Synopsis. The TEDx talk “5 techniques to speak any language” is presented by Sid Efromovich, a hyper polyglot from Brazil. He lives in New York now, after few years travelling around the world. Based on his own language learning experience, he counsels 5 tips which will help a learner to master a language in a less stressful and shorter period.
Thesis. The five techniques, proffered by the speaker, will help learn any language in an easy and fun way.
Methods of development. The presenter explicitly ensures the effectiveness of his advice by repeating the statement several times at the beginning. His language is clear, he smiles, acts (“breathe in”) and gesticulates energetically. The speaker jokes, uses lofty expressions throughout his speech, which sometimes fall out off the main context, “If you anything like me…”, “reach heart and soul”, “a journey of thousand miles”. To some extent the presentation is persuasive. The use of some more practical and original tips would have made it compelling.
Deconstruction. The first and the second tips are “to make mistakes” and to “scrap the alphabet” (technique 1, 2). The young man insists that the main obstacles to acquire any language successfully are the fear to say something wrong and reading and spelling confusions. This is hard to disagree with. Although the first problem is psychological and the second could have been explained in few expressions, the speaker spends 7 (!) minutes on phonetic examples to explain how to overcome the impediments. It is left unclear, though, how language reading and speaking anxiety is related to the sound structure.
The third and the fifth (technique 3, 5) “to find the sticker” and “the buddy formula” are similar. The presenter suggests “to stick to someone” and to find someone having “best language in common”, respectively. He recommends, “If you can’t find locally…, try technology, if you can travel, that would be perfect.” He admits that traveling might be difficult, but finding “a buddy” who speaks few languages including the one “best in common” is easy. He himself did it: he is a linguist and works amidst other linguists. These are interesting suggestions, but could not be applicable to everyone. Exploiting technology (software programs, apps, social networks) gives more possibilities than “finding a language buddy” around. Besides, the author should have combined the two similar tips into one.
Another advice is “shower conversation”. This is an allegorical expression, of course. It means having practice whenever and wherever possible. The point is that you don’t need someone to build an imaginary street or market conversation. The listeners probably recognized themselves doing “home alone” language practice, as I did, for example, talking to myself in English while doing the housework. It is a good piece of advice. It is not new, ground breaking, neither it is very different from any other ways of informal language learning.
Did I enjoy the presentation? Yes, I did. Will I use the techniques? Yes, I will. In fact, I have been already using some of them. Are they original? No, they are not. They are generic and ubiquitous. Not “cutting edge”, like the ones we expect from the stage of TED’s “worth spreading”ideas.