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TTT 6: Get Moving

Janahan Sivaraman
Janahan Sivaraman
3 min read

Welcome to the 6th edition of the TTT Newsletter where I'll be sharing a thing I did, a tweet I loved, and a thought I had.

For 6+ years, this has been the view down my block. Absolutely love it.

இரவு வணக்கம் (iravu vaNakkam), Buenas Noches, and Good Evening - let's get into it!

Thing I did

Imagine you could learn a language so well, that natives mistake you for a native speaker!

Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve been learning Mexican Spanish “by ear” 1-on-1 with Idahosa Ness, the creator of the Mimic Method.

He opened up teaching slots for just 5 students so I applied and was accepted!

This week, we worked on vowel & consonant audits, “moves” in Spanish, and started segmenting. A “move” is a combination of your lips, tongue, and breath “moving” in concert. Orchestrating these three parts of my lower face and neck will allow you to make sounds I thought I couldn’t!

Our experience hearing language can be broken down as Sound -> Syllables -> Moves

“Segmenting” is the process of turning syllables into moves. Doing this in Spanish unveiled a set of “suction stops”. In Spanish, the flow of language is more legato than staccato - and these “suction stops” create more subtle consonant-y sounds which allows you to speak faster.

And training my ear to hear the “suction stops” allows me to capture that same subtlety which enables fast speech comprehension. Win Win.

If you’re curious to see any of the techniques described above, please follow the hyperlinks provided.

Tweet I loved

What I loved about this tweet was the logarithmic scale of importance for feedback on writing.

I always bring this tweet up when I edit other folks’ writing interactively. This framework allows me to prioritize my effort given the time constraint.

What’s the point and how did I feel along the way (and after)?

Thought I had

I had so much fun doing the vowel & consonant audit and the “moves” check for Spanish. It got me thinking. What would it take for me to bring that structure to Tamil?

Luckily, I asked Idahosa (my Spanish teacher) how he did it for [Spanish, French, Portuguese, German] and he shared with me the process!

One of the hardest parts about learning a new language is fitting your ears to the sounds.

Imagine a Tamil speaker who’s learning English. I ask them, “what’s going on tonight?” They don't understand, ask me to repeat, repeatedly until I say it slow enough — ‘What. Is going. On. To-night?’.

In conversations however that phrase ([wət] [bi goʊ-ɪŋ] [ɑn] [tə-naɪt]) is truncated into four core syllables: [sgo] [non] [tih] [nai]. The written is 6 syllables, but the spoken is 4 syllables.

Learning how to catch speech for what it is (4 syllables) instead of getting a cache miss (for 6 syllables) is the key to fitting your ears to the language.

Keep an eye out for Tamil “moves” in the near future!

Parting Words

People think it’s impossible to get smooth in a language while not immersed. Over the last 3 weeks, I am catching more of my Amma’s (Mother’s) Tamil and she has noticed great improvements in my Tamil speaking. These small wins compound and will culminate in me becoming smooth in Tamil.

I love accomplishing what others say is impossible and doing a little dance afterward.

What’s a small win you had this week and how’d you celebrate?

Reply to this email and let's celebrate small wins together.


P.S. If you enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to forward this email to your people or share this link. It'll encourage me to keep writing!


Janahan Sivaraman Twitter

Currently learning 2 languages "by ear". Secrets to growing your career in Tech. Food pics and tricks