Long time before we turn two – the age by which most of us learn to form our first full sentences – we have learned the melody of our mother tongue. We kind of know what to expect to learn, we have ready-made holes and gaps in our minds to fill with words, sentences, connections. Even our tongue is ready to adapt the mother(‘s) tongue, the native language, and bring the pronunciation of each word and phrase to perfection. We breath the language, we savor words, and we play with them in order to see whether we can be misunderstood – and then understood again, hah!
But by the time we reach twenty, most of us have lost a lot of that linguistic impressionability. We look at languages from the outside like at any other subject that we learn at school – a thing to learn by heart, a thing to memorize. Instead of savoring the words, feeling them in our mouths, at the tip of our tongue, as extensions of ourselves.
The aim of this site is to encourage you to have that childlike approach to any language. To discard of any preconceived notions about the possible difficulties you may encounter with any particular foreign language, but to dive head on into the rhythm and melody of it.
I’ll tell you a short story to illustrate the importance of this sort of approach. I was studying Danish at the University of Helsinki. Despite the professor admonishing us all to refrain from approaching the Danish language from its likeness to Swedish, it was such an easy thing to do – for the written Danish is so similar! But at least one of us heard him right: she seemed to forget all about knowing one single word of Swedish, and only had Danish in her mind – and on her tongue. She learned to speak the language better than any of us in just a short time! Sure, we didn’t understand everything she was saying, but heck, who understands Danish – except the Danes of course! But she sounded just like a Dane, and the professor understood her! Way to go!
And no, it wasn’t me! I also took that typical scholastic approach: had lots of words at my disposal, but no nimble, unprejudiced tongue to utter them with! Yes, sometimes it has to do with the teacher. But the thing is: we are our own teachers – the teacher is there just to guide us towards the right direction! We need to trust our instincts, listen to ourselves, taste the words at the tip of our tongue. Not go to the extremes of a one-year old who wants to find out about things by the tactile approach. But have some of that innocence of a toddler who just wants to know first hand!