Lucy entered the room. Everyone there spoke an alien language. At least, she grasped it as alien. She heard only buzz and murmurs, nothing similar to a distinguishable word. She was not able to make any moves, scared as a chicken facing the chop. She felt lonely in the crowd. She was different, no one could understand her. Ever!
*It wasn’t her first time in this room… *
She was sweating. Every time she was in that room, she had repeated her actions: no movement, no eye-contact, no words… but this time, something interesting happened!
‘Enough!’ – she screamed like a fox trapped in a hole. Such an angry sadness!
‘I want to learn Alienish NOW!
Suddenly, an alien showed up by her side and started talking.
Wow! What a miracle! She even understood the alien’s speech! I wish I could learn an alien language just as quickly as she did! But I would be content with a foreign language too!
How did she do it?
It’s a riddle! But I certainly know what they were talking about! Listen and observe!
Alien: ‘Lucy entered the room. Did Lucy enter the room?’
Lucy: ‘Yes, Lucy entered the room.’
Alien: ‘Who entered the room?’
Lucy: ‘Lucy entered the room.’
Alien: ‘Where did Lucy enter?’….
The rest of the conversation is lost in the room. But you may imagine how it went on! ☺
The Biggest Secrets About Language Learning
This short story contains the biggest secrets about language learning! Or any learning, actually. Let’s discover these secrets together. (By the way, what I am doing now with you, is an extremely efficient method for learning anything quickly. Simply put, the tutor guides you and you draw your own conclusions).
I’ll guide you with some specific questions. Answer them before you look at the explanations. Take a minute and cover the story. Look only at the question. Don’t cheat! I’ll catch you, I am a teacher!
Could You Tell Me the Story in Your Own Words?
I’m sure, you could! Why? Because we remember STORIES easily!
Do you remember your favorite story when you were a child? Yes, you do! And you will do so even at 90 years old!
Let’s have a conversation!
*You: Why is this?
Me: Legends, myths, tales are transmitted by generation after generation. They will be alive in our mind forever.
You: OK! But why, why?
*Me: It’s all the fault of our limbic brain!
You: Great! I am happy to know that! …. But what is this limbic brain exactly?
“The limbic system, also known as the paleomammalian cortex, is a set of brain structures located on both sides of the thalamus, immediately beneath the medial temporal lobe of the cerebrum primarily in the midbrain. It supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction. Emotional life is largely housed in the limbic system, and it critically aids the formation of memories.”
You: Aha! It’s clear….
Me: I know what you’re thinking. It’s not clear, is it? That’s not because you are not able to understand at this level, but because it’s too hard to follow (if you are not in the field). Whoever wrote this wasn’t aiming for you to remember this precious info for long. He or she didn’t do it with bad intentions, they simply followed the traditional way, the boring scholastic way. The way that has been banged into our minds since our first day at school.
What about this instead:
Skinny ‘Shrew' was very simple-minded. And not only that! He was forgetful, selfish, cruel, and cowardly. In brief, he was very ‘inhuman’. In fact, he was a mammal. ☺ His kids couldn’t tolerate him anymore and they decided that Skinny had to evolve! They had a plan! Telling him stories with full of emotions. They repeated the stories every day. And what a miracle, his head grew! He started remembering his kids, hunting food for them too, feeling compassion and being a bit braver…
What stands out from both texts? The same thing: the limbic brain is responsible for emotions and memories and emerged in the first mammals. You learned the same, but you enjoyed the second more, didn’t you? Which one will you remember one week later? Or tomorrow? Or even one hour later?
It’s evident that the first one contains more information, but the second has a structure you can hang things on! You can up this structure with details! You know, when you have a strong base, you can build a castle on it! If your base is weak…well, the first breeze will blow it away…
Learning a language with stories is the most efficient way to learn a foreign language. But pay attention! There is a difference between one story and another! Let’s see how an effective story should look!
How Would You Describe the Story of Lucy and the Alien? Realistic or Exaggerated?
It was EXAGGERATED, right?
What do you remember more easily? Something normal or abnormal? Boring or remarkable? Realistic or exaggerated?
It’s evident that we remember things that are unusual, interesting, fascinating, even provocative. We forget easily what is usual. Think about boring, scholastic textbooks! Do you remember the dialogues at the post office, supermarket, or railway station? If you have just read them, maybe… but if it happened a month ago, you probably even forgot the topic!
I’ll show how you can transform a boring scholastic dialogue to a super-dialogue! The base is the same, but the result…
Dialogue A: The Boring Dialogue
You: Hello! I would like to buy a kilogram of bread and a bottle of milk.
Me: Which milk would you prefer?
You: The red one
Me: Sure! 3 euros, please! Would you like a bag?
Dialogue B: Super Dialogue!
You: Hello! I would like to buy a piece of Iron Man’s heart and a barrel of milk.
Me: Which milk would you prefer?
You: The holey one.
Me: Sure! 97 Marvel coins, please! Would you like a web shooter?
See? Simple, right? We changed only few words but we made a big difference! Why should we study boring dialogs while we can use our super-power: imagination?
What Emotions Did You Have While Reading the Story?
Anxiety? Surprise? Curiosity? Other?
Whatever emotions you had, it is important that the story caused some in you. Why is that important? Because we remember EMOTIONS longer than anything else! Think about someone who surprised you! Or remember a situation when you were embarrassed! Recall a movie that made you cry!
There is even more! I have a surprise for you: top-secret!
I know, you would like to know it immediately, but I will give it to you throughout a short story.
By the way, what happened to Skinny?
In that old ancient time, when Skinny ‘Shrew' was simple-minded because he had only a reptilian brain, he went out every day from his burrow. Each time he turned back, he was angry and scared. He was only happy when he was home.
Why did he go out then?
I have no idea! He was simple-minded, right? I think, this is the only ‘reasonable’ explanation.
Well, what’s more important is that he had these three emotions: anger, fear, and happiness. These three emotions are the most ancient emotions coded in our brain.
When a story makes you angry, fearful or happy, you will remember it longer than just a simple story!
Did You See, Hear or Touch the Story?
- “Scared as a chicken facing the chop”
- “She heard only buzz and murmurs”.
- “At least she grasped it as alien.”
You have heard a thousand times that there are three types of people based on how they perceive the world. VISUAL, AUDITORY AND KINESTHETIC.
Do you know when we learn really efficiently? When all three perception models are involved in our learning plan. Obviously, you cannot ‘put’ them physically in a story, but you can insert them with words. Words are magic! The first sentence helps us imagine or ‘see’ the scene. The second one puts ‘buzz and murmurs’ in our ears. The third one lets us ‘touch’ with our hands. The most efficient stories contain all these fundamental elements.
Why Did the Alien Ask Lucy Questions?
Because QUESTIONS make us think. Questions deserve answers instinctively and our brain knows it!
How were these questions structured? In a simple way. Simple questions are good because they keep our motivation up. We like having positive feedback. If we answer a question correctly, we get positive feedback.
I am not a fan of studying grammar. It doesn’t mean I don’t study or I don’t teach grammar. I understand we have to feed our neocortex too, which is the most rational brain among the three brains (reptilian, limbic, and neocortex). The neocortex is the newest one, the modern one, the logical one. The neocortex wants logical explanations. However it also gets bored. It gets bored fast if it doesn’t get results. By memorizing grammar rules, the poor neocortex won’t get any results within a reasonable time.
But I have a shortcut for you!
We learn the grammar rules and words automatically if we answer a yes-no question or a simple question. We practically repeat the same words of the question with a little correction to make an affirmative sentence. Your neocortex will get results super-quickly.
And there is even more!
What do you think is the effect of a yes-no question or a simple question on your brain?
Your neocortex will be happy because it’s a challenge that it has to think. Your limbic brain will be happy because the satisfaction of the neocortex caused an emotion. Your reptile brain will be happy, because happiness is one of the most ancient emotions.
Do you want to learn a language quickly? Remember the recipe! Take remarkable stories, a piece of emotion, three ways of perception and mix them with simple questions!
Let’s Say Goodbye to Each Other with a Small Conversation
You: All is amazing, fantastic, and really cool! But how can I find such materials for my study?
Me: Obviously, it depends on your level. If you are a beginner, I suggest you rewrite simple dialogues as we did above. In this way, you will learn new cool words too! Actually, you can apply this exercise at all levels, but for intermediate and advanced levels, the spectrum is wider. In this case, you can read children’s books or your favorite comics. You can watch movies. You can chat with natives and tell them a fantastic story!
[Editor’s note: For learning using the techniques outlined in this article, we recommend LingQ. It has top quality reading and listening resources, in 15+ languages.]
We all are children inside. Keep your child in your brain while you study!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.