What’s up my friends? Hello and welcome to the best podcast that I have ever made.
Welcome to speak easy English! I should clarify, this is the only podcast I have ever made. This podcast is designed to help intermediate English learners become totally fluent by listening to English every day. The daily habit of listening is the only thing you will ever need to do to become fluent in English. If you have not already, don’t forget to leave us a review! Your support will help us reach even more English learners just like you and help them become fluent in English. Also check out our website, speakeasyenglish.club and join the growing community by subscribing to our newsletter. Also shoot me an email! I would love to hear from you and hear how you are using these podcasts in your daily life to improve your English comprehension.
While you’re on the website, you can also check out the free transcripts of every episode. Reading the transcripts after you’ve listened to the episode is a perfect way to experience the same content from a different angle. It will help you become fluent even faster.
Last time, we told the story of the Three Little Pigs, and I gave you a few strategies that you can use to get the most out of each episode. In future episodes, we will tell more stories and we will talk about controversial topics, current events, science, and all sorts of interesting things. Today is episode ten and it is our last episode about natural language learning.
Today we’re going to talk about the biggest myth, the biggest lie, related to learning a second language. What is a myth? Well, a myth is a false belief. It’s something that a lot of people believe, but it’s not true. There are many myths about learning languages, but the truth is that these “big myths” are actually just big excuses that people use to justify procrastinating, giving up, or never even starting to learn a new language. Today, we’re going to talk about the biggest myth of them all. And I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before, and you might even believe it! So let’s dive in.
You have you ever thought, I can’t learn English because I’m not a kid anymore? I’m sure all of us have heard this (and maybe said this) many times.
People say things like: “it’s so easy for kids to learn a new language or to become fluent, you really need to learn the language when you’re young” or “It’s too late for me to learn English. I’m too old. I’m not a kid anymore.”
These statements, these myths, are totally false. Today, we’re going to find out why and find out how we can use this information to acquire English even faster than children! Yes, that’s right, even faster than children.
Okay, so yes, kids do seem to acquire language faster than adults, and sometimes they actually do acquire the language faster than adults. But is this because they have some magic ability that adults do not have? No, of course not. In fact, all else equal, adults learn faster than children. Even more so if the adult has had a little bit of schooling (that means attended some school) and especially if the adult knows how to read. But even without school and without being able to read, adult brains have already developed a level of complexity that allows us to understand and solve puzzles faster than children. As adults, we also have much more self control, and we are able to force ourselves to do things to help us learn. For example, it’s much easier for an adult to create a new daily habit of listening to an English podcast than it would be for a child to do the same.
So why do kids seem to learn a second language faster than adults? For example, when an immigrant family moves to a new country. Why does it seem like the children learn much faster than the adults? Well, there are a few simple reasons. And guess what? None of the reasons are related to children having any sort of magic ability to learn languages.
I’m going to give three main reasons why this happens.
One: Kids, children, spend drastically more time receiving messages in the new language compared to their parents. So the kids go to school and they spend all day in classrooms being exposed to the new language and on the playground playing with their friends, their new friends and spending time with the families of their new friends. They are spending all day every day exposed to the new language – that is, receiving messages and creating messages (in other words, communicating in English) in the new language. Whereas their parents, they don’t attend school and generally continue speaking their primary language (their native language) to each other and to other members of their ethnic or cultural group. In general, they have much less exposure to the new language compared to their children. So that is the first main difference between children and their parents or adults. The children have dramatically more exposure, more input, with the new language.
Reason number two is that kids are in a totally different mental state than their parents. They want to learn and they are shameless. This means that they are very motivated to learn, mostly so that they can make friends and play. And also they are shameless. They are not worried about making mistakes and about other people judging them and their level of English. Kids don’t care if they say the wrong word or they make mistakes when they are speaking. They are not thinking about grammar at all. They just want to communicate with their new friends and classmates. The parents, on the other hand, are generally much more anxious about making mistakes. And about trying to speak the new language. The parents worry what other adults will think and they don’t want to look silly or look stupid, so they stay silent and they don’t try to communicate in the new language. In any case, they don’t try nearly as much as the children do. This difference between the children having a positive emotional state and the parents having a negative emotional state (that is, how they feel when they are interacting in the language) – that makes a huge difference in how fast they can absorb the language. The more concerned someone is about the judgment of others, about making mistakes, and about looking silly or appearing stupid, the slower they will acquire the language. So that is reason number two. Kids want to learn and they are not afraid to make mistakes, whereas the parents are perhaps less motivated to learn, and way more sensitive to making mistakes, and scared of the judgment of others.
Lastly, when we’re talking about why it seems that children acquire languages much faster, it is partially an illusion. It’s not fair to compare the language skills of adults to the language skills of children. The bar is set very low for kids. That means what you expect from a child is very basic, a very low level of language and vocabulary. A child’s vocabulary is very simple and the topics a child can fluently discuss are very limited. A kid might be able to tell simple stories and play with their friends and ask basic questions, and that is sufficient! That’s all they need to do. They feel confident and they are able to fluently communicate with their classmates about the things that are important in their little world. Whereas an adult, in order to feel confident and fluent, an adult might need to discuss their employment, current events, the economy, politics and many other topics that are much more complex than anything a child would ever need to discuss. So the parent might actually know much more English than the child and yet still feel less able to communicate than the child feels. And that is simply because the expectations for a child are much different than the expectations for an adult.
So let’s think about this another way. Do you remember what Dr. Steven Krashen says about how we acquire languages? And by the way, if you have not listened to episode seven, I strongly recommend that you go back and listen to that episode, because that is where we explain Dr. Krashen’s brilliant theory of language acquisition. Anyway, to catch you up, Dr. Krashen says we acquire language in one and only one way, and that is when we get comprehensible input in a low anxiety environment.
Now, with that in mind, let’s think about that immigrant child or those immigrant children that seemed to learn a new language quickly. They seemed to acquire fluency in a new language quickly. When you examine that situation, those children are receiving input (that is, English) all day long from their teachers, their new friends, from popular music and movies, etc etc. And their teachers and friends are happy to help them understand that input. They use gestures, pictures, the context, and explanations, and so on. In other words, the children are spending all day every day receiving comprehensible input. And since they are children, they are not nervous or ashamed or anxious about making mistakes in the new language. The children are automatically and naturally following Dr. Krashen’s advice, and as a result, they are acquiring the new language quickly, automatically, and naturally. As you can see when you look closely at the situation, the reason that children acquire language ages faster than adults, or at least they seem to, is related to the amount of input (the amount of exposure) that these children have. It’s related to their mindset, their shamelessness, and it’s related to the expectations we have for children’s language as opposed to adult level language. So this is a huge myth!
The children do not have any special ability to acquire languages magically and without effort. The difference is simply that they spend all day every day receiving input in that language. They are not afraid to use the language and interact in the language. And the expectations we have for children are much lower than the expectations we have for adults. These factors all combine to create this illusion that children are magically acquiring language. And really it has become an excuse for adults who find it very easy to say, “well, I did not learn a language as a child and so now it is too late. I can’t do it.”
If you have been using that excuse or if you know other people who are using that excuse, now you know the truth. And this is great news for you and me! It means that children don’t have any sort of magic ability. They are proof, the children are proof, that acquiring a new language is simply a matter of having the right method. We can imitate children and basically do just what children do. And what does that mean? Well, first we need to make sure we receive input every single day. That means receiving English that you can understand every single day, as much as possible, every day. Fill all of your downtime, your wasted minutes, with English. Quit wasting time on social media and spend that extra time listening to English. Even just a few minutes, even just three minutes or five minutes over and over throughout the day. That is enough to help you acquire English. If you can develop this habit, that will essentially simulate the large amount of input that children are getting in school. No, you’re not in school, but you can simulate that input by using all of your wasted minutes, all of your downtime, and listening to English during all of those spaces during the day.
Second, relax. Focus on understanding the message in English. Don’t worry about the words that you do not know yet. You’ll see them again, I promise. Don’t worry about those words and don’t worry about making a mistake or misunderstanding. It’s okay. Nobody is judging you except for you. So stop. Let that go. Be like a child. The goal is simply to communicate. The goal is not to be perfect. Nobody cares if you make mistakes. If you can do that and keep your anxiety low, this will help your mind become like a child’s – that is, carefree, shameless, and simply focused on communicating. That’s all children want to do. They just want to communicate, and they are not worried about making mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes as long as you are able to communicate.
Alright, ladies and gentlemen, we all acquire language in the same way. It’s time to stop believing the lies and believing the myths. When someone learns multiple languages, it’s not because they have a special talent or because they are young, or because they were able to travel to another country. No, when it comes to acquiring a language, the one and only thing that separates success from failure is the method you are using. If you are using the method of natural language learning, or as Dr. Stephen Krashen says, language acquisition, that means listening to or reading English that you understand as much as possible every day, and you relax and stop worrying about making mistakes, you will become fluent just as fast as children do and maybe even faster. If you don’t believe me, try to prove me wrong! Follow this method for six months and just witness the massive amount of progress that you make. I promise you will be astounded at the improvement that you see in your English comprehension and your ability to speak.
Thank you all for listening to this entire episode. Don’t forget to repeat this episode multiple times. For example, listen to it again tomorrow, and then again two days later and again next week. Spaced repetition is the key. And if you want to help me and this podcast and help other people who are trying to learn English and acquire English, check out our website! Join the newsletter, subscribe to the podcast, and leave us a review. That will help immensely to make sure our podcast actually shows up in the results when people are searching for a podcast that will help them to acquire English! Thanks again and until next time, cheers!