Learning a language like a Kung Fu Master

English: Publicity photo of Phillip Ahn as Mas...

Yesterday, many of you found out how I write.  Normally, I come up with ideas for what to write about and I make drafts with the titles.  Then when I have time to sit down to actually write, I have a whole shelf of ideas to write from.  Oddly enough, yesterday I accidentally hit publish and didn’t know until the next day.  Now you know, the secret is out.  What will I ever do?

This post is one of those posts.  I have had this post on my shelf for a bit now, but didn’t exactly know how to use it until recently.  The idea came about due to a child hood memory.  I found a way to get cable TV into my bedroom.  I used to watch all kinds of odd shows at night.  One night I watched a movie based on a true story about an American who went to China to teach English.  While there, he was taught Kung Fu from a master in China, despite the Chinese government doing all it could to hinder his access to the master.

Recently, I remembered that show, but I couldn’t remember who was in it or what it was even called.  I google searched and google searched until I found the Title: Iron and Silk.  Shortly after that, I found a version of it to watch and enjoyed it again.  That’s when I found a forgotten scene.

The Master becomes the student….kinda

During his studies, the master asks his American student to teach him English.  The student was more than happy to help, but then he found that his Master had a different method to learn English than what his student was expecting.  His teacher asked him to record all the phrases that he wanted to learn in a cassette recorder (remember those?) and that is how he would learn English.

The student protested that he can’t learn English that way, to which the Master replied, “I don’t see why I can’t learn English like I teach Kung Fu.  I should be able to learn all the phrases independently and then piece them together in the order I need.”  The student reluctantly gave in and recorded all the phrases his master wanted.  At the end of the film, the Master showed his skills by repeating his learned phrases, “Don’t worry, it is just a broken arm.”

That made me think of a couple of things.  How much of what we say is just instinct?  The words and phrases I say now, I don’t think about before hand.  They just come out.  The other things is something that Megan and Kara say over at the Creative Language class blog.  They say, you don’t need to know how a motor works to drive a car and you don’t need to know how the grammar works to speak a language.

How to apply this?

That was what has held me back.  How do I apply this information.  I was never sure, exactly, so it stayed on my shelf of ideas.  Then I thought of something.  There are all these transcripts of real and made up conversations out there.  Most are in course manuals or beginning of audio lessons.  I can memorize those.  That’s right, memorize the entire conversation, both sides.  After doing this with just one conversation, my Spanish has already begun to feel more natural.  My brain doesn’t have to think as hard for what to say, because there is already a file for that exact phrase, even if it’s not directly translated that same way.

This is what I recommend you do.  Take a lesson at about the level you are learning and memorize the conversation from that lesson.  Memorize it so it comes out without even thinking.  If you do that, your language will come out better with out even having to think.



Filed under How to learn, spanish, Thai

2 responses to “Learning a language like a Kung Fu Master

  1. I think that this post is very interesting. A lot of people want to speak spanish, I have seen. I think it is even number one? I have family that speaks it and it is very interesting. I will learn it eventually but right now I am learning the polish language, it is very lovely. I also have a blog that I’m helping people out by helping them with tips to learn a new language. You should take a look. it’s learnlanguagescorrectlyandswiftly.co.uk and you will like it. I also am interested in Thai, I have heard from people that it was quite interesting, I should look at this now!

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