After trying numerous classes in languages like Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, French, Korean, etc. (some having been with native and non-native teachers), I can say that language classes are far behind in terms of getting real results for a few reasons:
- Rote memorization is the method used by most students to learn vocabulary or grammatical concepts. They repeat words over and over like a remix (the bad kind), and voila! It’s stored up for the next quiz. It works for the duration of the course, but the sad truth is that rote/drill memorization in languages yields only short-term benefits. This is why we forget so much over the summer. Thorough, holistic learning is the real key to getting results. This is what will help you when you actually use the language.
- Most classes in any given language have a good chance of being taught by a non-native speaker. American teachers who boast having lived years in a country where the language is spoken, while they have undoubtedly learned volumes and maybe even improved their accents to near-native fluency, can usually do very little to bring the student to any real point of proficiency (this is my own experience). Even native speakers have very little leash due to the curriculum. Either way, you have to put in your own effort and think of what works and doesn’t work for you.
- Among all of the language books that I’ve come across, the course books considered so “inclusive” have been the most unnatural to use, with the exception of the more language-specific brands (Chinese for Beginners wasn’t as helpful for me, but Chineasy was pretty useful). Languages are intuitive. If you’ve got this itch to learn French, watch French shows/movies. Listen to the radio in French. Find what you enjoy, and stick to that for a while without getting caught up in activities using your own native tongue too often. Do the same for any other language you’re into. If possible, meet a native speaker (even online speaking partners can be found for free on apps like HelloTalk or sites like polyglotclub.com and italki.com, last time I checked).
If you did poorly in Spanish class, it isn’t because you don’t have “the mind” for it, or the money, the time, or the talent. Lazy excuses, all of them! You won’t lose anything from trying a few of these techniques (might even change your life c; ). I know that there are exceptions to the cases above, and I’d be glad to hear other opinions on the topic. So far, this is what I’ve experienced. I want to know your thoughts, what has/hasn’t worked for you, and what you’re experimenting with now.
The Inquisitive Language Learner