Go with the flow – language learning in chunks
I had quite a strange dream this morning, part of which involved being made to write my signature in a jellylike substance with a knife (I have no idea why – new technology?). This was difficult and unwieldy and led to something that didn’t match what I had on my ID at all. I have one of those signatures that no longer looks anything like my name, and often when I’m stopped in the middle of it (someone interrupts me, or my pen stops working), I have no idea what the next part is. The action has become fluid and unconscious, and now, when I think about it too hard, I don’t know what all the pieces are any more.
This is the kind of thing we should be aiming for in language learning. Of course, learning vocabulary is a key area to focus on, but when you want to communicate with others, learn whole sentences or meaningful phrases as one single ‘chunk’. Practice listening to and saying whole sentences, and you will begin to get the feel for how the language flows, and native speakers will be able to understand you much more easily.
Especially in tonal languages (e.g. Thai, Chinese), if you say a few syllables slowly, it will take a long time for people to put them together, even if you got all the tones correct. A lot of meaning is gained from the combination of sounds, rather than the individual sounds, so learning phrases will get your point across much easier than knowing how to put the individual words together (if – you – get – my – meaning).
If you get used to the sound and structure of whole sentences, it will be much easier for you to then substitute the nouns and verbs and use the same sentence patterns in many different conversations.