Learning a Language Won’t Kill You

November 4th, 2009

Formal Study Doesn’t Lead to Speaking

I’ve been terrified of learning another language for a very long time.  It started with my first trip to Europe, after having studied French in high school.  As I traveled throughout France with my friend, who had a French grandmother, and so was fluent in French, I could not understand a single word of real spoken French.  I knew language wasn’t my strong suit, but, after all that study, this was ridiculous.

I could see how much richer an experience my friend had as we traveled, because she could talk to people, and understand everything that was going on around her.  I, on the other hand, had to rely on her interpretation, or remain in ignorance.  I was very, very frustrated, but was determined to learn the language, so that I could participate fully in my own travels.

So, I studied French in college, even getting a minor degree in it.  I knew lots of grammar, and could read and write it very well.  The trouble was, I still couldn’t speak it.  And, as I now had entered the working world, I didn’t have the opportunity to travel to France again for a long time. 

Too Old???

Given my situtation, I thought I would try to learn Spanish.  After all, even if I couldn’t go to Europe, I could easily get to Mexico, where I could practice.  Of course by then, I was pretty old.  I was 35, I think.  They say if you’re not a kid, you can’t learn another language. 

Not to be deterred by age, I went back to school and studied Spanish, taking two full years of language courses.  I could, once again, read and write, but couldn’t speak.  We did speak in class, but that isn’t real speaking.  Anytime I was confronted with someone speaking Spanish, I would just freeze.  I couldn’t understand it, and I couldn’t even think how to reply.  I felt that I would never be able to learn.

New Language Learning Theories

The newest second language learning theories say I learned all wrong.  Grammar, drills, worksheets, vocabulary lists to memorize – the theory is now that none of this will teach you to understand and speak a language.  It isn’t at all about age, it’s about the type of learning.

Well, duh!  I could have told them that.  It is completely intuitive that being immersed in a language is the best way to learn it.  That’s how we learn our first language as children, and that is also the best way to learn a second language.  Learning grammar and vocabulary teaches us about a language, but it doesn’t teach us to think in a language, or to speak a language.

The problem is that most people don’t have the opportunity to be immersed in a language, and most schools don’t have the facilities to immerse people in it.  Usually, schools have an hour a day, or maybe several hours at a time once or twice a week.  It is just too difficult, and too outside the box of traditional learning, to do much more than teach grammar and provide worksheets and drills.  And, all too often, the instructors don’t really speak the second language well.

Total Immersion is Best

If you are really determined to learn English, and it is at all possible for you, the best way to speed your language learning , and learn English well, is to totally immerse yourself in it.  Not a few hours a day, or 20 or 30 hours a week, but fully immerse yourself.  Be completely surrounded by English, and be prepared to speak and learn.  Remove all opportunities to speak your native language.  You need to eat, drink, sleep and breathe in English.

At the Lake Tahoe Institute of English, we have turbo charged all the latest techniques for learning a second language.  Total immersion in the language, in a secure and safe environment, makes it possible for adults to learn to understand and speak English quickly.  Plus, we teach you exactly the English you want to know, and we have fun while doing it.  No anxiety, just learning.

One Response to “Learning a Language Won’t Kill You”

  1. Queen Kecker says:

    Wonderful articles, would love to see a bit more media though! Then again my Online Spanish Tutorial site hasn’t much either – Great post all around, added your XML feed! Cheers

RSS feed for comments on this post. And trackBack URL.

Leave a Reply