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Most Americans encounter great obstacles in their efforts to learn a foreign language. School systems don’t offer foreign language classes until middle school or later. On the college level, classes usually have 20 to 30 students, far too many to provide sufficient opportunities to speak. In addition, the teaching approach is often academic with an emphasis on grammar. This isn’t at all the way we learn how to talk.
Grammar helps show the logic of how a language works, but it is faster and easier to develop fluency by learning language patterns or phrases. Through repetition and conversation, we can then expand these phrases almost automatically, as we learn new words. This is the way a child learns.
A friendly atmosphere is essential when we learn languages, so being in a small group is important. Also, conversational skill comes only with the sufficient repetition of the basic patterns of communication. That means you have to talk. You have to practice speaking and adequate opportunities for speaking can only be provided when classes are limited in size.
Language is a skill like skating or playing the guitar; it requires consistent effort and practice. At Siglo XXI we start with basic patterns and practice them until they become automatic.
Sharing a language and communicating in it is exciting. You can discover new worlds at every stage of the learning process. But you have to start by learning to say. “Yo soy, tu eres, ellos son.”