Fake it till you make it: foreign language

Do you know what I faked?

The English language.

True story.

Up until the sixth grade, I talked to myself in gibberish that sounded like English. Long conversations, sometimes out loud, especially while walking home from school on really windy days, making sure thus that no one heard me.

It worked.

In the seventh grade I changed schools. At the previous joint we studied French and German. At the new place the English teacher asked me to read some fragment of literature, so she could assess my aptitude, not skill, since I hadn’t ever studied English up to that point.

I did a perfect reading, accent and clarity and all, along with a very accurate translation. She was incredulous for a bit and looked into my seventh grader wide eyes for a lie, asking me if I’d taken English classes outside of school curricula.

Sure I didn’t, but all the English sounding gibberish eased my brain on memorizing real phrases and catching the subtle pauses between words and the language’s tempo, just like music.

Suddenly the songs and the movies started to make sense, I understood.

Now the incredible bit: I have not read one full page of written English before that classroom event. I can’t believe it either.

Since then, I believe a child’s learning to speak and an adult’s learning of a foreign language are very similar brain processes and that the brute force, grammar first, “logical” methods of teaching the languages of the world are really broken.

Yet, you see, faking it till you’re making it has one downside. I hated memorizing the if clause and I hated memorizing the tenses. I once asked one teacher, in college, while she was drawing on the blackboard an arrow with markers for each tense: “M’am are you telling me a native speaker keeps that little arrow of yours in their head at all times?”,

“Yes!”, she replied with a dubious and bolstered confidence in her voice.

Didn’t change my mind. The downside of faking it till you’re making it is an inherent stubbornness one should be wary of.