Language Learning Myth #3

3 December 2020

Myth: There’s a magic resource: a certain book, a certain CD, by “immersion only” or only with a “native speaker” to really learn the new language.

Truth: Buying a particular book or CD (or any particular resource) doesn’t ensure that I’ll learn a new language! There is NO magic pill!

In medicine we want “the” cure (the right pill, or more appropriately now, the right vaccine). In linguistics the learner wants “the” resource that will help him or her get it done! Having a particular book, an expensive CD, or particular equipment (computers, phones, or other digital devices) are helpful, but resources alone do not ensure learning will occur. I’m sorry but spending a lot of money on Rosetta Stone’s course will not guarantee that you learn that language. The commercial market has lied to you…. there is no magic resource! The course may or may not help you, but in truth there are many factors involved for effective learning to occur and good resources are just one factor. Please note that I am not saying that good resources aren’t needed. Good resources are a great help, but they’re not magic!

Sometimes learners feel that they must be in an “immersion only” setting to effectively learn. Again, while immersion helps, many students learn languages in non-immersion settings. Also, many people who live in an “immersed setting” in a new language may never quite learn it. Just go into any immigrant or refugee community in the U.S. and you will see a range of language ability from those who have come into the country as adults. Some truly learn the language while others are barely able to greet others in the new language. Immersion is only one beneficial factor in a whole system of study that make it effective.

Finally, many people feel that “only native language speakers” are the best language teachers. Many native speakers of a language are NOT good teachers of that language. In contrast, many fluent second language speakers may know how to teach or explain some things better, making them more beneficial for learning than some native speakers. A gifted teacher is the key, this may be someone who is a native or non-native speaker. Languages are learned by the hard work of dedicated learners!