2014年12月26日 星期五

Chinese Integration

The main trick to studying a foreign language is to immerse yourself in that language.  This doesn't mean taking tons of college classes, keeping up with your homework, and worrying about how many characters you have memorized or learned in a day.  Those concepts of learning are old fashioned, having been used in times before when information and books were mainly kept in universities and libraries. Due to the mass propagation of information, in the modern age of language learning, you as a student are solely responsible for your own individual growth and 'power level' --hopefully it is steadily growing to become over 9000

This concept actually applies to any individual pursuit you are involved with.  I recently began playing Starcraft 2 much more seriously in hopes of increasing my knowledge and level to such an extent that I feel comfortable casting in Chinese (I play the game in Chinese and do my best to watch Chinese casts and read Chinese language tutorials).  I consciously immerse myself in Starcraft professional videos, learn how others in the industry began casting, and set a base number of how many games I want to play a day.

I firmly believe this conscious immersion and setting of baseline numbers will allow me to maintain my focus and continue to grow into the direction of 'the sun.' Having the ability to consciously change our environment places humans in an interesting position.  Unlike plants, which passively grow towards whichever direction the sun shines onto them in a process called the Phototropic process, humans can position the sun themselves and determine the direction in which we grow.
So in order to become a super saiyan Chinese speaker, better than all the rest, you MUST position your sun to rise in the east and control the media you expose yourself to on a daily basis.  This means going to youku instead of YouTube to surf around, watching Chinese versions of youtube videos or songs, and even looking for obscure Chinese pop-punk bands--basically, anything you are into.

This type of language learning has many detractors -- people who will criticize your desire to watch anime, tell you that you can't learn from sports broadcasts, and think it's funny when you tell them you learn from television shows.  The reason these people feel this way is because they have been taught to think that language learning only occurs in the classroom.  Can you imagine how your ENGLISH experience would have gone if you were only allowed to learn while sitting in class?  You would be able to diagram sentences, write short essays, read from textbooks, and be positively bored.

Don't let your Chinese self be boring.

Let your Chinese self be awesome.

2014年11月17日 星期一

Seek and you will Find, Act and you will Learn

"The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors, that which it loves, and also that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations. It falls to the level of its unchastened desires – and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own." -James Allen

I started off today afraid to write this post.  In fact, for the past three days I have been afraid to write anything at all.  Ever since I started this journey to improve my Chinese, learn to write in Chinese professionally, and move to Taiwan, I have often been afraid to press forward and accomplish my goals.

I sometimes invest in these fears and find myself  considering other people's ideals, dreams, or standards on the subject to be “reality,” and I temporarily forget what my ideals, dreams, or standards are.  Everyone has done this at some point in his or her life, and ultimately this will lead to living someone else's life.  

I recently read an essay by James Allen entitled "As a Man Thinketh" (ironically, this is where the opening quote originated from) that speaks of the ultimate creative power of a man's soul.  Fear and doubt, if left untreated or buried, will ultimately surface in your "circumstance," which is merely the situation you have created for yourself through your conscious and subconscious actions.

I know that I tend to be afraid of not having enough money to support myself in the future because I "don't have a real job" and I "don't know what I'm doing."  Many people have these fears, but choosing to be paralyzed by them will only serve to stop you from living the life you want to live and becoming the person you want to be.

If you are reading this you want to learn something, you want to better your life, or you want to realize the dream you have always had.  Fear has the potential to paralyze you and stop you from progressing.  The only way to push forward is to acknowledge the fear, cast off its fetters, and forge ahead on your own.  If you feel like you are failing or "not being perfect,” good.  You are at least taking action to realize your dreams.

2014年10月7日 星期二

The Grammar Myth

Today I want to talk about Grammar.

Grammar is a construct that doesn't love you.  She'll let you take her out, listen to what she has to say, lull you into a false sense of security, and make you feel like everything is good to go.  Then, when it's time to seal the deal and tell your friends about your new relationship, she'll say you're “just friends” and leave you for the next poor schmuck looking to get a quick foreign language fix.  Grammar won't call you back after the first date and she'll get your hopes up only to drop you, hurt and broken on the floor.

But it's not entirely Grammar's fault.  When trying to start a relationship with a partner who isn't completely whole or real themselves is setting yourself up for failure (and yes, I'm still talking about grammar and foreign language learning).  While I not advocate against the explicit teaching of grammar entirely, I will say that it's not all it's cracked up to be.

Well if that's the case, what is it about grammar exercises that isn’t effective?

Three things:

1. Proficiency in grammar has a direct, positive correlation to how much input you put in.  
nput is anything that is read or heard in the target language, and can be found all over the internet or television (depending on where you live). Many cloze deletion exercises are used to “learn” grammar and test proficiency.  While this is a good idea, the “language sense” that enables us to complete these exercises is built on a large amount of input and consumption of media.  It is the equivalent to trying to do a dynamic push (the jumping kinds) without first working on doing regular ones, you just end up flopping around and falling onto the floor due to a lack of strength and coordination – a lack of experience.  You have to be at a higher comprehension level than the exercise is testing you on.  If you can't even understand language or articles to the exercise level, how will you be able to reproduce the correct answers on tests?

2. Grammatical proficiency can not be taught.  Sure, we can all complete exercises and read grammar charts out loud in the traditional, rote memorization fashion, but once we take off those Floaties and are thrust into the deep blue sea that is immersion and interaction with native speakers we gasp and struggle for air.  If you are not challenging yourself to think, speak, act, and interact like a native in practice, then when you are actually in a native situation you will not be able to perform. Native speakers of Chinese or any language don't sit around all day spouting grammar patterns in each others' direction while smiling and taking notes.  If they did, I know I wouldn't want to hang out with them.

3. Finally, don't jump on the "learning any grammar is bad" bandwagon.  I've been there, done that, and didn’t even get a T-shirt.  Bruce Lee once said, "Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own."  In context, this means you need to absorb as much target language media and information as possible.  If you are attending a language class, focus more on the sentences than the “rules.”  Don't panic, just find some Chinese video games, watch Chinese television, read crazy articles and Chinese manga, and do as many things as Chinese people do in Chinese.  The grammar will come, and it will become a part of you in such an organic and natural way that you probably won't even realize it.

So fret not.  There is a Chinese paper lantern at the end of the tunnel.  Just keep on keeping on (in Chinese, of course).

2014年9月30日 星期二

Learning to Read

I have separated learning to read and learning Chinese characters into two different posts purposefully.  This should make sense by the time I'm done.

Reading is an ability to perceive transmitted ideas in a written format that other people have written.  Through these ideas, people who can read can understand and build off of the writings and thoughts of people for generations to come.  Reading is not an innate ability inside human beings from birth, but it can be learned and improved upon.

Learning to read in a Asian language that utilizes characters presents a unique challenge in the fact that we as Westerners are also required to memorize the meanings of the symbols in those languages.  In English and other Western languages, once you learn the basic building blocks that correspond to sounds you can start to sound things out and run with it.  In Chinese and Japanese specifically, this is NOT how things work.  Each individual 'building block' corresponds to its own specific meaning.

It's similar to the difference between playing Pictionary and Charades.  The goal of both games is to get the message across but the medium is absolutely different.

Shockingly, the secret to learning to read is by reading.  Reading is daunting at first, as it seems there are infinitely more words you do not recognize on the page than what you do recognize.  Luckily, much of the guess work on what to read or how to combat this daunting theory is illustrated in the i + 1 theory as explained by Professor Stephen Krashen.

I'm sure if you think back to how you learned to read it amounted to about the same thing.  Barring learning difficulties and private tutoring (which we have all had in some fashion), learning to read basically required us to read simple books until they were too simple and then move onto more difficult ones.

Studying Chinese has a unique difficulty in the vast amount of rote memorization that is necessary.  I
In fact, the memorization never really ends; it just becomes quicker and more natural over time as one's brain sees the components of the character in bigger chunks  For this gargantuan task (part of which has been covered in a previous post), I recommend the utilization of Anki or any other spaced repetition software.  Following the previously linked guide will greatly improve your comprehensive and memorization.

Now the hard part comes: doing it.  Reading motivational material online building self esteem and making you feel good about yourself will not accomplish the goals you set up for yourself.  It is most important that you take a step out of your proverbial house (aka, your comfort zone) and set off on the long journey to proficiency, fluency, and ultimately mastery.

Kill it.  You have a rage to master inside of you.  And if this language thing is your gig (and it IS a totally sweet gig), take that first step and start to really do it.  Don't wait until later.  Don't put it off until tomorrow while you surf around looking for things to fill your time while you wait to go to 7-11 and buy a slurpee with your best buds.  Do it now.

2014年9月21日 星期日

Remembering the Hanzi (for real though).

When I started learning Chinese characters, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I remember that I passed through multiple stages in my learning.  I began by simply trying to learn to write all of the characters given to me in class.  I spent time everyday reviewing vocabulary and writing everything I could at all times of the day.

Now, this method of Chinese character acquisition takes a long time.  Too long, in fact, for many purposes.  Due to the sheer volume of characters you need to learn on top of the language requirements you will spend tons of time just writing characters you already know how to write (this was before I learned about Spaced Repetition and Anki, so my time was already not being spent in the most efficient way...we'll cover this in a later article), so after about a month of this I chilled out on the writing.

Because the most important aspect in learning Chinese characters in modern society is most often reading and recognition.  So, after 3 or 4 months of straight characters on top of reading them, I stopped writing.  I started reading much, MUCH more and watching tons of television with subtitled characters (most shows have this).

What was the result?  The speed of my Chinese acquisition increased immensely.  I still studied vocabulary but it took much less time.  I used this method in conjunction with Anki for four years and didn't have many problems.  Even now, after I have started writing characters again so I can write a blog and stories/literature in Chinese, I find it easy to write characters I have never written before because I have “learned” to recognize a vast amount of characters.

If you have a foundation for writing Chinese characters you don't have to consistently practice them in order to recognize or 'make sense' of them.

Heisig's Method

Whenever anyone mentions learning Japanese or Chinese among people who have at least studied or read up on how to learn languages, Heisig's Remembering the Kanji always comes up.  Now, I understand that Remembering the Kanji is a book on learning Japanese – not Chinese – characters, but the author has also published a book entitled Remembering the Hanzi that encompasses how to learn Chinese characters as well.  In short, his method approves of breaking down characters into their individual components and learning them as a mnemonic attached to a keyword you arbitrarily assign.

A quick internet search unearths flame wars galore on the efficiency of Heisig's method compared to “brute-forcing it” (which basically equates to learning as many characters as you can through rote memorization).  I interviewed a friend of mine for this post who learned ALL of his first 1500 to 2500 characters with Heisig's method before he started learning Chinese.  He had this to say about the efficiency of Heisig's:

"It's a logical process. You break the characters down into parts (not always radicals), memorize many of those original parts (which many times are characters themselves), and build upon them slowly in your memory bank. Ultimately, it's about following an organized process to learn the characters and reviewing them efficiently (his method of choice for reviewing is also Anki). That's what is required, persistence."


Ultimately the goal of any of these methods is to produce efficient character acquisition, so almost everything works to varying degrees of efficiency.  Stay positive, stay productive, and never give up hope.

I encourage you all to post below with questions or comments about this week's post.

See You, Space Cowboy...

2014年9月15日 星期一

The Power of Listening

So right now I am going to teach you guys the cornerstone to foreign language learning and your Chinese success in the future.  It is a technique that is so imba I am not even sure if I should share it with you.  It's THAT good.  And deceptively simple.

I'll sum it up in one words:  listening.  In fact, I'll sum it up better in another two words: listen tons.

Most language learners acquire nowhere near the appropriate amount of listening time in their practice.  And, unfortunately , schools also don't teach this as a skill to be pursued in their programs.  Listening is a lot like drinking enough water, the benefits are real, incredibly when accumulated, but such a small adjustment that many people forget to do it enough everyday.

There are many studies and opinions online that refute the validity of the passive aspect of listening: Benny from fluent in 3 months wrote an article diagraming the benefits and detriments to simply undergoing passive listening.  And a lot of the points he makes in his article are legitimate.  You will not learn a language from only passive listening.  You especially will not learn how to speak from only passive listening.  However, passive listening will teach you to listen comfortably.

All foreign language learners start out at a first stage of only hearing noise.  I can recall my first day of Chinese class when I heard the pronunciation of the syllables for the first tone of the sound lü (like in 旅 or 吕) I thought it sounded strangely similar to those cylindrical toys that had the rubber noisemakers inside of them.  I thought it was hilarious and did my best to mimic that particular sound for a long time after that.

The lv sound and many others in Chinese do not occur in English, so in order to hear and understand these sounds (let alone tones), you must explicitly practice focused for a long time.  When learning basic pronunciation, practicing the basic sounds and tones diligently until you can repeat the phonetics and tones is feasible and a smart way to begin.  I'll repeat, ACTIVELY practicing basic pronunciation and tones is a great way to hammer down the basics to Chinese language pronunciation.  However, after you have learned and nailed down the basics, a deeper level of language acquisition must come into play, and basic pronunciation as a guideline can not deal with all of the 'situations' that arise in language spoken to native speakers.

This all sounds complicated, but the solution is simple.  It's all about exposure.

He who exposes himself to spoken Chinese the most, whether it be through passive or active listening, will ultimately become better.

For real.

2014年9月11日 星期四

A Simple (sort of) Guide to Chinese Pronunciation

Why start with pronunciation?

I’ll tell you a story.  When I first began studying Chinese, I knew I wanted to ‘be the best around’, to make sure that ‘nothing’ was going to ‘ever bring me down’.  Because of this, I started to think about the language learning process, because I knew I didn’t just want to halfway learn the language, I wanted to be great at it.  So I sat down one day and thought about how I had learned my native language, English.

As a child I loved stories.  So any medium I could consume that delivered quality stories I was all about.  I liked to watch television, play video games, listen to people tell stories, and read books.  So I realized that the majority of my ‘studying’ the English language came from reading books and reading subtitles on the television (closed captioning).  My listening was mostly listening to people tell stories and watching television, so that part was easy.

After I realized how I had ‘acquired’ the language, I started to think about how I learned to speak and produce in English.  As a child, I would attempt to use the words I had learned throughout the day, ask a lot of questions, and try to mimic to an adult what I had heard.  I would practice, practice, and practice my production as if it was a game, never caring if I pronounced something right or wrong and just mimicking what I was hearing.  At the end of all of this my English was ‘perfect’, and although I never liked to write (which is why I never became proficient), my speaking and communication skills were top notch.

When I began Chinese I utilized this same approach.  And you can replicate my results.  The following are principles for continuing to master Chinese pronunciation:

  • Find a youtube video correctly illustrating Chinese pronunciation made by a native speaker.  Follow this every day without fail.  Go through all of the sounds and try to mimic their mouth movements.
  • Look for recordings of individual words that pronounce them with the correct pronunciation (native).  Once you have worked on basic pronunciation enough keep your pronunciation standard as you learn associated vocabulary.
  • Start to expand your pronunciation exercises to multiple character words.


From every foreign learner of Chinese who I have interviewed (myself included), tones seems to be a huge issue for most people.  However, there is hope.  Right now I am going to impart some wisdom on everyone that is not intuitive or easily digestible by most beginners of the Chinese language.  Tones are not hard.  I’ll say it again with more clarity: Learning tones is not as challenging as everyone makes it out to be.
But the approach by many people to learn tones is not focused or appropriate.  In order to learn to hear the tones, it is important to listen to natives read the tones and know which ones they are supposed to be.  What does that look like?  Learn the pinyin table (just the main one, find one with sounds to learn the sounds) and watch a youtube video describing how the tones sound when used with different syllables from the pinyin table (refer aforementioned table).  Listen, watch, listen, watch, listen watch, then try to reproduce.  At the beginning, only try to reproduce when you are ‘interacting’ with the video.  And if need be, record yourself and only stop once the recording matches the sounds you hear from the videos.  Now this might seem frustrating at times.  But consistently practicing this skill will lead to excellent pronunciation which will serve as a solid foundation for you to begin your Chinese journey.

You’re welcome.

2014年9月6日 星期六

Starting on the Road: the start of my Journey

I became interested in China as a place and Chinese as a language through a Stephen Chow movie. I remember it clearly: Looney Tunes style fight scenes, word-plays I had no hope of ever understanding, and some novel philosophical basis to the bizarre comedy. The movie was Kung Fu Hustle功夫)and I was 17-years-old. The experience sparked within me a passion to download (sorry Steve) the entirety of Stephen Chow's illustrious (at times) filmography and watch the whole catalog in an obsessive, Pokemonish way. After working through those movies and viewing Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers十面埋伏, a strong passion reverberated through my chest, and I had a real desire to become Chinese and fly around on bamboo all day. But I cast these emotions aside.

Fast forward to the end of my senior year of high school. I chose to join the Navy on what was basically a favor for a friend to get free stuff – I walked up to a recruiter's table for a free US Navy water bottle and walked away with a contract. Upon completing the lengthy enlistment process my fate was revealed to me: I was to go to the Defense Language Institute to study Chinese.

Upon suffering through boot camp, where I learned such impressive skills as how to sew a button (I am not crafty) and how to fold and hang clothing ( by any means ), I arrived at DLI to fulfill my true purpose. I was ebullient. I approached learning the Chinese language with a fervor I had previously only saved for chasing women and playing Shenmue II (way ahead of its time, really). I approached Chinese language acquisition in a way that was, I felt, extremely simple. Based on an analysis of how I had learned English as a child, I realized that I needed to watch a ton off TV, read as many books and comic books as possible, and surround myself with Chinese people to correct my mistakes.

It sounds easy because it's so simple, but it can be difficult to implement. Diving completely into a foreign language with media as your main tool might seem an uncertain process, and many, many teachers have told me that the methods I use just don't work. A friend of mine who was just as serious about Chinese as I am and a little more abrasive (with negative, penetrating teachers) f aced expulsion for trying to “buck the system.” Fighting The Man alone is difficult. Add to that the unique challenge of trying to abandon your learning paradigm for a completely new one and the task seems impossible.

But it's not. I firmly believe that anyone can learn a foreign language, and linguistic research consistently supports this. The extent to which you learn a language and the rate at which you learn are determined only by the amount of time and focus you devote to the task. That time and focus will in turn determine how much you gain from learning the language and how much you enjoy what you are doing.

This blog will do three things. It will:

Identify basic mental model shifts important in becoming more productive in your language learning.

Describe techniques used to optimize the time you have and provide examples of ways in which they can be executed.

Render support. Depending on your location, many aspects of language learning can be daunting and the process can seem lonely. But there are many like-minded people no different than you who have begun this journey and are walking up the long mountain of language mastery with you.

The road is long and winding, but the soul still burns...

2014年9月3日 星期三

Primer to Chinese learning from scratch

How to start learning Chinese?  The beginning is always the hardest...

I'm going to take a break from my usual topics and write a few installments on how to start learning Chinese from ground zero.

I know what you're thinking, 'in previous posts, didn't he just say that there is a reason that the actual method is not as important as the mentality behind it'?  And you would be true, but I have noticed through discussing Chinese learning with many people who have no base in the language that people feel hung up on 'how to start' from a tactical level rather than a principle/self-motivation level.

So this posting series will establish a primer for beginning to learn the Chinese language.  It will cover pronunciation, basic character recognition (and the fastest way to do it), listening, reading, and how to learn grammar (which is much easier than it sounds).  In the basic character recognition section I also want to elaborate in further detail the importance of learning both character sets, simplified and traditional, and how beginning Chinese learning with this mindset will vastly improve your experience with the language.

So how should you take my advice?  I would say that in addition to what I am saying it is a good idea to cross reference other foreign language learning blogs.  AntimoonAJATT, and Japanese Level Up are three great places to start thinking about your language learning journey.  They are not Chinese specific blogs, but they have extensive materials posted on learning foreign pronunciations, learning characters, and integrating into a foreign culture.

All in all, your foreign language journey is your own.  It is up for you to walk out, and only you know how long, how far, and in what direction you want to go.  All we are here to do is facilitate and attempt to help to guide you.

But it's your road to walk.

I'll see you next time.

2014年8月28日 星期四

Self help: Why language learning blogs often emphasize self-improvement and not actual target language materials

So I am sure many of you are wondering, why do most blogs that talk about language learning tend to overemphasize self-development, increasing your locus of control, and conquering your ego rather just simply talking about the language.  It would seem that coming from any beginner level of a foreign language that the main concern and focus should be on the basics: grammar, vocabulary, target language concepts, and pronunciation.  

And to be honest, focusing on these concepts is not a mistake.  Beginners and learners will naturally focus on the building blocks of fluency.  But these acquisition fundamentals occur in stages which are predictable and independent of the stages in which children acquire their first language.  What this means is that mass exposure of a language in different contexts and situations will grant the acquirer (or student) the basic skill set and fundamentals required to advance in that particular language.

That’s it.  That is the method right there.  Watch tons of target language television, listen to target language radio, make target language friends who mostly speak the target language and are willing to correct your pronunciation and read target language resources online.  There are other tools, tips, tricks, and mentalities, but if you do your best to think, drink, eat, sleep, watch, read, and learn the target language you will, guess what, learn the target language.  

So why are there so many methodologies, research, and ‘developments’ involving the target language?  I’ll tell you why.  The road to fluency is long, winding, and a pain in the a$*.  It involves starting off with the language capacity of a baby and building up from there.  However, since you are no longer a baby, you have the emotional and situational filter of an adult (plus an ego, no matter how many times you try to tell yourself that you don’t) and will want to ‘be an expert’ as fast as possible.

But it’s not fast.  There is no quickness to truly mastering any skill.  I’m sure that many people have heard of the 10,000 hour rule中文) and might prescribe to it.  But more important than this is just understanding that in order to become proficient at anything in life we all need to integrate it into our everyday lives.  This equates to listening to Chinese in the car, reading Chinese websites daily, using Weibo (or other social messaging clients), and simply doing our best to integrate ourselves into Chinese material.

Since this is the method, now we need to focus on the procedure.  This is where all of the ‘new age’ self-helpy (totally a word now) material takes effect.  There are people out there who research, analyze, and develop procedures and methodologies for becoming more successful and changing bad habits in an effort to eliminate limiting beliefs and behaviors from our lives.  It takes a change of habit to enact a change of lifestyle.  These productivity or self-development behaviors will benefit your life, and if applied to your language learning life you will find it easier to immerse yourself and find yourself slowly growing into a more ‘successful’ language learner.  

So do as Bruce Lee said, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”  Use good methods, immerse yourself and feel the Chinese begin to flow through your veins.

Until next time...

2014年8月25日 星期一

Starting over: how to kick up momentum, be awesome, and slowly accomplish the goals that you want to achieve.

萬事開頭難 - wan4 shi4 kai1 tou2 nan2 - In every undertaking the beginning is always the hardest.

In popular culture’s mind, it seems that the concept of new beginnings is one that is dripping with cliche and a positive inflection.  Starting over, refactoring your life, and even hitting rock bottom always end with a positive outcome.  And beginnings are always the easiest, right?

It seems, however, that all too soon these new beginnings take a turn for the worse.  After a few weeks, diets die, exercise routines waver, and we all return to sitting down and passively consuming media as a habit.  It in is this intermediate stage that our minds start to fight us and we start to wonder whether or not we ‘are good enough’ or ‘are able to’ accomplish our goals.

In modern day culture it seems that people think about learning new things with something called a fixed mindset.  I know that I am guilty of it.  When beginning some undertakings in my life that I feel I will love I jump in feet first throwing caution to the wind, only later (when things get tough) wondering whether or not I am ‘cut out’ for this position or type of work.  Ever since I was a child I have prescribed to the ‘do it all, do it now, do it fast, stay focused’ mentality.  I heard grand stories of Mozart writing symphonies at 4, Tiger Woods climbing out of his rocker and having a perfect golf swing as a toddler, and Michael Jackson being born destined to sing and dance with the best of them.  

Well, after growing up and attempting to master Chinese (which, in itself is a funny paradox), I realized that minus a group of 1.7 billion people (to include other Chinese-speaking countries), no one is born destined to learn Chinese.  People naturally are able to learn language, yes, but people are also naturally able to learn anything which has been learned and accomplished before.  The main connection between Mozart, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jackson minus the fact that they are all human is their motivation, time spent in the act, and their focus.

So in the realm of foreign language acquisition, why do children develop language skills so much ‘faster’ than their adult counterparts.  Well, I’m not so sure that they do.  Here is an excerpt from a blog on language learning:
“Research comparing children to adults has consistently demonstrated that adolescents and adults perform better than young children under controlled conditions” … It is clear that the reference here is to classroom language learning.  “Teachers should not expect miraculous results from children learning English as a second language (ESL) in the classroom” … Perhaps but if the child has many friends who speak the local language, the child will learn, regardless of what happens in the classroom.”  (link to full article).

Perhaps it is the method of our language learning that is wrong.  And perhaps it is the mentality that we hold in regards to language acquisition that holds us back from achieving our foreign language potential.  Children playing and socializing have the three characteristics required for success in any subject, so it is only natural that they would achieve success in learning a language to communicate with the targets of their motivation.  So learn like a child.  Forget about what makes someone ‘good’ in an academic sense and work on interacting with the language.  Listen, read, find friends, make mistakes, and consistently be focused on learning how to get better.

And don’t forget to have fun…….

2014年8月19日 星期二

Feelings are not facts: Sticking through to the end and learning to walk your path.

The other day I realized how often my mindset sways at times.  I can go to bed completely focused on one task and wake up the next day with a completely different notion in my head.  When I was younger, this usually was related to what ‘passion’ I wanted in my life.  I would pursue this new ‘passion’ with an intense fervor and gusto and would ultimately switch to another soon after the bold beginning.  

This is the wrong way to approach ‘passions’ and ‘labor’ (when I say labor, I am talking about doing what you love to do, not chopping wood or carrying coal.  Though some people…).  When truly engaging in life changing behaviors, don’t be Icarus, be the Little Engine that could.  Recently I read an article about how Icarus’s wings would not actually melt if he had only flown closer to the sun due to the drop in temperature.  It’s interesting how people will try and use science to disprove the validity of certain myths and legends, but we’ll get to that other article later.

What I want to talk about today is the concept of doing.  Doing is something that sounds much easier that it actually is.  Especially ‘doing’ the right thing, which is the one activity at this point in time that validates, motivates, and fulfills you.  The problem in modern day society is that there are so many activities which can take up your time.  Facebooking, Youtube surfing, internet surfing, video games, television shows, and other resources are constantly knocking at your attention door and waiting to be let in.  And if these activities do not line up with your goals and purposes then they can either be labeled as distractions, addictions, or time sucks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I time suck some stuff away every single day.  But the trick lies in not allowing these activities, which according to some bloggers and other productivity engineers is all a matter of structure, to take up too much time away from the labor of love which exists inside all of us that motivates, empowers, and fulfills.  Finding your motivation and power is another another topic for another day (ya like that?).

So how do we stick to activities that we love and know are good for us?

I’ve found that internalising one concept has benefited me greatly in pursuing my ‘labors of love’ and has enabled me to reach heights that not many others are able to achieve:  understanding that how you feel about how you proficient you are at things is usually not the truth.  A quick description of the Dunning - Kruger Effect illustrates this perfectly:

The reverse of this effect is true as well: “Many skilled individuals feel that their skills are much lower than accurate”.  I equate this to the image of the samurai (武士道 for the Chinese inclined) or kung fu (功夫) master who continuously trains until death.  It appears that those who train incessantly even AFTER proficient become true masters, as mastery is a path that is simply deliberate practice built on tons of practice.  In laymans terms this means that you need to work hard, work often, reflect on what you are doing and how it is benefiting your cause, then start the process all over again.  We don’t have time for frustration, so push your feelings aside and continue on your path.

2014年8月16日 星期六


I read an article this past week from Mark Manson’s blog that talks about insecurity.  The word insecurity gets thrown around a lot in this day and age, and I think that the concept people talk about it poorly defined.  Insecurity is defined as uncertainty or anxiety about oneself.  It is the lack of confidence to purposefully, openly, and honestly expose your thoughts and emotions to people.  

I just recently started going out at nights more with friends.  Never being into the bar scene myself, I still oftentimes feel uncomfortable talking and interacting in situations when there is alcohol involved.  For reasons I do not know, drinking brings out strong feelings of insecurity I have about myself and I find myself doing things and participating in conversations in which I would normally not engage.  This results in me entering into uncomfortable social situations in which I ‘chug on forward’ even when I feel awkward.

Many times the day after feels like I made a mistake because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and somewhere that feels strange and unknown.  I would ask some of my friends for feedback and whether or not times were good or things went well, and many times they would provide support.  But I must have been asking a lot, because the other day a friend of mine asked me a question that rang into my ears and reached deep into my gut to tear out all of my feelings of self consciousness and lack of confidence.  

I asked him whether he thought that I do well going out and whether I’m fun to hang around with in those situations.  He asked me, “Are you really that insecure?”  I thought about it for a second, struggling with rising anxiety and uncomfortability, and came to a resounding conclusion.  I am insecure about this particular aspect of my life, and it’s ok.  The acceptance of my temporary feelings of insecurity set me free from the vicious cycle of avoidance and fear which plagues everyone who refuses to enact change in their lives.

Insecurity is avoided in our culture.  People attempt to cover it up, avoid places, experiences, and new things which could bring up these feelings, and do everything in their power to stay within their comfort zone and think and do things that feel comfortable and familiar.  People tend to be more willing to verbalize their dreams and categorize them away.  This method seems easier to accept for people who are not willing to throw away their pretensions of themselves and their ‘abilities’ and go for broke.  A quote from a member of a trio of individuals who started an extremely successful youtube channel involving picking up girls models this issue perfectly:

So to answer your question, how did I make that "leap" it's quite simple:
Once people become aware of something it can propel them to change. So the fact that I'm telling you that a LOT of people won't do anything will be enough for many of of you to actually take action. It's a weird but effective truth.
When I realized that most people didn't do shit with their lives, I made it my fucking MISSION to not be part of that crowd.

So be like Jesse from Simple Pickup and multiple other successful achievers and ‘doers’ throughout history: push yourself out of your comfort zone to and accept insecurity.  You’ll be glad you did in the future.

2014年8月15日 星期五



I had a conversation with a roommate yesterday, and I was enlightened to an interesting fact.  In the English language, whenever tragedy happens or something emotional from our past is unrooted most people in the affected party’s support group encourages that individual to ‘get past’ it or ‘move on’.  

What does this move on really mean?  And why does it seem so visceral and picturesque.  Can we really ‘move on’ from tragic events or lost loved ones?  My roommate doesn’t seem to think so, and deep in the middle of our past-midnight conversation when I used those words he was adamant in his disagreement.

He said that moving on, getting past, and getting over all imply that there is an endpoint to the pain, tragedy, and loss which accompany traumatic experiences.  But in reality, he continued, there is no end.  It appears the phrase ‘Time heals all’ is not entirely true.  At least not in the particular light which most people see it.

Time allows for reflection.  It is only through reflection in which we have the ability to see the previous situation in a different light than what it appeared as before.  Throughout all of the events that I have experienced in my life one concept is important and deserves rapt attention: good and bad are determined subjectively.

My roommate continued by saying that he thinks we do not ‘get over’, ‘get past’, or ‘move on’.  We simply accept the fact that at that time we did not have the control or insight we have now.  

The past is the past.  Some events suck, and some are blissful.  Regardless of the nature of our experiences, the simple act of participating in them at the time and reflecting on them renders any occurrence in our life useful.

Ensure that your tragedies fuel the fire for future success.