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You're never too old to learn a new language

Senior female teacher

As we look forward to the new year, many of us will have made resolutions for 2020. While some people focus on quitting bad habits, others are keen to acquire new skills. Further education, including languages, is becoming an increasingly popular goal in midlife when we may find ourselves with more free time.

Recent changes to Swiss immigration law may have set you scrambling to find a language school to learn French so you can renew a work permit. Or perhaps you’re planning to travel and know that learning English will ease the way. Whatever your aim, your success will be depend on finding a course adapted to your learning needs and style as a mature learner.

If you have resolved to learn a new language and you’re over fifty, you may be wondering if your dream is achievable. The good news is that it’s never too late, but it will take commitment and the right learning environment.

With the increased demand for language training from people over fifty, we’ve tested teaching approaches best suited to the needs of older students, including the language certificate to meet immigration requirements. Based in Morges, Leman Language Services is fast developing expertise in this niche market.

We know it’s important to tailor our approach to the learning styles of our students. So, when you contact us, we take time to understand your earlier experiences of learning languages. It may be many years since you’ve been in a classroom or it may be that you’re fresh out of an unsuccessful attempt to learn English or French. Perhaps you found yourself in a group of six to eight students with a set curriculum and firm objectives. You might have felt that you couldn’t keep up the pace and needed more time to express yourself and were afraid to make mistakes. In the end, you may have lost heart and finally stopped taking the class.

At Leman Language Services, our first conversation with prospective students focuses on your motivation to take classes and explores what teaching style has helped you the most in the past. We want to find out how you learn most comfortably so we can integrate those techniques into your learning process. We know it’s easier for older students to learn if you can relate to something familiar.

Our approach to teaching students over fifty is to be highly flexible and attentive to your needs. Students often worry about their ability to learn a new language because they fear they won’t be able to memorise vocabulary. The LLS approach recognises that while it takes longer to learn and retain new words and language structures after fifty, it’s easier if the rhythm of the classes is adapted to the pace of older learners. During classes, our teachers add new words slowly and don’t introduce new grammar structures until you’ve grasped what has just been taught. It’s all part of creating the right environment to ensure you feel secure, which is the first step to productive learning.

We know how important it is to create a learning environment that feels safe and fun. We’ve learned that when you feel encouraged and receive positive feedback, you are game for new things. We’ve seen older learners try anything –blended learning, miming, guessing games and even singing!

Letting go of the fear of making mistakes is key to feeling secure enough to speak a new language, yet many students hesitate because they aren’t sure they’ve got it exactly right. Often this fear stems from language teaching methods in primary or secondary school where success meant proving you had studied your grammar text and learned rules. You’ll find our approach refreshingly different.

We tell our students that it’s more important to be fluent than accurate – what you say doesn’t have to be perfect. The goal is to express your ideas not to speak like the Queen of England or the prime minister of France! In today’s world of social media and instant communication, you just need to get the message across. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it can be understood. In fact, much of the time when communicating in English, the person you’re speaking to is likely to also be a non-native speaker. Today there are many “Englishes”.

Working with learners over fifty is a great experience for teachers because senior learners are committed and think carefully before signing up for a course. They are clear about their objectives, attend classes regularly, and practise their new language skills whenever the opportunity arises.

If your New Year’s resolution is to improve your English or to learn French, take the first step towards your goal and contact us for a free assessment. Intake is continuous and you can sign up for a package of four classes rather than commit to a full-term course. Classes are small with a maximum of four students.

While you’re on our website, check out how we can help you meet Switzerland’s new requirement for proficiency in French for work permits.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Wix



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