What is the truth about learning a new language?

Learning a new language is perhaps more popular than ever, with the rise of language apps, but is it realistic to learn them quickly? Here are some creative ways to learn language

Teaching your tongue to contort itself into a new language is both exciting and intimidating. We are more interconnected than ever, and the allure of conversing effortlessly in multiple languages is undeniable. However, as this concept pollinates across the internet, so does the myth that fluency can be attained within weeks or months.

These days, social media platforms are rife with individuals boasting about their mastering of a language in record time. While there are certainly polyglots blessed with the ability to pick up languages quickly, it is safe to assume that most of us don’t fall within that category.

So, where does this myth come from? The answer lies in our addiction to instant gratification. As society evolves to be increasingly fast-paced and efficiency is prized above all else, the idea of overnight fluency appeals to our desire for immediate results. Additionally, marketing strategies employed by language learning apps have caught onto this and capitalise on our impatience and thirst for success. Realistically, it is impossible to master a language through mere apps.

Learning a language is a complex process that requires time, dedication, and consistency, and the glorification of overnight fluency undermines the beauty of language learning. Not only does this pressure a new learner, but unrealistic expectations often lead to frustration and disappointment for many who “fall below the bar”.

There is no denying the benefit of language learning apps as a supplement to formal education, but it is unrealistic to expect mastery of a new tongue solely through their use. Firstly, though these apps tackle the building blocks of language, they offer a limited scope relative to the multifaceted nature of language use in real life, which includes nuances when it comes to pronunciation, social cues, and more.

Secondly, language acquisition transcends mere memorisation of vocabulary and grammar rules. The key to immersing yourself in a language is engaging in authentic communication, and these apps typically fail to provide meaningful opportunities for real-time interaction and feedback.

Last but not least, context plays a vital role in language learning as it helps learners understand how words and phrases are used in different situations. In-app exercises are presented in isolation without clueing the learner in on necessary contexts or cultural backgrounds to facilitate comprehension and retention. For example, “it’s raining cats and dogs” will instantly confuse new English learners without further elaboration.

Not everyone has access to proper language classes, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with a half-baked tongue courtesy of language learning apps. Consistency is key to unlocking the door of mastery; no matter which approach you choose, it’s important to revisit the language you are learning every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.

Full report on the Reader’s Digest site