The Most Important Thing in Language Learning
It goes back to the basic idea of why are we studying a language?
Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here and today I wanna talk about what is the most
important thing in language learning?
The most important thing in language learning.
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So what's important in language learning?
The answer is quite simple.
What is important in language is whatever is important to you, the learner.
And I'll explain what I mean by that you'll remember, or those of you who
follow me will remember the three keys to language earning, which I often refer
to something that I heard at a language teachers conference in San Diego many
years ago, and a very experienced person with many years of teaching told me that
there are only three things that matter in language learning: the attitude of the
learner, the time spent with the language, not reading grammar in your native
language but actually with the language listening, reading, speaking, writing.
And the third thing is the ability to notice.
And that is a little more difficult to understand, but if we do research
on things that we notice in life, we notice things that are important to us.
And so the importance of things becomes a big factor in language acquisition.
And I, I thought of doing this video because I noticed that I was
listening to a mini story in Persian for the, I don't know, 30th time and
I noticed something about verbs in or particular, a particular verb in
Persian that I hadn't noticed before.
Why did I notice it?
I didn't deliberately sort of plan to notice that, but probably in the
sort of evolution of my learning of Persian, I'm now sort of open to
noticing something which has now become important to me because I noticed
that I'm struggling with certain, you know, patterns of verbs in Persian.
And so then I noticed this thing in, in this story.
It's not that I set out, you know, I'm gonna listen to this story
and I'm gonna deliberately notice the verbs or something like that.
No, it's just that I was ready to notice this particular verb and
structure and having noticed it there.
And I'll probably notice it again.
I think we've all had the experience that once you notice something
somewhere, you'll notice in other places.
And eventually then hopefully that then becomes a pattern that I will
recognize and that I'll be able to use, but it begins with the idea
that this now is important for me.
Uh, you know, I remember when I was learning Chinese characters and of
course teachers like to teach you things that they think are important.
So the teacher decides what's important.
So they taught me that the Chinese characters have these radicals,
these components that represent either meaning or in many cases,
the sound of the character, but it made no, you know, impression on me.
I couldn't really recognize them.
It didn't really help me learn the characters.
I still felt that I had to learn each character individually.
Much, much later I began to see the importance of these radicals or
components in the Chinese charact.
It's like, uh, you know, the teacher, again, I've, I've mentioned this before,
people who, um, write, uh, textbooks for languages, feel that they, they
wanna start with in, in some, in many languages, relatives, you know, your uncle
on your mother's side, on your father's side, your older sister, your younger
sister, they all have different names.
And so people want to teach this to you right up front.
And I always find that this is like of no interest to me at this point.
It's not important to me.
There's so many other things that I need to learn about the language
that this simply is not important.
Uh, textbooks like to introduce festivals to you.
Again, it may be important to some beginners, not important to me.
At a later stage in my learning I will find those things very
interesting and therefore important.
Um, you know, some textbooks like to teach you all the colors at once.
It's not important to me and therefore I can't learn them when a
particular color becomes important.
I will notice it and I will learn it.
Um, you know, I was thinking too, it's a bit like, uh, when we drive a car,
uh, if we approach an intersection, um, I now as a driver with many, many
years of experience, I'm looking for cars that might be coming from the
right hand side or the left hand side.
Maybe they aren't, maybe they're gonna run the intersection.
Uh I'll notice, for example, if I'm gonna turn right on a red light,
which I'm allowed to do, uh, are there pedestrians crossing or
attempting to cross the intersection?
There's so many things that I naturally notice that are important to me.
At an early stage as a driver, when I'm struggling with my manual gear shift or
other things in the car that are more important to me, I don't notice these
things, or I might notice from the car that there's a new restaurant, that's
just opened up in my, uh, area of town.
And I'll notice a restaurant, but I won't notice, for example, a nail salon,
because I'm not interested in nail salons, but I'm interested in restaurants.
Restaurants are important to me.
It goes back to the basic idea of why are we studying a language
if learning that language is not important to you, you won't learn.
Uh, if the time you spend trying to learn that language is not an
important use of time, you won't learn.
Uh, the more you can seek out a content of interest content that
is important to you to learn from the better you're gonna learn.
Um, if there are issues of grammar that are important to you, you so important
that you actually Google for them, or look through a grammar book and look them.
Uh, at a time when they are important to you, you're more likely to learn them.
If the teacher decides, okay, class today, we're gonna learn the subjunctive
and you are struggling with so many other things in the language that this
explanation of the subjunctive makes no impression on you, because you're
not ready to receive that information.
You don't have other relevant information or knowledge to make it more meaningful.
It's not important to you.
So there are so many ways in which what's important in language learning
is what's important to us, whether it be in terms of the, the language content
that we learn from, or the aspects of the language that we wanna learn about,
or simply the fact that a natural process of, you know, having more and
more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of that language have been put on the board.
And so now you are able to focus on the missing pieces.
These missing pieces are now important to you.
So, uh, I think the ability to, to, to notice, uh, because we notice things that
are important to us, it's it's in many ways, a subconscious uh, process, but
at the same time, you have to be open.
you're not gonna notice things if you're not open, uh, open to new, um, sights and
sounds, open to new ways of pronouncing things open to new ways of saying things.
If you are open to these things and the language is important to you,
gradually more and more aspects of that language will become important.
You will acquire, initially passively, and then eventually you'll be able
to use them, uh, when speaking.
So, uh, I'll leave you with a video that I did about, um, you know, the
noticing hypothesis, which, uh, is part of the sort of linguistics world
explaining how we learn and also an old video on the importance of choosing
content of interest to learn from.
So thank you for listening.
Bye for now.