There are some grand benefits to learning a foreign language. Firstly, a new language allows a person to access new experiences. Also, it shows an interest in other cultures. Lastly, learning a new language can be quite a strenuous exercise. So, it often leads to mental development. New neural connections are made, and other connections are fortified. A greater degree of a person’s mental potential comes to the forefront.
However, there are also severe challenges. As with any other learned subject, acquiring linguistic understanding takes effort. No one is born with innate knowledge of a language. Learning a new language often involves learning an almost entirely new grammatical structure, and then learning its utilization. Fluent knowledge of a language encompasses thousands of new vocabulary words. The sheer enormity of facts and rules involved with a language make it formidable. Language is a part of human experience, and human beings are especially equipped for linguistic finesse. There are specialized parts of the brain, such as Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, that our species adapted for linguistic power. However, young children are the best at learning new languages. Students at Bellevue are most often past this early stage of mental development. Many students in a foreign language class may not have this early exposure to the new language they are tackling.
Fortunately, the Watchdog has interviewed three faculty members at the World Languages Institute in order to learn from their extensive experience at language study. These faculty members have indeed set aside part of their lives to the study of language. With such devotion to a specific subject, they might be expected to have thought thoroughly about the most efficacious modes of linguistic study.
Anne Stewart is a professor of Japanese for the World Languages Institute. She advises students to set aside time for practice. Setting up time for study and practicing each day are paramount.
Rick Mangan is the American Sign Language teacher at Bellevue. His suggestion is to become integrated into a social group to better experience the language. There is something about interacting with people that cements linguistic content into people’s minds. Also, he has found that learning the culture from which the language originates is especially useful for students. As a derivative of culture, language and culture are interlinked. Professor Mangan conjectures that language can even affect the way people think. Some cultures have vocabulary not found in other cultures. Words express concepts that the human mind can then perceive. For a thorough understanding of a language, it’s better to know both the language and its attendant culture.
Melissa Massie is an experienced teacher of Spanish at Bellevue College. She has found that what helps students is learning the names of objects in their surroundings. Further, she has found listening to songs from the other culture and then singing along magnificently helpful.