Lesson Transcript

Chigusa: Welcome to a special Inner Circle Audio Lesson! I'm Chigusa and I'll be your host. My co-host today is the founder of InnovativeLanguage.com... Peter Galante!
Peter: Hi everyone! Peter here.
Chigusa: In this Inner Circle, we’re talking about…
Peter: The Power of Mistakes.
Chigusa: You’ll Learn…
Peter: One: How Mistakes Burn the Language into Your Brain… and Help You Learn Faster
Chigusa: And Two: How You Can Apply this to Your Language Learning.
Peter: All so you can master your target language and reach your goals!
Peter: So, last time, we covered talking points and conversations.
Chigusa: Yes, how to start conversations with simple phrases...
Peter: ...and how to keep the conversation going with talking points.
Chigusa: And this time...
Peter: This time, Chigusa, before you ask… I did not hit my language goal this month. I was on vacation with my family.
Chigusa: Yes, I heard about that! Where did you go?
Peter: So, we went to France, England, Wales, Scotland, Switzerland and then back to France.
Chigusa: Wow, so many places, so you didn’t get any Korean practice in this month.
Peter: I had to put it on the backburner BUT don’t worry, I had a lot of opportunities to practice my dormant languages.
Chigusa: Oh, which ones?
Peter: So, French in France and German in Switzerland. And Chigusa, this trip reminded me of a powerful language learning tactic: making mistakes.
Chigusa: Did you make a lot of mistakes during your trip?
Peter: I did. I have some stories, so let’s get into the first part.
Chigusa: Part 1: How Mistakes Burn the Language into Your Brain… and Help You Learn Faster
Peter: Listeners, I want you to close your eyes and think back to when you were in grade school. Think of a question you got wrong in front of everyone in the class.
Chigusa: Oh, yeah. I can remember a few instances like that. What about you, Peter?
Peter: There was one time, our teacher asked about the capital of South Africa? I raised my hand and I said… Johannesburg. The teacher goes, “Good try but does anyone else want to try?”
Chigusa: Oh no!
Peter: And when you get it wrong, you immediately look around to see the other people’s reactions and some people are compassionate. Other people not so compassionate. So you kind of notice the negative ones a little more. The people who might be laughing or smiling.
Chigusa: And it’s embarrassing. These things really stick with you.
Peter: They really do. I think, in Psychology, it’s called the spotlight effect. Basically, it’s all about how you overestimate how much other people actually notice. So you feel super embarrassed. But the point is, you still feel the anxiety and embarrassment, even if you’re overestimating.
Chigusa: Yeah, and you remember these moments years later because of the embarrassment.
Peter: Exactly. And the same goes for language.
Chigusa: If you make a language mistake in public...
Peter: ...you will not forget it. There’s a very famous example that many Japanese language learners run across. And in fact, I think Tim Ferris actually talked about this when he was learning Japanese. It’s mixing up 2 very similar words: first is okosu which means...
Chigusa: It means to wake up.
Peter: And he mixed it up with okasu.
Chigusa: No! That’s terrible!
Peter That second word means to be violently violated. But, you know, imagine mixing it up. The other person is looking at you. Their eyes widen, their face goes into shock.
Chigusa: Peter, if I made that kind of mistake, I’d disappear and never go outside again.
Peter: Exactly.
Chigusa: I have another example from a friend. It’s a little tamer. Someone asked him about his Chinese zodiac sign in Japanese. So, he’s a rabbit but he said … unagi
Peter: For you listeners that aren’t familiar with Japanese, this means eel.
Chigusa: He meant to say… usagi, which is a rabbit. But the moment he noticed that he was wrong, the correct answer was burned into his brain.
Peter: And that’s the power of mistakes. And Chigusa, similar things happened on this trip. Here’s one example. I was buying ice cream for my kids in France. And there was an ice cream vendor. His English was at a very high level because he catered to many tourists. But, if you greeted him in French, he would make you order in French and it forces you to practice.
Chigusa: Oh wow! So, you had no choice but to practice.
Peter: Exactly. And whatever you ordered, he would correct you. So members in our group that didn’t have the proper pronunciation he would correct it for them. He was a great teacher because what each person ordered, they really remembered for the whole trip. Everytime after, how to say that word in French.
Chigusa: Ah, but that sounds nice! He’s teaching you. Were people watching you order?
Peter: They were. And there were other customers who we did not know. There were French people nearby. So, there was a lot of pressure.
Chigusa: And this is something you can’t get out of a textbook….
Peter: ...or even a 1-on-1 session with a hired teacher. It’s very powerful to make mistakes and be corrected in front of an audience.
Chigusa: I agree. The only way you get that is by speaking, making mistakes, and getting embarrassed.
Peter: Chigusa, here’s another story. This happened many years ago when I was learning Japanese. So, it takes in Ibaraki prefecture, which is actually about an hour, 2 hours north of Tokyo. I was at a bar with a friend and we were both learning Japanese at the time. And he was better than me at that time, even though that’s hard to admit. But, we’re talking with the bartender, and he told the bartender in Japanese, he pointed to me and said “oh, he can’t speak Japanese very well.”
Chigusa: Meaning you? That you can’t speak?
Peter: Exactly. He was talking about me. And Chigusa, I can’t forget this scene. The fact that he told the bartender that and I was sitting right there. And I think it wasn’t malicious, he wasn’t trying to be mean, I think he was kind of putting things in context for the bartender, but…
Chigusa: But Peter, your friend doesn’t seem very nice.
Peter: You’re right. I took that home and used it as motivation, and I blew by his Japanese. But the point was that because I was asked a question and I didn’t answer quickly, the person jumped in and commented on why I wasn’t doing it, I never forgot the words he said about how “his Japaense isn’t good,” I never forgot the question the guy asked me, and I always made sure that I had that answer ready.
Chigusa: It was the power of public embarrassment!
Peter: ...which happens when you make mistakes.
Chigusa: It’s the best way to learn and there’s no way around it.
Peter: No way around it. And during this trip, I wanted to instill this lesson in my kids.
Chigusa: Oh, how did you do that?
Peter: So, I played a game with my kids. My 2 boys. They’re 10 and 8. The game was: they would get 5 points for every person they talk in a foreign language.
So, by the end of the trip, they were at 220 points. And quick math, Chigusa, that’s 44 people they spoke with, right? And, just to give a bit of background. Their Chinese is conversational because my wife is Chinese. We also live in Tokyo, so their Japanese is conversational. And one son is studying French.
Chigusa: Did they just have to say one word to random strangers or have conversations?
Peter: That’s a great question. At first, just saying a word was okay but then they had to have conversations, It started off, they would run up to someone and say “hi” in Chinese or Japanese or French. They were very shy about it. First people they spoke to, they would just run up, say “hi,” the people would say “hi” and they would run back. Then I kinda think “hmm, that’s a little too easy” and I’d tell them, “you gotta keep it going.” The rules got a little more complicated. That it needed to be a conversation. But, they did not know how to do that. And not just kids, but a lot of people find having a conversation quite difficult, so they would ask “how do we have a conversation?” So, after you say “hi,” why don’t you ask the people where they’re from. So, for the second set of people, they would run up and “hi” and the people say “hi” and they would say “Where are you from?” And the people would answer: “Shanghai.” Then, they’d come running back.
Chigusa: That’s so funny and sweet! They should’ve waited until the person asked them back!
Peter: It’s so funny but this is how people grow. In anything in life, the more you do it, the better you get at it, right? Its goes to show… that conversation requires practice. Eventually they went from “hi” to having 3-4 minute conversations.
Chigusa: And did they overcome their fear of talking to people?
Peter: They did. And they were not worried about making mistakes. So, this trip was a reminder in how… making mistakes, especially in public, in front of people you don’t know… sears and imprints your brain, so you never make that mistake again. And you get better from putting yourself back out there and trying again.
So, Chigusa, where do you think the kids made all their points? Which language?
Chigusa: Hmm, French?
Peter: Good guess, but actually it was Chinese. Every country we went to had Chinese speakers. Whether it was the restaurant business or some kind of service business, other tourists, there were so many chances and opportunities to speak Chinese. And, they made most of the points there. They made 15 points on Japanese. One time at a Japanese restaurant, one time with a Japanese tour group, and one time with a Japanese family in a park. But, it was so curious to see them try to make their approach, they would sometimes come up from behind, they had to get in the view. And then, they made some points from speaking French. Again, in the service centric situations, at the restaurants ordering or chatting with their French. They had a French who spoke French. That makes a big difference. But the Chinese was quite interesting. As a tourist, we ran into many Chinese speakers whether it was taking the lifts up the mountains in Switzerland, being in very touristy places, there were so many opportunities to speak Chinese. The kids were a little surprised because they live in Japan and they hear Japanese all the time but outside of Japan, they could actually use Chinese to order in France and in London, it was such a practical language for getting around.
Chigusa: You can order in Chinese in London and in France? Really?
Peter: It’s interesting. Many of the restaurants…
Chigusa: Did they have a Chinese menu?
Peter: Not a Chinese menu but of course, there are many Chinese restaurants that you could go into. Much like, for every 1 Japanese restaurant, there’s usually 5 Chinese restaurants. So, if you go to eat Chinese food, you can order in Chinese. And you can get the Chinese the menu. But even at very popular tourist-centric places, many of the waiters spoke Chinese or there was a Chinese speaking person there.
Chigusa: Really? That’s interesting. Do your kids speak Chinese at home with their mom?
Peter: They usually are very good at listening and speaking back in English. So, we’re working on that. THat’s a whole different topic, right? Bilingual children. The kids tend to gravitate towards the language they speak at school. And that’s English. So when they come home, their mom speaks to them in Chinese and they’ll answer in English.
Chigusa: So it must’ve been really good practice for them.
Peter: Yeah, when we go to China of course, they speak, but this was a very interesting revelation like “wow, Mom, Dad, Chinese is really useful these days, huh?” And many of the tourist attractions had actually English, French and Chinese written. I imagine it was probably Japanese 20 years ago and now it’s changed ot Chinese.
Chigusa: Yeah, it’s interesting. So, Peter, what can our listeners take away from this?
Peter: Let’s jump into the 2nd part.
Chigusa: Part Two: How You Can Apply this to Your Language Learning.
Peter: So, listeners, having conversations, whether in your target language or in your native language, it’s something that needs to be practiced. It’s like with martial arts, you can imagine yourself doing a kick, but if you actually try and do it, it’s probably not going to work out without practice. And with conversations, you can go up to someone and say a phrase...but it may not go anywhere.
Chigusa: Yes, not without practice. You need to learn how to keep conversations going. That takes practice.
Peter: And with practice, you end up making mistakes. And through those mistakes you grow.
Chigusa: So, Peter, what would you suggest the listeners do?
Peter: There are 3 steps here. One: You have to speak, and understand that you when you’re speaking, you will make mistakes. Two: This a bit harder but you should create opportunities to speak.
Chigusa: How can you create such opportunities?
Peter: That’s a really great question. The easiest place to start is anywhere with a service-client relationship. So, at a store, in a restaurant, in a taxi, the people working in your building, where you live...
Chigusa: Hmm, that’s a good one! They kind of have to speak to you.
Peter: A forced language partner in a way, right? And it’s what I did with my other languages. I’d make it a habit to visit certain restaurants and practice.
Chigusa: And what’s the third step?
Peter: The third step is… build on it. Keep at it. Go from 1 word to speaking for 1 minute. Then 2 minutes. And 3 minutes. A lot of what we’re doing here.
Chigusa: But listeners, if you can’t create these opportunities to speak…
Peter: ...then, you can always hire a tutor to practice with.
Chigusa: And if you’re a Premium PLUS member, you can practice with your teacher.
Peter: You can record yourself and send the audio to your teacher for feedback.
Chigusa: But, it’s better to practice and make mistakes in real life.
Peter: In front of an audience. And that’s something that you can’t do with a hired tutor.
Chigusa: Alright Peter, so, you promised us 15 minutes of Korean conversation last month.
Peter: I didn’t hit that.
Chigusa: That’s the 2nd time you had a vacation get in the way.
Peter: Yes, Chigusa, the first one wasn’t a vacation. It was travel. Is there a difference?
Chigusa: Ah, I see. Big difference!
Peter: Alright, maybe not such a big difference but it’s so interesting, as an adult learner, life gets in the way. But with this month, I’m going to go again for that 15 minutes of Korean conversation goal.
Chigusa: Deadline?
Peter: September 30th.
Chigusa: Sounds good. And listeners, let us know what your small, measurable monthly goal is.
Peter: And let us know if you made any embarrassing language mistakes… that have led to you never forgetting.
Chigusa: Email us at inner dot circle at innovative language dot com, and stay tuned for the next Inner Circle.
Chigusa: Well, that’s going to do it for this Inner Circle lesson!
Peter: Bye everyone!
Chigusa: Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

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You’ll Learn:

  • 1. How Mistakes Burn the Language into Your Brain and Help You Learn Faster
  • 2. How You Can Apply this to Your Language Learning