Who learns languages best?

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What type of person makes the best language learner?

Recently, one of my clients in Knoxville, Tennessee asked me what traits our most successful clients at Confidence Learning Services had in common. I thought this was a fantastic question, so I figured I would share my observations. I’m not here to tell you whether men or women, Americans or Chinese, or doctors or engineers make the best students, but I hope the following observations will help you

5. People who learn languages best communicate with native speakers regularly.

This might be great news for you if you want to improve your accent, and you are the only one at work who is not a native English speaker. However, it might be difficult news for you if you are practicing English in a town in which not even the teachers are native speakers, or if you are in Knoxville, Tennessee trying to learn a language like Romanian. This principle holds true even if you are living in an English speaking country, but most of your interactions (with coworkers, family and friends) are with non-native English speakers, even if you usually communicate in English. The good news is, native speakers are just a computer screen away with many websites devoted to finding language partners. Additionally, if you really make an effort, you may be surprised at what you find in your own town. For example, even in Knoxville, Tennessee, there is a Romanian church that would probably provide great opportunities for language practice if you decided to get involved. But speaking with native speakers usually requires you to be…

4. People who learn languages best are outgoing.

That may seem harsh, if you are an introvert, and it’s actually a bit deceiving. You see, people who are outgoing will produce more language output. That means they will produce more correct output, and more errors, than introverts. However, errors are some of our best learning opportunities, and if you refuse to take a chance on what you think might be the word you need to use, you will never know if you were right or wrong. If you are outgoing, you will make a mistake and learn right away. So force yourself to come out of your shell a little bit, (yes, research shows a little alcohol helps). Say hi to people in the community. After all, you are learning a language so that you can communicate with others, right?

spanish class in knoxville tn

3. People who learn languages best take advantage of every opportunity.

That means they go above and beyond their assigned practice. Sure, these students complete their pronunciation practice to learn the difficult English “th” sounds, but then they listen for that sound when they are speaking with friends. They watch for that sound while watching TV at night, and they repeat words with that sound when they hear them on the radio. If you are studying Spanish, you might start reading the Spanish list of ingredients on your food packages, or paying closer attention to signs that you see on the street in Spanish, or turn on the Spanish radio (yes, there are Spanish radio stations in most US cities, even one in Knoxville). Everything is a lesson to be learned.

2. People who learn languages best practice – a lot.

Yes, it sounds obvious, and while the majority of students do practice, you might be surprised at how many clients I have had who sign up for an Accent Reduction, English, or Spanish course but then do not complete the assigned practice. Some clients truly did not have the time in their schedule to make the commitment when taking into account work and other demands in their lives. Others simply chose not to practice, or to practice something else that they deemed more beneficial or interesting, rather than follow the prescribed practice. I usually recommend an hour of practice each day. Without fail, my clients who have demonstrated the most improvement have practiced more than an hour a day.

bilingual kid

And you’re never too young to get those practice hours in.

 

1. People who learn languages best know that attitude is everything.

The common attitudes I see among successful language learners are, “If others can learn this language, so can I.” and “What’s left to learn?” It’s important to remember that it is possible to learn English, Spanish, improve your Accent, or whatever your goal may be. After all, thousands of people have already done so, why can’t you?

It’s also important to remember that there is always more to learn, even in our native languages. We can always improve and grow, and as long as you keep this in mind, you aren’t likely to hit a road-block in your language learning experience.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful language learner? Contact Confidence Learning Services today to try out a free, one-on-one consultation in English, Spanish or Accent Reduction.

How to raise bilingual children

Children Spanish classes

In our last post about the benefits of raising bilingual children, I mentioned that I would write about exactly how to raise bilingual children. Let’s take a look at what’s involved.

Do I have to be bilingual to raise bilingual children?

The short answer here is no, you don’t. The evidence is all around you, even here in Knoxville, Tennessee. Walk into almost any ethnic community space in the U.S. – a Chinese grocery store, a Cuban restaurant, a Kurdish shop – and you will notice something they all have in common. The children and teenagers present are translating for the older generations. The children are bilingual in English and their heritage language, their parents are not. These parents have raised bilingual children without being bilingual themselves.

We can also see that the opposite is true. Many of those bilingual children will grow up and have children of their own, who only speak English. You will find this story in more established, older ethnic communities throughout the US as well. Visit a school with a high Hispanic population, and the teachers will probably lament that they have several students who speak only English, despite their grandparents speaking only Spanish. Being bilingual yourself does not guarantee that your children will be bilingual.

So, how do you raise your children to be bilingual, whether or not you yourself are bilingual?

Mostly, it comes down to one rule:

If you want your children to be bilingual, whatever they do in their first language, they must also do in their second language.

That’s it. Pretty simple, right? Let’s look at specifics.

For the sake of this example, I’ll assume you are an English speaker living in the US, raising your children to be English/Spanish bilingual. However, the same principles hold true for any two languages. 

1. Raising Bilingual Children – Community Exposure

Think about all the things that you and your children do within your community. Here in Knoxville, I go to the grocery store, go to the doctor’s office, go to worship services, beauty salons, look for a new house, dine out, and a hundred other things. Each one of these can be done in English and Spanish.

bilingual children Knoxville

It’s more delicious in Spanish, though.

If you speak Spanish, you can visit an English speaking doctor and walk your children through the appointment in Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, consider finding a bilingual doctor who will speak to your children in Spanish. At the very least, visit a health fair targeting a Spanish-language audience.

If you dine out at English dominant restaurants, try visiting a location where Spanish will be the dominant language. Options abound even in Knoxville. Depending on your location, this may be Cuban food, Mexican food, South American food, or if you’re in the Southwestern US, McDonald’s.

If you attend worship services regularly in English, find a Spanish language service to visit or attend regularly.

While these activities might be a little uncomfortable for you if you are monolingual, keep in mind that you are engaging in something that will be a lifelong benefit to your children. And you might just improve your second language along the way.

2. Raising Bilingual Children – Media Exposure

Do your children enjoy listening to music in the car? Start listening to music in Spanish. Don’t worry if you’re afraid you might not like Spanish music.There’s a lot more to it than Mariachi, Ranchera and Reggeaton. Start by checking out some Putumayo CD’s from your local library, and then go from there. Create some new Pandora stations and have fun.Bilingual Children Knoxville

Children’s TV is available in Spanish as well. If you don’t have Spanish channels, talk to your provider about adding them, or opt to watch Spanish Language Children’s TV shows on Hulu.com which has a great Latino section.

Thanks to modern technology, many children’s DVDs come with a Spanish dub option. Disney movies usually have a very high quality recording. If you start when your children are very young they’re likely to enjoy “Una Aventura Congelada” just as much as they enjoy “Frozen”, and you might enjoy mixing up “Let It Go” with “Libre Soy” every once in awhile.

3. Raising Bilingual Children – Educational Materials

bilingual children Knoxville

If you have the luxury of enrolling your child in a bilingual school, they should learn about the same topics (alphabets, reading, writing, math, science, history) in both languages.

If you do not have a bilingual school in your community, you can still be successful in this area, but it takes a little more effort from you. Watch episodes of “Plaza Sesamo” (Sesame Street) together, go to your local library to check out books with accompanying CDs. Visit websites that teach your kids the basics of the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc., like the BBC’s Spanish Site. Sign your kids up for Spanish class, or hire a bilingual tutor. If you live in a larger city, you may be able to find a bilingual storytimes, or other Spanish language educational activities.

These are just some general guidelines, but they will make an important difference in your child’s journey to becoming bilingual.

Do you have any advice or tips for parents who are trying to raise bilingual children? What are some things that have worked for you? Share them with us here, or on one of our social media sites. And remember, if your children need a jump start to becoming bilingual, you can sign them up for one of our Spanish language courses today by calling 1-865-226-9477.