At school, no one seems to take language classes very seriously. I didn’t particularly enjoy them either; I could never imagine being able speak French fluently and it all just seemed like a waste of time.
Somehow 10 years later I’m living and working in France. Recently I’ve been trying to work out why speaking another language never seemed like an achievable goal. It seems like it all comes down to the myths about learning foreign languages which are born in the classroom and which convince us that learning a language just isn’t worth the effort. It turns out that it is worth it after all, so here are the facts behind those classroom myths…
Myth #1 « Learning a language at school is no use in real life »
When you’re practicing French in the classroom with your mates it can seem a bit pointless, but there are countless reasons to learn a new language. When you speak a second language you can meet and talk to a whole world of people, travelling becomes easier and more enriching, and you can become immersed new culture. What’s not to love? Bilinguals also gain access to the global job market, earn a higher salary and have better job prospects in general; put simply : employers like language learners. Most importantly there’s nothing better than the buzz you get from having a conversation in another language, or using some new vocabulary for the first time.
Myth #2 « Learning a language is too hard. »
Learning a language can be hard but it doesn’t have to be… it all depends on how you learn. Did you know that there are different styles of learning? These are known as visual, auditory (listening), reading/writing, and kinesthetic (practical learning), and by finding the right balance between these styles we can make learning easier, more effective and more enjoyable. Sometimes Myth #1 makes language learning even harder, because if you don’t see the purpose of learning a language, it’s hard to find the motivation! I found that immersion in a French family gave me the motivation that I needed to apply myself to learning a language, and also served as an interactive way of learning as I had no choice but to listen to and speak French all the time, making the whole process more enjoyable.
Myth #3 « It’s embarrassing to make mistakes when speaking another language »
I have a degree in French and work in France, but only a week ago I accidentally offered a stranger a punch in the face (un coup de poing) instead of a helping hand (un coup de main). Making mistakes comes with the territory of speaking another language but it shouldn’t prevent you from trying – in fact it’s often the best way to learn. Instead of worrying about getting things wrong when you’re speaking another language, try to remember how amazing it is to be able to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your native tongue. Most people are very understanding when you make mistakes too, which in my case was very reassuring!
Myth #4 « Most people speak English anyway »
I’m afraid not! Although English is becoming an international language, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t speak a word of it. In fact according to the British Council, only 25% of the world’s population has some understanding of English.There are many countries in the world where speaking the native tongue is an absolute necessity for travelers. It’s a little unrealistic to want to learn all of the world’s languages (although don’t be deterred from trying) but I’ve always found that when travelling, meeting people, and looking for jobs, the more languages you speak, the better!
Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange.