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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