Category Archives for "Language acquisition"

May 25

Why is repetition so important in learning a language?

By SoundFluent | Language acquisition

What can children’s love for bedtime stories teach us about acquiring a language to fluency ?

“It may be boring for parents, but reading the same book over and over again to children is the best way to develop their vocabulary”

Tweet reactions

@blangblog @soundfluent Probably because fluency is more or less being able 2repeat the right stuff in the right order @ the right time w/o thinking?

@SimpleSongs // Pattern recognition.

@Landorien instinctive srs

So children know instinctively that they need repetition

Adults also need repetition. But, they are at a disadvantage compared to children in getting the repetition that they need

Children aren’t embarrassed to ask the meaning of a word again as many times as they need to. Adults are.

People don’t feel patronising if they use lots of repetition when speaking to children. But they won’t use as much repetition when speaking to adults. It would feel patronising or just plain weird. We just don’t do it.

I know from my own experience that I feel OK asking someone to repeat something once. I feel uncomfortable asking them to repeat twice. I hate to ask them to repeat three times. I will only do it if I really have to. Beyond this, I don’t ask any more. I’ve never gone beyond three times.

Now contrast this with my listening. I know that

Contrast this to reading a favourite book to a child. Three times doesn’t seem like much. How about 10 times, or 100 times? Why not, as long as the child is enjoying it.

Part of the problem I think is that as adult learners we tend to reject anything childlike as “childish”. We think it isn’t serious.

Is repetition boring?

Another problem is the role of the teacher (formal or not). The teacher feels embarrassed by repeating too much. And yet the experience I have heard from second language teachers is that adults will tend to ask for more repetition.

A good rule of thumb might be this: repeat something enough times that if it were in your native language it would be far beyond mind-numbingly boring. Where does this mind-numbing boredom come from? The fact that in your native language you already have this pattern so firmly established that at first hearing you have identified it. Why isn’t it boring in your new language? Because you don’t have the pattern yet. You are creating the pattern. Repetition is essential to create these patterns.

Pattern creation happens in several stages. At first the patterns formed are a bit fuzzy, then gradually, slowly but surely, they take shape and become more and more specific.

There is no critical period. There is just a time when people are willing to repeat themselves.

The amount of repetition it takes to learn something new is manageable, but it’s much more than most people would tend to do. Why is this?

1. We confuse ‘knowing’ something with acquiring it. Acquired language is automatic language. When we have really learnt the meaning of a word, for example, we don’t have to search your memory for the meaning. You just know what it means. It is possible to memorise a fact more quickly, but this is of limited value in language learning. We tend to ‘tick off’ things learnt too quickly. The knowledge that we ‘have already covered that’ is not a good substitute for real acquisition through experience.
2. We want to learn quickly. Both because you are in a hurry to learn, and because the sense of learning quickly gives a sense of competence. People like to feel competent. No-one wants to feel like a ‘slow’ learner. There is a pride that comes from learning quickly. The ego objects to repeating something 50 times.
3. It takes time for the results to show.
4. It needs to occur to you to do it. Why would someone listen 50 times to the same material? You need to have a good reason to do it. There are good reasons

Why repetition is so, so, so (haha) important:

1. By repeated listening, your brain is building up new neural pathways
2. By repeated listening, you are getting the correct template in your head
3. Each repetition is an experience, and we acquire language through repeated experience, not memorising facts

So repetition is a winner for learning languages fast and easily. Experience the power of repetition with Sound Fluent language builder.