Speak a Foreign Languge Confidently
You Are the Master of Your Learning
Our world is growing smaller. This expression is used on a day-to-day basis now that global technologies and business are linking everyone around the world closer than humanity has ever before known. With this ‘tightening of the strings’ it is becoming ever more important to learn a second and even a third language that one can get by in business, travel, or just basic communication, even in one’s own backyard.
In the 1980’s many people in the United States were studying German and Japanese, as these were the two languages of the two of the strongest economies in the world. Now, Chinese is becoming an important language for its own economic strength. Of course, English is the lingua franca of the world, and the most sought-after language worldwide. Whatever your choice of new language, it is important to be as confident as possible when speaking, that your message will come across better, which will in turn lead to further confidence in your new language. But how can one achieve this confidence? The following are some basic guidelines towards this goal.
First, simply have patience. Learning and speaking a new language takes time. Consider how long it took just to learn your first language, and that was at a time when your mind was more porous and receptive to new knowledge. Simply telling yourself that improvement is happening daily will strengthen this fact.
Consider why you are learning this language, and write them down. The more good reasons that you can come up with to learn this new language, the stronger your resolve will be. Further, if you can find love for this language, learning will be fun, and much easier. Add to this a working knowledge of the culture(s) that speak this language and you’ll quickly sidestep the tediousness that comes for those who are taking a class because it is required by school.
Utilize a broad range of learning materials. These include books, CD’s, movies, your teacher or professor, tutors, online videos, such as found on youtube, classmates, and even strangers who speak your desired language.
A special note on native speakers of your target language: remember that people will rarely laugh at your mistakes, unless purely from humor, and that native speakers find new participants to their language very flattering. In southern California, for instance, between 1-in-4 and 1-in-5 people is Hispanic. When a non-Hispanic speaks Spanish to them, Hispanics are extremely receptive to this and will often kindly correct verbal mistakes while encouraging the neophyte to their language.
Next, it is important to practice your new language every day. Even if you can only study for fifteen minutes a day, this will keep your mind open to learning new information. In fact, it has been shown that studying for a quarter of an hour every day is better than studying for 2 to 3 hours twice a week.
Speak, speak, speak! Even in your beginning days with your new language, speaking is essential. While grammar, listening, reading, and writing are essential too, speaking is by far the most important practice within learning a language.
After you’ve studied the language for a month or so, pat yourself on the back and remind yourself that you’re learning a language, which is still a rare activity in many places. You are learning a skill that will benefit your mind, your way of thinking, your ability to get jobs, and will improve many other aspects of your life.
Listen to music in your newfound language. This is beneficial as most everyone enjoys music, and hearing certain words again and again will only be beneficial to your growing knowledge of this language –especially with idioms and common phrases, such as “I love you.”
Consider the language your own. This might sound a bit strange, but if you think about it, language, like all forms of knowledge, belongs to everyone who takes the time to invest it by putting it into their brains. So, if you study Swahili, after awhile, you are a speaker of Swahili, and should remind yourself of this, with pride. As well, mention this fact to others, as this will aid you in 2 ways. First, you’ll become more proud of your abilities and want to show them off, and secondly, you’ll meet others who also speak your language, giving you the perfect opportunity to practice.
Speak to the sky. That is to say, speak to yourself when you get the opportunity. Even if you’ve just begun to learn a new language, say aloud even the simplest phrases, such as “I’m going to brush my teeth now” and you will be cementing this language into your mind all the more firmly. Further, learn to think in your new language as often as possible, even if only in simple phrases. A good exercise to this end is to sit or lie in a quiet, comfortable place, maybe with a bit of soft music playing in the background, and direct your mind to saying words and phrases –even if silly, to yourself. Again, this is only beneficial towards your improvement.
When reading or listening to a book or program in your new language, choose wisely. That is to say, find items that you find interesting, as this will be more pleasurable for you, and so will aid your learning and retention.
When listening short phrases that you’ve heard on CD’s or tapes, or in music, repeat these aloud. Or write them down. It has been proven that when learning any new subject matter, that involving the body, not just the mind, speeds learning up by over 3 times. Another extension to this same idea is, when reading silently, move your lips, as this too makes your learning more active.
No negativity! Don’t tell yourself (or others) that you can’t learn a language, or that you’re poor at the language, or anything like this. Even seemingly innocuous statements like “it’s difficult” can be limiting, so cut that out and tell yourself how well you’re doing, instead.
When learning a new piece of grammar, find examples of its use in phrases and memorize the phrases. However, don’t limit yourself to memorization; learn to incorporate your new grammar into new phrases and sentences as you speak and write, and actively try to identify these grammatical sentences in your listening.
Consider the Internet and all of the resources that it offers. Many of these are free and extremely helpful, such as chatrooms, which will allow you to actively “meet” people online who will communicate with you at a comfortable pace, and may even aid you in correcting your usage. Who knows: you may also make some friends!
Anytime you speak or write and feel silly, forget that notion, and just go with it. Remember, literally millions of people been in your place and today they speak German, French, Hindi, Russian, Japanese, Tamil, and hundreds of other languages. You too will be in their ranks soon. So get out there and practice (and love) your new language.