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Breaking Down Grammar

Lesson 16 from: Become Fluent in Any Language

Gabriel Wyner

Breaking Down Grammar

Lesson 16 from: Become Fluent in Any Language

Gabriel Wyner

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Lesson Info

16. Breaking Down Grammar

Lesson Info

Breaking Down Grammar

Let's get the grammar the first thing I want to talk about is how grammar works in your brain what is going on here and to do that let's start with children. Um children have this great rap they have this this this sense that well yeah we all know children a great language laulala they're way better than we are all this on because they talked about in the first day they're not we're actually better in general then children but nonetheless and we'll get there a little more there very good. Um there's this wonderful test you could do with kids where you show them a puppet you say this monster he likes to eat mud he is a mud eater rara and then you show them another pump in here like this monster he likes to eat mice he is a mice eater and then you show them a third monster and you go this monster likes to eat rats. What is he? They will say he is a rat eater and they won't say rats eater ever and you can say you know no no no no he's a rat's eater he eats rats not just rat and they will ...

say no, you're wrong they will correct you a four year old will correct your english will say no it's a rat eater you are wrong how do they know this this is one of the sort of rules that I taught english in austria and he said the source of rules that would drive my students crazy be like they would say, why not rat cedar heats multiple rats he's not just anyone rat and say well, you know with when you form compounds in english well, if it's if it's an irregular plural like mouse and mice it's not mouse and mouse is then you get to use either mouse eater or mice eater and they're both fine but if it's a regular sort of now that has a normal plural, then you have to use the singular I got a terrible rule what a horrible thing to teach someone and they just sort of look atyou when they squint in there like why and like just it is I'm sorry that's what we do and yet these kids these four year old kids have never been taught this rule no one has explained the rules of compound formation in english to them and yet they will correct you they'll be so confident in their their knowledge of english grammar that they will correct you and tell you that rat's eaters is wrong how did they do this? What are they doing here? Um somehow we'll get to how they're taking the limited input they have because they probably never heard this word in their life they've created this word face the first time they've ever heard the word rat eater it was the day they set it just amazing somehow they taken the limited input they've gotten this sort of the words that their parents have told them perhaps some of their classmates and kindergarten and they've produced something that is much bigger than what they've heard. Um a lot of people talk about language learning like driving a car like you cut you you learn how to use the gas pedal learn how to use your mirrors you don't have to use the driving thing the whatever the driving thing the steering wheel uh jumping thing and you practice each part of this and eventually becomes automatic can you speak your language and it's not like that language learning is like trying to learn to drive a car you learn how to use the gas pedal you learn how to use your driving thing uh you learn how to use your mirrors and then suddenly you could fly a helicopter without a problem. You pick up skills from know where you pick up grammatical rules from know where you just have an intuition about how it goes and you have an intuition that is so strong that you can correct someone else and be like no, no no I've never heard rhat rhat I've never heard rat eater or rats eater in my life but I know that rat's eater is wrong at the age of four amazing thing children do this is how children learn language and it's incredible it's helicopters out of driving cars what about adults so going back to kids for a second when you watch a kid and I've been doing this for the last few years it's been really fun watching my niece you sort of grow up um their language develops in a very very predictable pattern she started by saying things like bernie go uh she said birdie go for the past president future birdie go away daddy eat lunch baby want cookie like she would say all these things baby fall when she fell then they start at the round I think it's around three or something like that there are three and a half they pick up the form in english this is just for english every language has its own little development thing but in english at least talk about english she picked up the I n g form doggy jumping daddy eating and she started using this I n g thing it's not using it right but still she's kind of using it then she picks up the irregular past not the easy one not you know uh daddy hopped maybe jumped she picks up the irregular one first she says baby fell cookie fell and she starts using the irregular passed and she starts mastering the regular passed daddy ate before she's picked up the normal past tense then at around the age of four she starts picking up the past tense uh she started going overboard she started using it for everything kid he falled just cute but then she sort of figures out which ones which and then she now has a past tense a fully functional past tense she hasn't a regular past normal past you can handle the past then she picks up is daddy is jumping mommy is eating just picked up this is formed and finally at the very, very, very end she picks up the easiest rule of english I mean the one that you learn in every english one and one course in the first week or so, which is that english is verb conjugation is really easy you just say they eat you eat, we eat but he she it eats you put an s at the end she picks that up in around five five years of age four five it's usually what happens? She hasn't done that yet so this so kids learn and this is very, very predictable they always do this, they there's never you're never going to encounter a kid who regularly I mean maybe for one or two memorized praises that they just sort of say like you're welcome we'll say you're welcome right early on because they've memorized that that is like doggie is jumping she's using the word is our butt generally uh you're never gonna have a kid who jumps any of these stages on in terms of what comes out of their mouth naturally but isn't just wrote repetition you never have have a kid who says doggy jumps before she said doggy fell and sort about adults now adults you shouldn't expect to see any patterns I mean adults how do we learn languages? We learned them in all sorts of different ways we learn them from girlfriends we learned them from classrooms we learned them from books we're learning from all sorts of different backgrounds why should a german speaker trying to learn english have anything in common with a japanese speaker learning english? I mean they're they're coming from such different backgrounds with such different ways of learning there's no way that an adult is going to have any sort of pattern like a kid and yet they absolutely do which is totally creepy if you accost in the adult industry and you force them to speak english suddenly this is not in a test situation this is not nothing where they can sit there and think and be like okay what is the rule she to go home I know that she supposed to go with an s so she goes home but if you just say where's she going in the very big first stages of english with someone is a beginner english student they will say she go home that will be the first type of mistake they say then as they progressed the spontaneous thing that comes out of their mouth or out of their hand when they write and they just make their normal natural mistakes they will start mastering the I n g for not mastering they will start making mistake they will say he watching tv they will progress from he watched tv too he watching tv just like the kids then they will master the irregular past which is totally creepy because the regular past is so much easier they will not say he goad they will say he went they will master this went for him they will master the eight the fell before they get any of this stuff down then they will master the form just like the kids then they're going to get this isn't our thing we are going he is watching tv and finally at the very last stages of english when someone is finally kind of getting it they will master the very first word the first rule they learned the one that shows up in every one of my first first year texts for english when I was teaching english lesson one english verbs you stick an acid the end once they've mastered english that's when they get that down she goes home what is going on here? How on earth can adults have this kind of pattern when learning a language when why should the german learning english? Why should a japanese person learning what I should've german learning english from a textbook in a japanese person learning english from immersion and, ah, hungarian person learning english from their girlfriend? Why should they all go through this exact thing that is exactly like an english speaking child? And the answer is that we all learned languages in basically the same way and it's that that genius that children have of taking an input in creating helicopters out of it is something that we never lose it, something that we completely retain. The on ly things I talked about yesterday, the only thing that kids have over adults is fearlessness, which is significant, and if they're between the ages of six months and twelve months, they have this sort of pronunciation magical thing, which we can short circuit by you doing minimal pear stuff, but adults have problem solving skills, adults are more intelligent than children. Sorry kids were this is to the case, we are better, we have better learning techniques, we are mawr after learning languages than children are. The only issue is that children have these fifteen thousand hours of exposure. While we're kind of sitting there with our lives to do, we have work, we have to sleep, they have to sleep, too, but we have to sleep you know, we have to deal with our car breaking down things like that. We have less time than children. So that's like this another advantage of being a child. You have lots of lots of time, but generally we're in a better position to learn languages than kids, and we learn them in the exact same way, which is to say we take in a bunch of input from our environment. Um, there's an interesting thing in trying to in terms of trying to figure out what kind of in foot makes kids tick, what kind of input makes a kid progress in their language versus something that doesn't and you can look at this you consort of test this out by sticking a child in front of a television screen. And if you stick again in front of a chinese news broadcast and you stick them there for most of their childhood, they will not learn a word of chinese. Is this completely strange thing? We have this idea that it's all immersion you just show them enough language and they'll pick it up and it's not at all true. Ah, if you show a kid endless, endless, endless japanese tv in chinese tv, they will pick up nothing, nothing they will have wasted. You have wasted their childhood good job um, the way you actually learn a language uh, is by taking an input that you could actually understand and you can understand a lot of things coaches, you know exactly what I mean? You speak russian? Good job, it's like we we use body language, we use gesture we use context to we don't need any language could just be like it is completely clear what I mean and as long as it's consistent as long as it keeps you keep using the same words, then you're going to pick this up because it's your picking and you're taking an understandable input you're taking input. That is pretty clear. What you mean now if I say coaches vie, do and then I pick up some water and you say, oh, it's okay, I guess badu is has something to do with this and you'll start picking that kind of thing up. Um, once a kid has enough input and you stop saying that, okay, you want a cookie? Cookie cookies air good, right? You like cookies? You want chocolate chip cookie, you want a white chocolate cookie, then they can go and watch tv and they can see, you know, cookie monster on sesame street and then he's freaking out about cookies and they know exactly what he means, and then he because much more interesting than their parents and the actual cookies that around in the environment that's the point where tv where you consider kid in front of tv and I actually learned something when they have enough language in their heads to do it but before then you stick a kid in front of you know, some news broadcast they're never gonna learn them thing um that brings up something kind of odd in terms of grammar exercises if languages not something where practice makes perfect if you don't actually learnt that he goes to the school by practicing he goes she jumps it you know is whatever uh if you don't do this by doing grammar drills this's not practice then what is the point of grammar drills? I mean, you can you can do he jumps and she jumps and hey sits till you're blue in the face and you will not progress you will not jump any of those developmental stage is you have to go through the he fell stage and then the he jumped stage and then that he is going stage and then finally the he jumps stage you can't skip them doesn't matter how many grammar drills you do, so can we just skip all the drills? And the answer is yes and no um the role of grammar exercises er is not practice makes perfect and so there's no need for you to drill the plural and french seven hundred times it's a waste of your time however if you know the rule that generally in french she's sticking s at the end of a word to make a plural except in the cases where you put an ex something like that then when you see of ah a noun in the wild when you're doing google images or something like that and you see a sentence and you see an s at the end you could say it's probably plural if you're learning english and you know the rule about s is at the end of herbs and you see laura jumps you know the bullet's probably singular and so the grammar the knowledge of those grammar rules allows you to understand more it allows you to take in mohr from the input you you're encountering and so I find grammar exercises really really helpful I think they're great I think the more you know about grammar the more you get to take care take advantage of the adult superpowers of being able to use your brain and be able to use logic to deduce more about the sentences you're encountering and so this kind of input you get mohr input the more grammar you know and from a strategic standpoint what that means is that you can go through your grammar book go to page one and say what is the rule here? What do I need to learn here your grammar book will explain that we'll have a really good job. We'll talk about that in the next segment will show I have a grammar book right here and we will show it. I mean, the shop's outline it's a really lovely book. We're going to go through page one and see what is it talking about? And you will learn the rule. It will say here the basics of the rules here, some exceptions, and then it will give you a few examples, and then it will give you an endless string of drills, drills and drills and drills and drills, and it'll have answers in the back of the book and you could do drills and drills and drills and drills escape all of them pick one or two examples of each rule, learn it using the types of flash cards were going to discuss with pictures and stories and then moved on to the next page. When you want is one or two examples of every grammar ruling your language, they're easy to learn and they give you stories they give you sentences they give you want a cookie, you want some water, they give you these sorts of things that would make a kid keep going and we'll make you keep going in terms of your grammar will keep helping you progress down those developmental stages. They'll give you all of that and they'll give you a grammar rules the same time such that when the next time you encounter a sentence that has an s at the end of the verb you think oh, that first thing's probably singular they let you understand more about the sentences that you're learning that's the grammar exercises come in but how do you learn grammar here's the whole flashcard part um and what is grammar really? And the grammar is what drives people crazy with language learning I mean it's this horribly complicated thing and it is complicated their parts of it that are really complicated. I mean, what is the difference between my dog ate my homework and my homework was eaten by my dog. Like this same story looks the same, but my homework was eaten by my dogs is a story about a really sad homework assignment. My homework was even by my dog. Where is my dog? Ate my homework. Is this story about this really terrible dog? And so we can take all of this subtlety and weaken conveyed in languages this amazing, amazing thing where the thoughts in my head not only the stories in my head but what I think about those stories has conveyed through grammar so it's this amazing construct we have it's like it's telepathy is what it is I can say something and you will have the same thought that I am having it's an amazing thing. So grammar is extraordinarily complex, it's just that the form of grammar is always extremely simple. Grammatical forms, uh, we'll go back for a second on all the meaning inside of them can be broken down into three basic basic basic little chunks. Everything. Even the transformation between my dog ate my homework. My homework is eaten by my dogs. It was a lot of stuff going on all at once, and all of that could be broken down into three really basic steps. We add new words. We change the form of the words we have, and we changed the order of those words. This applies to every single language and show you what I mean. My homework was eaten by my dog. What is, by I mean, buy if you look in the desk. A dictionary is the proposition that indicates the agent of a passive construction most useless definition. The world. I think this is what happens. You look it up in the dictionary. They say that, uh why who cares by is that my homework was eaten blank, my dog. That is what bi is it's not the only thing by is I was standing by my friend, totally different by but I was standing blake my friends that's what bhai is there too it's a different definition and that's what that means we add words to convey meaning and so this is how you learn those added words this is a grammatical object is with dramatic kramer does and in this case you know what is if I look like how would I learned by with the flash car that looks like something you know by I'm gonna have a picture of what that's what by looks like by looks like a guilty dog it's exactly what it looks like I was standing blank my friend buy it looks like two people standing next to each other so by looks like on that makes by a lot more memorable than trying to do some weird grammatical exercise with it um we also changed the form of words in this case eaten what isn't eaten was eating look like well even looks like a different guilty dog actually this case not so guilty that's okay um but the only real difference between added words and changed word forms is that I've given myself a little clue I've got myself a base a base form I've seen that said that the base form of this word the word that that I learned in the beginning from those six hundred twenty five words was to eat that's what this this is sort of the container of eating meat and so my homework was blank by my dog with a little clue this base form to eat that's what eaten looks like this is the picture of eaten the last thing is word order in this case um my homework was eaten by my dogs well, what happens if you just take out a word then use take a right back in I'm taking this out I'm saying my homework by my dog and my job is can I stick was eaten back? Can I put it back in and on the back side of that flash card will have the whole sentence reconstructed that's it I mean, I I recently got did a workshop up in near toronto for the six nations thes air the era coronations they have some of the most fascinating languages in the world they're they're poly synthetic, which means that they create these giant words that that mean like the one who destroys cities and that's the word for president just um and so this is all like they're they're verbs just suck announce inside of them and all this stuff and in the end you could just break them all down into those three operations it's just that the word order thing kind of applies inside of the work instead of two separate words but this is in the end added words or added chunks of words changed words or change chunks of words and word order or arrange chunks inside those words it's just word order and that's as far as his complexes you're going to get I mean if you polly synthetic is about his complex you can go one of the reasons I learned on carrying is to get some feel of what is a poly synthetic language which is not quite there I mean uh actually one of these one of the people up in those schools emailed me on was asking, you know, does this work for polly synthetic languages and I was like what's a poly synthetic language he explained it to me I was like, well I think so and then I decided learn hungarian in part because I wanted to get a feel for what that was like and yes it works just fine this applies to anything those are the three things that we can do we can change order you can change the former you can add things now but what's gonna happen in in your actual practices that you're going to look in your grammar book and your grammar book is going to be really kind to you it's going to give you a nice explanation of something it's going to give you a wonderful example story is gonna translate that example story everything is gonna be great and I'm just gonna throw it to clinton tried to your head it's going to say you know she is a student is is the word that tells you how to connect she to student this is all everything this is great you know he is a firefighter alright good to clench in charge go here the fifty five forms of to be cooler than um and that's really problematic because what do you do about this? I am you are he is we are they are you know this is ugly this is very abstract it's not enjoyable tto learn this kind of flash card this is a word form card you know she blank to be its word form great you know you could have a picture of a girl uh this is no way memorable um because it's not a story is memorable she blank on fire to be clear memorable enjoy funny even like this is how you're going to learn your dick lantian charts how do you get this content? You know where do you get it? You make it well, there's a few options we're gonna talk about that. Actually, um we'll talk about that. We're gonna talk about that later uh because we're doing the monix you okay generally actually to answer that question where do you get she is on fire when you don't have in your textbook I will answer that you make it we're gonna be doing some writing any time your book fails you and gives you this garbage of here, the fifty five forms of malaysia or something like that, you're going to be writing out example sentences when necessary. Or you're going to be finding them on google images. And then there's, a website that will give you instant gives you native speaker corrections for free within, like, three, four hours, it's like heaven.

Class Materials

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Fluent Forever Quickstart Guide
English-Intl Phonetic Alphabet Deck
3 Q&A Videos
Italki Bonus Voucher
35 Example Words in 13 Languages
Analog Flashcard Schedule
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Ratings and Reviews

Nephele Tempest

I really enjoyed this course. Gabe has a terrific, easy teaching style that's entertaining and absorbing to the point where I'm conscious of having gone through the course a little too fast. I am looking forward to going back through it a little more slowly to catch any tidbits I missed, but even without that I feel I have so many new tools to apply to language learning and I can't wait to get started. I really appreciate that he also went over how to tackle a language you've already learned in the past but have not retained to the level you'd like, as well as how to start a brand new language from scratch. I hope to do both with much greater success than my previous attempts.

a Creativelive Student

I really wasn't expecting to learn a whole lot of new things with this course but I feel like I have come away with so much more then just how to learn a language. The science on how our mind and memory work was really interesting and also very applicable to other parts of my life. Along with this course, I purchased Gabriel's pronunciation trainer which I also highly recommend. I never thought about the pronunciation of a language as a separate part and I feel like learning this first is already greatly improving my understanding of my goal language. I have tried to learn another language many times only to either give up from frustration or get bored with the program I'm using. This course and Gabriel's method of learning a language have me so excited that this time will be the time I succeed. I can't wait to start using the word list once that is available and to start creating my own. Thank you so much for such a great course.


Worth every penny. Despite the title, you'll learn far more than how to become fluent in a language -- you'll learn how to learn anything you want! Gabe is a great presentational speaker, articulate and captivating. The foundation of the course is about how to set a concrete and measurable goal, learn effectively, and set yourself up for success. This course addresses forming new habits within the constraints of your current life, making progress when you don't feel motivated, and how to recover from setbacks like getting off-track or when you just don't grasp a concept--these topics are often missing from other learning courses so students flounder as soon as they stray from the formula. Building on all these fundamentals, Gabe then offers specific techniques and tools for language learning. Excellent course!

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