Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
Who really killed Kennedy?
Why aren’t Skittles officially classified as a fruit in the food pyramid?
These questions have long plagued the human race.
Today, we’ll answer literally none of them.
However, we will answer questions that are more pertinent to language learners.
When you decide you want to learn another language, you still have a lot to figure out.
Beyond “what’s the meaning of…?” and “how do you say…?” language learning comes along with many other questions.
Below are the answers to some of the most common questions language learners have.
How Getting Your Language Questions Answered Can Help Your Learning
First, knowing the answers to these questions will help you decrease your apprehension. Learning a language can be anxiety inducing, and it’s made all the more daunting by uncertainty. Reducing your uncertainty can reduce your apprehension, thereby making language learning less stressful.
Plus, knowing the answers to these questions will help you make the most out of your learning experience. With all that apprehension out of the way, you can focus on the good stuff: grammar, vocabulary and fun. Plus, many of these questions will help you determine what approaches are best for you, which always makes learning more enjoyable.
Finally, the answers to these questions could help you to improve your efficiency when learning a language. After all, if you know ahead of time about the best techniques, how to stay motivated and related subjects, you can save some time figuring that stuff out through trial and error, and thereby possibly shave some time off your path to fluency.
Got Language Learning Questions? 6 Subjects Learners Ponder
Question: What’s the best way to learn a language?
Answer: Undetermined, but here are some ideas!
If you know one solid answer for this question, you’re ahead of most scholars. The best way to learn a language is still the topic of a lot of research since everyone wants to learn as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So while there’s no strict answer for this, there are a few things that seem to be helpful when learning a language.
First of all, research suggests that learning a language young (between infancy and puberty) is highly valuable. So if you’re reading this between your favorite Saturday morning cartoons, you might want to start learning a language today.
All hope is not lost for older learners, though. One highly regarded learning technique is immersion. In fact, one study found that students in a full immersion program actually improved more than students who studied abroad. And immersion programs aren’t just for the young folk! Concordia Language Villages, for example, offers immersion programs for adult learners.
However, taking time out for in-person immersion isn’t feasible for everyone. Luckily, there are ways to replicate the immersion experience at home.
FluentU is a great way to replicate immersion without too much money or time commitment. FluentU offers authentic, real-world videos, like music videos, movie trailers, news and more. Each video is captioned in the language, allowing you to read along as you listen for a more immersive experience.
However, you can also break from full immersion and refer to the captions’ annotations. These annotations provide word definitions, example sentences and associated images. Quiz mode combines videos, images and example sentences and transforms them into flashcards and exercises.
FluentU is appropriate for any level of learner and grows with you, as our algorithm tracks your learning to present you with level-appropriate questions.
Question: How can I stay motivated to learn a language?
Answer: It depends on you, but here are some things to consider.
Researchers widely believe that motivation to learn a language is a key factor in successfully learning it. High motivation is even thought to make up for any lack of natural aptitude. However, motivation is personal and subjective, so how you stay motivated is up to you.
Some learners are motivated by friends, family, grades, travel or work.
However, one of the most motivating aspects might be exposure to and interest in target language cultures. One study suggests that embracing another culture is a key to success. So go ahead and indulge in your favorite international dishes. Enjoy your favorite foreign TV and movies. You have a valid excuse now!
Not sure where to start? Check out world language resource Ethnologue to see where your target language is spoken.
Question: How can I learn to communicate with native speakers?
Answer: Don’t worry and interact more often.
Interacting with native speakers can be hard for students at first. After all, when you know you’re not fully proficient in a language, you might avoid using it with native speakers for fear of embarrassment. However, it’s important for you to practice your skills in order to improve them, so ironically, it becomes a catch-22 of being too scared to interact because you aren’t great at the language and having limited language skills because you don’t interact using your target language.
To overcome this, it’s important to remember that most native speakers will recognize that others may not be 100% fluent. In many cases, native speakers are sympathetic to this situation and appreciate any attempt to speak their language, even if it’s somewhat fumbling. Once you start using your target language more often, you’ll see your language skills increase and your fear of interacting with native speakers will subside.
You can also use a fun, friendly language exchange app like Bilingua to get more practice. When you do a language exchange, a speaker of your target language (usually a native speaker) will help you practice that language. In exchange, you’ll help them practice your language. This is a great way to squelch fear. Since your partner is also speaking a language they aren’t 100% comfortable with, each of you can be a little uncomfortable together until your extra practice makes you both confident.
Question: Will learning another language change who I am?
Answer: Probably, but for the better.
When you learn something valuable, it’s always likely to change you in some way. Learning a language does this even more than other information, however, since culture is a large component of language.
Luckily, learning a language will change you for the better. Language is infinitely enriching and can open up doors you didn’t even know existed. For instance, you might find yourself traveling to distant lands or even pursuing an unexpected career field.
Question: How long does it take to learn a language?
Answer: That depends on a lot, but there are estimates.
Sadly, there is no cut-and-dried answer for how long it takes to learn a language. Time spent learning a language can depend on multiple factors, including the time you commit, the methods you use, your natural ability and your motivation.
That being said, as noted earlier, researchers believe that high motivation can help learners overcome setbacks, so if you have the will to learn a language, there’s a strong chance you can learn that language faster than you would otherwise.
For a general idea of how long learning a language might take for native English speakers, Effective Language Learning lists the Foreign Service Institute’s rankings for how long it takes to learn different languages.
For instance, “general professional proficiency” in popular languages like Spanish, French and Italian is estimated to take 575-600 hours. If you study for 25 hours a week, this will take 23-24 weeks. If you study a more manageable five hours a week, based on these numbers, it should take between 115 weeks and 120 weeks (a little over two years).
More difficult languages for English speakers like Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean are estimated to take 2200 hours, so if you study for five hours a week, it may take around 440 weeks (almost eight and a half years) to become proficient.
Question: What’s the easiest language to learn?
Answer: That varies based on you and your background.
Let’s set the record straight: no language is ridiculously easy to learn, and no language is impossible to learn. Learning a language requires some effort, and your own background with languages can change everything when it comes to what’s easy and difficult.
That being said, for native English speakers, some languages are easier to learn than others.
In fact, Effective Language Learning’s list of the Foreign Service Institute’s rankings of how long it takes to learn different languages can be used to infer level of difficulty since in general, languages that take less time to learn can be considered “easier.”
In general, no surprise, it’s easier for English speakers to learn languages that are more similar to English in aspects like writing, pronunciation, grammar and other factors, and this often includes Romance languages. Therefore, languages like Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese are usually relatively easy for English speakers to learn.
Languages less like English (such as Chinese, which makes extensive use of tone) are usually harder for English speakers to learn. However, much of what makes harder languages seem harder may be overcome by motivation and mindset, so don’t be discouraged from learning any language!
Now the only question left to answer is “How will I work on my language skills today?”
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