03 February 2013

Age is not an excuse for failing to learn a new language

So goes the title of this article I read recently:


I did feel it's more difficult if you're older, or if you've already mastered two languages, or if you're busy learning other things, and it's probably more difficult especially if you have to learn it artificially (i.e. in a classroom-like or read-the-books environment) as opposed to naturally (like in your earlier years), but the best way is actually to learn the new language artificially and also immerse in the culture -- watch TV shows, listen closely to local people speaking, and ask questions if there's a new word that you've encountered. Heck, as good as I probably am in English (it being my second language), there's still a lot more I'm learning with time (but now, rather slowly, since I'm probably at the top part of the learning curve).

But I think that learning also requires one very important skill: being open to learning. That's where some people of a certain age really have trouble with. The most important thing to think is that if you find learning a new language difficult, know that it's just as difficult for people who grew up in that language you're learning to learn the language you're already familiar with. In short, different languages are really very different. For example, there are words in your language that do not have an exact equivalent in other people's languages, and vice versa.

Lastly, I think that you have to learn the culture as well to really become fluent in a certain language. Don't just read the books or attend classes. They also usually teach you the "formal" or "polite" way of saying things. Like, I was taught that "nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?" meant "Do you understand Japanese?" But suddenly, early on in my stay here in Japan, I found myself being asked "nihongo wakatta?" Uhmmm.... What? Anyways, from that, I learned that there was more I needed to learn. Like, what's "wakatta"? I bet you, there are people here in Japan who've been here as long as I have, and still don't even know what wakatta is.

Open your mind! :D

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