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How My Quest to Learn a Dying Language Taught Me a New Way to Learn ANY Language

By OptiLingo | July 18, 2018

How My Quest to Learn a Dying Language Taught Me a New Way to Learn ANY Language

As a child, I heard Circassian spoken daily in my home, but I never learned it. My parents came to the United States as refugees, but I was in America, so I learned and spoke English exclusively.

My parents never embraced English as their first language, even though like so many other Circassians, they couldn’t read or write in their native tongue. They could get by with the English they knew and that was enough for them.

As an adult, I realized I wanted to learn how to speak Circassian. I wanted to connect more authentically with my family members and other Circassians. I wanted to preserve this rapidly dying language.

And then, reality hit.

It turns out, Circassian is a very difficult language to learn, for a variety of reasons.

  • It has a dozen dialects (of which 3 are already extinct).
  • It has 56 unique (and often difficult-to-pronounce) sounds represented by the 33-letter Cyrillic alphabet.
  • The grammar is complex and very difficult to learn, especially for a native English speaker. 
  • There were almost no Circassian teaching materials. Certainly none for a non-native trying to learn it as a second language.

So, I was on my own. I developed a strong command of the language and am pleased to be mistaken often for a native speaker! Along the way, I developed teaching materials so that others can learn to speak, read, and write Circassian.

So, I was on my own. I developed a strong command of the language and am pleased to be mistaken often for a native speaker! Along the way, I developed teaching materials so that others can learn to speak, read, and write Circassian.

But more than all of that, I really discovered HOW to learn.

Think back to high school. What language did you take? For how long? Can you still ask where a bathroom is in that language? Could you get directions to a gas station if you needed to? Could you say “I love you” or “time for a bath, kiddo”? Probably not, because the way we teach language in the American school system is wildly ineffective.

But our children learn a language in a completely unstructured way as toddlers.

As I learned Circassian, I also developed what I call the Guided Immersion system of language learning. It essentially blends the way a toddler learns a language with a structure based on cutting-edge research to serve adults who want to learn a new language.

Want to learn more about how Guided Immersion works? Click here.

Interested in seeing what languages you can learn with Guided Immersion? Click here.


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Ready to start learning a language fast?

OptiLingo helps you learn a new language in hours, not years.

Get your first two weeks for just $9.99!

Learn More