The Language Mastery Blog
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We’ve all been there. We find ourselves standing in the language section of Barnes and Noble staring lustfully at the colorful rows of shiny new books, thinking naïvely to ourselves, “This is the missing resource. If I just buy this book, I can finally make some real progress!” It’s a perfectly natural instinct, and I admit that I have succumbed to it myself an embarrassing number of times. I’ve excitedly purchased language learning books that ended up sitting on my shelf unopened. I’ve joined online membership sites, bought apps, or made in-app purchases, only to rarely (if ever) open the sites or apps. It saddens me to think of how many trips I could now take using the money I have wasted on language learning tools and resources I never ended up using. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but the frustrating truth is that I will likely do the same thing again. Why do so many of us fall into this trap again and again?
Repetition is a fundamental part of successful language learning. Until you hear or read the same vocabulary or structures again and again enough times within meaningful contexts, they just won’t commit to long-term, procedural memory no matter how much you may want to remember. A love for repetition is perhaps one of the biggest advantages children have when learning their first language. I am simply amazed how my nephews can watch the same Sesame Street video or read the same Dr. Seuss book a zillion times without getting bored. We adults aren’t quite so patient. We tend to view such repetition as punishment, not pleasure. Fortunately, there are two ways to eat our “repetition cake” without having to eat the “boredom broccoli”. Read on to see what they are.
Every so often, I stumble across claims on the interwebs so outrageous that they immediately send me to the keyboard to write a blog post. As they say, the best way to complain is to create. One such example is the following statement I read on an education blog: “Anything students need to know has to be taught, not caught.” This sound bite seems logical to those who subscribe to traditional “sage on the stage” models of teaching, but it underpins a major misconception about language acquisition: the notion that languages can be taught at all.