If you have started to learn a new language, you know that learning it is a long process that involves a lot of challenges.
Today, I’d like to talk about five of these language learning challenges.
1. Inability to speak
One of the first language learning challenges you will probably experience is the inability to say what you want or to express the things you want in the way you want.
The first scenario is typical if you’ve just started to learn a new language – How do I say this? How do I say that? – This challenge can be overcome with some patience and a lot of practice. You don’t have to be perfect at this stage of learning, you just have to be effective.
The second scenario, instead, can happen even if you already have a good grasp of a foreign language. You can speak the language with some or no mistakes at all but still you realize you’re unable to say the things you want in the way you want, so you have to resort to a turn of phrases or reformulations. Sounds familiar?
In this case, I find particularly useful listening to podcasts, watching tv series and, of course, making language exchanges with natives.
This is usually a consequence of the very first point I mentioned and it usually happens when you’re living in a foreign country alone and you don’t have a good command of the language that is spoken there.
The first thing that will probably happen to you is meeting new people and hanging out. However, when you’re in a group of people, it’s even more difficult to follow conversation easily and interact because by the time you finally get what they’re saying, and a possible sentence finally forms in your head so you can give your contribution to the conversation, conversation has moved on.
So, even if you’re an extrovert, you can find yourself acting like an introvert. Did this happen to you? How did you feel? What did you do?
One of the most common language learning challenges you face is remembering all the new words you’ve learnt, heard, read…, you got the point.
Some people are blessed with an incredibly memory – my husband is one of them – some others with poor memory – that’s me – some other people are in the middle – lucky them!
Now, how can we remember new words more easily? I’ve tried many things during the years: from making weird connections to words or concepts in my native language, to reading things repeatedly; from acquiring by osmosis by listening to podcasts and watching tv series, to using new words again and again. And I’ve to admit I haven’t found that one strategy is better than another because it seems to me that, somehow, they all work together to improve my memory. So, I do different activities: I listen to podcasts, I watch movies or tv series, I read and then repeat new words again and again, I have language exchanges and I write, trying to use some of these new words. What about you? Do you have an effective strategy to learn or memorize new words and sentences?
One of the scariest language learning challenges is gaffes. When speaking a foreign language, gaffes are to be expected. So, one challenge language learners face is avoiding to make gaffes when speaking. However, I do believe that making gaffes is also a way to learn new things and expressions because I can assure you that once you make a big gaffe, you would never forget that word or expression for the rest of your life! So, are you for or against making gaffes?
The final challenge I’d like to mention in today’s list is linked directly to ourselves because one of the most difficult things to overcome when learning a new language can be our attitude. We can be extremely hard on ourselves and feel that we’re not making any progress, even if we’re working hard. As a teacher I can assure you this isn’t true. We always make some progress. We always learn something new, we always fix some mistakes, and if you pay attention to it, you’ll notice it as well. It will come a point in your language journey when all the pieces come together, not by magic, of course, but thanks to all your previous hard work. So, do me a favor, today look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself “I’m doing great” because nine out of ten you really are.
Now I’m curious, what are the main language learning challenges you faced or are facing?
Original image by NRThaele