Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Am A Raincoat

Before I get started here: you've probably noticed that you are now staring at snow and not book pages. I think I might change the blog's background monthly -- keeps things fresh, and all.

Anyways! I think it's high time for another language-related spiel, don't you? (By the way, the word 'spiel' comes from German, which is why we pronounce it with a 'sh' sound despite the lack of an h.)

I noticed that I have a habit of muttering phrases in languages that I'm 'investigating' (aka learning at the speed of a lethargic sea cucumber) to myself for no good reason whatsoever. They are rarely things one would consider useful -- very few of them would help me as a tourist, and there are several I doubt I'll ever use exactly as they are.

I only noticed this habit lately, but now that I think about it, it's not a new thing. I can remember repeating 'Je suis un imperméable' to myself back when I was a lower level Frenchling. Incidentally, that phrase means 'I am a raincoat.' Not particularly useful when sightseeing in Paris.

My initial reaction when I noticed that I do this was "Ah man, I'd better stop. People are going to think I'm crazy... er." But after a bit of thought, I realized that phrase parroting is actually probably a brilliant language learning strategy. Why? Because it's just what babies do when they learn their natural language. They don't try to learn the most useful things or the words they're going to need most. They just pick a word that they like and repeat it, whether it be 'mama' or 'shut up!'

Of course, I'm no longer a baby. I already have one language in my head and I'm not going to learn another by phrase parroting. But I think that repeating random words is still a really great idea, if only because it has the same function as a baby's babbling and cooing does -- it teaches you the sounds of the language without yet having to worry much about meaning.

So, if you're learning a language, I recommend hitting up YouTube for songs, shows, movies, what have you in that language. If you find yourself liking some phrases, embrace them! Remember and repeat them. And then let me know how it goes, because I'm curious to know if it is a valid strategy or if I'm just a freak.

Tomorrow (or some other day in the near future) I shall make a list of my favorite phrases to repeat. Because most of them make just as much sense as 'je suis un imperméable,' you see.

Till then.

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