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How do we learn languages as an adult?

how do we learn languages

Language acquisition during childhood is easy since our focus is to develop basic skills.

Children acquire language skills in different stages. A child may even have an early or late development in their language acquisition process.

But how do we learn languages as an adult? Is it easy?

Learn all that is relevant in this article.

The science behind language learning

According to studies, people have different timeframes when learning skills. In particular, learning a language is often thought of as an easy skill when it is not the same for everyone.

Babies have a natural ability to recognize words and phrases that belong to their native language.

This phenomenon is called “phonemic awareness” where it is a phase that babies play with words, rhymes or any speech they hear in preparation for their reading skills.

Why is it harder to learn languages as an adult?

Children can easily pick up words because they don’t have to think about the complex conversations and grammar rules that language learners often worry about.

That said, an adult learner may have harder experiences to achieve successful language learning

Language delays are also evident in adults as it is with children.

Some delays come in different forms: physical, neurological, environmental, social/communication, and more.

If a child has developmental speech and language disorder this issue will continue until the kid grows up.

So, if you weren’t born bilingual or if your language skills weren’t developed properly, you may have issues with the plasticity of your brain.

You can still achieve proper language learning if you’re going to a language school or have been thought by your parents as you grow up.

Learning languages is still achievable as an adult. A Cambridge study further proved that late second language learners almost have the same time of learning as those who have been born in their native language’s country.

As that is established, let’s go to the next point: the reason for learning a language.

Why are you learning languages?

I experienced sitting in a foreign language class and not getting the “click” because it doesn’t really interest me.

But, when I tried to find interesting topics to talk about, such as their culture, history, and recent trending topics about that country.

People’s motivations for learning other languages can range from something important, such as the necessity to migrate and operate in another community, to something as frivolous as installing a new app and learning languages for fun.

There is a critical period between child and teenage learning even extending to the adult language learning process.

This critical period in adult language learning happens when you are so busy and don’t have time or motivation to learn at all.

This may lead to an ultimate stop in and that may affect a person’s self-esteem or self-efficacy.

According to experts, setting realistic achievable goals can decrease the loss of self-esteem which will reignite a person’s motivation.

How do we retain vocabulary?

Memory is a powerful tool that our brain develops during the first few months of infanthood.

Remember how you used to memorize words as a child?

Even though you’re not using formulated spaced repetition or watching videos from language experts, you have your family to teach you simple words.

At times, we can learn words just by watching our environment. Back then, kids pick up words from other adults, the TV, or by reading books.

There are many techniques that we’ve already discussed before when learning a vocabulary.

We have a few suggestions and tricks on how to learn languages faster that will not only feel like you’re memorizing because of necessity, but it’s something you’ll learn and get imprinted on your brain for the rest of your life.

Keep learning new words daily

Many language learners fall out of new words to learn once they reach the intermediate or advanced level.

But, what’s the benefit of expanding your vocabulary and word databank?

Having various choices of words will not only help you communicate clearly but also give you opportunities to talk to people from other countries.

Authentic conversations lead to having new words daily. Some examples of it are slang words if you’re talking with your friends.

On the other hand, if you’re formally having a conversation with older native speakers, you might learn regional languages, phrases, or dialect words.

These are exclusive words used by a region of a country. Some of these words are evident even in the US. Some regions like in the Midwest will say pop and others in Florida or California will say soda.

Putting these new words you’ve learned into practice will widen your brain capacity and will help you pick up foreign words in your target language

Create your own Mnemonic technique

If you associate words with different objects, songs, videos, or even other words, you have what is often called a memory device.

Mnemonics are one of the effective memory devices that language experts use when associating new words with a familiar environment.

This technique is often used for complex words or phrases with longer syllables and you can associate it with a similar-sounding word, or a picture that you can relate to it most.

For example, to learn the German word “Eselsbrücken” which literally means donkey bridges, you can think of donkeys being afraid of water so they need a bridge to cross over.

This is just one of many ways to associate a very foreign word with your native language.

Mnemonics devices are often known or seen as:

  • An Acrostic
  • Rhymes and Alliteration
  • Chunking Strategy
  • Acronym
  • Musical Mnemonics
  • Method of Loci Mnemonic Strategy
  • Using visual images
  • Peg method

Remember to associate an applicable Mnemonic device to your own way of learning. If you’re not a visual learner, then don’t pick using visual images.

Instead, use a musical mnemonic or rhymes and alliteration that can help speed your way of learning.

Creative language learning

If you are in the intermediate level to advanced level, get creative!

There are ways to achieve native-level fluency such as using apps, games and, even Youtube videos.

We’ve talked about how you can even learn through your phone with a podcast that you can listen to while driving or if you’re on a commute.

If you want to get more creative, you can even join forums, create your own memory book, or even draw and doodle.

Whatever the form is, make sure you associate these words to something you are daily practicing.

How do we learn languages if we are having a hard time memorizing them as an adult?

If none of those tips above helped you, it might be due to a lot of factors.

The human brain can quickly be changed, molded, and shaped into something else as mentioned by Dr. Timothy O’Leary from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering and Neuroscience

Yet, we can still make up our own dictionary of learned words and lose it over time.

One of the ways to learn languages if we’re having a hard time is doing it daily.

A variety of languages means there are also several types of language learning methods.

The way we learn languages doesn’t mean we have to follow every technique, method, or tip out there.

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