26. Michal Stanislaw Wojcik tested me

Michal Ryszard Wojcik (2003 November 29):

In the beginning my experiment aroused lots of doubts and suspicions among my family members and other people who have heard about it. People found it hard to believe that I can understand Norwegian without ever translating a Norwegian word into some other language that I knew before. The idea of learning a foreign language from the beginning only in this language without any use of other languages was alien to all who have heard of it.

For those who didn't have insight into my experiment I could have simply been a skillful pretender. After all, anybody can hold a book written in a foreign language moving his eyes from left to right and turning the pages from time to time to simulate the actual process of reading a book.

About seven months since the beginning of Norsk Experiment my friend Michal Stanislaw Wojcik decided to settle the matter and test me to see if I really understood the Norwegian book that I was reading at that time (L by Erlend Loe).

We didn't have any Norwegian dictionary available so he couldn't simply ask me to translate Norwegian words and verify me by consulting the dictionary. Instead, he decided to have me translate Norwegian sentences from the book and answer his questions about the syntax of these sentences.

After some time of cross-questioning me and trying to trap me he became convinced that I really understood the Norwegian language in some objective way - however vague my understanding might be. He decided that it would be too burdensome for me (computationally impossible) to react so fast to his questions and so coherently if I didn't understand Norwegian.

This experience was very important for both of us. It was the first time for me that someone had shown real deep interest in the special learning methods that I had adopted for Norsk Experiment. Before that I was alone in my convinction that my learning methods were actually working. And for MSW the experience was so exciting that he started thinking of testing this learning method by himself. He became curious if it was possible to learn a foreign language that was completely different from all the languages that one already knows by using only materials in this language - with no translations and with no other help from other languages.

He later started to learn Finnish as an experiment because the Finnish language has nothing in common with the other European languages (well, it's not strictly true but let's keep the statement simple). He downloaded some Finnish texts from the Internet and started reading them. I read some Finnish at that time too and I could not recognize a single word but he struggled with the Finnish texts for some time and learned to recognize many patterns in Finnish. As a follow-up experiment he moved on to learning Icelandic and French in ways inspired by Norsk Experiment. I also started learning French but quit after two or three weeks. He kept going much longer.

In any case, our experiments gave us a new understanding of how memory works and inspired us to look for even more exotic ways to learn a foreign language effectively. We are going to share our insights and discoveries on the pages of Apronus.com.

The text file mswtest2002jan.txt is the original transcript of the session in which Michal Stanislaw Wojcik tested my understanding of Norwegian. It was done in January 2002.