Philosophy


No branch of knowledge created by mankind, be it mathematics or physics, geography or economics, can exist without first a means of communication. It is an undeniable truth that language is the only mechanism that applies to all walks of life.

Due to the ubiquity of language for daily life, Bruin Polyglot Society assures its members that every minute spent learning a language will be rewarding in the long run. Acquiring another language is a sweet science; it necessitates a level of grit and talent not usually required by other disciplines. Undeterred, BPS remains available to help its members achieve this coveted task every step of the way.


BPS holds the following convictions in its language-learning approach:

1. Language-learners should think of themselves as babies.

Because of the so-called “critical period” for language acquisition, babies are proven to be faster learners of a language than adults. Like a sponge, their brains absorb the language naturally. Babies listen to their surroundings and replicate the sounds.


The widespread misconception that adults should not attempt learning another language because they are too old has deterred many people from trying. Bruin Polyglot Society strives to disprove this myth. Although it is unlikely that an adult can achieve native-like fluency in a non-native language, it is possible for the adult to attain proficiency.


A proper mindset is the key. Whereas previously, BPS members were merely students in a classroom going through the motions, now, we encourage them to think of themselves as babies. True immersion occurs when our students pay attention to their environment by assimilating with the culture of their language, listening to native speakers speak and replicating their speech. This fundamental mindset shift sets our students up for success.



2. A strict adherence to grammar and pronunciation rules is mostly unnecessary to begin with.

Branching off from the previous point, consider the following query: “Do babies study grammar?”


No, they do not. They acquire grammar rules by indirect means, that is, by understanding over time how sentences are formed. Some linguists argue that babies are endowed with some innate mechanism, which allows them to infer the “correct” rules from the fragmentary data they have access to.


Consider Student A, who has studied intensively the grammar and conjugation rules of his target language for three years, but does not have a grasp of its most commonly used vocabulary. His pronunciation of the language is authentic.


Student B, on the other hand, for six months, focused on the memorization of commonly used words and their derivations. Although his grammar is not perfect, he comprehends simple conjugation and syntax rules. He has a slight accent when speaking the language, and he can understand roughly 60-70% of native speakers' dialogue.


Which student would fare better in a real life conversation? Student B! This student would perform far better than Student A in a real life conversation because he would be able to speak clearer without long, awkward pauses. He would talk with a foreign accent but native speakers would understand what he says. Without the vocabulary base to match his strong comprehension of grammar, Student A would be very lost and would often have to consult a dictionary mid-conversation.


Our argument is simple: only when a student advances from a novice to an intermediate speaker should grammar be more emphasized in their language routine.



3. In fact, learning the most common vocabulary is important (verbs, conjunctions, articles, numbers, prepositions, and to a lesser extent, nouns and adjectives).

Bruin Polyglot Society members do not waste time.


Most languages contain hundreds of thousands of words, sometimes even more. The good news is that students don’t need to know most of those words to be able to communicate with others. Only a few thousand words make up the majority of language usage on a daily basis. This is the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule. Roughly 20% of a language is used 80% of the time.


The highest frequency words of any given language are the top verbs, conjunctions, articles, numbers, prepositions, and to a lesser extent, nouns and adjectives. These are the words that students should study first. The cumulative time saved by using this method is astronomical.



4. Students should learn words that are most applicable to their major and personal interests.

Because the BPS roster consists of members who study a diverse range of topics, we understand that every student is unique and has a separate motivation for learning a language. This is why we give students individualized attention instead of forcing them to follow a set curriculum, as a typical language class would.


In addition to the highest frequency words, students should decide for themselves a separate set of words that are most applicable to their major and personal interests. This ties in to our goal of preparing students to speak their target language proficiently in a professional setting.



5. Take the time to actively understand the culture behind the target language. Listen to music. Watch movies. Make food. Learn slang.

Bruin Polyglot Society concurs with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (linguistic determinism): People's thoughts are determined by the categories (systems of classification) made available by their language.


The shortcomings of translation ties in with this idea. Because each world language has its own syntax, tenses, aspect, mood, and vocabulary, translation may not always be 100% accurate. Likewise, each language has its own style and even its own way of thinking.


What does this entail? It is impossible to learn a language at a deep level without immersing oneself in the culture that is attached to it. BPS members consume media every day in their target language, because any amount of exposure is beneficial.


The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is a testament to the beauty and complexity of every language on Earth. With the immersion method, BPS members realize that the language-learning journey, no matter how daunting it may be, is a magical one.



6. The MOST important thing a language-learner can do it to make the learning process FUN.

As ambitious as we may be, BPS always stresses the importance of progress over perfection. When applied to language-learning, perfectionism will backfire because it causes undue stress.


Usually, it manifests itself when students overemphasize grammar mid-speech, which causes them to fumble and forget their train of thought.


Another subtle way perfectionism backfires in the long run is when students type up and memorize a prewritten script in preparation for a conversation in the target language. Even if these students memorize the script perfectly, with zero grammar errors, the whole purpose of proper language-learning is contradicted. Students who utilize this method attain a false sense of security, and are not able to “think” in the language, which will prove harmful in the future.


Making the language-learning process fun is what keeps students engaged for a long period of time. BPS makes this a reality by encouraging immersion and studying high frequency words, as mentioned above. These tactics are simultaneously enjoyable and productive. The more students progress, the more motivated they are to progress further.