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Secrets of Learning a Language III


When children start attending school, they get to know the other great vehicle of word transmission: the written language. Written language, which allows associating words with precise and clear symbols, help the messages to be transmitted in large quantities and in a very effective way.

  • Reading is the other great tool to learn a language.

Either by the text books of every subject, or by just reading for fun, the truth is that due to this exposure children improve a lot in the use of the language. Reading allows the process and rules of a language to keep recorded in the mind in a subconscious way, while we are focused in the contents.

It is a proven fact that, in all cultures and nations, those who use the language best, are those who read more. The culture is strongly reflected in the way we express ourselves. The more we read in the target language, the better, because then we can integrate its structures without realizing. I must add, that a large part of the vocabulary that we learn in our lives, comes through reading.

  • Don’t forget to add some nice readings to the process. Look only for things that you really like, that make you enjoy, and suitable for your level.

As in the case of the listening, remember that the process is slow, so that, we have to be patient. Besides, we should always choose the most attractive topics for us, because fun makes us relax, and relaxation makes much easier this process.

The last point is probably the most polemic, and it is the grammar. As I commented before, languages used to be generally studied through grammar books and rules in the past, but the results were poor and students didn’t get hooked. It is clear that by studying only the grammar, learners won’t improve much because we are ignoring the two great pillars of learning, listening and reading. However, I disagree with the big opposition that some current gurus have declared to grammar. Let’s see why.

Grammar gives us rules, and rules are good in a lot of occasions.  Knowledge of grammar rules reduces making mistakes by learners. Those parts which are more irregular and don’t have rules, are more difficult to learn. It takes foreign learners much less time to learn grammar rules that are explained than to figure out grammar rules on their own intuitively from texts because grammar rules may have exceptions and other peculiarities.

We learn basic grammar when we start to put sentences together as children. But, the actual knowing of a language is much more complex. Grammar teaches us how to build sentences, about the types of words that we use and when we should use them. The organization of grammar all depends on the logic. And, understanding grammar will mean you can think more logically.

In conclusion, neither we should base all the learning in the repetition of grammar exercises, as in the past, nor leave it apart as some of the current methods intend. It is always positive to know and to understand the grammar, and to use it whenever we have doubts.

  • Have always a good grammar manual to help you know, understand and to solve your doubts.

And that’s all! I hope you like this saga of articles and find them useful. Soon we will analyze much more things. See you!

Also see: Secrets of Learning a Language I,  Secrets of Learning a Language IIWhy “Why Create the Languages”





Secrets of Learning a Language II


“We can recognize that the acquisition of the mother tongue is a universal cognitive process, inherent to the human condition. The Language ability, materialized in the acquisition of the mother tongue, is a complex and specialized ability, which develops itself spontaneously in the child, without conscious effort or formal instruction, and it is quantitatively equal in all the individuals.” – Marta Baralo

Regarding to the topic of the listening, which was commented in my last post, I would like to add one note, and it is that in the most successful countries in learning foreign languages, like Holland, Belgium, Nordic countries, etc. children have access to TV programs in original version.  This shows us the importance of listening.

But let’s go on. We arrived to the point when children get to understand the world and the language that is around then. At this moment, they are ready to start emitting words and they do it in a natural way, without fear or pressure. Certainly, the absence of fear is a very important factor in favor of the process.

  • Speaking happens in a natural way when a language is understood y is a process that cannot be forced.

Therefore, do not feel bad if you have some problems to speak at the beginning. It is a long process that takes a lot of time. When you start feeling comfortable with the language, you will be ready to start speaking, and when you understand it very well and feel it as a part of you, you will express yourself fluently. Little children also start babbling some words and they perfect themselves little by little with time. The use of the language and the pronunciation improve when the years pass. The same happens to adults, because it is the same process.  We start emitting some words and rise level gradually, y there is no anything else, we can skip stages, it takes years, that is all. So that, as well as children errors are corrected with benevolence and understood, adults should receive the same treatment. Meanwhile, keep on listening, the results arrive for those who don’t give up.

  • Pressure is an enemy of the process of learning languages. The process takes a time and it has to be respected.

Today there are a lot of resources and applications that encourage speaking from the beginning. Whereas there is no pressure, this is not a bad thing, but languages are not learnt speaking, they are spoken when they are learnt. I don’t think that this is the best practice for beginners, unless they do it with the right tutor that can instruct them in vocabulary, because maybe the pressure is too big and this can cause frustration. Each thing has its time and comprehension is the first step. For levels from intermediate, however, it an appropriate practice because it can give you confidence, experience and you can always listen the native language, which is always positive. But remember always that to keep on learning you have to go on listening, among other things that we are going to see now.

Although it is true that children get to speak effectively, they do it somehow on a basic level. At this point, children are sent to the school where they learn to use one of the best existing tools to perfect and use correctly the language. Learning cannot be only based on listening, because then you would keep on speaking like a child. Do you want to know the tools that can help you to speak efficiently?


Also see: Secrets of Learning a Language ISecrets of Learning a Language III