Vaishali A. Patel
8 Myths About Learning a New Language
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Because deciding to learn a new language is an enormous task for most of us, there are a lot of myths swirling around about the process. I have many, many years of teaching Indian dialects to mostly expats of all ages ranging from PreSchool through Adult. We do classes in live group settings on Zoom, which I have found is the fastest way to get the most results. But there are also lots of other ways to start or progress. We offer digital courses you can take at your own pace if you just want to dabble. We are also developing a mobile app for those of you on the go.
You can get to fluency many different ways. Here I am going to debunk the kind of thinking that stops people from even starting. Gaining enough fluency to be conversational and to create the kinds of connections that a common language does to the people and culture of the language, is the most important thing. I hope I can encourage to start.
You're Too Old
Since the end result of learning a new language is known to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease...I say you are probably NEVER too old to learn one! The benefits outweigh any challenges. This idea of being too old comes from the "Critical Period Hypothesis" that has to do with brain plasticity. Researchers from three Boston-based universities did a study with 2/3 of a million respondents that showed that to obtain the grammatical fluency and accent of a native speaker, it is best to begin language learning before age 10.
You Can Learn Languages While You Sleep
How great would it be if we could learn a language while we sleep?!
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of evidence supporting 'hypnopaedic learning'.
Studies have shown that re-exposure during non-REM sleep of words learned while awake does seem to improve the remembering of the words. It is known that if you read something before going to sleep, your brain, in the Slow Wave Stage, organizes the information and creates better recall of that information. Little of what you 'learn' while sleeping will be easily recalled in your waking state.
You Can't Learn More Than one Language at a Time
Think about children in bilingual households. They start day one learning two languages simultaneously. It's possible. And it is no big deal.
For adults, learning two languages is more about motivation than anything else. It takes perseverance and focus, primarily because you will need to cognitively discern one from the other. Even though it can be done, I personally recommend, in our busy worlds these days, choosing one language and mastering it, then taking all that great brain flexibility you've developed and turn your attention to the next language. You will have the sense of making greater progress more quickly doing one at a time.
Immersion is the Best Way
Sounds good, but for the most part an almost impossible thing to achieve. Most people will get away with speaking their native language as much as possible if they can get away with it. If English is your native language, you can almost always find someone who speaks English to help you when you get stuck.
You Need to have a natural 'Gift' to Master another Language
There is some speculation that there is a special strand of DNA that makes your brain more adept at learning a language. But speculation is all it is. There is no science to back that up. And if you think about it logically...any child, anywhere in the world, has the ability to learn that native language. Your aptitude for learning a new language is equal to that of everyone else! If you are struggling with a new language, chances are you just need to practice more. So go for it!
Learning Two Languages Will Confuse Your Child
When young children are learning two languages simultaneously sometimes you will find they use words from one of the languages in a sentence primarily of the other, or they may mix up the grammar rules, but this is totally normal. By about age 4, this will get mostly figured out and eventually it will be no problem at all. Kids are smart. They got this and then you have a bilingual child in the family!
You Should Learn to Read/Write at the Same Time you learn to Speak
Not true! Speaking fluency and Writing fluency are two different skills and thus are best learned separately. Since speaking often has more application for people, I recommend mastering your speaking skills and THEN begin learning to read and write. Many language programs begin by teaching reading and writing most likely because it is easier to teach than speaking. But, again, use your common sense and think about how do most of us begin learning our very first language? By speaking it as babies and children. So begin there as well with language number 2.
If You Didn't Learn a Second Language as a Child,
it will be very difficult as an Adult
One area where child learners perform better than adolescents and adults is in pronunciation. It may appear that an Adult learning another language is doing more poorly however this potentially results from the fact that Adult and Adolescent sentence structure is, of course, more complex than a young child's, thus gives the appearance of being more challenging. As for learning, it seems that older humans actually perform overall better than young children in language acquisition, partially because they have developmental fortitude to focus and practice longer and more. A study published by UCLA shows that Adults pick up word order and relationship between words faster. Truth is, the brain can learn and grow at any age.
Now that you see what you thought was impossible, is actually quite easy, you can start for free by popping over to my Youtube channel, subscribing and watching all kinds of fun language content. Then when you are ready, come sign up for one of our classes and let's get started!
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