Again you are in the slough of the rules, exceptions, exercises, but with no results. It seems like you are expecting to speak the language, but you don’t have talent for languages or time for studying because of the job, family or children and again… you quit. No one talks about it, but it is simply impossible to learn a language through the standard methods. The training lasts for years without any results. After all, language is not a science, but a means of communication. There is no necessity to study it – all you need to do is to speak the language daily. What to learn and not in French as a beginner? Here below, I’ve listed 3 top mistakes you want to avoid.
Mistake #1 – There is no magic pill
When it comes to learning foreign languages there are some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that there is no magic way to learn a foreign language effortlessly. Children do pick up a language as they go, but children have much better memories and more importantly, they have all the time in the world to learn languages. Children are not afraid of losing face. As adults we are not like that at all. Our memory leaves much to be desired. It is not like a sponge anymore, we have full time jobs and we have social obligations and we have children. We are afraid of losing face. That is why we have to find time and make an effort. This is bad news. The good news is that if we do find some time, if you make a little effort, you can learn a language. Anyone can learn a foreign language; no one is crap at learning a foreign language. We are all on the same boat, and I am surrounded with the living proofs of that not just at work. Why do then so many people seem to view a language learning as a huge obstacle?
Mistake #2 – Aiming for fluency in every aspect of the language
Yes, you’ve heard it right. You don’t need to be fluent in every aspect of the language. The 3d major reason for failure in learning a foreign language is that we tend to have some unreasonable expectations of knowing a foreign language. It is not quite clear what we really mean by knowing a language. It seems to me that surprisingly many people believe that they haven’t really learned a language until they are perfectly fluent in it. I will give you an example. My mandarin for example is far from being fluent, however when I go to China town or talk to my Chinese friends, my mandarin is not so bad, in fact it is quite useful. I am fluent in French, but not in everything. I can live and work in French, but if I am asked to translate law or medecine vocabulary – then, no – I am not fluent, I will need to prepare really well.
Mistake #3 - Learning everything you can find
Language is not a database of words, the conversation has nothing in common with what you find in the language textbooks. Those books do pretty much the same thing – they teach you to learn a language, but they don’t teach you to speak it. Once again, don’t look for a magic pill, learn French using methods that were developed for adult learners. Don’t wait to get started. Learn the basics quickly. Don’t bury your head in grammar books. Don’t worry about how bad you are at memorizing lots of words, just do it. Drilling grammar for years doesn’t guarantee you success, but guarantees lost time, lost money, lost opportunities and lower self-esteem. Language is not a database of words or conjugation charts, but a tool for communication. If you focus too much on learning the language – you will never speak it. According to Dr. Arguelles, an American professor and polyglot currently working in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the Regional Language Centre of the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization, you need about 250 words to do much of anything :
- 250 words constitute the essential core of a language, without which you cannot construct any sentence.
- 750 words constitute those that are used every single day by every person who speaks the language.
- 2500 words constitute those that should enable you to express everything you could possibly want to say, albeit often by awkward circumlocutions.
- 5000 words constitute the active vocabulary of native speakers without higher education.
- 10,000 words constitute the active vocabulary of native speakers with higher education.
- 20,000 words constitute what you need to recognize passively in order to read, understand, and enjoy a work of literature such as a novel by a notable author.
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