Adults Learning Foreign Languages – Why and How
Learn a Language As You Get Older – the Benefits & Challenges
With the increase in international travel and global business and communication, the adult foreign language learning business is booming. Whether one is going on holiday, conducting business, thinking of living abroad or simply wishing to keep the brain active, learning a foreign language can be a fun and extremely rewarding experience.
Why Learn a Foreign Language as an Adult
As stated in the article Living in Winter in Spain – a Holiday Guide, in order to make oneself more easily understood and to become more involved in local life and culture abroad, it is important to learn some basic elements of the foreign language. It is simply not true that everyone else speaks English. Even with some basic knowledge, one’s efforts will be well received and this will pave the way for a more enjoyable and worthwhile experience.
If engaged in global communication and business, it is widely recognised that most people will be better received and become more successful if they have basic skills in the language of the person with whom they are conducting business.
Furthermore, it has been claimed that learning a foreign language as the years advance is one of the best ways of keeping the brain active and may help to ward off the onset of dementia.
Identifying the Appropriate Methods for Learning Languages
It is important to recognise and understand how each individual learns best in order to select the most effective methods of learning a language. Different people learn in different ways and have preferred learning styles. Some learn best by listening, whilst others prefer to see the written word. Some people like to work on their own, others like to work with in company. Many prefer to study independently whilst other learners require the structure and discipline imposed by a class or an individual tutor.
It is important to decide on the reasons for learning a foreign language and to what level it is to be studied. The chosen methods may depend on whether the aim is to acquire some spoken holiday language, to converse confidently and fluently or to listen and /or read in the foreign language.
If, at first, the wrong approach is chosen, don’t be afraid to stop and change to another more effective one. There is little point in persevering with a method that is not working. Otherwise, it is easy to become discouraged and a negative attitude is not conducive to learning.
Foreign Language Schools, Courses and Resources
- Part time adult foreign language learning classes in the home country
- Language schools based abroad. These language lessons can be on a weekly, or daily basis Individual lessons with a specialist tutor which are tailored to individual needs
- Informal conversation classes at home or abroad
- Immersion in the language – staying with a family or a business colleague abroad
- Learning on-line – a range of language learning software and websites is available. The BBC languages website is particularly useful
- Foreign language CDs and DVDs
- Language courses published in book and textbook forms
- Watching TV, listen to the radio ( foreign TV stations and radio stations can be accessed via the internet) and reading magazines and books in the language being studied
Further Suggestions for Learning Foreign Languages
- Do not attempt, or expect, to understand every word – look out for key words whether listening or reading
- Remember the mantra of a little and often – 30 minutes every day is better than one 3 hour session a week. Build time into one’s daily routine which is specifically reserved for language learning and practice
- Set oneself realistic and achievable targets – write these down and check them off once they have been reached
- Build up language knowledge like building bricks – do not progress to the next layer unless sure of the foundations and regularly go back and revisit what has been already learnt
- Learn the rules of pronunciation – it is important that when a dictionary is used to look up new words, they are then used accurately.
- Learning words, phrases and verb forms from memory is essential and unavoidable
- Look for the positives – think of what can be understood and said, rather than what cannot
Above all be brave and have a go. Do not strive for perfection as this may inhibit progress and prevent one from using the newly acquired language.
Whatever the motivation, it is never too late to take up the study of a foreign language. One should decide how one learns best and then choose the most appropriate method or methods.