Since I live in Italy, and don’t speak Italian, I’m naturally interested in learning languages and the ins and outs of techniques, required study times, and best practices. For me, learning a language is one of those things that doesn’t come easily, yet its so darn compelling! Each time I wane in my desire to learn a language, I only have to hear someone speaking two or three languages…or even just hear about someone who can speak two or three (or more) languages, and I’m inspired again.

This year, I’ve told myself that I’m going to find time to study and begin learning a second language. This was one of my New Year’s resolutions last year and somewhat unfortunately, I didn’t accomplish it. I attended 3 weeks of an Italian class at BYU, and learned a few things in my 5 months living in Italy, but thats about it. Quite a shame really.

Yesterday, I thought about two different methods or mindsets with which someone learns a language:

Method #1 – While listening, translating everything you hear into your native language first and then processing the native words into their meanings. While speaking, first thinking about what you want to say in your native language, translating it, and then speaking the translated words.

Method #2 – While listening, letting the words you hear match up with the meaning that you’ve associated those words with in your mind. Not translating first. While speaking, thinking first of the message you want to communicate and then speaking the words that get that message across. Both of these methods in #2 don’t involve a translating bit.

My assumption is that most language learners begin with method #1, because it has a heavy reliance on your native language. Then, as they get better, and have more and more experience with and exposure to the language, they transition more and more into method #2.

However, I wonder if I can begin with more of a focus on method #2? My belief is that if I can start more with method #2, I’ll learn more quickly and be more effective at both listening and speaking. As I begin learning and studying a new language, I plan to begin with researching these types of ideas, and exploring other possible ways of both accelerating my learning and making it more effective.