Easy Language Learning
Is learning a foreign language ever easy ? Yes. If you are five
and move to another country ......
But what about for the rest of us who are no longer five, and
need to be polite when travelling for business or for pleasure ?
I think that the answer is yes, language learning can be easy
provided you don't want or need to learn too much.
The key to successful language learning in my mind is not to set
the goalposts too high. It is rather like running. Even if you
run twice a week, you don't necessarily want to be able to run a
marathon, or have any intention of running a marathon or maybe
you never could run a marathon. You might just want to maintain
a level of fitness. I think the same can be said for language
learning. I find languages fascinating and enjoy dabbling with
them, but that doesn't mean I feel duty-bound to get good (or
maybe I can't anyway). I'm a programmer and have no particular
aptitude for foreign language learning, but I like to learn some
of the language before I visit a country.
Let's get back to the goalposts. If you decide to learn ten
words in a foreign language before visiting the country, you
know that you will manage to do this. Learning a foreign
language for your purposes has now been redefined to learning
ten words. Conversely if you decide to attain conversational
fluency, unless you are an exceptionally talented individual you
will fall far short of your goal, and quite probably give up.
I think that there is far to much emphasis on this
completer-finisher thing with regard to languages.
For the majority of us, language learning should be easy and
fun. Of course, I'm not saying that there isn't a place for
becoming fluent in other languages, I'm just saying that for
most of us it isn't practica, necessary or even possible.
I like travelling but I don't have the time or aptitude to learn
too much of any particular foreign language. So I learn, or
dabble and enjoy it. I set goals that work for me and are
usually to learn about hundred words whenever I visit a new
country. I'll learn the words you need to be polite, the
numbers, greetings and a few general phrases. Doing this always
results in a better holiday and I enjoy it.
It is also far easier to start learning a foreign language than
to finish. In other words the better you are the slower it can
be to improve, because you are becoming stuck with grammar,
making sentences, learning less common words etc. If you are
only trying to learn a few foreign words and phrases you will
enjoy a faster rate of progress, have more fun, and don't have
to spend to much time on any given language.
Minority languages are particular candidates for this approach,
because often you don't need to use them to communicate and they
are by their very nature not widely used.
A good example is Catalan which is spoken in the north-east of
Spain by about 10 million people, almost all of whom are
bilingual (also speaking Spanish). There is no need to learn
Catalan to travel around this area of Spain, if you already
speak Spanish, but it shows respect for the local culture and it
is an interesting thing to do.