By Corey Heller
Photo credit: John Millard
Have you heard of compound interest? The worldwide financial crises aside, experts say that compound interest can make us millionaires by the time we retire if we take advantage of it correctly.
It goes without saying that it is completely dependent upon how much money we invest initially, how much we regularly add to the account, and what the overall rate of return is on our investment.
Is everyone going to become a millionaire through compound interest? No! But it doesn’t hurt to do what we can! We add a set amount of money to our account on a regular basis and low-and-behold our little nest egg grows and grows.
Learning a language isn’t really so different when you think about it.
Imagine that our brain is the bank and language is the money. We start off with some basic words and inspiration (initial investment), then each day we add a little more language to what we have (regular deposits) and that mix of old and new grows even larger and stronger (compound interest) over time through being able to use more complex sentences and communicate with more people which in itself adds to more vocabulary and better pronunciation – on and on. The more you put in, the more it develops and grows and compounds and before we know it, voilà, our language skills have blossomed and our family is speaking another language.
But what about our individual rate of return on our language learning, we may ask? Very good question! In fact, this is a key element (both in financial investing and language learning)!
As we all know from financial investing, if we put our money into an account that has an interest rate of zero, then we are basically going to remain in a holding pattern. No loss (if we don’t count inflation) but also no growth! Not good.
To relate this with language learning: If we just repeat the same words over and over again in the same sentences and in the same contexts for weeks at a time, then our interest rate is going to remain stagnant. Using the words we have learned in new sentences, with new people, in different settings is key. Listening to audio programs, watching videos and taking notes, this will keep the ball rolling.
Getting excited about the culture is also key: making recipes from the culture, learning about the countries where the language is spoken, visiting cultural events in your community are all part of the process.
Putting all of this together is how our language will expand each day and each week. It is how we ensure that our interest rate remains high.
One hour a day can make all the difference
For a number of reasons, parents may not be able to expose their children to a language at least 30 percent of the time. Some families just aren’t comfortable enough in a language to dedicate themselves completely to raising their children in it. Others may want to introduce a third or even fourth language. While yet others just aren’t ready to jump into bilingual parenting completely – they want to give it a test run first to get a feel for the waters.
Whatever your situation might be, rather than doing nothing at all, focus on one hour a day of language exposure and you will be amazed!
One hour a day is 60 minutes and 60 minutes over a week is 420 minutes = 7 hours! You can figure out for yourself how much that is in a year (it’s pretty easy in fact and sounds tremendous)! Just think of it: a year of language use with just one hour a day!
That is more than many of us got in our high school language classes (and if you consider the fact that many of us were usually not paying attention, cheating off our neighbor’s paper, or utterly confused and didn’t care, our kids have quite the advantage)!
So, how do we go about this? How do we ensure that we have a good return on our investment? No one can answer those questions completely for us but we can get a little help in the right direction…
Click Here for Part Two of this article, which includes some tips for one hour a day of language learning.
What’s your story? Do you have a language that you have let fall to the wayside? Is there a language you would love to pass onto your children but are too afraid to leap in and make it happen? Tell us your story in the comments below!