Firstly, if you read that title thinking you were going to uncover a gold mine of hidden treasures for your language learning journey, then maybe I ought to work on my titles. Unfortunately, this article is all about the ridiculous, far-fetched, unbelievable sources in the world of language learning. We here at L-Lingo want you to learn your language as creatively and effectively as possible. Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that there are absolutely crazy methods out there that do the exact opposite. Have you ever searched on google something along these lines? “Fastest way to learn a language,” and were greeted with search results like:
Listen, we all know how amazing shortcuts are for CERTAIN things in life. Language learning, however, is not one of those things. Shortcuts are virtually impossible when it comes to learning a language. Sure there are ways to make the process easier, but then again even that comes down to your routine. Learning on its own is an entirely separate science, and while its content is too massive to get into the space of one article, we will be discussing some of it as it relates to language learning.
Secret #1 The 10,000 Hour Rule For Mastering Anything
For those of you who are unaware of the 10000 rule, it’s a rule stating that once you have achieved 10000 hours of practice in your designated field, you would have become an expert. To further relate this topic to language learning most of us are always concerned about time. For instance googling things such as:
How long will it take to learn Spanish?
How long will it take to learn German?
How long will it take to learn Arabic?
Can I learn Japanese and Chinese at the same time?
And it’s okay if you do this, but you shouldn’t think of the results as a discouraging factor. The 10,000-hour rule may seem like it has a lot of weight behind it, but can we be honest with ourselves for a minute? Personally, I studied Spanish for 13 years of my life from kindergarten all the way up through senior high. And during that time if I were to account for homework, group activities, private tutor sessions and trip excursions to foreign countries I’m more than confident enough to mark 10,000 hours. Now the main question here is, “Am I good at Spanish?”
So what does it all mean, what makes the 10,000-hour rule inconsistent? For starters, the human brain is a very complex organ. Assigning it a number and telling it “START!” doesn’t do it any justice.
Fun Fact: Studies show that the brain can hold anywhere from 10 terabytes to 2.5 petabytes of information.
But if that be the case, why am I still terrible at Spanish?
The answer is “Attention.” We are better at retaining long-term information if stored in bursts of intense concentration. Concentration itself uses up a lot more energy than we are led to believe. The average person can only stay in that high level of focus for around 1 or 2 hours. Afterward, the risk of burnout increases significantly. But the main reason the 10,000-hour rule is being exposed in language learning is to point out that quality study is better than quantity studying.
Secret #2 Learn A Language While You Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of any learning process. It gives our bodies and minds ample time to recover from the stress of concentration. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean we should solely rely on sleep to learn a language.
Supposedly learning a language while sleeping involves subliminal audio designed to slip into your brain… Subliminally. Don’t get me wrong here I’m not saying that sleep doesn’t have anything to do with the learning process, but learning while you’re sleeping with the same effort while you are conscious is pseudoscience.
However, there are cases when you start to dream in the language that you’re studying. This phenomenon is a sign of progress, meaning that you’ve begun to think in your target language. So if you look at it from this angle, you technically can learn a language while sleeping after reaching the initial stages of subconscious processing.
To sum this point up:
You can’t put a vocabulary book audio CD on and wake up the next morning with 1,000 words in your head.
You can dream in your target language and observe the conversations as practice.
Sleep is essential in the learning process, but it doesn’t guarantee instant mastery of the language, i.e., audio.
Secret # 3 Learn A Language While Your Young
There is this common belief that learning a language earlier on in life is more practical due to some funky wiring in our brains. When we were children we obtained our first language almost automatically because that’s what we were supposed to do. Literally, a huge chunk of our brain’s processing power went into obtaining a means of communication. So we barely even noticed when we had already learned 2,000-2,500 words at age 5, because really who was counting?
While we learned faster while we were kids it doesn’t mean that we learned BETTER compared to our adult status.
An MIT study that was conducted to test the ranges of fluency actually discovered that learners who start 20 years+ outperform natives when it comes to language skills. If MIT said it… it must be true.
Age isn’t necessarily a major determining factor for whether or not a person is able to achieve fluency. The study also found that adults are near if not just as good as language learning as children. Think of it as a river, where each side has its own methods of crossing over, equally as good yet different. The child uses a canoe to cross while the adult uses a large board.
The truth is that we were designed for learning languages, and we are incredibly good at it once we put our minds to the test. Of course, we still need to study and interact after our years as a child, but the fact still stands that no matter our age, our brains are perfectly capable of acquiring language.