Week 1: Learn the greetings and numbers and focus on ‘unconscious learning’!

Welcome Week 1 of the Kick Start Languages 10 week course!

This blog accompanies and builds upon the Week 1 YouTube video so if you haven't watched it yet here it is:

As you can see from the video (and the title of this blog!) Week 1 is all about learning the greetings and the numbers as well as focusing on unconscious learning for at least 10 minutes a day.

When I talk about the greetings I'm talking about learning how to have that very basic conservation which you are going to want to have when you first meet somebody. To do that you are going to need to be able to introduce yourself and ask the other person's name. You are also going to need to be able to say that you're English (or whatever other nationality you are) and that you're learning the language you're learning. This is all foundational to any introductory conversation and as this is a conversational course this is what you need to be working on right away. You'll also need the words for please and thank you because they are so critical in any language.

The beauty of learning the greetings as if they are part of a real conversation is that you can start to have that conversation in your head whenever you have a spare moment to yourself. For example, if you're learning German you can constantly run through a scenario like this in your mind:

"Hallo, ich bin Jonny, ich lerne Deutsche, was ist deine Name?" "Ich bin Tim. Wie gehts?" "Gut danke."

"Hello, I am Jonny, I'm learning German, what is your name?" "I am Tim. How are you?" "Good thanks."

By doing this consistently this conversation will start to hardwire itself into your brain. This is incredibly useful because, as I explained in the video, when you think about something it fires the same pathways in your brain as when you actually say it. This means that if you've thought about a phrase thousands of times it will just pour out of your mouth without you having to think consciously about translating it. This is the absolute key to efficient and effective language learning. You cannot become conversational unless you start thinking in the language you are learning and you really can start doing that from today with this little exercise. Even more brilliantly, in this case this is almost exactly the conversation you are most likely to have as your initial conversation in whatever language it is that you are learning. That means that you'll get off to a solid start and this will help you to build your confidence no end!

It is incredibly easy to start thinking in the numbers you are learning. Most things you count on a daily basis consist of less than 10 items so once you have learnt the words for the numbers 1-10 it is very simple to make these new numbers integral to your existence - stop counting in English! This will take a few days of getting used to but within a month or so you should be at the point where you'd find it positively odd to count in English. I haven't counted in English for over 2 years and as a result I know the numbers 1-10 really well in all the languages I have dabbled with (although in my case the Dutch and Danish numbers sometimes need a bit of unscrambling!) If you're just learning one language there is no way you'll confuse the numbers you're learning with English so just do a straight swap! Learn those numbers and get started counting outside of English! Again, this is yet another trick to help you move beyond the idea that 'thinking in another language is impossible / is only possible when you're fluent'. It really isn't!

The one thing I didn't really touch on in the video is how you should actually go about learning the greetings and the numbers. This is because I fundamentally believe that you have it in your power to learn them in your own way for yourself. You don't me to patronise you by saying that you must learn what is essentially a list of about 25 words (roughly 15 terms in a standard greeting conversation plus the 10 numbers) in a specific way. It's totally up to you how you do this! You could use flashcards, write them down constantly, say them over and over again or put them on post it notes all over your house. It really doesn't matter. Provided that you are putting 10-15 minutes of conscious effort per day into learning these things you will be fine regardless of how you're trying to learn them. It doesn't matter if you haven't totally nailed them these week (provided you've put the time in!) as you can overlap slightly into week 2 if necessary. As with all aspects of the course it is crucial do not expect perfection or instant results. It is highly likely that you won't be able to learn all of this stuff on day 1 or day 2. By day 3 you might have quite a bit of it down but then you'll find you'll have forgotten something which you were sure you knew and that will probably frustrate you. Don't let it. This is why daily practice is essential. Most language learners give up because we don't retain much of what we learn only once a week so most people conclude that they are hopeless at languages because they only try and learn languages once a week. Those people wouldn't even realise that they had forgotten a few aspects of what they'd learnt from day to day because they wait until the next weekly lesson to realise they'd forgotten it all! If you remembered anything from the previous day you're onto a winner and you're ahead of those who are just doing weekly lessons with no homework! This is a marathon not a sprint my friends! As I said, even if you haven't fully nailed all of this stuff by the end of the week don't despair. Do not quit. Just keep going. Perseverance will reward all of you on this pursuit.

Speaking of perseverance, this comes into play even more starkly in the unconscious learning side of the course. There will be a real temptation for many of you to skip that and think that it 'didn't really matter' because you weren't focusing on 'learning' anything specific in that time anyway. This would be a catastrophic mistake and a total misunderstanding of this course. Non-conscious learning time is utterly critical to my model of language learning. Even if you are struggling to learn the greetings and the numbers don't double down on that at the expense of the unconscious learning. This is the key to the course. Also, when I say 'unconscious learning' I mean just that. This is time where you are learning (often extremely quickly and efficiently) but where you're not consciously trying to learn x, y or z. This doesn't mean having a Spanish YouTuber banging on in the background while you check out Snap Chat. You must be actively listening to the language you're learning but without consciously trying to learn anything in particular. This will help your mind to figure out the patterns and grammar of the language you are learning for itself. Whilst this seems mysterious or ridiculous it is actually totally common sense science. No child has ever learnt a language by consciously learning grammatical rules. We learn through vast amounts of exposure to language and through trial and error. This is the model we are following in this part of the course and why my approach is really two courses in one. You have the conscious pursuit of certain key conversational topics which are crucial to adult conversations and the exposure method of listening to vast quantities of the language you are learning to help your subconscious mind process this new language. Together, this joint approach will help you absolutely smash your language learning!

If you want to double down and spend more than 25 minutes a day on this pursuit another easy win that I didn't mention in the video is to swap your English TV series for series in the languages you are learning. There are loads of programmes on all sorts of providers in foreign languages with English subtitles so you can spend your leisure time further improving your language learning. As with the counting, whenever I'm on my own these days I virtually never watch English TV but instead watch programmes in the language I'm learning (or one I've learnt previously) with the subtitles on. This is a really good way to boost your language learning and would definitely count towards your 'unconscious' learning time each day.

Let me know how you are getting on with the course this week by commenting either on here or on Facebook or YouTube.

Good luck you legends!




2 thoughts on “Week 1: Learn the greetings and numbers and focus on ‘unconscious learning’!”

  1. Another suggestion for learning the numbers: when I was learning Kurdish I used to go to the gym nearly every day. Most exercises I had to do 3 times 15 repetitions. So I made it a point of counting in Kurdish.

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