Multiple Languages

Smartys English Academy

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Everything you might want to know about multiple languages

HOW IS LANGUAGE NATURALLY ACQUIRED?

Languages are naturally acquired by people listening to language. The human brain is built to analyze it. You know, there are a lot of places in the world-not in America-but in supposedly “backwards” places like West Africa, New Guinea, where it is commonplace to find people who speak half a dozen languages. How do they do that? There are no language schools. So, they do it because it’s part of their lives. They go down to the market, they find people talking in 4 or 5 languages and if they’re going to do any trade-or buy anything-they have to know just enough of the other language to get by. So, this is how languages are learned, whether by adults or by children-by listening and interacting with real people in real-life situations.

HOW DOES THE SEA APPROACH MIRROR THIS?

The way language is naturally acquired-in real-life second language learning situations-is by listening to the language itself. And analyzing it yourself. The people who learn second languages most successfully, are not those who go to language schools. If you go to a language school, you tend to go somewhere where they have a special theory about how language should be learned, and they impose that theory upon you. But actually, the human mind is constructed to learn language. That’s one of the basic things. Just as a spider spins its web, so too do people acquire language. It’s just as natural as that. If you try to constrain that process by imposing some regime that you’ve thought, theoretically, that ought to work, it really doesn’t help. The LA approach’s success lies in its ability to mimic natural language acquisition insofar as any teaching method can.

WHAT IS THEY KEY TO LANGUAGE LEARNING?

You have to ask yourself, why is it that so many people try to learn foreign languages and fail. I think there are 2 reasons why they fail: they’re not motivated enough and they don’t have sufficient exposure to the real thing. The key to language learning is a combination of these two things. In regards to motivation, a lot of that’s got to come from the learner. But given the learner has a reasonable amount of motivation, then the burden lies upon the course to hold the learner’s attention and continually present them with material that is both interesting in itself, and relevant to the kinds of things the learner will have to do when he’s using the language. That will keep up the motivation.

 

Now, as for the material, if you have material produced by a native speaker of that language, and a sufficient amount of that material is provided, then language learn learning takes place. Since we are equipped to learn languages, the brain does the rest of the job for us. All it needs is sufficient motivation and sufficient first-class, first-language speaker material from which to learn.

PLEASE EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT BEHIND LA COURSES.

From a linguist’s standpoint, LA courses work in a very natural manner. Lots of people try to learn foreign languages, it’s rather like people trying to lose weight. Lots of people try to lose weight and very few do. Lots of people try to learn foreign languages, but they get bored, they get discouraged, they find that it’s too hard for them. By presenting the learner with material in the target language, LA courses expose the learner from the earliest stage to real life dialogue in real life situations. So, it’s going to keep the learner interested and teach the learner language that can be used immediately. There’s a payoff right away.

BRIEFLY, WHAT ARE THE FUNDAMENTALS THAT MAKE UP ANY GIVEN LANGUAGE?

Our brain is automatically programmed to take words and put them together. It differs from language to language, but not as much as you’d think. Every language is cut to so close a pattern, that some linguists regard them basically as dialects of one language. So, in other words, you already have in your brain a machine that is ready and waiting for language.

 

What do you have to do? You have to learn the sound system of the language, which may different from yours. Then, you have to learn the words. And when you’ve done that, you have to learn what the particular properties of the words are, because the properties will tell you how to put them together in a sentence. You do this by hearing them used correctly in sentences, preferably, by a native speaker of that language. That’s all you need to know. You don’t have to be given a lot of elaborate grammatical rules, because your brain’s already equipped to figure them out for you.

HOW DOES THE BRAIN ACQUIRE NEW INFORMATION?

When you hear anything at all, it is stored in your short term memory. The short-term memory will hold it, but unless it is repeated and re-emphasized, it is not going to hold on to it. Many things pass, so to speak, through your memory. In order to make long-term memories, the information must be transferred. This occurs through repetition, but if they’re repeated exactly as they were the first time, that becomes monotonous. So, the best way to do it is to take the same information, or similar information, and present it in a slightly varied so you see the same situation from different angles.

WHY DO YOU THINK THE LA APPROACH WORKS?

I think what makes the LA approach most effective is that it engages the learner from the very first stage and presents him with situations that hold his interest and attention-and it’s been carefully prepared to do so. Let’s face it, lot of foreign language work can be terribly boring. And one of the key elements in language learning is motivation. If the learner is not motivated and gets presented with mechanical, repetitive kinds of exercise, then it becomes a chore. To find a language program that holds the learner’s interest is really something quite rare. And LA approach certainly does that.

Managing Director, Academic Director,

Sunny Love, M.A. (English), D.B.A., TESOL, PELT, TEFL
sunny@smartysenglish.com | Tel : +66 (0) 87 039 9110

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