Language and Lyrics – You Can Learn French

Yes, you can!

You may be like many of the people after they find out I have spent years of my life devoted to helping others learning a second language. They often say. “Sorry, I just don’t have the ability to learn a language. I’ve tried. There’s something wrong with me.” My response usually is, “Oh really? Sounds like you’re doing pretty well in your first language. What’s different?”

The difference is that people have been programmed into thinking that learning a language is something “other people” can do. But in fact, you’re probably pretty good at speaking the language you learned at home. What’s different? Nothing needs to be. Here are a couple of tips.

First, don’t buy a book!

If you are a beginner, you have a great opportunity to learn a second language just as you learned your first language-by experience-not by picking up a book and studying it. Imagine how you learned your primary language, or if you are a parent, do you remember how you taught your children? First, you didn’t teach them! They needed the language in order to communicate. It is so simple. So when you were one year old, did your Mom get out her book and her chalk book and sit down in front of you and say, “okay, today, we’re going to learn prepositions?” Sounds ridiculous? But that’s how most people try to learn a language today. They go to the bookstore and BUY A BOOK.

But your mom was the best language teacher in the world. She said, “Open your mouth,” “Sit down,” “Don’t touch that!” And you followed. You experienced the language, not with a book, but with real meaningful situations. That’s the first tip-don’t study the language, experience it!

Second tip, Keep your mouth shut! That’s right. To learn a language properly, you have to listen first. Remember the example of Mom teaching you your first language? What were you doing? You were listening and you were responding by actions, or through simple gestures or a word or two. What If your mom had said to you, “Repeat after me, “Pick your dirty clothes up off the floor.” What would you have said? Nothing! You would have just stared at her blankly.  Yet, that is what many language learning methods do. They ask you to speak right away-before you’re ready. And it is so hard.

So, back to Mom. When did you start speaking to her? When you were ready. I remember that my Mom told me that she was worried that I was taking so long to speak. I didn’t speak until I was 18 months old–didn’t say a word. Then one day I woke up, I started talking and Mom said I didn’t shut up for 15 years. But it worked, and research today suggests that one of the most important conditions for learning a language is hearing it spoken well That’s all for this article, in future articles I’ll talk about why and how learning a language can be fun.