Do you ever wonder why learning a language using someone else’s ideas doesn’t seem to work as well as you hoped?
There are many reasons for this and some answers to this problem too. Here are a few thoughts on the matter of language acquisition from personal experience.
Language Learning Problems
Easier for Some?
Learning a new language is challenging for most adults.
A few gifted individuals find it quite easy. They have a different level of neuroplasticity, or brain agility, that allows them to make new neural pathways more quickly than the rest of us.
For most of us, it takes time and some effort. It may be difficult to stay motivated when we don’t see success coming right away.
Different Ways for Different People
You are an individual learner and have your own unique set of experiences and ways of thinking, communicating and understanding.
Someone else’s approach, while aiming to be effective for the broadest group, may not exactly fit how you learn.
Some people need more logical and sequential learning with lots of grammar and explanation of word meaning and history. Others learn more quickly by listening and speaking first.
Find out what works for you.
Fear of Making Mistakes
Risk taking is part of learning a language and fear of making mistakes holds some folks back.
Not wanting to sound foolish or uneducated is a laudable characteristic in most cases.
But when learning a language, it is a hurdle that must be overcome.
Only a few can begin learning a language and not make mistakes of tense, gender, or sound-alike words.
3 Tips That Work for Me
1. Be Eclectic!
Explore as many methods and online sites with free introductory offers as you can find.
These include Babbel, LinguaVille, Lingualia, Fluencia, Frantastique to just name a few that I am familiar with. They'll give you an understanding of basics to begin with.
And before you even buy or subscribe to any premium content, you'll have found out whether the method works for you,
Of course, there are also sites such as Duolingo, Gamesforlanguage, Lingohut, Digital Dialects, and others that are completely free beyond just the introductory level!
Whether you select a free or fee-based language learning site after some try-outs and testing: Choose a method that engages and motivates you to get into a learning habit.
Remember: the "best" program is useless, if it bores you and you give up!
2. Choose Some Add-ons!
After you've settled in with an online learning program, you may be looking for some other ingredients to spice up your learning and understanding. For some, basic grammar books and dictionaries are essential, but at the start, can be intimidating for others.
There are many online free grammar, vocabulary, and conjugation sites and apps that you can access as well. (E.g. http://www.wordreference.com for dictionaries and language forums, or http://www.verbix.com/languages/ to find conjugations, language maps, etc. for many languages)
Some like vocabulary apps such as Memrise, Anki, Mindsnacks, or Drops.
You can Google your language, individual words, or use a translator program to help you. Use all the aids you can to supplement your learning.
3. Develop your own practice method!
It does not have to be as extreme as in this cartoon, but here are a few ideas that I used:
Maybe writing vocabulary words on stickies and placing them around the house helps.
Make lists of words that you can carry with you and review from time to time whether in written or just in audio form.
Do lots of listening to your new language, even when you don’t understand it. Your brain needs to get used to hearing the sounds.
Say phrases, words aloud to yourself if you don’t have someone to practice with. Reading, writing and speaking are done with different parts of the brain but they usually support each other.
Students fully immersed in a new language, especially when living in the country where the language is spoken, usually take 3 to 6 months to become somewhat fluent.
Learning from a method course will take longer because it is not immersion in the language and culture.
And remember that learning a new language has other benefits: It improves your brain and can help you with other kinds of learning and thinking.
Bio: Barry is a retired FSL and Middle School teacher who lives in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. He loves traveling and learning languages; he currently uses GamesforLanguage for his Spanish practice when he is not traveling around Yucatan and other Spanish-speaking countries.