Saturday, April 11, 2009


Practice, practice, practice!

You cannot learn a language from a book or a tape alone

A language is what I call a three-sense entity: you need to engage your eyes, your ears, and your mouth to learn a language, because you need to speak it, listen to it, and read it (writing it comes later).

A book is one-sense medium: you read it. You can't tell how those words are pronounced, and you can't pronounce it. You can guess, but your guesses may be wrong.

Audiobooks are slightly better. You don't read it, but you listen to it, and in turn you can try to repeat the words, thus learning proper pronunciation.

Combine the two, and you'll get a much better learning experience.

But don't overlook practice. Find some friends who will help you correct your English. Best way is to barter a language... you teach him/her your language (probably Mandarin Chinese, while he or she teaches you English).

Part of the time should just be listening to you read a random passage from a book or newspaper or magazine. Why? It builds your confidence, vocabulary, and reading skills. Any of the corrections s/he gives on the spot will help you learn from your mistakes (like that "rap music" mistake above... unless you have heard it said before, how would you know you're doing it right?)

You pretty much have to IMMERSE yourself in the language for weeks and months. Don't bother with shortcuts like Rosetta Stone (tm) and such. There are no shortcuts to learning a language, except hard work.

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Some new updates for 2009

Cover of "Rush Hour 2 (Infinifilm Edition...Cover of Rush Hour 2 (Infinifilm Edition)

I know, I know, didn't update this thing for over a year. The BBS/Newsgroup in Taiwan I usually visit was overran by spam, making it not worth re-visiting.

Then the other day I saw an article in Chinese newspaper about the big Chinese movie stars with lousy English (like Zhang Ziyi, Jackie Chan, and so on) and how they learned, which reminded me that I have this blog I should be updating.

Did you know how Zhang Ziyi improved her English? She got an Israeli millionaire as a boyfriend. As you guessed, they speak English.

And did you know that Jackie Chan's English is quite horrible? He speaks BRITISH English just fine, as that's what's taught in Hong Kong. However, while filming Rush Hour 2 with Chris Tucker, he reputedly failed to learn the expression "Freeze!" (in case you don't know, that's American-speak for 'Do not move!') He kept saying "Cheese!", which, of course, got the American co-star busting out in laughter, since "Cheese!" is something you say when you want to take a picture, like "smile!"

And here's a pronunciation lesson from the same article...

The word "rap" in "rap music" is pronounced like "tap", not "tape". PLEASE do NOT pronounce it the other way. You can look up what the other word is (add an "e" at the end). You'll be VERY embarrassed if you make that sort of mistake.

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