Master Many Foreign Languages by Thinking Like an Actor
For those of us who are not polyglot, learning multiple foreign languages seems like a huge intellectual feat. The BBC surveyed people who speak 20 or more languages and found some similarities, including the ability to behave like a cultured chameleon.
The article says that when you learn a new language, you acquire a new identity – the language you speak can stimulate different behaviors depending on related cultural norms (for example, talking and living with pleasure for those learning Italian). If you resist this kind of change, or can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it may be more difficult for you to learn a new language.
Why? It is well known that if you identify with someone, you are more likely to imitate them – a process that will effortlessly improve language learning. But the adopted identity and associated memories can also prevent you from confusing language with your native language – by creating neural barriers between languages. “You have to have some kind of home in your mind for every language, culture and related experience so that languages stay active and don’t mix together,” says [professor of intercultural management Tim] Keely. “It’s not just the amount of time spent learning and using languages. The quality of time in terms of emotional significance is critical. ” Indeed, it might explain why Keely could switch between these 20+ languages so easily.
Thus, to learn more languages well, polyglot and actor Michael Levi Harris recommends mimicry as actors learn to do:
It’s important to try to imitate, he says, without even considering the spelling of the words. “Everyone can listen and repeat,” he says. You may find yourself exaggerating, just as an actor can be slightly exaggerated in his acting from the start – but that’s an important part of the process, he says. “At first you play really well, and then the director says, ‘Okay, now turn it down.’ It’s the same with the language. ” He also suggests taking a close look at things like facial expressions, as they can be critical to sound reproduction. For example, if you speak with slightly pouty lips, you’ll instantly become a little more French.
So when learning a new language, it seems like using different imagery is good for you. Be a Christian bunch of tongues.