Tim Ferriss is known for deconstructing world class performers of all kinds to identify efficient ways of doing everything from exercise, cooking, productivity, and even dancing tango.
It’s no surprise, then, that Ferriss has also tackled the skill of foreign language learning.
In this video, he talks about his method.
The Method: Tim Ferriss uses what he calls the “Deconstruction Dozen” to decode and learn a language quickly.
How It Works:
- He has a native speaker of his target language translate the Deconstruction Dozen—12 pre-determined, simple sentences:1. The apple is red. La manzana es roja.
2. It is John's apple. Es la manzana de Juan.
3. I give John the apple. Le doy la manzana a Juan.
4. We give him the apple. Le damos la manzana.
5. He gives it to John. Él le dio a Juan.
6. She gives it to him. Ella le dio a Juan.
7. Is the apple red? ¿La manzana es roja?
8. The apples are red. Las manzanas son rojas.
9. I must give it to him. Debo dárselo a él.
10. I want to give it to her. Quiero dárselo a ella.
11. I'm going to know tomorrow. Voy a saber mañana.
12. I can't eat the apple. No puedo comer la manzana.
- The sentences do not change. He uses the same 12 sentences as his starting point/cheat sheet for every language that he learns.
- All of these sentences are kept on one page.
- The sentences are used to decode the basic framework of the language (grammar, sentence structure, etc.)
- While studying the target language, this framework is the cheat sheet, guide, and reference point when things become overwhelming.
An entire language condensed into 12 sentences?! Genius, or too good to be true?
Here's my take on it…
There are several wonderful aspects of this theory that any language learner could (and probably should) incorporate into their practice, such as…
- A cheat sheet – Learning language can quickly become overwhelming. Having a one-page cheat sheet to simplify everything and pull you back to dry land when you feel like you are drowning is a must.
- A curriculum – Everyone serious about learning a language beyond basic greetings and phrases needs a plan (curriculum is just a fancy word for plan). These 12 sentences are basically an outline of his plan.
- Simplicity – It’s very easy to overcomplicate things and go down several rabbit holes when learning any language. The intricacies of grammar and linguistics can leave you tongue-tied and making very little progress. A simple plan like this will keep you focused on what matters.
Unfortunately this method may not work for everyone. Here’s why:
- Getting the Right Translation – You can’t just plug the 12 sentences into Google Translate and go from there. (You’ll end up sounding ridiculous, trust me). You need a native speaker of your target language that can give you an accurate translation in order to get started.
- Decoding/Pattern Recognition Skills are a Must – You need to know what you are looking for within the 12 sentences. Tim has a good amount of experience learning languages.
He is not just memorizing these sentences.
He is analyzing them and extracting grammar rules, sentence structure, and the basics of the language.
Most casual language learners would have no idea what to look for, and the purpose of this method will be lost on you if you don’t.
To be fair, the Deconstruction Dozen is only part of Tim Ferriss’ language learning tactics.
If you are looking for a new way to keep everything straight and help you progress faster in language learning, his methods might be worth looking into.
Just keep in mind that there is no magic fix. Language learning takes work. here are also no one-size fits all methods.
As I'm sure Ferriss would agree, you have to experiment to find what works for you.
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¡Hola! My name is Tamara Marie. I'm a language coach specializing in brain-friendly methods to learn foreign languages faster. I speak English (US native), Spanish (advanced), and Brazilian Portuguese (beginner). I'm a Latin music & dance addict and passionate about helping people learn languages.