haberResim27312Traditional classroom learning of languages is out and a more casual way of learning is in, according to a panel of international scholars at a recent conference in Shanghai. They believe that a more active way for students to learn a language over the traditional rote style of learning will be more of a success.

Informal learning environments not only allow students to connect with real life situations but also to connect with them in other languages. China has been criticized for a long time about its teaching methods of English, being outdated with little practical application. Over 80% of a person’s life is spent in informal learning situations, so it makes sense that languages should be allowed to fruition in these informal environments rather than be limited in formal classrooms. So how does informal learning help?

1. Bilingualism Stimulates the Brain

The scholars believe that, instead of memorizing scripts of vocabulary and grammar, the students should be free to actively communicate in English. They stress that bilingualism stimulates the development of the brain! The Chinese students in Shanghai who had been learning English in this way are very capable at it. As society is changing quickly, so learning should be adapted in the same way.

Being bilingual is actually a type of exercise for the brain. Learning, understanding and using different languages, as well as continually holding them as separate languages in the brain, strengthens the brain which, in turn, increases its health and brainpower.

2. Bilingual Environments Enhance Learning

Children_playing_tagStudies concerning children have proven that a higher cognitive ability is found among those who live in bilingual surroundings.

Students with bilingual parents are in the best positions to pick up a second language easily, as are children who go to multinational schools. They can tune into other languages much more easily and the casual atmosphere of being amongst family or friends makes it easier to learn, even without realizing it.

It has been proven that bilingual students have the ability to solve problems more easily than their peers, that they are more adept at thinking around things to find alternative solutions. They are also more comfortable with new situations and are more open-minded towards other cultures. This is presumably because learning to think and speak in another language makes them look at all aspects in a different light.

3. Easily Accessible Mediums

One of the first pieces of advice people are told when they move abroad is to listen to the local radio and to watch TV. Even if you don’t understand what’s going on, you’ll start to recognize and become familiar with certain words and phrases. By listening to or watching the foreign equivalent of your favourite song or TV programme, you’ll be able to start associating meanings with words in a short space of time. Even just casually listening to music in the background will help as you’ll subconsciously pick things up.

We’ve also got access to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, which instantly puts us in touch with other nationalities. This is a great way to pick up new words while learning something new about other people’s cultures.

Do you agree with the scholars’ suggestions about informal learning in real life situations? Have you found that actively practising your knowledge of English in unrehearsed situations helps you to remember phrases more clearly or to pick up new words than just by rote learning in class?