People often wonder what struggles are waiting for them when starting to learn a new language. Everyone has heard that learning a language is hard. This can be intimidating when you don’t know what to expect. But is it really as hard as people say? The most difficult part of learning a new language is certainly different for everyone, but there are 6 things that seem to be reoccurring challenges for most. In this post, we’ll talk about these challenges and give you some quick tips on how to make it easier.
The Very Beginning.
For most people learning their first foreign language, the very beginning is the hardest part. They just don’t know where to start. Do they start with grammar rules? Learning lots of vocabulary? Do they learn key phrases first? All these questions can easily make them feel overwhelmed, and the journey ends before it even begins. It doesn’t need to be this way. Remember that any step you take in language learning is a step forward; there is no specific direction you need to take.
However, having some kind of plan when just starting out can make the whole experience more enjoyable. There are lots of resources out there, just pick one that fits your learning style and budget. It could be language exchange, private teachers, local workshops or a quality language course like Ouino. Once you build a solid foundation, learning on your own becomes much easier.
Learning Thousands of New Words.
A language has lots of words. You certainly won’t have to learn all of them, but you will eventually need to learn thousands of them. For the vast majority of people, this is a huge challenge and it can sound nearly impossible. The truth is that learning lots of new words is not all that difficult, it just takes time. You have to remind yourself that baby steps do add up very quickly. Let me ask you this: Do you think you can remember 6 words today? What about tomorrow? And the day after? If you learn only 6 words a day, you’ll learn over 2000 words in the next year. That’s the vocabulary equivalent of a five year old. When you break down your goal into smaller parts, it doesn’t look nearly as daunting.
Remembering the Words You Learned.
A very common issue people experience when learning a language is that they forget the words they already learned. It becomes a never-ending learning loop. How do you avoid forgetting everything you learn? Two words: Repetition and variation. Memory has a way of fading if things are not reinforced. It’s all about exposing yourself to the language in as many ways as possible. If you learn words and never hear them and use them again, it’ll be next to impossible to remember. But if you learn the words, and then watch movies, read books, listen to music and immerse yourself in the language, you’ll see that remembering the words won’t be nearly as hard as you think it is. It’ll be fairly natural in fact.
Understanding Native Speakers.
We have all heard people say that native speakers speak way too fast. That’s true for all languages. Native speakers are masters at their own language and they can understand each other even when they mumble their way through the sentence. Again, the cure is to listen to the language as much as possible. Watch movies, listen to audiobooks, podcasts etc. Keep in mind that it’s best to gradually move up and look from material that’s not too advanced for you at first. Start with material designed for children and slowly make your way up the chain of difficulty. The fact is that if you don’t understand anything at all, you probably won’t learn much. The language becomes a bullet proof wall. But if you understand a few words here and there, you will grind it out and make progress. Simply put, listen to a lot of content and your listening will naturally improve.
Speaking with Strangers.
Having a conversation with someone is the ultimate goal for many people. But as humans, we’re often terrified of making mistakes and looking stupid. So how do we get over this fear to speak the foreign language? There are ways to minimize this dreaded feeling. For the first few conversations, find someone who is very patient and knows what it’s like to learn a new language. You can easily find people online who speak with language learners all day long. Their job is to help you practice in a safe environment and make you feel comfortable. Even if you feel a bit anxious, you have to fight it. It’s a very rewarding feeling. A few conversations like this will boost your confidence a great deal and the anxiety will quickly decrease.
Consistency & Making It a Routine.
Once you set your expectation straight, learning a language is more time-consuming than it’s hard. That’s why consistency is likely the hardest thing to achieve for most language learners. We all lead busy lives and you’ll need to dedicate a bit of time every day if you want to succeed. You need to find a way to include language learning in your life. If you have long commutes, why not listen to the language on your way to work? Instead of watching two Netflix episodes in a row, why not watch the same episode again dubbed in the language you’re learning? Find a way to include the language in your life in a way you can sustain. Consistency is really the only thing that truly guarantees your success.
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