In a recent speech, Barack Obama, who spent much of his youth living abroad, said: “I don’t speak a foreign language. It’s embarrassing.” He was stressing the importance of Americans learning a foreign language, to be able to compete in the global marketplace.
Traditionally, Americans (and Brits) did not feel the need to learn other languages because the rest of the world was required to learn English. People are increasingly realizing that command of a second or third language can be a huge advantage in business.
The acquisition of language is the process by which language develops in humans. First language acquisition concerns the development of language in children, while second language acquisition looks at language development in adults.
Traditionally, theorists emphasised either nature or nurture as the most important factor in acquisition. Today, most acknowledge the importance of both biology and environment. Linguist Noam Chomsky argued that children have innate, language specific abilities that facilitate language learning.
Others, like Michael Tomasello, have said language learning comes from general cognitive abilities and the interaction between learners and their surrounding communities.
Either way, the key to master a foreign language, is to use it.
People tend to learn foreign languages for two main reasons; for work purposes or as a tool for communication only. If we wish to take the foreign language as a profession, we study it systematically on a university course, if we use it only as a tool, we tend to do it in our spare time.
The question is whether to choose home learning or travel-based language learning.
You can try and learn a new language using a book, a CD, or the internet, but there is no substitute for actually visiting the country of its origin. A trip can be of much more benefit than hours of classroom study.
Italian, Alessandra Flora, agrees. She went on an intensive English language course in the UK and says: “I learned more in two weeks of classes in the UK, than in a year at home.”
Norman Renshaw, director of InTuition Languages Ltd, says: “By immersing yourself in a country’s language and culture, you can quickly get a greater insight. Once you start to think in a language, however basic, your confidence soars.”
He says the entire experience abroad can greatly enhance someone’s cv and employment potential. International experience is increasingly important for job seekers, in a world economy that relies on good relations and the ability to communicate with people around the globe.
If you are going to travel abroad to learn a language, choose your course and language school carefully. Most people go for one-to-one tuition, which means you can go for a shorter period of time, because the learning is more intensive. It also means lessons can be tailored to your personal requirements.
If you wish to learn a foreign language to increase your job prospectives, or facilitate better relations in a company or social environment, there is no better way to improve your language quickly, than a complete linguistic cultural immersion.
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