The Best Way to Learn Another Language? From Interesting Content
Language learning success depends mostly on the learner, but more specifically on access to and a commitment to learning from interesting content. More than a teacher, a school, a good textbook, or even living in the country, success depends on interacting with interesting content.
What constitutes interesting content will depend on each learner, and even on the changing interests of each learner. Whether you’re studying Korean, Russian, or German, the best way to learn another language is through interesting content, listening, reading, and building up vocabulary.
There are at least 10 reasons why learning languages through meaningful content is preferable to attending class, studying grammar rules, or trying to speak your way to fluency.
It’s easier – You just listen and read. You start with easy content and advance to more difficult content, on your own timetable. You are not required to go to class. You are not required to try to understand or memorize grammar rules or tables. You are able to utilize dead time during the day, while commuting, doing housework, working out and other snippets of time during your day.
It’s more effective – You can concentrate better on noticing the language, if you are not interrupted by teachers, other students, or yourself trying to speak the language. Most successful polyglots only rely on content based learning. When you engage with the words and phrases of a new language you are connecting directly with the language. These words and phrases, when you read them, or when you hear them, are helping your brain naturally get used to new sounds and new way of expressing ideas and feelings. This happens naturally without any special effort to remember things.
It’s cheaper – You do not need to pay for a school, or travel anywhere. You can find all the content you need on the internet, at libraries, on television and radio. Today, more than ever, a world of interesting content is at your fingertips. You can find and download this material on the internet, or go to your local library. The cost of language textbooks, especially at universities, is excessive. Many grammar books are just a rehash of descriptions of the language, that are widely available on the web. Here’s a post that talks about how to teach yourself any language for free which I think you should read too if you’d like to save money.
It’s portable – You can carry your language learning with you, wherever you are.The availability of mp3 technology, smartphones and digital tablets means that you can carry with you more language learning content, and learning functions, than were available in expensive language labs just 10-15 years ago.
It’s less stressful – You are not forced to find words and to try to express yourself. You do not need to remember grammar rules nor do exercises. You listen and read. At first you don’t understand much, but gradually more and more of the language reveals itself to you. As long as you don’t place unrealistic goals on yourself, and recognize that full comprehension is only gradually acquired, you can just sit back and let the brain learn naturally.
It’s more interesting – You choose what content to learn from. After the initial beginner content, you can quickly move to things that interest you, sports, pop culture, current events, hobbies, literature or whatever you fancy at any given time. In the early stages in a new language, you are motivated by the interest to discover how the language works. However, soon you find that you are able to use the new language to learn about things of interest, whether in popular culture, songs, movies, history, current events and more.
You can study for life – Once you know how to learn languages from content, you can continue doing so throughout your life, whenever you want. You can achieve whatever level you desire in a language. Just as there is no limit the amount of content available in a given language, there is no limit to how much you can learn, nor how fluent you can become, as long as you are motivated to continue listening and reading.
It’s easier to study more than one language – You have more freedom to choose when to study, and to dabble in more than one language. Once you realize that you can learn one language, and enjoy the process, you start to want to discover more languages. These other languages may be related languages, like moving from Spanish to French, or unrelated languages like Chinese, Russian or Arabic.
Your mistakes don’t matter – Once you realize that you do not need to understand perfectly at each stage, as you progress in the language, you just sit back and enjoy. What you get out of your listening and reading is your own business. No one is standing over you and correcting you. You can’t make a mistake when listening. You may not fully understand, but that is your own business. Your interpretation of what you are reading and listening to is valid as part of your conquest of a new language. When you go back to material that you read and listened to months earlier, your interpretation may change. It is wonderful feeling to have things that seemed a little fuzzy, suddenly become clear.
You decide when to start speaking, and when you do, you tend to do well – If you can understand well, and if you can read for enjoyment, your speaking skills will quickly catch up. Trying to speak before you understand is a far more arduous task. You can start speaking at any moment. This may even sharpen your listening and reading skills. However, there is no pressure to do so. The greater your vocabulary, and the better your comprehension skills, the better you will be able to express yourself. Your interest in the language will keep you going in listening and reading, long after you start speaking and writing. All of your skills will progress in unison.
I look forward to adding to this list. Please let me know more reasons why the best way to learn another language is with interesting content.