Learning a New Language: The Best Ways to Do It
- May 04, 2014
Since the earliest of times, the traditional method of learning a new language was through oral presentation and training. But this style of learning proved futile in the recent ages. Students simply memorized and regurgitated a few words and phrases in their examinations and immediately forgot everything they had learnt as soon as the examinations were over. On the broader stage, they were incapable of utilizing what they had learnt in the class. This has led to a change in the process of incorporating language trainings.
These days, different learning methods, such as tactile methods or auditory methods, are increasingly being used by language schools. These methods have proven to be far more effective than simple oral learning. Numerous studies confirm that in addition to the auditory methods, visual and kinesthetic processes have also had a positive impact on learning a new language. For example, a study by the University of Southern California showed that students learn best when they are:
- Exposed to all three learning styles
- Not restricted to oral presentation only
Rosetta Stone is a well known company offering courses in various languages. Its courses include common languages to the rarely used ones, including:
It has developed a software solution known as Totale. The software follow an immersion method of learning where words are connected with images and real-life situations to express their meaning. Students also say stories, sing songs and play games, which help to build up their language skills. Rosetta Stone commissioned a study to examine the efficacy of their method where they examined the results of Totale on the development of language skills of elementary school students learning Mandarin and Spanish. The study found that students following the Totale method of learning not only showed significant improvements in their linguistic skills, but also expanded their worldview. They also developed an understanding and appreciation of the cultures, which speak these languages.
In an immersion method of learning, the language is consistently used in everyday settings. A child learns his or her mother tongue through the immersion method by default. Parents and older siblings consistently use the language and the child picks up the sounds and words.
Students who go to a new country for higher education often learn that country’s language through the immersion method.
A few advantages of learning a new language through the immersion method are given below:
It Helps to Let Go of Your Inhibitions:
In a classroom setting, students learn a language by taking up a few words, phrases or sentences. They then go on to form meaningful paragraphs. The immersion method is a direct contrast to this. Learners need to constantly utilise the language while communicating. That’s the only way they can make themselves understood. They gradually lose their inhibitions. For example if an English speaker moves to a Middle Eastern country where everyone speaks Arabic but only a few understand English, they will learn Arabic by default. This will happen as they will be immersed in a culture that constantly uses Arabic. Hence, they will need to make themselves understood in Arabic if they have to ask for help as well.
It is the “Natural” Way Human Beings have Learnt a Language:
When we begin trying to learn a new language, for example Japanese, we often find it tough. We wonder how the native speakers can speak the language fluently. The answer is, they have learnt it through the immersion method from their childhood. As children, they saw everyone around them communicating in Japanese and they absorbed what others said. So, speaking it was not difficult for them. Human beings have historically not learnt a new language in a class through flashcards and textbooks. They have learnt by observing and absorbing.
It Builds Understanding, Appreciation and Respect for Other Cultures and Countries:
When one learns a language through the immersion method, they pick up the accent and facial expressions far more effectively than when they learn it in a classroom. They also know the use of slangs, types of jokes, sense of humor and values that are typical of these cultures. It helps the students to understand and respect other cultures. This is, in fact, a virtue, which is extremely important if they are to thrive in today’s multicultural world.
Of course, not everyone will have the advantage of spending a few months in different foreign countries to learn their language through the immersion method. But there are other simpler ways to immerse themselves in a foreign language. One can:
- Watch Youtube videos in the language
- Subscribe to news channels of that language
- Make friends with expat native speakers of the foreign language they are interested in
- Join classes, which teach a foreign language not through memorization of words and phrases, but through immersion
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