on the Secrets of High Speed Language Learning
Soon enough, the robot translators will take over. But there won’t ever be a better, richer way to connect with people than speaking their language.
SPOKEsman David Lebor — an unfeasibly tall ‘speed-language-learning expert’ — claims that he can teach any language, to anyone, up to basic conversational level within six weeks. At SPOKE, we love a hack — so we had to find out more.
David has spent the past seven years circumnavigating the globe, from India and Israel to Helsinki and Berlin, developing ZINGUIST: his ingenious new system for learning languages. This month he was in London, and we took the opportunity to share his story …
So how tall are you really?
“I’m about six five.”
Is that why you can learn languages so quickly?
“No. It really hasn’t got anything to do with it.”
Okay, fine. So tell us about your system. Give us your pitch.
“Since the Ancient Greeks, people have used location-based techniques as a learning device. This is sometimes called the Method of Loci, and sometimes the Mind Palace Technique, as you’ll know if you ever watched an episode of Sherlock. One new thing about ZINGUIST is that instead of dispensing memory items to fictitious rooms inside an imaginary palace in your head, you physically go out into the world and learn new words and phrases in real, specific places. This massively facilitates the recall of memory items when they’re needed.”
So anyone using your technique must literally walk the streets?
“To do our intensive, yes. The six-week immersive course involves moving to a city where the required language is spoken. That city then becomes your text book. Its streets become a large-scale physical map of the language. The second principle of my approach involves mime. That’s to say, in order to learn a phrase that sounds to you like mumbo jumbo, you have to break it down and mime or act out what it sounds as if it means, tying in the true meaning, so your memory links the sound to the meaning. Take “mumbo jumbo”. If you want to remember that this means rubbish, you might literally jog around a rubbish bin with your arms stretched out like the wings of an enormous jumbo jet. Sounds absurd, I know. But the more absurd the mime, the better the recall.”
You’re saying we have to wander round a strange city, acting like we’ve lost our minds. What if we have a basic level of personal pride and self-awareness?
“The more naturally inhibited you are, the more effective this approach is. Because the game is then more intense, which means you’ll remember it even better. In any case, the shyness can be reduced if you opt to sign up to learn as part of a group. It’s like the way you feel less embarrassed to be seen in lycra when you join a fitness class, because you’re all in the same boat. Oh, and if you’re shy, you also get to enjoy the extra kick of overcoming your shyness. Which can be a real thrill.”
That almost sounds like fun.
“That’s the third principle of the technique. The aim is that you should devote every waking hour to the goal of learning — and I mean every waking hour. When you’re in the bath. On the bus. Wherever. And you’re not going to do that unless it’s fun. So if you’re not having fun, you need to find a different way to do it. And we can help you with that.”
Any other aspects to the ZINGUIST system, which we should know about?
“Focusing on one goal for a sustained period can be a really positive experience. It rinses the mind, because you’re not only getting away from all the normal anxieties of life, but also getting out of any of the narratives (in your own language) that you were stuck in. If you go in a company group, it’ll definitely strengthen your bond with work colleagues. And whatever kind of group you go in, you’re going to make new friends — both from the group and among locals. They will then help you hold on to the language, as will the audio-diary you’ve created for yourself by recording your interactions.”
Okay, we’re intrigued. But does it really work? How many languages do you speak?
“At some point or other, I’ve had ten languages to at least conversational level, and that includes Hebrew, Finnish, and the notoriously tricky Kannada, which is spoken in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Believe me, these are the hard ones. But the better answer is that that question is not really relevant. We don’t teach anyone a specific language. What we do, which is far more empowering, is teach people how to teach themselves any language they want. Olleyadagali!”
What does that mean?
“It’s Kannada for ‘Get online and book yourself onto the course.’ No, I’m kidding. It actually means Good luck!’”
Aha. We see what you’ve done there. Finally David, it would be rude not to ask: How do you like them SPOKEs?
My SPOKEs are life-changing. I’m not even exaggerating. As a tall man, I spend my life making terrible compromises in pursuit of a good fit. No longer — the custom finish on these strides is flawless.
We’ll leave it on the happy note. If you’re interested in booking a course visit Zinguist. Sign up before the end of September 2017 and mention SPOKE for a 10% discount off any course.
And of course, you can check out David’s fine collection of SPOKEs, right here. Enjoy 10% off any of them with code MANGETOUTRODNEY before midnight on Saturday 25th. Dépêchez-vous!