Meet my friend Yukine.
She’s 7 years old and speaks 5 languages: English, Spanish, Japanese, German and Sign Language. When I visited the Canary Islands recently, we sat down for a chat, and I asked her about her languages and what she likes about each of them. Now, it’s a common myth that children are much better language learners than adults.
Unfortunately, this is a myth that’s perpetuated wherever you go, and is often used by adults to justify not trying so hard themselves…
When you watch this video, you may find yourself feeling the same thing.
But I want you to look a bit deeper into exactly how Yukine has managed to learn these languages because there’s a very important lesson in there.
How a child can learn 5 languages
- Here are the facts:
- She lives in Spain
- She speaks Spanish and Japanese at home with her parents
- She attends an English medium international school
- The school has a language focus to it, and runs a number of German classes as part of the curriculum
- She also takes regular extra-curricular sign language classes at the school, and has done for a while
- She visits Japan for 2-3 months every summer and attends Japanese summer schools whilst she’s there
- Her uncle and cousin, who she sees regularly, are native English speakers
So, has she just “picked up” all these languages?
Children vs. adults
Whether she knows it or not, Yukine has accumulated 1,000s of hours doing the exact things that result in successful language learning.
It’s no accident.
- For years now, she’s been spending the majority of her waking hours learning or speaking
- one of her 5 languages.
- She uses 3 languages regularly with the people she loves.
- She takes regular classes in the other 2 (and will be for years to come).
- The people around her understand the importance of learning languages, and are incredibly encouraging and supportive.
As regular readers of the blog will know, these are exactly the same success factors that I spend my time encouraging people (i.e. adults) to go after…
- Spend time on your languages every day…and keep it up for years
- Speak regularly with people you like
- Be clear why you’re learning, and stay motivated by surrounding yourself by the right people
It really is no different whether you’re 7 or 70! ?
Of course, the big advantages that kids have, are plenty of time on their side, and an unquestioning attitude, that means they’ll just do anything.
Adults tend to be busy, and will often sabotage their progress by demanding “progress now!”, getting frustrated, and moving on to the next new thing.
So, think about how Yukine has learnt her languages.
Then, compare it to the last 6-12 months of your own language learning.