My language learning method revolves around music. And I love it. In fact, I created it this way to make sure I enjoy the process of absorbing a new language. I love singing, and music makes your target language sticky.
But I don’t think my method is perfect. I don’t think it’s the best (or is it?!). And I don’t think it’s the only one really working.
I use it because I enjoy it, and because it’s efficient. I can’t learn and review endless lists of vocabulary, or go through boring flashcards. I have done it in the past, and it’s no fun for me.
I believe any efficient method needs to include two critical components, however you decide to approach your language absorption process. And these two components are audio and repetition.
Unless you want to become a linguist or study the Bible in your target language, you will end up communicating with people. You have to train your ear and your mouth. Thus the need for audio material. Maybe someday we will find out how to wire our neurons in a way that make us absorb a new language in a matter of minutes. But for now, audio is the best approach we have.
I have nothing against written materials. Actually, I even use some. When I start absorbing a new language, I read lyrics to follow and understand a song. When you’re starting out, you haven’t developed your ear yet. So every dialogue and song seem to be so fast. But the goal is communication. Lyrics are just crutches. You rely heavily on them at the beginning. And little by little, as you’re absorbing more and more, you spend less time reading lyrics.
Your ear is like a broken leg. You have to teach it how to hear/walk again. Scientific studies have shown that babies can understand/recognize any sound produced by a human being. However, they lose this ability as they grow up. An American baby loses her ability to hear Chinese tons because she has no exposition to a tonal language while growing up. But it’s there, somewhere in the brain. What you’re doing, when you’re learning a foreign language, is reshaping your brain and your lost neuronal connexions.
Also, texts aren’t always your friend. They will betray you. Consider these two words: Height and weight. Very similar words, but the pronunciation is different. And you wouldn’t know that just by reading these two words. You need to hear them. Hence: Audio 1, text 0.
Then repetition. Simply put: You don’t become The Rock just by doing 100 push-ups one day. You have to do it over, and over, and over again. When you absorb new content, review it everyday. Once you get used to it, review it every other day. Then once a week. And so on. It’s not because you see a word once that you will remember it forever.
Actually, the complete opposite is more likely to happen. You will see a word once, forget it, see it again, forget it again, see it another time, then it starts to stick, but not quite actually, then you see this word again, ah this time you seem to remember it, and next time you see it you reinforce your memory of the word. Voilà.
Audio + Repetition =