Guest post by Ryan O’Rourke, the founder of Treksplorer.
If you’ve ever struggled with picking up a new language, you’re not alone. Learning a foreign language is never easy. But it doesn’t have to be hard either.
To the casually observing English speaker, Europeans seem to have it easy. Most speak one, two – even three or more! – foreign languages without so much as a bead of sweat.
Was an entire continent blessed with some innate linguistic ability that somehow skipped through the English-speaking gene pool?
Not likely. But these successful language learners may know something we don’t.
If your progress in a foreign language has fallen short of your goals, you may be sabotaging your efforts without even knowing it.
Watch out for these five surprising language-learning pitfalls, and soon you’ll be saying adios to your problems and willkommen to your newly-energized linguistic abilities:
1) You’re afraid to make mistakes.
Perfectionists are great students, but terrible foreign language learners. Why?
Language learning requires mistakes. Knowing you’ve made an error and correcting yourself forms a massive part of the language acquisition process. Eventually, your mistakes will be replaced by successes and set you firmly on the road to fluency.
2) Your language learning materials don’t match your learning style.
All the courses in the world won’t help you learn a language if they aren’t geared towards your preferred learning style.
Most learners fall into three basic categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. And although most language learning materials attempt to cater to all of these styles in some way, they are usually skewed towards one of them.
Listening to Pimsleur or Michel Thomas audio courses won’t catapult your progress if you’re a strong visual learner, and likewise, reading through a Teach Yourself or Routledge Colloquial course will slow down your learning if auditory learning is your game.
Find your learning style and seek out suitable courses geared towards it: your language learning success depends on it.
3) Language learning causes you anxiety.
Remember all the grammar drills, oral tests, and pointless writing assignments from English class? Unfortunately, so do I.
It’s no wonder so many people have an aversion towards learning a foreign language!
Language learning should be fun, not a source of anxiety. Nothing hijacks your ability to learn a language more than stress, and by eliminating (or at least minimizing) it, your progress will almost instantly improve.
To reduce anxiety, forget those boring, stressful grammar exercises for now and find some fun and interesting ways to learn: read magazines about your favourite hobbies and interests, play games, complete crossword puzzles, or write a letter to a friend. Each of these will activate your foreign language abilities in different ways, helping to propel your progress.
4) You’re too inconsistent.
Ask any runner what it takes to finish a marathon. All will agree: consistent training is the key.
Language learning is no different. An entire Saturday spent buried in the books is far less effective than shorter daily bursts throughout the week.
Scrap those marathon weekend study sessions and aim for at least 30 minutes a day. Even if you have more time available, be sure to keep learning sessions short – absorbing a language requires some down time.
5) You’re approaching language learning with the wrong mindset.
There’s one thing that language-learning superstars have in common: a boatload of confidence. And if you don’t exude it in spades, you’ve got a Sisyphean task ahead of you.
Sure, we’re not all born as silver-tongued polyglots. But that shouldn’t stop us from thinking like one.
Imagining ourselves as competent future speakers in our target language can push our progress further than studying our butts off with doubt still in the back of our minds.
To drive future foreign language learning success, constantly affirm your linguistic skills with positive reinforcement and reviews of past successes. And if a lack of confidence becomes a lingering problem, pick up an inspiring self-help book – it may just be the most important addition to your language library!
How have you been sabotaging your foreign language learning?
Author Bio: Ryan O’Rourke is the founder of Treksplorer, a travel media site focused on offbeat destinations and unconventional travel planning, photography & language learning tips. An avid traveller and amateur travel photographer, Ryan truly believes that the greatest adventures are never planned, and that travel plans, no matter how perfect they seem, are meant to be broken. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter, or Facebook.