In today’s article, I want to talk about one of the most interesting resources to learn languages. I’m talking about sport events.
I’ve already talked several times about how watching NBA basketball in English was the one thing that helped me the most by far when it came to learning the language, even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. After all I’ve learnt on how languages are actually acquired, now I look back and realize that was the one activity that helped me the most by far.
It helped me tremendously because, even though I always had the hope that somehow it was going to help me out with English, my attention was entirely on the game itself because of my great interest in it, and we’re talking about an activity that I wouldn’t even hesitate to carry out in my own native language (in fact, I was already doing that).
Now, I want to present the three main reasons why I believe this is a tremendously useful resource:
1. IT IS OF GREAT INTEREST
I’m perfectly aware of the fact that not everybody likes sports, and I’m not asking you to use this resource if you’re one of those who don’t like them.
However, this is a tremendously useful resource for those who like sports because of their great interest in them, and that can certainly make a difference.
If you can find a way to watch your favorite sport events in your target language, that’s an amazing resource when it comes to language learning because, like I said, it is an activity of great interest to you and because you don’t need to find some extra time to carry out this activity since you were already doing it in your own native language.
Motivation is a very important factor, and that’s why activities of great interest which don’t require any effort from the person who’s carrying them out, are so useful when it comes to learning languages. If you don’t find a particular activity interesting, it’ll require some sort of effort and you’ll end up giving up on it, sooner or later.
I have to be honest and say that occasionally I do use resources like cartoons when I’m getting started with a language and I’m not super interested in them, but I have no problem with it because I know they’re a sort of transition resource that will help me access more interesting materials or resources.
So when I’m talking about interesting resources, I’m mostly thinking about the long-term, and that’s why sport events are such an incredibly useful resource.
2. THE NATURE OF SPORT EVENTS
Due to the nature of this activity, most of the time the broadcasters are speaking, their words are synchronized with a certain move on the court, pitch…, and that makes a huge difference because it makes their speech way more comprehensible.
In a certain way, it follows the principles of the TPR teaching method (Total Physical Response), which is based on physically internalizing the language. Because most of the broadcasters’ comments are synchronized with a certain move on the court, it’s going to be way easier to associate input with its meaning.
To give you a little example with basketball, if the broadcaster says “LeBron is going to shoot 2 free throws” and you actually see him walking to the free throw line, it’s going to be much easier to understand what “free throws” means.
Of course, and like I said when talking about other resources like language exchanges or reading, it is essential that the message be comprehensible to some extent. This is always the key to the success of the process, it’d be quite hard to understand any sport event if we’re just getting started with the language.
However, and due to the nature of sport events that I was referring to early on, it’s not a huge problem if we can’t understand a lot at the beginning, since we’ll be able to “guess” or associate information to its meaning easily, unlike other resources that don’t have this advantage.
3. REPETITIONS AND FAMILIAR LANGUAGE
Finally, and also thanks to the nature of sports broadcasting, we’re going to get thousands and thousands of repetitions of the same structures, phrases, words... ,because the comments are pretty much identical in every game when it comes to explaining what’s happening on the court.
This is also a huge advantage, because we’re going to get the repetitions we need to acquire certain words, phrases and structures, and because the language is going to sound familiar in a very short period of time, which will help us understand the sport event and the language in general.
Thanks to the physical internalization of the language that I mentioned on the previous point and the multiple repetitions, we’ll see how our knowledge of the language increases exponentially and becomes permanent, because we’re subconsciously acquiring the language, and this is the way the “miracle” truly comes about.
As you can see, I’m once again talking about a tremendously pleasant activity that requires pretty much no effort, and that’s what makes it so powerful. When it comes to language learning as well as any other topic, subject… or whatever you want to call it, we’re so used to associating learning with hard work, study, effort…, that it’s really hard to believe that we can actually learn something while enjoying the process (take the time to think about it and pay close attention to it, because the influence of this belief on a subconscious level is way greater than we think it is), but believe me when I say that not only is it possible, but I believe it’s the only possible way to get it done.
I perfectly understand if you find this hard to believe at the beginning, I had a hard time believing it myself and this belief still pops up subconsciously every now and then despite being totally convinced of it, but little by little you’ll start to realize enjoying the process is the only possible way to learn something.
And once you’re convinced of it, the language learning process as well as any other topic is going to look entirely different and will become a pleasant activity that, ironically, will truly help you achieve your goals unlike the “traditional methods”.
Thanks as always for reading this article and I truly hope it helped you discover a very pleasant activity in order to improve the knowledge of your target language, as well as take down some of the misconceptions of learning.