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Linguistic Challenges

linguistic-challenges

In previous posts I commented on the great importance that motivation has when learning languages, in fact, it is one of the most important factors, see: 3 Keys to Effective Language Learning

A lot of people have a high level of motivation on their own, up to the point that they have made this learning one of their main hobbies. Those privileged don’t need more advice; they are going to do it well for sure. But the rest would certainly benefit from a bit help, and extra dose of motivation that help them achieve their goals.

How to get more motivation?

First of all, we should ask to ourselves, because nobody can know what we really like as well as us. In this manner, it would be advisable, when you want to learn a new language, to focus in those parts of the culture of the country you like the most. If there are some countries where it is spoken, then you are lucky to have a great range of possibilities to find something you like: Music, series, people, etc. If there is something about the local culture that interests you, use it as foothold. This is very personal and depends exclusively on you.

However, leaving aside our own interests, there are also some resources we may turn to get more motivation. Today I am going to talk about one of these resources: Linguistic challenges.

What are linguistic challenges?

Challenges are, overall, objectives to be achieved. They are defiances, games, incentives that invite us to take action. This, at a linguistic level, could be done in so many ways, but the most important thing is to have an aim, or in other words, something we really want to achieve. Then we only have to find our wish. Some examples could be:

  • One degree or certificate.
  • Travelling to the country whose language we are learning and being able to speak to people from there.
  • Reading a book saga in the original language.
  • Finish all the levels of one application.
  • Watching a full soup opera. One thousand hours of listening!
  • The only limit is your imagination.

All these good purposes can help a lot. Nevertheless, if you are studying a language, it is certain that sooner or later one plan will show up in your mind. Ideas usually appear on the fly and most of the times the only thing you have to do is to move ahead. Then things may appear suddenly.

Nonetheless, it is possible that you are studying just because you have to; maybe you need languages to find a job. If you live in Spain you know well what I am talking about. If you don’t please share with us the experience in your country J. And yes, I also think that the requirements to get a job are excessive these days. The point is, we always put more passion in the things we do just because we like and no when we are forced to. However, we can always find a challenge in our way that can make things change.

For my part, right now I have a couple of challenges in view. The first one is to take the exam to get the well-known Proficiency or CPE, how it is named now. I am thinking of doing it by the end of 2016.

The second one is another Proficiency, but this one not that acclaimed. I want to take the test that the well-know application Duolingo provides, this time in Portuguese. Yes, this certificate is not as prestigious and I don’t even think that is proves much about your real knowledge of the language, especially taking into account the level of the “the butterfly eats the elephant” app. However, I have notice that in certain arenas this game-application certificate is recognized, so now I have a good reason to pass all the levels and learn more and more. Whatever happens, I have nothing to lose but something to learn. I will talk about this experience in more detail in the future. Regardless to the date of the event, it is still to be determined, I am just a beginnerJ.

And what about you? Have you had your challenge yet? Would you like to share it with us?

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Interesting Future Topics

languages-learning

Dear readers and followers,

First of all, I would like to say thanks to all the people who came through here, especially to those who decided to follow this blog or liked one of these publications. I have to say that these small details help us authors a lot to move forward in our professional careers.

I must admit that, although my dear blog is nearly always in my head, I am not publishing as frequently as I would like. This is due to a new professional experience I am trying right now, which is quite time-consuming; it is not easy to break through. Now, I don’t know where this new way is going to lead me, not even if I will ever get results, but is something that I want and must try. However, I will try to come back to this small space whenever I can. Regarding to this last point, I am preparing a short list of topics I would like to deal with, these are the following:

  • General articles about language learning.

  • Analysis of learning applications which are available on the internet.

  • More frequent doubts about Spanish

  • Free topic articles about whatever subject I consider interesting. I keep this small independent space to me because, as a writer, I like having creative freedom, and, if something is very good, why not to talk about it?

In broad outline, this is what my blog is going to be about. Obviously, if I happen to have new interesting ideas, I can add them to the list.

This is not a long post, but now that I have the topics more or less decided, I wanted to share them with you. Moreover, I was thinking in giving a personal touch to this blog, to prevent it from being too boring or technical.

What do you think?


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Some more Great Tips for Learning Languages

language-learning

In the previous post we saw the 3 essential foundations that we must never lose sight of when learning languages; that is, motivation, patience and daily practice. But, apart from these important bases, there are some more activities we can carry out to effectively achieve our goal. Among them, I would like to highlight some which I consider especially useful from my point of view.

  1. Language immersion:

We have been hearing this tip for such a long time by now that it sounds too obvious to mention. But the reality is that it was and it is still so true. To be exposed to a language is the best way to acquire it. That’s the reason why the most of the modern methods tend to create a similar environment through the use of videos, audios and graphic materials.

The best way to achieve this immersion is, of course, travelling or living in the country. We just have to see the incredible amount of money that companies which arrange courses abroad make. However, the most fortunate learners are those who have the opportunity to gain professional experience in another country. This activity can provide us much better results since it allows us to fully know the society and make connections with the people of the area.

To move abroad will always be a very efficient method, not only because of the great amount of hours we are likely to use the language, but because it gives us the chance to know the culture of the area, something that has a lot of relation to the use of  languages. In fact, we can learn more expressions and idioms this way than in any other one and it can also give us a great context to understand everything.

Nevertheless, I have to say that today, in the 21st century, we can achieve a kind of immersion without moving from our seats due to new technology. So, if you don’t like to move, you are lucky. Although it’s true that the level of immersion won’t be as high, you can still get excellent results, and here everything depends on your will and motivation. If you are willing to devote enough time to read books and to listen and talk, then you can succeed and speak a language. Remember always that, as we said in the previous post, perseverance is the best weapon, therefore, you need to practice every day a little.

  1. Be like a child

The general belief that children are the world’s best learners is widely propagated and there are a lot of arguments in its favor. For instance, when a whole family moves to another country, children are usually the first ones in communicating in the new language. Besides, we must remember that we all learn our mother tongue during childhood and we do it very successfully.

A lot of scientific research has been conducted to determine the real differences between children’s and adult’s brains and they ended up with different results. But, leaving aside this subject, what seems to be clear is that children have certain attitudes that help them a great deal for this purpose. However, if we pay attention, we will see that we can understand these attitudes and maybe use them in our own interest. Therefore, let’s see what makes children so efficient learners:

  • They have a strong need to socialize and adapt to their environment. This gives them extraordinary motivation, so they do everything possible to open to the world. They really want to communicate and become a part of the society.
  • Absence of fear of failure: Children don’t have the same prejudices or fears than adults, and that is what makes them feel so confident when they have to express themselves. Even though their errors are often seen with tolerance and understanding, we, as adults, can consciously ignore the fear of failing. In any case, it is not worth staying in touch with those who are not respectful with our errors.
  • Less pressure: Children are freer and they don’t usually have concrete aims such us “find a job” or “pass an exam”, which relieve them from anxiety. In general, everything goes smoother when we are relaxed. Actually, their only goal is to communicate, which is the base of the whole process.

For all these reasons, it is not difficult to understand their success, so it would be a great thing to learn from them.

  1. If you are a beginner, try to learn a lot of vocabulary.

Portuguese, Mandarin or Russian, it doesn’t matter which language you are learning. Although you don’t have a strong grammatical base, if you learn words, you can start understanding the language, and everything comes after understanding. Besides, realizing that we are able to catch some things, give us a good dose of motivation.

In principle, I wouldn’t recommend studying long boring lists, not even over use memory which, in the long term, won’t help us much. Ideally, all this vocabulary should have the support of some other audiovisual media, such us pictures, recordings, videos, etc. because memory works better in association. Today you can find a lot of applications in these media; now we have to find out which are the good ones.

  1. Keep what you have learnt.

Language learning is a long road that probably never finishes because, to be honest, it is impossible to achieve a language at a native level of perfection. Moreover, and to make things worse, our brains are lazy and if we don’t use one of the skills, they tend to forget it to make more room. That’s why, if we want to maintain what we learnt, we should never stop practicing. Then our level won’t decrease.

  1. Have fun

As we have to devote a lot of time and dedication to obtain our purpose, it would be sensible to try to make it more fun, so we won’t give up. To achieve this, each one of us should find the methods and the ways that we enjoy the most. For instance, moviegoers can have a lot fun by searching OV movies. But we could say the same about books, comics, games, series, etc.  So, ultimately, learning languages can be fun, if we are able to adapt it to our personal tastes.

This was my list of tips but what about you? Can you tell us one of your secrets?

Also see: 3 keys to effective language learning


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3 keys to effective language learning

language-learning

Learning languages is a unique and special process in which a lot of different elements take part. The way is long, but fascinating, and there are a lot of resources which can help us to achieve our goal, but if we really want to succeed, there are 3 main factors which stand out from the rest and undoubtedly we must take them into account:

  1. Motivation

Regarding motivation, there aren’t many things we can say today that haven’t been already said. However, it’s always positive to remind ourselves of this driving force that each day pushes us a bit closer to our target.

The word motivation comes from the Latin term “motivus” which means “movement”, and the suffix –tion, “action” or “effect”. Therefore it’s a word directly associated to what stimulates us, it makes us get down to work.

Motivation gives us the positive energy to push ourselves forward. Because of this, those who really want to learn the language are very likely to achieve it.

With this in mind, now’s the time to think about your own reasons. Maybe you need it to promote your career, because you are interested in the culture of the country, because it’s challenging or simply because you like it. Whatever your reasons, if you are truly convinced, you can be sure that you are going to succeed.

Personally I think that the study of languages should be more vocational and I dislike the immense pressure that some people receive when they start to learn languages. Nevertheless, it seems that a lot of people get hooked in the process and in the end, they get a positive experience.

  1. Patience

There is no other alternative. As we saw in previous posts, language acquisition is an intrinsic process common to all of us, and it takes place progressively and gradually. The maximum exponent of this process is the mother tongue that we learn when we are children. As we can see, children need some years to reach a good command of languages, despite their brains having a much higher plasticity than adults’ (or at least that is what is said). At the very least, we have to admit that their attitude towards learning is much more open.

Furthermore, some scientific researchers suggest that there is a maximum limit of words we can learn per day (around 10). In any case, the truth is that our mind needs some time to complete the adaptation cycle and this cannot be forced.  Because of this, pressure and speed should be removed from this matter. The best option would be to flow and to let the process slowly consolidate without worrying about dates, deadlines or any other kind of quantification. If you have to compare your progress, wait from one year to another, then you will clearly notice the difference.

 Having eventually clarified the relevant facts, now I can’t help specifically mentioning all those magical methods which promise fast fluidity and results. I haven’t tried any of those methods by myself, but if there is something I can say for sure, is that there aren’t shortcuts nor miraculous formulas. For one, the base of language learning is that it takes a lot of time, and this has to be respected, and the more relaxed we are, the better results we will get. After all, stress doesn’t give any benefits. For all these reasons, if we ever find one of the above methods, it is better to ignore them, because it is likely to be a scam.

I don’t doubt about the existence of certain polyglots who are able to make the most of a reduced amount of words and some grammatical rules in a way that they can develop some basic talks in a short time. I suppose they were awarded with a special ability to make such connections. It is something that I ignore, but in any case, these individuals are the exception, not the rule.

In conclusion, don’t feel bad if you notice that your progress is slow, in fact, it is very natural, and is to be expected. It is very important to keep this clear to avoid frustrations and unnecessary demotivation.

  1. Daily practice

Now that we have the necessary motivation and are aware of the time that this process requires, we only need to set how much time we have to dedicate to succeed in the project.

In the case of languages, to keep up and improve them as much as possible, the best thing you can do is to practice every day. The process is inevitably slow, but you won’t go faster just because you devote a lot of hours to it every day, and less if you do it one day per week. For this reason, it is always better to dedicate sometime to it every day, even if it’s only half an hour, which on the other hand is positive because it can prevent us from getting tired.

Practices should include listening, reading and some grammatical exercises overall; this last thing is especially important if we are beginning.


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Do we really need a teacher?

language-teacher

As we have seen in previous posts, language acquisition occurs naturally through a process that is in all of us and cannot be forced. Languages are not like other subjects, because they work in a totally different way. Languages are learned, not studied. Having said that, some questions may come up. For example, what is the importance of classes?

I could talk about my own experiences, the hours I spent learning grammar and the repetition of exercises about it. Did I learn something? Of course, in fact I attained a good base that helped me much later; but in those times I found speaking quite difficult. Some important parts of the process were missing and without those parts, it was not possible to complete the task.

Some years later, when learning English became a priority for me, I started researching  the topic; I spoke to a lot of people and analyzed different theories. Finally, I reached a conclusion. I tried to explain everything about this in my articles “Secrets of Learning Languages”. If you take a look at them, you will see that all is very logical. Actually, it is something easy to understand for me because I have tried it through my personal experiences.

The truth is that a big part of my own learning is due to my own efforts. In fact, we are the most important makers of the achievement because we are responsible for the activation of language learning mechanisms; that is, reading listening and providing great doses of motivation. No one can give us all of these.

Taking this into account, then it is necessary to have a teacher?

Having a teacher is not indispensable, but a good teacher can be a great help.

First of all, it is not always easy to be exposed to the language we want to learn, or to talk to native people, so if we have someone close to listen, it is a help. What is more, a teacher will always have more patience to listen to us and to explain us all the doubts than the people we may meet out there. Besides, even if the lessons are a bit mediocre there will be always something we can keep, so that our base can grow.

Apart from all of this, I have to recall that one of the main factors of success is motivation, and for a lot of people, to attend a class and have someone who assists them can be a good reason for going on.

But, despite all of this, there are also excellent teachers who know how to create interests and keep the attention of the students. If you find someone who knows how to guide you, gives you good recommendations and makes the lessons fun, you can improve a lot. As frequently happens in life, those who are passionate about their profession do a great job, just as those who do it merely to have an activity will get average results. The advice in this case would be not to resign yourself and to be a little selective. Then we should find someone who gives us a good feeling and uses the best methods. The current systems favor this because you can try some professionals till you find yours.

Having said that, the truth is no matter how good our teacher is, we won’t achieve our goal if we don’t really want to. We can never forget that the responsibility of learning is ours, so we are the principal actors.

In conclusion, provided that we are willing, a good teacher can help us a lot. If he or she is a good professional he can stimulate and guide us. But, we are in the twenty-first century and we have a lot of materials available: online courses, videos, applications, etc.; so it is not strictly necessary, because we can expose ourselves to the native language in many different ways. However the support that a great professional can give is without a doubt, so if we have this support, it will be always better, especially for those who are beginning. The decision is in your hands.

Also see:

Secrets of Learning a Language I

Secrets of Learning a Language II

Secrets of Learning a Language III