Let Your Language Journey Begin! Learning to Do the Thing You Cannot Do.

You gain strength, experience, and confidence by every experience where you really stop to look fear in the face. ….. You must do the thing you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 Mark A. Frobose

I have spent most of my lifetime studying foreign languages and searching for the fastest and most effective ways of teaching them. I have considered the evidence. I have used reason, logic, passion, innovation, tradition, and sometimes trail and error to become fluent in five languages and conversational in many others. Mostly I have learned from experience – my own and others.

I have come to some conclusions. Here they are in a nutshell:

The fastest and most effective way to teach – and learn – foreign languages is to…

  • take the guesswork out of language by providing English equivalents for all exercises.
  • use ‘high frequency’ material which is the most practical, common, and easy to learn.
  • allow students to create their own language rather than canned or parroted.
  • employ an English speaking language guide along with a native speaker of the language
  • demystify the language learning process and make it natural and easy for everyone.
  • use dynamic sentence building techniques to dramatically accelerate communication.
  • employ a periodic retrieval memory technique to enhance retention.
  • give the joy of language learning back to the people in a non-academic way.
  • provide material that is presented and modeled by native speakers of the new language.

Effective methods need to apply second language acquisition research to their approaches. They need to use both traditional and innovative techniques, skill building exercises, and technology.

While emphasizing oral skills in the target language, the native language needs to be thought of as an aid, and not an obstacle, to second language learning.

Scared of the Dark

The night was moonless. No light was available to the travelers as they meandered their way up a steep mountain slope. Gripped by fear, they literally trembled with every step, knowing it could be their last. Finally, literally paralyzed by terror, they stopped dead in their tracks, unable to advance another step.

Does this sound like a fun scenario to you? Believe it or not, it is how most language methods approach the teaching of foreign languages. You are literally put on an uphill climb, in the dark. The uphill climb is learning to speak and understand a foreign language. The darkness here is a metaphor for not being told the meaning of language you are learning while you are learning it. This is done out of some archaic belief that it somehow benefits you ‘not to know’. Eventually, either because of your natural instinct to avoid pain and not to experience a serious and painful fall or because you fear experiencing pain from a fall, you abort your journey, and huddle in the middle of the road, fearfully awaiting the dawn and a means of escaping the torment of the unknown.

If You Can’t See You Will Fall

The truth of the matter is that if you can’t see then you clearly will fall more than if you can see. Blindness is not a fast or efficient condition for walking, and ‘linguistic blindness’ imposed upon you by a cruel and inefficient language learning method is no less inefficient or painful.

A Necessary Versus an Unnecessary Fall

Success is the result of failure, repeated failure, each time failing a little less until you finally break into success. So these ‘falls’ can be beneficial. The key to success though is to minimize the falls whenever possible. Falling still hurts, even if you do learn something from it. What if you could learn a great deal without falling as much? Wouldn’t that be more enjoyable?

A Flashlight in a Cave

Imagine again that you are back on the mountain trail in the dark, but this time someone hands you a flashlight. You immediately turn it on and the entire night is now like day. Now everything is different. Now you can see where you’re going. You now know where the cliffs are. You are now able to illuminate the inside of the cave you have just entered. Everywhere you go you avoid falling because you can see where you’re going. In language learning, English equivalents for each and every foreign word are the flashlight that clearly shines the way to go, confidently and without fear. It allows you to travel upward towards fluency in a language not your own without getting killed in the process.

Man’s Search for Meaning

I have always been impressed by Nazi Holocaust survivor Dr. Victor Frankl. In reading his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ I became aware of the extent to which we are the true masters of our own destiny. According to Frankl and his philosophy of logotherapy, WE CHOOSE to ascribe whatever meaning we wish to any situation in our lives. This may include the meaning we attach to the failure – success process in foreign language learning. If the meaning you choose to connect to making mistakes is a positive and empowering one, then the pain you feel will be minimal and the pleasure you experience will increase.

The Pain You Feel – Marcus Aurelius

One of my favorite all time Roman emperor-philosophers is Marcus Aurelius. One of the original ‘stoics’, he also believed that ‘the pain you feel in any situation is not caused by the thing itself, but rather by your OPINION OF THE THING, and this you have the ability to change anytime you wish.” Change your meaning of language learning from ‘It’s difficult and unpleasant’ to ‘It’s easy and fun’ and you will have a good time learning to speak languages and taking the foreign out of them.

The Road Less Traveled

I have often marveled at the immortal words of Robert Frost’s well-known poem “The Road Not Taken”. Having traveled that road (and still being on it) I can attest to the wisdom of the words “I shall be telling this tale with a sigh, Ages and ages hence” Two roads merged into a yellow wood and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all of the difference.”

The Fear of Translation

Another reason why the so-called ‘language experts’ want you to avoid the use of English while learning to speak a second language is the ‘fear of translation’ syndrome. This paranoia stems from a valid concern that the language learner will begin to become so accustomed to using English in the learning and use of a foreign language that he or she will never become fluent as a result of constantly translating everything back into English. While it is true that any good thing can be a bad thing (i.e. butter knives can also be used to cut people’s throats and not just butter) the fact remains that the intelligent and judicious use of one’s own native language is the single most effective tool for teaching one to speak a foreign language. The trick is to know when to stop.

The Chemotherapy for Foreign Language Ignorance

Chemotherapy is an excellent example of how radiation, which in extreme doses can kill you, may also be used to save your life when the treatments are specific, exact and measured.

The use of English in learning to speak a second language has a similar application. The overuse or the unwise application of English can be linguistically fatal. If the language learner does not assume the responsibility of using the target language at every opportunity, and does not make daily effort to ‘wean’ himself or herself from the ‘mother tongue’, then the results will be less than desirable.

If, however, the student follows the Multilingual Advantage® program, and successfully completes my innovative Language Success Conditioning® training, then English will only be used as a convenient and highly effective tool of understanding that will shave off, days, weeks, months, and even years of tedium from the language learning process. This is well worth the effort!

Taking the foreign out of language speeds the individual into a world of fast and easy understanding and communication in a foreign language while wasting no time burdening him or her with the tedious task of looking up the meanings themselves, which we all will do eventually anyway if it is not done for us in advance.

Don’t Try to Put a Round Peg in a Square Hole

One of the biggest dangers facing the would-be language learner is the innate human desire for total ‘equivalency’. This means that within us all beats the wish that all languages on earth be word for word translatable. Such never was nor will ever be.

All languages are distinct entities, reflections of the peoples, the cultures, and the histories which shaped them. No language is an island. All have borrowed and lent to one another. Languages never stand still but are in a constant state of evolution, of linguistic flux. All translations are, by their very nature, imperfect to a point. The least ‘imperfect’ we like to call ‘good’ translations. If you believe this, then tell me how you could hope to read Tom Sawyer in Russian or Flaubert in English and get the same exact feeling that Americans and French get while reading their native tongue. The sciece of good translation then becomes the science, not of word for word, but of ‘meaning conveyance’. Was the ‘meaning’ of the sentence captured and faithfully reproduced?

The Eskimos of Alaska have eleven words for snow. They live in a snowy environment and the flexible and static nature of human language has allowed theirs to evolve to the point that one word for snow can mean ‘drifting snow’ and another’ blowing snow’ and so forth. Note that I am using more than one word to describe this concept.

Sometimes, while translating, you will have to use 5 words in English to describe one word in Spanish, or vice-versa. Accurate translation is doing whatever it takes to convey ‘meaning’. You, as a language learner, must avoid the word for word translation syndrome in favor of being ‘hooked’ on correct meaning.

What Is a Language Guide?

Your Personal ‘Language Mentor’

What you really need is a mentor, a guide, who will support you while you take the necessary steps towards learning to speak a new language. This mentor must be someone who has shared your fears, your anxieties and your failures.

Just as important, your language mentor has to have succeeded in learning to speak more than one language. The very best foreign language guide would possess a combination of qualities such as compassion, fluency in several languages, travel experience, and a technology that would make language learning fast, easy, and enjoyable.

Where can you find such a person?

You already have. I am that person. I am Mark Frobose of Multilingual Advantage® and I am here to be your language coach, your mentor, and your teacher, if you will let me. When you decide, I will be there to positively influence you to move forward to speak a new language.

The good news is that not only will I help you form the correct mindset about learning a new language, I will also teach you how to use the most effective language learning tool of the past 100 years, Multilingual Advantage®. I will make you an expert in its use and open up the world of language fluency for you and your family.

If you follow my advice, use this method and pattern your thinking and actions after the world’s most successful language learners, you may someday find that you will be speaking foreign languages better than the very language teachers who so intimidated or disappointed you in the past.

Imagine that you are taking a trip through the jungles of Brazil. Someone suggests to you that you ‘go it alone’. Stoic as you may be, the jungle looks intimidating. There are numerous paths that must be chosen to reach civilization.

The last thing you want in this situation is uncertainty. You are surrounded by unfamiliarity. You need an expert to lead you through this dangerous terrain; someone who speaks your language, somebody who has been there before, and has walked the same path. You need a person who knows how you feel, communicates well, and even more importantly, has proven ability as a result of having lead thousands of others just like you ‘out of the jungle’.

This is how language learning is. You find yourself in a ‘linguistic jungle’ the very moment you embark upon your journey towards functional fluency in any language. Do you want to risk going it alone? Or do you prefer to have a trusted guide? The choice is yours.

A Guide Who Speaks Your Language

What if you have a guide that doesn’t speak your language? When he says ‘turn right’ you will turn left since you won’t understand. When he tells you which plants are edible and which are not, you will eat a poisonous one because you won’t understand. When he shows you the correct road to travel, you will pick the wrong one because you won’t understand. When he says ‘Jump’ you will squat. When he says ‘Stand’ you will sit. When he attempts to explain something, you will incorrectly guess what he is trying to say. No matter what the language, it will all be ‘Greek’ to you.

A Guide Who Knows What You Need

I play the guitar. I became interested in that wonderful instrument when I was a young teen. That was four decades ago. I practiced regularly. I practiced diligently. I practiced passionately.

By the time I was out of high school I was pretty proficient. I didn’t know it at the time, but all those hours with my favorite instrument were about to pay off.

My skill with the guitar and my ability to sing in different languages helped pay my way through college in several foreign counties, including graduate school. I played in bars, clubs, and pizza parlors in the US, France, and England. I gave guitar lessons from time to time. I’ve written many, many songs, both the music and the lyrics. I have met a lot of interesting people as a result of my guitar playing ability. Some of them became good friends. My guitar has been an important part of my life.

I can honestly say that I am a good guitar player. I’ve worked as a ‘professional’ in the sense that I’ve been paid. But I will readily admit that I am not a professional ‘musician’ in the traditional, classical sense of the term. I am not a music theorist. I am not a musicologist. A musicologist is someone who engages in the historical and scientific study of music; note and tone analysis, and all that. I can’t even read music. (I’m proud to say that my eleven year old daughter can.) I’ve just never taken the time or the trouble to learn. So while I am an accomplished recreational guitarist I would never claim to be a world class, professional, orchestral style, classical musician or music theoretician.

Nevertheless, I play the guitar ‘fluently.’

If you said to me, “Teach me to play the guitar!” I would respond, “Great! But why do you want to learn? What do you hope to accomplish?”

If you are like most people your response would be, “I want to be able to play some songs for relaxation and enjoyment” or “I want to play for my church youth group” or “I just want to play along with my friends.”

Those are all good reason. So I’ll tell you what I would do. First, though, I’ll tell you
what I wouldn’t do.

I wouldn’t throw you a three-inches thick textbook on tone theory and chord structure.

I wouldn’t make you memorize all the major and minor scales.

I wouldn’t insist that you learn how to transpose music from one key to another.

I wouldn’t drill you on the difference between tonic, dominant and subdominant harmonic functions.

We wouldn’t study the music measure by measure and count and identify the notes in every interval.

I wouldn’t insist that you learn to read, identify, and play dozens of different chords and
identify all their fifth, seventh, and ninth equivalents.

I wouldn’t ask you to trace the structural components of Western music through the Baroque, Renaissance, Classical, and Romantic periods.

I wouldn’t even insist that you learn to read music.

Now, there is nothing wrong with learning all of that. To anyone who desires to take it to that level I say, “Fantastic! Go for it! Good luck along your journey deep inside the complex and technical world of music!” I applaud those who are interested enough and motivated enough to take that challenging plunge. I wish them the best. But most people just want to sit down at the piano or pick up the flute or the harmonica
or the guitar for personal pleasure and fulfillment; for the enjoyment of themselves and of their significant others. That goal can be achieved without enrolling in Julliard or buying a $6000 musical instrument.

Here’s what I would do.

I would teach you about a dozen common chords.

I would teach you some simple strumming patterns.

I would teach you some basic finger picking techniques.

I would coach you in beat and rhythm.

I would give you some helpful tips about singing while you’re playing.

The knowledge you would acquire with such instruction would not get you an audition with the New York Philharmonic. You wouldn’t be accompanying Beverly Sills at the Met anytime soon. You probably wouldn’t be asked to join an accomplished Latin combo, blue grass group, or experienced rock band.

But with some time and practice you would become ‘fluent’ in your guitar playing. Your newly acquired skill would give you a lifetime of enjoyment. And if you someday decided to take it to a deeper level…Well, send me an autographed copy when your first CD or music DVD comes out!

I think – I hope – that the comparison between music and linguistics, between guitar playing and language learning, is obvious: It is no more necessary to learn all the technical rules of grammar and syntax to become functionally fluent in a foreign language than it is to learn all the technical and theoretical aspects of music in order to become ‘functionally fluent’ on the piano or the accordion or the guitar or the ‘whatever.’ Like music, you can take language learning to a highly technical level if you wish to. There’s nothing wrong with that. But that is not necessary in order to achieve fluency; fluency that will give you a lifetime of enjoyment and a deep sense of personal satisfaction.

Language Guide as a Role Model

It is not easy to identify with someone who has not experienced what you are experiencing. You need someone who has ‘been there and done that’. You need to find a role model who has suffered as you have suffered, guessed as you have guessed, tried and failed as you have tried and failed.

But above all, you need a language guide who, despite all the odds to the contrary, has risen above the difficulties and become fluent in not just one but in a number of different languages; a guide that will magically appear before you each and every time you use your digitally produced language course. You need a guide who will teach you a foreign language in your own language, showing you the way, giving you tips, guiding you past the danger points, and finding the easy shortcuts that will make your language journey a breeze instead of a torment.

For most of us, our language journey begins not in the jungles of Brazil, but in a‘concrete jungle’; in traffic, behind the wheel in our cars.

Let “Multilingual Advantage® be your “Language Guide.”

And don’t be afraid. As one language observer pointed out:

Language is the friendliest of the things from which we cannot escape. Mason Cooley

Someone else asserted:

One can say of language that it is potentially the only human home, the only dwelling
place that cannot be hostile to man.
John Berger

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