Book stands learning theory on its ear

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 2006, 12:00am

Anyone can learn a new language - at any age - once they rediscover their natural ability, according to a new book by a Hong Kong leadership coach.

Chris Lonsdale draws on more than 20 years' experience of learning and speaking Putonghua and Cantonese in Hong Kong and the mainland in The Third Ear, recently published by Third Ear Books, a division of Chris Lonsdale and Associates.

The book challenges the theory that children are most receptive to second-language learning and adults cannot learn a new language as readily.

Mr Lonsdale argues that adults who fail to learn a new language often stall because of a mistaken belief that it is too hard to learn or that learning will happen 'magically' without any effort on their part.

Written in the style of a self-help pop psychology book, The Third Ear presents a range of theories, strategies and techniques to help people succeed in their efforts to master a new language. Making a comparison with Monty Roberts, a 'horse whisperer' who claims to be able to communicate with horses, Mr Lonsdale exhorts learners to rely on their 'third ear', a combination 'of your body language sense and your intuitive sense about the exchange of meaning'.

The learner had to decide if he or she really wanted to learn the language - and make it at least their first, second or third priority in life - as well as learn to focus on and manipulate spoken words or units of language, for which Mr Lonsdale coins the term 'audibol'.

Other tips given in the book include: set your language goals very high, put yourself in situations where you have to learn, join a 'speech community' of native speakers, find any excuse to practise the language and control your own learning.

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