What worries stop you learning a language?

Have you ever thought about learning a language but find that you keep putting it off? Or you tried but it all turned to custard? Chances are there are some genuine concerns you need to deal with. Here are some common ones: do they ring a bell?

  • Fear of native speakers thinking you can speak the language.

As if you’re setting out with a lie that will be found out as soon as they reply to you and you haven’t a clue. All you have to do is explain straight away that you are learning the language: problem solved!

  • Reluctance to give offence

It’s actually more offensive to insist on speaking English (as if it is the only worthwhile language), or to use a grotesquely English pronunciation (as if this is better than native speaker pronunciation of their own language).  A genuine attempt to use the local language as well as possible is always appreciated …and you can learn about cultural differences at the same time as learning the language.

  • Feeling stupid: fear of making mistakes

Funnily enough we all make lots of mistakes while speaking our own language: false starts, changes of verb subject and ungrammatical combinations are strong features of spontaneous speech, when we are thinking what to say next as we go along. Mistakes are OK! Being too correct is unnatural! If only I’d known that years ago….

  • Reluctance to be other than yourself

You don’t have to pretend to have a different personality. If you had been born in a different country you would have been speaking a different language, no problem. If the foreign speech sounds weird at first, listening many times to the same thing gets you used to hearing the sounds …and then making them. You’re not being untrue to yourself, you’re just adding a skill.

  • Previous disappointment over not understanding native speakers

This one’s massive! I felt so cheated when I went to Madrid & didn’t get what they were saying in spite of doing quite well in a Spanish exam. It wasn’t just a problem with speed, I wasn’t expecting people to change the sounds when they were speaking! But it’s a natural process (link). Trouble is, when people are slowing down and trying really hard to speak clearly to help a foreigner understand they often add extra sounds and confuse us even more!  So we need to practise listening to natural speech. (Some sites and apps slow natural speech mechanically and this avoids the problem.)

  • Worry about finding you’re too old

No such thing! I’m 66 & my sister’s 70. We’re learning, and excited about how well it’s going. Just have a look at this encouraging blogpost: http://www.iwillteachyoualanguage.com/not-too-old-learn-language/#comment-106895

  • Worry about being bored and frustrated:

If you’re the one deciding what and how you’re going to learn, you won’t have to put up with someone else’s choice that doesn’t suit you! You  don’t have to suffer!

  • Believing “I’m no good at languages”

You’ve learned to speak English! You can certainly learn another language. It was the previous approach that didn’t suit you.

Not convinced? Have a look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiTsduRreug  (link) by the famous expert Stephen Krashen. It’s old, but his theories have stood the tests of time and research. (Specially relevant is the Affective Factor from 11:30)

You can do it, you know, and have a host of new ideas, new friends, new enjoyment… and new pride! Go for it, I dare you!

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