I grew up in New York to what can be considered polyglot parents, but they only taught me one language: Cantonese. I did not start learning English until I entered the public school system. Although I believe that I was fluent in comprehension within two years, according to my childhood friend, I didn’t start fluidly speaking English until 4th grade. By 6th grade, I practically lost all my Cantonese speaking abilities since I never used them.
As I grew older, I have always wanted to learn another language, but the school system disappointed me. A short stint in a Mandarin-only school in Malaysia, 4 years of Spanish classes, and 3 years of Mandarin classes getting all A’s left me on the other end with little practical ability. I thought that it must be because the curriculum is lax, but after taking Japanese classes in college (which is considered one of the hardest language classes) and not achieving any better results even though I still got A’s, I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with how languages are taught.
How did I learn English in two years, but I couldn’t learn Spanish in four? I refused to believe that the me in elementary school was somehow linguistically superior to the me who was getting straight A’s in college.
And then I found Steve Kaufmann. After that, it was Stephen Krashen. After that, it was Khatzumoto. The list goes on. I discovered an entire world of language learners on a corner of the internet that all supported the same general learning technique: immersion learning. This was the difference between the me who learned English and the me who couldn’t learn Spanish. I realized that language learning wasn’t like any other subject in school. Language learning isn’t even the goal. It’s language acquisition. To effectively acquire a language, it must be incorporated into your very life. You can learn all the grammar that you want, but you wouldn’t be able to use it fluently until you have fully acquired it.
This blog documents my insights into language acquisition, my progress in my current language, Japanese, and also some writings to try to streamline the best advice I’ve heard from the community.