Learning a foreign language can be one of the most beneficial and frustrating tasks to take on, and you really see the results when trying or failing to talk on holiday.
The effects of globalization have created a new need for individuals to be bilingual for both cultural understanding and business ventures. At some point in your education you probably found yourself in at least one foreign language course. For some, this is the perfect environment. The classroom setting and emphasis on grammar and structure can be a great option for acquiring the knowledge necessary for fluency in another language.
However, if you’re like me, or most people for that matter, you probably walked away from that introductory course with a limited grasp of the language.
Many students get easily discouraged after several attempts at learning a language. All of those phrase books and tapes continue to pile up, while your comprehension and fluency remain low. This has to do with how we learn a language.
When you were just a baby you were constantly surrounded by people making funny sounds that you didn’t understand. You soon had to start making sense out of those funny sounds in order to communicate. The concept illustrated here is immersion. Language immersion programs have gained a lot of popularity over the last few years with great results.
An immersion program presents the language in a way similar to how children pick up language. Rather than give you a list of phrases and vocabulary words to memorize, you make connections with the aid of visual images. This process is dependent on thinking in the language you are trying to learn. Being immersed in the language allows your brain to do all the work, to naturally draw connections and cement comprehension.
Today there are many programs that use the immersion method. One of the most popular is Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone’s software allows the user to have an interactive experience covering all the skills you need to begin learning a language.
It is important to determine what skill set you want to attain in planning your learning experience. Those learning for travel purposes will find that learning phrases will be adequate. Placing an emphasis on listening to native speakers and developing proper pronunciation will serve you well in your travels. However, those trying to attain fluency will need to master all skill sets including grammar and reading comprehension.
Once you’re at your desired level of fluency you have to make an effort to maintain it. When it comes to language, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Creating an environment for yourself that includes the language your learning is important. Whether it’s watching Spanish language soap operas or avant garde French cinema, putting your skill set to use is crucial.
There’s actually some really interesting neuroscience that describes how you should learn a language as much as possible in the context that you’ll use it. So learn Finnish in an infrared sauna. Practice kitchen vocabulary in the kitchen. And so on.
Learning a language can be one of the most rewarding experiences. If the student is diligent and open to new things the process of learning can actually be fun and exciting. One must keep in mind however that it won’t be accomplished without mapping out a plan for success based on individual learning style. Careful planning and consistent practice will be your most valuable tools in this endeavor.