How To Learn Language: Legends and Myths

It is not my desire to mislead you in any way. I am in the business of language learning. I am also an experienced language learner. The reason I created the World Word Exchange is because I could not find a good logical resource to learn from. I offer my experience to you with hope that you will experience language success as quickly as is possible. From my experience I know that the words you choose to learn first can dramatically speed up your language progress.  I teach the 100 most common words first. Does that seem logical to you? No other method starts this way.

The question is always what is the fastest and best way to learn a foreign language? I have personally tried at least 10 other language learning methods, including the famous ones. Language learning is about three things. Number one “remembering words.”  Number two” staying motivated,” and number three “staying motivated.”  Speaking another language is not difficult, but it is different.

Many people get hung up on grammar. It becomes their focus instead of just learning words and then they get discouraged and quit. The dictionary defines grammar as a set of rules about how to use words. Tenses, verb structures, singular, plural, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs and spelling rules. This is what grammar is about. Speaking be, are or is, in the correct order and tense. Notice communication is not on the list. Grammar is not about saying something. Grammar it is about how to say something. That does not mean grammar is not needed, it just means that to learn how to use grammar, learn the words that make the grammar first. You learn grammar from word recognition. You learn by example and repetition. I have noticed that people, who have no experience in speaking their language to a person speaking their language as a second language, all make the same mistake. They talk normal. The first thing you learn is to drop grammar so you will understand and be understood. Fear is another great block to understanding. When you get over the fear you start to simplify what you say and it becomes easier for both. Experienced foreign language speakers know this. You will find some people with whom you can communicate with much better than others even thought your vocabulary is the same. The people that flow in conversation usually have had language experience.  They are over the fear. My Final thought about grammar is that sometimes when English is butchered, I find it delightful! A great example of that is, in Thailand when they don’t know how say “your friend” they speak “my friend you.”

It may come as a shock to many people to learn how much simpler most foreign languages actually do speak. English has many redundant words. A car, the car or car is different how to communicating car? Another difference foreign languages have is that many don’t speak what is understood. “Do you want to go to the store with me?” Becomes “go store” or maybe” store go.” “Do you, want to, and with me” are understood. This is what I mean when I say, what is understood is not often spoken.

Perhaps the biggest difference English speakers have with almost any other language is accuracy. Other languages see it as not that important. You can buy dictionaries of the same language and the same words will be spelled differently. Accuracy for spelling in many languages is not important. Interestingly, spelling errors do not usually hamper what is being communicated, they just make it funny!

Another major difference foreign languages have is the way words and phrases are used. In Italian the word for name is “namo.” But in Italian if you want to say your name you say “me keyahmo” (insert your name). If you want to know someone’s name its” keyahmo tu.” Phrases can change the rules of how you think words will be used. There are accent and phrase changes in different regions of many countries, America included. The Thai in Bangkok is not the same as the Thai spoken in the eastern part of Thailand, but they all understand each other. You won’t understand them as well, but the good news is they will understand you. Knowing the words in another language is not the same as having the ability to speak another language. It is a good start. The problem is you do not know the popular phrases or ways of using words. Knowing the common words however will allow you to recognize what the phases mean and give you the ability to ask and understand questions. You will learn by example and repetition.

The idea that you learn a language best if you start as a child is absurd to me. It is like saying now that you know basic math you have to learn it again before you can learn algebra. You already know how language works. Language learning is about remembering words. You exchange a word you know in your language with the same word of a new language. This is the essence of language learning.

Whether you speak “my house” or “house my” you will learn by example and repetition.

A very important idea to keep in mind about language is that every culture seems to enjoy playing with the sounds. They distort their words. Consider teens talking and the way the choose words and distort them. When you are in the country of the language you are learning, don’t get discouraged because you are probably not always hearing the language spoken correctly. Focus on listening to TV or Radio for a better understanding. For an example of this imagine being taught the word “you” but hearing “ya” most of the time.

I do not advocate learning a foreign language as a child, but I have noticed that you learn a foreign language as a child. The difference is, the first idea is a method. The second, an experience. What I mean is that like a child your ear is not trained to the finer details of the words. You miss pronounce words because you don’t hear them correctly. You confuse similar sounding words.  You make mistakes in the way words be used. This part of the process does not change when learning a new language.  As a child, you will refine your understanding through examples and repetition. I have found that putting words of a new language that sound the same side by side and listening, is a real ear opener. They stop sounding the same.

An important thing to understand about language is if you don’t use it you lose it. It’s like muscles. Without practice you will lose what you gained. Words are generally learned over a period of time. Because I needed to test my website I had to reviewed every Thai word I have learned all at once in the multiple-choice word game on my site. It took about an hour. More than 600 words. I cannot express to you the difference it made in my Thai. I have done it many times since because it was so effective. Not many language learners have experienced this. The experience of reviewing all my words at one time taught me to think of learning words like laying wood chips on a pools surface. Your word memory pool. If you don’t pick the word out of the water now and then it begins to waterlog and sink. The longer you don’t use the word the deeper it sinks. It’s the same in your native language. Words seldom used are difficult to remember.

The keys to language acquisition are, remembering words and staying motivated. I know that sounds simple, but it’s important to point out the focus of the language learners task. Language learning is finding a way to remember new words and ways to use them. Nothing will motivate you more than your own language learning success. Language learning should be a happy experience. Without the fear of making mistakes. When you learned language as a child you did not have this fear. Language learning is your inner child learning about the world again. Have fun with it! Play with it! Enjoy the mistakes. They mark your path forward. I hope I have helped you. I wish you good luck in your adventure. Thanks Brian





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