Learning a new language is always exciting. There are lots of benefits of doing so — new words and sentence structures, a new mind frame, even a whole new worldview! However, adjusting your mind and tongue to a completely different way of communication can also have its drawbacks.
Avoid disappointment and enjoy the whole way through your learning process by taking these simple tips into account.
Take it easy
As they say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’… and neither was Bogotá, Beijing or Berlin. Your brain needs time to assimilate new words, sentence structures, and prosody — that is, the patterns of stress and intonation in a language. Always bear this in mind, listen to your own inner rhythm, and let your brain set the pace for learning.
Take one step at a time
Learning a language is a beautiful, albeit time-consuming process. You will need solid foundations if you want to achieve solid language skills, and this cannot be done in a fortnight nor in a rush. I know first-hand how frustrating it can feel — one second you are proficient in a language, only to be babbling and struggling with the one you are trying so hard to learn next. However, this is a wonderful way to teach your brain to slow down, stick to the basics, and walk baby steps towards a set goal.
Go from specific to abstract concepts
Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do when you are learning a new language is that of deconstructing it — that is, learning to convey rather complex thoughts in a simpler way. We all agree that sounding like a five-year-old may not be fun, but thinking in a similar way can make things easier in terms of communication: The sentences
“Yesterday I had an outstanding time with some acquaintances of mine and both my siblings at the event my parents organized in their beautiful dwelling”
“Yesterday I had fun with my brother and sister at my parents’ house”
convey the same information.
Creating short, straightforward sentences will send a clear message to those listening to you, thus improving their understanding and boosting your confidence — see? Two birds, one stone!
Do not hesitate to use your developing language skills whenever possible. Talk Spanish/French/Japanese etc at the grocery store, in the bar, at the doctor’s and, of course, throughout your language lessons! Everybody likes to be addressed to in their native tongue, for it entails an effort that seldom goes unnoticed.
Communicate in the language you are learning and see that it actually works!
Real life communication is not about word agreement and verb conjugation — it is about human beings sharing thoughts and needs in a way that they can understand each other. To achieve this goal, humans have a wonderful tool — language. It doesn’t matter if the tense you used was not the most appropriate, your pronunciation was not flawless or you missed the correct word, for the chances are that they understand you all the same. So don’t be afraid of making mistakes - be brave enough to use all the resources you have to communicate in the language you are learning.
… For the outcome is beautifully rewarding!
BONUS TIP: Despite this post was written about learning a language, however it actually works for almost any new skill you try or will try to learn in the future. So feel free to apply them in your daily life. Learning is a work in progress and so is life.