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Learning Spanish Part Seven : How To Begin
The Horse, as I wrote previously, is spoken fluency. I made the point that long before they go off to first grade, children already have a high degree of spoken fluency in their native tongue before they learn the parts of speech or memorize grammar rules. It is my contention, and the premise of this book, this is exactly what you need long before you enroll in a formal foreign language course. Long before you begin to learn the difference between the preterite and imperfect tenses in Spanish, you need to be using them with the same degree of fluency that a Mexican first-grader does when he goes off to his first day of school.
Ok, calm that heart rate down. Don�t get all twisted in a knot over this. What I am suggesting is highly possible. If you have the time and the money�and yes, it is going to cost you�you can engage in the same process to learn Spanish that you did when you learned your native language.
Look at the cost factor to which I just alluded. What would you rather do? Would you rather spend a small fortune that could pay off the national debt of some small �third world� country in books and tuition for classes which are not designed to teach you spoken fluency, or would you rather spend the money on something that will work? Having said that, let�s take a look at the Horse. Let�s also look at how children learn their native tongue as well as how they seem to learn a second language faster than adults.
That children seem to learn a foreign language faster than adults is not necessarily true.
I have gotten into many a verbal �knock-down-drag-outs� over this very issue. Most Americans are convinced that children can learn a foreign language faster than adults can. Have you not heard the very same thing? This is the standard excuse of those I meet who express the dream of expatriating to Mexico but who are firmly and inextricably convinced because they are in their 60�s, they are UNABLE to learn a second language.
The wonderful truth is that what you�ve always heard about children being able to pick up a language faster than adults is SIMPLY IS NOT TRUE. It is not too late because you are an �older learner.�
Most new studies show when an adult learner is involved in the right method of language instruction, he learns the foreign language faster than a child. If an adult is immersed in the correct method that teaches the second language in the same manner in which he learned his native tongue, he will learn the language faster. This assumes the absence of some sort of organic disease process in the adult.
The difference that has been noted between children and adults trying to acquire a second language is that those who learn the language before puberty generally will have no �accent.� They do not sound like an English speaker when they speak Spanish.
The reasons for the noted accent factor between adult and child learners may be due to developing brain issues and to the individual learning experiences of the child versus the adult.
The research specifically shows, as an adult gets older, there is NO diminution in the ability to learn. Unless there is a disease process with the hearing or vision, or unless there is a mental impairment, there is no reason why an adult cannot learn a second language and become fluent. It is a myth that adults cannot learn a second language. That is not to say there are no adult-related difficulties in learning a second language. There are indeed some adult-related difficulties but they are not what you think.
The biggest difficulty in an adult, and I am talking even those as young as college-age adults, learning a second language is an emotional issue. Adults have bought into the popular myth that because they didn�t learn Spanish as children, it is too late for them to begin now.
I recall reading a study about language instruction at Harvard where students routinely put off their foreign language requirement until their senior year. Some got so freaked out that Harvard had to develop a therapy resource to help students get through their required language courses. Some universities developed a Bachelor�s of General Studies degree program just so students could avoid taking a foreign language. That is how frightened and paranoid Americans are of learning another language.
It is an emotional issue that prevents adults from trying and succeeding to learn Spanish.
Researchers Krashen, Long, and Scarcella showed that,
�Studies comparing the rate of second language acquisition in children and adults have shown that although children may have an advantage in achieving native-like fluency in the long run, adults actually learn languages more quickly than children in the early stages. (Krashen, Long, and Scarcella, 1979: The Older Language Learner by Mary Schleppegrell, Ph.D).�
The conclusion this study draws is adults can develop a working ability in the target language much faster than a child can.
NEXT: Some Really Bad Science!
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