How to *kind of* learn a foreign language

Written by anjo

If you know anything about me, you know that I am an outgoing, lively, crazy, loud person… My Leo shines through most days and 50% of people want to kill me. But I have learned about myself during my time abroad, especially how I am when I feel extremely uncomfortable. When I can’t understand the people around me, I become the opposite, and it’s shown me a part of who I am that I never even knew existed.

My language learning skills are mediocre at best, so when attempting to learn Spanish in two months, then switch it up to Portuguese…I’ve been struggling honestly. It’s hard, these languages are hard, and people talk super fast. I am nowhere near where I want to be with my language skills but I know that with time, improvements come.

One thing you need to know/accept before you begin to learn a language is that you will never, ever speak it perfectly. You will most likely always have an accent in a foreign language, and as soon as you open your mouth, a native speaker will know you are not from their home country. Even when I met someone from the UK and put on my best Harry Potter accent, they told me I was rubbish. All those years and all those movies practicing my British accent, and my heart was crushed. But practicing tirelessly is the only way to truly *almost* perfect it.

Immersion~ The most effective tactic for learning a foreign language is cultural immersion. Putting yourself in situations where the people don’t speak your native language forces you to speak, make a fool of yourself, but ultimately learn a lot more than you would reading a book. When I arrived in Argentina, I had 3 years of Spanish classes under my belt. Little did I know that the Spanish I learned was from Spain, and a lot of the pronunciation was almost unrecognizable. It took me 2 months to even begin to understand people, and by then I had moved my journey to Brazil ~ where the native language in Portuguese.

Many people believe that Portuguese is similar to Spanish, but it is not. The pronunciation of certain letters, slangs locals use and accents from different areas in the country throws you off completely. I was fortunate enough to have friends who knew English when I arrived in Brazil, so my transition was a lot safer and easier. Although it extremely helped me, I almost wish that the people I stayed with during my time in South America didn’t speak any English, so that I would’ve learned more in a small amount of time.

Learning tools~ There are many different tools you can use in order to learn a new language: you can buy a dictionary and start reading, sign up for a class, or download a language learning app for your cell phone. Personally, I used and still continue to use Duolingo for learning. It is an easy, advanced and comprehensive way to learn a language that you can bring with you everywhere. I’ve also downloaded other dictionary applications that can be used offline, and try to read various articles in various Latin languages to see if I can comprehend. It’s really all about focusing and practicing. If you take time out of your day to learn, you will inevitability grow more fluent. 

duolingo

Positivity~ As you already know, when you think positive thoughts, positive things happen to you. I will admit that being positive all of the time is a struggle, but I really need to start practicing what I preach. I have found that if I feel insecure about my language speaking skills, I just stop trying. But as I continue to learn, I know that being positive and laughing at my mistakes will only help me in the future. One thing I try to remind myself is that anyone else learning a foreign language, or living in a foreign country, has felt this way that I feel: Dumb, confused, and frustrated. You just need to keep your chin up and carry on.

Emotional rollercoaster~ This rollercoaster of emotions is something that makes me feel as though I am bipolar. One day, I can be completely confident in myself and understand everyone, and the next day, I can’t say anything right. I’ve cried many tears of frustration, and I’ve cried tears of joy. When you are committed to learning a new language, you will find yourself questioning why the hell you’re even trying, and also find yourself not even thinking before speaking the language. It’s difficult to convey the feeling into writing but once you’ve immersed yourself in another language, you will understand which rollercoaster I am talking about.

As always, come to me with suggestions, comments, questions or help. I am always here because I work online 🙂

~anjo