While I generally think that Lee Binz has good ideas, I have to disagree with several points in her recent post, “Foreign Language is like Weight Watchers”.
To begin at the beginning, she says, “Learning a new language is work.”
I disagree. I have learned a significant amount of Spanish through No-Work Spanish audiobooks, which are appropriately named. I intend to continue learning only from methods that are fun, methods that engage me.
Lee reports her own experience researching foreign language learning programs for homeschoolers. “In a quiet moment at a convention, when nobody else was around, the sales staff confessed the truth. ‘It really doesn’t matter which program you choose. What matters is that the student works for a minimum of 15 minutes per day. Without daily practice, they lose what they learn. You can’t cram it into one day each week, it has to be daily.’”
A comment like that tells me that the sales person doesn’t feel what they are selling offers any unique advantages AND that a student will quickly forget what they have learned if they aren’t repeating it regularly.
I believe absolutely that there IS a significant advantage to taking an approach to learning a new language where what is being said in the new language is meaningful. Language was meant to convey information and emotions and that is how words become memorable to us.
Think of words that you will never forget. Words that filled you with joy or fear or made you laugh. Yes, the words that we remember are ones that stir our emotions. The stronger the emotions, the more memorable the words. This is true in learning a new language.
In Poster Girl, when Paula is speaking rapturously of painting a blue sky and green grass, the joy of “cielo azul y hierba verde” stuck in my brain the minute I first heard those words and I can remember ‘azul’ means blue and ‘verde’ means green regardless of how many days have gone by since I last spoke any Spanish.
It does make a difference which language program you choose and learning a new language doesn’t have to be drudgery.
As long as Lee is using a weight loss analogy, I’ll use one too. To lose weight you should exercise more, but let’s consider a few different ways you can exercise. You can lift weights at the gym, run laps at the track, play tennis, play soccer or take a walk with a friend. If you like one of these ways of exercising, then that is how you should exercise, because you are much more likely to continue doing it. Similarly, while Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone are proven methodologies for learning Spanish, many people find them boring (including me). Even Lee comments that she supervised her children’s language learning to make sure they did the work. That doesn’t sound like the experience of learning a new language was something they’d want to continue any longer than absolutely necessary. And if these programs are really set up where you lose what you learn when you stop practicing, then it’s no wonder so many people study a language for years in school and yet have learned very little.
I have a few family members who have told me that they don’t think I should have chosen the name ‘No-Work Spanish.’
“You are going to have to do SOME work, Anne,” they said. “By telling people that they can learn Spanish with no work, you could lose your credibility.”
“No Work” is my goal. It’s that simple. I believe passionately that there IS a better way to learn a new language and I want to make it available to people.
Why? Because I feel that understanding the words coming out of someone’s mouth is the very first step of really being able to understand them. My mission is to help people from different cultures connect by making it fun and easy to learn a new language. If you like this idea, please Like it below or pass it along in a Tweet.