Learning A Language: Unconsciously And Consciously
Unconscious language learning does not mean learning a language while you sleep. Rather, it’s the ability to learn without realizing. Learning a language unconsciously happens predominantly in children, and is also commonly referred to as language acquisition. More traditional language learning methods such as grammar rules and instruction are conscious learning processes.
The more effective language study is language acquisition. By being actively engaged in speaking and listening, your focus is on the message rather than how it’s being communicated. Grammar rules are used sparingly and are used as a last-minute process to ensure thoughts are coherent. People successful in speaking a second language don’t use rules to form sentences.
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So, if language acquisition is more effective than traditional methods, how can we learn language acquisition more effectively? Can we start ditching language textbooks?
Learning Language Acquisition (Without A Speaking Partner)
Let’s assume you’re trying to learn English. Speaking and listening in a second language usually requires a conversation between you and a native English speaker.
You may be in an environment where English native speakers are sparse. In that case, what alternatives do you have?
Try strictly thinking in English. More often than not we think in our native language. After knowing what we want to say, we have to translate our thoughts into the language we want to speak. That’s double the effort. Why not try thinking all in English? Even bilinguals have trouble switching between languages.
Learn through TV or movies. Choose a short dialogue from your favourite English show or movie and try to mimic their tone and speed. It’ll not only give you a better idea of how conversational English usually sounds but you might also learn some new vocabulary from it too.
Tip: Choose between our American and British pronunciation settings to know exactly what your translated word sounds like in English.
Practice without stopping. When we say something wrong or think we say something wrong, we have a bad habit of immediately trying to correct ourselves. This has a subconscious effect on us in that we become less confident and comfortable. Without having a speaking partner, find some time to practice on your own. It would help to practice in front of a mirror. It’ll get some time getting used to, and you might feel extremely silly at first. But we guarantee that perseverance will take you far.
Learning Language Acquisition (With A Speaking Partner)
Having a speaking buddy can be the most effective way to learn a second language. But even having a speaking partner have its complications: we’re afraid of making too many mistakes, we’re afraid of not sounding “native” enough, how does he or she think about my English?
This is where your personal practice time will pay off. Practicing with a native speaker shouldn’t be considered as your “practice” time. Rather, it should be a test of your skills. Additionally, it will give you insight on where you should be focusing your efforts.
Maybe you’ll discover that the words you’ve been practicing aren’t used for oral English and are more common in writing instead. Or, you’ll discover that you still have difficulty with the pronunciation of some words. In this case, don’t be afraid of asking the speaker to correct you. We recommend telling the person beforehand that you want to practice your English. It’s best to catch your mistakes before they become habits.
Can We Ditch The Language Textbooks?
No. We do not recommend skipping learning grammar rules. Regardless of what skill you’re trying to improve, good grammar is an essential skill that you should work to build. Learning how to speak fluently will differ from learning how to write effectively. It’s a common misconception that by knowing how to speak a language, you will automatically acquire great writing skills in that language. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Textbooks should be used as a resource and not as a primary language learning tool. It will always be helpful to have a tool that you can refer to as you embark on your language learning journey.
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