By Published On: February 3rd, 2023Categories: Article

Top 5 language learning myths

Language learning is a challenging and richly rewarding experience, but it is also filled with many misconceptions and myths that can hold individuals back from reaching their full potential. From the belief that you have to be born with some unique talent for language learning, to the idea that only total immersion in a foreign country can lead you to fluency, there are many common misconceptions that can be discouraging and send learners down the wrong path. In this article, we will explore and dispel five of the most prevalent myths in the language-learning community today.

You’re too old to learn a language

Another common myth is “I’m too old to learn a language”.  Age is not a limiting factor in language learning and many adults have successfully learnt a new language later in life. In fact, many older adults find that they have more time and motivation to devote to language learning, as well as life experience that can aid in the language learning process. Whilst, there are many inspiring individuals, one of note is Mary Hobson, who started learning Russian at 56, receiving her PhD at 74 years of age,  and ended up becoming an award-winning translator of Griboedov and Pushkin. This goes to show that it’s possible for older learners! Additionally, advances in technology and online resources have made language learning more accessible and convenient for individuals of all ages. However, many older people tend to suffer from self-ageism which can act as a barrier to learning new skills in later life. At the end of the day, age should never be a barrier to learning a new language and with the right approach and motivation anyone can become proficient in a new language, plus it’s great for brain health!

Children Learn Languages Faster Than Adults

Another common myth is that children learn languages faster than adults. While it is true that children can often pick up a new language more quickly than adults thanks to the fact they have more neuroplasticity and the ability to learn new sounds and pronunciation more easily, this is not always the case. Adults have several advantages over children when it comes to language learning, such as a more developed memory, better cognitive abilities which can aid their ability to understand grammar, vocabulary and more abstract linguistic concepts, and more life experience to relate to the language they are learning. Furthermore, children are still developing their language abilities and may not have the same level of understanding as adults. What’s more, adults often tend to have more motivation and a clear goal for learning a language, which can help them to progress more quickly. So, yes while children may learn some aspects of a language faster, this isn’t always the case and adults are also capable of learning languages effectively and efficiently.

It’s Possible to Reach ‘Fluency’ in 3 Months

How many programmes and textbooks have you seen that promise the learner to reach fluency in three or six months? Well, it’s highly unlikely and extremely unrealistic to achieve fluency (depending on your definition of fluency) in a language in just three months. Fluency typically takes years of consistent practice and exposure to the target language, which of course, can be accelerated by spending more and more hours every day.  Nevertheless, it’s possible to make significant progress in a short amount of time, such as improving vocabulary, pronunciation, and basic conversational skills. The speed of language learning depends on several factors, including the learner’s prior experience with similar languages, frequency and quality of language practice, and the learner’s motivation and dedication to the learning process. So while fluency in three months may not be realistic, it is possible to make significant progress in a relatively short amount of time with consistent effort and practice.

Immersion Is The Only Effective Way to Learn a Language

Immersion, or being surrounded by the language you are trying to learn, can certainly be a valuable way to improve your language skills. However, it isn’t the only effective method and may not be practical or feasible for everyone to just jet over to a country that speaks their target language and live there. Whilst, there is no doubt being immersed in a language can help accelerate and facilitate learning a language, it’s perfectly possible to learn a language to fluency in the comfort of your own home without visiting the country where your target language is spoken. A combination of immersion and structured study is often the most effective way to learn a language. Additionally, there are many resources available for language learning, such as online courses, self-study textbooks (such as Assimil), and audio resources, which can help you learn and practice even if you are not in a fully immersed environment. In a nutshell, immersion can be a valuable tool for language learning, but it is not the only way and a combination of immersion and structured study is often the most effective.

You Have to Be Born With a Talent for Language Learning

Another common language learning myth is that you have to be born with a talent for language learning. “I’m not good at languages”, and “I don’t have a talent for languages” are some phrases that I hear my mother and father say on a regular basis, and both are simply not true. While some people may find language learning easier than others, this is due to a variety of factors such as prior language exposure, learning style, and motivation, rather than some innate talent. Language learning is a skill that can be developed through practice and repetition, just like any other skill. With dedication and effort, anyone can become proficient in a new language, regardless of their natural aptitude. Furthermore, numerous meta-analyses and reviews of the scientific literature have found that individual differences in language learning ability are largely due to a combination of factors, including prior language exposure, motivation, and learner characteristics such as working memory capacity and executive function. These studies suggest that while some people may have an advantage in one or more of these areas, language learning is primarily a result of practice and effort, rather than innate talent.