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Learning a new language: What a baby can teach us

Silhouette of child reading a book
Do you remember how you learnt your first language?

Unsplash CC: Aaron Burden

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The process of learning a new language can feel slow and frustrating. Ali Shahsavand, an English teacher in Melbourne, believes that looking at language learning in young children can be a source of inspiration for adult learners.

Ali Shahsavand says learners need to take baby steps in order to learn a new language.

"So you hear the words 'mama' and 'papa'. Then you respond to it. You try to say it. Maybe start with that and when you feel more confident, get into the reading and the writing section."  

Ali, an English teacher at Discover English in Melbourne, cautions against trying to learn everything at once.

"Take it little by little. So if you learn one little item, learn it, save it and then move on to the next item," he says.

He says students tend to feel like they need to learn everything in one go, but he says "it's not really realistic" and encourages students to "go slow".

"As a child, we are given that input, so as adults, we have to expose ourselves to the language we want to learn."

Side profile of young boy looking to his left
Ali Shahsavand argues that the process of learning a language as an adult is very similar to a child learning their first language.

Unsplash CC: Annie Spratt


Ali says learning a language is like a factory.

"You have an input and you have an output. Without an input, you can't have an output," he says.

Ali says a good way to immerse yourself in English is to use your smartphones, tablets and laptops to help you.

Learn English Hacks is a Facebook Live series featuring Australian teachers where they discuss challenges learners face and how to overcome them. For more information, visit our Learn English Facebook page.