I remember a taxi driver who picked me up at 3a.m. after a long day at Mediacorp. He started off with the usual “Miss are you working at Mediacorp?” line that usually sets the silent alarm off. However, since I was in good spirits at the time, I decided to entertain his attempt at banter and discovered him to be a real gem. You know, those gems of experience that you carry with you for a very long time…mental gems you refer to over and over again when silly thought overtake you.
His name was Andre and he was an elderly gentleman (and I use the term gentleman in every sense of the word) with hair as white as coconut santan and he spoke French, German, Spanish and even Finnish if I remember correctly. His fervour and passion to share the joy of speaking different languages to me was akin to a little sapphire that I tucked away in a little pocket of my mind. He also said that being able to speak languages it being able to decode Babel…unlocking the tools of communication between people. In a sense, a foreign language was more important than many other trades.
So in the spirit of self-help and also sharing what information I have gathered, here are some useful tips as to how you can pick up a new language without having to be bogged down by horrid books and lessons.
Ye Olde Taxi Uncle Scam
I’m trying to learn Mandarin and to be honest, after about 3 beers I find myself quite confident in trying out my Beijing accented Mandarin on the various Zhung Guo Peng Yio out there. However, if I have to take a cab, I sneakily read my little Mandarin phrase book aloud and watch the Taxi uncle get agitated. As taxi uncles go, (with the exception of Andre) they are an impatient horde and can’t stand it when an injustice is being commited to their beloved language by an Induo-Ren.
And so, they start teaching me how to pronounce phrases correctly. It gives their battered egos a boost and also shaves off those pesky 30 cents charges on my meter when I pay by NETS.
Ye Olde Library
Yes, the Library. Since the time of Aristotle, the library has been the fount of wisdom. Cultures and religions have suffered when their great libraries were burnt and destroyed. Likewise, the Library is a great free resource of various books to “absorb” the new language. I’m not sure about the CD’s that come with it. Perhaps someone who has borrowed CD’s from the library can illuminate me. However the Library has great resources that allow you to interchange your learning formats instead of sticking to one boring old phrase-book. Only one problem though. If you are like me, you decide to learn Mandarin in one week, get burned out and leave the books there to languish and build a steady library fine.
Ye Oldest Trick in the Book- Sexual Attraction
I was walking around Popular Bookstore in Marine Parade, trying to find a toilet (I know it sounds ridiculous) and I chanced upon this lovely series of books. Open it up and you discover how to “git sum” while travelling to your country of choice by speaking the language. Expect to hear all the deal closers like “I love you, I love your smile, you have nice eyes” etc…etc…etc…Even the careless whispers of sweet nothings can be spiced up when you know how to “parlez vous fraincaise” (pardon my french). There are even handy lines to deal with the delicate issue of breaking off the romantic dalliance. LOVE this product!
Ye Tried and Tested Language Class.
I am still in the midst of researching this particular method of language learning. It could be because I don’t want to end up in some backwater somewhere repeating lines that I don’t understand and really wishing I didn’t pay $250 up front. STAY TUNED.
Ye Business Immersion.
The moment I saw this I thought, here’s a fantastic idea that is languishing in the background. Everyone should know about this great concept. You need a bit of Basic Mandarin first to suss this out, but imagine. A Business immersion trip to Shanghai in the relevant field of your business. You meet the right contacts, you network and you practice the language. It’s a full on few days of really stretching yourself and maximizing your time. Unfortunately my Mandarin is not that “chai” yet so I’m waiting for next year.
Here is the webby for your perusal.