We all know that learning a language is one of the things that makes us human but did you know that learning a language is one of the most complex things that we do? Some chimps have been able to successfully use a limited amount of picture cards in showing their understanding of language. Some dolphins have been able to make sounds in a kind of communication with humans but their level of speech does not even match my 2 year old grandson. Language is definitely a human domain.
We are wired to learn a language from birth and it is not only the words but also the complexities of the pronunciation where, depending on your country of birth, you will learn the intricacies of rolling your “r’s” of clicking your tongue or using guttural sounds created in the throat. These are the kind of things that make learning another language more challenging. Learning a second language is, at first, a process of comparing what we already know to what we hear in the new language. We hear new sounds and new words and we try to compare and connect them to the existing language we already know.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Each week Rocco and George teach me one new phrase in Italian – Buongiorno, arrivederci, uno momento, parli Italiano? This is about as far as it goes, so far. It is great for perfecting the pronunciation but a bit slow going. It probably fits in with my attitude on life which is to learn what you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can. I am a lifelong learner full of all matter of interesting trivia. There is no urgency to my study just a vague idea that one day wouldn’t it be nice if when I went to Italy, I could speak a little Italian.
“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.” ‒ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
My daughter is learning one French phrase per day. She is very busy and has many other things happening in her life so she just needs to slot one phrase into her day. This suits her needs and she learns it off an app on her phone which is also good for hearing the pronunciation. But to learn a language in 3 months something more is required.
At age 17 Roshan had the passion and drive to learn a language. His family were from Germany a few generations ago and he felt a strong connection with this that fueled his desire to learn the language. He wanted to learn about where his family had come from and felt it was important to learn to think like one of his ancestors to fully understand his roots. He got on a plane, flew to Germany and stayed there for 3 months and he set himself a challenge – to speak nothing but German for the whole time he was there. The idea was that he would pick up key phrases and words first, and then learn the grammar almost unconsciously as he went along. By not talking in his native tongue, he is starting to think in the new language. This resulted in quicker learning and better vocabulary retention and a fast transition to fluency. When Roshan returned home after 3 months he could speak fluent German. Roshan believed that
“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ‒ Rita Mae Brown.
When it comes to learning a language you will be one of these kinds of learners but when it comes to learning a language in 3 months, the immersion technique, that Roshan followed, is considered by language experts to be the best way. They have found that people learn more quickly if they stop reading books and just start speaking the language they are aiming to learn. This intensive exposure reaps great rewards. So if you love the idea of learning a language in 3 months and you also have the passion for doing so and you are not lucky enough to travel what can you do?
- Download audio lessons to your computer or mp3 player or ipod.
- Attend a language school – most language schools use some version of the immersion method.
- Download a language app.
- Skype someone in another country and converse.
- Open Culture has 46 languages available to learn online for free: http://www.openculture.com/freelanguagelessons
- The Open University http://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages provides help in text and video for beginners up to reading classical Latin.
- Free-Language http://freelanguage.org/ provides videos, apps, audio and text.