Friday, May 15, 2009

Many ways and many reasons to learn a new language

Many ways and many reasons to learn a new language


There are many reasons to pick up a new language, from personal enrichment to career advancement.

"People recognize that the world is shrinking, and to function as educated, globally competent citizens, we need to learn languages other than English," says Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, in New York.
Foreign language study at U.S. colleges and universities increased 13 percent from 2002 to 2006, with Spanish the most popular, followed by French, then German, according to Feal's association, which reported a significant uptick in Arabic, Chinese and Korean, too.

There are also many ways to go about learning a language, however. You might turn to tapes, books or videos; hire a tutor; take a class; register for an online course; or immerse yourself in an overseas program. Some say a mix of methods may be best. Many language teachers cite Harvard education professor Howard Gardner(pictured above), known for his theory that people have several kinds of intelligence.

"The most successful language teachers use interwoven, overlapping activities that appeal to multiple learning styles," in keeping with Gardner's ideas, says Joel Goldfield, who teaches French at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. "So I favor language teaching that provides well-organized yet somewhat spontaneous activities and materials that appeal through sight, sound, analytic thinking and body language."

Here are some methods that draw cries of "magnifique" or "Wunderbar" from the experts:


While immersion comes in many forms, you can't beat personal interaction.
"The best method is to learn face-to-face from native speakers," says Michael Fee, managing director of Lango, which is headquartered in San Francisco and offers Spanish, French and Mandarin classes for kids age 18 months to 9 years old.
"Learning a language is about learning to communicate, and communication isn't just learning new words," he says. "It's responding in context, watching facial muscles to learn how words are pronounced, learning gestures and inflection as well as vocabulary and grammar. CD's, DVD's and other non-human interaction can be a great support, but the foundation has to be real, human interaction."
If you can swing it, head abroad: You'll take in the language 24/7. One of the best approaches "combines an accelerated or immersion structure within the target country," says Goldfield, of Fairfield University. Barring that, an immersion program at school can be a next-best approach, he says.

"The student stays in a simulated foreign environment, typically with a pledge to speak exclusively — or nearly — in the target language."


Since few people can free up the time or means to uproot to a foreign country for extended study, says Tom Adams, "the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself through continuous practice." Adams advocates "software that utilizes imagery, repetition, sound, and interaction." As president and CEO of Rosetta Stone in Arlington, Va., he offers a program of language software that is interactive and set up similarly to a video game.

In a matching section, for example, the student has to match the spoken word with the correct image on the screen. In a speaking section, the program says a word, and the student must repeat the word correctly in order to continue. In another section, which simulates a real-world situation, the student is required to ask questions via typing and speaking.


Audio CD's or downloads are "the single best way to learn a language," says Mark Frobose of Avondale, Ariz., author and founder of Macmillan Audio's foreign language audio line. The series, called "Behind the Wheel," is portable and versatile, says Frobose, who speaks five languages.

"You can learn to speak a language while driving, while shopping or at the gym — anywhere," he says.

His program, which is most popular in Spanish, followed by Italian and French, focuses on "speed immersion," which purports to teach students how to create their own simple sentences in the first half-hour of instruction. An American instructor guides students through the studies in English, while a native speaker gives the authentic pronunciation and accent.

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Copyright 2009 The Associated Press

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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