How to make progress with foreign languages
Ciao, Bonjour, Hola, Hi, Privet,
I have decided to share some thoughts on 5 things to STOP doing TODAY to make progress with foreign languages RIGHT AWAY. 5 things that stop us all, in my opinion, from achieving our language goals faster, better and in an easier way! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments BELOW.
1. STOP apologizing for your mistakes and for your lack of fluency in a foreign language.
Yes, stop saying “Sorry, my French is not perfect”… or “Sorry, I don’t speak Italian very well”. First of all, chances are that you speak and understand #French or #Italian etc better than you think and secondly, usually people truly appreciate the effort when someone is trying to speak their native language. And if they don’t… then you don’t want to talk to them anyway:)
A dear friend of mine moved to the United States 2 years ago knowing barely enough #English to get by… He made humongous progress in past 2 years but still keep saying “Sorry, my English is not very good”. It breaks my heart, as a friend and as a professional language teacher to hear these words. Please, be PROUD of what you can say in the language you are currently learning, embrace your mistakes, learn from them but remember, it takes lots of courage and commitment to do it and you ARE doing it while others are still only planning on it.
2. STOP jumping from left to right.
Make a plan, define measurable goals and/or register for a class to have more guidance. My point is that you need to know where are you going to and how to get there. There is too much information on the Internet plus an insane number of books and Apps that it’s so easy to get lost and sidetracked in all this. Choose some verified and reputable books and Apps and stick to them, I will be happy to recommend some resources that really work and easy to use, some totally free, just let me know which language you are interested in: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another very important point, especially if you learn a language on your own: you should approach the learning process from a very logical point of view as there is a perfectly clear structure to every single #language and a very specific progression. Logic works! Logic makes it easier to learn! And I like it EASY 🙂
For example, I will never ever teach someone a Present Conditional tense in French before I see that the student is already comfortable with Future Simple tense. Why? Because it will be a pure waste of time, totally counterproductive and it will make it much more difficult in the end as you need to have a solid foundation first before adding next level. Please remember, there is a very specific progression in learning a #ForeignLanguage, you need to know your steps, what comes first and what follows.
3. STOP hoping for a perfection.
Unless your plan is to work as an Interpreter or a Translator for United Nations, teach French professionally or write a text book in French, please stop looking for a perfection and put extra pressure on yourself.
I think it’s actually quite charming to have an accent; it’s a wonderful icebreaker to start a conversation and it’s ok to make some mistakes as long as they don’t interfere with comprehension. I would suggest concentrating your efforts first of all on eliminating mistakes that can create a misunderstanding rather than mistakes that are quite harmless. Example: in French the beginners quite often pronounce last letter “e” in present tense of regular verbs but it must be silent “Je parle” and when it happens people will think that they are saying something else, as it will sound as in Imperfect tense “Je parlais”. So instead of “I speak” it will sound to me as “I used to speak” and this misunderstanding will come just from one mistake when you pronounce this last “e” that should be silent.
In my opinion, with languages it is as with everything else, as soon as we relax little bit into it that things suddenly start moving along. Of course, in ideal world, it would be so wonderful to know everything perfectly, but in real life if you have a limited number of hours to spend on French / Italian / Spanish etc, you have to prioritize and think what’s really important for you: Learn more vocabulary? Polish your pronunciation? Work on grammar?
Just don’t expect the perfection in all the aspects of learning process, have fun while doing it and remember WHY you are doing it: Is it to add extra stress in your life? Or to enjoy your stay en Provence?
4. STOP coming with all kinds of excuses.
And the BIGGEST winner from the list of all amazing excuses I have heard so far in all my years of teaching is: “Oh… may be I am too old to learn a language”. If I only only could … please … get $1…. each time I hear it… I could pay a trip around the world in first class with these funds… seriously.
So, here is my personal and professional input on age question related to learning a new language:
- Were you as motivated to learn a new language when you were 10 – 15 y.o. as you are now?
- Memory… Yes, I agree that memory is probably not the same as we age… but the mere fact of taking a language class will actually help you to IMPROVE your MEMORY. Funny, right?
- Were you as excited to plan a trip to France or Italy when you were in High School compared to now? Think about all amazing vineyards you are going to visit in France… ah?
- If you are retired, then please tell me if you used to have as much free time for a hobby when you were working non-stop in your 20s and 30s compared to now? I am not saying you are not busy now, but if you are retired chances are that you have more free time for hobbies now than before, hopefully.
Foreign languages and mental health...
In addition, all this new research that keeps coming regarding the fact that learning a foreign language slows down Alzheimer and Dementia. I think that this alone is THE biggest motivation ever to start learning a new language RIGHT AWAY. Think about it as your workout for the brain, we all find time to take care of our bodies and go to the gym or play sport etc, but learning a new language will actually help you to take care of your brain!
I can keep going and going here …but I think you get my point…
5. STOP OVER-thinking and OVER-planning it.
While it’s not productive to start learning a language without any specific goal and plan in mind, it’s not necessary to overthink it neither. Just do it, dive into it instead of waiting for a perfect moment, for example when you will have more free time (who has it?) or when you will not be busy with houseguests or holidays etc… There will always be something. There is no better time than NOW to start learning a new language.
So, just Stop It…:) And to summarize it all, watch this video, the FUNNIEST part is in the end…
And please let me know if I can be of any help with your language learning process: email@example.com
Have an amazing day!