The 2008 sci-fi film Outlander and the 1998 movie The 13th Warrior have various things in common. Both are based loosely on Beowulf, both involve a healthy dollop of blood, guts and gore and both contain scenes where the main protagonist acquires a new language.

In Outlander Kainan, a space marine played by Jim Cavierzel, is transporting a humongous, belligerent beastie through the universe when his space ship crash lands in Viking era Norway.  The film makers have given Kainan an alien language, which is in fact ancient Norse, and they have the Norsemen speaking in English. A strange tongue for Kainan, but he has to acquire it to survive. And quick !  Not to worry though as Kainan manages to salvage some Hi-Tech gear from the ship which is soon revealed to be a rather nifty, direct-to-brain,  language downloading device.  Within a (rather painful) trice Kainan acquires English and the film can proceed without the need for sub-titles.

Here’s the scene where we see the device in action.  Be warned though, the first word that Kainan uses is a  robust Anglo-Saxon swear word starting with the letter ‘F’. 

Turning now to The 13th Warrior we encounter a cultivated and civilised Arab called Ahmad Ibn Fadlan (Anthonio Banderas) who has fallen in with a band of snarly -gnarly, bad-ass Vikings. They don’t speak Arabic and Ahmad doesn’t speak Norse. Again, no need for concern, as in a model demonstration of Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis in action we witness Ahmad acquiring Norse through thoughtful observation, motivation to learn and a keen ability to link sound to meaning.

The scene cleverly morphs unintelligible Norse into comprehensible English as a means to show us that acquisition has taken place.

Obviously for the sake of brevity we witness the squishing of weeks and months down into a three minute sized bite. But the language learning principle demonstrated is believable and is achievable. 

In contrast, Kainan’s Hi-Tech, direct-to-brain, language downloader for the time being at least, remains the stuff of fiction. It didn’t look to pleasant to use anyway and would score a miserable zero out of ten for user experience.

So, if you are looking to learn a language personally then follow the lead of Ahmed. We’ll happily help you to get the input and develop the learning skills and strategies.  And we promise faithfully not to do so by subjecting you to months of sitting round a camp fire in the company of a band of snarly -gnarly, bad-ass Vikings