Children appear to learn their first language effortlessly. This apparently effortless learning often leads adults to believe that they should learn a second language the same way that they learned their first language as children.
Rosetta Stone and other companies have tried this, but is it really a good idea? Before you answer that question imagine that you are a little boy who is just learning to talk.
What Do You Call Animals With Four Legs and a Tail?
One day your mom and dad take you to visit a house where you learn that an animal with four legs and a tail is a cat.
Later you visit a different house but you find that the people who live there also have an animal that has four legs and a tail. But this animal barks at the mailman, chases cars, and is named Rover.
At this point you have the animals pretty well figured out so you walk into the room, point at Rover, and proudly call Rover a cat!
Fortunately for you, everyone thinks this is cute, and your 24 hours per day language tutors (also called your parents) will cheerfully explain that animals that bark are called dogs.
Children Have Live In Language Tutors
These mistakes are all a wonderful part of growing up, but it really takes children a lot of time to learn their first language. It takes them a lot of time even though they have loving, 24 hour per day live in language tutors called parents.
Imagine that you are using a computer program to learn French. You see a picture of a young woman running on an athletic track. It’s a fall day and the trees in the background are brilliant red. Below the picture is a French word and a button that you can click on to hear the French word.
Here’s a question about the word you just heard. Did you just hear the word for running, for jogging, sprinting, track and field, for woman, for young woman, or was it the word for a fall day?
If you think that was difficult, how would you learn to say, “I would have wanted to come to the party if I had known about it.”
If you can read this article, you obviously understand English. You don’t need to see a picture of a dog after you know the word for dog.
Copy the Enthusiasm of Children, Not Their Methods
Children spend a lot of time learning their first language. So copy their enthusiasm, their joy of learning and their willingness to make mistakes and not care about them, but don’t try to copy their learning methods or you will waste a lot of time.