Learning a language is tough work, and some of the information out there just isn't reliable. We've taken on the top three myths about learning Spanish below.
Myth 1: You can't learn Spanish as an adult.
This is one of the most commonly repeated myths about language learning. The theory that children are much better than adults at learning languages is called the critical period hypothesis and was popular for much of the 20th century. Also popular was the complementary theory, the frozen brain hypothesis, which suggests that adults aren't able to learn well. That's pretty discouraging, right?
Fortunately for adult learners, it's just not true. Experiments that compare young and adult learners have shown that it's just the opposite -- older children and adults often learn more quickly than small children. Additionally, learning a language at any stage of life provides long-term benefits: studies have shown that bi- or multi-lingual individuals who develop Alzheimer's disease do so four to five years later than their monolingual counterparts.
The takeaway? It doesn't matter if you're seven or seventy, there's no wrong time to learn a language!
Myth 2: The most important factor in learning a foreign language is aptitude.
Well, this one's close. The most important factor in learning a foreign language is attitude! Different people might have a natural knack for languages, but the time, energy, and outlook you invest in your Spanish goals will be a much larger indicator of your success. No one learns a second language (or a third, or a fourth) without some serious legwork. Keeping a positive attitude about the learning experience will help keep you motivated and on track. That might mean that you have to throw away some preconceived notions (e.g. mistakes are bad, learning isn't fun, I'm just not good at this).
Some tips to keeping up a positive attitude? Set realistic expectations, focus on your achievements, celebrate your milestones, and don't expect perfection right away. Accept and embrace your mistakes!
Myth 3: Quantity of study trumps quality of study.
The key to improving any skill is consistency. This doesn't mean that you have to spend hours and hours every day studying, though! Short, frequent periods of study work as well as or better than excessive study sessions you might only have every couple of weeks. If you burn yourself our on long study benders, your focus will suffer and you won't spend your time efficiently.
Runners preparing for a marathon know the danger of a quantity-over-quality approach: running too many miles results in burnout or injury. Instead, they aim for consistent mileage and, whenever possible, getting the most our of short workouts. Think of learning a language the same way! Learn a little bit at a time and put the information into practice.
Learning a language is a challenging and rewarding endeavor. There are some great resources out there, so take advantage of others' experiences -- just make sure you don't fall for false wisdom!