Getting the right advice when you’re learning something new can transform your learning process. But getting the wrong advice and mistakenly following it can undo that process very quickly.
So how do you distinguish the great advice from the awful? We’ll be honest, it’s difficult. Some of the worst advice out there about language learning can appear useful for the beginners or those without any previous experience learning.
This is why we’ve curated the top 5 awful advice for you to ignore (and run from).
1. “You’re too old” to learn a language
Despite what conventional society tells us, how ‘old’ we are shouldn’t affect our ability to reach fluency in a language. We’re not saying that a 50-year-old person can learn as fast as someone who’s 5 years old, but it’s more than possible.
In fact, a study done by Hakuta, Bialystok and Wiley compared the language learning abilities in adults of different ages. Each participant was taught the same words in the same learning environment. The results showed that people over 50 learn just as well as people in their 20’s or 30’s.
2. You need to travel to a foreign country
With the advent of technology today, there’s no reason for anyone to travel to a foreign country to learn a language. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a plane ticket and finding accommodation, you can find amazing teachers where you are.
From my experiences traveling, I’ve seen many people that assumed living in a foreign country will guarantee their ability to learn. Because of this, they didn’t make much of an effort, and by the time they had to come back home, it was too late.
The key is motivation, not just environment.
3. Just use free mobile apps!
There are plenty of free mobile apps out there that can help you practice your vocabulary and grammar. But there’s only so much that these apps can help you with.
Duolingo is probably the first tool you think of, but the following is the response from some customers at Rype:
The point we’re trying to make is not that you shouldn’t use these free language apps to learn, but you shouldn’t rely on it being your sole method of learning. It’s like trying to get in the best shape of your life by relying on a fitness application on your phone, there’s more to it!
4. Focus on using just one method to learn a language
Focus is certainly important, but as we shared before, relying on one method is not the way to go. There’s a method you want to use for developing your writing skills, another method for speaking, and so forth.
You should also find different ways to activate your brain. The purpose of learning a language for most people is to communicate with others, and that’s how we should be learning how to speak it. You can do this via language meetups, finding accountability partners, or working with a private language teacher online (especially if you’re busy).
5. You can learn conversation in the classroom
Last but not least, the advice on how to become a better speaker in a foreign language.
Tim Ferriss, who’s a polyglot and bestselling author, says:
“Somewhat like riding a bike, though unfortunately not as permanent, language fluency is more dependent on practicing the right things than learning the right things. The rules (grammar) can be learned through materials and classes, but the necessary tools (vocabulary and idiomatic usage) will come from independent study and practice in a native environment.”
His point was that there’s nothing that can replace practicing with a real human being to improve your communication skills. That’s how we learned our first language, and it’s still the best way to learn the second.