When you look around, it can be incredibly surprising just who knows more than one language. It can even be shocking to learn when someone learned a second or third language. When you encounter that rare person who knows over a half dozen languages, your mind can be blown away by the discovery.
But the real question is “How do people learn languages? “
Regardless of the learning method that works best for you, all people go through roughly the same process. You don’t have to be particularly adept at any language to manage the acquisition of a second. You don’t have to be particularly intelligent either. These things do help, but they aren’t necessary.
Anyone can learn more than one language.
It’s largely about the learning process itself.
Nearly All Children Learn a Language
If you need proof that anyone can learn a language, talk to a five-year-old. The kid may not be as adept at expressing himself, but there is no doubt the child knows at least one language. By simply being able to speak one language, you have proven that you can learn any language.
Initially, we learn language through statistical learning. That means you learn through observation and make generalizations based on what you learn. You point at an infant’s mother and say Mama. Over time, the infant learns the correlation between the word and the person.
The other part of that process is using the learned language. If the child spends all of his or her time simply observing, that child isn’t going to retain nearly as much as the child who interacts with others. Usually this is done through questions that children learn to answer, such as choosing a food or drink. The interaction encourages the child to use the language too. Interaction is essential to learning a language.
Learning as an Adult
Both statistical and social learning which are vital for a child to learn a language also apply to how adults should learn. Of course, the learning structure ends up being very different because the adult social world is nothing like the social life of an infant or toddler.
In the end, it’s about understanding the rules that help you to learn as an adult.
Why Adults Don’t Learn the Same Way as Children
It would be amazing if we could learn a language like we did as children. It seems like it was so easy because we don’t remember having to learn.
Unfortunately, adults (even teens) really don’t have the luxury that children have when it comes to learning a language. Here are some of the main reasons.
Even if adults and children learn in a way that is similar, there are certain elements of being an adult that make it much more difficult to apply the same learning skills as children. There are too many reasons not to.
Adults also do not have a critical period to learn a language. A child’s brain is prepared to learn a language from the time they are born until about 5 years old. This long, critical period makes it considerably easier to learn a language. However, it is also essential to learn, which adults miss since they already know a language.
5 Tips to Improve Your Learning Potential
Yes, it will be more challenging to learn a language, and you don’t have the same pressure to learn as an adult. However, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can learn another language.
The following are 5 keys that will help you unlock your potential to make the most out of your learning experience.
Of course it is a lot more work for you to learn a new language the further you are from childhood, but it is never impossible. It requires dedication and the willingness to be pushed well outside of your comfort zone. Don’t forget, you can learn a language in far less time than a child. While you will probably always have an accent, you can learn your second language better and faster than many kids will learn your first language.