We often hear that learning a second language is much harder than learning your first language and that different languages can even create conflicts in your mind. Opinions very greatly on this topic, even among language experts. Some go as far as to say that your mother tongue should never be used to acquire a new language. We believe that, when done right, your first language can serve as a valuable tool to learn additional languages. In this post, we’ll talk about how you can use English as a powerful ally in your language-learning process.
English can only harm you if you rely on it too much. After all, you have gotten used to your first language as a way of communicating for your entire life; it is a powerful and convenient way to get your point across. You are now learning a new way of communicating, and it’s not easy. It’s much harder to get your message across and it’s far from convenient. But it’s important to remember that the moments of struggle are when you make the most progress. In language learning, struggle is incredibly important and it will teach you a lot. People often make the mistake of leaning on their first language a bit too much and switch to English as soon as difficulties arise. As a child, you can’t do that, so you yell and cry and eventually get your point across. Luckily, as adults, we have a backup plan. English can be very helpful. Just make sure to refrain from leaning on it too much whenever you are having trouble. Use English as a tool, but know that you’ll eventually need to let it go.
In English, you have already learned the alphabet and a complex reading and writing system. You have learned several grammar rules; you understand what verbs are, what nouns are etc. All of this is very difficult to learn and it will be very similar in many languages. If the language you are learning is 1 of the 100+ languages that use the Latin alphabet, learning to read and write will be much easier than a child who has to learn everything from scratch.
Again, when done right, using translations is one of the best ways to help you learn a new language using English. Sure, it’s simple enough to learn vocabulary using pictures when they can clearly represent the word, but the truth is that most words can’t be fully explained with a simple image. Learning the meaning of a new word from scratch in a language you have a very limited vocabulary already is very difficult. This is how children learn. When they don’t know a word, they ask their parents, “what’s economy?” and the parents explain it as best they can for the child to understand. Luckily, as adults, if you’re trying to learn French and you see “économie”, you’ll likely guess what it means because the word is very close to its English equivalent. When you can’t guess the meaning of a word, you can just look it up and you will understand the entire concept with a simple translation. This is huge. Just remember that languages do work in different ways and that many things won’t have direct translations. These things will be better learned through lots of exposure to the language. Use translations, but know their limits.
Reading a book in a language you’ve just started learning can be a daunting task. But with English as a reference, you can have the translation of the book and have the two books side-by-side. You can read sections of the book in English first to get an idea of the content and therefore make it a lot easier to understand when you read it again in the language you’re learning. There are also books that are specifically made for English speakers trying to read in a different language. Bilingual books have small paragraphs in one language, followed by the same text in another language. These types of books are a gold mine for learning lots of new words quickly using English as a reference.
Watching movies in an entirely new language is not very helpful. The actors will seem to speak so incredibly fast that they may as well be speaking gibberish. English can support you in many ways to make this more practical. You can watch a dubbed English version or watch the movie with English subtitles first to familiarize yourself with the story and understand what’s going on. When you watch the movie again without the English reference, it will be much easier to understand. You can also watch dubbed versions of English movies you know very well. When you know almost every line by heart, the movie can be used as a powerful language-learning tool. Your previous knowledge of the movie will help you learn many words very quickly.
Like mentioned earlier, translations alone may not be enough to fully grasp the meaning of some words. These words will need to be thoroughly explained. Getting these explanations in a language you master can help you understand complicated words and concepts much more easily. Getting a quick explanation in your mother tongue can be incredibly helpful when things just don’t seem to make any sense.
As you can see, when used properly, your native language can be a great ally in your quest to learn a new language. It can help you from the very beginning and assist you throughout the whole process. The important thing to remember is to let it assist you with all the helpful tools it can provide, but to never let it take over. If you can do that, you can use English to learn a new language at an incredible rate.
If you’re interested in learning a new language, we have combined everything we know from years of language acquisition and research to create an awesome program. Give it a try for free at OUINO.com.
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