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When is the Best Time to Learn a Foreign Language?

» When is the Best Time to Learn a Foreign Language?

January 21st, 2008 by admin

By: Jorge Chavez

The best time to learn a foreign language differs from person to person and with circumstances. Still, it is possible to make some useful generalizations.

The best time to learn another language is as a child. If you learn a second or third language when you are young, before puberty, and you learn it from native speakers, you will learn to speak it naturally, without an accent. A “foreign” accent comes from the difficulties of overcoming the details of how you learned to speak your mother tongue.

Accents show up in people who learned a second language after puberty. Dr. Henry Kissinger, for example, speaks excellent English with a German accent. Although his knowledge of English is deep and thorough and his command of it is impeccable, he learned to speak English when he was 15, so his native German still comes through in his accent every time he speaks.

Apparently the “language centers” in the human brain take a “set” during puberty, lose flexibility and effectively dictate that the version of your mother tongue that you learned as a child is the only language you will truly be able to speak without an accent. Interestingly enough, philologists tell us that if you learn three languages before puberty, your language centers will remain adaptive and flexible. Anyone who has learned three languages as a child will be able to learn a fourth or fifth language later in life, and learn to speak it without an accent.

Knowing that doesn’t help us much as adults, but it may help us in educating our children and grandchildren.

For adults, the best time to learn a foreign language is just before you are going to have the opportunity to use it. If you learn it and don’t use it for a while, it will slip away from you and your abilities in that language will decline. (In my personal experience, if I am emersed in even a Spanish-speaking environment for 2-3 weeks, I notice an awkwardness and difficulty of speaking in my native English when I return to a place where I need to use it! The process has started and I have been forgetting my English! But it comes back… 🙂 )

Fortunately, the easiest way to learn languages today is with modern interactive language training, in recorded digital format. You download the learning course in digital MP3 format, learn the language and then you can quickly refresh your knowledge at any time by just running rapidly through the course again.

If you get the course in MP3 format you can download it to your computer, then download to your iPod from there, or burn CD’s to play in any CD player.

Forget classrooms! Downloadable digital media goes with you, gives you the flexibility to learn a language at any time, at almost any place. You have charge of when you learn a language, and you know that your instructors are teaching with a perfect accent!

Going to Argentina? Take your iPod with you and spend the time on the plane learning Spanish, for use when you get there! Going to Europe? It’s a long flight across the pond. You could watch the movie, look at the ocean out the window or spend your time learning German or French!

And continue your learning in your spare time while you are there. You will find that since you get a chance to use it frequently, your learning will be sped up and you will tend to remember how to say….(whatever it was that you needed at that moment, in the language of that place!)

Jorge Chavez began to learn Spanish after he was 30, now is bilingual English-Spanish. He has monolingual friends, relatives and clients who only speak Spanish and others who only speak English.

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