How to learn a language
How to learn a language

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How to learn a language

1 Why learn a new language?

Lots of people say they would love to speak another language, but many people are put off, perhaps because they don’t have very good memories of learning a language at school, or because they think it’s too hard, or because, well, everybody speaks English anyway!

If you decide you want to learn a language, then the message in Figure 2 is probably the reason why.

Described image
Figure 2 Motivation in learning a language

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have fallen in love with someone from another country (although that is a very common motivation for wanting to learn a language). One of your children or siblings might have fallen in love with someone from another country, and now you find yourself with a whole new extended family that you want to be able to communicate with – wanting to talk to their new grandchildren is a surprisingly frequent reason for older people wanting to learn a foreign language. You might have fallen in love with a place and visit there often, so you want to be able to communicate with the locals. Or you might have fallen in love with the way a language sounds – I have always loved the sound of Italian, and that was one of my reasons for wanting to learn the language.

On the other hand, you might be asking yourself if there are any bad reasons to learn a language. For instance, choosing one language over another because you think it is the easier choice, or feeling like you want to speak another language, but not really identifying with the people who speak it or their culture.

This is what Laura, a languages graduate at the OU, has to say about the matter. You will hear from Laura at various points throughout the course.

Laura says:

I believe the reason I got on with Spanish and German is because I had a real interest in the history and culture of German- and Spanish-speaking countries, and I also had German- and Spanish-speaking friends. Yet my efforts to learn French beyond the basics were ultimately a failure, because I never really had any deep interest to sustain my motivation; I basically thought that because I could speak Spanish, French was a ‘logical’ next step for me, but obviously that was the wrong motivation for me.

Now watch the following video, in which a group of people talk about why they want to learn another language.

Download this video clip.Video player: boc_lll_1_video_week1_voxpops2.mp4
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Some years ago, I wanted to learn Italian, because I love travelling to Italy, and especially, I really love Italian food. And I wanted to be able to talk to people about what was in a shop or what they might serve me or what was on the menu.
The first time I heard Spanish spoken was when I was 9 years old. I went to Bilbao with my family. And I was hooked on the sound of the language and being able to communicate with people in different language.
I quite enjoy learning new languages. I am Dutch. And of course, I had to learn English to come over here. And I also speak a few other languages. So I know how to learn a language. And I quite enjoy learning languages.
I needed to learn Spanish, because I'd moved to Spain. And I didn't speak a single word. And where I lived, nobody spoke any English. So it was a matter of necessity.
End transcript
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