Busting Myths About Learning A Foreign Language
“I’m too old to learn a language”
“I don’t have any time to learn a language”
“I can’t travel to the country”
“I’ve got no language gene!”
Have you or someone you know ever used one of these excuses for not learning a new language? These justifications are founded on misconceptions that have held language learners back for decades. Native English speakers, in particular, struggle to acquire other languages. While more than half of the world's population speaks more than one language, only around 20% of native English speakers have traveled beyond their home tongue. English remains the most powerful language as the language of commerce, the internet, science, and popular culture. Why do we still struggle to acquire languages in a world where knowledge is at our fingertips and you can study anything from bookbinding to quantum physics online?
Learning a foreign language is often seen to be tough, and chances are you've attempted and failed to learn one at some time in your life, perhaps in high school. The vast majority of what we know about language learning is either obsolete or a hoax. So, let's look at the five most frequent language learning myths and how to bust them. Let's begin with one that is widely used among native English speakers:
Myth 1: English is enough.
Why should we bother learning a new language when everyone else speaks English, is a popular question. Most English speakers can get by without speaking another language both professionally and socially. The advantages of learning a second (or third, or fourth) language, on the other hand, go beyond being able to appreciate cultural subtleties and making overseas travel easier.
Multilingualism provides a number of unanticipated benefits that researchers are still discovering. Bilingual persons regularly exceed monolingual colleagues in cognitive ability and are better at multitasking and problem solving, according to recent studies. More crucially, they demonstrate a 4 to 5-year delay in the development of dementia. Bilingual people's brains are physically and functionally distinct, with bigger amounts of grey matter, which is important for cognitive skills like memory and attention, according to brain imaging research. While the benefit is greater when a language is spoken fluently and regularly, late learners have nevertheless benefited.
Myth 2: You’re too old to learn a new language.
This takes us to a common language learning myth: learning a language as an adult is considerably more difficult. While it is often assumed that learning languages are easier when children are under the age of seven, a new study suggests that this may not be the case. Neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to reorganize itself, is one aspect that influences learning ability. Long-held beliefs that neuroplasticity declines as we age have been debunked, indicating that even elderly brains can alter and learn.
Adults are also stronger at metacognitive abilities, such as self-directed learning than teenagers. This implies they are more adept at self-teaching, which is particularly true when it comes to terminology. Adults have far wider vocabularies than children, making learning new words easier.
Myth 3: You have to go to language school.
Have you ever wondered why so many individuals who learned a foreign language in high school or university are still unable to communicate in it after five years or more? We are taught languages in a fundamentally wrong manner. Languages are taught in school in the same way as history and science are: you study complicated grammatical principles, memorize hundreds or thousands of words, and practice writing. As a result, the most fundamental aspect of a language—speaking—is undervalued.
Many European schools are beginning to shift away from traditional language curriculum and toward 'content and language integrated learning,' which incorporates foreign languages into the teaching of other topics like art, music, and sports, with promising outcomes.
An explosion of language learning applications and resources has made it feasible for people who choose to learn outside of the classroom. Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone are just a handful of the numerous free tech tools accessible to us. These applications are built on speech and communicating, and they may accomplish astounding outcomes by ignoring grammatical restrictions entirely.
Myth 4: Your genes determine your language learning skills.
Another common reason for language learners' discouragement is thinking they are not gifted or skilled enough. The false notion of a genetic predisposition to learning languages is based in part on studies into the FOXP2 gene. This gene is found in every human being and is considered to have aided in the development and comprehension of speech. People with certain mutations in this so-called language gene were faster and better at only certain specific language activities, according to a recent study of 200 language learners.
However, these only indicate a single type of brain activity, whereas acquiring a language needs the cooperation of many distinct sections of the brain, including reasoning, memory, information organization, and perception. As a result, while different people will have advantages in different areas, environmental variables may impact these differences just as much as a genetic propensity. After all, we all possess the gene that enables languages to evolve in the first place.
Myth 5: You have to have an incredible memory.
People who speak several languages are sometimes thought to have photographic memories. While having an eidetic, or photographic, memory can help you remember vast amounts of information, it will have little influence on your ability to grasp language norms and patterns. The fact is that rote memorization, or repetitious learning, as taught in schools, is obsolete and ineffective.
Many enthusiastic language learners swear by simple memory techniques like mnemonic devices, spaced repetition systems, and picture association. Acronyms are a frequent type of mnemonic, and they may be used to recall certain features or lists related to a topic.
We might easily forget that learning a new language is enjoyable among the deluge of conjugations, irregular verbs, and pronouns. It's the most effective technique to become immersed in another culture and understand minor cultural distinctions. There has never been a better moment to learn a new language than now, with all of the new tools and applications accessible. Let's go past the misconceptions and start reaping the rewards of multilingualism.