English AS SECOND LANGUAGE – What is it Good For?
Learning English as a second language and adapting to foreign cultures.
WHY LANGUAGE PROGRAMS ARE IMPORTANT IN THE ART OF COMMUNICATION
With thousands of constantly-evolving languages around the globe, it’s important to have a way to communicate no matter where you are. The world has seen many languages become common enough to bridge cultural divides, from Greek and Latin in ancient times, to French and English in modern ones. As the world grows more and more connected, English is becoming prominent as a world-wide language, leading to many ESL programs and ESL schools popping up all over. English leads the way in popular film, music, and internet applications, allowing people to learn a few words along the way. Yet, despite this large pool of materials to learn from, English remains one of the more difficult languages to learn.
CAN A LANGUAGE PROGRAM REALLY HELP?
Since there is no time like the present, she thought it was time to present the present.
I’ve often thought about how lucky I am to be a native English speaker. I can’t count the number of times I’ve explained a grammar rule to those that study English, and they ask me “okay, but why is it that way?” Yet when I try to think of a reason, I come up blank other than “it sounds right.” English borrows from many different languages, with our grammar having a German base and our vocabulary being gathered from Latin, German, and Greek, among others. We have the most synonyms of any language in the world and our vowels can be pronounced many different ways, depending on the word and even the context. Think of “bow” (a device to shoot an arrow) and “bow” (as in to bend at the waist).
So, how are all these obstacles overcome? It takes English as second language learners time and patience to find a precise method that works well for them. The concepts of language learning are the same for everyone: read and listen to the language in its native form, interact with other speakers on a regular basis, and practice writing out different kinds of thoughts and ideas. Yet everyone is different; some people can hear a word once and be able to seamlessly integrate it into their own vocabulary, while others need to see it written down (perhaps multiple times) before they can add it to their repertoire. Some people can learn a language just binge-watching Netflix, and others leap head-first into a study abroad program and confidently make errors until they get it right. No one method is right for everyone, and it’s crucial to have a flexible environment (and a great language program teacher!) to be able to experiment, make mistakes, and see what’s best for you!
STUDY ENGLISH AT ANY AGE
Everyone has heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” While it’s true that children are considered “sponges,” when it comes to study language, teenagers and adults are still more than capable of learning a new language! Language learning is a skill; anyone can do it, with some time, patience, and the right environment. It requires daily work, countless hours of practice, and for many a little guidance. While adult learners might be long done with their hours of homework after school, it’s not difficult to get back into a daily language-learning habit. There is a wide variety of apps that can help you learn a new language with handy phone reminders, and with the wonder of the internet, a native speaker is never more than a few taps away (if you are unable to study abroad.) With all of these advantages, “I’m too old” is never an excuse!
One of the obstacles that adult learners may encounter is the difficulty of making mistakes. It’s inevitable that language program learners will commit a faux-pas (a French term we borrowed) here and there along the way. Most of us have some fun stories of playing tone roulette with a Chinese cab driver, or accidentally saying that you lost your buffalo when you’re trying to explain directions. But these mistakes are understandable and expected! Yet it can be hard to put aside pride and accept our mistake-making. It’s frustrating and difficult to be unable to communicate as fluently as we’re used to. As Garrison Keillor wrote: “…you are never so smart again in a language learned in middle age nor so romantic, brave or kind.” But these issues should never keep someone from getting out of their comfort zones and learning a new language.
THE IMPORTANCE OF IMMERSION – WHY YOU SHOULD STUDY ABROAD
While everyone learns differently, one thing can’t be argued: Your learning will be a lot easier and quicker if you go overseas and immerse yourself in the language. There’s a huge difference between going to class for a couple hours versus having to use a language to get food, travel around, and communicate with friends and colleagues. Your brain will be working nonstop to get you up to speed, helping you pick up a normal accent, slang, mannerisms, and plenty of other subtle skills to help you blend in more in a new language.
Learning in a classroom is wonderful and helpful, and no one can deny the importance of a solid foundation in grammar. But when you learn a new language, you’re learning so much more. You don’t want to sound like a robot, and you definitely don’t want to do something culturally unacceptable. Study abroad and doing an immersion language program is a great way to help you avoid all of these mishaps. You’ll make native friends who can help you read the bus schedule, show you the most relevant TV shows, and make sure you’ve been to all the best places in the city. It can be overwhelming at first, but immersion is the way to go for a quick and accurate language learning experience.
OPEN YOUR MIND AND YOUR WORLD WITH AN ESL SCHOOL
With all of these challenges and the effort involved, you might wonder: Why even bother learning another language? But the advantages of a language program greatly outweigh the disadvantages. Language learning helps keep the mind sharp, can improve cognition, and can delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Language learning opens you up to a whole new way of life, and it helps create a little sympathy for someone in your own country when they stumble through asking for directions. It turns traveling into a whole new experience and shows others that you’re respectful and curious about their culture and their country. If you live in another country and learn the language, not only does it greatly improve your quality of life, but it can provide you with amazing experiences that you will cherish for the rest of your life.