About LLS:

Throughout my career, I have received thousands of questions regarding languages and I have finally decided to answer them objectively with no strings attached. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave your comments below.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why some people learn foreign languages faster than others!

This is a very difficult question because it all depends on predispositions. Let's take a look at some of the factors which might affect your learning pace. Before attempting to learn a new language from scratch, ask yourself these questions and fill out this test.

Test your ability to learn a language:

1- Ask yourself these questions and pick the letter which accurately reflects you. 

2- Compile the letters and look at the chart located at the bottom of the page.

  • Do you understand how languages work?

What I mean by "work" is the fact that every language is usually structured with similar components such as "nouns", "adjectives", "verbs" and so on. When you look at your mother language, do you understand its core? Do you just speak it in order to make a living? Is a language more or less logical for you or do you just cram it like a memorizing game?

A) I understand very well.
B) I understand more or less.
C) I have never really thought about it.

Its always better to understand, than to memorize.

  • How many languages do you know from birth?
Depending on the country where you were born, some individuals have a better start than others. The more languages you begin with, the easier it is to learn another language; since your brain has developed a larger range of possible structures. Wherever you are from, your language is perhaps similar to the neighboring countries surround your own, and hence we can assume that the structure of those languages is quite similar to yours. If you happen to speak "French", the structure and even some of the more advanced grammar elements are very similar to Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

A) 3 or more.
B) 2.

C) Only 1.

A good start often predicts a good ending.

  • How many languages have you learned so far?
It is safe to assume that once you have done something, the second attempt comes easier and this is only due to the fact that you have gone over the essentials. Whether you want it or not, the brain tends to develop shortcuts as it tries to learn new things. You must learn to know and understand yourself. Different individuals learn using different methods; therefore you should learn what makes your own brain tick. Ask yourself these questions?
1- Do I remember what I see? What I say? What I hear? What I write? Or what I read?

2- Do I easily grasp grammatical concepts and the vocabulary involved without being confused?

3- Do I use some tricks such as mnemonics, word association and sensory association in order to learn?

A) I have learned 2 or more.
B) I have learned only 1.
C) I have learned none.

Don't try to learn everything at once.

  • Are you properly guided?
Do you have someone making sure that your progress is going in the right way? Is it a teacher or perhaps a friend? Has he given you the right tools and explained the less obvious elements? Do you feel as if you understand why things are as such rather than being confused with every advancing step? Are you provided with tools, books and sources that are accurate and trustworthy?

A) I have a teacher.
B) I have a friend.
C) I study on my own.

Don't be afraid to ask stupid questions! Better to know than to act like you know.

  • How regularly do you put effort in your education? 
Do you study the language regularly? Do you dedicate at least half an hour daily? Keep in mind, that your brain needs time to soak in new information and one cannot expect to learn 5000 words in 1 day no matter how many hours you stare at a textbook. Give yourself a reasonable timeframe to cover all the elements, but don't expect it to be done in weeks but rather in months. Learning languages should be a lifestyle, not a mission.

A) I dedicate an hour everyday.
I dedicate a couple of hours every week.
I do my homework before class.

An hour a day is better than five hours at once.

  • Do you have anybody to speak with?
Let me put it bluntly; if you don't practice verbally, the chance of you forgetting what you have learned is almost inevitable. Speaking surpasses by far any other methods. A person who practices a couple times a week has a greater chance of retaining the knowledge than someone who spent hours reading books and doing exercises. The potential of spoken practice is and shall remain outmatched.

A) I practice a couple of hours every week.
I practice an hour or so every week.
I don't practice at all.

Thats what friends are for.

  • Are you in love with the language?
The truth is simple; the greater the love, the greater the motivation. If you study a language that excites your every emotion, you will learn faster. I have seen many girls romantically involved with foreigners and the results were outstanding. They developed such an obsession with the language that they literally became wannabes. They wanted to belong so much to a different culture that the outcome made them speak fluently.

A) I love the language.
I don't mind the language.
I dislike it, but I need it.

Obsession has its pros and cons.

  • Do you listen to music, watch movies and read books?
In even the most isolated places on the planet where some american movies have made their way, people still know words such as "hello" and "cool" and this without attending any language school whatsoever. If your regularly listen, watch and read foreign media, the chance of learning vocabulary unconsciously is almost guaranteed.

A) I always listen to foreign music.
I sometimes listen to foreign music.
I only listen to music in my native language.

Combine work and pleasure.

Compile your answers:

If you have answered "A" more than five times, you will learn extremely quickly.
If you have answered "B" more than five times, you will learn fairly quickly.
If you have answered "A, B or C" less than four times, you will learn moderately.
If you have answered "C" more than five times, you will learn slowly.


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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://languagelearningshortcuts.blogspot.com/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.pmls.pl/Disclaimereng.htm.

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