Learning a second language, as an adult, is no easy feat! We understand that it’s a challenging process and also, that it’s different for everyone. So don’t get down on yourself if you’re not learning your new language as fast as you would like, or as fast as your peers.
Here we lay out why adults do indeed have a harder time learning a second language and we offer you some tips on how to make the learning process easier and more enjoyable for yourself!
So, why’s it so hard?
As adults we can’t learn in the same way as young children do, where they most likely follow a nurturing native speaker around all day or are constantly being given feedback on how to say things correctly.
Firstly, we don’t have the time for it! And secondly, our environment as well as our inhibitions as adults prevent this type of learning from happening. So usually we resort to grammar books and reading as our main form of learning, which isn’t the most effective way to grasp all areas of the language; especially the conversation part!
Another point to consider is that we learn predominantly by accumulating vocabulary, but often we find that we don’t know how to put it all together to form sentences. We tend to to over-analyze and expect the process to follow a step by step structure. But in reality, learning a language is a messy process and does not have a set path!
It’s important therefore, as adults, to forget the order and learn as you go! It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, this is probably the hardest part that we deal with. Reading grammar books and studying don’t allow for mistakes to be made … and the truth is that mistakes have to be made, it’s a big part of the learning process!
Ask yourself: why do you want to learn the language? What do you need to do in order to achieve this goal? When you have established your goals, you will feel more focused and more certain on the next steps. Of course, this is only the first step though! The next part is putting the goal into action; whether that be signing up for a course, attending an ‘intercambio’, connecting with people online or simply downloading an app.
2. Find the joy in it!
Have you ever thought about why you remember certain things and forget others? Most of the time, our level of interest plays a key role in determining our ability to retain something! This is definitely true for languages too. As children do, we need to find the joy in speaking a second language. Be curious and learn about your interests in your new language. Or, even go one step further and do activities such as a course or a study abroad program to enhance your knowledge and interest in the culture of your chosen language. It will definitely make a difference to your learning process!
3. Immerse Yourself
Whether you are in the country or not, being exposed to the language is vital. Of course, speaking with a native is the best way to pick it up, but there are so many other ways to immerse yourself if you don’t have this option and with the internet providing endless resources, there really is no excuse.
You can download movies, listen to music and podcasts, read magazines and articles, watch documentaries and cook from foreign recipes. The idea is to listen to your second language every day and practice speaking it as much as you can!
4. Out of Your Comfort Zone
As we mentioned previously, making mistakes are an important part of the process! Children freely make mistakes and we correct them without hesitating. Adults are more reluctant to make mistakes, probably due to the element of failure tied to it. It’s really important that when you approach your second language you are unafraid of making mistakes and you are okay being uncomfortable from time to time.
When you are speaking with someone and you don’t understand them this is not easy, and remember it’s not your fault, you are not native after all! Don’t feel embarrassed, instead, be proactive and do your best to understand. If you think about it, each interaction is a chance to learn something you didn’t know before. So, to sum it up, get out of your comfort zone and dive into the learning process!
5. Forget the structure
Remember, there is no set way to learn it! Acquire the language from all angles and don’t worry if it’s not following a step by step process. A language is a complex skill to pick up, with many components. Don’t neglect a specific part (for example the speaking part which most adults shy away from) and try out all of your skills. What you’ll come to find is that the language pieces itself together and when you begin to understand more and more, you won’t know why, it will just be a natural assimilation.
Learning Spanish in the country is a great opportunity. If you or someone you know would like to learn Spanish in Valencia, with other international students, then you can find out more here.
Or if you are in Valencia and looking for a language intercambio, contact us for more details!