Tim Ferriss on languages again

Tim Ferriss has produced another post on language learning called How to Learn Any Language in 3 Months.

The post contains some interesting ideas. Ferriss says “Principles of cognitive neuroscience and time management can be applied to attain conversational fluency (here defined as 95%+ comprehension and 100% expressive abilities) in 1-3 months.” To Ferriss the key elements of a successful language learning strategy are:
1. Effectiveness (Priority)
2. Adherence (Interest)
3. Efficiency (Process)

By Effectiveness he seems to mean making sure that you choose the right language, one that you are likely to succeed in. In his view similarity to a language you speak, especially in terms of phonemes or sounds,?? is key. In my experience the most important factor in choosing a language is how badly you want to learn it. Good language learners are able to be positive about the language they are learning and do well in all of them. I think Ferriss himself is an example of this, as he is really very good at a number of languages.

It is his concept of Adherence that I really buy into. In other words choose methods of study that you like and are likely to stay with. I have never been a fan of memory systems, mnomonics and the like, and am a light user of SRS systems even though I know that others really enjoy them. Stick with what we like, in terms of learning systems and in terms of the content that we read and listen to. Absolutely. This also means taking control of one’s learning, something that I know Ferriss also recommends.

Where I am not so much in agreement with Ferriss is his third point,Efficiency. He seems to suggest that focusing on high frequency words will get us 80% of the way to our language goals, to “learning a language”. In my experience, you need a lot of vocabulary to feel comfortable, lots and lots. This applies to comprehension and to expressing yourself. I think the goal of 95% comprehension and 100% expressive ability can be achieved in we drastically limit what we want to talk about, or if the language we want to learn is very similar to one we know, in terms of vocabulary (Spanish-French-Portuguese-Italian). Otherwise three months is just a start.

But that is just my experience.

2 thoughts on “Tim Ferriss on languages again

  1. Yes, definitely I think 3 years is more realistic to gather the content needed to build enough of a base to be versatile with the language. It is a langauge, after all, none of us were speaking that well at three years old (usually). Why would it be any different undertaking something as new and diverse as a language!?!?

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