Foreign language

How we learn foreign language

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Foreign language

Many adults consider learning foreign languages as a long and difficult process which often ends in failure. They put a lot of effort in memorizing lists of words and phrases, but they forget them easily and they find themselves at the beginning again. It is absolutely different with children. They are like a sponge, they acquire language naturally without effort, without direct learning, during ordinary activities, games songs, …

Why it is important for children to acquire a foreign language?

Many researches of scientists and linguists during the past decades hold the view that the earlier the child learns a language, the better. Just have a look at some factors that influence foreign language acquisition:

  • Window of Opportunities
  • “Window of Opportunities” is a term which is used to refer to the period when it is the best to start with language acquisition. It starts from birth and lasts intensively approximately till the age of 7. During this time, a child acquires language the same way as its mother tongue and is able to learn as many languages as it regularly comes in contact with. After the age of 7, the “Window of Opportunities” starts to close and it is closed completely in puberty. After this time, a man is able to learn a language but much harder – the same way as other subjects are learned for example Maths, Chemistry, …

    okno prilezitosti

  • Foreign Language Acquisition
  • Children should start with foreign language acquisition no later than 3 years (Miesel, J.M. – Ullman, M.T.) – all research point in this direction

  • Language Skills
  • Children are born with special language learning skills. A child’s brain is specifically designed to learn and apply language efficiently = A child knows how to speak the same as it knows how to play, it just needs appropriate conditions.

  • The Principle of Language Acquisition
  • When a man starts to learn a language in early age, foreign language knowledge is stored in the same part of the brain as the mother tongue. Children first acquire simple words which they later connect with other words. We can imagine the process like this: each word is like a colour button which is stored in a smaller “language bag”. If a child learns another language at the same time, this knowledge – “buttons“ are stored in another “language bag“ and so on. Language bag for each language is stored in one place, in a big “language bag“ = in one part of the brain. This example also serves to illustrate that the knowledge for individual languages are automatically stored individually, it means, they do not mix. Children can simply switch from speaking in one language to another. This finding also demonstrates the fact that simultaneous translators are generally people who have learnt two languages from birth and can switch from language to language faster and more accurately. This is because all language systems are stored in the same place of the brain.
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  • Age Matters
  • If a man learns language later, it is learned the same as other subjects. It does not happen as a natural principle = the acquisition, it depends on general learning mechanisms.

    Children can perfectly imitate sounds, they havevery good hearing , and can distinguish even the smallest deviations and imitate all language sounds. At the same time, the facial expressions of a child are not yet adapted to one language and because of this, kids can easily copy the movements of face muscles muscles for the pronunciation of new sounds.Due to the mentioned reasons, early age is ideal for acquiring perfect pronunciation comparable to a native speaker.
    na veku zalezi

  • Natural foreign language environment
  • Children are very practical, so the first word they say is likely to be the name of an item that they need or want. For example, if they want to play with a ball, they say “ball“, if they are hungry, they say “eat“. For this stimulation of words production is the most ideal natural foreign language environment, here is the child motivated to speak in a foreign language.
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  • Naturalness of a child 
  • A child does not have a barrier against new things in comparison to adults. It is not afraid to speak, to make mistakes – a kid does not perceive mistakes as an obstacle and does not mind if somebody corrects its mistakes; they are part of the natural process of language acquisition.