Learning a language is not ‘easy’: nothing worthwhile in life should be considered a walk in the park. But that is not to say that is it impossible either. Far from it! Every year, millions of people around the world successfully begin to speak a second, third or even fourth language.
Despite being considered the most important global language, learning English is no different, and once again many students of all ages begin to effectively communicate in English every year, increasing their ability to easily travel in English-speaking countries, improving career prospects, or simply opening up their horizons with regards to cultural and entertainment options. Whatever the motivation, learning English can also be a fun process, and when motivation and enjoyment are combined, you have a recipe for success. A lack of motivation is often the reason for failure in any undertaking, and learning a language is no different. And if something is not fun, then a lack of motivation can very quickly become a reality, once again leading to failure.
So, before we run down 6 common misconceptions about learning English, remember that motivation and enjoyment are key. If these two pieces of the puzzle are in place, then learning anything, not just how to speak English, becomes not just possible, but probable. So, let’s commence with the mythbusting:
1.Learning English is ‘boring’
Doing almost anything can be boring if you do it in the wrong way. Let’s consider this: do you like music, movies, TV series, reading, history, science, sport, traveling, having conversations with other people, meeting new people or socializing? If you have answered ‘yes’ to any one of those options, then learning English can be an enjoyable experience. Simply build your learning around something that you already enjoy.
OK, so you still need to learn some basic grammar rules and vocabulary along the way, but if you love Beyoncé, and can learn the rules of the second conditional by really listening to and analyzing the lyrics to her hit song ‘If I were a boy’, wouldn’t it be so much more fun than sitting through a grammar lesson? Or how about football. Why don’t you watch the match involving your favorite team with English commentary?
Yep, you’ve just been looking at this all wrong. Start learning English, or supplementing your English learning, by doing something you already love.
2. You’re too old to learn English (or anything!)
How sad would it be if this were true? But what cannot be doubted is that many people are turned off the prospect of doing something new due to their age. After all, as the old adage says: ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!’
Fortunately, the old adage is wrong. Of course, a child possesses advantages over an adult in that their brain soaks up information at a seemingly more prolific rate, but what about experience, knowledge, and of course motivation?
Indeed, there is scientific evidence supporting the notion that older learners are able to apply their superior knowledge of their mother tongue’s vocabulary and etymology (origin of their mother tongue’s words) to pick up English words and apply them more quickly. When it comes to learning a language, therefore, age truly is no barrier.
3. To speak English well, you need a large vocabulary
There are over a million words in English. It remains to be seen if there is a single person who knows all of them. Doubtful.
Yet the fact remains that the average native English speaker survives and prospers on a vocabulary of between 10,000 and 20,000 words. English language learners can pick up that number surprisingly quickly, yet it also remains to be seen whether that number is actually required.
Consider the word ‘pen.’ Would it not be sufficient to say ‘the thing you use to write’? Or what about the saddle on a bicycle, would it not be equally effective to say ‘the place where you sit on a bicycle’? Vocabulary is fun, but vocabulary is also overrated. After all, how could a layman understand any technical activity otherwise?
4. Learning English (or any other language) isn’t required in the technological age
The apps available to assist you in translation and communication activities are almost innumerable at this stage, and these include apps which can instantly translate words in images. Does anybody really need to speak another language anymore with all the high-quality technology available?
Well, anyone who has had a frustrating moment with predicative text, or has seen a misunderstanding arise from a written message can certainly relate to the fact that no language app, no matter how well developed and marketed, is perfect. Neither are humans of course, but communication is so much more than just the words we use, or indeed instruct us on how to interpret them.
But it is not just the imperfections of apps that make the idea of not needing to learn a language ridiculous. Replacing the human ability to do anything with a machine will always be controversial, but when it is communication we are talking about, then truly what better way is there to communicate than person to person. Like in so many other fields, technology can assist us, but it can never replace us.
5. To learn English effectively, you need to live in an English-speaking country
Basing yourself in an English-speaking country will undoubtedly be of benefit, but with technology and the freer movement of peoples, effectively learning to speak English is possible from wherever you may be. The key here is immersion. As long as you are motivated and surround yourself with as much English as possible (and that does not NEED to be native English), then a successful outcome is of course within reach. Applications like Skype and FaceTime mean lessons with native teachers are accessible from anywhere there is an internet connection. And simply the ubiquitous nature of the English language in culture and tourism means that someone, somewhere will always be speaking English. We never said technology was bad!
6. Learning to speak English takes a long time
First of all, this is totally dependent on you. If you are motivated (there’s that word again) and you immerse yourself, learning to communicate in English (or any other language) can be a relatively quick process. Of course, learning a language to a deeper level does take time and perseverance, but throwing yourself into the task with abandon and with a sense of fun will mean you can communicate in no time. Don’t be afraid, never be embarrassed and enjoy the ride – English is within your grasp.