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November 21st, 2014
Episode 267 of 769 episodes
Cats can teach you languages. "You learn grammar from language, you don't learn language from grammar." -Ben Whately The Cheat Sheet: Why he lived in a yurt. The real reason you hated your French teacher, Ben explains. Ben shares how you can learn a language using only photos of cats. Toki Pona: what is it and why does it matter? Exactly how many words you need to know to learn and use a language. And so much more... Doyou think you could learn to speak Spanish from cats? What about if you lived in a remote corner of China, could you teach yourself Chinese? Our guest for today's show, Ben Whately, explains how he's used both experiences to teach himself and other people languages. Ben is a trained psychologist who now runs Memrise, an organization devoted to helping people learn languages as quickly and easily as possible. On this episode he shares the science behind how we learn languages and how to make it easier on ourselves in the process. Join us for all of that and more on episode 343 of The Art of Charm. More About This Show: Ben Whately isa trained psychologist who has devoted his life to the science of understanding memory andhow our memory works in our brains. One of the most intriguing challenges he has faced was the art of learning and retaining a language. Scientifically he says our brains are wired to learn language, it's innate within us. But that was not his personal experience. Ben spent 15 years trying to learn French, by the end of which he could barely order pommes frites (that's French for french fries if you didn't know). So why did he struggle if learning language comes naturally to our brains? That was the question he set out to answer when he left his family and moved to a remote northern corner of China. He didn't know the language but was determined to teach himself through the experience of living there. Within six months he was able to speak well enough to interact and function with the locals. From there he becomefluent, a feat he had never accomplished with any other language before (other than his native English). The difference between his years spent struggling with French and the time he spent learning Chinese was two-fold. First his process in learning was distinctly different. He taught himself Chineseby creatinga set of visual mnemonic cues that helped him remember words, phrases, etc. The second was that he immersed himself in the culture and the language. Ben's visual cues later became the inspiration for Memrise, which he explains in more detail in the show. He also explains how immersing himself and learning from native speakers was key to learning Chinese (and any other language). He calls this the traditional language learning model: you learn a language by interacting with native speakers of that language and doing so on a daily basis. That is how the brain is wired to learn a language, not through the modern language learning model of memorizing verb tenses and vocabulary. He believes that is why so many of us struggle to learn another language; we aren't learning it in a natural way, the way our brains are set up to remember and retain. And when we struggle with the process of learning we get frustrated and stuck, often times simply giving up and saying we don't have the "language gene". To combat that and help everyone learn other languages, Ben has created Memrise. Memrise is an organization devoted to helping people feel like geniuses - it is one of their core values! And they do so by coming up with clever ways to make language-learning fun, memorable and intuitive. One of their more clever and memorable approaches is with Cat Spanish, an app for smart phones that teaches people Spanish through visuals of cats! It's like the Rosetta Stone scientifically combined with funny pictures of cats. Ben explains the science behind how this actually works, and why it's so fun for us. Ben also shares with us some practical tips for understanding dialects and cultures (critical elements in becoming comfortable in a non-native land). He also shares what Memrise has coming up, a bus tour of the UK and the US to record native speakers for future projects and other valuable language-related info. Be sure to listen in and get the full scoop! Thank you for listeningand we'll see you next time! THANKS BEN WHATELY! If you enjoyed this session of The Art of Charm Podcast, let Benknow by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter: Click here to thank Benon Twitter! Resources from this episode: MemriseCat Academy/Cat Spanish appSign up to learn Toki PonaHunter Maats on The AOCBen Whately on Twitter You'll also like:-The Art of Charm Toolbox-Best of The Art of Charm Podcast Wanna leave a comment? Too bad!Email meinstead (we read everything)! HELP US SPREAD THE WORD! 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