One of my favorite language blogs to read is Keith’s Voice on Extreme Language Learning. Keith is analytical about his language learning methods and he writes very clearly. Currently, he is trying to learn Chinese through what he calls the TV Method. The TV Method is a system where you watch a lot of TV in your target language, and pick up the language in a similar way that a baby learns its first language. There’s no reading, no writing, and no speaking (well, not initially). Here is a very generalized and unscientific list of what most humans go through language-wise starting shortly after they are born:
- They are talked to by everyone around them (nurses, parents, family, neighbors, etc). They listen but there is no comprehension, no understanding. Lots and lots of listening and watching.
- Eventually, after they encounter the same words in the same contexts over and over again, they start to understand and connect the words to objects or ideas. “Mama” refers to this person. “Milk” is this tasty stuff that I like to drink. “Bath” is this. “Blanket” is this. Over time, they are exposed to more and more ideas and words, and through repeated exposure, they start to understand more and more of what is said to them.
- They babble, experimenting with different sounds in their mouths.
- They start to say the words they know, mimicking the people around them. (around 1 year old)
- They start to say simple sentences. (around 2 years old)
- They become pretty much fluent in their language. They can express their feelings and understand most of what is told to them, at least for topics that are relevant to them at their age. (4-5 years)
- They learn how to read. (school)
- They learn how to write. (school)
- They learn about grammar. (school)
So the basic order is:
The TV method tries to copy this order, but instead of finding yourself some new (say) Chinese parents, you watch Chinese TV shows instead for Baby Step 1 (Listening).
Keith has been experimenting with this method and documenting it as he goes. At the time of this writing he has logged 437 hours of Chinese TV. Reading his posts about the TV Method made me want to try it out, so that’s what I’ve done, starting a couple days ago.
If you’ve ever read the “About page” here on babelhut, you may have encountered this line under my profile section:
Someday, if lifetime permits, he [that's me] would like to learn Thai …
So I thought I’d use the TV method to learn me some Thai. My knowledge of Thai language is very close to zero. Here’s what I know, pre-TV Method:
- I know how to say “hello”, “excuse me” and “thank you”.
- I know how to say the number “5″.
- I know how to say “I can’t speak Thai.”
- I know how to say “This is for you.” (Taught to me for fun by a Thai coworker when I worked at the cafeteria back in the dorms. I delivered dirty dishes to him and said this when handing them over.)
- I know a few other random words (waterfall, why, fish sauce, shrimp, stupid, very).
So I have about a 20-word head start over a Thai newborn (plus I can walk, eat solids and use a toilet).
The Thai drama I’ve started with is called “RAK NEE HUA JAI ROW JONG“. I have no idea what that means (please don’t tell me. For controlled-environment-experiment-purity reasons.) I’ve watched 5 episodes so far, and it was actually kinda funny because in episode 2 the girl lead found a waterfall and said “waterfall”, which out of the 20 Thai words I know is the one I least expected to encounter first (well, second. I heard “you” a lot before that scene). If you want to watch too, the whole season is up on Youtube here: RAK NEE HUA JAI ROW JONG
TV Method, Thai, Total Hours: 7.5
- TV Method Thai Progress Report 1 (12 hours)
- Foreign Language Polio: TV Method Thai Progress Report 2
- L2 Holy Grail Books
- How Many Days In Each Month: The Thai Way
- Remembering Kanji