Learning methods: does it matter?

Normally I hate blog posts that just link to another blog that links to another blog that links to the primary source, especially when I’m subscribed to both blogs. Just give me the source, I don’t need your one line comment and link!

Nevertheless, I read a blog post about language learning methods and felt an urge to add my two cents. Here’s an excerpt from the post.

The neat thing here – and I’ve counseled this before – is that language learning isn’t about following a method; it’s about getting in sync with and enjoying a language.

In this light, the debates about which method is best are silly. But if they keep people talking about new things that others might not have tried yet, they’re still useful. Ignore the bombast about who’s best, then, and keep reading the forums and blogs. You might just find what you are looking for now in spite of everyone’s best efforts to settle what’s best left unresolved.

Looking at the many comments on the merits and drawbacks of Heisig, I’d have to agree. I’ve learned that what works for some doesn’t work at all for others and most importantly, what didn’t work for me may work for others.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what study method you use as long as it helps you spend more time with the language. Still, I have to argue that you have to do my very simple method at some point for fluency, which as many of you already know, is to practice in a real-world context with real people and primary source materials not just artificial textbooks and dialogs. Ok, I guess it’s more common-sense than “a method” per se.

For completeness, here’s the blog post that is link to by the blog I just linked to (whew!). Amazingly, that blog doesn’t link to the primary source which is a thread in the how-to-learn-any-language.com’s forum. (゚_゚;)

8 thoughts on “Learning methods: does it matter?

  1. I agree with you 100%. The key is spending time with the language in a real world (and preferably immersive) capacity. That’s not to say you’ll learn through osmosis (you won’t), but whatever study methods you do use will have a chance to make a difference.

    Also, nice half-hearted attempt at a Japanese-style 顔文字. =p Those things really amaze me sometimes.

  2. You should add that using a variety of study methods and learning materials which cover all of the aspects of language learning (speech, writing, etc) is the best method. The best language learners know which methods work best for them, but pretty none of them stick to a single method.

    In addition, while method 1 might work for person A while studying language X, method 2 might be a better choice for person A while studying language Y. Likewise, person B might find the opposite to be more effective.

  3. I also think it is commonsense that a plethora of study methods is required to truly get to grips with a language. Informing people of the different study techniques out there is the best way for people to try them out and find the one that they enjoy most.
    (Your blog is great and I know you don’t control the adverts, but please think about moving it somewhere without the date Japanese girls today adverts!! Not helpful when I’m reading this at work 😀 )

  4. I think the whole issue of which language learning method is better is at its strongest when you start from the “infomercials” perspective on language learning, which is “I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I want results ASAP”. However, I guess with languages more than with anything else it really takes time to reach mastery. All the special techniques, mnemonics and similiar stuff are pretty much pointless if you’re only spending 45 minutes every third day on learning a language. Well, they’re not pointless if your goal is an intermediate level some 6-7 years later…

    Tae, I think that what seems as common sense to you is in fact not that obvious at all to a lot of people. I think that the horrible formal system of grammar-lovin’ language learning has, in a way, left a strong scar on the psyche of most people who want to learn a language – they subconsciously want to turn the studying into formalized out-of-context textbook classes which are so prevailent… “Everybody does it like that, so hey, I guess I’ll do it sort of like that”. I should know, I was like that too. Then I actually put some Japanese music and news in my mp3 and started watching more anime and movies without subtitles and after a few months of a lot of listening I was amazed at my sudden progress, compared to the previous 3 years of almost no progress.

    I think that there should be way more emphasis on the real-life material in the target language, more than on anything else, and the immense benefits that being exposed to it gives you, even if you feel quite lost in the beginning. I know I more or less learned English by tons of exposure, and it never really felt like studying, but that’s another story altogether.

  5. Thanks for the insightful comment Relja. You reminded me that what seems obvious to me now is still new to the people stuck in the classroom, never taking their language studies out into the real world.

  6. Hi Tae Kim,
    I am the author of the original post. Just to answer your question: why didn’t I provide a link to the original forum post?

    In fact, this is a good question. I might as well reveal to you my own guideline of links. I would never post any link which I consider would potentially waste the precious time of my readers. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the clarification and pleased to meet you through 3 degrees of blog separation!
    I just subscribed to your blog.
    I hope you enjoyed your time here in Seattle.

Comments are closed.