The Lernen to Talk Show

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thanks to Reddit two I was alerted to the existence of a highly interesting show called the Lernen to Talk Show which documents in weekly videos the one-year experience of a certain Mickey Mangan as he goes from what seems to be a solid but rudimentary foundation in German in the beginning to something much more fluent by the end. I have never been very interested in the experiences of other language learners as they so rarely resemble mine, and the videos they do are far too well prepared to be interesting, but this Mickey Mangan's approach to learning them is almost the same as mine, except that 1) When immersing myself in another language I usually spend about two-thirds of my day reading and the other third talking to people and he looks like he has about the opposite ratio, and 2) I doubt I would have spent any time going to other countries during this time; I don't like breaks when doing something like this.

The complete lack of care about one's mistakes when talking with native speakers, however, is what is most similar to my approach. In the moment during a conversation the most important thing is to say what you need to say and understand what is being said, and any mistakes you make are good material for study later, but in the moment they quickly flow by and are forgotten, and do not hinder the back and forth between you and others. All his attempts to make up his own words are fantastic too, and sometimes they work and other times they don't. One of the words was Himmelbühne or Nebelbühne (checking the video was Himmelbühne) that the person he was talking to had never heard of, but it's one of those words that kind of exists and one could make but nobody really uses.

So let's get to the videos. There should be 50 and 46 of those are done, and I watched all 46 yesterday and today. We must of course begin with video 1:

Then four weeks later showing what the first few weeks of immersion have done:

Four weeks after that is a video I like because the participants are all English speakers only using German:

This video three weeks later is another good one where his humour really comes through - once sentence about es gibt nur einen Knopf zwischen uns und Abenteuer or however he expressed it was hilarious.

The kids six weeks later were of course lots of fun:

The one episode done in England four weeks after that with Siddartha (and him being a fan of Hermann Hesse was a pleasant surprise) shows where he has spent much more time on colloquial German than reading novels:

Five weeks later he does a fairly good job explaining a board game:

Five weeks following that he has clearly gotten very comfortable using the language:

Nine weeks after that (now week 41) we have another long interaction:

and then two weeks following that is the only video in Germany that he took without a guest during a bike ride through Köln, and his quite fluid yet still error-prone German is really interesting to hear, and the reason why it is so interesting he has already elaborated in the blog post for this episode so I don't have to:

"I thought I’d give a few short glimpses into a typical ride through my neighborhood to the center of Cologne, but I ended up with a shaky fourteen minute odyssey filled with near crashes, deafening brakes, and an embarrassing amount of amateur speaking mistakes. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re on your own! A person’s German ability is only as high as its lowest moments, right? So here’s a true glimpse into where my brain was at after 42 weeks.

That really is how one always feels at that stage. When talking with people it seems like your German (or other language) is now really close to perfect, and then all of a sudden when you take it upon yourself to explain something alone, without anybody you can prompt for the proper term, your German feels like it's hardly advanced at all...even though it has.

Since this show has suddenly gotten a flood of attention thanks to Reddit, hopefully Mickey is working on the last three episodes as we speak.


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