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In the beginning I immersed in French and in Korean, and it was good. I experimented with all the popular and unpopular language acquisition methods, I lived, taught, and studied in Korea, I hung out with French people in Cambodia, I interacted with people from all over the world in my many travels, I’ve read plenty of 4chan’s /int boards, and I’m ready to put my head on the chopping block and give you the Good News:

Reading has no place in language acquisition.

Go ahead, get it out; snort, chortle, laugh mockingly and say “this guy’s an idiot,” “he’s promoting illiteracy,” “he’s advocating ignorance!” Nail me to the cross so that you can get back to worshiping your traditional golden idols, for I will not change my message. I have come not to unite, but to divide, and this statement even draws a line in the sand between Ramses and myself, but it matters not- it is The Truth(TM).

Humans spoke languages long before writing systems were invented, and their illiteracy didn’t prevent them from producing fluent, beautiful, lasting language (e.g. Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey). You, the person reading this, were fluent in your L1 before you ever read a word (fluent meaning you had internalized the grammar and sounds of your language so deeply that, despite a child’s lack of vocabulary and worldly knowledge, you required no conscious effort to understand and produce sentences at a native level). An illiterate farmer in Kentucky has a more fluent verbal command of English than a visiting Chinese graduate student majoring in English literature, despite the latter’s immaculate command of the written word. If you talked on the telephone to someone who was born blind and had never read a word, even before they learned braille, you would never question their command of English. On international forums I have read people confessing that, despite their absolutely flawless writtten command English, they sound absolutely incomprehensible when they speak. I have met innumerable hordes of people who rocked the TOPIC exam but speak like they have never heard native English.

The difference between spoken language and written language is the difference between watching Citizen Kane and reading the screenplay; it’s the difference between listening to the 1812 Overture and reading the notes; it’s the difference between doing the no-pants-dance with that hotty in your neighborhood (sweaty, interactive, deeply human) and watching porn (“Ah, I see how sex is accomplished.”). It’s the difference between spending years with a best friend until you know their soul, and cutting up a corpse on an operating table and measuring it’s organs and tabulating all the data about it (is this empirical data really how you get to know a person?).

Not that written language is bad- any idiot could tell you it’s the most important tool ever invented for the dissemination of information, and capable of being used to create great art, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying that not only is it  entirely independent of language acquisition, its use will actually injure your ability to sing the song of your L2 as the natives do, if you use it before you know the song by heart. It will work against you, and a house divided cannot stand. The message isn’t new, listen to the prophets who have come before.

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will learn to associate the wrong notes with the word you are reading. People like to think that a written word is merely its definition, but it’s not- it’s a symbol that represents both a concept and an audible harmony as part of the sentence it’s in, and if you are not already fluent in the song of your language you will project your own incorrect harmony onto that word. Academics like to deconstruct things until they’re merely parts of a meaningless machine, but you must get over this nihilist predisposition, you must walk into their offices, flip their tables, and drive them out with their shitty overpriced textbooks with accompanying study guides; we’re not machines, we’re creative souls who value the harmony of language over the “rules” we’ve been told exist. Forget about meanings, forget about ink on paper, forget everything you stored in your active, analytic brain; a language is a dance, a purely corporal phenomenon, an afternoon romp in the sack; it exists totally in the realm of your animal brain, where books have no place. This is why when you drink half a bottle of wine and watch 추격자 you learn faster than someone studying a textbook. This is why when you lay down, put on your headphones, smoke weed, and listen to Odezenne you learn more than someone in a classroom. Every moment with a vocab list would be better spent with a podcast. Every moment spent with a novel would be better spent with a movie.

You learn with your ears, not your eyes.

You speak with your mouth, not with a pen.

This is the fulfillment of the old laws, the incarnation of our knowledge from ephemeral symbols to harmonious glory.

This is the new testament of language acquisition.

oneWeek one got off to a good start! I was able to make good progress on my goals and sneak in some extracurricular activities.

So what were my goals again?

Watch at least 60 hours of Spanish television within two months = 1 hour of television per day. I might bump this up to 100 hours of input if I feel the need.

Read four books within two months = 1 book every two weeks = 21 pages per day (if I read books of around 300 pages each).

What were my frustrations and what really well? Sit back and read on!

[click to continue…]

Resurrecting el español

Ramses returns!

A lot has happened since I stopped posting almost two years ago. After graduation I was busier than ever. I found a job which wasn’t even close to the field I studied, so my education began from scratch once again.

Now, two years later, an amazing job opportunity has found me and this December I’ll fly out to Málaga, Spain to start working at a big software firm. This is so freakin’ cool I can hardly comprehend it. I mean come on, I’ll be living in Málaga for the next few years!

Working for some evil tech company is okay, but living in Spain again will be absolutely epic. The thing is, I graduated from college two years ago and since then I’ve hardly used any Spanish. Have I now forgotten Spanish? No, but it isn’t perfect either.

To get ready for my new job I need to get up to speed with Spanish, pronto.

[click to continue…]

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Me, but less sexy

Hey party people,

Yeah, I know, the site has been sitting idle for a stupid long time. Ramses is busy doing whatever Dutch people do (drugs, taking growth hormones, being snarky, listening to bad electronic music, etc.), and I’ve been busy with my experimental foray into learning an L3 at a university. I was going to write a scathing article about exactly why and how much it sucks, but I’ve changed my mind. It won’t convince anyone of anything, it’ll just dig the trenches even deeper on each side. Rather than saying why someone is wrong, I think I’ll just keep doing what’s right, and anyone is free to come along for the ride. Life’s much easier this way, and oddly enough I think this actually helps more people see the light. [click to continue…]

Borrachero

TLD Booster Packs
Collections of 10 essential / useful / fun links for your L2!

ESSENTIAL

  • Series Yonkis – Basically has all the shows you’ll ever want to watch.
  • Tele directo – More and more Spanish broadcasting stations offer live streaming. If that’s your cup of tea, this page is a great portal to start.
  • Taringa – An Argentinean site with pretty much any content you’ll ever be interested in. Also contains quite a few links to shows and music.
  • Marca – Seriously, being able to talk about sports is essential in Spain. Marca is simply the go-to place for everything that comes close to being labeled a sport.
  • El País – If you don’t know El País and study Spanish you’ve probably been learning it under a rock. Essential stuff to read, with a capital E!

USEFUL

FUN

  • xkcd en español – The best webcomic for geeks, but then in Spanish.
  • Subcultura – More comics. In Spanish, of course.
  • Univision – For all you yanks who happen to be telenovela lovers. For everyone outside the US, use Mediahint to get access.
  • Antena 3 – One of the biggest television stations in Spain with a great website that enables you to watch some of the best shows in Spain.

Add your best Spanish sources in the comments!

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There are worse things to be.

So my sister used to be a nurse. She quit because she hated living in a world of blood and piss and feces, which I find ironic because she loves Sex and the City. A neat thing about nursing is that it’s a job that, for whatever reason, draws a large pool of attractive, international young women. One of these attractive young women I met was Russian; I think her name was Xenia Onatopp. Xenia spoke English like a native, and barely had an accent. She must have read lots of English books and possessed at least an intermediate writing level given her near-native spoken fluency, right? I bet she was highly literate…right?

[click to continue…]

Your ships... burn them with maximum prejudice.

Burn them.

So yesterday after my stupid class I was going to go home and actually learn some Korean, when suddenly a cool South American dude was like “Hey Matt come to this international student event! There’ll be food and presentations from lots of countries, and I’m going to play a Michael Jackson song on my guitar!” Never one to say no to the possibility of finding Indian food in Korea, I went along with it. I ate many foods. I met people from all over the world. I watched presentations and sexy dances and videos until 8pm. It was fun… until I realized what had actually happened. [click to continue…]

냉장고

냉장고

If time is the currency with which we buy skills, then school is a mom & pop shop and Anki is Amazon. No wait, that doesn’t quite do justice to the disparity; school is a mom & pop shop, and Anki is that dude selling stolen Bose stereo systems out of his van behind the 7/11. You still have to spend money (time) getting what you want, but you get it at a tiny little fraction of the ‘normal’ cost. [click to continue…]

Here we go again

Here we go again

So I just finished my second week of Korean language school at a Korean university. I’ve got praise, I’ve got complaints, I’ve got tips, and I’ve got syphilis. Let’s talk about the first three! [click to continue…]

It’s happening

It’s been a while since my last update, and a lot has happened. I got a motorcycle license and decided what bike I’ll get. My neighbors saw a burglar on my roof. I bought my first gun. I started deadlifting. I’m becoming a decent Paleo chef. I got accepted to a Korean language program at one of Korea’s Big 10 Flagship Universities.

Waitaminute. Hold the phone… language classes?! [click to continue…]