In the research I did before I began this site, I came across a variety of theories about how adults best learn languages. In my free ebook Five Keys to Learning Spanish Rapidly (that link takes you to my page about it), I touch briefly on what I learned, but I have been meaning to blog more fully about what works and what doesn’t.

Think of how young children learn their native tongue. They hear its rhythms and cadences from infancy. People speak to them from practically the minute they are born. By the time they start speaking, they have already been immersed in the language.

Not surprisingly, there are theories of learning a second language that attempt to mimic this immersion process. Before I began work on this website, I assumed that an immersion-style approach would be the most effective.

Not so.

More recent research has proven that adults and teenagers do not utilize the same methods. Around the time of puberty, when so many changes are happening in the body and brain, the capacity to absorb languages like a sponge diminishes. Instead, teens and adults do best at learning languages when they still have a lot of exposure to the language they are learning but when they also use their ability to draw conclusions based on experience. (No cracks about teenagers, please!)

So if your first language is English and you begin learning Spanish as a teen or adult, your learning process will do well if you get some explanations in English about what you are learning in Spanish. Your brain can easily process a remark, for example, about how the two Spanish verbs ser and estar both translate into English as “to be” and what each one is used for. You may then spend years getting it right if you are like me, but my point is that explanations in English can be very useful.

Filed under: Learn Spanish