Does the thought of learning a foreign language give you heart palpitations? We often mistake fear of the unknown for fear of languages –as we cling to our mother tongues for dear life. But once you get over your fear and get familiar with the nuts and bolts of a new language, things don’t seem so scary anymore.
So, here’s the Lingua.ly TOP 3 list of what no language learner should be afraid of:
1. The Alphabet
How bad can a collection of new letters really be? Dozens of squiggles that read right to left and connect in confusing ways. Relax and thank your pre-school teacher for showing you a thing or two. Next, break out the songs, order some children’s books and get to it. You may be tracing along the dotted lines for a few weeks but it will be worth it in the end. Take on several new letters at a time and master a handful of representative words for each one (think A is for Apple). Remember to have some fun while you’re at it!
2. The Grammar
Vocabulary isn’t always so scary but grammar can be frightening, no matter what language you’re learning! Nevertheless, abstract rule descriptions are hardly what grammar is all about. Just like with your native tongue, you can learn to understand the grammar of a new language without formal study. You simply need to see lots of examples of natural language and pay attention to the patterns. Opinions differ on how much noticing you really do need to do, so once you’re feeling confident try to check your assumptions with a few Google queries. Above all, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to identify all the tenses by name –most native speakers can’t either!
3. The Listening
You think you know how a word sounds until it is said by a native speaker in conversation and suddenly there’s a stream of language coming at you faster than the speed of light. Your brain needs time to adjust to listening in a new language. Eventually, it will learn to identify where words start and stop by picking up on word ending patterns in the new sound system. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is to give yourself a break and speed up the familiarization process with a little phonics and as much listening as possible.
Of course there are other challenges when it comes to starting off in a new language. Speaking (particularly to large groups) can be a nerve wracking experience that’s made even worse when you are doing it in another tongue. Just acknowledge that mistakes are inevitable, keep a dictionary at your side (Lingua.ly’s is free, mobile and pretty handy) and stay positive. With language, new fun lies around every corner.