Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is it difficult to learn a new language?

Again, I wasn't good at timing. Hum....I should definitely improve this part. I remember a teacher I had...she used to say:

5 minutes for planning
5 minutes for the introduction
10 minutes for the supporting paragraphs
5 minutes for the conclusion
5 minutes for proof-reading

I should definitely follow her advice and keep in mind that it does not really matter WHAT you write, but rather HOW you can link the ideas together using connecting words, the structure of the essay, the examples. And that's it. Maybe next time?

It can be quite difficult to learn a foreign language. What do you think are th most difficult aspects of learning a new language? Give reasons and examples to support your ideas.

Learning a language is not easy. This might be one of the reasons why so many people dedicate time to learn new languages. They see it as challenge they are willing and eager to undertake. The new language might seem dangerous, tricky, complicated or even impossible at the beginning. Those that decide to learn it, though, will fight the adversities and be able to succeed at the end. Definitely, it is not an easy task, but maybe that is exactly why we feel so proud of our victory. Personally, this is one of the reasons why I like learning languages so much: I like the challenge, I like to be able to overcome the obstacles. I had the chance to learn quite a few languages, all of them descendants from the ancient indo-european. Thus, in my experience I had to overcome only some difficulties that did not include learning alphabets or structures that have very little to do with my first language. Personally, I think there are four most difficult aspects of learning a new language: the phonology, the vocabulary, the grammatical structure and, last but not least, the practice.

The phonology of the language is very often downplayed as not so difficult. Most people believe they master the sounds of the language after the first months. This is not even close to be true. It takes time for your ear to get used to the new sounds. Also, it takes time for your mouth to articulate those sounds you do not have in your native language. Finally, it takes time for you to be aware of how your pronunciation differs from the target one. Matering the phonology of a new language is not easy, so much so that I know foreigners that have lived in the United States for years and still present difficulties differentiating “sheep” from “ship”, or “think” from “sink”.

The vocabulary of the language is really difficult to master at an advanced level. At the beginning it is easy learning a lot of words every day. As you learn the language, the vocabulary you assimilate becomes bigger and bigger, until you reach an advanced level of English. From a certain point, I believe vocabulary becomes rather difficult to learn. Most of the times, you can understand the meaning of the words from the context and you end up never looking them up in the dictionary. This is also the stage when those strategies such as flashcards do not really work so well any more. In my own experience, I remember my first years of English classes, when, after each class, I used to go home with a lot of new words in my head. When I take English courses now, instead, I am lucky if I get to learn one word every class.

Also, I believe that it is not easy to understand the structure of a new language, specially from a syntactical point of view. It is hard to understand such things a word order or different verb tenses. However, I have to say that in my experience language structure has always seemed so fascinating to me that I did not really have time to find it difficult. I would just be amazed at the differences from my native language. I remember that word order had specially fascinated me when I was studying German, and at the beginning my classmates and I had a very hard time trying to fugure out the rules. Phonolgy, Vocabulary and Structure are definitely among the most difficult aspect of the process of learning a new language. However, none of these, in my opinion, is really the most difficult aspect of learning a new language. What I elieve to be pf the utmost difficulty is instead keeping practicing the new language(s) we learn and trying not to forget them. Of all the languages I have learnt, only English was the one I kept studying and improving. The other languages I once studied seem instead to have disappeared from any place in my brain. I can still read something in German, French or Latin. I could also read some Greek. However, I could not speak, write or listen to a conversation in any of these languages because I just stopped practicing them. The reasons why I stopped are innumerous, but mainly because of time and money. In fact, it is expensive and very time-consuming to learn a new language and not everybody can afford to spend both time and money on this.

Finally, we can conclude that learning a language is not an easy task and presents several difficulties. Some of them are relative to the language itself, such as its phonology, structure or vocabulary. However, the most difficult aspect of all is to find time and money to dedicate to the new language, This seems really something not everybody – but actually a very few people- are willing to do.


Braydon said...

Learning a new language can be a very hard task. It involves learning so many words, their meanings and learning the grammar. It takes a lot of time and effort to do this. There are many ways to learn a new language and taking up language courses is one of the best ways.

Anonymous said...

Im not sure but you said at the beginning that 4 the most difficulties are Phonology, Vocabulary, Struture and Practice...but at the end you said something related to money...