Everybody wants to learn a language fast and with the least amount of effort. Nowadays there is a plethora of books, apps, methods advertised and the beginner can easily find themself confused as to where to start. They try one and they get bored of it or they realise that it might not have the desired effect. They hear about a “better” method, so they try that too but with similar results. They find themselves to have accumulated a plethora of material but didn’t really make much progress.
The key is to stick to one thing at a time. Jumping from one thing to another will hinder your progress and there is no magic method available that you think you haven’t found yet. Every material you come across is just as good as the other. This is not to say that you can’t have a book, an application, one book for vocabulary, an another one for grammar, etc. Just have one of each and stick to it. If you see something advertised as revolutionary, it probably isn’t. Learning a language takes time and there is no method that would be significantly superior than others.
- Trying to Understand Everything
People’s need to find logic in every situation is astounding. When they are learning a foreign language, they come across many irregularities, strange or even “illogical” grammatical constructions and they ask “why”? Most of the time the correct answer to that is: just because. All they need to do is understand the rule, why that is the rule is unimportant because it won’t make them learn the language faster or make them better speakers of the language, just like a race car driver won’t be a better driver by understanding why the car is engineered the way it is. It certainly gives them a better understanding of how it works and can eventually help them, but dwelling on it is not the way to go. Forget about the why, just learn the rule and apply.
- Fear of Speaking
We are social animals and if we make mistakes, embarrass ourselves, or just reveal that another person speaks out target language better than us, our power in the group might diminish. Solution: don’t speak the language at all, avoid situations where the language is spoken. Result: never learning the language.
This doesn’t mean you need to speak right after your first lesson even though some people might encourage you to do so. How on earth could you when you know only 20 words and the simple present tense. Reciting verb conjugations won’t make for a good conversation. Time will come when you start speaking, this is different for everybody but not because they are better speakers of the language, they are just simply different in social situations. Don’t get discouraged by this, take your time.
Find situations when you feel comfortable talking or where your competence is enough, e.g.: a supermarket, post office, etc. If you don’t live in the target language environment, find people you can practice with.
- Lack of Immersion
Some people rely on 2 classes a week and a little homework to learn a language and after a year or two they are still surprised that they can’t speak it at all. This is due to the lack of practice and the lack of exposure to authentic language use. A lot needs to be done outside of the classroom to faciliate the learning process. Some of them include:
– social interaction with natives or other people who want to practice the same language. Check if you find language groups in your city, they are very common and popular among language learners.
– watch and read your favorites in the target language. It’s very convenient to have your favorite show dubbed or read a wikipedia article in your native language. The effort you put into watching films and reading in the target language will definitely pay off.
– think in the language you’re learning. Just like you verbalise your thoughts in your mother tongue, you can do that in any language. You don’t need to rush, you can even look up words and identify your mistakes or where you’re lacking, grammar or vocabulary. If you feel that you know all the words but you can’t form a sentence, you need grammar. If, however, you know how to construct sentences but you don’t know the words, you need to get some vocabulary.
– set your electronic devices to the studied language. this might not sound much, but it could help you get into the spirit of learning the language. Not only that but you can learn some useful phrases as well.
Beginners have the tendency to first think of what they are going to say in their native language and then translate that into the target language. Of course they speak their mother tongue much better, so when trying to translate a thought literally, they will encounter words they don’t know, grammatical structures they haven’t learned, etc. Not to speak of how much more time-consuming it is to translate something in your head than just think about what you’re going to say in the language you’re actually going to say it. So, use whatever is available to you at the moment in the target language to formulate your thoughts.