Ever since reading Paul Sulzberger’s article, “New study may revolutionize language learning”, last week's article, I’ve been thinking about my own situation regarding learning my native language (L1) - Portuguese - and later my main foreign language (L2) - English. And I can say that I totally agree with Sulzberger’s conclusion: listening to a language is central to learning it, to which I add in an unconscious and effortless way.
Do you remember how you learned your L2? I remember how I learned my first foreign language, English, at the age of five. Circumstances in my father’s professional life had us spend seven months in London where I went to school for the first time ever. I was immersed in an English-only school without knowing a word of English. For three months - so I was told by my parents - I didn’t utter a word of English. It seemed that I wasn’t learning anything. To everyone’s surprise, however, one day out of the blue I started speaking English. Three months of unconscious input had finally produced a sudden output that hasn’t stopped to this day.
It even generated a really embarrassing situation for my mother. One afternoon we were having tea at our upstairs neighbor’s house when I suddenly blurted out in English: “Mom, let’s go home. I want more toast.” How inconvenient! A lost opportunity to speak in my L1!
The same didn’t happen when learning French and German, two languages I studied in school, but never mastered. Two completely different experiences. But how they helped me understand the frustrations that many of our students feel! It is totally different to be immersed in a foreign language environment than to listen to it 4-5 hours a week in school and to study it from books.
No doubt that listening to a language, being exposed to it on a regular basis, definitely changes the learning process.
Going back to our L1, speaking and pronouncing our native language isn’t something we learn overnight. It’s a process that takes time so we must expect the same when learning another language. We also know from experience that pronunciation improves with listening, with time and with practice, as happens in our L1. So we need to encourage our students to additional listening exposure outside of class to the L2 they're learning. TV and technology should play a relevant role in this process. Help them! Guide them!
Enjoy language learning and pronunciation!
#languagelearning #listening #pronunciation