Learning a language is challenging. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be the vast array of programs and tools available that promise rapid language acquisition. People don’t just want to learn German or any ‘o language; they want to learn it fast. But to learn a language quickly, you need the right mentality to succeed.
Knowing a second language opens doors for you. It allows you to travel more comfortably, experience more cultures, and gain different perspective in life. It can also help develop your brain and keep it healthy. And depending upon your profession, it can even be a great way to advance your career.
Learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, people dump hundreds of dollars and time into classes and products with little success. And despite all this, only 15 – 20 percent of the US population consider themselves to be bilingual. Considering that nearly all Americans take foreign language programs throughout high school, this percentage is shockingly low.
Two obstacles interfere with language learning programs: the wrong mindset and the wrong strategies. In this first piece, we will look at the best ways to prepare your mind for learning a foreign language. In the second piece, we will look at strategies you can adapt when learning your target language to ensure rapid success. So to begin with, here are eight steps you need to take to prepare your mind to learn a second language.
Before you buy a German language book or any other language guide, you need to figure out why you want to learn a second language. If you’re doing it to impress someone or because you think it’s a neat trick, you’re less likely to be successful. The reason for this is that learning a language is hard.
You’ll need intrinsic motivation to keep you focused when it becomes stressful. There are times when you feel like you’re learning and growing, and other times when you feel like nothing you can do helps you to remember. In those trying times, coming back to why you started in the first place will help you push forward and succeed.
Pick a goal designed to improve yourself. Be selfish. It’s okay. Whether you want to be more professional, to learn about a new culture, or to prepare for a move to a foreign country, you need to find a source of motivation to guide you through learning a second language. This is called intrinsic motivation, and it is scientifically proven to help you succeed.
Learning a foreign language is a challenge. Young children take years to develop language skills. As an educated adult, you know how to learn German better than a child, for instance. This is because you already have an understanding of how language works (you already know one after all).
Even so, you will be learning thousands of new words, hundreds of new phrases and a good deal of grammar and syntax along with it. And that’s not even taking into account speaking and pronouncing a language correctly. Getting all that new information to stay in your brain takes time.
Your mind is going to be figuring out how to process and store all that new stimuli, so be prepared for it to take time. Patience goes a long way to keep you on track.
Trying to learn German and think you’ve got the basics? Walk into a German restaurant and try ordering using only German. Hear someone speaking the language you’re studying? Try to start up a conversation with them in their native language. Need to test your skills? Why not fly to the country that speaks the language you’re studying? You’re going to have to push past your comfort zone to test your language speaking abilities. Being comfortable with risk is part of that process.
Adults tend to be perfectionists. Whether singing, dancing, or speaking in front of people, we tend to shy away from activities we can’t perform comfortably well. Speaking a foreign language is no different. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s natural. Feeling embarrassed about it, however, doesn’t have to be. Anxiety and embarrassment will interfere with your learning by keeping you from testing your talent.
Understand that your mind functions similarly to a muscle. You need to set realistic expectations. You wouldn’t wake up one day and decide to run a marathon before lunch, why wake up and try to cram eight hours of language study into your brain in one day? Take it slow. Build up to longer and longer study sessions. There’s nothing wrong in taking your time. And you’re less likely to burn out and more likely to retain what you learn.
Also be realistic about how long it will take. Expect six months before you’re stumbling through conversations. And a year or two before you’re fluent. You could be faster, sure. However, giving yourself time takes the focus off the clock and puts it where it should be, learning the language.
Learning a second language is an experience. You’re not just learning a bucket full of new words. You’re learning a new culture, a new way of thinking, a new way of expressing yourself. And you’re also doing something that many people fail at along the way. Everyday you practice, you take another step forward on your journey to being bilingual.
As mentioned earlier, you will have moments of success and failure, but focusing on your progress is critical. Stay positive. Instead of saying, “I only learned five words today,” say, “I learned five new words today.” Do not focus on what you don’t know. If you do this, you’ll fail to see your progress along the way. Keep your eyes forward and keep trying, success will come..
You’re learning along the way, so you need to be confident that you are. That word or phrase you think you know the meaning to, use it. Don’t be hesitant about it, don’t doubt yourself. If you’re wrong, you’ll learn the right way. But if you don’t trust yourself, you’ll never be able to see the extent of your abilities. Realize that your abilities improve everyday. Don’t shy away from opportunities to show that off. You’ll feel great and be inspired to continue learning
Learning a new language happens in the brain, so you need to make sure your brain is ready for it. By taking the right steps to prepare your mind for the task you’re about to embark on, you’ll be able to learn a second language rapidly. But it’s not only about preparing your mind, it’s about having the right strategies in place for success. In the second part, we will look at how to make sure you learn the right way to learn a foreign language.