Despite living in Japan for a number of years, I never properly learned the language. To tell the truth, I wasn't very interested. I thought about it, but never got down to it. I only ever had half a mind to study.
But then something happened. My daughter turned three. That's when I changed my mind--or half a mind, rather. Why? Her Japanese was now better than mine. She had overtaken me.
Suddenly I found that I no longer understood her. Imagine that. As a parent I could no longer communicate with my child who depended upon me.
Can you imagine how disconcerting that was? I felt clueless, powerless and impotent. What if she got sick? What if she needed my help for a serious problem? What if something urgent happened and I wasn't able to understand her and act?
I hope that you never get such a situation. Maybe the worst you'll experience is being in a different country or culture and just feel dumb instead of dumbfounded. You really ought to have learned some more phrases, but they didn't stick. You just stumble over your mihi, or end up with something else from the menu. That sort of thing.
But how the heck is it than any child learns its language faster than you can? It doesn't seem right, does it? Kids don't know about study. They don't master any rules, or use flash cards to memorize vocabulary. They hardly read and write, so they certainly don't jot down notes. So why the hell can't we do better than them?
For me, this was a true revelation. Which is to say that it gave me a boot up the bum.
If learning a language is child's play for children, why can't adults--not to mention language teachers--do at least as well?
To keep this short, I realized that something had to be done. This would be my mission. I would go back to the drawing board and figure out everything from first principles. And then I'd somehow apply those principles to make language learning child's play for everyone. I would . . .
- Catch up with my daughter in Japanese
- Help her to catch up with me in English
- Show the Japanese how to learn English
- Show anyone how to acquire any language
Conventional language-learning is nowhere near that point.
But in my future people will pick up languages easily, effortlessly and enjoyably. Half a mind will be enough.
No more teachers, study, homework, word lists, irregular verbs, weird spelling rules and all that jazz. Imagine how liberating and empowering that would be to all sorts of individuals.