You’ve probably been told that the best time to learn a foreign
language is when you’re small child, and you may have even been
told that learning a foreign language to a high level of mastery
is impossible after a certain age. What you may not know is that
it is only true for you if you choose to believe it.
You have to option to choose to believe that you can use some of the same resourceful beliefs and behaviors that children use,
and get the same great results in mastering a language. So, what
can you discover from the way children approach learning a
Children are indeed the greatest language machines on earth. How
do they do it? There is all kinds of research explaining the
mechanics of how they work the wonderful language magic that
they do, but let’s set that aside and learn from what their
attitudes and behaviors that can serve older learners of foreign
language equally well.
Children understand the importance of feedback, and do whatever
it takes to acquire the skill. It never occurs to a small child
that s/he may not master the language, does it? They just keep
experimenting until they get the result they are looking for.
Children have no need to do things perfectly. If they can
successfully communicate their ideas, they are satisfied and
feel good about their achievement. And when you do successfully
communicate an idea with another person in a foreign language,
it is an achievement, isn’t it? Celebrating your achievement
is a good thing to do.
Children keep working with language until they get the desired
result. If something doesn’t work within the first few tries,
they keep at it for however long it takes. It is common for
toddlers to make hundreds of attempts to get the results they
are looking for, right? If you have been around small children
for prolonged periods of time then you know exactly what I’m
talking about. They can drive you a little nuts with their
repetition as they are mastering a language.
When a child is listening to someone, s/he doesn’t freak out if
s/he doesn’t understand every single word — s/he makes her best
guess, or asks for clarification, and then she moves on.
The final area of genius children have is that they play with
language. They don’t sit down to memorize it all at once. They
play, and through playing and enjoying life the language comes
to them naturally.
So, how childlike would you like to become in learning and
mastering a language?
Here’s to Your Success!
Copyright © 2006 by Teresa Bolen. All rights reserved.
Teresa Bolen is a teacher at Todaiji Academy, one of the top 5
schools in Japan, and the author of Master Plan to Master Exams:
How to Discover Your Hidden Abilities to Create the Success You
Desire. You can get her ‘Academic Excellence Report’ at
‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life
you have imagined.’
— Henry David Thoreau –