How to Hear & Form New Sounds


Become Fluent in Any Language


Lesson Info

How to Hear & Form New Sounds

We're talking about sounds so let's get to sounds the first thing we need to do ah is this idea of your training because that is the first challenge we have and coming into any languages if we can't hear the sounds of that language you're basically screwed from the start there is a wonderful, wonderful siri's of studies that have been done over the past basically since since the nineties um on japanese speakers trying to learn english of I've interviewed a ton of thes these researchers I wrote actually there's an article coming out in june on scientific american mind on this topic that I wrote um where everyone talks about well, yes, we all do stuff on japanese speakers and I kept asking why and they said because they're willing because they are so so much want to know how to pronounce the difference between rock and lock between this r and l thing in english on they so much want to hear it that they are willing to jump into any studies and volunteer for them just freely on dso those t...

he the language pairings japanese to english that are done most often now these studies basically started with tests they basically said they sat down japanese speakers they gave them a set of headphones and I said all right we're going to play one of two words for you we're gonna play a rock or we're gonna play a block and you're going to tell us you're gonna press the our button or the l button on your keyboard and tell us which one you think you heard now for the average japanese adults when they did this, they're in the beginning this first testing process their accuracy was somewhere around fifty percent it was basically chance they were a little bit better the chances like fifty five percent maybe something like that uh they did terribly I mean, they really couldn't hear this this the difference between rock and lock it all sounded the same for them and so then they started testing them. They said, ok, well, we're gonna have to give you a whole bunch of practice we're going to say we're just gonna keep saying rock and lock it random, you're going keep us in the el button or the armpit on your keyboard and see what happens and after I think this was a twenty minute segment actually was three twenty minute segments of being tested uh, they tested their final accuracy and the final accuracy was fifty percent uh, which is really unfortunate this is a no feedback sort of situation where you press the our button or the l button and you don't get anything back on return it basically just records your answer and sees how you do so just practicing without get anything, anything back does nothing. Ah, and that's really troubling this is the sense of okay. Well, I have this serious problem coming into english, and if I just listened to a whole bunch of words it's not actually gonna make me any better and that's troubling because kids come do this. This is actually one of the superpowers of kids in terms of things that kids actually can do better than adults. Kids who are under the age of one and only that age group between six months and one year of age are actually better at this than you can just say a whole bunch of things like rocking lock, lock, lock, lock, lock and they will pick it up. Hi. In fact, a six month old baby will be able to tell the difference between any two sounds in any languages. They have this sort of superpower that goes away by twelve months of age, and it doesn't just go away. What it does is, uh, the year specializes, the year starts, it doesn't just get, um, it learns that the generally things that sound kind of like our for an american baby, things like rock like iraq like rock, like all of these different hair, different sound, and then a six month old baby, would you tell the difference between all of them? Say oh you're saying a different are now but generally we have this group of sounds that we call our that is in fact a whole bunch of sounds but we hear them kind of often and so as a baby reaches twelve months of age it starts realizing okay, well all those adults who are saying rock and rock and rock and rock are probably saying one continent and they're probably saying different gotten over on the outside that probably saying locke and locke and locke and those are all probably the same l and so the baby's brain starts to specialize and starts to realize that okay, this is one group of sounds this is a second group of sounds and there's nothing in the middle what happens with the japanese baby is that all of those sounds are sort of heaped up right in the middle all of the loch sounds all of the rock sounds they're all kind of right in the middle japanese are is somewhere I can't say it perfectly but it's somewhere like la maman to somewhere kind of halfway between eleanor and so the japanese baby decides okay, well, all these adults there are call kind of saying these various sounds but they're all kind of in one group this must be the one constant that I have in my language and so they grouped them altogether and everything starts making a lot more sense because if you're a baby and you're hearing all these adults saying all these different sounds and to you this language now that you're listening to has six hundred continents it's gonna be really complicated as your brain starts figuring out ok these aren't six hundred constants these are fifty constant so they're all kind of like our fifty constants that are all kind of like l the language becomes a lot more simple and they start developing well we lose this ability and so somehow we need to sort of hotwire this and make it so that we can learn and the way you do this is with feedback um they did the exact same test these researchers on these japanese students the only difference is that when they sat him down in front of computers and played rock and lock it random they would give them instant feedback they would press the our button it would say wrong this was luck and they would hear it again they'd hear lock and they were pressed to tell but it was good thing you got it right they got instantaneous feedback and within three twenty minutes syria training sessions won three different days uh they started reaching eighty percent accuracy this is a permanent change this is uh the difference between not knowing what's going on I mean really having no idea what constant is being said to basically kind of getting in most of the time she's really pretty significant in talking to a lot of these researchers they were all kind of bummed they were basically said yeah, but we didn't get to one hundred and I just was like but but wait look what you did do it's it's it's such a huge I think that uh I decided to try and see if I could make something like this on. So when I started hungarian high, I chose that language in part because it had a lot of really challenging pronunciation things for me I didn't know how to hit deal I didn't I dealt a little bit in italian with constant length did you have that there that can be double constants that there's all the nod or caroline caroline but the idea of dealing with vowel length like fouling the idea that there could be a different like that core and core with an extra long old is somehow completely new letter that was totally new for me uh the idea of this this sound that I mentioned earlier took and duke being two different sounds. There was a lot of stuff in hungarian that was challenging for me that I did not have any training and hearing and I wanted to learn how to hear and so I got a hungarian speaker to record all I had in the beginning of my hungarian textbook a list of all the challenging things I had a hungarian speaker record them for me and I had a donkey test me on them and basically say, I'm going to say one of these things took our duke which one did I say took choose it I would say g y u k and it was saying no that was t y u k and I found that in ten days of twenty minute uh basically twenty minutes a day I got the entire sound system a hungarian down it was faster than anything I've ever encountered and so at that point I I set up this goal of I am going to make this happen for people because this is too easy eso let's all try this um what I want you to do is in the course materials um you have a model deck and so we're gonna use this model deck to teach ourselves a little bit of russian um the first thing I want you to do is open on key if it's not open already so straight forward I'm gonna do the same actually here uh, hunky is open at this point. If I if some window on donkey is open, I'm going to close it and I want this sort of window we're here and I'm gonna click on the decks button to get me back where I want to be I just want sort of this open normal window so one of the materials that you will have downloaded um is this thing called it's on my desktop? In this case, um model dex, creative life is your model x for creative life. Um I think for you guys it's on the desktop, I think you want to open that up and it will give you three model dex. I'll move this over to my desk there's, a chinese version of japanese version the standard version. I want you all to start with the standard version. I realize some of you guys are not doing that do start with the standard version for now. Uh, double click it and if monkeys installed it will install itself in the donkey. When I double click, this key will open and it will say twenty six cards imported immediately and you will see model deck with minimal pears, everything else and all that jazz. So we're gonna look at the minimal pears. Minimal pairs are is just a word basically saying one word to two words where on ly one sound changes between those two words lock and rock are minimal pair bit and beat our middle pair these sorts of things um and so that's the kind of training we're going to do um at this point, if you will have your headsets plugged in at be handy and so we're going to study that in a second but first I need to teach you a little bit of french and a little bit of russia uh there are basically five sounds we're gonna talk about today um three russian or sorry sort of ah russian set and a french center we're comparing them to, um in russian you have these two characters they look like little forks or something or like weird w you have this one on the left? This is ill turn on my passport. This one on the left is should sure shot shot okay, your tongue is pulled back if I'm gonna compare it to english is sh and I have if these are my teeth this is my tongue I have sh in english in russia it's a lower pitch shar shot the other direction which yes, right picture I'm not like saying these backwards there's another russian letter it is basically the same sort of thing this weird little fork thing but it has a little tail well tiny tale hopes I'm blocking it was just a little on the far right side that is russians sounds the same english russian your tongue comes up a little bit flattens against the roof of your mouth and so you have english higher pitched sounds the three sounds in order you have russians you have english is and the other russians you got to make a little scale those three sounds I want you to listen to you have the low pitch one the high pitch one and english is those will be tricky to tell you on this will be a little bit easier we're basically learning french is a nasal vow all she'll find in bond and we're gonna compare that with english is bond like james bond this this is american english and they're going to be different but this is something you often find with americans who come france and they start trying to speak french and they say things like bond and the french don't understand a word they're saying and switching to english and the french get a reputation for being really rude it's not that rude so you're completely butchering the language and they don't know what you're saying which is not I mean which is not like you're doing a bad thing but also they're not doing a bad thing like this is really hard if you are saying bond they don't know what you're saying you actually like the pronunciation here changes the meaning of the word it changes whether you can understand it at all and so in this case something comparing french is bombed english is bond bond bond so let's actually do this uh I want to be a donkey and in on key I want you to select the minimal pairs of deck to do that, you click on minimal pears. I will do it first and then you guys can kind of follow along because I wanted to kind of play around with it in this minimal pair deck. Uh, you're going to see okay. Well, come urine model document repairs. You have eight cards to learn. And if you wish, you can study now. Well, I do wish to study now. That's my volume is on its good quick study now bombed, bombed. I just heard bond. If I need to hear it again, I can press the our button. If you need to look that up, this is in the more button, uh, down to replay audio could see the shortcut is our bombed so I can keep hitting our and I will keep saying bomb uh and so I need to get did I hear the french one or the english? One well bombed. That sounds pretty french to me. And so I'm gonna hit the show, answer button or press space or I'm just gonna hit the show answer. But mom and I am correct. This was the french one, as I mentioned earlier, you have options. When you answer these cards, you can say, oh, I need to hear that again, I got it wrong I really had no idea what that wass it was french or english or something or swahili I don't know uh then you would hit me again but in my case I didn't get it. I kind of remember that I mean, I recorded this so it's not exactly fair um but I would hit the good button I got this thing this is good I got it if this was something that was just simply easy I've been studying french for years and I just like I got it like shut up already I got bond I know I can I can hear bones you know at any time in the middle of the night and I will know that's french or english then you will hit the easy button again in terms of keyboard shortcuts you have shortcut key one you can just press one to I could just press to dislike good or three disliked easy. I was like two ash ash ash well, this kind of actually sounds like the second one ash and I'm wrong great. I just got a little bit better. I got some feedback back into my russian saying that when I hear this sound ish, I need to shorten associate this with that lower pitch one okay, so if I got it wrong, I'm gonna hit the again button this one but bond and now I keep getting quist um so this is the kind of quiz you guys can do uh so try that out for a second and let's actually work on I guess some questions uh while people are trying that just for like, a minute or two because I want you guys to try it out for a second. Well, tobias is joining us and he's got a number of questions he's actually very interested about you and your background, he said you've referred to a lot of research, etcetera where can they go by some of the references that you bean referring to in terms of the research, I have a serious of articles on my website that referred to a lot of this stuff I believe they are linked in the syllabus, so just get another go get the syllabus those are I dealt with they're in the book naturally, which comes out august fifth I have everything else I mean in terms of all the sort of citations and things like that. But for now in terms of this research that is already on my website, there is a new article on that questions regarding the flash card system as well it's it's k rock is asking about memorize that's the system you're familiar with and the other one is this can be pronounced not the closed system see ellos the okay um memorizes basically ah web version of monkey they do a good job of game if eyeing it in the sense that there's like uh I don't think they have a it's not dueling glows like powell, but there's like other characters that kind of like yeah, you're doing it on so I really like what they do in terms of the game thing and I like what they do in terms of demonic ce they really will talk about no monix in the fifth segment, but they do a lot of good stuff the issue with memorizes the same issue with many of these products, which is that they're prepackaged you're not building it for yourself and you lose something because of that every time you use someone else's flashcards for something you cannot learn as much as you will from your own flash cards and so there's a limit to how far you could go with it. So I like much of what they do and I think it's a it's a good interface uh I like donkey just cause it saves me some time and again if I can save a few seconds while I'm well, I'm building my flash cards that that's a lot of time in the long run logan is asking teo do recommend using a frequency dictionary, so you know how to determine which words to use for your flashcards yes, but later on in the process generally idea with sounds first and so that's a sort of very fixed list of like well, what are the spelling combinations in the language? What sounds exists uh then a very fixed list of six hundred words that I suggest for every language and then I start playing around frequency list made a question it's much on the memorize I've done that for like hours on in another problem I saw with it was you're translating as opposed to your thinking joy no language so when you're talking to people you're sitting there translating in your head which slows you down and some people don't have the patience for that as well and also it could come out as an english translation as opposed to what it actually is in the language for example you wouldn't say a story hombre I am hungry you would say tango hombre I have hunger which it translates in english but that's there's things like that that differentiate each language so wait pronunciations short division has a lot of words that wanna study but they don't have the pronunciations and is wondering whether there's a way to download in bulk the pronunciations yes there will be I am working on that now that is my kickstarter I mean I ran a kickstarter in december it was extraordinarily successful it's raised about nine and a half times what I was expecting to raise because people really like this idea of learning pronunciation first on goal of that kick started what it financed was basically me spending my full time working on developing trainers that do just this that have the entire pronunciation system of the language down that show every single spelling option that you have uh mean basically every single one not every single exception but for french I think I ended up with one hundred sixty five spelling rules that do that in the in the context of example words so you're not just sort of learning words in the abstract and saying g n is but g n as in yoki is you and has picture of milky and things like this so that it's actually in your learning vocabulary the same time um and then does these tests is to this these minimal protest that actually trained your ear I I wanted to build this because my, uh I talk about this in the book in terms of how important it is to learn sounds first and my editor responded to my first draft basically saying that's all well and good but how you know, how do you learn these sounds? And I had an answer to him, which was you do this you'd make middle of hair tests but they don't exist and so this was my response to that was well, they don't exist but they should exist and so I want to make them and so at this point I'm making I think thirteen fourteen languages we just added dutch uh I'm covering most of the base is if you're not learning something crazy I probably am going to be covering it it's going to take me a while I'm late I'm working on it full time but this has been a big big project ah and so by the time the book comes out I expect you will be able to see the very least french german mandarin chinese, spanish hopefully italian uh hopefully this will all be out by august but in the meantime there are pronunciation tools available to you there's a lot of actually for mandarin specifically there's a lot of trainers just like this to train tones I have them linked on my website at the language resource is paige that's ellen syllabus um and there are all these pronunciation books there's this pronounce it perfectly serious which I really like from the baron publisher they have cds. They do these sorts of tests close to them and they really sort of lay it all out so I very much like uh I like that serious and I think that's something you can do now and then if you want to use my pronunciation trainers, you can use that to sort of find to an accent later there's sort of two function has two functions of these things you know you can use them in the beginning to really train you all the way through or you can come back later it's what I want to do with these and just perfect accent I'm gonna be doing that for my own french my own german is really getting that finest finest nuances into it saying she has a challenge with hearing she's not deaf but she does have ah hearing challenge especially when she's in groups so do you have any recommendations for how she copes with sounds it's challenging? I mean these sorts of minimal pair tests will will train you as faras you can go I mean even with with japanese speakers with full uh you know, perfect hearing and stuff like that there are limits to these things, but you might as well be trying to trying to challenge yourself in the direction that will actually rewire your hearing. Um and so in terms of of this case when you have limited hearing um you work with what you have I mean you you quiz what you have, you focus on training yourself to rely on the cues that you can actually receive and yes, you'll be missing out on some cues you will not be able to get all of the audio information that someone else could have and that might lower your accuracy. But that's okay, I mean, you're gonna be doing certainly better by quizzing yourself in this manner. So cool. How I think hopefully people had some chance to play with it a little bit, uh, do play within the breaks and stuff if you haven't had a chance to. Because it's it's a fun tool, it's a weird experience. I mean, this idea of sort of going through sounds and and really having no idea what they are and then slowly kind of picking it up. It feels weird, but it is kind of fun and it's so in your, uh, your beer's getting better, which is a weird thing to get better. I mean, usually you think of I know more things, but I can hear more things. It's, it's, a strange thing. S o it's fun. I mean, I like the whole year training thing. I think it's something that it's worthwhile to try out and see what I see, how you like it and see if you can hear the difference between the shoshone as shit by the end of the day.

Class Description

Speaking a foreign language gives you more sophisticated problem-solving skills, more tools for multitasking and expressing yourself, and opens up more career opportunities – not to mention the ability to more fully immerse yourself in other cultures. But learning a new language can be an unmanageably long endeavor. Join Gabriel Wyner to learn how you can become (and stay) fluent in a new language in months, not years.

Throughout this course, you’ll explore memorization tools, linguistic concepts, and free software that will ensure fluency in the shortest amount of time possible. You’ll learn about the four essential stages of language acquisition: understanding correct pronunciation, building vocabulary and grammar skills, reading and listening effectively, and conversing with native speakers. You’ll also learn about antiquated methods to avoid (such as translating between new and native languages) and cutting-edge new techniques that ensure maximum absorption and retention.

By the end of this course, you’ll have an easy system for learning a new language, retaining, and expressing yourself as quickly as possible.


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.


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!