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johnseq (1046)

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Journal of johnseq (1046)

Monday October 06, 2003
11:44 AM

Language Savant

[ #15089 ]

I attended the BloggerCon kickoff party on Friday, and was talking to Carl Robert Blesius, a Heidelberg medical student doing an MGH clerkship and fellow openacs/.LRN enthusiast. languages, and I mentioned that my wife and I had studied German for about a year and a half after visiting some friends in Munich.

We were taking lessons from a Harvard Square linguist named Lee Riethmiller, at the Intercontinental Foreign Language Program. Lee has a very unique approach to foreign language instruction in several respects. He believes that you learn languages faster and with better recall if you study multiple languages concurrently. He never really said why, but my oversimplified explanation is that this is similar to the better recall/comprehension claims of speed reading. There are other reasons why this makes sense from a mnemonics perspective, and it has the added benefit of being very appealing from a student perspective (learn more in less time).

In addition to encouraging you to take multiple languages simultaneously (you can choose from about 20 that Lee teaches), he also eschews the standard grammar-based approach. Instead, he writes interactive question and answer type scripts that resemble beat poetry -- quite absurb. You don't do 'going to the movies' or 'in the kitchen' vocabulary fests. Instead, you converse with mushrooms, cheese-boys, italian bees and strawberry girls, and each verb tense you memorize is associated with a flavor of ice cream. Occasionally the scripts will overlap with some 60s pop song, and Lee will break into song.

The lessons are quite entertaining, and while you can't necessarily recall how to say arbitrary sentences, the ones you know come quite easily. You are encouraged to study the scripts, but Lee is a realist about how much time working folks hav to devote to language study so you never get discouraged.

Anyway, Carl was enthused by my description, and just let me know he contacted Lee about learning Chinese, French and Spanish.

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