is copyright Michael Curtis 2010-2020. All Rights Reserved.

Foreign Language


The best way to learn a language is to be a young child and just absorb it.

There are memory techniques for learning languages but, really, if you lack a child's memory ability, then I do not see how you can learn a language rapidly without...

Already knowing a similar language. Romance languages seem to be fast-to-learn for people already fluent in a Romance language. Or reading Japanese characters might come quicker to a Chinese student than to a Western student.

This is a really frustrating conclusion. When I was younger, I believed the foreign language learning lessons of the many memory books I was reading; but, having spent a lot of time just trying to learn the basics of some European languages, I see those techniques as being helpful on occasion but of limited application. It's best to be a young child; otherwise, you have a lot of work to do.

I think that, if a vocabulary word is resisting your attempt to memorise it then a memory technique is good. But language communication takes place at such speed that there is no substitute for rote learning language.

I do like the idea of gently learning the first 100 words of a language by playful memory techniques. If you think the Mandarin word for China sounds a bit like John Wayne, and that helps you to remember it then great!

I also think that, if you are given time to pause, and you have a memory technique for recalling a word which you want to employ, then a memory technique would be good then too. Especially since you might know a word when someone speaks to you but struggle to think of the word to make your own sentences (passive vocabulary).

One of the systems of images of this course is 1000 items which represent shorthand words; and another 1000 items system for another 1000 words. I made those items be useful vocabulary. It would be a good test to see if you know comon vocabulary if you run through the list and test if you know a foreign word for that vocabulary term. Or you can imagine an image that represents the first letter of the foreign word; and imagine that image in a story with the vocabulary image: a way to memorise the first letter of the foreign word.

I also have a plan to expand the vocabulary items into short sentences where the vocabulary item from the 1000 list is the 'object' of the sentence; and then you would learn the short sentences of subject, verb and object; then the revision would be of more than just the 2000 vocabulary items, potentially. I could call it 'vocabulary triads'.

My word prompts for foreign language used to be only 2 letters long (ie. the AA-ZZ system of an earlier lesson). I did wish I had a system for common 3 letter syllables too. Eg. I'd rather associate 'con' with a word which begins with 'con' that to merely associate 'CO'. (and an aspect of the Male 1000 system and Women 1000 system is that common 3 letter spellings are expressed also by the people.)

The 100 syllables I use in a lot of my work was partly inspired by looking at Chinese and Japanese and the syllables they use (when Romanised). I used to think that I could build a 10,000 image system where each image would represent two of those syllables together.

Then I compromised and thought that a 5000 image system would be good (see the article about a 10K system). So I could, in theory, imagine a shorthand word's image (see the shorthand articles) in a scene involving the two syllable oriental word (or prefix). Maybe each of the 5000 spellings would also represent a second spelling: where the first syllable is replaced by a syllable 50 further on in the 100 syllable system. Hard to explain without an example; but I am keeping things brief, for now.

There is another way to link letters of a word to its meaning: if actions also mean spellings; or maybe action 000 should be for stories with French vocabulary; and action 001 should be for stories involving Spanish vocabulary. I have to rethink a lot now that the 2000 image shorthand / 3 letter spelling system is a tool.