ONLY Thing You Need to Consider When Learning
Wonder how children learn so darn quick?
the answer is easier than you might think.
are many contributing factors to a child$B!G(Bs almost
miraculous ability to soak up information that passes
their way (and some information which we can only
wonder at its source). To understand it, at least
in part, we need to have a look at the way we,
as fully fledged adults, try to learn. First, take
a look at the list below (by no means an exhaustive
list) and mentally cross off which aspect of life
is not of concern to you$B!D(B
4. Limited holiday time
6. Appearance to others
you could eliminate maybe 1 or 2 of these which
don$B!G(Bt apply to you$B!D(BHowever, more than likely you
couldn$B!G(Bt mark any of these at all off your list.
is this significant?
Because it changes the way we do many things; including
as we start to work, get involved with significant
others, and take the responsibility (perceived or
otherwise) of being an adult we:
Lose a lot of time to a continually demanding schedule
2. Become burdened (self imposed or otherwise) with
responsibilities which, translates into worry.
3. Start to solidify the rules which govern our
lives as adults.
is the glorious time of adulthood; a time when there
are usually never enough hours in the day, never
enough money in the bank and always too much stress
and too many worries to count. The way we perceive
our general life at this stage is not all
Life as a child is almost the exact mirror opposite;
a time where the day goes too slow, responsibility
stops at taking out the garbage, and the rules which
will be used in adulthood are still being figured
out. The way children perceive their general life
at this stage is very flexible.
where does that leave us? It seems that everyone
is destined to inherit a crazy schedule, a goliath
sized burden of responsibility and, as the saying
goes $B!H(Bbe set in our ways.$B!I(B When applying this
assumption to learning, be it a language or otherwise,
it appears that as adults we must accept that, $B!H(BIt$B!G(Bs
just going to be harder to learn for us$B!I(B.
Well, listen up, because I have a strategy which
I know can work for anyone. It is easy to use and
will help you recapture the unique talent of the
starters, let$B!G(Bs be realistic. Our schedules are
going to be hectic. This, as unfortunate as it is,
probably won$B!G(Bt change. Our responsibilities aren$B!G(Bt
likely to lessen either just because we are starting
to learn a language. In many cases, the additional
pressure of the responsibility learning a language
(or anything for that matter) brings with it can
heighten stress and worry. More importantly, because
we have such limited time to commit to our new responsibility
we can often feel stressed about learning and worry
about our performance while doing so. As adults,
we often berate ourselves for not trying hard enough,
for not achieving a certain level of competency
and for being innately NOT good
to number one of the keys small children unwittingly
use when they learn.
IS VERY IMPORTANT
Ask yourself this question: $B!H(BWhen was the last
time you heard a small child express worry or feelings
of stress about learning something?$B!I(B
I bet you can think of several, if not many, times
when you or someone around you has done exactly
that. Don$B!G(Bt worry there is an easy answer to this
a language is a challenging task, no mistake, BUT
stressing and worrying
about something that should be fun DOES
NOT improve your ability to perform. What
it does do is reduce the enjoyment of your experience
and make it less likely that you will continue to
undertake learning the language. And even if you
do manage to continue, you will be miserable and
probably not very proficient.
yourself this question: $B!H(BIn my experience,
what have I learned the fastest?$B!I(B
personal answer to this question is: $B!H(BThe
things I like doing the most$B!I(B.
is something to be enjoyed. Your perception of the
task is ESSENTIAL in achieving
a level you can be happy with; be it conversational
or fully fluent.
Learning a language should be
like taking a walk down a country lane. As we venture
further we get to experience more, we become aware
of how different parts of the landscape relate to
each other and we might even meet some very interesting
people who are not only fun to talk with but, as
experienced locals, can tell us more about our surroundings
than we can hope to learn by ourselves.
Start looking at the adventure of learning a language
AS an enjoyable adventure.
help you shift your perspective, think about a child
who plays video games. She plays for the fun of
it and because she plays, her skill level becomes
higher and she has more fun and can take on the
more difficult parts of the game. At first, she
isn$B!G(Bt really sure of the rules but by playing
she absorbs the rules without necessarily paying
attention to them.
brings us to perhaps the most important part of
the first step in language learning and let me start
with an observation;
the course of teaching English to hundreds and hundreds
of Japanese people, I was lucky enough to be an
observer of different learning styles as well as
an active participant in how people learn. During
almost every lesson I observed two types of learners.
The rule bound learner and the
non-rule bound learner. There is
one fundamental symptom which can be observed for
each of these types of learners. Usually a rule
bound learner will be quiet, answering a question
when asked but only after a lengthy amount of internal
deliberation searching for the most perfect way
to answer. A non-rule bound learner is usually someone
who offers information, asks questions and blurts
out less than perfectly structured sentences. In
other words, a non-rule bound learner uses
what they know while a rule bound learner tries
to know perfectly what they want to use.
It isn$B!G(Bt hard to guess which type of learner makes
the most consistent progress, right?
As you start to learn a language$B!D(B DISREGARD
Now, by this I don$B!G(Bt mean ALL the rules.
go back to the child with the video game for clarification
of my potentially unpopular advice.
It would be quite a task to find a child who, before
even loading the game, goes to great lengths of
mental preparation for the best possible course
of action when the game is finally loaded. The child
won$B!G(Bt spend time mapping out the most perfect way
to tackle the challenges the game is going to throw
their way; nor will they study every rule in the
manual before attempting to play. Usually, a child
will blast through the manual gleaning only the
most fundamental rules; enough to get them started.
Then, they turn on the machine, load the game and
figure the rest out. WHEN it is
necessary, they go back to the manual and get some
finer points of play to build on their ability level.
Now perhaps this has a lot to do with eagerness
to just play the game (which is also applicable
to any type of learner) as opposed to any active
thought about the best way to learn, but it beautifully
highlights the next point I want to introduce$B!D(B
reason children have such a steep learning curve
is because they $B!F(Bget their hands dirty$B!G(B. They
play, and play AND play. They are assisted by some
very basic rules but through mistake after mistake
AFTER mistake they learn. So, before
you try and attempt to learn the complexities and
finer points of grammar, do yourself a favor - blast
through the manual gleaning only the most fundamental
rules; enough to get you started. Then, turn on
the machine, load the game and figure the rest out.
WHEN it is necessary, go back to the manual and
get some finer points of play to build on your ability
and do one other thing:
the knowledge you get from making the mistakes you
(If it makes you feel better, use the term $B!F(Blearning
are inherently afraid of making mistakes. The reason
has to do with how we believe
others see us (number 6 in the aspect of life table
at the start of this article). I have been guilty
of this many times but there is a simple way to
overcome this. I simply think about something which
although very common sense, escapes the attention
of a lot of language learners:
Imagine a non-Native English speaker who has a less
than perfect ability with English. Sometimes, when
they speak their sentence structure is poor, their
pronunciation maybe a little strange and sometimes
they may use inappropriate words which are out of
I think they are stupid?
Of course not
I think they look foolish?
I cheer for them every time for making a great effort?
people, when you speak your new language to them,
will do the following:
1. Appreciate you trying to communicate in their
2. Praise you for your skillful use of the language
(true or not)
3. Understand that you are learning and cheer for
with this in mind, $B!H(BIs it especially hard to try
out your language skills?$B!I(B
NO!! Sure it might be uncomfortable at first
but hey, this isn$B!G(Bt your mother tongue!!!
back to the video game playing child one more time.
Wrapped up in the game, her desire to do better
and the overall enjoyment the game is giving her
keeps her striving for more, $B!H(BDo you think she
is paying much attention to any negative people
around her (or anyone for that matter!)?$B!I(B
is enjoying every last second and becoming proficient
at the same time. Please remember this. It will
help you through many embarrassing moments and times
if you are to take anything away from what I have
written let it be this:
LEARNING ANYTHING - BE MORE LIKE A CHILD
Hazell - www.englishtreejapan.com