By Heidi Trautmann
It was in 1975 north of the
Etosha pan in Namibia when we stopped at a small patrol station with our
Landrover to take some patrol and have some checks done. An elderly grey-haired
coloured man came to help us and when he heard us speaking in German, he
stopped in what he was doing and with a wide grin he greeted us in the most
original broad Bavarian dialect one can imagine. We screamed with laughter,
slapped his shoulder, and embraced him for giving us this feeling of home. All
of a sudden he was one of us, no longer a stranger. For the next hour he was recounting
the stages of his life when he started to work for a Bavarian farmer.
Or, my mom and I went to
Paris to look for my sister who was in hospital with lung infection and the
nurses would not speak to my mother who did not know any French, they just
ignored her, and I as a young girl had to step in with my knowledge in French
and all of a sudden, people showed an interest, that was the moment when I
decided that I would study languages whenever and wherever I could, so I would
not be ignored.
Things have changed a little
since then; to teach languages in schools has become the norm and most of the
people travelling are equipped with some basic knowledge in world languages
such as English. Today the world is open for the traveller and the conscious
traveller will learn some words to be able to buy his/her food and to get from
A to B. However, hardly returned home, the resolution to continue studying dissolves
I think it has to do with
the learning or rather teaching method. Usually you are taught to memorize words,
sentences which you may one day be able to use but you were not taught to use
your acquired knowledge for your own purpose, with other words, you don’t know
how the new language functions, you don’t know the grammar. Having started with
Latin as my first language in school I was able to discover a certain pattern
in each language I learnt later on; also when I wanted to learn Portuguese when
I came to Angola, I told a young woman I liked: you teach me Portuguese and I
teach you German. I continued doing just that for two years and I did not only
get to know the grammar but also the ordinary language of the locals and its
proper pronunciation. Communication in its pure form, nothing else. Learning by
For some time now I have
been following a project, a ‘Cyprus Project’ the Language Transfer – with its
own website www.languagetransfer.org – and I
listened to many of my friends talking about it. What is Language Transfer,
what is the Thinking Method.
Transfer took form in the divided capital of Nicosia, Cyprus when Mihalis
Eleftheriou, developer of the Thinking Method, got to work on the first ever
courses for the 'Cyprus Project'. The course were made available for free
download and the LT site received over 10,000 visits within a month of going
live, and apart from traffic originating from Cyprus, there were a lot of
curious users from around the globe who tuned in to see what all the fuss was
about, and ended up learning Greek!
As I always follow my own
philosophy ‘Learning by doing’ or ‘Look it up and find out yourself’, I entered
their website and went straight for their new achievement, that is
‘Introduction to Turkish’ which has come to 20 tracks now. So far I have been
following ten tracks and you are immediately invited to make your own
compositions, i.e. you play with one thing learnt and apply it in various ways.
The method is easy and effective. You may download the tracks for free or you
listen in on YouTube or SoundCloud; these tracks last about 10 minutes max. and
whenever you are free and willing you pick it up again.
These young people have
travelled to other countries and have done the same with other languages; they
organise public workshops, so for example just recently in Berlin where a
friend of mine lives and reported excitedly on their progress. Right now they
are in Greece.
Have a look at their website
and try one or the other language courses. Read their programme and get their
newsletter. It is amazing.
Perhaps one day we will be
able to easily communicate and feel at home because we feel understood. And….I
always wanted to find out what my ginger cat Max is trying to tell me.