Welcome to Week 6 of the Kick Start Languages 10 Week Course! This blog accompanies my Week 6 YouTube video which was released yesterday so if you haven't seen that yet check it out here:
I’ve said it enough times now but it is worth saying this once again… if you are still here reading this you are an absolute legend! So few people who start a 10 week course in any aspect of life ever get to the second half of the course. You have. That is huge. What is more, provided that you have been really focused on learning what I’ve asked you to learn you are about to start seeing all of the hard work you’ve been putting in on the foundational basics of the language you are learning start to come to fruition. This is why I have been so insistent this week that if you haven’t yet nailed all the skills I’ve been advocating up until now to drop the ‘unconscious learning’ this week and focus on relentlessly nailing the basics.
The simple, if brutal, reality is that unless you nail the basic skills you’ve been working on since Week 1 you won’t ever get close to conversational in a language. This is part of the reason why so few language apps and courses actually work. They actively encourage people to skip over the basics and you then end up learning vast amounts of complex grammar and many random sentences totally out of any solid foundational context. The end result of this is that you might be able to say quite a lot of disconnected sentences but you can’t hold a basic conversation in the language you’re learning. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach to language learning. As an intellectual exercise learning lots of random phrases and verbs in a language is probably quite a good brain work out. However, it will do very little to help you speak a language. To speak a language you have to be able to construct vast numbers of spontaneous simple sentences and you cannot do that unless you nail the basics inside and out. So, if you haven’t done that yet you need to do it now. It doesn’t matter how. You can use flashcards, you can test yourself, you can test others, you can think it through, you can rote learn it, you can create mind maps. It doesn’t matter how you learn it – that’s up to you. Just get it learnt! If this means giving up all your unconscious learning this week and next week that is totally fine. In reality, if you are relentlessly and genuinely testing yourself for 25 minutes a day on this relatively small amount of content you’ll probably smash it this week.
In the spirit of truly finishing off the basics we need to get you ready to express yourself in the past and future tenses. Now, in nearly all language courses this involves you deliberately setting out to on a journey to learn vast amounts of complex grammatical constructions. However, as you probably know by now this isn’t a ‘normal’ language course. I’ve consistently stated that throughout the course that the aim of this course is to get you to the point where you can have conversations in the language you are learning without referring back to English. However, I have also stressed time and time again that you are not going to be ‘perfect’ or ‘fluent’ in the language you are learning at the end of these ten weeks. This level of proficiency is simply not possible in 25 minutes a day in 10 weeks. Perfection is, and never has been, what we are looking for at this stage of our language learning journey. If you want near perfection this course will provide you with a conversational level in a language which is a superb launch pad to strive towards fluency but on its own it simply will not give you perfection! Up until now, that advice might have been something that you’ve taken on board at a conceptual level but this is the first time for many of you when you are going to need to fully commit to this reality on a practical level. This is because I am deliberately asking you not to over burden yourself with the complex grammar that is required to construct high quality sentences in the past and future tenses of the languages you are learning but instead to adopt a couple of cheats and short cuts which will allow you to be totally understood but will clearly signal to anybody who is listening to you that you are not a native or fluent speaker of the language. These cheats are not grammatically perfect. Some of them will sound clunky and a little odd to native speakers. They may even need to ask you questions to clarify your exact meaning. However, and this is an utterly critical point: they will make you understood without having to break back to English. The aim of the course is to have conversation in another language without referring back to English. Learning these cheats will allow you to do just that. If at the end of the ten weeks you want to push on and improve your abilities in the languages you’re learning you will quickly ditch a lot of these ‘poor’ sentences. That’s awesome. I am beyond the point of needing to use them in German but I am not much beyond this point in Dutch despite the fact that I am confident that I could hold an hour long basic conversation in Dutch without breaking into English provided that I was allowed to ask ‘How do you say…. In Dutch’ to help me fill in missing vocab. Please don’t ever forget that you’re allowed to say that sentence! If the person who you’re speaking to speaks English saying the odd word in English to help you complete sentences is perfectly fine! In fact, I’d actively encourage it because by learning a new word in conversational context you’re very likely to add it to your vocab list. So, let’s get back to the cheats. What exactly are they?
So, as the past and future tense are about time frames the first thing you need to do is learn the words for:
The day before yesterday (this is one word in most languages!)
The day after tomorrow (again this is one word in a lot of languages)
Once you have that lot under your belt you’re going to need words to put a time context in place. To do this you only actually need:
That’s it! With just that list of words you can create basic (often weird sounding) sentences which will be understood. For example (bear in mind as I said last week you should be learning personal vocab to complete sentences specifically about you)
Last week I play tennis
Next year I learn Spanish
Now I eat
Tomorrow I have time
Since yesterday I have no money
Since last year I learn Dutch
As you already know the verb ‘to want’ you can also project that into the future by saying:
Tomorrow I want to learn French
Next year I want to play football
This is such an easy cheat! It’s not perfect in many languages but it will get you understood! In many languages if you learn the present tense of the verb ‘to go’ you can also use this to project into the future with ease:
Next year I am going to eat Pizza
Next week I am going to Germany
Tomorrow I am going to visit a museum
These types of sentences are invaluable and they’ll all be yours once you have nailed this week’s mission and learnt a few words to help you express your own personal likes and dislikes.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good! Embrace the imperfections! This will be enough to make you understood and that is enough to have a conversation in the language you’re learning. If you really want to nail the true grammatical constructions of the past and future tense go for it but don’t let it get you down or interfere with learning the rest of the course in the coming weeks. Once you’ve finished the course you can take pride in ditching this week’s content but until then use this! You won’t regret it my friends!
Keep me in the loop by commenting on here, on Facebook, on Twitter or on YouTube!
Good luck with this week’s mission!