Learning a language is key for child development
Why do children find it easier to learn a language compared to adults?
Imagine setting off on your holiday, whether to Spain, Italy, the South of France or somewhere even more exotic and as soon as you climb into the taxi, you strike up a conversation with the taxi driver in his native language. That’s the dream, right?
If you think you’re too old to start learning a language, you’re wrong, although wouldn’t it be wonderful if your children could get to your age and do exactly that - start a conversation with anyone in any language, without hesitation?
We chat to Emily Lusty, founder of The Language Gap, which aims to teach children (and us older generations too) foreign languages in the most effective way possible.
Why do you think learning a foreign language is so important for everyone?
I have been teaching and learning languages as my main occupation for 25 years, and I am passionate about their importance to all of us. When I tell people what I do, the cry of “Oh! I wish I could speak another language”, is almost always the first reaction. Alternatively, it is “I was no good at languages at school.”
How hard is it really to learn a foreign language?
There is no genetic predisposition to learning multiple languages. Some people may have more of an aptitude, or more of an interest, but the reason that we British are often monolingual is a lack of opportunity.
Why are the Dutch and the Germans famous for their excellent English?
The answer lies in how much they are exposed to English as young learners, and their motivation to communicate in order to succeed.
Being born German does not make you a better language learner; it may, however, have given you more opportunities to hear foreign languages on TV, the radio, films, and in school.
I think the question is, how can we in the UK provide the exposure to foreign languages in order to help us towards fluency in another language? I have so often been asked by parents, “How can we help him/her at home with languages? We don’t speak anything but English!”
So how can we encourage our children to become more enthusiastic about learning languages?
Language learning at school, with an enthusiastic teacher and decent resources, can be a wonderful experience, but languages are not just offered in schools to pass an exam, or as an intellectual exercise, or even to make us more rounded individuals (although, of course, all these things are useful side effects of language learning).
The point of learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate with people who would otherwise remain strangers, it is to help us connect, get what we need, and avoid isolation and misunderstandings. Being able to speak even a little with the local people when you travel is part of what makes us see each other as human, and it can improve every overseas experience enormously.
Why is experience so important for learning?
A trip abroad is the top motivator for language learning. There is a transformation in the student who has taken the step to immerse themselves even for a few days in the country of their target language.
They have a sudden realisation as to the value of what they are doing, and they want to do it better. I have seen this happen countless times. I ensure that each one of my clients chooses the right experience so that they get the most out of a trip abroad. It is vital that they maximise the time they spend overseas in order to learn as much as possible, and come home wanting more.
The Language Gap specialises in organising language travel trips all over the world, so if you are a language learner, or want to support the young language learners in your life, Emily can help you achieve your goals!
For more language tips, Like The Language Gap on Facebook or visit its website to find a course for you .