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  • What’s the best method to learn a foreign language?

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 Mairo Vergara 1 comment

    languageDuring these last years I have been learning a lot about language learning. Although at the university they seem to care more about language teaching, if you check out the Internet or ask language learners out there you will find out that what really matters is learning. It’s all about learning and how to do it, how to learn a language. Once you know how, you just do it, without further questions. There are many methods, many ways in which one can learn a language. We are, naturally, always looking for the best method, the fastest way, the easiest path to mastering English, Japanese, Spanish, whateverish…

    In fact, there are good and bad methods. Take language schools for instance; Language schools, when combined with poor teachers, can be amazingly awful. I’m not saying all schools are bad, but you probably know that guy who spent years and years learning English (or any other language) at that school and ended up not being able to maintain a basic conversation or read the newspaper in English. On the other hand, good methods when used wrong can produce poor results. Some methods can be too hardcore for our simple minds, although we know the method itself really works, we just can’t follow/do it.

    In the end, what you should know, what you should (at least you should…) notice by yourself is that there isn’t A SINGLE METHOD for language learning. Each student has to find his own method, his own way of learning. Of course, this isn’t an easy thing to do. I have been studying languages on and off for about 7 years, and still don’t know what kind of study suits me better. I know some things work and some don’t, but to find out exactly what does work isn’t that easy.

    All methods have good and bad points, so what you have to do is notice the good points and use them in your own way. As I said, each one has his own method of learning, so maybe what works for you isn’t going to work for me, but you still have to check it out, try it out. Take a look at AJATT, learning about exposure, RSS and 10000 hours of hard-work. Check out Steve Kaufmann’s ideas on language learning, and try his system “LingQ“. Watch YouTubes from professor Arguelles and Stu Jay. Go to a language school near your house. Write something on Lang-8. Try out Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, Assimil, etc. There are many, MANY, methods for language learning. None of them will ever be THE METHOD. Lisa can learn 10 languages using only Assimil, Thania can learn the same using AJATT method, and Claudia can learn just going to classes. Of course I’m being a bit theatrical, but I just want to show that there isn’t one method that rules over all others. Your method will probably be a combination of many methods. That’s why you have to try out different approaches, and once you find out your way, stick to it and keep going!

    If you work hard on it, you probably will not only find out which learning methods and strategies suit you better, but you also will start to notice some universal principles about language learning. The average language learner, who usually follows just one methods (like many English teachers here in Brazil who have taught English using the same method for more than 20 years), will probably not learn these principles and, therefore, become kind of limited when it comes to how to learn a language. The union of knowing the principles of language learning and what study methods and strategies suit you better is certainly the best method (your best method!). You just have to find it out!

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