Language learning is one of the best ways to broaden your horizons and better yourself as a person. It can also be intimidating. Many people would like to learn a foreign language, but they feel the task would be too hard. This is unfortunate because with a little effort and a commitment to the goal, learning a language can happen sooner than most people think.
The Old Methods: Do They Make It More Difficult to Learn a Foreign Language?
Chances are that you probably took languages classes at some point in your educational history. Anywhere you live, school curriculums include the study of foreign languages, but the average high-school student does not graduate with a fluency in another language.
Many students can manage reading and writing in a foreign language, but they struggle to understand it in conversational form. These situations make it clear that the past methods of language education are lacking. What is the solution?
Language Learning: What Holds People Back?
One of the best ways to learn a language is to practice both writing the language and speaking it in a conversational manner. This is where many people panic and lose confidence in everything they have learned. If you’re new at a language, chances are that you haven’t even begun to grasp all the important grammar rules. This can lead to insecurity about sounding stupid when you write or speak the language, and this fear might hold you back from practicing.
This is why a focus on grammar is the wrong way to teach and learn a language. Grammar is the art of perfecting the use of a language you already know. When learning a language, it can hold students back in a variety of ways.
There is a lot to take in when learning a language. The last thing a student needs is to get bogged down in a sea of confusing grammar rules. Of course, there are languages with simpler rules. For example, the French grammar is more difficult than the German grammar, but unless you’re naturally gifted at learning languages, realizing there are so many grammar rules to figure out might leave you so discouraged that you give up.
2. Incorrect Focus
Grammar rules are generally about perfecting the written language. This isn’t to say that having a strong grasp on the written aspects of the language are not important. After all, many people do the majority of their communication online these days. However, if your aim is to learn to speak a foreign language, then spending a large amount of time focusing on grammar might be holding you back.
The goal for a language student is to become fluent as quickly as possible. Fluency with the spoken word will transfer to an understanding of the written word as well. The old models of teaching do not place an importance on becoming fluent as quickly as possible, and it seems this is a huge part of the problem.
3. A Lack of Conversational Aspects
Most of us don’t speak in the exact same way that we write. We choose different words, use slang and sometimes even say things in a different order than we would when writing them down. How many people do you know who speak using perfect grammar? Sure, some might exist, but it isn’t very common regardless what language we are discussing. For this reason, if you insist on studying grammar first and conversational language second, you might struggle to understand people as they speak. Luckily, nowadays there modern solutions available that immerse you in conversations from day 1.
4. A Major Lack of Fun
This might seem like a crazy concept to some, but learning a language should be an enjoyable experience! Too much focus on perfecting grammar can suck all the joy out of learning. Instead, students should make language learning about having pleasant conversations and social interactions. The new breed of language apps made the process fun and even VR apps that help you learn languages have made their way to the market.
Returning to Our Roots: Learning with the Mind of a Child
If you’re a native English speaker, you probably didn’t begin learning the language by studying grammar at the age of two. You learned by listening to the people around you speak. Since all children learn languages by focusing on the spoken word, shouldn’t adults do the same? Why are our schools placing such importance on perfect grammar?
It makes much more sense to first develop a fluency with speaking the language. Once a student is comfortable, more focus can be placed on perfecting grammar. It’s difficult to perfect upon a language you don’t yet understand.
If worrying about grammar has been holding you back in language learning, allow yourself to forget about that aspect for now. Instead, focusing on having fun and staying positive as you learn. Keeping a healthy attitude and enjoying the process is the best way to set yourself up for success, and if you keep at it, you’ll be having conversations in your chosen language before you know it.
Do you feel that grammar hold you back from learning a language? Share your story as a comment below.