The answer to this question is…it depends. Learning a language is comparable to taking a two-week vacation to Egypt – it’s an adventure! We never know what interesting information we will learn about the history, the people, their customs, and their ideology. And as with any adventure, there are a number of factors to note as you embark on your language-learning journey.
Firstly, a native tour guide will enrich your travels, just as a native language instructor will enrich your language-learning journey with real life stories and little known facts about the people and the area of the language. Language is the window to the people and their culture. Someone who has immigrated to Canada can speak from experience about the idiosyncrasies that surprised him or the customs to which she had difficulty adjusting. These very stories that come out of discussions about the language will be an eye-opener and a motivation for you as you prepare to adjust to their culture in your business relationships and travels.
IMPORTANT LEARNING FACTORS
Language Background: People learning a third or fourth language learn more easily than people learning their second language
Self-study: Engaging in the language outside of formal language classes will help you learn more quickly
Consistency: Maintaining a consistent learning schedule accelerates language learning
Immersion: Getting involved in the language community increases your ability to learn a new language
Age: After puberty, people usually retain an accent
Secondly, just as a travel agent is able to assess what “style” of vacation to offer you, a professional language trainer will assess your language learning style. A twenty year old who has backpacked through the Middle East for six months has a higher tolerance for risk and adventure than a fifty year old who vacations at a Holiday Inn in Florida annually. The same is true for language training. Someone who speaks only English often learns a second language differently from someone who is learning a third of fourth language. The multi-lingual language-learner is able to take more risks and is more confident. Also, as a rule, the ability to adjust to the changes in grammatical sequences and accent is accelerated the younger one is, but regardless of age, the learning journey is just as enjoyable!
Thirdly, a vacation is enriched when you have the opportunity to converse with the locals and avoid the tourist traps, just as language learning is enriched when you have an opportunity to use the language outside of the formal training environment. Immersion is best – the ability to shop where the locals shop and work with the locals will accelerate your language- learning journey immensely. Short of that, you can also create mini-opportunities for immersion, like attending a social function at an ethnic club, corresponding with someone in their language on the Internet, spending time with a cross-cultural friend, listening to music in the tongue you are studying and many others.
Just as your motivation will determine whether you come home with stories about white sandy beaches or stories about bartering an old pair of jeans for vegetables at the market, your motivation for learning a language will determine whether you learn to greet the hotel concierge in his/her language or you learn to jabber with the locals at the pub. Regardless of your personal learning factors, style or motivation, the journey is full of exciting new adventures that are as fascinating as the pyramids of Egypt!