Have you ever held a question in mindfor so long that it becomes part of how you think?
Maybe even part of who you are as aperson?
Well I've had a question in my mindfor many, many years and that is: how can you speed up learning?
Now, this is an interesting questionbecause if you speed up learning you can spend less time at school.
And if you learn really fast, youprobably wouldn't have to go to school at all.
Now, when I was young, school wassort of okay but I found quite often that school got in the way of learning soI had this question in mind: how do you learn faster?
And this began when I was very, veryyoung. When I was about eleven years old I wrote a letter to researchers in theSoviet Union, asking about hypnopaedia, this is sleep learning, where you get atape recorder, you put it beside your bed and it turns on in the middle of thenight when you're sleeping, and you're supposed to be learning from this.
(这个想法)在我很小时候已经开始了，大约我11岁的时候，我给前苏联的研究者写了一封关于睡眠学习的信， 所谓“睡觉学习”，就是拿一个磁带录音机放在你床边， 等你入眠后机器开始播放磁带，(然后)目的是通过这种方式来学习。
A good idea, unfortunately it doesn'twork.
But, hypnopaedia did open the doorsto research in other areas and we've had incredible discoveries about learningthat began with that first question.
I went on from there to becomepassionate about psychology and I have been involved in psychology in many waysfor the rest of my life up until this point.
In 1981 I took myself to China and Idecided that I was going to be native level in Chinese inside two years.
Now, you need to understand that in1981, everybody thought Chinese was really, really difficult and that awesterner could study for ten years or more and never really get very good atit.
And I also went in with a differentidea which was: taking all of the conclusions from psychological research up tothat point and applying them to the learning process.
What was really cool was that in sixmonths I was fluent in Mandarin Chinese and took a little bit longer to get upto native.
But I looked around and I saw all ofthese people from different countries struggling terribly with Chinese, I sawChinese people struggling terribly to learn English and other languages, and somy question got refined down to: how can you help a normal adult learn a newlanguage quickly, easily and effectively?
Now this is a really, reallyimportant question in today's world.
We have massive challenges withenvironment. We have massive challenges with social dislocation, with wars, allsorts of things going on and if we can't communicate we're really going to havedifficulty solving these problems.
So we need to be able to speak eachother's languages. This is really, really important.
The question then is how do you do
that？Well, it's actually really easy.
You look around for people who canalready do it, you look for situations where it's already working and then youidentify the principles and apply them.
It's called modeling and I've beenlooking at language learning and modeling language learning for about fifteen totwenty years now.
And my conclusion, my observationfrom this is that any adult can learn a second language to fluency inside sixmonths.
Now when I say this, most peoplethink I'm crazy, this is not possible. So let me remind everybody of thehistory of human progress, it's all about expanding our limits.
In 1950 everybody believed thatrunning one mile in four minutes was impossible and then Roger Bannister did itin 1956 and from there it's got shorter and shorter.
100 years ago everybody believed that
heavy stuff doesn't fly。
Except it does and we all know this.How does heavy stuff fly?
We reorganize the materials usingprinciples that we have learned from observing nature, birds in this case.
And today we've gone ever further, soyou can fly a car. You can buy one of these for a couple hundred thousand USdollars.
We now have cars in the world thatcan fly.
And there's a different way to flythat we've learned from squirrels.
So all you need to do is copy what aflying squirrel does, build a suit called a wing suit and off you go, you canfly like a squirrel.
Now, most people, a lot of people, Iwouldn't say everybody but a lot of people think they can't draw.
However there are some keyprinciples, five principles that you can apply to learning to draw and you canactually learn to draw in five days.
So, if you draw like this, you learnthese principles for five days and apply them and after five days you can drawsomething like this.
Now I know this is true because thatwas my first drawing and after five days of applying these principles that waswhat I was able to do.
And I looked at this and I went‘wow,' so that's how I look like when I'm concentrating so intensely that mybrain is exploding.
So, anybody can learn to draw in fivedays and in the same way, with the same logic, anybody can learn a secondlanguage in six months.
How: there are five principles andseven actions.
There may be a few more but these areabsolutely core.
And before I get into those I justwant to talk about two myths, dispel two myths.
The first is that you need talent.
Let me tell you about Zoe.
Zoe came from Australia, went toHolland, was trying to learn Dutch, struggling a great deal and finally peoplewere saying: ‘you're completely useless,' ‘you're not talented,' ‘give up,'‘you're a waste of time' and she was very, very depressed.
And then she came across these fiveprinciples, she moved to Brazil and she applied them and within six months shewas fluent in Portuguese, so talent doesn't matter.
People also think that immersion in anew country is the way to learn a language.
But look around Hong Kong, look atall the westerners who've been here for ten years, who don't speak a word ofChinese.
Look at all the Chinese living inAmerica, Britain, Australia, Canada who have been there ten, twenty years andthey don't speak any English.
Immersion per se doesn't not work,why?
Because a drowning man cannot learnto swim.
When you don't speak a language you'relike a baby and if you drop yourself into a context which is all adults talkingabout stuff over your head, you won't learn.
So, what are the five principles thatyou need to pay attention to;
first: there are four words,attention, meaning, relevance and memory, and these interconnect in veryimportant ways. Especially when you're talking about learning.
Come with me on a journey through aforest.
You go on a walk through a forest andyou see something like this.
Little marks on a tree, maybe you payattention, maybe you don't.
You go another fifty metres and yousee this.
You should be paying attention.
Another fifty metres, if you haven'tbeen paying attention, you see this.
And at this point, you're payingattention.
And you've just learned that this isimportant, it's relevant because it means this, and anything that is related,any information related to your survival is stuff that you're going to payattention to and therefore you're going to remember it.
If it's related to your personalgoals then you're going to pay attention to it, if it's relevant you're goingto remember it.
So, the first rule, the firstprinciple for learning a language is focus on language content that is relevantto you.
Which brings us to tools.
We master tools by using tools and welearn tools the fastest when they are relevant to us.
So let me share a story.
A keyboard is a tool.
Typing Chinese a certain way, thereare methods for this. That's a tool.
I had a colleague many years ago whowent to night school;
Tuesday night, Thursday night, twohours each night, practicing at home, she spent nine months, and she did notlearn to type Chinese.
And one night we had a crisis.
We had forty eight hours to deliver atraining manual in Chinese.
And she got the job, and I canguarantee you in forty eight hours, she learned to type Chinese because it wasrelevant, it was important, it was meaningful, she was using a tool to createvalue.
So the second tool for learning alanguage is to use your language as a tool to communicate right from day one.As a kid does.
When I first arrived in China Ididn't speak a word of Chinese, and on my second week I got to take a trainride overnight.
I spent eight hours sitting in thedining car talking to one of the guards on the train. He took an interest in mefor some reason, and we just chatted all night in Chinese and he was drawingpictures and making movements with his hands and facial expressions and pieceby piece by piece I understood more and more.
But what was really cool, was twoweeks later, when people were talking Chinese around me, I was understandingsome of this and I hadn't even made any effort to learn that.
What had happened?
I'd absorbed it that night on thetrain, which brings us to the third principle When you first understand themessage, then you will acquire the language unconsciously.
And this is really, really welldocumented now, it's something called comprehensible input and there's twentyor thirty years of research on this. Stephen Krashen, a leader in the field haspublished all sorts of these different studies and this is just from one ofthem.
The purple bars show the scores ondifferent tests for language.
The purple people were people who hadlearned by grammar and formal study, the green ones are the ones who learned bycomprehensible input.
So, comprehension works.
Comprehension is key and languagelearning is not about accumulating lots of knowledge.
In many, many ways it's aboutphysiological training.
A woman I know from Taiwan did greatat English at school, she got A grades all the way through, went throughcollege, A grades, went to the US and found she couldn't understand what peoplewere saying.
And people started asking her: ‘areyou deaf?'
And she was. English deaf.
Because we have filters in our brainthat filter in the sounds that we are familiar with and they filter out thesounds of languages we're not.
And if you can't hear it, you won'tunderstand it and if you can't understand it, you're not going to learn it.
So you actually have to be able tohear these sounds.
And there are ways to do that butit's physiological training.
Speaking takes muscle.
You've got forty-three muscles inyour face, you have to coordinate those in a way that you make sounds thatother people will understand.
If you've ever done a new sport for acouple of days, then you know how your body feels. And it hurts.
If your face is hurting you're doingit right.
And the final principle is state.
If you're sad, angry, worried, upset,you're not going to learn. Period.
If you're happy, relaxed, in an Alphabrain state, curious, you're going to learn really quickly, and veryspecifically you need to be tolerant of ambiguity.
If you're one of those people whoneeds to understand 100% every word you're hearing, you will go nuts, becauseyou'll be incredibly upset all the time, because you're not perfect.
If you're comfortable with getting some,not getting some, just paying attention to what you do understand, you're goingto be fine, you'll be relaxed and you'll be learning quickly.
So based on those five principles,what are the seven actions that you need to take?
Number one: listen a lot.
I call it brain soaking。
You put yourself in a context where
you're hearing tons and tons and tons of a language and it doesn't matter if
you understand it or not。
You're listening to the rhythm
,you're listening to the patterns that repeat, you're listening to things that
So, just soak your brain in this.
The second action: is that you getthe meaning first, even before you get the words.
You go “Well how do I do that?”，
I don't know the words. Well, youunderstand what these different postures mean.
Human communication is body languagein many, many ways, so much body language.
From body language you can understanda lot of communication, therefore, you're understanding, you're acquiringthrough comprehensible input.
And you can also use patterns thatyou already know.
If you're a Chinese speaker ofMandarin and Cantonese and you go Vietnam, you will understand 60% of what theysay to you in daily conversation, because Vietnamese is about 30% Mandarin, 30%Cantonese.
The third action: start mixing.
You probably have never thought ofthis but if you've got ten verbs, ten nouns and ten adjectives you can say onethousand different things.
Language is a creative process.
What do babies do?
Okay: me, bat(h)， now，okay, that's how they communicate.
So start mixing, get creative, havefun with it, it doesn't have to be perfect it just has to work.
And when you're doing this you focuson the core.
What does that mean?
Well any language has high frequencycontent.
In English 1000 words covers 85% ofanything you're ever going to say in daily communication.
3000 words give you 98% of anythingyou're going to say in daily conversation.
You got 3000 words, you're speakingthe language.
The rest is icing on the cake.
And when you're just beginning with anew language start with the tool box.
Week number one in your new languageyou say things like: ‘how do you say that?'
‘I don't understand,'
‘repeat that please,'
‘what does that mean,'
all in your target language.
You're using it as a tool, making ituseful to you, it's relevant to learn other things about the language.
It's by week two that you should besaying things like: ‘me,' ‘this,' ‘you,' ‘that,' ‘give,' you know, ‘hot,'simple pronouns, simple nouns, simple verbs, simple adjectives, communicatinglike a baby.
And by the third or fourth week,you're getting into what I call glue words.
‘Although,' ‘but,' ‘therefore,' these
are logical transformers that tie bits of a language together, allowing you to
make more complex meaning。
At that point you're talking。
And when you're doing that, youshould get yourself a language parent.
If you look at how children andparents interact, you'll understand what this means.
When a child is speaking, it'll beusing simple words, simple combinations, sometimes quite strange, sometimesvery strange pronunciation and other people from outside the family don'tunderstand it.
But the parents do.
And so the kid has a safeenvironment, gets confidence.
The parents talk to the children withbody language and with simple language which they know the child understands.
So we have a comprehensible inputenvironment that's safe, we know it works otherwise none of you would speakyour mother tongue.
15:55 So you get yourself a languageparent, who's somebody interested in you as a person who will communicate withyou essentially as an equal, but pay attention to help you understand themessage.
There are four rules of a languageparent.
Spouses by the way are not very goodat this, okay?
But the four rules are, first of all,they will work hard to understand what you mean even when you're way off beat.
Secondly, they will never correctyour mistakes.
Thirdly they will feed back theirunderstanding of what you are saying so you can respond appropriately and getthat feedback and then they will use words that you know.
The sixth thing you have to do, iscopy the face.
You've got to get the muscles workingright, so you can sound in a way that people will understand you.
There's a couple of things you do.
One is that you hear how it feels,and feel how it sounds which means you have a feedback loop operating in yourface, but ideally if you can look at a native speaker and just observe how theyuse their face, let your unconscious mind absorb the rules, then you're goingto be able to pick it up.
And if you c
an't get a native speaker to look at,you can use stuff like this: [slides].
And the final idea here, the finalaction you need to take is something that I call “direct connect.”
What does this mean?
Well most people learning a secondlanguage sort of take the mother tongue words and take the target words and goover them again and again in their mind to try and remember them.
What you need to do is realize thateverything you know is an image inside your mind, it's feelings,
if you talk about fire you can smellthe smoke you can hear the crackling, you can see the flames,
so what you do, is you go into thatimagery and all of that memory and you come out with another pathway.
So I call it ‘same box, differentpath.'
You come out of that pathway, youbuild it over time you become more and more skilled at just connecting the newsounds to those images that you already have, into that internalrepresentation.
And over time you even becomenaturally good at that process, that becomes unconscious.
So, there are five principles that
you need to work with, seven actions, if you do any of them, you're going to
And remember these are things underyour control as the learner.
Do them all and you're going to befluent in a second language in six months.
（音频及文本来源：新浪教育。本文为TED演讲，讲师介绍：Chris Lonsdale. 国际心理学家、语言学家、教育家。香港龙氏顾问行董事长，香港第三支耳朵国际教育集团董事长，功夫英语创始人之一。）