- Canada is more bilingual now than it has ever been...
- ...and Quebec has the highest number of bilingual people out of every province.
- Research shows that it’s best to start learning a language at a young age, the best being 7 years old.
- However, research also shows that this is due to perception, not biology. With the right approach, an adult can learn a language as effectively as a child!
- Learning a language makes your brain physically grow! Brain scans show a greater density of grey matter in areas of the brain associated with language in people who speak two or more languages.
- There are 46 different alphabets used worldwide.
- Learning a second language helps prevent the mind from aging and delays the onset of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s by as much as a decade.
- The most widely spoken in the world is not English… it’s Mandarin/Chinese!
- Interestingly, Mandarin is also the most difficult language to learn.
- The easiest language to learn is Spanish.
- The dot above an “i” or a “j” is called a tittle.
- Bilingual people have a better memory.
- Bilingual people do better academically, too!
- The first alphabet was called the Phoenician alphabet, created sometime around 1200 BC.
- 89% of employers agree that being multilingual adds value to an employee.
- 43% of the world’s population speaks two languages fluently… 13% speaks three.
- English is the most common second language. In fact, people who speak English fluently as a second language outnumber native speakers!
- Almost half of languages have no written form.
- Knowing more than one language makes it easier to learn additional languages. (You knew that one, didn’t you?)
- The most common reason for wanting to learn a second language is to communicate better when travelling.
- The most widely translated books after The Bible are The Little Prince and Pinocchio.
- There are roughly 6500 languages spoken in the world today; however, 2000 of these languages have fewer than 1000 speakers; in fact, one language becomes extinct every 14 days.
- The most linguistically diverse country is Papua New Guinea, where around 840 languages are spoken.
- There are more Spanish speakers in the US than in Spain.
- In Chinese, dogs go 'wang wang'... in Spanish they go 'guau guau'... and in Swedish they go 'voff voff’.
- Some cool celebrity facts (about language, of course): ✓ Arnold Schwarzenegger was told that he cannot voice his own character in a movie translated to German because his Austrian accent was too rough; ✓ The actress Sandra Oh, Canada’s own, is fluent also in Korean - and French, which she learned in Montreal; ✓ Mila Kunis was born in The Ukraine, and she speaks excellent Ukrainian and Russian to this day; ✓ Celine Dion didn’t start learning English until well into her teens – and her motivation was world fame, her inspiration – Michael Jackson.
Here is my argument in favor of learning a new language: every person around the world has done it! At some point, in some way, from conversations with parents and friends, following songs or TV shows, children form their vocabulary and start learning their mother tongue – naturally, gradually, step by step, year after year.
Nobody was born speaking a language.
So much for the tired excuse: “I’m not good with languages”! Recently, scientists have discovered that children are not really learning more easily or more quickly than us, adults. They spend several hours a day, immersed in the new language at school or out in the street, in a new country, working hard on their new skills, making mistakes, trying again, repeating and slowly going forward. Adults are more self-conscious and more critical; they get discouraged by every mistake, often have unrealistic expectations and, almost all the time, they’re very hard on themselves. Well, we, your teachers, have news for you: learning a language is a process. Make your mistakes – then the teacher will explain and correct you – then you’ll start catching yourself and correcting yourself – and fluency will come with time, practice and dedication.
It's a proven psychological fact that we retain much more when we are interested in the subject of learning. Our memory is very selective this way. Events and experiences that have impressed us or moved us deeply are engraved in our memory, many years later, while we all have boring exams we have passed and completely forgotten about within weeks. Take a sports fan who knows every detail about his favorite team or player, plus stats and scoring situations, championships, positions on the field, etc. I could never remember that, since watching sports is not my cup of tea; but ask me about my favorite musicians, and I will tell you every album, every landmark in their lives - believe it or not, I know every word of every song of my favorite band from the time I was growing up (it's too embarrassing to mention but I still like them), and I have won a bunch of contests and prizes because of my useless trivia knowledge, based on pure interest in the subject.
There is a huge, dangerous misconception about games, music and all visual media as sources of entertainment and nothing more. On top of that, young language learners are presumed distracted and unwilling to learn. Connect the dots, and you have the picture: if your students are lacking in interest or motivation, the reason is most likely boredom. The traditional textbook-workbook-pen-chalk-blackboard concept may be still good, but it most definitely is only a small part of the arsenal a language teacher can use in an attempt to make it a success.
So accept that new language as a new adventure.
Take a deep breath. Jump! The water is great.
One of my students came to class excited today.
He told me how he'd scored 100% on his English grammar test!
Well, that made my day. (That, and the red wine and the good company at our little office party later on.)
But seriously. He stopped using me as a dictionary a few months ago. Shortly after that, he stopped trying to switch back to French when he felt it was too difficult to express himself in English.
I am very, very proud of his progress. He has been working hard, taking 3-4 hours per month on average - which is not a big time or money commitment. But he's persisted. He comes to class with a smile on his face and an open mind, sometimes bringing a school project to fine-tune, and (most of the time) with his homework done.
And that's how learning a second language works.
EVEN FOR A TEENAGER :-)))
A Europe-born-and-raised, but also suburban mother of two, with a passion for languages, cultures, writing, travel and knowledge - combining my 20-something years of teaching and marketing into a language school on the North Shore of Montreal. Quebec, Canada.