Why is it so difficult to learn spoken English

Why it's hard to learn a new language

If it is difficult for you to learn a foreign language, you can take a deep breath now because you are not alone. It is no secret that it is more difficult for adults to learn a new language than it is for children, whose extremely flexible brains have the connections that grow and emerge that they need to learn an additional language.

But why is it so difficult to learn a foreign language at all? Put simply, this is because it poses a double challenge: both in terms of the mind (your brain needs to build new cognitive structures) and in terms of the amount of time it takes (you have to practice consistently over a long period of time to be successful). But that is not all.

In this article, we look at three main factors that make learning a new language difficult - and give you six tips to make things a little easier for yourself - so that you can move forward with bigger strides from now on!

The brain

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to learn Spanish through play, while others can barely manage a “hola”? Well, there is research that indicates that the individual interconnections of our brains determine the success of language learning.

In a study conducted at McGill University, participants' brains were scanned before and after a 12-week intensive French course. The researchers found that the connections between areas of the brain involved in speaking and reading were stronger in the participants who found it easier to learn.

So that could mean that some people simply have better cognitive skills for language learning, but of course it doesn't mean that not everyone can and should try (and learning a language is very good for you and your brain)!

How we learn

Evening courses, language holidays abroad, apps, conversations with your tandem partner, working abroad, intensive courses - there are so many methods and opportunities to learn a foreign language.

Unfortunately, however, it is also the case that adults hardly have the opportunity to learn “on the side” or implicitly, as children often do when they simply deal with native speakers all day and gradually “pick up” the language. As a result, our highly developed, cluttered adult brains often get in the way of our learning.

As adults we usually learn by gradually expanding our vocabulary and learning vocabulary, but often we do not even know how the individual words belong together in order to formulate grammatically correct sentences and texts.

Research from MIT indicates that the tendency towards analysis and questioning is more likely to prevent adults from noticing the subtle nuances of a foreign language, and that greater effort in this area does not lead to better results.

Katie Nielson from Voxy sees the problem in the fact that we see language as an object. “In history lessons you learn chronologically and work off the years to put everything in the right order. But you can't learn a language that way, ”says Nielson.

“It doesn't work like memorizing a certain number of words and rules and then expecting to master the language. You then have the knowledge of ‘language as an object’; one can describe the language, but not use it. "

She suggests understanding the process as “skill learning” (something you do) rather than “object learning” (something you know). But how do you do that? Just let go of the claim to perfection. Learn without hesitation - whether with an app, a course or while traveling - don't be afraid of making mistakes and accept that you will feel stupid sometimes, but that that's not bad at all.

Similarities between different languages

We think empathically! It is really not easy to learn a language that has a completely different structure than your own mother tongue (someone with English as their first language, for example, struggles with Korean, or a native Thai speaker with Arabic).

Interestingly, studies have shown that these difficulties have nothing to do with not liking challenges, but rather with neurological preferences.

Research at the Donders Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics indicates that our brains pay close attention to the similarities of different languages ​​and use the grammar and properties of their own mother tongue in order to understand a similarly structured foreign language.

Nuria Sagarra, professor of psycholinguistics, notes that most people find it much more difficult to learn languages ​​that are structured completely differently than their own: “If your mother tongue is similar to the new foreign language (for example, because both your mother tongue and the foreign language you want to learn has a rich morphology, like a Russian learning Spanish), then things will be a lot easier. "

Tips to make your way easier

Even if learning a new language will never be "child's play" again - but nothing that is worthwhile is ever really easy - it can still be fun and lead to success. What can you do about it Fortunately a lot!

You should know yourself and your goals well

Why do you want to learn this language? For work or career? For fun? To be able to communicate with family members?

If you have your goal in mind, then you can also base your learning on what you need and leave out what you don't need (for example, you need a completely different vocabulary when talking about your work than for the road trip through the United States).

If you keep thinking about your goal, then you will also cope with the weak moments when you would like to give up everything.

You should develop childlike joy in the matter

Our brains may no longer be as flexible as those of young children, but we can still display the same curiosity!

Immersion in the new language and playful approach are key factors here and therefore adults learn best when they learn any other thing in the new language (a French cooking class in French or salsa dancing in Spanish), or with a stay abroad, the language course combines travel and immersion in a foreign culture.

Double pack

Do you already speak a foreign language? Then you will learn a second much faster if it is quite / very similar to the first (e.g. Portuguese / Spanish or Dutch / German or Norwegian / Swedish / Danish). Your previous learning experience makes it easier for your brain to process the new language better and faster.

Motivate yourself

"You need motivation to keep embarking on new language learning experiences, and motivation is most likely to come from learning success," said Angela Grant of Pennsylvania State University.

Find your motivation by booking your flight now, getting yourself a nice notebook and suitable pens for class, exploring the city with a tandem partner or getting into the habit of always doing your homework in your favorite café.

Surround yourself with the language you want to learn

The more new input, the better! Change the language on your social networks, on your computer and on your mobile phone. Download films, listen to related music or podcasts; read novels, non-fiction books and magazines; watch reports and cook according to foreign language recipes.

Make it clear to yourself that it doesn't always go straight uphill

Do not forget, you are acquiring a skill, you are not getting to know a rigid object. Enjoy the ridiculous moments, especially in the first few months, and don't be afraid of failure or embarrassing mistakes.

Just accept that your accent isn't perfect and that you don't understand every word. None of this matters in the long run. What matters is the will!

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