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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Following 129 hours with Boris Shekhtman.

About one year ago I began to study Russian with Boris Shekhtman. To date I have spent a total of 129 hours one on one with him learning according to his method. When I began I knew next to no Russian. I had previously spent a semester at the University of Wisconsin studying the language in 1967 but upon beginning my studies in June, 2010 with Mr. Shekhtman remembered only a few words from my previous studies.

This Saturday, at 11 am, three days from now, I shall be one of three of Boris Shekhtman's Russian-language students who will speak, without notes, before an audience of native Russian speakers. He routinely has his students have such contact with native-speakers as part of their training. Before I speak two other students, one who works for the US government and the other who works as a journalist for a well-known American newspaper, will speak.

After they are done I will talk for 15 minutes at which point Mr. Shekhtman has promised that he will cut me off.

I like to talk....in any language.

Then I shall answer questions from the audience for ten more minutes.

Mr. Shekhtman has also assigned me to interview and report on several people who will be present. I am to mix with them during the buffet luncheon and obtain information on their lives, interests, and opinions regarding various topics.

None of them will be aware that they are being studied. He will not know whom I select until I present my reports at our following lesson.

He will also monitor my chit chat with the other guests.

Today he told me that he has located a woman, a Russian who cannot speak even five words of English, who I will be spending three hours with as a guide in the next month. She has never spent any time visiting Washington, DC. So it will be my job to take her around, explain the sites, and then share a meal with her.

The way Mr. Shekhtman has taught me Russian has given me a new vision of how students may quickly and effortlessly learn to communicate on a very high level in any language.

I am still amazed that after 129 hours I am able to do what I am doing.

It works.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Luca, an inspiring Italian polyglot.

There are many resources on the net that focus on learning foreign languages.

However, I have not found most of them too helpful when it comes to getting really consistently good results.

So it was nice to discover the work of Luca, an Italian polyglot featured on youtube.

Luca puts out his own videos describing his approach and also is interviewed by Richard, a British polyglot, in the following video which, if you are interested in Luca's approach, I highly recommend to you.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn2Uhq1wP6c



Essentially, he uses an approach which I have long found really helpful.

It comes down to having material in your native language or a language that you know quite well as well as really colloquial material in the target language that was composed by a native-speaker.

One then translates the material from, say, English ( my native language) into the target language.

After you have done this, compare your translation with that of the original target language text. Take note of anything that you have done differently.

While there is a lot of room for correct expression of the same idea in the target language, you will find that by rigorously following the colloquial piece you have, you will begin to get the way native speakers express themselves. With time you will note various ways of doing this.

One of the most challenging aspects of learning a language is to really begin to express yourself exactly as a native-speaker would.

This is very exciting once you get it.

And this approach will definitely enable you to do this in a way that will astound native-speakers.

What I have just described is only a part of what Luca says he does. However, it is a part that I have found particularly helpful

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Michel Thomas reportedly teaching from beyond the grave.

Hodder and Arnold, the publisher of the Michel Thomas language courses, has just announced that Michel Thomas personally trained and approved every teacher of each course issued following his demise.


This amazing announcement is to be found in an FAQ section issued by the publisher. Here is the quote:

"Why doesn't Michel Thomas teach on all the Michel Thomas Method courses?
Although Michel Thomas was a very talented linguist, he was not fluent in every language. In the courses not taught by Michel Thomas, he trained and approved every teacher."


http://www.michelthomas.co.uk/faq.php


Since I spent ten years being trained by Mr. Thomas in his methodology and he died in January, 2005, I know that he didn't train anyone else. He was so paranoid about people ( ex. Paul Noble, in my opinion) stealing his work that he didn't even want to issue the CDs ( then cassettes)out of concern that others would analyze and copy the method.

I would love to learn how he trained so many people whom he never met during his lifetime.

This would be an even more amazing feat than his pedagogical accomplishments.

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