Recently, I’ve read the book by Richard Roberts & Roger Kreuz called “Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language”. A common thread running through this work is — LANGUAGE LEARNING KNOWS NO AGE. Here are some thoughts form the book to prove it.
With time, your toolkit for language learning becomes more and more well stocked to reach the level of language acquisition you want.
But you have to get rid of misconceptions that pull you back. And… Here they are
Adults can’t be as good at language learning as kids
Wrong! The chances for adults and kids to become proficient in a foreign language are equal. There are only 2 aspects where kids do better: the ability to acquire the right accent and lack of anxiety about language learning. Even if your accent is far from authenticity, you’ll still be understood. And to get rid of absolutely useless anxiety also seems a feasible task.
However, if you wish to get rid of accent and speak fluently, sign up for the online intensive course Learn to Speak English Like an American.
Adults should learn foreign languages the same way as kids do
Kids and adults have different brains and consequently need different methods of language acquisition. Kids learn a foreign language in a natural way, just like mother tongue. Adults will find it more productive to use educational knowledge base than to copy kids’ manner of learning.
Don’t use your mother tongue while learning a foreign language
Some adults consider it wrong to translate phrases from their mother tongue. Sure, one language isn’t a 100% translation of the other, still there are many similarities two languages, even form different language groups, can bear.
Unfortunately, these myths may prevent even the most motivated adult from taking up the practice of learning a foreign language. To get rid of these misconceptions, take a look at the following research results in cognitive science
Does it really take 21 days to build a new habit?
Not really. There’s no fixed period of time to acquire a new habit (in our case it’s foreign language speaking). So, think about the quality of classes, not the quantity. Try to make the language a significant part of your life and use it as often as possible. For example, put stickers with the names of objects written in a foreign language on corresponding objects.
Or buy our online book Everything You Need to Know about Tenses and practice daily.
Is it useless to resume language learning after a long break?
Sometimes, you learn a foreign language for a certain period of time and then have a long break due to personal matters. Lots of people think there’s no point in resuming studies, because everything learned in the past is completely forgotten. No, it’s not. Without a hint of doubt, take up your language classes again. Remember: it’s much easier to learn something repetitively than from scratch. So, you’ve got the competitive edge!
Now, let’s discuss what helps adult language learners succeed without looking back on your childhood and negative language acquisition experience.
Although teachers would try to correct all your mistakes, they tend to get used to your manner of speaking. That’s why, they’ll understand you better than a native speaker unfamiliar to you. One of the best ways to make a stranger understand you better is to think of what both of you have in common. Ask him or her a couple of general questions about their interests. Surely, there will be something that both of you like.
Our memory size depends on numerous factors, such as IQ and mood, but most importantly — age. Memory is steadily shrinking after 20, and it may cause some difficulties in learning new expressions and grammatical constructions in a foreign language. However, this problem isn’t as big as we think it is. Adults have much more knowledge about the world and have better analytical skills. So, knowledge and experience compensate our goldfish memory. How can we translate this fact to language learning? Don’t try to learn by heart dialogues or texts. The best way to learn a foreign language is to integrate new concepts and material into the cognitive structures you already have.
Why do some things get stuck in your mind and others slip from it? It’s all about the depth of your memories. It’s important how we think about the information we’re trying to recollect. One of the crucial factors determining our success in recalling something is mental operations while memorizing. So, the task to repeat what you’ve just heard is superficial. A really effective exercise will be to paraphrase what you’ve heard. In this case, you’ll have to express the meaning of the words, not just the sounding.
The golden rule is: positive information is processed more effectively and stays in our memory much longer. Of course, you can’t reach a good level of language acquisition learning only with positive connotation and make only positive statements. However, positive linguistic characteristics are easier to process, memorize and use, so they can make a large part of your vocabulary.