Learning a Foreign Language

From the Huffington Post Blog:

If you have never learned a foreign language, you may not have the confidence that you are a competent language learner, that you can achieve fluency. I know that I didn’t really believe I could do it over 50 years ago, until I did it in French. I have never doubted my ability to learn another language since then.

Unfortunately it is only possible to acquire this sense of confidence after having learned at least one language. Then the more languages you learn, the more competent and confident you become. I am a better language learner at age 70 then I was at age 16 because I have done it so many times.

I firmly believe that we all have the innate ability to learn foreign languages. We just need to believe in ourselves, and stay with the process. We just need to develop new habits and give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

There is a condition. Just as with embarking on a journey, when you decide to learn a language, you accept responsibility for reaching your target. In other words you have to take charge. You have to become and an autonomous learner.

Will it work?

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Will the learning method that you are using enable you to achieve your goal? If you want to travel somewhere, you have to be confident that the mode of transportation you are using will take you to the destination. By the same token you have to believe in the learning strategy that you have chosen. If you believe that the learning method you are using doesn’t work, then you should change that method.

In my view, the most effective learning strategy is one devoted to massive input, listening and reading, using interesting content you have chosen. Of course we need to start with beginner material that may not be so interesting, but we can move to authentic and interesting material surprisingly quickly.

This means that you seek first to acquire a large vocabulary and a high level of comprehension as the base upon which to build other language skills. I am convinced of the effectiveness of this approach both from my own experience of learning over a dozen languages and from reading research on language acquisition. I know that reading interesting language content on my iPad, or listening to an interesting audio book while walking my dog is not only enjoyable but constantly improves my language skills.

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