Saturday, August 1, 2009

How Fast Can We Really Learn A New Language?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried and tried many a time to learn a foreign language. Like many people I’ve always got as far as the basics and maybe how to order drinks or ask where the toilet is, but that’s about as far as I get!!!
Around 20 years ago in the UK, the top languages to learn were always French and German; there was never the option of Spanish, which seems to be by far a more popular option. There seem to be so many courses around, but how do we know which one to choose. In the end you probably actually end up learning completely pointless, but fun phrases when in the country, then once home, that’s it for another year. I really feel sure that such phrases are not going to get us far; I mean, imagine trying to fit the following into every day life!!!
‘Get out of the car with your hands up!’ (Salle del caro con los manos amigo!)
‘I’d like and Indian and two canoes please’ (Una Indian y dos canoes por favor)
There are so many different forms of learning, the obvious is the Linguaphone technique, but how many people have actually successfully come away from this expensive course speaking fluently enough to make a difference. There are courses online, books and even in car cds, but do any of us who want to learn the language just for our two week break really have the time or the inclination to book ourselves one of these courses or to buy the cd?
In my opinion, there are two ways to best learn a language; one is to learn while still young, in which case you have to hope your parents catch on to this idea in time. In this instance the learning is fun and taught using games and stories. The other is to actually live in a foreign country, which for many of us, this just isn’t possible. Not only does this practically force you into learning the language as you could well starve! But also it gives you a much better understanding of the country and therefore you’re not only learning a language, but also living it, and somehow this seems to help it make a lot more sense.
Obviously for most people however, this is completely out of the question and so, it’s back to the books, audio and software to attempt to get even a basic grasp. Is it really possible to learn a foreign language in 12 weeks as many course brag? Does anyone actually know someone that has manage to achieve this amazing feat?I’m sure a lot of it is just pure laziness, any excuse not to spend the time learning, but as someone who spends a lot of time driving around, even the audio cds for the car aren’t exciting. I want something that grabs my attention and makes me want to learn rather than just repetition, which often isn’t all that clear anyway. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you have time to spare, the best option is that of an evening class; however, these are quite often expensive and cannot be done on your own time.
With technology today it is possible to have lessons, on CD, downloaded onto your ipod so that maybe you can learn a few phrases while down the gym of even gardening. Programs can be accessed from the internet and DVDs can be watched at your own leisure, so in theory I guess there really is no excuse for those who say they want to learn a new language, the real question is, how fast can we learn, and I’m sure that all comes down dedication and discipline certainly the content of the course helps, it needs to grab our attention and keep it, we need to feel we’re making progress and reasonably quickly or we lose the urge to carry on, and lets face it, learning needs to be a little fun!!!

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