In today’s workforce, a prospective bilingual employee has a better chance of getting a job than a candidate with equal skills who lacks the second language. Aware of the competitive advantage of speaking a second language, many people have already engaged in learning a second language at one time or another. If they were successful in this endeavor, they most likely participated in the right kind of training. If, on the contrary, they have studied a second language and still cannot speak the language, they may have participated in a learning experience where the structural and academic aspects of the language were stressed, rather than true competence in its use. The negative side effects of these ineffective methods are generally discouragement and failure.
It is never too late to acquire a second language. Our brain’s capacity grows as we use it. Even though children possess a natural ability to acquire a second language, adult learners possess higher cognitive skills, motivation, and concentration span, which favor language acquisition. In order to succeed in acquiring a second language, it is important to change our perception of the overall experience of learning a language. For example, someone who has had an unpleasant language learning experience should forget about it and concentrate on new experiences.
Carefully choosing the environment where learning will take place is crucial. Participating in a large group is not effective. In a large class, students do not have a lot of opportunity to speak and, even if they do, the teacher will most likely not have time to correct their mistakes and pronunciation. It is most advisable to take the language out of the classroom. What better place to practice a second language than a cross-cultural area such as South Florida? Practice is possible everywhere –at the bank, the supermarket, the movies, or the library. Aside from increasing one’s value in the workforce, speaking a second language can be a fun, rewarding experience.
By Andreina Ojeda, M.A. Modern Languages and M.A. International Studies.
President and Founder of Lingua Language Center at Broward College.