More Than Talent: What Factors Influence Language Learning?
“But I’m not talented enough to learn another language!”
How many of you have let such an excuse deter you from learning the Chinese language? The truth is, while some people have a natural flair for learning languages, it doesn’t mean that everyone else won’t be able to successfully pick up a second or third language.
Other factors like your motivation, method of learning, and prior knowledge of languages also play a part in determining whether or not you will be able to get a grasp of the new language quickly. Read on to get a better idea of how these factors affect your language learning:
Compare someone who was forced to learn the language as a requirement in school, versus someone who has an intrinsic interest to learn the language. The person with no interest will tend to study grudgingly and avoid the subject as much as possible, while the person with motivation to learn the language will find all means and ways to make learning fun and efficient.
Of course, the one who puts in more time to learn – and who does it more enjoyably – will likely excel far more than the one who puts in the bare minimum. So, find your own motivation to learn! Do you have your eyes set on an overseas university or overseas job placement? Or do you wish to be able to enjoy your favourite dramas and movies without subtitles? Let that be your drive to master the Chinese language!
2. Prior language knowledge
Studies show that people who’ve learnt a second language are more likely to be better at learning a third language. That’s because they have a better sense of what it takes to learn a language. They are more able to handle and accept differences between languages.
The languages you already know also have bearings on how you will learn your second or third language. For example, if you can speak Thai, you might find the tones in Chinese easier to get a hang of because Thai also has tones in their language.
3. Learning style & teaching methods
Your preferred method of learning, or the method you choose to learn, can have a huge influence on how well you learn the language. For example, if you are a visual learner, you will want to take advantage of visuals like flashcards to learn a language fast. Being aware of your own learning style can help you choose a language school or study methods to help you learn more effectively.
Scholars have long theorised the existence of a ‘critical age period’ wherein children have naturally excellent language learning abilities. This comes from the observation that children seem to learn language so effortlessly, sometimes even without formal instruction.
However, it doesn’t mean to say that adults are worse language learners. Adults simply use different methods of learning language as compared to children. They base language learning more on reasoning, and have the advantage of their existing language knowledge to help them.
Like any skill, language ability is something that you can hone with the right strategies and practice. By setting your heart and mind to it, picking up a new language is possible regardless of your age or prior language experience. If you truly want to learn the Chinese language, don’t let a ‘lack of talent’ be the excuse that stops you anymore!