Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lulzes from Benny's Language Hacking Guide

As you might know, I've been reading through Benny's Language Hacking Guide. I hope to post my full review of it later today, but for now I thought I'd share a few of the highlights of one of the things I enjoyed while reading the book: its humor.

For those people who focus on the unpleasant points and are thus negative about language learning, he makes an analogy with making an introduction (p. 23):
I am going to introduce you to a friend of mine, but I tell you a bit about him first. Just before I introduce you, I say that he hates children, is opinionated, he farts when he's nervous and has a really annoying laugh.
Are there really people who fart when they're nervous? Job interviews must be fun for them (and the interviewers).

For those of you looking to complain your way to fluency, Benny has some advice for you (p. 31):
I promise you, no amount of complaining will ever bring you closer to fluency. It's a pity it doesn't, because a lot of people are excellent complainers.
Actually, come to think of it, you could complain your way to fluency—provided that you do it in the target language. So, complainers, why don't you go ahead and complain about Benny's poor advice on complaining… in your target language?

When telling people to write a blog about their language learning, Benny says (p. 51):
[T]hink of an interesting name for the blog (based on the language objective – this isn't a space to share Youtube cat videos!)…
Ah, but Benny, if my langauge-learning objective is to share the cutest-wootest cats with the speakers of my target language, it could be a place to share YouTube cat videos!


This blog, in any case, is a space to share YouTube cat videos.

When discussing the need to learn body language (p. 66):
[That body language is important] does not mean that I mime and dance what I want to say,
But it could! Perhaps Benny could try this miming and dancing thing out for us in a video. "Can Benny mime and dance his way to communication with Berliners? Watch and find out!"

This wisecrack is painfully true (p.106):
The only way to make no mistakes is to not speak at all. Quite a lot of people try this approach! I'm sure they can feel proud of having never made a single mistake in the foreign language.
Lastly, I don't think this suggestion would always work quite as Benny hopes (p. 125):
You can also give the other person simple motivations to want to help you and give you feedback – if you are speaking the language with your partner, promise a kiss for every correction.
I'm pretty sure if I tried this with my wife that she would ask my why I get rewarded every time she corrects me.

6 comments:

  1. The kiss approach has been working well for me ;) Irish charm probably makes it worthwhile :P

    The youtube cat videos idea could work, but you would have to describe their level of cuteness, say how much you "wuv" them and invite heated debates about which one is more adorable in the target language. ;)

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  2. I wonder how you'd go about looking up how to say "wuv" in a target language…

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  3. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Childish .
    This list is heavily biased towards English, though. Another good place to start would be linguistics articles on "baby talk": they'll probably have similar lists. So, you'd need to find the accepted academic translation of "baby talk" into your target language and then search for that. This is where wikipedia comes in handy: just go to the English page for the topic you want and click on the "Languages" drop-down to go to that page in whatever language: they'll probably have examples there too. Alternatively, you could just search "baby talk" (in quotes) and the name the language. That seemed to get me a number of hits for the 5 or so languages I tried.

    Also, related and fun:

    http://www.eleceng.adelaide.edu.au/personal/dabbott/animal.html

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  4. Contrary to the cute cat videos joke, I actually learn a lot of common, everyday Russian from Russian LOL-cats.

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  5. Haha, Russian LOLcats! Nice! That's on my list for when I finally get back to Russian...

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