Language LearningNovember 27, 2009 by: Traveling G
If you’d tried learning a language before and met with limited results, the first piece of advice I’d suggest is to stop what you’ve been doing and try a different approach.
There are many methods available for language learning, but most involve either memorization or disjointed vocabulary that won’t help you have a real-world conversation.
I love learning languages, and I hope to help others do the same through my language courses that will be available soon. I put together the techniques that I have gleaned from learning 7 foreign languages over the years.
I grew up speaking only English and never studied abroad until after college, so I don’t have any home field advantage like people from small European countries do, who growing up speaking several languages at a time.
Young children have an advantage when learning a foreign language because they can do so without trying, but as we grow up, our brain does too, and the way we learn changes. Teenagers and adults don’t absorb new information as well as kids do, so the way we learn a new language must be different from the way we learned our first one.
My 7 languages so far are Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, Thai, Chinese and Portuguese. I can read and write in all the languages, except Chinese, which doesn’t have an alphabet. My Spanish, French and Russian are fluent, but not native. Arabic and Thai are conversational — when I’m in-country, I can speak with the locals, but not on every subject. I didn’t study Chinese as much as the others, just enough to communicate the basics and get around the country. Portuguese is my newest one, but it’s very similar to Spanish, which I already know well.
I have to say that after the first 2 or 3, it took a lot less time to learn the rest. Think of it like jogging or lifting weights. The first time I ran in gym class all those years ago, I really felt that first mile. But over time and with practice, I could run further and further and the first mile then seemed like the easy part. Similarly, the first time I tried weight-lifting, I even thought the bar was heavy, but after some practice, it didn’t take any effort at all and I was ready to add more on.
People often ask me, “How did you learn all these languages?” as if they were unrelated subjects like history and biology. Back in college, when I was taking 4 or 5 classes a semester, each in a different language, the academic advisors couldn’t understand it and kept telling me to focus on one thing.
What they failed to realize is that I was focusing on language learning. It didn’t matter that they were different languages — the point is that I was learning how to learn — which is something they didn’t teach.
To sum it up, if you’ve had trouble learning a language, it’s because what you need to know first is HOW to learn a language. Stay tuned for more on this… coming soon.