Happy Vs Flourishing episode 23 with Timothy Moser who talks about learning how to learn. He helps people improve their memory and also a unique way of learning Spanish that is far more effective than tools such as Duolingo.
He has over 400 episodes of the podcast named Master of Memory and free material, including videos on his Spanish learning technique, linked to below.
- His new German course
- Master of Memory podcast
- Teaching his Spanish course to children
A book that Timothy recommends:
A favourite quote:
“Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”
Happy Vs Flourishing links:
Tony Winyard 0:00
Happy versus flourishing Episode 23. Welcome to another episode of the podcast where we give you ideas on small ways you can improve aspects of your life, your quality of life. Today, my guest is Timothy Moser who has a business called Accelerated Spanish, which helps people to learn to learn Spanish in a very different way from the conventional ways of people like Duolingo, and the sort of methods that most language learning tools and apps and so on use. And he also has a website called Master of Memory, in which he uses memory techniques to help you learn various things. And that's what he's applied to learn in Spanish using these various memory techniques to make it much more stickable. And to learn it in a way that really helps you to be able to converse better rather than simply have a good vocabulary because those two things are not the same. And if you've learned a language before you you're realise that so we're going to be hearing from Timothy very soon. If you do like this podcast, why not leave a review for us wherever people can get to know about it. And please do subscribe right now, time for this week's episode of Timothy. Happy vs flourishing. My guest today is Timothy Moser. How are you?
Timothy Moser 1:27
All right. How are you, Tony?
Tony Winyard 1:29
I'm pretty good. And where are you today?
Timothy Moser 1:31
I'm in Tulsa, Oklahoma kind of hunkering down as I have been for the last year in my hometown.
Tony Winyard 1:38
How are things there?
Timothy Moser 1:41
Well, I mean, they could be a lot worse. Tulsa is an awesome city. I'm very proud of my city. I love it a lot. I live in a great place where I can just hop on my bike anytime I feel like clearing my mind and jump on the trail and really be anywhere in town. I don't have a lot to say about the state of Oklahoma, but the city of Tulsa is definitely my town.
Tony Winyard 2:06
Okay, it's not a place I've ever been, I think the only thing I know about it is 24 hours from Tulsa!
Timothy Moser 2:15
It's also a great coffee town for its size. It's a small, small to medium sized city with I'd say about 10 different independently owned coffee shops that are quite good. And a really good food town as well. If you're a foodie.
Tony Winyard 2:31
You've done quite a bit of travelling?
Timothy Moser 2:34
I have I've lived in Argentina, I've spent I tend to like to go to different cities for a month or two at a time. The longest stint was I spent three months in Buenos Aires and then two more months in Buenos Aires in the same year, it felt like home. But I haven't been back since 2015. I've spent a couple months travelling around Europe. And I've made second homes out of New York and, and San Diego as well.
Tony Winyard 3:09
I'm not sure which which one to explore first, because you help people with memory and you help people with Spanish. So which one came first?
Timothy Moser 3:20
the memory one came first. And what's funny is my first online presence way back in the day was actually a productivity site where I was teaching productivity techniques and deficiency and so on. One of the main passions that was kind of a branch off of that was memorization and mnemonics, because I like to shortcut the learning process and try to learn things better by learning them by learning the foundational materials faster and then expanding from there. That turned into its own website in 2014. And then what spun off from that was the Spanish course that we kind of released and published there. And that has spun off into the main thing that I now do. So it's kind of a tangent of a tangent, but each one got bigger.
Tony Winyard 4:07
When you were doing the the memory stuff, how was it that you first got into that?
Timothy Moser 4:13
I'm not really sure, I think that it's just been a project of mine for a long time I one of my major flourishing goals is to learn as much as I can about the world around me about the universe or about people present and past. I just think that the more knowledge that I have, the more complete I feel personally. And so I've always been studying and and working on techniques for doing that well and effectively for pretty much my entire life. And my brother and I had the idea of just starting a website where we'd This was back in the day of like niche sites, we thought we would just publish a few articles and see if we could get some revenue going there. The way that it evolved was it turned into a Daily podcast, I've, I think we have about 400 episodes of that podcast that exist. And that spun off into several different ideas for courses and so on. The only one that really developed into maturity was the Spanish course. And that turned into a career.
Tony Winyard 5:19
And just for in case anyone is intrigued, what was the podcast called?
Timothy Moser 5:23
Yeah, Master of memory, and it's still active, it's still? Well, it's live, I should say, it's not active, no new episodes have been published for quite a while. I do have ideas for reviving it, but in a different format than it currently is. And it was a q&a show, people would ask, Hey, if you had to learn coding really fast? How would you do that? Or if you want to memorise historical facts from the last 100 years, how would you what kind of mnemonics would you use? and so on? And I did five to 10 minute episodes on each question.
Tony Winyard 5:57
And so how did the transition to teaching Spanish come about?
Timothy Moser 6:01
My original idea with Master of memory was that I would try to cover the different realms of the human experience with ways that, you know, means of accelerated learning. And one of the first and most obvious ones was learning a language because it's one of the core ways that we have an experience as human beings is the way that we communicate the way that we think, everything surrounding learning language, I personally was wanting to learn Spanish myself. And so I devoted a lot of time to both researching other people's techniques and resources for how to learn a language, but then applying it with some native speaking linguists that I hired to produce the materials with me, they corrected my mistakes, they helped set me straight where I was very wrong. And they helped to teach me and my students. And it just developed into a course that was basically worth devoting my career to much faster than I thought it would. And it's,
Tony Winyard 7:05
It's pretty unique. I've never seen anything else like that. It's a really cool way of learning a language.
Timothy Moser 7:12
Well, thank you it, it emerged from several techniques that I had looked up, but especially from the concept of using a memory palace that is divided by word categories. I know that this isn't a language learning show. So I don't know if you want to dive into the nuts and bolts of how that works. But essentially, I saw something that I would have liked to use myself that didn't exist. And so I just went about trying to produce it for me and forever, whoever else happened to want to come along with me? Well, I
Tony Winyard 7:44
For people listening who are probably curious now as to what it is that so different about your course, or the style that you do. So do you want to give a explanation without going too deep.
Timothy Moser 7:55
Yeah, the main things are that we, you know, most language learning programmes teach you. They think of language in terms of labels for different objects. So like, for example, in order to learn Spanish, I can look around the room I'm in right now and see different objects like window, and fan and wall. And therefore, I think that I need to learn those words first, because they're the most obvious and the most evident to me. But in reality, a language does not consist mostly of those labels, the labels that we place on objects, instead of language consists mostly of syntax, which is the tiny little words in between the labels that hold the sentences together. The most frequent word in the English language is actually the word u, y, o U. And then we have words like the, and a, and so on. And of course, prepositions like to, and from, and so on, those words don't really translate well between languages. So ultimately, the first things to learn, as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to learning a language, are actually the most frequent words, the words that that just occur in every sentence, every conversation, you're going to use pronouns and prepositions and short, irregular verbs. And those tend to be some of the last things taught if someone's learning a language because they're not easy to learn. So it started with that using the frequency list using the most common words in the language and tried to teach those first. And those words are not easy to learn. But what we chose to do, in order to make it easier to learn, was to put those words in a memory palace, so we have elaborate visual mnemonics and storytelling techniques that we use to teach these words effectively. For example, the word poured in Spanish doesn't translate into English at all. But we use a visual to represent what it means it means something like by or near, or along or during. And so we combined all of those ideas into one visual the visual of like a water slide where the water goes slowly down the slide. And the way that that's a mnemonic is that you can think of the water pouring down the slide. And so anytime you use the word poured in Spanish, you can think of the water going along the slide or being produced by the slide. And those things are encompassed in the word poor.
Tony Winyard 10:25
I love the way that, the way you've created the whole memory palace with that, and the story the way it is, it's just a really different way of going about.. I'm quite into memory palaces and that kind of stuff anyway. So maybe that's one of the reasons why appealed more to me, but I wonder what kind of results you've had with people?
Timothy Moser 10:52
we have the the main qualifier there is it has to be the people who are doing it who are doing the work. Because, you know, we've worked with 1000s of coaching students. And the results from the best case studies are very, very, very good, you can just google accelerated Spanish review or accelerated Spanish testimonial. And you'll find a lot of including students leaving their testimonials in Spanish, who hadn't known any Spanish ahead of time. So the course does work. Unfortunately, what you can't always convince people of is that, a course is not something they can just pay for, and become fluent without doing the work. You can't by the effort that it takes to learn a language. And learning a language is a very hard thing. So we've had the most success with students who have a deep personal reason to learn Spanish, for example, you're marrying into a Spanish speaking family, or you spend significant time every summer in Spain, maybe that's where you spend your summer, or you have family members or close friends who speak Spanish and you'd like to understand them on a deeper level. These are the types of clients that we found we really want to work with because they are dedicated. And that they tend to be people who have tried other things like Duolingo, or, you know, pimsleur, or other things and can see, they can see firsthand that those things are not getting them the results that they want. Those are the kinds of people we want to work with us. Because if you're already doing the work of learning a language, then that's half of the that's half of the problem, the rest of it is just using the right technique and devoting that work in the right way. And that's what we can help with.
Tony Winyard 12:43
I was using Duolingo for a while. And I've toyed with a few different ones, I was using Fluent Forever and some other ones. And it seemed to me that Duolingo would take a lot of time, and you would still have quite broken Spanish. Whereas the impression I was left with and I and I must admit I didn't have a really good reason to learn Spanish, it was more just a sort of fancy idea, I may be going to live in Spain in five or six years time, but not anytime in the next few years, so I didn't really stick at it as much as I probably could have. But I got the impression with your course that I would be much more I would be communicating in a much better way than I would with Duolingo.
Timothy Moser 13:33
That is the idea. I think that what it largely comes down to is, you know, first of all, your reason for learning Spanish should be tied somehow, to your identity and learning a language is an enormous endeavour, it's it's a lot of work if you really want to speak fluently. At the same time, if you don't need to speak on a deep and personal level, things like Duolingo or pimsleur can be fine, because you can learn the little words and phrases that you need to get around in a Spanish speaking country temporarily. But the depth of really thinking in Spanish and understanding how the Spanish works. It can really only happen with I think with a deep and personal reason to learn Spanish. And with an enormous like, I would say, you know how we all have limited things that we can really focus on. I think that if you're learning a language and really want to learn it deeply and personally, it has to be one of your core values to learn that language. It has to be something you can put focus into. And I would say at least 30 to 40% of your like currency of focus at the time that you're learning the language.
Tony Winyard 14:51
It seems to me that your system seemed to be much more difficult to start with that then there would be much faster gains, whereas with Duolingo, or whatever, is very easy to start with. Would that, therefore maybe turn some people off?
Timothy Moser 15:08
I think it would. And it's, for me, this is kind of like the difference between building a house out of sticks versus building a house with a foundation, it's a lot harder to dig a pit in the ground. And, you know, lay the correct construct the right foundation on which you can build a sturdy building that will last, you get much faster results. If you just start sticking some sticks in the ground and hang some cloth on that or build a tent, you will get faster results. And maybe you can live in that tent for a few days, like if you're going to a Spanish speaking country and wanting to get around for a few days. But if you want to live in this house, you have to do the harder work of setting the right foundation.
Tony Winyard 15:50
Yeah, that's a good analogy. Do you have any plans to extend it to other languages?
Timothy Moser 15:55
We do. We haven't really announced anything publicly. There is a German course that will be developed in the near future. We can't promise we don't have any, like deadlines at this point for when it's going to go out. But German is my next language. And it's one I've already begun constructing the memory palace for. Hmm.
Tony Winyard 16:15
And so was it how do you go about creating the stories?
Timothy Moser 16:20
Well, fortunately, in my case, I actually have a colleague who lives in Austria, he's a native German speaker. And he is able to help me with these things, because he's a feminist as well. He's someone who creates mnemonics and teaches mnemonics for a living. And the way that we tend to create the stories is for, for Spanish, we did this early on. And for German, we're doing this as well, basically, tackling the project from the standpoint of what's going to be our biggest obstacle. And first of all, with learning a language, the biggest obstacle is the central grammar and the most frequent words. And then for learning those words and turning them into mnemonics. The difficulties are certain syllables, or certain common sounds that are not common in your native language. So the example from Spanish is the syllable Yin occurs a lot in Spanish, you have bn, TNS, kiddo, you have all these words that have Yin in them. And so I just decided when I created that memory palace, that the currency that they use in this memory palace is yen like Japanese currency. And therefore we were able to make a lot of images that use the sound yen and tie those to the meaning of the Spanish word. For German, we're encountering a similar problem with the syllable iron. And if anybody knows anything about German, yeah, you hear that you hear that sound a lot. And so we're actually inventing a fantastical creature called an iron. And also an off, those are two different creatures that we're going to basically establish, and then anytime a word, emphasises that sound, we just placed that creature in the memory palace in that place vividly. And it'll be easy for the learners to remember that that's the sound that they need to make right there.
Tony Winyard 18:17
It's such a great approach there. I mean, when I was looking through you, because you've got not only the books, but you've also got videos to make it more visual as well. I was really impressed with the whole thing.
Timothy Moser 18:31
Well, thank you. And I know that a lot of your listeners are business owners and people who are wanting to live their best lives and construct a life. And we're talking about language learning. But I think a lot of the principles that we're talking about can really apply to any area of life where if you can identify the biggest roadblocks as early on as possible, and then tackle those head on, it's kind of like the concept of eating a frog. If it's a language, learn the most frequent vocabulary and the most difficult grammar first. And the rest of the project will be easy, because you essentially know the language already. If you're wanting to write a book, start with the hardest thing, which is establishing the daily habit of writing, hope. Ideally, I think first thing in the morning, every single day, no matter what you're writing, even if you're journaling. And if you do the most difficult thing first, and get that habit down and do the most difficult things. First, you'll find that everything else is downhill from there.
Tony Winyard 19:36
You do personal coaching as well as online coaching.
Timothy Moser 19:40
Yes, that's right. I don't do the coaching myself. I have a team of native speaking Spanish linguists who do the coaching for me,
Tony Winyard 19:49
What kind of results would they get and how fast; obviously it depends on how much time someone has with them. But typically how long might it take?
Timothy Moser 19:57
yeah, so the normal timeline that we run commend is, if you have between one and two hours a day, very consistently to work on Spanish, you can expect to have a significant degree of fluency, meaning you can carry a conversation on most topics in about nine months using our techniques. If you have more like two or three hours a day, we've seen results in much faster, the the fastest that someone became fluent using our programme was eight weeks. And he wrote an article about it on medium. His name was Rogoff. But then there are lots of people that we've gotten very good results, they're having conversations with their family in Spanish in about four or five months. So I think that that to our expectation is the best kind of place to draw the line. If you can do more than that every single day, you can bring it down below six months, but if you can't, you're looking at nine to 12 months, probably.
Tony Winyard 20:58
What is it people struggle with, the most difficult thing that people find about learning Spanish?
Timothy Moser 21:04
Well, not to beat a dead horse, but it's really finding the time every day at many people. And I would say, especially after the first three months, because when you're using the techniques that we recommend, which is starting with the most difficult and the most really rewarding parts of the language, you will find very fast results in the first several weeks, you will be able to have Spanish conversations and it's going to feel great. After that point, after you've learned the first 500 words or so, you know, each of those words is this is nificant amount of potential for communication, each of those early words gives you a lot of uses. The first two words in Spanish make up 6% of the language. So you're making huge gains. After that point, you have to learn 1000 more words to get 1% further along in your fluency. And so people's motivation tends to plateau around three or four months in. And so we have many, many students who have gotten to the point that they are able to communicate well and are able to converse express their thoughts in Spanish, but don't get beyond the intermediate plateau because their momentum kind of fizzles out. And consequently, consequently, that's actually where I've been putting most of my efforts in educating people on the accelerated Spanish blog and so on, is really, I spent a couple of years working on those materials for getting from beginner to being able to have conversations in Spanish. Now we're publishing articles on how to get past the intermediate plateau and break into advanced like, true fluency in Spanish.
Tony Winyard 22:51
One of the things that struck me when I was reading your book was I thought this would be so appealing to kids. And I wondered whether you'd had any communications or conversations with any schools or education authorities or anything?
Timothy Moser 23:04
Yeah, good question. We we're beginning that we actually are not, we kind of want to do some changes to the curriculum, in particular, making more opportunities for assigning homework and for breaking down the lessons into more, more parts. You're right, a lot of kids do love the book. It's very family friendly. It's kind of cartoony and appealing to children. The problems are that it requires enough abstract thinking and use of it really teaches some deep grammar in the first couple lessons. I mean, the first lesson has direct object pronouns like low. And the second lesson has subjunctive. And so it's not something that without some significant tailoring would be very useful for kids yet, but that is something that's in the works right now. And, yeah, just watch for some exciting developments in the near future.
Tony Winyard 24:05
You mentioned mnemonics. What other areas have you used Have you helped people with mnemonics?
Timothy Moser 24:14
There are a lot of areas where people use memorization, I think that really every area of learning requires some level of memorization. And I've, I've one of the easiest examples is for example, anatomy. So if you are in medical school, you are required to memorise 1000s of terms in short periods of time. Having a toolbox of mnemonics to use for memorising those things is kind of a lifesaver. Because you can start by learning them by rote or with simple mnemonics. And then they'll stick with you right away. And afterwards they can develop into full mental models and real ideas of how The human body works and so on over time of experience because of that foundation you laid another area is a few years ago, I was working on a project for memorising the periodic table of the elements. Somehow I got through school without memorising that. And I thought, well, this would be a nice afternoon project. So I sat down and I memorised the entire table in an afternoon, using a system of mnemonics involving numbers and animal names, and so on to remember the letters and numbers. And I published the entire technique that I used on the master of memory website. So if you, if you just Google periodic table of the elements, Master of memory, you'll find that those are two examples of where using mnemonics for memorization can help memorise the basic building blocks of a skill that you're going to learn before diving into how it all works.
Tony Winyard 26:00
If people want to find out more about your courses, your book, and so on, where's the best place to go?
Timothy Moser 26:07
to places I recommend that you can google accelerated Spanish, you can go to https://masterofmemory.com/ for all of the memorization materials. And then www.Spanish.Masterofmemory.com is by far our most popular offering. That's where you can find the Spanish course the videos, the book and everything that we have for the public all for free.
Tony Winyard 26:34
Is there a book that you've often recommended to people before?
Timothy Moser 26:38
Yes, so one of my favourite books on how to think in general, not just memorise things, but how to think deeply and critically, is called Super thinking. This is a book by its by Lauren McCann and her husband, Gabriel Weinberg. So super thinking is called the Big Book of mental models. And what it essentially is is a way of viewing the world and thinking about the world critically. Kind of just, yeah, I think that there's a lot to say for memorization as the building blocks of how to learn. But if you memorise specifically mental models that will help you see the world in a more critical and analytical way. You can help to avoid pitfalls of intuition where our intuition is often very wrong. And super thinking is all about kind of rationalising the way that we see the world. Hmm,
Tony Winyard 27:35
that sounds interesting. And do you have a quotation that you particularly like?
Timothy Moser 27:40
I do, Dale Carnegie says, "knowledge is not power until it's applied". And I love this quote, because I am in the business of memorization. I think that all knowledge starts with learning basic facts. But then those facts are those little things that you're learning, maybe they're Spanish vocabulary words, or maybe they're, you know, mental models that you're trying to pick up those developed into true power into true, like three dimensional things you can look at and apply once you actually start using them. So if you're learning a language, don't just memorise words, try using them, put them in sentences and see how you do. If you're learning, really anything, make sure you can find a way to apply it. And it will be that much more real. It'll be more memorable. And it'll be a lot more fun as well.
Tony Winyard 28:32
And the question that has come in to my mind This thing about really trying to help people learn. Is that because at school; was the learning model that they used, maybe was it not so good? Or what? How did this all come about?
Timothy Moser 28:49
Actually, so the way that I learned in school was almost entirely self directed. We, I was homeschooled, I was in a family of a very large family. And so my, my mom, who homeschooled us, tended to teach us up to a certain point. And then after that, she would basically give us our materials, and just verify that we were learning it well, by testing us. I don't know if that works for everybody. But it certainly worked very well for me. Because I learned that instead of having to sit in a classroom for an entire hour on a subject, I could sit down, learn the things I needed to know about the subject, and then make sure I had truly learned it. And if I did, I could save that much more time. And so the idea of memorising versus truly learning versus, you know, just spending time pretending to learn something, which is how I think a lot of education in the West goes. It really it's um it's just shaped my experience of the world that much more and I grew to love self directed learning so much that I didn't want to stop. I just kept going into my world. Obviously through college and then into my adult life and up until now.
Tony Winyard 30:05
Well, Timothy, it's been a real pleasure speaking to you. It's been, I really would implore people. Were anyone who's thinking about learning Spanish, you really need to check out this book. And of course it is. Yeah, you're learning Spanish in a much better way than using Duolingo. Definitely recommendation I would you.
Timothy Moser 30:24
Well, thanks for having me, Tony. This was really fun.
Tony Winyard 30:27
Thank you, Timothy. Next week is Episode 24. And my guest is Nigel Risner, who is a professional speaker who regularly speaks all over the world. And he has been doing that for a number of years. And he has a very unique style. He's quite direct, doesn't always rub well with some people, but absolutely gems of information and really useful information to help you make that change whatever that change it is that you're wanting to make. And we're going to hear a lot about monkeys and lions and dolphins and various other things with Nigel Risner. So that's next week's episode. If you know anyone who's maybe learning Spanish or wants to improve their memory, maybe share this week's episode, with Timothy. Some of it may prove really useful. His master of memory site has some great information on it. So do go and check out that you'll find links to all of that in the show notes. As usual, I always forget to mention, the transcripts of every episode, you will find on www.exceedingexpectations.com or on www.TonyWinyard.com. For each episode, you'll find a transcript on there. Hope you enjoyed this week's show. Please do share it with anyone who you feel would get some benefit. And I'll be back here same time next week. Hope you have a great week.
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