A lot of people want to learn a new language. They love the idea of conversing with people around the world, lifting barriers to travel and enjoying the best of what other countries have to offer! It’s all possible, of course, but there’s just one problem --- mastering a foreign language is sometimes difficult!
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The majority of us have undoubtedly seen at least one TV show or movie in which one of the characters seems to pick up language by hearing it once and then remembering it. They appear to gain fluency within a very short time, often thanks to a helpful 2- or 3-minute montage in which they progress through beginner, intermediate and advanced stages in a series of well-staged clips. Reality, unfortunately, is quite different.
🧱 Hitting the Wall
When we start out in language learning, we are sometimes deceived by the apparently easy beginnings. We learn to count to 10, greet friends and strangers, introduce ourselves and more. This gives us a positive “high” feeling of success. Not long after, however, we can end up hitting a kind of wall, especially as we enter the intermediate stage.
Grammar gets harder, words become more numerous, and then you start to encounter the many “irregular” features of the language that you suddenly have to remember. Reading passages get longer and suddenly harder to comprehend, and the speed of the listening material appears to triple. Arriving at the wall is extremely disheartening, and it causes many language learners to give up.
🤗 Keep Calm and Stick with It
We hope that if what we describe above applies to your own language learning experience, that the following advice might prove useful in getting you back into the game.
1.) Rethink your Learning Goals
It’s easy to burn yourself out and quit the language learning journey when you’ve placed unrealistic expectations on yourself. Did you promise yourself to learn for at least 4 hours a day? Did you dedicate yourself to the goal of learning 75 new words every single day? How about a goal of native-level fluency within 1 year? None of these goals could seriously be achieved by the average learners, not when you also have to work full-time, look after kids or contend with other onerous responsibilities.
2.) Practice with Native Speakers
Your books, flashcards, YouTube tutorials and Podcasts can only take you so far. They’ll be invaluable tools for broadening your knowledge and practicing in downtime (see below), but for the “meat” of your learning, you still need to practice with a native-speaker teacher. Only in this way can you ensure you curb bad habits and problematic pronunciation, while also giving you the most up-to-date and authentic language to use in conversation.
3.) Broaden Your Other Practice
While you should keep your main study materials focused in order to ensure you absorb detail properly, there’s no reason you can’t broaden your practice materials. When you want to do some quick listening practice, use Podcasts and YouTube videos with no subtitles. Read short stories in your target language to boost reading ability, and keep a diary or a blog to practice your writing. The wider range of options you have, the more variety you can maintain, which keeps language learning fun. That engagement is what will help you overcome the wall and persevere until fluency.
4.) Take a Short Trip to Boost Confidence
Another strategy to get you back on the horse is to travel to a country where your target language is spoken and try it out on the natives there. This concept might terrify you, but you cannot underestimate how valuable even a minor linguistic can be on your overall confidence. It’s the perfect shot in the arm that you need to keep learning and attain even higher standards for the future.
5.) Never Assume It Will Be "Easy"
Finally, it’s really important that you don’t kid yourself. Learning a new language is going to be an uphill battle, regardless of how many hours you put in or how much time you spend with your native speaker teacher. As you work harder, more knowledge will come to you, but it won’t simply become easier because you have some experience.
Languages are human cultural creations, which means they are as flawed as they are complex. Trying to “figure one out” is like trying to figure out the entire human psyche. We therefore should keep our expectations realistic, keep at it every day, even if it’s just for a short time, and stay focused on our final goal!
🎉 Get started!
Are you interested in really, finally learning a new language? Here at LanguageConvo we connect you with a professional, native-speaking teacher for affordable, customized private lessons. Get started with a 100% free trial lesson by clicking here.