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Linguistic experts explain the best ways to learn a second language in the information age

A blackboard with the Chinese and English versions of
A blackboard with the Chinese and English versions of "Hello."

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If you didn’t study any foreign languages in school, picking one up as an adult can be challenging, since the human brain is best-equipped to absorb a new language in the early childhood years.

However, advances in technology and new teaching methods in the last few decades have opened the door for many adults to learn a second or third language without them needing to travel to a country where the language they’re learning is spoken. From the apps for your mobile phone, to software like Rosetta Stone, to classes you can take at your local community college, there are a lot of ways you could learn a language besides your native tongue.

But which way is the best? Statistically, which methods are most successful? Is there any substitute for complete language immersion?


Elizabeth Bernhardt, Professor of German Studies and Director of the Stanford Language Center at Stanford University.

Marty Abbott, Executive Director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, a non-profit organization seeking to improve and expand the teaching and learning of all languages at all levels of instruction.