The Secret To Acquiring A Foreign Language
January 11, 2023, marks my second anniversary in Mazatlan, Mexico. I should speak more Spanish than I do. I hired an online teacher shortly after I arrived, and she took me through all the conjugations of verbs. Think about how you learned to speak your first language as a baby. Did you learn to conjugate verbs first? Of course not.
I wish I could drill a hole in my head and have Spanish poured into it. Unfortunately, learning a second language is a lot of work. There’s no way to get around it. I am so impressed by people who can switch back and forth between two languages. They seem like geniuses to me.
There are some wonderful programs online for learning a foreign language. I’ve used all of these:
- Duolingo: This seems to be a favorite among language learners. You can get a free or paid subscription.
- Spanish Dictionary: It’s not only a dictionary. There is also instruction. Like Duolingo, it’s free or paid.
- Fluencia: You’ll have to pay for this program which is owned by Spanish Dictionary. I like this a lot because it’s very interactive.
- Pro Spanish: I think this program is the best which I will get into later.
Although I’ve acquired some Spanish since living in Mazatlan, I know why I’m not progressing faster:
- I’m not studying it consistently.
- I’m not getting out every day and speaking to the locals.
- It’s not getting from short-term memory into long turn memory.
I recently hired a new Spanish teacher. This week, during my first lesson, I had an epiphany. He’s a native speaker, and like all first-language Spanish speakers, he speaks very fast. As I struggled to understand what he was saying, I told him that I need to see the spelling of the word to understand what is being said.
He told me that learning the language is not a sight-to-mouth process. It’s brain-to-mouth. It made perfect sense to me. By forcing me to hear and think about the word or phrase, I’m storing it in my brain. Babies don’t learn language by seeing the words first.
I first started studying Spanish on Duolingo. Duolingo is very much a visual, interactive program. In Sacramento, California where I lived, a Duolingo study group started up and was led by a woman who had lived in Mexico. I dropped out after the first meeting. I discovered immediately that I couldn’t retrieve anything that I learned on Duolingo. It was out of sight; out of mind.
My mother-in-law told me she could read French, but she couldn’t speak it. I’ve heard this from other people when it comes to foreign languages. They’ve trained their brains to recognize the meaning of the words on sight, but the words are not getting stored in their brains.
Last year, I ran across a YouTube video called How to acquire any language Not learn it. Professors of foreign languages explain that we learn language through comprehensible input. I just now went back to that video for reference. The method they present to you is based on extensive research.
I hope you take the time to listen to it if you are serious about learning a second language. They explain it much better than I could ever articulate it.
If you watched the video, let me know what you think about what they’re saying.
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