Language acquisition tips

An introduction to second language learning

Languages are naturally acquired through family, culture, peers, work, travel, 
and education. Learning additional languages should take all of these into consideration.

Language is a very vital part of every culture and every individual. If you speak as much as you know, even though you may not say things correctly, it will tell the people you are communicating with that you value their language and you value them. This comes across very clearly because you are willing to relate in their area of comfort even if it means making a fool of yourself.

Common attitudes that can hinder language learning include:
  • I'm too old to study another language.
  • I didn't do well studying Spanish (or another language) in school.
  • How can I learn it now?
  • I'm a mother and can't find the time to be as involved as my husband.
  • I'm scared about saying the wrong thing or making a fool of myself.
Researchers have found that almost everyone can learn a second language. Pray for God to increase your ability to not only learn another language and to communicate effectively, but to use this gift to reach the minds and hearts of
the people with whom you will work.

Adjusting to a new culture

Cycles to expect
  • Honeymoon stage
  • Disillusionment stage
  • The pits!
  • Appreciation for aspects of the culture
  • Adopting things in the culture for your own
Becoming "third-culture" persons will happen to your children as they experience growing and developing in two different cultures. It will also happen to you, the longer you live in another culture. It is when an old culture is blended with a new culture and the two create a third. 

Being in another culture makes you see your own differently.
  • You'll see many things in your culture that you'll dislike.
  • Your hosts will have views of your culture that are very different from your perspective. Try to understand them.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself and the humorous aspects of your home culture.
  • Don't try to judge one culture as better or worse than the other; they're different.
  • Be respectful and sensitive to your host culture. Try to understand the origins and roots of its traditions, practices, and expectations.

Differing worldviews affect cultures profoundly.
  • Pantheism — Natural and spiritual coexist
  • Christ's view — Natural and spiritual overlap
  • Sadducees — Natural and spiritual separate
  • Agnostics and atheists — Natural is the only reality
  • Hinduism — Spiritual is the only reality

The "onion" concept of worldview
  • Core = meaning of universe, center of culture, meaning of self
  • Values = What is good? What is best?
  • Beliefs = What is true? What is known?
  • Behavior = What is done?
All parts of a culture hang together, so learning one thing leads to understanding others.

Culture and language learning
  • Language learning is more than translating words. It includes different grammars, ways of expressing thoughts and feelings, gestures, literary styles, indications of masculine and feminine, possession, etc.
  • Even within one culture there can be numerous sub-cultures to be aware of and dialects to distinguish.
  • All the differences listed above are not to discourage you, but to encourage you to be a learner and not jump to conclusions or judgments.

Practical steps in language learning

Three steps in natural learning:
  • Listen and do
  • Do and listen
  • Do and listen and repeat
Find a teacher that can help you with language speaking, reading, and writing, but who will be open to correcting you. This could be a high school student, or a friend that can be honest and open with you.

Prioritize the things you need to learn; practice the things you learn. Use whatever you've learned to talk and share; this will help you learn the next thing.

Keep a book to list questions about the language and culture that you want to learn about. Also, write down the things you learn, especially things you won't normally use a lot.

Prepare responses to frequently asked questions: 
  • Why are you here? 
  • What is it like where you came from? 
  • How is your family?
Also, prepare responses to help people get to know you:
  • I like ... 
  • My family likes ... 
  • My work is ... 
  • I'm a Christian because ...
Learn how to ask questions. If you're not sure how to do this, listen to a three-year-old for a while.

Characteristics of a "good" language learner
  • From the beginning, learners work to gain acceptance in their new culture. They know they must become accepted members of their new society before their message has any chance of being accepted.
  • Learners are highly motivated individuals who have positive attitudes toward their new language and culture. They place high priority on becoming effective communicators, and they are willing to work hard at it.
  • Learners are also good culture learners. They know how to integrate their learning of these two interrelated areas in order to develop a high proficiency in each.