How learning a language is like learning to drive. Get your ‘L’ plates now.

We all know learning to drive takes time.

You have to be realistic…

You’re not going to learn to drive in one or two days.

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Learner Driver = Learner speaker?           Photo Credit
When I learned to drive, a long time ago, I had to sign up for a package of 12 lessons. The lady in the office told me that 12 lessons was the average number of lessons it took a ‘normal person’ (What on earth is a ‘normal person’?) to pass their driving test.

“What if it takes me longer?” I asked. She gave me that look that only  older ladies on front desks  can give when they’re thinking, “Ah! Here’s a ‘smart Alec’.”

(My name’s Marie, but I know she thought I was going to turn out to be ‘smart Alec’.)

“No problem.” she replied, with a sort of twisted grin. “When you FAIL the test, you just sign up for another 12 lessons.”

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Receptionist at driving school? No, but something like that. PhotoCredit
“That wasn’t very encouraging”, I thought.

I was about to enter into the fact that I thought it was slightly unfair, because if I failed the driving test, I may not need another 12 lessons and maybe 3 or even 6 would do the job. But when I remembered Alec, I readjusted my speech pattern, thanked her politely and dutifully signed up for my first 12 lessons.

I sailed through on 12, by the way, much to her annoyance!


Ah yes, the point being…

Language learning could be compared to learning to drive.

  • a) Walking is a skill we learn in order to get around and survive.
  • b) Driving is a skill we learn in order to get around faster and more efficiently.
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Learning to walk …Photo credit
  • a) Language is a skill we learn in order to communicate with others more efficiently.
  • b) Second language learning is a skill we learn in order to communicate with more people and get around more efficiently.

5 ways learning another language could be compared to learning to drive

  1. You have to really want/need to learn a language /drive
  2. You have to make an important time commitment to learn a language or drive.
  3. You have to make use of as many resources as you have at your disposal to expedite the process of learning a language or driving.
  4. You have to have as many lessons or practice in a consecutive time frame in order to maximise learning process to learn a language or drive
  5. You have to invest some finance, even to a small degree, to achieve your goal of learning to communicate in a language or driving.

I’m not suggesting you could ‘speak a second language’ after 12 lessons, in the same way you might be able to pass a driving test after 12 driving lessons.  I’m pointing out some of the similarities in the mental process of learning a language to learning how to drive a car. 

Looking back at those bullet points we could take each one and see the reasoning behind each one.

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MOTORvation? Photo Credit

First point: MOTIVATION 

You have to really want or really need to learn a language  or drive a car.

 This point is all about MOTIVATION .  Motivation is the key to our learning capacity. There is nothing stronger than motivation. As the word suggests, it’s what makes us MOVE and TAKE ACTION, all rolled into one! Easy to see, right?

MO-T-A-TION’

Tell me it’s easy to see this sentence  is the very essence of MOTIVATION?

There is no doubt that the more highly you are motivated to learn ANY skill, the more likely the success rate in terms of achievement will be.

Make your motivation tangible and real by answering the following questions.

  • Do you really want to learn a second language? Then WHY?

Answer here………..

  • Do you really need to learn a second language? Then WHY?

Answer here……….

 

The Clock face on the Tower at the Palace of Westminster.
Parliament Clock at Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London.        Photo Credit

Second point: TIME COMMITMENT

You have to make an important time commitment to learn a language or drive a car.

 You sign up for a certain amount of time to learn to drive a car. Then the same thing should happen for learning a language. The going will get tough and you will get discouraged, but the fact you’ve paid up-front and turn into a great motivator!

Just as in learning to drive and you made a commitment, you should take the same attitude with learning another skill: learning a second language.

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My first Spanish -English Dictionary

Third point: RESOURCES

You have to make use of as many resources as you have at your disposal to expedite the process of learning a language or driving.

 Just as in learning to drive you would make use of all resources available such as, The Highway Code in the UK, on-line simulated driving tests, outings with family members (in fact anything and everything at your disposal) so you should too, and in a similar way, in order to reach your goals for your language learning.

Internet is heaving with on-line resources for language learning. (This will be the subject of another post, in the near future.)

But if you’re not an Internet nerd, you can always find a way to; find classes run by your local authority, watch DVDs switched to your target language, find newspapers or  books at your local library, listen to music in your target language on CDs or cassettes, etc., etc., etc.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

It’s the same for learning to drive and so, so true for language learning.

atalante_1_lepautre_louvre_mr_1804No time to waste…Get as much input into your language learning s fast as possible.   Photo credit

Fourth point: CONSECUTIVE (RAPID) INPUT  

You have to have as many lessons and practice in a consecutive time frame in order to maximise learning process to learn a language or drive

Unfortunately, all important things take time and time commitment is crucial in learning a language as it also is in learning to drive.

When I was signing up for driving lessons, I wanted a lesson every Saturday morning for 12 Saturdays, for a total of three months. But the lady at the desk, yes, that old battle-axe, advised me that I should sign up for the ‘Intensive Course’ which was one session every day for 12 days, Sundays included.

She said it had been proven to be the most time-efficient formula to learn to drive. She added  that from one Saturday to te next Saturday there was so much time, I would forget the skills I was learning and it would be like starting the first lesson every time.

Perhaps this was a slight exaggeration, but I sort of got what she meant.

Oh, and guess what?

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The same goes for language learning.

If you take one lesson a week, or look at a Spanish book once or twice a week, it will take FOREVER to reach the targets you dream of.

Your brain needs extra reminders at the beginning of any learning process to assimilate the connections being made, just as in learning to drive.

10 lessons of language learning over 10 days will have double/ triple/ quadruple the effect of 10 lessons over 10 weeks. Much the same as learning to drive a car, I’m sure.

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Tasty Euro / Dollar / Pound signs in PRETZELS! Photo Credit

     Fifth point: COST FACTOR

 You have to invest some finance, even to a small degree, to achieve your goal of learning to communicate in a language or driving.

it may be painful but it’s true. You might have to invest some modicum sum into your language learning goal, the same way you may have had to do so in order to learn how to drive a car.

This may come in the form of:

  • classes in your area that requires a fee;
  • a trip to the country where your target language is spoken naturally;
  • text books, phrase books and dictionaries;
  • language ‘applications’ or ‘Apps’ for smart phones;
  • On-line courses, etc., etc.

Does the end justify the means? Certainly!

It’s not as if you would give up learning to drive after your statutory 12 lessons, right?

People can be so ‘driven’ (sorry for that painful pun) to learn to drive that they take many lessons, as many lessons as it takes in fact, to achieve their goal.  Yet many people give up on their language learning before they give themselves a chance to make any progress.

I hope this helps with your learning a new language motivation.

Which of those points above resonates with your language learning experience?

Let me know what trouble you’re having with those 5 points for language learning above.

                     Two previous posts

In Never too old! I discussed the fact that it’s never too late to start learning another language and it can be so extremely rewarding and beneficial.

Another popular post in my motivational series entitled Is it easy to learn to speak Spanish? also underlines the benefits of learning another language; in this case Spanish.

Language learning is my passion and I would love to help you do that, if you are interested in learning Spanish.

More next time…

18 comments

    1. Tivamoo,
      Please cancel out that analogy!
      How about me writing another post entitled ” How learning a language is like learning to ride a bicycle ” ?
      Please let me know if that would work for you! Lol
      Regards. Marie

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I obtained my first BA in German. That was in 2006 and I have only traveled to Germany once. Needless to say, my German is not what it use to be. Last week, I gathered all my German language text books that I kept from college and began studying…sporadically admittedly. I do need to be consistent and study daily as I refresh and refine my skills. Thanks for the encouragement

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Markesha,
      fabulous that you’re finding the motivation again to start ‘spinning those German plates’ !
      You’ve already got a B.A. in German. You must be quite fluent…just rusty?
      You must have been very motivated not very long ago!

      I’m just starting up with rusty French again that I had quite well but I let slip….
      You know you have to nurture these languages or they just get up and leave you!
      What you need is a quick trip to Germany to remind yourself of how cool it is to be able to communicate…
      Regards. Marie.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always considered learning a new language but I never thought about it like driving. You bring up a very good point about motivation, reading this post made me think about when I practiced for my theory test and I can apply the things that you said which I definitely need to look to do more of in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jeffrey!
      Thanks so much for the comment…
      So many of my students also relate to my analogy of driving, when it comes to language learning!
      I was late learning to drive…I had been teaching language for several years by then , so when it was my turn to ‘learn to ….drive’ I realised the connection/similarity between the two…
      Not only driving, but learning any other skill.
      Motivation is key to human achievement (someone must have said that before!)
      “Necessity is the mother of all invention…” etc., etc.
      Thanks for commenting!
      Regards. Marie.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cristian…much appreciated.
      Just asking , as a language teacher, how is your English so good?
      You know the British have a reputation for being “useless at languages?” ?(sorry but it’s a title of one of my posts so I couldn’t resist the pun! )
      and yours and millions of others can even BLOG in English when it isn’t their first langauge….
      Any thoughts from you would be very interesting for me…..
      Kind regards. Marie.

      Like

  3. I’ve been learning French for 3 years (a bit more because I knew some grammar basics when I started) and the first thing I have to agree with is motivation. Even when I feel like not doing my homework or not going to the class because I’m tired or whatever, I remind myself about the progress I’ve made since, for example, a year ago. And that makes me happy and motivates me to keep going.
    Going to classes 2 times per week obviously isn’t enough, but since I’m in love with French poetry and cinema, I am often exposed to the language which is helping a lot, I even started thinking or having some conversations in my head in French. 😂😄 So yeah, keep going, even when it feels like it’s not worth it, it is!

    Like

    1. Hi, femmemia
      Exactly! Good work with the French! Sounds like you’re really motivated there!
      I was trying to express, probably not very well, that the same motivation most of us have when learning to drive is very strong, so that’s the the level of motivation needed when learning a language, because it’s not easy, it needs time and dedication. But if motivation is there, it makes the process achievable… if you see what I mean!
      Merci pour le commentaire!
      Salut. Marie.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Marie, your explanations and tips towards learning another language are inspiring. I love to receive your posts and hope to improve -as they say in Spanish poco a poco!! Looking forward to reading more of your tips and tricks, thank you!! Saludos!!

    Like

    1. Pauline, thanks so much for kind words! I’m just trying to help out a bit With the language. Motivation is key 🔑 . I hope my other posts are clear on grammar points! Un abrazo!

      Like

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