What software, book or technique is best for learning a foreign language? Is it DuoLingo? Or your university language course?
Most people at some point in their lives have expressed a desire to learn a foreign tongue. According to IBIS World reports the US private language education sector is worth 2 billion USD. It must be worth closer to 10 billion if you add in the public education sector. Yet despite untold billions of dollars being spent yearly on language classes, most people American or otherwise fail to reach fluency in their second tongue. Every year countless new pieces of software and courses are released, each promising success to buyers. In this light, the language education industry is remiscent of the diet pill and diet program industry.
In order to help people on their language learning journey I have put together the following list which I am certain will help people make the right choices in their language learning adventures.
**Since many native english speakers in the USA, Canada and England want to learn Spanish, many examples in this little list feature pictures of people “learning” Spanish**
10 Language Learning Dos and Don’ts for Success:
10 — Do spend vast amounts of time answering questions in language workbooks. The simplistic examples in workbooks present an accurate representation of the real language. Plus, workbooks have been carefully designed by the best linguists in the world –Chomsky himself– to help you magically learn language by working on context-less, math-like problems.
9 — Avoid the temptation to seek out native language materials such as newspapers and novels. Spending time reading in a foreign language may help you deepen your understanding of the language’s grammatical system, common sayings or vocabulary but it’s kinda frustrating. Better stick to being spoon-fed vocabulary and grammar found in textbooks, workbooks and that idiotic Instagram posts for X-language learners.
8 — Don’t try to watch free YouTube videos in the language you want to learn. If you don’t understand 100% of everything being said your brain will explode. That confusion and angst you might feel when exposing yourself to the real language –perhaps only 15-20 minutes a time– might de-motivate you. Do you really want to immerse yourself in a new language and culture you don’t fully comprehend? Better stick to overly simplified and shockingly unimaginative materials created just for language learners.
Plus, if you buy these materials at least you can be sure that your are helping some poor corporate marketing hack finally buy that West Side apartment she has always wanted.
7 — Do spend vast amounts of time in DuoLingo and other applications on the phone. As you always suspected Language is not an incredibly complex system of communication which linguists have failed to crack despite 2500 years of research in this field. You were right all along because indeed some 25 year-old computer programmers who barely passed Spanish 101 easily solved the language puzzle and built a game to help you learn.
As we know, DuoLingo and similar apps are so successful that nearly everyone who has stuck with them a few hundred hours now translates for the United Nations.
6 — Do attend over-priced summer language courses in tropical locations. It is a well established fact that to learn a foreign language you should surround yourself with speakers of a language you already know. By attending a language course with Chuck the business guy who somehow manages to pronounce every word with the same sounds as he does English, you are certain to learn fluent (insert language here) in 3 weeks. How else would you get the opportunity to use language workbooks in a tropical location for any less than 3000 USD?
5 — Don’t listen to free internet radio broadcasts from countries where the language you are learning is spoken. It is a certain fact that you will not understand everything you hear. Not understanding everything is frustrating and confusing. While listening to real conversation in real context might be the way you learned your first language(s), you are probably better off paying too much money for crappy audio-tape content. Now available on equally obsolete CDs!
4 — Do spend time seeking learning methods and gimmicks and avoid spending time actually reading, listening, viewing or using the language. This is time well invested. As we know, the best way to solve a problem is to spend lots of time devising solutions in never-ending committee meetings and not spending time doing anything productive or creative.
3 — Look for materials that are “just your level.” Instead of accepting the fact that a language is complex and unpredictable, and that we simply can’t understand everything, we should shy away from authentic materials. Sure, you could accept that XYZ book is pretty hard, and simply be satisfied with only reading 2 pages a day –and having to ask a friend for help. But no, you want to have the satisfaction of finishing the book and understanding everything!
Reading two pages a day from some literature, an article or two from a newspaper and several “normal” absurd social media posts might possibly maybe be an excellent language diet for language learners –but you know better. You know the good stuff costs money. Go find some unchallenging and unimaginative rag at your local big-box book store that was written with the express purpose of making publishers some of that buy-me-a-condo-in-MarBella cash.
2 — Don’t seek out opportunities to meet native speakers or fluent non-native speakers. First of all meeting people is weird. Who needs that? Next, it might be true that being involved in a conversation –even though you can’t participate at the level of a native- might be the only real way to learn. And sure, there is evidence that being engaged in real events tied to real emotions might help you learn in a meaningful way, but it is best to stick to workbooks and classroom learning.
It is frustrating to not be able to “understand everything.” Your best bet to improve you linguistic skills is to go to a foreign language class. O better yet, Rosetta Stone!
1 — Given the chance to speak the language you are trying to learn you should chose to remain quiet lest you make some embarrassing mistake. No-one except you expects you to get it all correct. And it is absurd to expect you to speak 100% correctly. However, mistakes show weakness –non-English speakers can smell weakness. Better wait till you can speak perfectly before speaking –just like you did when you were learning your mother tongue(s).
There you have it 10 dos and don’t that will help you have the same language learning results as the rest of the kids.
What system has worked for you? Make a comment below and share your language learning success story?
Ok seriously people, if you didn’t get that this was satire, then, uh, well, I don’t know what to say. Satisfied, Jenney? I told them.