6. Ignore the myths: age is just a number
You are a monolingual adult: have you missed the language boat? Ralby argues "a key language myth is that it's harder as an adult". Adults and children may learn in different ways but that shouldn't deter1
you from committing to learning another language. "Languages are simultaneously2
organic and systematic3
. As children we learn languages organically and instinctively4
; as adults we can learn them systematically5
If you're still not convinced of your chances, Ralby suggests drawing inspiration from early philologists6
who "learned dozens of languages to encyclopaedic levels as adult.
7. Do some revision of your native language
Speaking your first language may be second nature, but that doesn't necessarily mean you understand it well. Kerstin Hammes, editor of the Fluent Language Blog, believes you can't make good progress in a second language until you understand your own. "I think understanding your native language and just generally how language works is so essential before you launch yourself at a bunch of foreign phrases."
8. Don't underestimate the importance of translation
Different approaches may be necessary at different stages of the learning process. Once you have reached a certain level of proficiency9
and can say quite a bit, fairly accurately10
, Rebecca Braun, senior lecturer in German studies at Lancaster University, says it is typical to feel a slowing down in progress. "Translation," she says, "is such an important exercise for helping11
you get over a certain plateau that you will reach as a language learner ... Translation exercises don't allow you to paraphrase12
and force the learner on to the next level.".
Many of the panellists were cautious of the F-word. Hammes argues not only is it difficult to define what fluency is, but "as a goal it is so much bigger than it deserves to be. Language learning never stops because it's culture learning, personal growth and endless improvement. I believe that this is where learners go wrong".
10. Go to where the language is spoken
It may not be an option for everyone but Braun reminds us that "if you are serious about learning the language and getting direct pleasure from what you have learned, you need to go to where that language is spoken".
Travel and living abroad can complement14
learning in the classroom: "The books and verb charts may be the easiest way to ensure you expose yourself to the language at home, but the people and the culture will far outclass them once you get to the country where your language is spoken."