Tag Archives: Improvement

Patience and The Linguist

One of the biggest problems with the approach of formal language education is that there seems to always be present a growing need for the students to learn faster. Faster. Faster!

The pressure to absorb information quickly is an on-going issue. Because so much of learning is about digesting information, actual learning takes time.

However, those in charge of educational systems around the globe seem to think that large quantities of information being, quite literally, shoved down a student’s throat is productive. And when the student can only retain about 50-70% of what they have learned, long-term, and they can only use that information with moderate accuracy, it somehow becomes the student’s fault.

But I have some thoughts…

  • Why do we require language students to learn the same amount of content in one year that a native speaker would take 2-3 years to learn?
  • Why do we not acknowledge that a brain that has already adopted and been shaped by a native language is not going to be able to learn a second language at the same rate as native speakers of said second language?
  • How do we not see that the filter of one’s native language is used to process information about any subsequent languages? (This filter adds additional steps for the language learner to think through, if true mastery is to be achieved.)
  • Why don’t we acknowledge that memorizing vocabulary and grammar constructs is not the same as actually learning a language?
  • Why aren’t we allowing language students the time to digest information before requiring them to learn more information?

I am two years and nine months into my Chinese language journey. According to native and non-native Chinese speakers, the consensus would be that my Chinese level is lower than the level of my peers who have learned Chinese in a formal setting. The chart below demonstrates how my language skills compare to those of my peers.

HSK Level (1-6) 2-3 3-4
Pronunciation Skills Intermediate Beginner
Amount of Grammar Memorized Beginner – Intermediate  Intermediate – Advanced
Ability to Use Known Grammar Advanced Intermediate
Speaking Skills Beginner Intermediate
Reading Comprehension Intermediate Intermediate
Translation Skills (Chin. to Eng.) Intermediate Beginner
Listening Skills Beginner Intermediate
Writing Skills Intermediate Intermediate
Dedication/Consistency Extremely high Varies
Motivation Extremely high Varies
Joy Extremely high Varies


SnailI learn slowly, but I learn well. I review often and compare Chinese grammar constructs to those in English. Slowly, but surely, I am starting to actually FEEL Chinese. The language no longer just abides in my head. The language is starting to become a part of my being. My goal is to one day speak this beautiful language from my heart – not from my brain.

This is the difference between memorizing aspects of a language and becoming one with the language. Language is a living and breathing entity. Approaching it as such, while giving it the respect that it deserves, I believe will ensure exceptional success with the language in the future. So, I am in this for the long haul. I may be moving at a snail’s pace right now, but the benefits of learning with patience with show in the future.

In regards to my current Chinese level, I may not be able to communicate in the language as well as my peers at the present time, but I fully expect to catch up to my peers within two years, and to surpass them within four years. My goal is to speak clearly, to use grammar naturally, and to comprehend spoken and written Chinese more like a native speak with each passing year.

In summary, by many accounts, I am not performing up to par. But, I believe that my patience and my attention to detail will pay off in the end. This is the ground work for the linguistics research that I expect to be a part of in the coming years.

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Learn the English Alphabet (Video)

I was recently looking for a slightly more exciting way for one of my young students to learn the English alphabet when I ran across this gem.  Granted, the pronunciation is a little peculiar, as the speaker does not seem to have a true “feel” for the English language.  (The accent seems to be Indian.)


However, this is still a great starter video for your little ones who need to learn the English alphabet while having fun.


We like it because:

  • The music is compelling
  • The images are entertaining
  • It teaches the names of the letters, as well as the way that the letters sound (at least approximately) in words
  • It is short – only 4 minutes long
  • It’s a great starter video


So, if you are having a difficult time getting your young child to pay attention to you as you try to teach them the English alphabet, give this a try.  Simply, push play!


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Continuous Improvement

Learning is an ongoing process. It is not something that stops as soon as you get out of school. Real world experiences help us to continually grow and learn each and every day. Aside from day to day experiences, you can also seek out ways to continually challenge yourself by doing such things as: taking online courses, reading books or scholarly journals, or even watching instructive YouTube videos.


The options, when it comes to learning are endless, and the biggest mistake a person can make is to think that he no longer needs to seek out new ways to learn and challenge himself.


Pronunciation is an area in which many people seem to think that growth and continuous improvement are not necessary. However, when it comes to communicating effectively with others, both professionally and personally, continuing to strengthen pronunciation skills is essential.


We are living in a diverse world where we work with people who speak a myriad of different languages on a daily basis. Because of the different languages and accents being used, the pronunciation barrier continually increases and makes it harder for people to understand one another.


The English language, specifically, is very complex and is made up of 19 different vowel sounds. An example of the complexity of the English language is that a single word can be pronounced in several different ways depending on the context. As a result, conversational speech can be tricky, and many things that people say can be easily misinterpreted.


At Towajo, we are challenging you to continually improve the quality of your spoken English and your pronunciation. Our system provides you with the necessary tools to be successful.