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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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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


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Secrets of Learning a Language II

how-to-learn-a-language

“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?

TO BE CONTINUED

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