by Paige Donahue
Learning a language can be hard if you are an adult. Some people have an ear for it, but most people do not. This is because the ability to acquire a new language declines sharply after puberty.
No one knows why puberty is the typical point of no return for language acquisition. Some studies show that changes in the brain at the onset of puberty may be responsible for this. People after the age of 14 or so have to make a deliberate and painstaking effort to learn a new language. While it may not be possible for an adult to be as good with it as they are with their native tongue, they can become fluent albeit with an accent.
You can help your students learn faster if you make it fun for them. Fun can make seem easier and faster. Instead of making your students focus only on the textbook, devise a way to keep it interesting and not too much like real work for them.
Here are seven fun learning activities you can use to make the process less painful.
The best way to learn a new language is to watch movies.
Ask your students to name some movies they are familiar with dubbed in the target language. That way they will not be distracted by trying to figure out the story. Tell them to listen closely to the dialogue and concentrate on the words. Ask them to try to distinguish the individual words and their pronunciation.
Subtitles can help them with this as the spoken language is usually too fast for the untrained ear. Tell them to look up words they don’t understand and make sure they understand it in context. They can check online using resources such as Urban Dictionary.
An alternative is to assign them a popular song in the target language. Ask them to pick a song, download the lyrics, and sing along with it.
You can get your students to help each other out by challenging them to a trivia game.
Divide the class into groups, and pit them against each other. Prepare slips of paper with questions on them at their particular skill level. Keep questions as simple and basic as possible for beginners, and work your way up. The questions and answers themselves are not important. What is important is that they understand the questions and can give the appropriate answers. Have a small prize ready for the group that can answer the most questions correctly to motivate them.
Taboo is a good game to play to help your students expand their vocabulary.
Make slips of paper with words in them. Divide the class into two groups and each group member take turns trying to describe an assigned word to the group until they can guess it, or the timer runs out.
Each group takes turns, and the group with the best time after several rounds wins. This will help your students practice thinking in the language instead of trying to translate it in their heads. They are also more likely to remember the word better!
This activity encourages students to practice holding a normal conversation and getting information from someone else.
Have two play telephones ready and create a scenario for each participant. For example, ask student A to ask student B for their address, and then reverse the roles. This will help students practice two-way communication and verbalization. Ask them to write down the information, and to present it to the class.
Assign your students activities that will put them in a situation where they need to speak in the target language to people who already speak it well.
Ask them to get the prices for dishes from a local restaurant, or to buy produce from the local market. Most people are more than willing to help students trying to learn their language, and it can help them become more comfortable in practicing new words.
Conversing with native speakers can also be invaluable for expanding their vocabulary to include those used in everyday language.
Reading is a great way to learn a new language, but you should nix the textbooks and get a few children’s books. These usually have illustrations and use just a few words for mastery.
Start with primers and move on to adaptations of popular stories. You can have your students read out loud in class, and encourage them to get their own copies.
The first Harry Potter book in the target language is good material for a simple book report. Get them to check out graphic novels aka comic books, and follow the adventures of their favorite superhero in the new language.
Assign partners for each student and get them to carry on a conversation on a topic you will introduce to them. Switch them around every other session until everyone knows everybody else. This is a good way to socialize and practice at the same time.
Also, encourage your students to find someone outside the class with whom they can converse. Practice makes perfect, and that is especially true when it comes to learning a new language. There may be online forums and social networks that have a group or community for second language learners.
There are many other ways to make learning a language as much fun a possible. Offline and online activities are readily available if you use your creativity.
Arrange field trips and encourage your students to ask questions. Create a blog and require all your students to post something every day. It could be a movie, a book, a song, or their experiences talking t other people in the target language. The main thing is to keep them using the language as much as possible without making it seem like work.
If you keep it upbeat and fun, they will not even notice how good they are getting at the new language.
Paige Donahue is a blogger and editor at BestEssays. She hails from Pennyslvania and enjoys discovering new things. She is at her happiest when she shares her learnings with those around her.