Language Learning Tips

Language Learning Myths

There are a lot of myths that seem to prevail around the topic of learning a language.  Somehow people acquire these ideas no matter what classes they have taken or whom they have talked to.  It’s definitely hard to learn a new language, but don’t let these false ideas impede your progress.  You must go into your journey with a fresh mind and a clear view to your goal.

I can just listen to a language tape while I drive my car or clean my house, and I will “absorb” it while I do other things, like I do with song lyrics.

False!  You can’t be a passive learner when acquiring a new language and let it “wash” over you.  You really have to put a little bit of elbow grease into retaining the particular grammar and vocabulary.  You might “remember” a few phrases, but they won’t have a home in your mind unless you work towards that goal, and they won’t be very useful to you if you need to adapt them to different situations, such as changing a verb tense.  Yes you can put idle time to use (such as when you’re driving) but you have to be an active participant.

I’m not in school so I don’t have deadlines, so I’ll just take my time and learn when I can.

Sure you could be lazy about learning a new language, but the best results come when you push yourself and set goals.  Language builds on itself, so if you go so slowly that you forget what you learned two months ago because you took a break, it’s going to be hard to come back and build off of it.  Keeping your momentum going is a key aspect of learning a new language, and something that you should definitely strive for.  Convincing yourself that you are serious about learning your new tongue will go along way towards keeping your head in the game.

I’ll just skip that hard part and come back to it.

Like we just mentioned, languages are cumulative and you must build off of concepts.  You don’t always have to go in precise, schoolbook order, but skipping hard parts will only make things harder in the end.  Take it one step at a time and do it in bite sized chunks.  It’s like when I stopped my self-taught guitar lessons because I couldn’t get the F chord right away – it was foolish.  If I had stuck with it I’d probably be a decent guitar player right now.  Another thing you might want to consider is to learn the alphabet in your language of choice, as well as the terms for various grammar phrases so that you can ask a native speaker in their own language when you have a question about how something should be said.

I don’t need a good accent to get by.

Sure, technically you don’t need a good accent to “get by” in a language, but attempting a good accent will win you the respect of the native speakers.  If you’re going to all of the trouble of learning a language, why not attempt to at least have a reasonable accent?  It’s really not that difficult – just pretend you’re “overacting” (such as when your friends put on a foreign accent for fun to be silly) and have some fun with it.

Liz Blake

Liz Blake is a language enthusiast who takes a special interest in linguistic anthropology and how language affects the way people interact and see the world. In her spare time she likes to read, garden, and most of all: travel!

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