Helen Myers, President Elect for The Association for Language Learning and assistant headteacher at The Ashcombe School, in Dorking, Surrey was talking to Radio 2 DJ, Chris Evans on his Drivetime Show yesterday about some of the myths of learning a new language. The interview was very positive and encouraging and considering it took place in the run up to The European Day of Languages on 26th September it was also aptly timed.
During the six minute discussion, Chris asked questions such as:
- Are we a nation of lazy ‘langue’ learners?
- What are the easiest and hardest languages to learn?
- What is the optimum age to start learning a language?
- Is it easier to learn a language when you are older?
- What is the best way to learn a language?
- Is technology helping or is it pushing us back?
- Which languages are the most popular to learn?
- What is the best language in the world?
- What is the most romantic language in the world?
In response to the question 'What is the optimum age to start learning a language?', Helen answered that she thought pupils at infant and junior school are well suited to learning a new language because they lack those inhibitions typically found in more self conscious secondary school pupils. She also felt that younger pupils benefit from already being familiar with mimicking and imitating as a way of learning in other subjects across the primary curriculum.
Helen then goes on to explain that adults who want to learn a new language can accelerate their learning by drawing on aspects of grammar and skills they have previously found to be successful. For Helen, the key to good language learning is based on a combination of attitude, aptitude and learning style whatever your age.
For me, the most interesting section of the interview was when Chris asked Helen to say whether she thought technology is something which helps language learners or pushes them further back. This is the gist of what she said reproduced here with her kind permission.Helen finished the interview by stressing the importance of championing famous language learners like David Beckham and Jonathan Woodgate as well as admitting French was her favourite language to learn.
"Oh, I think it is really really helping. In learning in general - not just in languages - we are really getting more and more interested in how people learn best. There are three ways that people talk about learning. Some people are better visual learners, some auditory learners and some kinaesthetic learners. You see something - you remember it or you hear something - you remember it, but the kinaesthetic one at which everybody says most people are best is the doing bit and with languages, technology helps you to do things. You can interact with what you hear. You can play language learning games where you listen to language and you have to click on what you’ve heard and you get a score and of course the absolutely best way of kinaesthetic / doing learning is actually to go to the country and try it out".
To catch the interview in full, click here and then on the TUE button under 'listen again to the show'. Helen makes her entrance around the hour and twenty minutes mark. The recording will be available for the next six days, so don't forget to have a listen.