Learn another adult language, can you?

To know other languages It is tremendously useful in our lives. It facilitates everyday situations such as working, researching, traveling ... But it seems that as our children grow up and grow older, it is less common for them to venture into learning another language.

The most common factor is the lack of time, but often the other element that prevents them from studying another language - and makes it impossible for us to encourage them to do so? is that they will no longer be as intuitive and simple as when they were little and learned as sponges. However, even if this is true, learning a language in youth can be quick, simple and even fun.


José Ramón Torres Águila, Doctor in Educational Sciences from the University of Barcelona, ​​explains that "it is not impossible for an adult to learn a foreign language. The learning process is simply different, since the adult has advantages derived from the fact that he has learned to learn: he can follow detailed instructions, infer, deduce, generalize, etc. Its conceptual apparatus, its techniques of information processing, concentration capacity and mnemonic resources are superior to those of the child. It's about taking advantage of all this in teaching and learning. "

Languages, the difficulty is not only in age

Regarding this, many times we believe that for a child who has listened to another language for several years, the older it will be easier to speak it than to write it. However, Torres explains that "the development of each linguistic ability will always be differentiated between individuals, but it will be according to their motivation, capacity for abstraction and analysis, shyness, socio-affective filters and a long etcetera".


Therefore, Torres does not believe that the problem of learning another language is in the age, nor in the linguistic environment: "being born, growing up and educating yourself in a medium where you do not speak English or French or Russian does not mean that you can not learn I would worry more about the commodification of culture, which has undermined the development of materials for language teaching, as has happened with cars, televisions or computers, language manuals have ceased to be a local product, and the erroneous assumption that their objectives and content need not be adapted to specific needs seriously affects the quality of teaching.It is not an answering conjecture of mine, it is the opinion of many specialists. "

In addition, he considers that the difficulty of Spanish and Latin Americans to pronounce English "is a real problem caused by the methods that are still used to teach languages ​​to Spanish speakers, and that do not take into account the learning context, the psycholinguistic profile of the students or their specific needs in terms of the language they are trying to learn. " Regarding this, and in his opinion, "the challenge for educators is to identify and correct the deficiencies in the approaches and didactic materials that are" offered. "A conscious and careful selection -and not based on first impressions- is of Absolutely important to optimize the learning process, teachers usually have enough freedom to adopt, adapt or design the materials they use in their classes. "


Despite this, Torres has a positive point of view: "the problems of approaches and didactic materials are real and serious, but they have a solution." It is in the type of linguistic and pedagogical training that students whose professional profile will be teaching should receive. For example, linguistic studies in philology careers in a foreign language should deal with practical topics, such as contrastive and error analysis.A grammar, lexicology or theoretical phonetics is by nature descriptive and detailed, so It offers its "pedagogical counterpart" too much on the one hand and too little on the other, with language teachers without efficient and relevant tools for their work, failure is guaranteed. "

Solutions to learn another adult language

The solutions proposed by José Ramón Torres Águila so that young people are encouraged to learn another language and find it easier, revolve around the fact that "the possibilities offered by the European Union must be exploited to the maximum." There are thousands of language centers in the United Kingdom. Linked to those that arrive faster than to certain points within the Iberian Peninsula.

But also, fortunately, in any neighborhood of Burgos, Valencia or Almeria you can find great teachers who strive to relate the objectives of their classes with the specific needs of their students, which provoke a real linguistic practice, which pay more attention to the process that to the product, and that they have moved away from the purely cognitive components of learning, from the repetitive or memorial activities, and from everything that hinders and prevents the learning of languages. These are the teachers who every day dislodge the skepticism of the language classrooms for teenagers. They have family names and surnames, and their students admire and respect them. "

Sara Pérez
Advice: José Ramón Torres Águila. Doctor in Educational Sciences from the University of Barcelona

Video: Learning a language as an adult


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