Maybe you have been trying for years to learn a foreign language or maybe it has been a little shorter than that, but it just doesn’t seem to be sticking. You are starting to feel like you don’t have the “foreign language gene” or you are too old, don’t have enough time, or some other excuse. If this sounds like you, you must to read on! If you have tried and failed or if you are feeling stalled in your language learning program, you too must read on to see why and what to do about it!
You don’t have a solid “why” The main reason some people succeed while others fail at language learning boils down to the reason they are learning it in the first place. Did you do it because you were forced to by your parents? Was it just a mandatory course in or school all those years ago? These are two of the worst reason to learn. There is no self-motivation behind it. You need a really solid reason “why.” When you pick one, remember to remind yourself of your “why,” because if your “why” excites you, it will continue to do so when language learning gets tough. Write it down somewhere you will see it every day – especially on the harder days. It will be a beautiful reminder to keep going! Here are some amazing reasons you can take as your very own:
You want to travel the world or a certain country and knowing the language will make your experience that much richer
You want to work for international organizations
You want to study at a foreign university
You want to read literature in its native form, not the translated version
You want to watch foreign films without getting a subtitled-induced headache
You want to volunteer with the Peace Corps or a similar organization
You love a certain country’s culture
You want to impress coworkers or possible mates
You don’t speak up If the majority of your class time is not being spent by you actually speaking, you are wasting your time. Speaking, making mistakes, learning from them and moving on is the only way to learn a language. If you don’t get enough time to speak, you will never get it. So, do a lot of listening to learn the cadence and what you should sound like when you use similar sentences in the future. And then speak up as much as you can!
You are a grammar freak Maybe you’re trying to cram verbs into your head, conjugate them, or learn all the rules all day long. This is important, sure, but not as important as we are led to believe. People will mostly understand you when you attempt to speak their language, as long as you concentrate on proper punctuation and you have a solid grasp of the vocabulary. So, just talk and the grammar and rules will follow. Learn it all, but move speaking to the top of your list!
You are not celebrating your gaffes Many schools and teachers make you feel bad for making mistakes when they really should encourage students to use more complicated sentences and break out of their safe place when it comes to foreign languages. Progress comes mostly through embracing your mistakes. Take the time to relearn a rule or pattern and take your new knowledge with you as you continue to learn.
You don’t have a tribe Find the tribe of people who don’t belittle your efforts and cause you to clam up. People who don’t find their tribe will not progress or successfully navigate the sometimes-difficult terrain of foreign language learning. Keep the group small, so you have optimal amounts of time to speak and are less self-conscious doing so. Makes sure your tribe celebrates even your smallest victories, because from that you will grow.
You have no connection Sitting in a sterile classroom is a weird way to learn a language. Think about it. You are not surrounded by the sights, sounds, smells, colors, and culture of the language you are learning. So, whenever you can surround yourself, whether by actually going to a place that speaks your new language, meeting with a group of other language learners in an informal setting, watching movies or TV shows in your language, or speaking with others who know the language. Do it every chance you get. Find that connection. It would make the process and the language more real and help you hold on to that all important “why.”
Taking some time to find your reason(s) and tailor your language lessons to what works better will help you make huge strides in your pursuit of another language. Immerse yourself as deeply as you can and you will never have to say you don’t have the fictional “language gene” ever again. Good luck!
By Ilona Knudson