Brought to you by Swiss French School.
Babies and toddlers have several advantages over adults when it comes to language learning.
American linguist and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky believes humans have an innate linguistic capacity that is biologically preset in the human brain. He calls this a Language Acquisition Device (LAD). We were all born with it. It’s what we used to effortlessly learn our first language.
However, there are things that can make our LAD difficult to access. Essentially, there’s a filter between new language input and our LAD. This filter helps us by screening out “irrelevant” noise, sounds and stimuli. But it also gets in the way of learning a new language, especially if you’re an adult. By the time we’re adults our LAD filters are finely tuned and locked in place.
So what can be done to break through this LAD filter? Linguists recommend three things.
1. Compelling, comprehensible content
When toddlers discover a sweet brown cocoa flavoured food they work hard to learn the word “chocolate”. When there is chocolate around they’re compelled to recall the word.
However, try teaching a toddler abstract words like “consultant” and “revolution”. It’s really difficult. These words aren’t comprehensible to a toddler. They go in one ear and out the other.
And while adults understand such words, they are less comprehensible than words like chocolate so they don’t “stick” as well.
Ensuring the language and content you learn is compelling and comprehensible, especially at the beginning, will lower your LAD filter to let the new words in. And it will boost motivation.
2. Believe you can
Young children are not afraid of learning. They don’t understand failure. It never enters their heads. They just plough on.
When you learn you will mishear and mispronounce words. Don’t frame this as failure. Instead think of it as a normal. Expect it. Go with it.
Practice feeling “stupid” with your new language at home or with close friends. Try to do this until it feels normal. This will help to disable your LAD filter.
3. Eliminate anxiety
Anxiety is enemy number one when learning a language. It triggers your LAD filter. It’s like pushing the button to close the garage door.
Young children don’t have bosses, spouses, tax returns and mortgages to worry about. They live in a relatively anxiety-free state.
Being in a low-anxiety state allows your mind to operate in an alpha state, aiding learning.
Aim to learn in relaxed settings away from things that might trigger anxiety. If you find large groups daunting then large classes won’t suit you. If you plan to practice with others, find people that won’t judge you. Other people at the same level as you are ideal. That way you won’t fell intimidated. People with big egos looking for an audience to impress with their language skills should be avoided.
Keep an eye on your anxiety levels. If they rise then ask yourself why? Over time you will develop an idea of the sorts of environments and company that work best for you.
So in summary, if you want to accelerate language acquisition, choose compelling comprehensible input, get comfortable making loads of mistakes, believe you can learn a new language in the same way you learned your first, and learn in a low anxiety environment.
For more information on how to accelerate your language learning check out [add description and link] at Swiss French School.
This article was brought to you by Swiss French School.