12 Jul 2011

My "secret" to language learning

Thomas Edison once wisely stated that “success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” Empirical evidence seems to suggest that success in language learning is somewhat the same. If you are not one of those few lucky gifted learners you might agree with me that success is 10% gift, 20% motivation and 70% perspiration. While gift does improve the outcome of perspiration (or perhaps the other way around!), motivation has a major role not only in success in language acquisition, but in most achievements. Research findings show that there is a circular cause and effect relationship between success and motivation: the more motivated you are, the more you succeed. Success, in turn, leads to still greater motivation!

My secret to language learning was perspiration, really! I always had to be very systematic about what I was to learn: I diligently listened to audio cassettes (if you are old enough to understand what I mean by cassettes) in English and wrote down the tapescript (it must be said that this was not as fun as listening to songs and writing down the lyrics, but just as effective!). I also wrote word lists and illustrated the meaning of the words with pictures and/or sentences and memorized loads of chunks of language. Yes, memorization!!! I memorized lists of vocabulary, phrasal verbs and even interviews in English: questions and looooong answers. I can’t say I enjoyed the memorization process, but when I succeeded, I felt really proud and challenged myself with further memorization. I wasn’t aware of the role of memorization in foreign language learning back then... I was just a teen, but I was able to enjoy its benefits anyway. Today, if asked for advice, I’d certainly say: be systematic about what you learn.
International Teacher Development Institute iTDi Associate member

Chiew Pang on RSCON3 2011