Have you ever, even as an adult, thought about how people learn languages? It might sound like a lot of work, because learning styles, trends and methods follow each other like the changing seasons of haute couture. On the other hand, the current trend towards self-direction requires that everyone should now take responsibility for their own learning. However, it seems that few adult learners are naturally self-directed. Self-study does not necessarily work in at stages of language learning, especially if the learner is not interested enough in learning a language.
For years, Finns were taught to sit in front of a desk in silence and listen to their teacher and what the voice on the audio tape says. Now, however, the biggest challenge is that oral skills are often the most important thing in working life. When, in principle, you learn to listen by listening, speak by speaking and write by writing, you might want to think about how you divide your time between the things you practice and what benefits you the most.
When planning to begin studying a language, take a moment to think about the following things:
- Are you self-directed – can you set your own goals and make sure you reach those goals? If your answer is “yes,” you are a part of the minority who can study independently without teaching or guidance. If your answer is clearly “no,” studying with a teacher is the best alternative for you. Furthermore, if you have clear goals for your language studies, it is wisest to choose an option where you are guaranteed to have the same trainer throughout the course. This guarantees that the trainer can ensure that you will do what is required to reach your goals.
- What is your learning style? Are you an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner? In principle, auditory learners learn by listening, visual learners by seeing and kinesthetic learners by doing. However, it is important to remember that it is beneficial to utilize all learning styles in studying.
- Are you an analytic or holistic learner? The more analytic your learning style is, the more you want to learn about certain aspects of a language without distractions. Holistic learners, on the other hand, want studying to be interactive and like to study in groups rather than alone.
Whatever your answer, most of us have to work hard to become proficient at a foreign language. Therefore your own attitude and motivation are very important and compensate for the shortcomings of different learning styles and methods.
As a rule, the lower your starting level is when studying a language, the more patience is needed and the more you need the guidance of a teacher. If your language skills are good, you can direct your learning to things you need in your work. In this case, studying can be more sporadic and done for shorter periods of time. The topics can range from the launch of a new product to the skills needed to manage a multinational team.