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What does it take to learn a new language?

What does it take to learn a new language?
Being bilingual or multilingual is a really neat skill to have! If you know someone who speaks a different language from you, it can be pretty awesome to try and talk in their language. Some people may find it easier than others, so keep going!

Yes, your instructor and teaching methodology are key. Still, your specific learning experience will come down to more than just that.

Learning is a two-way street, and successful students know it! Have you ever wondered why some people learn a language faster or better than others? You might think they are smarter or luckier than you, and those self-imposed prejudices are holding you back.

Learning languages goes beyond your natural ability. In my experience as an instructor, I get to see a behavior pattern from talented students that stood out and believe me, it goes beyond luck or smarts.


Year after year, millions worldwide embark on this learning adventure, only to find themselves dropping the idea midway.


If you find yourself in this situation, I'll explain the best student behaviors to learn a language successfully.


Keep reading; at the end, I'll offer tips on how to improve your motivations and learning skills.


First, keep in mind each person and each student is different. As teachers, it is our responsibility to understand this and do our best to cater to our students (demanding job, anyone?). Still, you as a student need to build awareness around who you are and understand how your unique nature can benefit your learning process.


Imagine traveling to a new country for pleasure; how do you approach this? are you the kind of strategic planner thinking about every detail? Like whether it is challenging to get a visa or have friends visit there? Do you feel overwhelmed or feel this is the adventure of your life! The way you approach situations and your personality play a key role in your language learning ability.


So, having said this, here are my learning drivers insights: 


1) What is your motivation?

Gopher trying to reach a donut
Almost there!
The reason why you are learning the language is one of the essential points in learning. There are two types of motivation: Internal (intrinsic) and external (extrinsic); both are there, and there's no one better than the other. 

Suppose you feel curious and attracted to a particular culture. You want to figure out the message in your favorite K-pop song and naturally get the dictionary or translator and enjoy doing this. In that case, the motivation comes within you. You probably won't see this as a burden and rather enjoyable. 


If you are studying the language because you want to get a promotion at work, need to close a deal, or have a better grade at school, that's an external motivator.


Identify which one is predominant. Usually, external motivators drive us to finish when we have achieved the goal. Internal motivators will keep us more engaged with the language over the long term. 


It is important to say if you are studying English because you want a better job, eventually, as things evolve, it could become an internal motivator, as you might find your new skills enjoyable.


2) How do you approach the language?

Alexia ocasio cortez giving a speech
Always...
Do you participate in your instructor's activities and do your best during class? Do you actively look for interaction opportunities to practice the language outside the classroom? Are you watching your favorite T.V. shows in the target language you are learning? 

Do you look for and attend language clubs in your area? Do you make an effort to read the news in the new language? If so, congratulations! This active approach will yield positive results. 

If you barely attend class and think this is good enough, you might rethink your approach.


3) How do you use the language? 

Funny dog asking a question
Is this a good use
 of language?

Do you make an effort to use the different symbols and language structures efficiently? Do you make an effort to use the grammar to the best of your capacity? Do you try to use the language according to the context? Do you try to understand the culture around your new language? Do you try to use the language according to its social meaning?


As you can see, it's not only about drilling words but putting them into context. The more effort you put into giving these new sounds and words true meaning, the easier learning will get.


4) Managing your emotions.

little kid crying on window
Use them in your favor.
When learning a language,  It's not only about your memory or how your process new information. It's how resilient and confident you are. 

Are you afraid of criticism? How do you react when you face a setback? If you got a bad grade on your test, is that an opportunity to improve? 


Your attitude sets your learning pace. Healthy confidence develops growth. Even if you are mistaken, you should see it as a learning experience, not an embarrassment.

 

If you think what you are studying is impossible/possible, it will. 


Get an encouraging coach if you feel anxious, use breathing techniques, or gradually expose yourself to the language.


5) Actively look for feedback.


man asking for feedback
You can ask!
Seek evaluation from the experts. Even if you are not actively studying a language anymore, look for feedback from the language speakers. 

Don't be afraid to ask for pronunciation corrections or grammar highlights in a conversation. If somebody offers you an opinion, even if it feels intrusive, make an effort to listen and understand the situation. 

As you can see, your attitude and motivation go a long way when learning a language; I think even more than your natural learning ability.


Learning is a two-way street, and a good tutor and methodology can help you achieve your learning goals. If you consider classes with a tutor, here is my summary of who you should be looking for. A good language tutor:


  • Will be kind and never criticize you in a demeaning way.
  • Will make an effort to know you better, what motivates you to learn.
  • Will offer meaningful opportunities to make sense of the culture and context.
  • Will offer suggestions on how to practice the language outside the classroom.
  • Will encourage you not to be afraid of mistakes and ease your anxiety.
  • Will celebrate your achievements. 


My class methodology revolves around those points, and my students feel motivated and ready to communicate in English with confidence. If you want to learn more, let's get in touch! 


And finally! Here are my tips on how you can improve your language learning experience.


  • Set your video streaming account in the language you are learning. If you play online video games, interact with the group in the target language. Lookup for conversation clubs.
  • Read articles, listen to music and watch videos in the target language.
  • Try not to translate word by word. Instead, look at the situation as a whole.
  • If you run out of words, use gestures!
  • Be creative! If you can't find the correct sentences, use alternatives that have the same meaning.
  • Set a learning goal, like a new word. If you achieve this, reward yourself! Get ice cream or a nice cup of coffee.
  • If you are anxious, use the balloon breathing technique before speaking or taking a big test.
  • If you don't understand, ask the other person to slow down or repeat themselves. 


There you have it! Those tips will help you to improve your learning. Remember: when learning, attitude, and motivation are your big allies! 


What are your learning strategies? What do you feel has helped you to learn? Share it here, so we learn from you!


Source: academia (2022, January) Technology and the Psychology of Second Language Learners and Users--The Interview [video] academia.edu. https://www.academia.edu/video/jYpp0k 

Comments

harrybrook said…
I liked your work and, as a result, the manner you presented this content about English Resources.It is a valuable paper for us. Thank you for sharing this blog with us.
ErikaV said…
My pleasure! I'm glad you found it useful!