Nowadays, many people are interested in learning a new language, but are intimidated. The perception is that it’s extremely difficult to learn a new language, especially at an older age. There are, however, strategies readily available to make the process easier. Many language teachers use them in their classes to help students engage more with the language and create lasting connections.
Keep Motivation in Mind
Motivation is key to action and moves humans to push and achieve more. There is a lot of brainwork that goes into learning a language and repetition isn’t always invigorating. Therefore, staying motivated will ensure that the effort will not taper off over time.
It is also vital to have a longer lasting motivation. Perhaps think about future job or travel opportunities. Some can continue to push forward with simply an overall interest, but that can take a great amount of self- discipline.
Motivation can also impact how the language is learned. If the motivation behind the end goal is purely informal and conversational then that should be the focus of the classes. If there is a more academic goal in mind, then the focus should include more reading and writing, which requires extensive grammar knowledge.
Observe and Mimic
When most people learn the first language, there is no other language to translate from. For this reason most of the language is learned through observing the way the mouth moves and mimicking the action. When a baby initially attempts to speak, parents will make exaggerated movements with their mouths to show the baby how to create the sounds.
This same strategy is very helpful, especially when the sounds of a language are different from the primary language. For instance, learning Mandarin for a native English speaker is difficult because the sound patterns are a challenge. Pronunciation is not everything in a language, but the sounds are the foundation so it is key to get the sound patterns under control in order to communicate effectively.
Do Not Translate!
Translation can slow down learning a new language because it keeps the mind in the primary language. When translation constantly occurs, conversation is inhibited and a natural flow will not be achieved. The best way to acquire new vocabulary is through pictures, TPR (miming/acting it out), and descriptions using known words. When having interactions with native speakers, always try to describe and ask them to describe. This strengthens both speaking and listening skills.
Be Open to Making Mistakes
As an adult, it can be humbling to learn a new language because there are many fumbles that occur along the way. However, mistakes make experiences that create connections to the language itself. It is human’s natural response to learn quickly when having an experience around the content instead of pure rote memory. For instance, if a native English speaker uses the word “embarasada” thinking it means embarrassed they may feel embarrassed to find out it means pregnant. But they probably will not make that mistake again.
Language learning can be time-consuming and challenging, but it can also be a great adventure that opens doors never even thought of before.