African Languages on My Brain: Monkey Brain

GE DIGITAL CAMERAToday I awakened to study my languages with a major case of monkey brain. Monkey brain happens when your thoughts jump from one topic to the next without focus. Morning is peak time for me to learn something new. I concentrate and focus better in the morning. I find that my cluttered mind won’t attach to new words in Amharic.

I own at least 10 books in Amharic. Most of them consist of dull dry memorization. I waste a lot of time on information which fail to meet my needs. I finally see how to write the fidel and find that I am learning sound symbol relationship in Amharic to be frustrated with a book that has over 50% of it’s content to be worthless. My mind keeps jumping to ways that I would improve the book.  I decide that I need to rewrite this workbook and implement my ideas.

I decide to feed my monkey brain and quiet the distraction. I know that this brainless activity of copying should be done when I am tired so that I can optimize my learning. I spend the morning copying parts of the book to make changes to fit my learning needs. Good learning materials facilitate language learning. Developmentally inappropriate materials to learn a language are like using a hammer to chop down a tree.  Eventually you will knock down the tree, but a good chainsaw could have accomplished the job quicker and more efficiently.

I designed seven steps to learning a language . I know what I should be doing and when I should be doing it to maximize language. I just simply need to do it.

The Seven Keys to Learning a Language

  1. Select a program for Adult Learners.
  2. Learn the nouns of the language , hobbies, professional areas of interest, travel words that you will use, monetary system, food, bathroom, etc.
  3. Learn key phrases that you need in introducing yourself and talking about your interests.
  4. Set up a speaking  practice schedule. Respond to family member and friends in the target language. Find a study buddy.
  5. Use whatever tools are comfortable and convenient for you, workbooks, CD’s audios, textbooks, computer programs.
  6. Read items of interest to you in the target languages, books, magazine, newspaper etc.
  7. Don’t allow people who speak the language better to inhibit you in speaking the language with overcorrection.

So, I am stuck on step 1 selecting a program for adult learners which means that I must create my program for adult learners. I want the creative side of my brain to focus on translating words from English to Amharic. I settle for photocopying and reading fidel and listening to Amharic C D’s in the background.  My mind wanders to the entrepreneurial enterprise of publishing an Amharic learning program. I need to learn Amharic before I can write a book about it.

I like  the Semitic script. I like Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese script as well. If I didn’t have to earn a living, I would organize them all in my brain at the same time. I need my frontal lobes to ensure my financial independence which leaves less brain real estate to learn new information.  I struggle with managing my daily work related activities and studying the language.

I listen to the recordings of Amharic while I drive my car and before I go to bed at night. I need to open my mouth and train my upper respiratory system to make the sounds. I need to talk to myself in Amharic or a study buddy who has better things to do with his/her time than to overcorrect.

It amazes me what the brain attaches itself to while learning a language. I wish that my brain would simply memorize words and phrases. I understand why many Ethiopians misspell English words. I think that we don’t enunciate the sounds well enough and they spell them phonetically. Because we see the words so much, we recognize the spelling instantly. I find myself struggling with some of the writings of my Ethiopian friends.  When I try to say them using  several phonetic spellings, I can determine their meaning.  So once I understand the sound symbol relationship, I will have an easier time learning.

I don’t find any language harder or easier to learn than any other language. It depends on what is going on with me. When I need to focus on earning a living or taking care of my health needs, then my acquisition skills suffer. Sometimes life gets in the way and I don’t have the real estate in my frontal lobes to learn something new. I have rote activities that I engage in during this time. I listen  to audiotapes of the language, practice writing the script or simply practice the sounds. These minimalist activities get me over the hump. I accept that I am learning less than when I can apply myself 100%.

It takes time to learn to communicate effectively. Two people speaking the same language often suffer misunderstandings. The cultural differences play a role as frustration due to lack of agreement on spoken words stifle communication.  People in Ethiopia often say  that they are at a location when they are not physically  present. I learned that when people stated they were there, they actually meant that they were on their way. So it is important to stay open to the connotation of the words. The key is to ask lots of questions and listen to the answer.  So today, I move forward with my intention even if I don’t take much action. The Monkey brain has been stilled.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “African Languages on My Brain: Monkey Brain

  1. It is so great to see that you are continuing to pursue learning language, and have found this blog a vessel to share your journey.

    I too have found myself with “monkey brain” with so many commitments and worrying to see all gets done.

    More, I am a “monkey” according to Chinese Astrology, so this post struck my interest to see what you would discuss. I look to this only as entertainment, but sometimes we resemble these fun descriptions, don’t we?

    Thank you for sharing and good luck with your journey!

    ~Keri

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