Learning a new languages is like a road trip: there are many different roads that can lead to your final destination. Here are some tips for staying on track during your language learning journey.
Tip # 1. Decide where you want to go
Before you go on a road trip, you will probably do some planning. You will decide what you want to see and possibly where you will you sleep and eat. Planning ahead will make sure you do not end up driving about aimlessly.
And it is the same when you learn a language: besides knowing which language you want to learn, do spend some time in advance thinking about how you are going edulize to use the language. Is it mainly for conversation, business, or do you want to dive into the country’s culture and literature? These are related but different destinations. Knowing where you want to go will help you navigate towards the destination.
Tip # 2. Try different roads. See what works best.
The quickest way to get somewhere is usually the highway. But sometimes there is no highway, toll charges are really high, or taking the highway compels you to take an enormous detour. Some people enjoy driving on the highway, others prefer scenic, winding roads.
The same goes for language learning. There are different roads to get to your destination. Just because you signed up for a part-time evening class does not mean that is then the only way you can learn. If you feel the journey is too slow, or you are simply not enjoying the ride, why not trying to take the course full-time for a while, get individual lessons, or look for additional online learning materials?
Tip #3. Enjoy the ride
On a road trip, very often the ride itself is half of the fun. It can be great to spend a while driving on a scenic road, picking a spot for a long picknick lunch and driving on again after that.
Learning a language should be like that as well. If you are dead serious and focused only on reaching your target level, it will be hard to keep going for the time required. Getting fluent in any language simply is a long journey.
Tip # 4. Ask for directions (but make your own decisions)
When you are lost, sometimes you can save a lot of hassle by simply stopping and asking for directions. The locals will generally be able to point you the right way. But beware: they may have a different perspective from you. If you ask a Singaporean “is it far?”, you may get the reply: “Oh, it’s very far. At least a 10-minute walk”. Ask an American the exact same question, and they may reply: “It’s pretty close, just about a one-hour drive down that road”.
When you are learning a language, do speak with people who have learnt the same language before you. It can give you good insights in what works and what does not. But keep in mind that their perspective may be different. Their objectives for the language may be different. They may be faster or slower learners, have a different learning style, different mother tongue, or may have more or less patience and determination than you do. So don’t get too discouraged just because someone tells you they have given up the language because it’s “just too difficult”.
Tip # 5. Don’t give up too quickly
On a road trip, there is no way you can give up half way. In the end, you will have to make your way back home (and fortunately, most people eventually do get home!). When lost on the road, the best approach is often to take a break and reflect on your options.No destination is unreachable, but you may be on the wrong track and find out you need to drive a couple of hours more to get to your final destination.
When learning a language, it is easier to drop out. Just stopping the lessons is all it takes. This is the reason why a lot of people don not reach their final destination in language learning. One way to make sure you keep going, is ensuring you have absolutely no other option. For example, by moving to the country where the language you are learning is spoken, so you absolutely need to use it in everyday life.
Learning a new language is in many ways similar to going on a road trip. When you embark on the trip, do some planning in advance, try different approaches, ask for directions without slavishly following them and do not give up when the first road bump shows up. But most of all: enjoy your ride!
A Dutchman currently living in Singapore, Guus has so far studied 7 languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Ancient Greek, Latin and Mandarin). He is passionate about travel, culture, languages and learning.
He founded Yago Singapore, a company that lets people in Singapore find and book Singapore’s best language courses [http://yago.sg] online.
Guus regularly shares his insights about language learning on his blog