Zhuangzi, who was born about 2,300 years ago, during the tumultuous Warring States Period of ancient China, probably wrote the first piece of work in history devoted to happiness. This essay, which is called “Supreme Happiness” (Watson, 2003), is now a chapter of the book named Zhuangzi, after the author.
He advised people to learn things the effortless way and not to resist the world around them. This effortless non-resistance help us learn better. Zhuangi’s philosophy was based on effortlessness, called wu wei (无为) in Chinese. Which means when we hope to learn a new language, we should go with the flow. Language learning does require some effort, of course, but we learn best when effort is minimized and pleasure is maximized.
Be surrounded by people and media (eg. Skype with natives if you cannot travel, listen to radio stations, watch tv programs, listen to songs and learn the lyrics) where this language is used. You can travel to this country and if money and time permits, try to communicate with the locals. Start with conveying simple words by going to markets and streets to bargain for purchases. Be amazed by the wide range of words the hawkers and sellers use in their daily life. The locals will be your ‘free’ tutor as they will correct your pronunciations.
Read lots of books, journals, newspapers and magazines in the new language you wish to learn. When you come across the unknown words, note down on a notebook. Look up the meaning and go through the passage again. Do you understand them now? Is it more meaningful now? Does it make sense? If everything goes well, at least now you can read in that language.
Self-test is an essential way to drill the language into your brain. Ask your friend to test you on the words in the books you have read by asking lots of questions. Test how fast you can activate your brain cells to answer the questions. Using flashcards can be one of the options to ‘exercise’ your brain cells. Write each sentence on a card, translate into the target language or vice versa. Vary the options by doing multiple choice or fill in the blanks. It is an effective tool to challenge your memory on the words you have gone through.
4. Be brave
Do not worry about making mistakes in the presence of natives. Be bold to speak in their language. Making mistakes is the only way to learn and improve and eventually grasp the essence of the language.
In summary, do what is easy and comes naturally, do not force yourself to learn new language within the shortest timeframe. You just need more exposure and have a ‘curious’ mind. Set realistic and achievable goals. Eventually, you will learn any new language effortlessly.