As we all start making resolutions (that we may, or may well not, keep to!) for the year ahead, trying something new is often on people's list. Learning a new language being a fine example. Many dismiss the possibility of such an achievement, deciding they are not a 'language person' or that they are not intelligent enough; whilst it is true that some people have certain aptitudes that lend themselves to language learning, it is not always the more intelligent people that are more capable at mastering new tongues.

An article in The Telegraph points out five mistakes that people make when attempting to learn a language which, if overcome, can vastly help one's ability to grasp it.


1. Not listening enough

Just as we begin learning our mother tongue as an infant by absorbing the words we hear before attempting to speak them, studies show that this is a crucial stage of language learning that is often overlooked. Listening to words before repeating them helps pronunciation, comprehension and fluency (in the long run). Whilst living in the native country of the language you are learning is, of course, the best and quickest way to improve, this isn't always an option; podcasts such as Radio Lingua Network, watching films or television programmes and listening to music are all ways this essential element of language learning can be enhanced.


2. Lack of curiosity

As mentioned before, many of those that think they are not 'language people' are not so because they lack interest in languages or cultures outside of their own. A keen interest in the culture of the language you are learning will help provide motivation and a greater meaning to your linguistic journey.

3. Rigid thinking

Language learning will always require a level of flexibility, even creativity; from irregular verbs to countless phrases that do not adhere to any set rules, no language follows a strict pattern and to learn one effectively requires an ability to appreciate ambiguity.

Varied reading can be an aid to those who struggle in this area; the idea is to gradually ease yourself away from a dictionary where possible, and begin to think about where the words you are unsure about may originate from. It takes patience, but this routine should help to develop a more open mindset.


4. A single method

Languages are so varied in themselves that the learning process should, effectively, be as varied. Whilst you may find a method that works the best for you, it is unlikely that this one technique will help you to improve all of the many skills involved in learning a new language. Learning from a podcast, for example, will be great for listening and learning new vocabulary, perhaps even grammar. Yet this is unlikely to give you a solid grounding on reading in the language, or holding a conversation. Not to mention that one source is bound to teach you things that are different to another.

The four main areas of a language (reading, writing, speaking and listening) should be studied through various materials to gain a deeper and more open knowledge of it.


5. Fear

Let's be completely honest; not a single person embarking upon a new language is going to be fluent and flawless the first time (or indeed, perhaps ever) that they converse in it. Yet this is often a major setback for anybody who is learning a language; they've learnt all the main grammatical structures, have a good stockpile of vocabulary in their head and can read and understand without much difficulty, but when it comes to speaking out loud in the language they falter.

Ability and fluency when speaking a language can only come through practice. The Catch-22 is that some are unwilling to speak the language until they feel they are good enough! It is important to understand that making mistakes in your speaking is in fact what helps you to improve, as it ensures that such errors are corrected before they become ingrained.


See the full article here.


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