What is the best way to learn a second language?
There is no one universally accepted theory of how a child learns a second language. Our philosophy in the ESL department is that language is learned not for its own sake but in order to communicate and to find out about the world. For that reason our teaching is organized around major topics, such as animals, ecology, inventions, culture and language, etc. Each topic consists of linguistic tasks, and incorporates study and computer skills. Students are exposed to written and spoken language that is (made) comprehensible to them, and engaged in different kinds of productive activities.
When is the best age to learn a new language?
If you want to be able to speak without an accent, then the younger the better. Otherwise, researchers think that early adolescence is the optimal time.
How long does it take to learn a second language?
On average students need about three years in ESL before they have sufficient English to function successfully and independently in the mainstream. However some students pass through the program much more quickly, while others need a fourth or even fifth year of ESL.
Which is more important: learning grammar or learning vocabulary?
Over the last few decades vocabulary has been neglected at the expense of grammar in a majority of the published English language teaching courses.
It is true that a mastery of basic grammar is also a necessary condition of academic success in an ESL situation. To a large extent, however, grammar acquisition in such situations can take place without much directed learning or teaching. It is clear, therefore, that ESL students need to focus on the explicit learning of the large amount of vocabulary that they need to do well in their subject classes, particularly academic vocabulary. So for them, learning vocabulary is more important than learning grammar.
Is English an easy language?
The question has a certain theoretical interest, and it seems that judged by most objective criteria, English is placed at the lower end of the scale of difficulty. (One objective criterion is a simple count of the number of verb inflections: English has a maximum of 5 – speak, speaks, spoke, spoken, speaking, whereas a language like Turkish has dozens of forms.) My position is that the objective simplicity of English – another example is that neither the articles nor the adjectives are inflected, as they are in German – in fact masks a grammar system of extreme complexity.
In an important sense, however, the question is irrelevant. Depending on a multitude of factors, some learners find English relatively easy while others find it very difficult. The key is to try and analyze which aspects of English are difficult for the individual learner, and why, and then work out how best to overcome these difficulties.