Lesson Transcript

Peter: Hi Listeners, this is Peter Galante founder of Innovativelanguage.com.
Becky: Hi I’m Becky. In this special Sunday News, you’re going to learn 4 powerful tactics for learning a language.
Peter: Number 1. The best mindset for learning a language,
Becky: Number 2. A roadmap to fluency,
Peter: Number 3. A blueprint for executing, and
Becky: Number 4. Actual language acquisition tactics for Chinese.
Peter: To talk about these topics, we’re talking with a very special guest,
Becky: Benny Lewis.
Benny: Thanks for having me Peter!
Becky: Benny is the founder of the massively popular site, Fluent in three months dot com.
Peter: He is fluent in 7 languages, and is an international best-selling author on the topic.
Becky: Can you give our listeners an introduction?
Benny: Sure! For those who don’t know me, I like to consider myself a reformed bad language learner. Because I only spoke English when I was 21, and I even tried to live in Spain for 6 months and didn’t learn any Spanish there. And then I completely reformed my language learning approach. I mean just not about studying the language but living in the language and that was about 12 years ago so I have greatly improved my learning technique and I started my blog and I’ve written my books all about trying to encourage other people that it is never too late to learn a language. You just need to do it the right way.
Becky: Listeners, you’re about to find out why learning Chinese is easier than you think.
Peter: In fact, Benny has written all about it in his new eBooks.
Benny: That’s right. I have 6 brand new eBooks that I just released called “Why Learning This Language Is Easy” for Chinese, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Becky: We’re going to focus on your Chinese eBook. “Why Chinese Is Easy.” Listeners, you can find the link to the eBooks in the lesson description of this Sunday News.
Benny: That’s right and you can also find it on fi3m.com/easy. And when you are on that page, then just click the Why Chinese Is Easy link.
Peter: So, Benny, I read them all this past week, great read and I had a few observations. First, I’m an advanced Japanese learner. An intermediate Italian and Chinese learner and a beginner Spanish learner. As I was reading them, something jumped out at me. While the guides seem to be aimed at beginners, I found really powerful advice and tactics that I can use regardless of my level: beginner, intermediate or advanced.
Benny: I’m really glad to hear that! When I wrote the guides, I actually tried to focus on issues that beginners face such as confidence and problems that are specific to that language but you will find some things that may actually be surprises for even intermediate learners and actually even advanced learners because my girlfriend, when she was proofreading the English edition and she is American, so she is a native English speaker as she found it fascinating to see how the pronunciation rules work because she never even thought about it. She just did it naturally and so I think that some of it can be very interesting to intermediate and advanced learners but ultimately I do try to focus on helping beginners.
Peter: One of the most powerful aspects of your writings is your approach to the psychology of language learning. I really wish I had this when I started. One could argue this is the most important tool a new learner can have, the right mindset.
Benny: Yeah the right mindset makes such a difference. One reason that I didn’t learn so much Spanish when I first started is because I was bit of a perfectionist. I figured that unless I had every conjugation, every word, every pronunciation exactly right, native Spanish speakers would just laugh at me and they would maybe be insulted by all the mistakes I was making but that isn’t realistic and I think a lot of us look at a language too academically. We think that every mistake brings us closer to a big red F on an exam paper but in the real world, we actually need to make mistakes and I aim – I have this weird aim when I am intensely learning a language to make at least 200 mistakes a day because then I am learning much quicker. If you never make mistakes, then you are not practicing. You are not learning anything. So mistakes are your friend and I think this new mindset of being okay with being a learner and having progress rather than making about studying for a very long time until someday you will speak it perfectly. I think that approach doesn’t work with languages. You need to get into it right now, make mistakes and learn from it.
Peter: And this approach must have taken you a long time to develop?
Benny: Yeah it really took me a while to come up with this because like I said with Spanish, I had tried so many things that just never worked and especially trying group classes and just sitting back and keeping my mind sharp while the teacher explained everything to me but ultimately you have to fail your way to success. If you want to speak a language fluently, you need to speak it, you need to use it and you are going to feel embarrassed and that’s just part of the learning process. So I’d say just go with the flow.
Peter: A second observation I had about your guide. It was like a roadmap to learning a language.
Benny: Yeah that’s right. Just before I get into the meat of each language and the particular parts of that language that make it hard, the entire first section of the book is about the right mentality and roadmap that is universal to all languages because if you are not confident, if you really don’t think you can do it and you think you have to fly to the country and you have to do that right now, there are so many things that hold people back and they need a good roadmap and I try to talk about that. That’s how I start off books.
Peter: Then I remembered when I studied my first language without the internet. Language learning roadmaps were scarce. I thought I could have used this. Very high value.
Benny: I am really glad to hear that. I actually wrote the books as if I was writing to myself when I was starting to learn the languages because there are so many things for language learners that are trial and error. We tried out so many language tools and a lot of them are a waste of them and we tried so many approaches. So I wanted to take all of my 12 years of experience in learning many languages and my experience learning this language and put it into a very tight eBook form so I save other people time so they don’t have to do it.
Peter: You present everything in such a way that a newbie can get a clear idea of how to progress with fluency. A language learner can just get up and go from Day 1 as you say. Why is this roadmap or approach as you call it in the eBook so important?
Benny: Yeah you really have to start speaking from Day 1 because a lot of us, we get bogged down on studying and you cannot study your way to fluency if you are not using the language. It’s kind of like learning how to ride a bike. You don’t learn how to ride a bike by reading theoretical books on aerodynamics and the angle to turn your handlebars. You put yourself on a bike saddle and you start pedaling and that’s something that we need to do with languages. We need to get some hands on experience speaking it and especially listening to it getting lots of exposure to the real language.
Peter: You know, I have spent 15 years studying languages and I spent so much time researching, developing new routines and discovering study methods. I think many of us language learners have similar experiences. In your starter guide to day-to-day Immersion bonus book, you are covering your best of the best tactics.
Benny: Well I wouldn’t say that I have the insight into the absolute best routines. People do need some inspiration and I think what I aim to do with the bonus materials was to give an example of what I tend to do in my intensive learning period. So even when I am working as a writer full time, I try to see how can I take a typical day and squeeze out every spare second that I am not working to learn the language. So I recommend a ton of resources that you can use throughout your day and I try to show people how you can mix and match it up and you can take this as an example and you can change it based on your own life and your own needs in the language but you have to come up with some kind of a routine. So I really hope my bonus helps me with that.
Peter: This alone is incredibly valuable. You literally lay out morning, afternoon and evening routines hour by hour, minute by minute. Then you provide study methods and resources. Listeners, you can find over 40 learning strategies and resources in here alone.
Benny: Yes and in fact, I actually mentioned your podcast as one of the resources and in fact, in most of my recent projects, learning some Japanese, learning some Chinese and now my girlfriend Lauren who is learning Russian, we use the innovative language podcast series. So I made sure that that is one of the biggest tools that I have recommended to people especially for improving your listening comprehension but also for learning vocabulary, learning about the language as you guys talk about that. So that’s just one example of an excellent resource that people need to find. And so I tried to share all of my favorites.
Peter: By the way, I just started learning Spanish. So your eBook is very timely for me. I think our top 25 questions, You Must Know series would be a great fit for your day-to-day emerging guide. We actually spoke about it the last time you run the show.
Benny: Precisely. One thing I like to do when I get started with any language is create my own personal script and to get that done really well. So I love your top 25 questions because when you first meet somebody, these are really common things that you are likely to talk about. So rather than learn them later or learning random grammar that you are not going to be able to apply, learn these top questions and your top answers to those questions and use that because in real conversations, these are what you are likely to talk about.
Peter: Benny, every language learner values their time. Time is valuable. Adult learners have busy schedules. What I like most about your eBook and day-to-day emerging bonus book, language learners will save days of research into study tactics, specific learning resources and language learning tips.
Benny: Yeah that’s the thing. I may not be an expert in the sense of having a PhD in linguistics but I am very, very experienced in language learning. I have been doing this for over 12 years. So I made all of the mistakes and I have done all the research for other people and I wanted to share that to save them time because that’s what we are all missing in language learning is time. You don’t need to be wasting your time researching things. You need to use every second that you have about your – that you invest into learning your language to actually learning that language.
Peter: And a lot of learners spend dozens of hours just looking things up and researching instead of actually learning and speaking right?
Benny: Yeah I love to call this perfectionist paralysis. It’s something so many people fail at. Like I said before, I don’t think I have an ideal roadmap for everyone. Since each person’s approach can be unique but I did try to make it really work for as many people as it possibly could. So in one bonus eBook, I discussed how to set up your digital devices because I think that applies to so many people like using Facebook and your Smartphone in the right language and in the mini-book, I gave a huge list of resources that I have tested extensively and found to genuinely help me speak. So not just things that have really clever advertising but things that I have delivered and helped me to improving my language skills. So I’ve already spent hundreds of hours testing these things out. So why should you have to repeat it over again. It’s better to just hear from someone experienced and hear what they have to say.
Peter: My next language is French and I estimate your French guide will save me 20 hours in preparation time. If you value your time, then this guide is well worth it.
Benny: Yeah exactly. It’s why I think this guide is unique. I could have made a language course or provided native content but you guys already have that covered. I wanted to do something different. So I made this roadmap for language learners to save them heaps of time and I didn’t see anything else out there that tried to do this, that tried to encourage people and give them a good direction to go with their language because most things just try to teach people a language or give them exposure to the language but it’s not just that. We need a good idea of what direction we are going in. So that’s what I focused on.
Peter: Listeners, much like our products, a lot of time was invested in the product to save you time. If I asked you to put a dollar number on an hour of your time, what would it be? For me, my hourly number times the 20 hours saved totaled a number much higher than the price of this eBook.
Benny: That’s very kind of you to say. Well personally, I would have paid several thousands of dollars if I could just travel back in time and hand these eBooks to myself. Obviously I am extremely biased in that, but ultimately time is your greatest commodity. We waste so much of it feeling intimidated about our target languages or researching bad products. That time really is better spent just learning the language.
Peter: Now one of the big differences in this eBook compared with previous writing is you actually get into specific language learning tips and advice.
Benny: Precisely. I published the book called Fluent in 3 Months that presents my philosophy in language learning from start to finish. There are so many things that are common to all languages like the Need to speak them sooner, how to solve issues like getting practice without traveling, how to progress quickly, how to not feel discouraged and so on and this is universal for everything from the big languages like Spanish and Chinese to the small ones like Quechua and Irish and even sign language but I wanted to do something different in this course. There are specific problems that we face in each language beyond what other people face in general language learning and I hadn’t really talked about that yet. So I covered it in detail this time.
Becky: Can you give us a few examples from the Chinese book?
Benny: With Chinese, I think the two things that stand out for most people are tones and characters. People say that they are tone deaf, but this is really meaningless when it comes to language learning. Being musically tone-deaf is not the same as being linguistically tone deaf. We have tones in English to express emotion, they just work differently.
What I found was that you can definitely learn the tones, but rather than making it something that you learn gradually, I’d make this one of the absolute first priorities. If you use it to like Chineseclass101, with native-produced audio, you can test your tone recognition abilities. And something else that I know perfectionists will hate is that it’s okay to not get your tones 100% right.
I found that when you are speaking with teachers, it’s okay to get maybe 60-80% of the tones right, and still be understood thanks to the context. This is crucial, because a lot of us are worried about getting everything perfect. Ultimately that may be the goal, but right now “good enough” should be your goal. I considered “make myself understood by teachers” the first goal, and then make myself understood by random natives to be the next goal and thanks to this mentality, exactly three months after I started learning Chinese I flew to China, took a train thousands of kilometers deep into the country and was understood by people who never spoke to a foreigner before in their lives.
So with characters, I gave some mnemonic suggestions, but my biggest suggestion of all is another controversial one among Chinese learners and I think that we should learn Chinese like children do, and focus on the spoken language first or Mandarin before we start to learn characters. This means that the vast majority of what you learn for the first months are through pinyin, and then you have a good momentum and you progress to learning characters then and this applies a thousand times more if your focus is to speak and understand Mandarin. Pause your character studies and you’d be surprised how easy Chinese becomes!
This doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to read Chinese. On the contrary - starting to intensively learn characters when you have a base of spoken Mandarin makes them way less intimidating, since you have the context of understanding many example sentences and how they work.
Peter: Listeners, here’s what’s so different about the eBook that you will love.
Becky: Benny actually delves into the Chinese language.
Peter: How a beginner should learn this language specifically and why it is easy. Can you tell us more about that? Why is it easier than people think?
Benny: Chinese is notorious for being one of the hardest languages in the world. When I finally got to it, I had been learning languages for a decade, and you know what? I already heard this opinion time and again. German is the hardest, Hungarian is the hardest, Czech is the hardest. Every language is the hardest if you present it in a biased enough way.
But in Chinese’s case, what about why it’s easy? It doesn’t have any verb conjugations which is a major headache in languages like Spanish, it doesn’t have noun genders to remember, it doesn’t have reverse order sentences like Japanese that make you feel, like Yoda you are speaking. I actually find Chinese to be one of the most logical languages I’ve ever learned and I expressed this in great detail in the eBook.
Becky: What are the biggest problems of learning Chinese?
Peter: You break them down and make it easy. Can you give a few examples to our listeners?
Benny: Before I even wrote the book, I actually asked my 80,000 Facebook followers what they thought were the hardest parts of learning Chinese and I tried to cover everything they said. The usual culprits came up, including tones and characters of course, but also homophones, in other words syllables that sound the same, how to actually practice with native speakers, how to deal with the fact that there are thousands of characters to learn, whether you should learn simplified or traditional, why we have to deal with measure words, and several other things that I made sure to answer in a very non-intimidating way.
Becky: This definitely sounds like a great roadmap to mastering Chinese.
Peter: Whether you’re a Beginner or Advanced. So it’s $39 and there are 2 eBooks that listeners get as a free bonus, right?
Benny: Probably better for beginners, since the eBook is based on my experiences reaching Intermediate level very quickly, and I still have to get to the advanced stage myself but sure - $39, for the main eBook covering all the hardest parts of Chinese and two bonus eBooks, one that explains how to set up a digital immersion environment, and the other with a suggested daily timetable for busy people to make faster progress.
It’s the result of 12 years of language learning, so I think people will find it exceptionally useful. Even those who have had a good start will find a few nuggets in there. I’m actually so confident about the program, that I’ll offer a 30-day money back guarantee, no questions asked. So you really have nothing to lose.
Becky: Listeners, find the link to Benny Lewis’ eBook, Why Chinese Is Easy.
Peter: In the lesson description of this Sunday News. Benny, how else can they grab it?
Benny: Yep, just go to fi3m.com/easy and click on Why Chinese is Easy and you’ll be good to go!
Peter: Fantastic. okay if you had one last piece of language learning advice to give our listeners, what would it be?
Benny: Whether you get this guide or not, do something right now to change your story with Chinese. Stop just studying it and start living it!
Peter: Definitely agree. Benny, it was great talking with you.
Becky: Listeners, find the link to Benny Lewis’ eBook, Why Chinese Is Easy.
Peter: In the lesson description of the Sunday News. It’s only $39 and comes with 2 bonus books.
Benny: Thanks so much for having me! People can of course find me on Facebook or on my site by searching for Fluent in 3 Months if they have any other questions. All the best!