quarta-feira, 27 de junho de 2012

The World’s Best Language Learning Method

By Aaron Myers

There are a lot of choices available for learning another language. There always have been. With the Internet though, the quantity of information about learning language has grown exponentially. So have the number of programs that promise you more than could ever be true. Programs, methods, course, resources – there are more options for learning language now than there have ever been.
There are also more opinions and arguments over what works best. So the question is, should you:
  • begin speaking right away or wait to speak until you’re ready?
  • use LingQ or Livemocha or Rosetta Stone or does all online learning really just stink?
  • study grammar or is studying grammar of the devil?
  • study for hours a day or just play with the language and have fun?
  • use SRS, DLI, SSR, AL, UG, or just sit around in your BVDs?
  • use the TV method, core novel method or the put the book under your pillow at night method?
Anyway, a casual trip through the blogs of those of us who write about language learning will reveal a myriad of ideas, programs, methods and arguments for and against all of them. Drop down into the comment section and it seems often that the fate of all mankind rests on one method or another being defended and proven with out a doubt to be the best or attacked as an inferior idea that will lead to the death of millions.

I try to steer clear of the arguments, but the discussions, when tactful, are truly useful and indeed an important part of improving language learning for all of us. They are discussions that need to keep taking place, for with out them a stagnation can occur that hurts language learners everywhere. It is why I encourage all of my readers to read other bloggers, to learn from them and their language learning.

But I must tell you that there is one program, one method that is the worlds best when it comes to language learning. It is YOU. You the language learner. You are the best method, the best program, the best thing that has happened to your language learning and it is because of you that you will learn the language.

People have been learning languages for thousands of years using all sorts of crazy methods and ideas, some of which are ridiculous. But they still learned other languages.

Methods and programs are important to think about. I wrote as much when I shared a bit of an Annie Dillard story a few weeks back. But in the end, your learning depends on you. We are all different.

Everyone I know who has learned another language well, has done it in a different way. I have one friend here in Istanbul who is an academic geek. He loves the process of learning as much as he loves being able to use the language. He loves studying grammar books and working through stuff that would kill me. I think he makes grammar trees as a hobby.
Another friend volunteers as a waiter on his off days at a local restaurant just so he can be in the language for eight hours straight once a week. Others have used language helpers and others signed up for local classes. And they are all successful language learners.

The thing they all had going for them was that they knew themselves. They recognized what they liked, what their learning style was and how they felt like they could best learn. They put themselves firmly in charge of their learning and made the choices they needed to make so that they could succeed.
For one friend, that meant signing up for a Turkish class but never doing any of the assigned homework. It messed with her teacher, but hey, she was paying the bill and was learning loads and enjoying the journey.

I look at it this way. In order to learn a language you need two things. You need good exposure to the language – comprehensible input – and you need time. Lots of time. A 1,000 page grammar textbook written at the turn of the century will get you both if you can stomach it and I am pretty sure you would learn the language working through it.
I once read that, with the Defense Language Institute material, soldiers signed up and then spent eight hours a day, five days a week, sitting in a classroom going through the books for a year straight. That is over 2,000 hours of exposure to the language.
Now, I need to step back and say that while input plus time will lead to language learning, the reality is that if you hate something, you won’t put in the time. And that is a big part of the reason why the discussions on the various blogs are so very important.

Everyone is out there experimenting, finding out what they love to do to learn language. The more people who do this, the more likely it is that you will run across an idea or method or strategy that fits what you need.
But you need to decide. I can’t. I can offer ideas. Lots of ideas. I can encourage you to think about ways to maximize any method to get the most out of it for your learning style and your personality and all that goes in to making you who you are.

But in the end, it’s up to YOU.


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