Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Steve Kaufman

by AJ

Yesterday I had a nice conversation with Steve Kaufman, founder of The Linguist. He's a great guy... very enthusiastic. And he's got a wealth of practical language learning wisdom-- born from learning 9 languages.

He's now working on another-- Russian.

I found Steve's comments about grammar study to be particularly interesting. He doesnt do it!

This is what he is doing:
He bought a few "Teach Yourself Russian" books.... ones that came with CDs. His first step was to listen repeatedly to these CDs to get a feel for the language.

Interestingly, he recommends listening first in order to learn the rhythm and sounds and intonation of the language... and then read. He said he either listens only... or he listens and reads at the same time.

Steve repeats the same material over and over again. He told me he'd listened to and read one book at least 30 times. When reading these books, he generally ignores the grammar sections. Once he's gained an understanding of the content, he may go back and consult the grammar explanations as a reference..... what he doesnt do is try to memorize rules.

His goal is to burn through these beginner books as fast as possible... and quickly move on to authentic materials.

Since Im still struggling with Spanish, I asked him for advice. Here's what he told me:

* Crank up the intensity level.... authentic content as soon as possible. Everything should be both audio and text.

* Listen to Converstions... lots of them.... recorded (preferably authentic).

* Use online text with an online dictionary... easy to get instant definitions.... whereas paper dictionaries interrupt the flow of reading much more because they are so slow to use.

* Dont worry about production (speech, writing) in the beginning... its too much pressure and too difficult. Focus instead on listening and reading as much content as possible. Let speech/writing come later, naturally.

Steve and I also discussed ways of teaming up... to allow me to use The Linguist's excellent system with my (face to face) students... possibly as out-of-class study... possibly with online students.

And finally, Steve gave me very good news: The Linguist, in a few months, will offer Spanish. Other languages may soon be available too! I hope to be their first Spanish language student!

San Francisco, CA