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7 tips on learning a language as an adult: learning a second language

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By Ray Robertson

Whether it’s for business purposes or as a hobby, because you’re relocating overseas or want to understand the culture around you better, it’s never too late to learn a second language. The admiration you get from friends, family and colleagues when you burst fluently into a language that’s not your own will far outweigh the challenges of learning something new.

1 Don’t be put off by your age. There is a common perception that children learn languages more easily than adults – that we can’t absorb the information as effectively – and it’s true to an extent, because kids’ brains are like sponges, automatically soaking up any data that’s thrown at them. But adults have the advantage when it comes to processing information. Mature students are usually more motivated too – if you’ve actively chosen to learn the language, you’re more likely to focus during class and after class.

2 Do find the right teacher. Take a couple of trial classes to see whose teaching style best suits you. A good teacher makes complicated things simple, which encourages you to learn. Given the right match, you’ll find that after just one or two lessons, you can actually start to communicate in your chosen language. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you begin to understand things and also make
yourself understood.

3 Don’t sign up for class with the wrong mindset. If you go in thinking it will be too difficult, you’ll end up quitting before you’ve given yourself the chance to succeed. The biggest barrier for adults when learning a new language is not believing they can do it. The key is to give yourself a chance.

4 Do practise every day. It’ll be challenging to remember all the new information being thrown at you, so be sure to revisit what you’ve learnt regularly to help with retention.

6 Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You need to pronounce words properly but give yourself time. Begin with speaking and then move on to writing when your teacher says you’re ready. Don’t expect to get where you want to be after only a couple of classes.

7 And stop analysing. It’s important to accept a new language for what it is. If you’re always trying to figure out why words need to be said in a certain order, you will struggle – accept the differences, and you’ll find things much easier. Be patient, practise and you’ll be fluent in no time

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