When children learn to speak, it sometimes seems like they just take in everything they hear and start using it as if it was there already, just waiting for the right time to come out.
They don’t even need extensive vocabulary lists and sentence diagrams to start communicating. They just do it.
Then there’s the rest of us.
We’ve already got our native language chops. We’re probably pretty good at it. And yet, picking up another language never feels quite so simple for us.
There’s a great quote from an article by Dr. Bruce D. Perry on the Scholastic website, called: “How Young Children Learn Language.” He says:
“It is a misconception that children learn language passively. Language acquisition is a product of active, repetitive, and complex learning.”
In other words, it may seem like children are just absorbing vocabulary and grammar, but it’s actually a far more active process than that.
And they tend to find the most success with parents talk to and with them, providing plenty of listening and speaking practice.
So, how can we learn a new foreign language like a child?
It starts by speaking with a native speaker as much as possible. This will imitate the parent-child dynamic that helps kids out so much.
But there are a number of other important things you can doto speed the learning process.
Speak with Other learners – and Listen to Other Learners
Children learn a lot by speaking with their parents, but they learn almost as much – if not more (for better or worse) – when they interact with other children.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first is that speaking with someone who is going through the same learning process can help you discover new ways to learn and use the language. Hearing another non-native speaker use certain words can be easier to grasp than hearing it from a native-speaker who uses it a little too fast each time.
The second is that a great way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. When you show others what you have learned, that same thing will become more ingrained in yourself. If you learn it so you can teach it, you’ll be surprised how much more you retain.
Speak by Topic
No one can learn everything at once, so it’s important to focus your conversation time on specific topics. This will help you discover specific words related to those topics and really get a grip on how they are supposed to be used.
These topics don’t have to be major philosophical issues or questions regarding recent economic trends. If you’re learning like a child, then your topics will center on things like what you did last weekend or what you enjoy eating or what you thought of a movie.
As you discuss these real life occurrences, you’ll start adapting more of the language into your everyday usage.
Learn to Listen Again
Children are hearing new sounds all the time and associating those sounds with meaning.
As we get older, we have a harder time doing that because we hear a new sound and associate it with an old sound that we already know.
Work on listening to the sounds and rhythms of each word and sentence. Then, as you begin to hear things more effectively, you’ll be able to mimic it better, yourself.
Get Immersed in the Language
Kids seem to absorb their language because they’re surrounded by it at all times.
Unfortunately, not many of us have the ability to move to another country for a deep dive into the language. Still, there are plenty of options to help you get immersed.
Conversing regularly with a native speaker is a key part of our program, and it will help you make massive strides in the language.
You can also spend some time with various media in the foreign language. Thanks to social media, YouTube, and, well, the internet in general, this is easier now that it ever was.
Children and adults are quick to forget unless they repeat things again and again.
Children often have trouble with new words – especially complex words with strange pronunciations – and they’ll do their best to mimic it properly. Usually, though, what comes out can be pretty far from the right word.
Eventually, though, they’ll get it right.
However, if they don’t work on it regularly, it will be easy to fall back on their old ways and start calling “spaghetti” “pasghetti” all over again.
Proper usage again and again is key to mastering the language.
Don’t Fixate on Mistakes
Children make their mistakes and then, after everyone remarks on how great they are for trying so hard, they go on to make another mistake. And then another.
Eventually, the mistakes stop and the language comes naturally.
As adults, we can let the embarrassment over simple mistakes get to us. That, in turn, can make it harder to speak smoothly, which leads to more mistakes, which leads to becoming very self-conscious about our efforts.
If you’re learning like a child, it’s important to be as determined and as excited as they are about speaking a new language and using new words.
You’re going to make mistakes. Don’t fixate. Understand that everyone was a beginner at some point. Just move onto the next mistake. Eventually, you’ll start moving from one success to another.
Of course, the most important thing about learning like a child is to not wait. There’s no better time than right now to learn a new language. Check out our plans and pricing to find the method that is right for you.