're learning and repeat after them. Pay close attention to any pauses and raising or dropping of pitch.  Then do the same for statements.  This will be invaluable practice. 

LEARNING LANGUAGES REQUIRES LOTS OF PATTERNS!
Don't freak out guys!  This doesn't mean you have to sit around learning charts about verb tenses.  In fact, I'm not a huge advocate of that whole routine. The patterns in pronunciation are just as important as word structure. You know how in your native language a question sounds different than a statement? If you haven't noticed, then wake up and smell the coffee, my friends!  You have to pick up these things in your target language also.  There are inflection patterns for questions, and statements, for surprise and boredom, even pauses mean something so keep your ears perked!  Pauses are important guys!  Don't forget them because they always communicate something. In a neutral american English accent, there are at least five spelling patterns that make the "Oh" sound, like in go, boat, snow, toe and though. I teach this in depth in my Accent course on vowels, so contact me if you want to know more about the course.  For every sound there is a mouth shape and a tongue placement that you will need, so you want to master these as well. Set aside time to learn each group that have the same sound and also try to contrast sounds.  


DON'T GIVE IN TO DISTRACTION 
Thinking about learning multiple languages?  Many people become overly hasty and try to learn tons of languages at once! They get in over their head and have too much on their plate... Redundant? Haha. Check out this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdZnkatthxg to learn some of the reasons why most people should be very careful about learning more than one language at once.  Check out this video to hear from a language learner who learns more than one language at a time.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4ZpWGC5dxY
Back to accents specifically.  Long story short, I believe that if you're new to the language learning process then you should definitely focus on just one accent in that second language.  Furthermore, if you're an advanced learner in your second language but you still have not acquired a good understandable accent, then you should still only focus on one accent.  You need to develop the skills for accent learning before you can juggle multiple accents.  In order to retain a good accent you need to immerse yourself in it completely.  It's quite possible that after knowing multiple accents you've really nailed down that skill for internalizing it, then you could probably study more than one at once. 


RESOURCES FOR PRACTICE
Phrases, Vocabulary, Idioms, Slang Glossary: 
talked a little funny:  a little funny means strange.  It doesn't mean that they told jokes. It means that their pronunciation, intonation and word choice was different than yours. 
get the point:  to understand the purpose or meaning of something that someone said. Note: Get is one of those strange words that's used in many different situations in english.  
Here comes the problem: Here comes means literally: something is approaching. Ex: Move here comes the train!  Figuratively: the speaker will introduce a concept, a question or a declaration.  Here comes the question: Why should we do community service?
Give me some sugar: Give me a kiss(in the southern regions of the U.S.) OR please give me the sugar because I want to put some in my coffee.
stick with it: Persevere. Continue to do something without changing your course of action.  
juggling a ton of information
plays a big part: is a very important element.
we'll tackle that subject: We will accomplish or work on something
some random kid:  A non-specific young person.  The word random is used all over the place.  Some random guy, Some random chick, Some random bar.  
Some random website: This website should give you an idea of what random is. https://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/random-websites-you-should-visit-when-you-need-a-break?utm_term=.un0LvWYNQ#.yxKz9oeZb 
That's totally fine though:  I'm putting this one in the list because I want you to learn to say things that are easy to say.  Even though you can understand it, will you actually use it? 
more than one at once: this sounds strange... Search the definition for the word simultaneous. Ex: I like to study more than one language at once, I can't do two things at once.
To fit in: to belong to a group, family, or culture.  To be accepted by any group.  When kids move to new school they often take some time to be accepted there.  They might say, "I don't fit in here, no one talks to me." 
New Yorker: Someone from New York
give yourself more of a headache:  Someone or something can give you a headache. A person can act in an annoying or exasperating way to give you a headache. OR a task can be very difficult or tedious or frustrating which would also give you a headache.  
in over their head: Overwhelmed with too much to do.  
Shy away: To avoid doing something or to avoid something or someone.
To dabble: To do an activity for just a small amount of time every once in a while.  You dabble in something when you aren't fully committed but it's interesting so you do it when you have time.
Keep your ears perked: Listen closely, stay alert, pay close attention. 
Set aside time: Intentionally find time to do something.
Long story short: People say this when they want to tell you only the most important information in a story or they want to summarize information.





Thursday, October 27, 2016

5 tips to #ImproveYourAccent


You guys want to know one of the polyglots I admire in the language learning world?  

In this post you'll find out about Luca Lampariello, why I admire his work and achievements with languages, and you'll get 6 tips. Everybody loves tips so here we go! 

Note for English Learners: Go to the bottom of this text to find a list of phrases that you might need help with! Message me on twitter @JustinFrunk if you need more help with anything!




Accent Mastery:
Set your practice Schedule, Be consistent and intensely focused:
Number one, Luca has a great accent in English and Spanish, which are the two languages that I know very well.  I would love to take a peek into his daily practice techniques.  Once I heard him say that he really only spends about forty minutes per day of intensive study on the languages he's learning.  This is awesome news for all of us scaredy cats who can think of a million excuses to not learn a language, one of them being time.  

Be strategic about your accent practice:
I watched a video of Luca Lampariello speaking with Luca Sadurny( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Hd-Cvle1Fg )  that talked about #ImprovingYourAccent.  His ideas really challenged the way I thought about accent, and he actually inspired me to make some drastic changes in my teaching methods for ESL accent reduction courses that I offer.  He made the point that intonation is paramount and that we shouldn't miss the forest because we're so focused on the tree.  This was referring to two aspects of an accent which are the intonation and the pronunciation.  Pronunciation is how you utter a sound or a word.  This could be viewed as the tree.  The forest is the flow of the language which fits more into intonation.  He encouraged people to work on intonation first, and then to come back and tweak some of the pronunciation errors.  The point is that you could be saying the sounds exactly right, but if your voice doesn't raise and lower in pitch or pause and speed up in the correct places, you could be saying something completely different!


Be Humble:
Luca comes across to me as very humble.  I say that because he never tends to mention the number of languages he speaks unless someone says, "hey, don't you speak like twelve or thirteen languages?!!" Neither does he go on about how well he speaks those languages or if he acquired them faster than every other polyglot.  


Don't wait for your talent to learn a language for you:  
I was really inspired by this one because we always hear our family and friends say things like.  "Yeah, I don't have a talent for languages... You have to be a genius to learn more than two languages and even the second is too hard for most people."  Luca tends to emphasize that people don't need some special knack for languages to learn to speak well.  He claims that anyone can be a polyglot or learn as many languages as they want.   I agree with him and hope to continue learning more languages throughout my life.  I'm stoked to continue hearing from him about his language learning techniques because I've already started applying them in my own learning and teaching practices.  

Be intentional about your practice:
This tip comes from my own accent practice and it's been extremely helpful. Be intentional about your practice!  Are you really practicing subjects or words that you will use?  Let me give you a personal example, guys.  I get on my computer every morning to practice Portuguese.  You know what I love doing because it's so darn easy?  I love just going on Youtube and listening to someone teach a lesson on random Portuguese vocabulary.  That might be ok for people who are just barely starting out, but let me tell you why random youtube surfing isn't usually your best bet.

Number one, those types of videos usually mess up the intonation because they are isolating a word or a small phrase.  Remember guys, intonation is crucial for natural speech.   

Number two, you aren't being intentional about your practice.  You're just passively listening and repeating vocabulary that you might not really need to focus on.  I try to find podcasts that talk about things that interest me and I look for media that has audio and text if possible.  I listen to everything but I jot down phrases and vocabulary that I know I'll want to use.  


Ready, Rolling, Action, Cut, Retake: 
Don't be afraid to rewind, repeat, repeat and repeat again.  Make sure that you're practicing something that is from a native speaker and choose small chunks of speech to copy.  I usually start with one or two sentences.  I literally listen to those sentences like 50 times or more in a fifteen minute period.  Message me on twitter @JustinFrunk  if you want to know more about exactly how I use this technique to get the most out of it.  

Those are my tips for today guys!  Follow me on twitter, @JustinFrunk let your friends know I'm here to inspire you to speak like a champ, to reach your professional goals by perfecting the American Accent and to share in the language learning journey with you! 

Phrases and Vocabulary Explained:
Take a peek into:  To examine something:  Let's take a peek into the future. 
Scaredy cats:  A person who is afraid to do something.  We also say. "what? Are you Chicken?" 
Stoked: Excited to do something.  Ask me about the literal meaning if you like!
Paramount:  The most important part of a subject or concept.
Fits more into:  It belongs in this category.
Tweak some of the intonation errors:  Tweak means to modify, fix or make something better.
Comes across:  To seem or appear to be a certain way.  Ex. He comes across as very intelligent.
Knack for:  to have a natural talent or ability to do something well. 
Polyglot: Someone who can speak more than five languages at an advanced level. 
Mess up: distort or destroy something
surfing:  To view things on the internet without a clear purpose.  Ex: What are you doing?  Nothing really, just surfing the net. 
Jot down:  write a brief note about something. 
Chunks: parts 
I literally listen...: We use the word literally in casual conversation to emphasize or intensify a statement.  In this case I truly wanted to tell you that fifty times was a good amount to repeat a sentence, but sometimes people say things like, "The spider was literally as big as a house."  Obviously this is not an accurate description but it helps the listener to imagine a very big spider. 








Thursday, October 20, 2016

On of my favorite quotes

“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation.
Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or
whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what?
After you start doing the thing, that's when the motivation
comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”


The whole idea: 
Examples: 
The whole idea was a bust!

The whole idea of a stereotype is to  simplify. 

Sources: 
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/eugenejare545971.html 
http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/the-whole-idea-was-a-bust.1068683/ 
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/201628-the-whole-idea-of-motivation-is-a-trap-forget-motivation