FLP10: How to Learn Languages by Ear - Interview with Idahosa Ness, Creator of Mimic Method

This guy flipped language learning backwards

Idahosa Ness is the founder of Mimic Method, a language learning program with a twist.

Actually, a flip.

Mimic Method flips the language learning game right around by effectively training your ear from the very beginning.

It's currently available for Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Europe), Russian, and Spanish with more languages coming soon.

Learn by Eye vs Learn by Ear

In this podcast episode, Idahosa explains how most traditional language learning today is focused on learning by eye whereas his method begins from day one with the ear.

He also touches on why so many would-be bilinguals fail in learning a language because of the traditional approach many textbooks and school programs are based on.

Mimic Method students learn the elemental sounds of a language and, in doing so, are able to advance much more quickly conversationally in the long run.

Through learning by ear, students learn to listen and understand even fast speech as well as speak properly so as to be understood.

So what does all this equate to?

You being able to actually communicate with someone and carry a conversation well enough not send them running the other way from boredom or impatience.

In this episode, Idahosa explains how Mimic Method came to be as well as how it works.

Idahosa’s story with language + the roots of Mimic Method

Like most Americans, Idahosa studied Spanish in middle and high school the traditional way: by eye.

But like all the other students in his class, he never got too far with it.

Then he moved to Mexico after finishing high school a semester early...

Quickly after arriving to Mexico, he realized that proper pronunciation made all the difference when it came to being understood. If he spoke with a gringo accent like everyone does in high school Spanish, people either didn’t understand him or lost interest.

But Idahosa had a lot of experience with sound from learning to play the violin. Hours of painstaking ear training. Months of fumbling fingers into position. So he borrowed from his music experience and worked hard to produce the Spanish sounds in such a way that they mimicked the speaker.

Suddenly, the reaction and level of understanding - and as a result communication - was far, far better.

Idahosa then went on to learn Chinese in Beijing and Shanghai, Portuguese in Brazil and German in Germany.

The Eureka Moment

It was on a bus ride one day in Brazil where he was studying drums, Brazilian jiujitsu and Portuguese, that Idahosa had a eureka moment.

He literally ran off the bus in a moment of revelation about how sound is the medium of human communication and that, if he could somehow develop a way to get people to be able to produce the sounds of a foreign language properly (even if they didn’t understand what they were saying!), they they could be understood and also understand others, even when they speak fast!

After subjecting a number of innocent bystanders on the streets of Rio to his then fledgling technique for ten minutes - and successfully getting both Brazilians to pronounce English properly and foreigners to pronounce Brazilian Portuguese properly in a short amount of time - he realized he had a concept for a business.

Why so many potential bilinguals get frustrated and drop the goal

Most language learning approaches today still focus on reading and writing over listening and pronunciation. They focus on making you literate, pumping you up with vocabulary and grammar, but falling completely short in listening and pronunciation.

This causes a lot of issues for learners, perhaps because it’s not at all the way we learn languages naturally as children.

It also means that a student, after studying say Spanish for a couple of years in school, is often still unable to be understood by a native Spanish speaker, unable to understand native speakers and, as a result, unable to communicate.

But communication is the reason for language...

And sound is the basis of human language…

So why are people still unable to communicate after years of school?

Because they never learned by ear, only by eye.

They never developed the three competencies which, Idahosa explains, lead to successful fluency: Capacity, Conversation and Command.

Capacity, Conversation + Command

The first competency is having the Capacity to actually produce the sounds necessary in a target language.

The second competency is Conversation, being able to use the sounds to construct meaningful exchanges, to both understand and be understood.

The third is Command, and this is where things get really powerful because you’re going beyond just being able to pronounce and construct meaning, you’re now using the language effectively and adding variation and depth to your eloquence.

(Listen to the podcast for more depth and explanation on these core competencies.)

Who is the Mimic Method for?

The Mimic Method is for anyone who wants to take a refreshing approach to learning a new language by diving into the very sounds that make the language and, hence, communication possible.

Beginners and intermediate learners alike can benefit from this unique approach.

Advanced learners with significant lingering pronunciation issues will also benefit, as you can quickly isolate which sound are causing you trouble, both in speaking and understanding, and allow you to focus on the few slippery ones that are tripping you up.

It is for people who have tried and struggled to learn a language but never managed to understand and be understood enough to engage in a meaningful conversation.

Sound like you?

What languages are available with Mimic Method?

Mimic Method currently offers the Elemental Sounds Master Class courses for Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Europe), Russian, and Spanish. In these courses, you learn to distinguish and produce correctly all the sounds that make up the language.

Where can I connect with the Mimic Method team?

The best way to connect with Mimic Method on social media is via their Facebook page.

A personal note about why I bought all of Mimic Method’s Elemental Sounds courses

Even though I am fluent in several of the languages Mimic Method offers, I was so intrigued by this approach that I decided to go ahead and jump in for myself.

I won’t say much more here in this podcast write-up, so I will just mention that I am going to be writing more about my personal experience going through the Mimic Method to learn (finally) to properly hear and pronounce Mandarin Chinese.

Check out Mimic Method!

Check out the current available Mimic Method languages:

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Transcription of this episode

If you prefer to read, I've got you covered here (though my fingers are a bit numb from typing it out and my head is still in slow motion from listening to it slow enough for me to type!). Just keep in mind it's a transcription and doesn't always read well. Please consider listening as so many nuances come through in the recording that cannot be transcribed. That said, here you go!

Chapman: Alright, cool, I am really happy here, to be here today with Idahosa Ness, and I hope I’ve said his name right, how’s it going there today?

Idahosa: Going great, how you doing, man?

Chapman: Doing great, I am really excited about this, I’ve been watching what you guys have been up to over there for a while online, kind of quietly in the corner, and am really excited to connect here and I guess I just wanted to, obviously, thank you for your time, and also see if we could start out kind of a bit with your own personal story with languages and how you got into it and, how’d that all kind of come about?

Idahosa: Sure, yeah, so, first language I learned was Spanish and like a lot of people I took Spanish in middle school and high school as an obligatory language course and I don’t remember being particularly good at it or interested in it at the time, but an opportunity came for me to go to Mexico when I was seventeen. I wan actually able to graduate high school early and go to Mexico for 4-5 months, and it’s where I learned my first (foreign) language, Spanish.

From there I went to university, and decided to learn Chinese, my brother was already living in China at the time. Then after learning Chinese, I studied abroad in Beijing and Shanghai, learned Chinese there. Graduated university, and became obsessed with Brazil and I decided that I could not end this life of mine before going to experience what this Brazilian mystery was. So I made it my sole focus my senior year just to work and save money and then went to Brazil, that’s how I learned Portuguese.

It’s also the time I came up with the Mimic Method and that whole teaching and learning philosophy, and then from there I went to Montreal to learn French and then the most recent language I learned was German which I learned last year, well actually I guess a year and a half ago now, 2015 in Germany.

So that’s the languages I know and the order I learned it.

Chapman: And you said that some of the stuff you were doing down in Brazil led to the Mimic Method and I saw on the website that you are a musician and you were doing some music related stuff there with rhythms and realized there was a connection here, I’d just love to dive in a bit here on the details on how that came out.

Idahosa: Ok sure, so prior to Brazil I had already learned Spanish and Chinese like I said, and I had a bit of a knack for language, where compared to my classmates, I was learning much faster. It was always very clear to me that the reason for it was that I always placed a lot of emphasis and attention on pronunciation.

So when I first got to Mexico, prior to that I was like all the other American kids learning Spanish and I didn’t want to be too much of a nerd in class when you speak, like “Yo quiero comer más tacos” (Mexican accent) or you know with a really hardcore accent, you know it was like, “Johnny, can you read this sentence?” and it’s like “Yo quiero comer más tacos” (hardcore gringo accent) you know and you just do the hardcore American accent and that’s it.

But then I got to Mexico and I realized that when you talk that way, even though you might look silly in Spanish class when you speak with an authentic accent, in Mexico if I speak with a gringo accent, then I look silly, so if I spoke like a Mexican however, people would respond to me better and more importantly, I had an intuition that if I did that, I’d learn faster, I’d get deeper into the language, and that’s what happened!

Then when I got to China, similar thing, Chinese a lot of people know is a tonal language, and when I first started learning it at university, I put a lot of emphasis on the pronunciation, getting the tones right, and same deal, I was able to learn quickly while my classmates were really struggling with Chinese tones and had a hard time being understood because of their tones.

So I had always been thinking, I’m like, hmmmm, what is this pronunciation thing that people are struggling with, why does it come a bit easier to me? I had a suspicious that it has to do with the fact that I learned the violin my whole life and spent a significant portion of my days listening to music and training it. Then when I learned Portuguese in Brazil - I went to Brazil to learn three things basically: Portuguese, Brazilian music and Brazilian jiujitsu. Basically, the combination of those three things I was learning kind of synthesized one day and I realized that a) the biggest thing holding people back in having conversational fluency in the language is not being able to hear and pronounce the sounds in the target language and b) you can train and teach someone how to hear and how to pronounce the same way you can teach someone to play drums, violin, guitar or piano because at the end of the day all you’re doing is coordinating movement with sound.

In the case of music those movements are your hands on the instrument or your feet if you’re dancing with the sound of the music. In the case of language you’re just coordinating, you know, your tongue and lips and your throat and all these different movements in your speech organ, that’s your instrument for speed, coordinating that with the music of speech, the sounds of language.

Right, so, when I realized that, I started experimenting with making different kind of techniques and things to teach people and then I had the eureka moment when I was like “Oh my God!” and I had all my violin practice and teaching and all coalesced in my brain and was going nuts and I was on a bus at the time and ran off the bus and started feverishly scrubbing notes on a notepad like a madman in my apartment and then I rushed out in to the street and I started grabbing random people in the street and I’m like “Hey, listen, I know I’m crazy but try this out”. And what I was doing was, the theory was if I can teach someone how to say a sentence or a song lyric without them knowing what it means but just teach them the syllables as if they were music notes, right, because if they can hit each individual syllable and then string them together into like rhythm, then they are effectively saying the speech with a perfect accent.

So I get Brazilians and I get foreigners, for English and Portuguese respectively, and do that and after like ten minutes of this exercise I was doing, I got these people to be speaking in a really solid accent in both languages. So I was super excited and eventually that experience I did out in the street, I digitized it and put it up online as online courses and that’s how I started a business.

Chapman: Awesome, awesome! And I see, just to dive in a bit more about this as well, it’s apparent on the website, too, that kind of these methods that traditionally people learn language by eye and what you are doing is teaching language by ear which of course makes so much sense when you think about it, like you say the speech organ, our hearing, I mean, language is, at least the spoken language, it about people and about communicating with people and like you also say that you don’t learn languages, you learn people which I think is a really interesting point, Would you mind talking a bit about, kind of like, the difference between the eye kind of learning and the ear, and what draws you towards the second?

Idahosa: Yeah, sure, so like we said, traditionally, adults are taught language by eye. What that means is, what do you do on your first day of Spanish class, you sit down and they teach vocabulary and grammar and they say, “Okay, this is the world Hola, spelled h-o-l-a” and then you looking there like, “Why is it no hoe-la”, they say “Oh, the ‘h’ is silent in Spanish” and boom, on day one you’re just learning these kinda arbitrary written rules, and you’re learning reading and writing simultaneously with understanding and meaning, right?

That’s the traditional way, however, the natural way if you think about it, go find the two-year-old and see if he’s learning how to spell “Hola” or conjugating verbs or whatever. That’s not what they’re doing. Children, they just listen, all they have to go on is their ear, they can’t read yet. We all achieved a certain level of conversational fluency before we are literate. Language is naturally learned by ear, what we’re doing right now is conversation, the only things involved right now is my ears listening to what you’re saying and my ears making sense of the sounds you’re making, and my mouth encoding my own ideas, thought, emotions into sound, right?

So there’s only those two things. Human conversation, that’s the oldest technology in our civilization, you know, and we’re have that for I don’t know how long, 50,000 years or whatever, whenever our brains evolved that capacity, but writing is only about 4,000 years old, right. This is secondary to conversation, however, when people learn a language, you say “I’m doing to learn Spanish, the language” then they’re thinking "I am going to learn how to read and write and speak and understand” and that’s fine, however, when you try to do it simultaneously a lot of problems happen.

So that’s what I call the Learn by Eye Method.

The Learn by Ear Method, the same one we all did when we learned our first language, this one you’re training your ability to lock onto the sounds, developing your ear to hear the nuances and the different consonants and vowels, how they differ, listing to the intonation, the rhythmic patterns, and then pronunciation, how do you train your tongue and everything else to have the motor memory and the muscle coordination to create these sounds with ease the same way you do in your first language.

Once you develop both of those skills, which you can do - that’s what we do in our program - then you eventually have the ability to mimic, when you go to somebody, well, I’ll tell you this way, most people who learn by eye and the most common situation is to go someplace and say “How do you say this thing here”, the person is like, “This is biblioteca” and they went, oh wait, can I see that written down? How do you spell that?

And then you need to have the kinda visual aid, and then people have this misconception like, oh it’s because I am a visual learner and visual learning is kind of a different concept, it’s being able to see spatial relationships between things, you know we try to incorporate that into our program for teaching pronunciation and showing diagrams. It doesn’t mean that you have to have written language and so, “I need to see this written down” inhibits your ability to learn new words and vocabulary and expressions naturally through conversation.

But it’s not that you’re a visual learners or you’re not not an auditory learner, it’s just that you haven’t trained the specific skillset of hearing sounds in that specific language. It’s a very specific skillset which we all develop naturally just by exposure and whatnot, but if you train it specifically, it can be much faster and you do have that ability to mimic and you do go the conversation and the person says “biblioteca” and then you’re like “biblioteca”, you can mimic it and then integrate it into your own vocabulary, into your own speech, and it’s a much faster process for achieving conversational fluency, which is what we’re all about.

Chapman: Okay... I’ve just kind of popped off in my head as you were saying that at the end there, is there a kind of audio flashcard type of thing in the sense of this kind of ability to have a way of studying those things in sequence, just kinda throwing it out there, just rapping off the top of my head, versus just a traditional seeing and you see the flashcard and as you say the many pitfalls of the lexicon, orthography, just kind of pitching out the idea of an audio flashcard system. From experiencing your method, there is a lot of really sequenced sound patterns people learn to say, maybe I could ask a question related to that and perhaps in answering that it may cover something like that, how would you approach somebody who was absolutely zero Spanish versus someone who already has a bit of a feel, their pronunciation is not very good, they are kinda nervous and things like that, how would you approach those kind of two different situations in the sense of what materials to present them?

Idahosa: Yeah, so, we actually approach all situations the same which is the very first thing you do in our program is you learn the elemental sounds of the target language. So say, Spanish for example, there’s 39 elemental sounds where elemental sounds is everything you’ll ever hear a Spanish person from any region of Spain or Latin America say, you can break down into some combination of these 39 sounds.

Therefore, if you struggle to hear or pronounce Spanish, people are speaking really quickly and you can’t make out the words, or you’re stuttering and mumbling over your own words, then you usually boil that down to some handful, you know, half a dozen sounds, that are particularly trippy or difficult for you.

So if you’re an intermediate and you’re like “Oh, I’ve been learning Spanish for years but I can’t understand people when they talk fast” or like “I can’t really get it out there, my accent, I don’t like it” etc etc, then you need to pinpoint what that is, it’s not just a broad amorphous thing, there are actually specific sounds that contribute to that problem.

And then if you’re a beginner, it’s the same thing. Before you can really get into the language or you want to avoid all the pitfalls that everyone else is experiencing, same thing, there’s 39 sounds, the majority of which you will have an easy time with because they exit in English and other languages, but you want to go through and do an audit and find out what those sounds are.

That’s the first entry level product, we actually launched this course at the end of last year [2016] and now we’ve had people using it and we’ve made it really good now and we will release it soon, probably by the time this podcast goes out.

But that’s Step 1 for everybody, to find out what the elemental sounds are. Then from then, the other program we do is our Flow Series programs. What we do for that is, being able to pronounce the sounds visually is only half the sounds because then you have to combine them with the speech, rhythm, intonation, speed, all these things. So that’s what the second course focuses on. We take songs, break them down syllable by syllable, you can see a native speaker articulating each syllable, like see her mouth as she does it.

So it’s very excellent for visual learners are you can see it. Then you build it up syllable by syllable through this musical process, like groups of four then groups of eight, and you build up your speed.

And the final product of that is you have these songs you can sing and even rap with the perfect accent. And then each time you do that, you are training your mouth, training the physicality of your mouth, to go out there and speak the language. You're training your ears to go out and hear the language fast.

So we don’t do any grammar or vocabulary in our courses cause, you know, you can find that anywhere. What we focus on is that part that no-one else focuses on which is “How does this sound” and “How do you train your mouth, your brain, your ear, to tap into the sound and tune into the flow”.

So whether you’re a beginner or advanced, really what we are doing is just kinda that ground level fundamental work and like, thinking about it like a yoga course or like a fundamental stretching and physical fitness course, and where you’ve been playing basketball for years or you’re just starting out, you need to have that core foundation of minimally flexible arms and legs and muscles. And that’s what we’re doing.

If you’re a basketball player and you do that, all of a sudden you can jump higher, you can run faster and stuff, or if you’re a brand new person getting into fitness, now you don’t have that uphill battle of injuries and getting cramps and stuff like that. You too, so, we’re really focused on fundamentals here.

Chapman: That’s a brilliant analogy and it’s amazing how many people are completely fluent, so to speak, in the sense of can speak a language, but absolutely still just abysmal with the pronunciation. So what you’re saying is anybody from zero to I’ve-been-speaking-English-for-years-with-an-accent, they’re all going to be able to benefit from this.

Idahosa: That’s correct.

Chapman: That’s really cool. I want to kind of get into a bit if the technical stuff for the people that love that, the concepts there of Capacity, Conversation and Command. Would you mind elaborating on these a bit and kind of how they work into the method there?

Idahosa: Yeah, so, we take a top-level view on this stuff and basically language breaks down into three categories and each one has input and output. So for, say you have reading and writing, for example, reading being your input and writing being your output. And then in conversation you have understanding and speaking. And then there’s hearing and pronunciation.

Traditionally in the Learn by Eye Method, you learn in that order, right? First you learn literacy, most people learning foreign languages for several years, they become literate enough and they can read and write, read newspapers, send emails.

And then once you can read they’re like, “Okay, now you should go into conversation” and then you practice understanding, practice speaking, and that’s when people run into all their problems and issues and they get stuck, they can’t understand people when they talk fast, when they speak it’s very difficult for them confidence-wise.

And then they’re like, oh and by the way, if you want to learn pronunciation, you know a little extra bonus credit, cherry on top at the end, but only after you’re already fluent in conversation.

So that’s the traditional way of thinking about it, however, we flip it. And once again, I don’t want to take credit for this because this is what all babies are doing right now. You look at a baby babbling and they’re like “Blah blah babble”, they’re basically doing Mimic Method, they’re doing our courses, they’re developing their mouth to hear and pronounce because then, one they can hear and pronounce, they can mimic. And then through mimicry, they do understanding.

We do hearing and pronunciation first, then understanding and speaking, then reading and writing at the very end after you’re already conversationally kind of fluent because what reading and writing does is it increases your eloquence. The way I speak English, for example, is a factor of me becoming fluent in conversation when I was like six or five, but then I got into school and started reading all these books and that’s how I use all the big, fancy words. So if you want to get to that level, do it, but do it in the right order.

So those three things, we give the names:

Capacity, hearing and pronunciation, doing the physical raw capacity to make the language.

Then understanding and speaking, Conversation.

Then once you can have a conversation and connect with somebody, the third one is Command.

That’s where you actually get that higher level of ability in the language.

So Capacity is Stage 1, then Conversation is Stage 2 and Command is Stage 3.

Chapman: Cool, I really love that breakdown, it’s really simple. It’s on the website there laid out beautifully too, so if you want more information go there.

Let’s see, regarding time and investment of time, what would you say would be kind of an optimal that a student would spend with the Mimic Method material in order to, you know, starting from the beginning and, like, perhaps, an amount of time a day and over how many months or whatnot would a course go and what would a student expect to get in that time?

Idahosa: It all kinda depends on the student and their background and, you know, how many sounds they struggle with. But we’ll just stay with the entry level course, the Elemental Sounds Mastery Class, that is a video-heavy course and you’re just watching and learning these basic phonetics, so it might be a little bit of a learning curve to get into it but usually what I see is an hour a day, and the reason for it is that it’s a form of mental fitness and like working out, you can’t just do it continually, your brain eventually hits a wall, especially in our Flow programs where we’re doing these musical things. Even me, personally, after about an hour, cause it’s very intense mental focus, you’re like rewiring your brain circuitry here, so I get lots of emails from people who don’t believe me when I say that and they try to, like, “I’m gonna do it for two hours a day” and all of a sudden they’re like banging their head on the ceiling. And yeah, that’s what I recommend, between 30 and 60 minutes a day and it really is a fascinating process, you know a lot of people, especially when we’re adults, we’ve learning things when we’re kids and we don’t learn any like, hard skills, anymore, we might learn knowledge and acquire, like, this is a book I read or this is a skillset. But like in dance, in physical movement, if you’re gonna learn a martial art or dance or musical instrument, you know the first time you do it is super awkward, like your fingers are not working, your feet are stumbling, and you’re like “There’s no possible way I’m ever going to be able to do this”.

And then most people give up, but some of us will stick with it for a week and it seems frustrating and then one day you wake up and then you can just do it and it’s super easy, and you’re like “What happened?!”.

What happened was, your brain doesn’t actually do the learning and forming until you go to sleep. So a lot of people that do the, I get this all the time, they'll do a lesson, they’re like “I’ve been doing this for an hour and I got stuck and it’s so frustrating and blah blah blah, so I finally stopped and I went to sleep, woke up the next day, tried it again and it was super easy!”

It’s a very intense mental process that you can’t do longer than an hour, in my experience. Honestly, on average, about 45 minutes. But, if you do 45 minutes of the Elemental Sounds course, an hour a day, you can get through that course pretty quickly it’s mostly just information that will make more sense to you as you go into the second course. But the second course, you do that about 45 to 60 minutes a day, and you’ll be done in six weeks but we designed it in such a way that’s it’s amenable to people’s busy schedules. So you can come in, do the recordings, oh by the way, so in that course, you have to record yourself, submit it, and then our staff tells you what sounds you are mispronouncing and what you need to do with your mouth to fix your pronunciation. So it’s very personalized and hands-on.

Whenever you do it, you get your recordings back in 24 hours and that course people do fastest in like six, seven weeks, but on average it’d take about three months. But there’s always going on in the background, while you’re learning the language or living in the country, or doing another program for developing your vocabulary and grammar, you’ll just find this, say the analogy of the fitness stuff, you’re practicing basketball every day, and you’re doing 30 minutes of stretching and everything in the morning and that improves your game as you go along.

Chapman: Exactly, exactly. Cool, so it’s definitely fittable into a schedule of people that have other things going on. 45 minutes to an hour, it’s doable if they are really committed.

And yeah, indeed, the learning, I agree, sleep is a huge part of it and thank goodness, too, cause you know (laughs), we get to sleep and have something be done.

Idahosa: Yeah!

Chapman: I know living in Czech here, it’s you know, some days are just a full on barrage of Czech and I mean, my Czech is conversational but, that still takes it’s toll after a while and I kinda have to go, “Okay, I’m going back to the farm now and gonna shut myself away and let things absorb a bit" and, like you say, the next day, somehow, it starts to come out easier.

In the last podcast I interviewed the man who started the Glossika program and he’s also very big on the same, on actually sleep being one of the most important parts of learning.

Idahosa: Yeah, sure.

Chapman: So, could you tell us what languages are currently available?

Idahosa: Sure, currently I have Elemental Sounds courses for Spanish, French, German and Portuguese and then we have the Flow Series courses for training with music and stuff like that for those four languages plus English and Chinese.

Chapman: Okay, cool, cool.

Idahosa: Mandarin Chinese.

Chapman: Right, right. I am curious to see what, just a bit of information or any stories or anything you have about kind of how the actual learners themselves have contributed back to the Mimic Method and what you’ve kind of taken from the experience of giving these people courses and letting them fuse them. What have you learned out of it and how has it developed in response to users themselves.

Idahosa: So actually, this Elemental Sounds course, originally we just only had the Flow Series course, and at the beginning of that we have a quick kind of primer on the basics of phonetics and sound to get people into the program and training. And the reason was, my thinking was that people don’t want to learn all this phonetic stuff, that’s my expertise, I’ll bear that cross or whatever you want and I’ll just make accessible and fun. But then I kept getting feedback from people, we’d explain these concepts and they’d be like, “Oh can you talk about that more, I’d really like to hear”.

And I was impressed by how many people like to nerd out on these phonetic things, so that’s when I realized and that’s how I made the Elemental Sounds course because it gave more context to each sound and stuff like that. It’s basically videos of me going in-depth on each sound, like every sound in Spanish - all 39 - explaining, you know, do you make it with your tongue, here’s a diagram, compare it here’s a vowel height, here’s how sounds work in language in general. And then just hearing people’s comments and the feedback and stuff and they love it.

So now I’m starting to go more towards, based on this user feedback, helping people nerd out on this phonetics, it’s actually pretty cool stuff. You think about it, you speak the language you speak, English or whatever your first language is, no-one knows what’s going on in their mouth, it’s this big mystery to them, and it shouldn’t be because it’s all there for you to learn.

But people just have this kind of bias or prejudice that like, “Oh, phonetics that sounds like it’s super complicated but it’s not, like after the first lesson a lot of it just makes sense. And then once you know it in a theoretical context, then that allows you to kinda troubleshoot problems on your own. So you’ll come to a language, a new language, and be like, “Oh, this is a voiceless palatal fricative, I guess that’s very similar to the Portuguese one I learned before which is a voiceless velar fricative which means my tongue should probably move”.

So now I am hearing people starting to like reverse engineer their own pronunciation and stuff like that, it’s pretty cool. So now I am making a lot more videos, we’re doing a Facebook Live video every day and this kind of presenting more these phonetic concepts and that’s probably the biggest thing I got from interacting directly with students.

Chapman: Cool, cool. I’d like to give you a chance to share where people can best hook up with you guys, social networks and all that kind of stuff. Is Mimic Method on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram?

Idahosa: I’d say the best place to go is facebook.com/mimicmethod and like our page and check out our videos. I am doing a live video everyday for 30 days, I am like a week into it now, and I am liking it so much I will probably just continue doing it. So, I’ll just talk, we’ll do AMAs, people will come on and ask questions live or I’ll do random little lessons on pronunciation. I have one that’s doing pretty well right now on how to roll your Rs. Occasionally, I’ll do a freestyle rap video on there and people enjoy that, I’ll freestyle in different languages. So yeah, check out the Mimic Method page and follow us for the best social media.

Otherwise, you can check our blog our at mimicmethod.com/blog

Chapman: Cool, all of this will be in the show notes as well. Any parting advice for advice for language learners, aspiring language learners out there?

Idahosa: Yeah, you mentioned it before and I didn’t get into it, I always tell people “Stop learning languages and start learning people”. Language is merely a tool for us to connect with our fellow human beings, that’s why we place so much emphasis on sound because you connect with people through sound and depending on the sounds you make you can get deeper connections, find out more about that person’s culture, their background. If you focus on that human, that emotional element, you’ll be much more motivated and successful.

So don’t get caught up in all the hype about conjugations and prepositions, just focus on understanding and being understood, empathizing and all those basic human qualities and you’ll get way further than you would digging your nose in a grammar textbook.

Chapman: Awesome, awesome! Thanks so much, appreciate your time, Idahosa. I look forward to maybe checking in a bit down the road and seeing how things are going.

Idahosa: Thanks for having me on.

Chapman: Cool, much appreciated!

Find out more about Mimic Method for Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Europe), Russian, and Spanish (more languages in the works).