Are we learning languages the wrong way?

learning languages

We are learning languages the wrong way says an article from the New Statesman. I don’t agree with everything in the article, but there are some important points.

I have always felt that the emphasis on teaching a few basic survival sentences, or correct usage, is largely a waste of time. I believe we need to emphasize the enjoyment of the language, and increased comprehension. The present emphasis in language class on producing the language, and on correct grammar, is usually counterproductive. Students graduate with little ability to understand the language, and still can’t produce many grammatically correct sentences.

What do you think? Are we learning languages the wrong way?


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5 comments on “Are we learning languages the wrong way?

Je pense que vous avez raison! I have studied French for thirteen years as a pass time with little progress. I have recently started following your advice and the lingq site (along with others such as “news in slow French” and “français authentique” and am starting to feel a more beneficial difference when following context and interest versus grammatical rules, etc. Méci Beaucoup!

Hello Steve,

Thanks for sharing this article. I’m going to use it in a paper I’m writing about whether communicative language teaching is a good fit for Japan (to which I say, it’s not in the way it’s being applied).

You don’t mention which points you disagree with. Could you expand on this a little?

Also, are you continuing your journey of learning Korean? I am in Japan now and learning Japanese using LingQ as one of my main ways of learning.

Hope you are well,

James / jjmountain / original flag-waver for petitioning to get Korean on LingQ

I agreed with the basic premise of the article. In other words, language instruction in schools should not focus on the ability to express simple thoughts. The language class has to find a way to interest the learner in some aspect of the culture of the language. To me, this means choice. Choice of the language, and choice as to what kinds of materials to learn from. The examples of things of interest in German and French, provided by the writer of the article, were decidedly of little interest to most people, even adults.

But overall I agree. I know that in Canada now there is an emphasis on task-based language learning. I believe this is doomed to failure. What we need is interest based language learning. This implies freedom of choice, something that teachers are reluctant to relinquish to their students.

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