You don’t know how many times my kids have come in the room complaining, “Dad!!!! X keeps copying me and wont stop!”(at the same time I seem to hear a strange echo of the same exact phrase coming from the other room.) Copying is something we inherit from birth. We don’t loose it, we just perfect the skill as we go along. Its how we learn to walk, talk, sing, dance and all of the other thousands of skills we learn to do everyday. Imitation is also very important skill when mastering a second language.
I recently read an article at fi3m.com about freestyle rapping in any language. I have never really been a big fan of rap or hip hop and so disregarded the article for a long time. Then, during one of my boring times at work when I didn’t have a lot of concentration to practice spanish, I found myself reading it and it ended up being one of the most interesting articles about Language acquisition that I have read yet. The article was not just about freestyle rap, but about this very concept of imitation and how to use that skill we grew up with to acquire another language. This is what ultimately led me to the website, Mimicmethod.com.
What is Mimicmethod.com?
Mimicmethod.com is founded by ee-DOW-sa (spelled Idahosa ) who has used his love for music and languages to create a method of learning languages that bridges that gap to native level fluency, a method he found almost by accident. Here is his bio in his own words:
I came up with the idea of the Mimic Method in 2010 while studying Afro-razilian percussion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I signed up for percussion classes with a Samba-School-Style percussion troupe called Bangalafumenga, but I struggled to process and learn the exotic rhythms at first. Determined to master the band’s rhythms, I came up with my own method for breaking down and internalizing rhythm. Using these techniques, I was able to master all of the band’s songs and rhythms within two weeks. In fact, I improved so much that the band leaders invited me to play with them in their New Year’s Eve show in front of thousands (pictured right). Then one evening it hit me. I realized that I could apply the same method I used to learning exotic rhythms to learning other unfamiliar sound systems, i.e. language. I was teaching English at the time and started testing out my techniques on my students. The results were amazing, and I knew I had something special. Rhythmic Phonetic Training was born.
I will try to do my best to summarize the theory of his mimic method, but I highly recommend you go to his website to get a full and more complete explanation. As english speakers(or whatever birth language you may have) we grow up in one style and form of language. Once we decide to learn another language we step out of our familiar rhythms and sound patterns and step into a world where nothing sounds the same. This unfamiliarity with the sounds, patterns, rhythm, ect, ends making it difficult for us to keep up. This occurs even if the language has mostly the same sounds as English.
This is not unlike growing up only listening to country western music all our life and then going to a Jazz concert in the park. Most of the notes and even the chords are probably found in both styles of music, but the way they are put together, how the chords change, ect all make Jazz and Country Western two completely different sounding music. In the same way, English contains almost all the sounds that Spanish does, but English still sounds foreign to a native Spanish speaker and Spanish does not sound familiar to a native English speaker either. Even if you got someone who speaks neither English nor Spanish, they would still tell you that English and Spanish “sound” different.
This difference is attributed to Spanish having a different “rhythm” and different pattern of placing those sounds together. It is just like how Jazz puts notes together differently than Country Western. We can take that even one more step further. Jazz can be broken down into various styles, such as Dixie land Jazz, Bebop, Blues, Big Band, and many others. They are all called Jazz, but there is no question that they sound different. This is not unlike how Spanish, Italian, and the other Romance languages are grouped together despite being totally different languages.
My own observations
Coincidentally I have made a two of my own observations recently, that at first they seemed unrelated, but now they seem very related, now that I have had a chance to read Idahosa’s website.
The first observation happened when I decided I wanted to try to learn the song: Feliz Navidad. Its christmas time and why wouldn’t you want to learn to sing one of the most well-known songs about christmas that just happens to be(at least partly) in spanish. Everyone knows how to sing thee first few lines, but it’s that stream of words after of all those “Feliz Navidads” that kept throwing me off.
The words are: Prospero año y felicidad(prosperous year and happiness or Happy New Year). Now if I count the syllables I get 10 syllables, but in that same part of the song, there are only 9 syllables!?! To make it work, I have to combine año and y into one word. In other words I have to say prospero año-y felicidad. Here is a youtube video so you can hear what I am talking about.
At first I thought maybe it was just the song and something that was done to make the phrase fit into the rhythm of the song. This happens in English all the time. As I have listened to spoken spanish more and more, I have come to realize that it is not just in this song that “y” gets sucked into the ending vowel of the previous word. This is just how it is spoken in spanish. The ‘y’ just runs into the vowel of the previous word almost every time, sung or spoken. Spanish has a different “rhythm” than English.
The other observation happened while I was listening to my podcasts from Notes in Spanish
. In the podcast, at least in the beginner levels, they speak in english first to set up for their spanish conversation. So we will have parts almost entirely in English and then parts entirely in Spanish. The funny thing that I found was that I would turn the English down softer and then turn the Spanish up louder. At first, I thought I was constantly changing due to different road conditions while I was driving. Then I began to notice that it happened, almost without fail, every time they switched from one language to the other.
I found it curious, but after reading Mimicmethod.com
and starting his Beta test for his new online program, I understand this due to my lack of being able to “mimic” spanish. I need to turn the sound up to understand Spanish better, because unless I hear every single sound, my brain can’t fill in the blanks for me like it can in English.
So is Mimic method Input/Output, Yin or Yang
Most people now know I like to classify learning materials based on if it emphasizes Input or Output
or if its Yin or Yang
). So how would I emphasize mimic method? So far, in the beta test I am in, I feel that it is the closest thing to being both Input and Out and both Yin
that I have found. If I had to classify it, I would have to say it is Output Yin
style, but I am definitely open to changing that classification as I continue along the test. I am putting it under my system page
, but since I am still just beta testing it I will put it under a separate category of testing, for now.
I will update everyone on what I think of the mimic method as I go along. So far I am enjoying it. I love music and this just feels like a natural combination of two of my joys: Music and language. If anyone else has any other comments or ideas, just put them in the comment section below.