Latest posts by Georgina Cowan-Turner (see all)
We often leave school after years of studying a language seemingly no closer to fluency. I studied A level French but can’t count the number of times I felt ashamed at the prospect of speaking it to a native. Is it a crippling sense of self-doubt that I am simply not good enough? Or do we need to ease ourselves away from the classroom to the real application of the language? It is easy to become despondent following school and give up on a language; it takes motivation and work but it is possible and we should encourage ourselves to reach our potential. Fluency in a language is not an enigma bestowed on a select few- it is available to us all we simply need to make a plan of how to get there. Here a few tips on finding language learning motivation.
Motivation is key; yet it often seems impossible to maintain. Motiviation is normally at its peak when you first come to learning a language only to see it dwindle away when you approach any challenge. You should use this initial rush of incentive and store it into a planned routine of learning. This does not need to be tedious just automatic. Every morning go over grammar and vocab, in the evening watch a foreign language film without subtitles, listen to a radio station in a different language. At the back of your mind remember that you are becoming fluent in this language for yourself and no one else. Banish the ideas of stuffy classrooms and dog-eared textbooks. Without the pressure of passing any exams it has the possibility of becoming enjoyable part of your day. Yet to consolidate on the basic elements of grammar it is a good idea to invest in some form or revision guide, preferably with an audio resource.
I decided this summer to return to French. I had spoken virtually none for two years and miraculously believed I could pick it up at the same level I left off. Of course, I was wrong but my level of understanding was still pretty high. Learning a language is like learning to swim; small strokes are needed at the beginning. When coming back to a language start with the easy elements and you will see yourself quickly improve.
It is always hard to be motivated to learn when it is just you, so maybe consider joining an evening class that will provide some form of structure. Or perhaps book a holiday in a country speaking your chosen language creating a goal in the mind. If you have friends who can speak the language, ask them to speak with you. Always carry around a pen and paper you never know you may be on the tube and hear some vocabulary that you would like to learn the meaning of. Why not listen to music in the language as you walk through the streets and try to learn the lyrics. Making the learning process immersive and part of your everyday life will take some of the pressure off it.
Above all do not create barriers and remember the benefits for your brain and your life in general in improving your language skills. Language is communication; you are learning how to interact with more people. It is something that comes as an instinct but must be adapted for different cultures. Fluency will offer new perspectives on these cultures as how we speak says so much about who we are. Broaden your mind and your world- get fluent!