I would learn a new language, but…

Learn languages May 5, 2010

It’s time to confront that negative voice in your head and use some Kriss Akabusi-style Positive Mental Attitude.Kriss_Akabusi

When you hear that little voice in the back of your head saying…

I’m too old!

This is the most common misconception and one that is simply wrong.

It is doubt, rather than age itself, that is the major stumbling block for adult learners. If you get it into your head that you are too old to learn a language, you will keep on falling back on that as an excuse when something doesn’t “stick” immediately. This is bad.

The opposite is necessary for language learning; getting out there, making some mistakes and the odd grimace/flailing arms combo is the best way to advance (and measure the progress you are making).

Studies have repeatedly shown that adult learners are at no disadvantage when it comes to learning a second language. True, you are unlikely to progress to native-speaker fluency that a child could achieve, but that needn’t stop you speaking a new language at an excellent level.

I hated school.

Put your hands up if you enjoyed learning a language at school? No takers?

That’s not surprising. It can be hard to see the value of learning a new language when you are distracted by, well, everything else that goes on around that age.

But, after getting out there and seeing the world, does that second language seem like such a waste of time now? Or is it something more tangible?

If you didn’t enjoy language learning when you were at school, bear in mind two things. Firstly, language schools (or indeed one-to-one tuition) are nothing like learning at school was. Classes are a great chance to meet people from all over the world who are brought together by a desire to learn.

Secondly, are you the same person you were at the age of thirteen?

I can’t “do” grammar.

As Barack Obama might say, yes you can.

You just don’t realise it.

Very often, a good language teacher will teach you grammar without you even realising it. Who cares that the “ing” form of an activity (running, eating, burping, etc) is known as a “gerund”? Good to know as a teacher, no doubt, but not really relevant when you’re trying to learn a new language. You know how to use gerunds and do so every day. The same is true with adverbs, pronouns and any number of grammatical mechanisms.

Don’t let the idea of grammar put you off. Language teaching has come on a long way in recent years and the focus is very much on building confidence as opposed to learning by rote.

Everyone speaks English anyway!

Maybe in tourist destinations, but there’s a big, wide world out there.

A friend of mine works for a top consultancy firm in his industry. His firm recently lost a large potential contract with one of the largest manufacturers in his industry because they didn’t have native German speakers within the company and the client demanded this.

On a more personal level, there is no feeling like the first time you really communicate in another language. Of course it can be frustrating getting to that point, and it’s certainly a challenge, but it’s not beyond anyone.

There’s an old proverb (not an English one, it must be said) that goes, “you live a new life for every language you speak”. Are you ready to give yourself a chance?

By esl-blogger

What do you think?