Although it is well known that foreign language skills are very useful, many of us still do not deal with them properly.
There are many myths about learning foreign languages – they are usually the reason for this alarming problem.
There is a common belief that the ability to learn only exists to a certain age and the best results are achieved by starting education at an early age. This is partly true. Children learn using both hemispheres of the brain, making it easy to remember words, phrases, and even sentences.
Early contact with the language makes it easy and quick to learn it later. Research shows that we reach the maximum levels of memory and perception between the ages of 18 and 25, followed by a decrease. However, American scientist Edward L. Thorndike proved that this decrease is practically unnoticeable and is only 1% per year.
He also showed that between the ages of 25 and 40 we have a much higher ability to learn than in childhood. People over 40 may have problems learning vocabulary and grammar, but they do not have to. There is no evidence that older people cannot learn a foreign language. On the other hand, mental activity is desirable for them. Effective learning does not depend on age, but above all on motivation, regularity, and intelligence.
Another myth. A native speaker will teach you the best – let’s throw your child into the deep water. This is a common view, but not entirely true. The temptation is great: after all, the native speaker has an excellent accent and the child gets involved in the foreign language tricks. Yes, it’s true, provided that the native speaker reacts immediately and flawlessly to the needs of a small listener if necessary.
Not all the actions of the teacher and not all activities during the lesson will be clear and understandable for every child if the only medium of communication is a foreign language. When working with a group of children, it is difficult to predict all possible scenarios of children’s behavior: sudden changes of mood can happen on a daily basis. The teacher should react like someone close to a child when he understands the problem of a small listener.
The feeling of a lack of understanding, however, may first create anxiety and then discouragement of learning in general, and it will take some time before we can remove the negative experiences. Let us remember that the kid in contact with the teacher must feel absolutely safe because only then learning the language will be a positive, joyful experience for the child.
Another myth that makes it difficult to master a foreign language is the belief that it can only be learned abroad. Getting to foreign countries is a wonderful thing, getting to know different cultures and talking with many interesting people – all this is good for successful learning. However, this is not the only opportunity to learn a foreign language.
Modern methods of learning put great focus on conversion. Classes in school or courses are followed by group conversations, which also allow us to learn to understand from pronunciation and hearing. Visits across borders are a perfect opportunity to actively use the language in everyday situations. However, the best thing we will do is to treat it as a follow-up to our previous education.
And another myth. My child does not know the grammar! Children learn the basics of own language grammar in the third year of primary school because it is assumed that they are only then intellectually ready to make abstract language analyses. Introducing grammatical rules too early with a foreign language may, therefore, be a waste of time and unfortunately, may stop the child from learning.
Young children learn successfully by associating phrases and whole sentences with specific situations and by constantly repeating them. Therefore, do not expect young children to repeat the grammatical rules or make an error-free speech. It will take time, preferably in later classes of primary school.
My child is making mistakes! Nothing is harmful! Probably this means that he is not afraid of challenges and experiments, and by doing this he learns quickly and with joy. Over time it will eliminate errors. It is important that the pupil knows where he/she makes mistakes and how to deal with them, but remember that we all learn!
The more languages, the better! You want to give your child the best start with all your heart, but remember the principle: “Let’s do one thing, but let’s do it well.” And second principle: “Everything in order”. If your child starts learning the first foreign language at pre-school age, give him/her a few years to become familiar with it. It should be remembered that it is becoming easier to learn every language.
Your child has a chance to learn three or four foreign languages before reaching adulthood and will be in the race for a better job and better life opportunities.
Many people also think that learning a foreign language can skip grammar. It is also one of the big and fundamental myth. The conversion itself is not enough to master the entire language. Lack of knowledge of grammatical rules leads to mistakes. Knowledge of the rules is also essential if we are interested in a certificate confirming our language skills. Without such proof, it will be difficult for us to find a well-paid job, even though we would have done a great work in foreign language conversations. Knowledge of grammar will also make it easy to remember all the phrases.
It should also be remembered that there are no wonderful methods by which you can master a foreign language in a perfect way in a very short time. There are many methods that are important to choose one that suits us the most, thanks to which learning becomes a pleasure for us, not an unhappy task. It is also important to have the right attitude, strong motivation for regular lessons because of them we will not achieve our goals.