We had the pleasure of being on the Guardian’s live Q&A chat on “The best way to learn a language”. The two hour discussion touched upon the best approaches to adopt to reflect individual learning styles, how to stay motivated when learning a language, and how to maintain a positive attitude through the common frustrations that are a part of the learning process.
Find out more about the topics we discussed:
We all agreed that objectives are needed to really succeed in learning a language. Once the student knows why they are studying, a goal or intention can emerge. A learning approach comes after realising the goal as people need true motivation to succeed. For business purposes, globalization has made the motive clear. After realising the motive, learners then can look at how to learn best e.g reading, writing, group work etc.
Should fluency be a goal when starting to learn a language?
The majority of the panel agreed that learning a language to be fluent is not the best goal to have in learning another language as the term itself means different things to different people. In business for instance, an individual may consider themselves fluent but may not be able to converse fluently in a specific area of business such as medicine, pharmaceutical or finance. However one panelist did said that becoming fluent was the only thing that motivated him.
How useful to learning a language is reading for pleasure?
The panelists agreed that reading a book in another language will have an enormously positive effect on overall learning. This is because it exposes learners to varied vocabulary sorts, and normalises otherwise baffling and complicated grammatical structures.
‘Myths’ about learning a language
There are lots of myths around learning a language and the majority are not helpful. The panelists listed numerous myths such as: only young people can do it, you need to have a flair for languages, its expensive pointless etc. The panelists worried that this put of people learning a second language.
A question of grammar
In the British school system is English grammar isn’t taught. Once a second language is learnt, other languages become easier. Also it will improve native English speakers English!
It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all method as people learn in different ways at different paces, and the most effective way may involve not one but a mixture of different techniques.