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Creating an Environment March 30, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Danish, Motivation, Multiculturalism, Thai.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube link from a language forum. Stuart Jay Raj claims to be able to speak,read, and write in more than 15 languages, and he is still learning new ones. Here is the first of the 5-part series you can found in YouTube.

Stuart seems to adopt the ‘dictionary approach’ to learn languages. He reads dictionaries! Whenever he begins to tackle a new language, he would spend the first week learning 3000-5000 words. This method, of course, will not work for most of us, who do not have photographic memory.

One interesting point Stuart mentioned which is vitally important for him is to create an environment for language learning:

“The issue of ‘environment’ is so important. Many people when learning a language like to make the excuse ‘I don’t have enough time to learn’. But the secret is that we have to create an environment.”

Stuart recalled how he learned Danish when he was 14. He did not know who in his town could speak the language. So he opened a telephone book and looked up those with Danish-sounded lastnames. By plotting the addresses on a map, he was able to locate the Danish community in the suburb. He then took the initiative to blend with that community.

“… I know how to create an environment around me that will teach me. … I know how to create an environment around me that will spark the learning into taking place.”

We might not be able to memorize 3000-5000 words in a week. But surely, we can create an environment to facilitate our language learning. With modern day’s technologies in communication, this has become an easy task. What excuse do we have left for not doing so?



1. Joe - March 30, 2007

Khatzumoto at alljapaneseallthetime.com gives some tips on changing one’s environment to facilitate language learning; his comments refer to Japanese, but I’d think they’d be pretty easy to use with any language: http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/japan-is-wherever-you-are-10-ways-to-turn-your-environment-japanese

2. edwinlaw - March 30, 2007

Joe, thanks for the link. Very interesting. Especially point #8: Food: Japanese only.

3. Joe - March 30, 2007

Some of those tips are more practical than others, but overall the principle is sound: to learn a language as quickly as possible, you should immerse yourself in the language and its culture as much as possible. The ideal, of course, is to live in a place where the language is primary, but today’s world gives a lot of self-immersion options to those of us who can’t.

4. 米蘭 - March 30, 2007

I watched all 5 parts and I think this guy is amazing. Though I reckon the colour association method was a little too unrealistic for the normal person.

When he was saying the Cantonese part, the sub-titles said “You are really ugly”, but he said “you are really beautiful”. I had my wife listen and she said the same.

He even pronounced “X-Factor” in Thai accent. That was really good.

5. Josh - March 31, 2007

I’ve watched three of the videos so far, and I agree, he’s pretty amazing. There is, however, something that I found rather ironic. The guy speaks 15, 20 languages, and counting. In the video, his little list showed that he thought he was a “5” (scale of 1 to 5) in everything when it came to English: reading, writing, speaking. The irony? On his blog, at the very top of the page, is this:

Whether your into Thai, Lao, Cambodian,…

I believe he needs “you’re”, not “your.” 🙂

6. Stuart Jay Raj, speaker 15 or so languages. « Language Geek - March 31, 2007

[…] 2007 · No Comments I read about Stuart Jay Raj the other day at the Tower of Confusion. Here is the original post about the fellow in question, Stuart Jay Raj. Stuart can read, write, and […]

7. simpleblob - August 9, 2007

He doesn’t have photographic memory, but he has a condition called synesthesia which helps him remember a lot of things.

Shereshevskii (S), who was a famous russian mnemonist who can remember everthing he wished, also has a severe form of synesthesia.

8. Learning Vietnamese from Scratch « Tower of Confusion - October 2, 2007

[…] Stuart is tackling a new language again. This time he is learning Vietnamese from scratch. […]

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