The Process of Learning a New Language

It still amazes me the way the brain can process language, the way we are able to learn a new language. Perhaps I had always taken for granted that English had always come naturally, having spoken it more often at home as a first language than Mandarin Chinese. My Mandarin Chinese had never been bad, in fact it was pretty good until I encountered a psychotic language teacher that scarred and scared me in my formative school days. She was always constantly terrorizing us students, tormenting us at every opportunity and always delighted in finding ways to punish us for the slightest mistake (e.g. writing a character wrongly, or something because she did not like it).

Needless to say she was soon sent off (a year later), but the damage had been done and the trauma remained. From then on Mandarin Chinese had been a struggle. There was never any joy in learning the language, all those idioms, strokes and memorizing resulted only dread and fear. It became worse than a chore. I was weak in the language than not because I was weak per se, but rather more so due to the poor studying environment at the time with no support from the teachers. They always assumed you were weak because you were not capable; encouragement was sparse and the methods used resulted in fear rather than anticipation when learning the language.

Funnily enough, when there was no more school to force it upon it me I found it easier to accept the language. In fact, I can now speak better and remember/read more words /idioms than I ever could when I was in school. It just goes to show that when people learn languages (especially children) not only is the environment important, but never underestimate a person’s capabilities and stereotype than at such a young age where the stigma and associated unnecessary stress can continue on into adulthood. We don’t need to force children to learn a language so much so that they come to ‘fear’ it, and than console them and say that they can take the easier way out by coming out with a different syllabus for the ‘weaker’ ones. Rather, I believe that it would be more effective if interest is encouraged and nurtured, rather than force it with the many conditions and stereotypes.

Currently when learning Korean, I am fascinated at how my brain can accept the Korean alphabets and simple words quite easily (thus far). There are some similarities between Korean and Mandarin Chinese, which actually make learning the Korean language a little easier (well, at least the memorizing part and some pronunciation).

With the world slowly converging, so are languages and people. Hence, I believe it is never too late to start learning a language as long as you have the interest and motivation (and of course discipline). I'd just have to see where this takes me. ^^

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