Monday, 1 October 2012

'Seek first to understand'!


As Stephen R. Covey says in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

So often people mention to me how they are so bad at another language because they can’t speak it.  Often when learning French, for example, at school as a second language, you are expected to understand what is being said, be able to reply and get the answer grammatically correct!  This can make learning a language frustrating, difficult and at worst make you feel like you can’t do it, you haven’t got the ‘language gene’ and unfortunately put you off learning a language all together!

Understanding is everything!  Simply understanding that the natural process in learning a language is to understand it rather than trying to speak it, can help release all that stress and tension related to learning a language. Babies understand their mother tongue long before thy can speak. A one year old can respond to commands like show me the blue ball, yet is only making da, ma, gaga sounds. 

Through being exposed to nursery rhymes, conversations, stories, songs, babies understand what is going on around them and will be able to distinguish different languages even if they don’t know what they are called – English-French-Spanish.  They will also get a grasp of some of the grammar without learning textbook grammar.

You will feel more confident that you can learn a language if you are exposed to it in the same way a baby does, lots of repetition and easy things.  Then you develop vocabulary, put words together like milk-more then begin to put sentences together could I have more milk please. It takes babies 3 years to get to this stage so be kind to yourself and anyone learning a language!

This is the process I am using to teach my son French and some Spanish. I use the same principles in my sessions and classes to teach French to English children though nursery rhymes they already understand.

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