Have you ever held a question in mind for so long that it becomes part of how you think?
Maybe even part of who you are as a person?
Well I’ve had a question in my mind for many, many years and that is: how can you speed up learning?
Now, this is an interesting question because if you speed up learning you can spend less time at school。
And if you learn really fast, you probably wouldn’t have to go to school at all.
Now, when I was young, school was sort of okay but I found quite often that school got in the way of learning so I had this question in mind: how do you learn faster?
And this began when I was very, very young. When I was about eleven years old I wrote a letter to researchers in the Soviet Union, asking about hypnopaedia, this is sleep learning, where you get a tape recorder, you put it beside your bed and it turns on in the middle of the night when you’re sleeping, and you’re supposed to be learning from this.
(这个想法)在我很小时候已经开始了，大约我11岁的时候，我给前苏联的研究者写了一封关于睡眠学习的信， 所谓“睡觉学习”，就是拿一个磁带录音机放在你床边， 等你入眠后机器开始播放磁带，(然后)目的是通过这种方式来学习。
A good idea, unfortunately it doesn’t work.
But, hypnopaedia did open the doors to research in other areas and we’ve had incredible discoveries about learning that began with that first question.
I went on from there to become passionate about psychology and I have been involved in psychology in many ways for the rest of my life up until this point.
In 1981 I took myself to China and I decided that I was going to be native level in Chinese inside two years.
Now, you need to understand that in 1981, everybody thought Chinese was really, really difficult and that a westerner could study for ten years or more and never really get very good at it.
And I also went in with a different idea which was: taking all of the conclusions from psychological research up to that point and applying them to the learning process.
What was really cool was that in six months I was fluent in Mandarin Chinese and took a little bit longer to get up to native.
But I looked around and I saw all of these people from different countries struggling terribly with Chinese, I saw Chinese people struggling terribly to learn English and other languages, and so my question got refined down to: how can you help a normal adult learn a new language quickly, easily and effectively?
Now this is a really, really important question in today’s world.
We have massive challenges with environment. We have massive challenges with social dislocation, with wars, all sorts of things going on and if we can’t communicate we’re really going to have difficulty solving these problems.
So we need to be able to speak each other’s languages. This is really, really important.
The question then is how do you do that? Well, it’s actually really easy.
You look around for people who can already do it, you look for situations where it’s already working and then you identify the principles and apply them.
It’s called modeling and I’ve been looking at language learning and modeling language learning for about fifteen to twenty years now.
这是一种高科技模仿，而我已经用这种方法研究语言学习 大约15到20 年了。
And my conclusion, my observation from this is that any adult can learn a second language to fluency inside six months.
Now when I say this, most people think I’m crazy, this is not possible. So let me remind everybody of the history of human progress, it’s all about expanding our limits.