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How To Learn a New Language

By Edited Mar 23, 2016 0 0

Hello. Bonjour. Hola.

Are you someone looking to learn a new language? You’re not alone. With the world becoming a global village, many more people are trying to learn a second or third language for various reasons. Whether it’s for personal travel, education, business or professional reasons learning a language is always an asset. It also comes with its challenges and can seem very overwhelming especially for those of us who speak only one language. Chances are by now that you are also frustrated by the amount of misinformation that exists surrounding the topic. Instead of giving you the all the normal scholarly advice, this article is designed to give you the guidelines to unlock the gift of language that you already possess. Because the truth is that if you’re reading this article then you know at least one language already right? Exactly. So here are some tips that can give you access to your own innate potential to learn, speak, read and write another language. Fortunately, this article is free of jargon and rhetoric. The following will be in plain English.

Back To Basics

So we’ve already established that you can speak one language. This is truly half the battle. Why? Well because language is part of your D.N.A. Humans and even animals for thousands of years have developed the need to communicate to survive in their environment. The key word here is environment. The simple fact of the matter is that we as humans will adapt how we speak based upon the people we need to communicate with. This is why you don’t talk to your mother the same way you would talk to your best friend. You would not address a kindergarten class the same way you would address this year’s graduating class of Yale or Harvard. The same applies to learning French or Spanish. The way you would talk to someone in France is not the way you would address someone in America, or Canada, or Australia. In any case, the reason for why you are trying to communicate is to meet one of your basic needs as a human. Just about anybody travelling abroad encountering a language barrier will learn how to say “I need to pee” pretty quickly. Most however won’t be able to describe the historical events of the French revolution. As human beings we have a few very basic set of needs. In order they are the survival, safety, belonging, and self-expression or accomplishment. Think of language as a tool to help you as a human accomplish these things. Many people learn a new language out of need as immigrants to work (safety), while others may have found the love of their life or to reconnect with distant relatives (belonging). At the end of the day, it all comes down to putting yourself in the right environment, amongst the right people so that learning this new language can help you achieve a fundamental human need.

Speaking

Learning how to speak a new language as an adult is generally much easier than learning how to write. Tools and circumstances are much easier to come by than those that would allow someone to learn writing a new language. Like anything from learning to ride a bike to learning you’re ABCs, it is best if you place yourself in situations where you can fail. This means trial and error, while sometimes being embarrassed. Trust me, it’s ok. The reason kids learn languages faster is not because they are faster or smarter or anything like that. It is because they are put into situations that both repeatedly require them to perform new tasks and because it is expected that they will fail. This is why childhood is such a magical time. You can mess up and it’s ok. If you put yourself in the same situation as an adult, then you will learn a new language. You will also learn it fast. Really fast. And you won’t need Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone.

Example:

Let’s say that you (like many others) have relatives in another country that you want to connect with. For whatever reason you don’t speak their language. You book a trip to go and visit them alone. The key word here is alone. At first, it is awkward because even though they are family, they are also strangers in every sense of the word. They eat strange food, speak a strange language, have strange habits etc. If you are there long enough then two things will happen. The first thing that will happen is that they will no longer be strangers at some point. The second thing that will happen is that you will start to speak like them. This is how language acquisition occurs on a speaking level. Naturally, as a human being during that time you will have to talk with them because you will rely on them to help satisfy some of your basic needs as a human. You’ll figure out how to say “I need to go to the washroom”, “can I take a shower”, “good morning”, “can I help you”, “what is that”. The best part of all of this is that this is going to happen without a language teacher or professional help.

Writing

Learning to write a new language is s bit trickier usually than speaking only because the mechanics are generally more difficult. It requires repetitive access and use of a writing utensil. Fortunately today with smart phones and the internet, both people and writing mediums are abundant. Both smart phones and computers are much easier to come by and anybody with a twitter account can get access to millions of people. The principles of learning to write a new language are generally the same. You have to be able to connect the dots between you and another human being in order to help achieve s deep-seated human need. Evidence of this can be found on Facebook every second. Language such as “lol” and “omg” mean little in real life but on the internet it means the world. The key is to engage socially with many people as possible on a frequent basis. Doing so will help you learn any language. Again, it is a must to put yourself in a situation where you can fail repeatedly and learn from every scenario.

Remember: Meaning is Doing

Many people when learning anything look to understand something before they have mastered it. With languages especially, it is the practice that is important. The reasons why “kids say the darndest things” is because they are constantly in practice mode. When you are in practice mode, you will learn. If you neglect practice, you will not learn. It’s a very simple yet critical idea. Imagine trying to learn how to ride a bike by reading a manual or watching an instructional video. The truth is that you have to get on the bike and start peddling. Yes, you are probably going to fall. As long as you can keep going then it will be hard not to get it. How do you learn to speak a language? You just start speaking. How do you learn how to write a language? You just start writing. Yes you will feel ridiculous at first. Yes it will take some time. After a while however, it will be easy.
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