Four Foreign Language Myths
and cultures—but in some ways it can seem such a small place as well.
Our steady technological progression means that it has never been
easier to visit foreign lands, exchange ideas from continent to
continent, or experience other cultures without leaving our hometowns.
Very few barriers exist in our contemporary global community but the
fact remains that there do remain some, and perhaps the biggest of
those barriers is language.
Not surprisingly, more and more people are becoming interested in
learning a foreign language in order to hurdle this significant
barrier. It is also not surprising that this increased interest has led
to a number of popular myths regarding foreign languages. Foreign
Language Studies is a vast, complicated field so although this list is
neither comprehensive nor conclusive in any sort of authoritative way
it will give you an idea as to whether or not there is truth behind a
handful of the most prevalent foreign language myths.
English is a Universal Language
Taken in the most literal sense, the notion of a
universal language remains hypothetical. Less strictly, however, there
is some credence to the belief that English is the world’s universal
English is the second largest native language and is the official
language in seventy countries. In addition, English-speaking countries
make up for around forty percent of the world’s total GNP. English is
also the most popular second language studied worldwide, with most of
the world’s educated populace being somewhere between fluent and
functionally conversant. It is in this aspect, as well as its relative
easiness to learn, that English stands as the most likely universal
The rise of English as a universal language began hundreds of years
ago with the British Empire’s well-known worldwide expansion and
colonization and it is perpetuated today largely with the USA’s heavy
influence on worldwide politics, military, economy and entertainment.
“Foreign Speakers Speaker So Fast”
It appears this one is a myth. Although speakers
of foreign languages often appear to be speaking faster, this
perception has more to do with rhythmical differences than actual
sounds per second. Languages such as French or Spanish are called
syllable-timed languages whereas English is a stress-timed language,
which means that they are spoken with a different cadence and not
necessarily a different speed. Syllable-timed languages are most often
perceived as faster than stress-timed languages.
“The Only Way to Learn a Language Fluently is to Learn it as a Kid”
This one is false too. Fluency is achievable by adults and
thousands, or maybe even millions, of adults have become fluent in a
second language as proof. That does not mean, however, that picking up
a second language is just as easy for adults as it is for children.
Experts maintain that the best time for a person to pick up a second
language is at the same time they’re struggling to learn their first
one—from birth to 3 years. At this age children are most receptive,
flexible and open to that type of information. In fact, a child can
pick up a second language more easily than an adult all the way until
puberty. Studies have shown it is only after puberty that we store new
languages in a separate area of our brains. At that point we need to
translate or use a native language as a pathway to the second language.
“The Best Way to Learn a Foreign Language is to Speak It”
The best way to learn to speak a foreign language might simply be
speaking it but achieving foreign language fluency requires much more
than that. Communication is a two-way street so spending all of your
time with speaking exercises is leaving the crucial ability to
understand severely neglected. Focusing on speaking alone can also lead
to poor accentuation and pronunciation because those difficult skills
are often fine tuned by listening to and imitating fluent speakers. An
over-emphasis on speaking also leaves reading and writing
underdeveloped and both are required to be completely competent in a
Author bio: Henry Lloyd is a freelance writer for Venafi. Venafi is
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