May 7, 2010, Newsletter Issue #79: Why most people fail at learning a new language

Tip of the Week

Remember that high school foreign language class? Remember how difficult it was? Remember any Spanish from it? Probably not too much. This is because too often foreign language classes in high school and college are not taught using a sound teaching method. Another problem is class size. Too many students and you spend most of your time hoping the teacher won't call on you instead of practicing and working with the language. But perhaps the biggest reason why people fail at learning languages is that they are using learning strategies they acquired as they grew up, but does not make use of the natural ability humans have for learning languages. A conventional grammar breaks down a language and tries to present it in the form of conjugation and declension charts in which students have to memorize forms, prefixes, suffixes, and so forth. Leaving aside that most people know next to nothing about comparative grammar, this method does not use the brain's natural ability to learn a language by listening and responding. Very few people can learn languages from a book, so if you've tried that without success, some form of lessons on audio tapes or CDs will probably work better for you.

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