10 Tips for Becoming a Better Language Learner.

A long time ago (more years than I am willing to admit to), I studied German in High School. I studied German for six years, as my stepmother was German. We had been to Germany and had German relatives come a stay with us in our house. I had real motivation to master German.

But I found I wasn’t very good at it.

Why? Well, I was a teenager and that must have had some impact. I had difficulty focussing on school work due to a number of reasons, and I found German lessons incredibly boring.

But more than that, I was TERRIFIED of speaking in German. It’s very hard to master a language when you are too frightened to use it. I can still remember a time when I was with my father in Germany and he was asking (in English) for the price of something he wanted to buy. The seller didn’t understand him and I had a choice to make. To ask it in German or let my father leave the shop empty-handed.

I asked the question – Wie viel kostet das? And I froze.

The seller understood immediately what my father had been trying to ask and the conversation continued as before. Success. My father bought what he was after and we left the shop. But I was a little shaken due to overcoming this fear and I have never forgotten that experience.

Thankfully as an adult, I have overcome my intense shyness (to some extent). But I still struggle with learning languages. My husband however, learns languages much more easily than me. I am in awe of him as he embraces his current university degree of learning Arabic.

This difference lead me to investigate what makes a “good” language learner and what makes a “bad” language learner. Here is a list of 10 of the factors that will make learning languages much easier (although this list is much longer than this).

1.      They are patient. They understand that learning a language takes time and they don’t feel pressured to complete steps according to anyone else’s schedule.

2.      They are not afraid to make mistakes. This is what held me back the most and it still impacts my current learning of Bahasa Melayu. I am determined to overcome it.

3.      They discover what learning style works for them. Every individual has their own way to learn things.

4.      Self-reliance. He/she should be able to work independently and take responsibility for developing aspects of their own language learning.

5.      They make their own opportunities to practise using their language at any opportunity, inside and outside of a formal learning situation.

6.      They a creative. They can use facial expressions, gestures and other information around them to fill the gaps of understanding the words.

7.      They are organised. They use pen/paper, apps, any way to keep themselves organised and on track for progress.

8.      They learn good communication techniques. If you don’t understand someone, ask them to speak more slowly. It’s important to use techniques that help you keep the conversation going.

9.      They use any similarities between their own language and the new language to help understand the new language, there are always some useful similarities. Instead of completely ignoring your first language, start thinking about what you can and cannot borrow.

10.  They identify patterns in the target language. They work to understand the language as a system, identifying key patterns that make learning the language easier and more like the way native speakers learned it.

Learning a language can feel overwhelming and impossible at times. But it isn’t. It requires consistency. Consistency is the key. Work at it a little every day, and after one month you’ll have made a lot of progress

The bottom line is, listening to how native speakers pronounce and use words is crucial in learning how to produce those same sounds yourself. Commit to surrounding yourself with your target language as much as you can starting from day one, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly things start to sink in.

If you need to speak in English in the workplace, it makes sense to prioritise the skills required so that your colleagues and clients can understand you clearly when you speak in English. This will allow you to better express yourself and make an impact in your job. Using a language coach can make this process much quicker and efficient than self paced study and could re-ignite your passion for English.

Feel free to reach out to me for more information about how I can help you to achieve your goals in speaking English and then watch the changes take place.

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