Learning Language: A Modern Approach


Learning a new language is daunting. I took 4 years of French in high school and haven’t retained much except how to say, “I like ham and cheese,” — a true statement if I ever heard one. After so many hours dedicated to studying language, why do you think the traditional method failed me?

I did a little research and found some compelling reasons why so many of us left high school feeling like we were just not cut out for learning a different language. Traditional methods of learning a new language are very much based in public speaking. We recite what we hear our teacher say in front of classmates and practice our grammar and pronunciation. We learn grammar through reading, not listening. I don’t know about you, but even getting up in front of my cohorts to speak English sent my heart racing! Learning a new language is hard, and by throwing in all the hardwired “panic and flee” responses that happen when we stand in front of our peers, most of us are setup to fail.

Most experts agree language is best learned through immersed experiences and mimicking others. If you think about it, it’s the way we learned our native languages. This practice becomes harder the older we are, but if we can tap into our inner child, we find it easier to understand new concepts and patterns.

Learning a new language also involves problem-solving. We like to know how things work before we perfect our skills. Think about how we learn to drive a car, work a new computer program, or video game. Once we have the basics down and we understand the overall purpose, we’re able to perfect our skills and add newer, more complicated actions.

Thankfully, as technology has advanced, language experts have created new ways to grasp a new language that’s conducive to adult learners with busy schedules.

Joe and I have been planning a trip to Japan, originally scheduled for this October (before we got pregnant) but now we’ll be heading there in the spring after my maternity leave. Joe has spent some time in the country, but it was mostly for work and we are both looking forward to embedding ourselves in the culture. It’s really impossible to fully experience a new country without trying to have a basic understanding of the language, so I gave myself the goal to know some basic Japanese phrases and have a general enough understanding of the language to not look like a total idiot on the trip.

We decided to partner with Rosetta Stone on this initiative. I’ve been familiar with the company for some time and was curious to see how they took 25 years (!!!) of customer insights to create an app that would make it more intuitive and more convenient to learn a new language. I loved the idea of taking my lessons with me wherever I went, especially because traveling for work leaves you with down time to focus on bigger projects.

In learning more about the new program, I found they had taken most of my qualms with traditional language learning into consideration.

The program focused on three core areas:

  1.  Grasping core language skills, particularly speaking, reading, and listening. (I was happy to hear I wouldn’t have to be writing Japanese!!)
  1. Getting comfortable with practical language applications, like having the ability to think and speak on your feet with lessons based in everyday scenarios.
  1. Actually speaking accurately! The app has a really useful speech recognition tool that’s completely unique to Rosetta Stone. It was a bit daunting to use at first but I found it to be a key aspect in building my confidence and understanding the nuances of the language. It’s designed to make you sound more authentic, but I think this takes a lot of practice! 

Even after all my research, I have to admit, I was a little reluctant to get started! This was mostly because I remember feeling so embarrassed when I mispronounced words in front of my peers! I still am easily flustered by these mistakes (which I make often even when speaking my native tongue). So, I decided to wait until I had a quiet night alone before launching the app. (Ed. Note: If you were on the light rail recently, was butchering Japanese. I later realized the Rosetta Stone app has a phrasebook, stories and an audio companion that I can access and still learn, just without speaking out loud.)

Starting with lesson one, I was surprised to find the experience a bit more like a puzzle than a language lesson. The program has you jumping right in, associating the visual and verbal definitions with images. Your job is to match the visual to the word, and then practice pronouncing yourself. Then, you begin to learn how these words change and evolve when used in a sentence. So, instead of going through the painstaking grammar lessons of your high school days, you’re more intuitively figuring out how sentences are structured.

I will admit that this method felt a bit fast and jarring at first. Kind of like the feeling you have when you’re in a new country and have no idea what anyone is saying! Then, I found myself understanding the nuance of language and sentence structure rather than trying to capture every word in the sentence. It was mimicking real life, at a pace designed for learning.

My journey has only just begun, but I feel hopeful that with patience, practice, and some renewed self-confidence, I’ll be ready for our trip to Tokyo come next spring. Now, you guys just have to hold me accountable for staying on top of my lessons!

If you’re interested in learning a new language, Rosetta Stone might be the right fit for you. Pricing for a 3-month membership starts at $79 (they also have a free demo and 30-day guarantee) which goes wherever you do. 

Ed. note: This post was sponsored by Rosetta Stone. The compensation received in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.

While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow for the development of additional dynamic content to be produced, unsponsored. Thank you for supporting our partners!

BY Kate Arends - August 29, 2017

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August 29, 2017 10:41 am

Can’t wait to hear about your travels in the spring and how your use of the Japanese language. 🙂

August 29, 2017 10:49 am

I’ve also heard good things about Duolingo.

I’ve heard so much about Duolingo! It’s so convenient how we can learn a language right where we are now. Still, I’d need actual lessons – I’m so unmotivated when alone!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

August 29, 2017 11:07 am

Interested to hear if you’re planning on taking the kiddos to Japan or not? My husband and I went a few years back, but now that we’re pregnant I’m wondering how it would work to go back with a baby. I’ve seen first hand that it is a VERY safe country, and I’ve read it is very child-friendly, but would love to hear your perspectives. Happy studying and trip planning!!!!

August 29, 2017 11:32 am

I love the sleep mask in this post – where’s it from?

Also, that travel list looks similar to my own!

August 29, 2017 2:40 pm

When you’re ready to plan your Montreal trip. Do let me know. I live under two hours away and go often. I’d be happy to give you the “local” trip tips, including some great, local boutiques.

August 29, 2017 4:07 pm
August 29, 2017 5:01 pm

Japan is also high on my dream travel list! I so loved your travel guides from Amsterdam/Stockholm/Copenhagen, so I hope you’ll share something similar after your experiences in Japan next year!

August 29, 2017 9:49 pm

I think your post are very good. It is very useful. Thank for sharing!

August 30, 2017 4:47 am

I have always wanted to learn a new language! This sounds like such a great way to do this!


Ellie x

August 30, 2017 5:56 am

Thank you for sharing this. Traveling abroad is especially difficult when there’s a language barrier. It can be frustrating at times. Although I live in Thailand and my mother can speak both Thai and Wnglish it’s hard and frustrating for me not being able to communicate at all times. While there are many expats living here in Thailand, I feel like I should know how to speak it but my mom decided nit to teach me two languages at once. I find it easier to immerse my self in the language and pick up on what I know and look… Read more »

August 30, 2017 4:44 pm

Always great to learn a new language – although I can say after having spent a month in various cities in Japan – you can easily immerse yourself in the culture without knowing the language. They are an English friendly place (and if they don’t want to help or talk they’ll pretend they don’t speak English). If you travel to the mountainous regions or even parts of southern Japan like Miyajima or Hiroshima knowing phrases will be helpful because there are little English translations. But like the other reader – it is one of the SAFEST countries I’ve been to.… Read more »

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