The Hidden Truth of Learning Languages

I’ve had a knack for learning languages for as long as I can remember. It started with a hispanic babysitter when I was three and progressed over the years where I voluntarily immersed myself in Spanish, French, Greek, Tagalog and a handful of other foreign languages. This is ironic since I’m anti-social and hate talking to people but I digress. My continued studies have made me somewhat of an expert in the process of learning a language (albeit self-professed).

I don’t believe there to be a language learning system I haven’t tried. Pimsleur? Done it. Rosetta Stone? Yup. Barron’s? Of course. There’s quite a few others and I’ve been through them as well. Suffice it to say that when I want to learn a language, I tackle all of the material I can get my hands on.World of Languages
So which system has worked the best for me? All of them. And, not surprisingly, none of them. Confused? Ok, I’ll explain. Every language learning system out there completely sucks in its own unique way because they all try and bypass the fundamental concepts needed to absorb a language. I say “all” but there’s a few that provide some decent material.

You Can Not Learn Languages Like A Child Unless You’re A Child!

Let’s take Rosetta Stone for example. I’ll pick on them because they’re the latest advertising craze in language learning. Rosetta Stone proclaims to teach you “by complete immersion in the language, without translation or explicit grammar explanations.” They claim you learn just like infants learn a language. What they’re missing is that adults are not infants and 2-3yrs to learn babble is not acceptable. I’ve stumbled through some Rosetta tutorials because I fail to grasp exactly what it is they’re trying to convey by their photos. The lack of translation is not always an asset as they seem to think.

What about Pimsleur & Barron’s? Their excessive repetition is great for reinforcement but is horribly lacking in grammatical & cultural concept. Please don’t misunderstand me, I think the aforementioned systems can assist you in learning a language but they in themselves will not make you a “native speaker”. No language system will.

The fact that no commercial system will make you fluent was really reinforced in me when I co-authored ‘Learn Ilonggo‘ with my wife. It was a difficult work to put together because no other Ilonggo language set exists. How do you teach someone a language for which there are no other points of reference? This conflict caused me to subtitle the methodology I used “Shut Up And Listen”. Perhaps not a good marketing phrase but I digress again. There is simply no perfect system (not even my own).

Learning A Language Is Work

So what has worked so well for me and allowed me to excel? Grammar. Allow me to repeat it a few times. Grammar, Grammar, Grammar and more Grammar. The more you understand the grammar of the language you’re dealing with, the better and faster you’ll learn the language. After you master the grammar, the rest is just vocabulary. Most systems fail miserably at this. They don’t focus on grammar and, from a marketing perspective, probably because people hate it. I believe this so firmly that my upgrade to ‘Learn Ilonggo’ will be almost entirely of the languages’ grammar.

Learning a language is work. It is hard, mentally exhausting work. And, as I so easily remember my days of Junior High School English class, learning grammar sucks. However, if you can get yourself past that point of horror, you’ll find that the fruits of your labor really do pay off. You’ll reap what you sow and you will be very satisfied with the results. Learn the grammar and practice it. Memorize that truth and learning your language of choice will be much, much easier.

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