Developing a personal language learning plan
By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.
You have rung in the New Year and written your list of resolutions. Like many others, your list includes lose weight, exercise more, and learn a new language. After a week into the New Year, we ask, how are you doing with that list? How have your daily practices changed? Are you still committed to those resolutions?
If you are still doing them, terrific! Stick with it! If not, we want to help. People often decide that they are going to make sweeping changes in their lives, but do not really contemplate all that goes into making those changes happen. Ask yourself when, why, where, and how to get on the right path. When do I have the time to exercise? Why do I want to make this change? How do I find the support that I need to stay committed?
As language learning specialists, we want to help you develop a plan that will help you achieve your language learning goals this year. We believe that there are five main obstacles to learning a new language (or making other significant changes in your life). Those obstacles include: time, energy, money, commitment, and support. Though many people will use these obstacles as excuses not to do something, we believe they are the resources that make all the difference. Consider this…we all have time for the things we enjoy doing. They are important to us so we find time. Our jobs, kids and other activities drain energy from us, but yet we find more energy to forge ahead. We are a little short on cash this week, but if it is important to us, we always find a way to get the funds. We simply need to be committed. If the commitment is not there, we will never follow through. However, if we clear our minds and stay focused on the goal, nothing will deter us.
Learning a new language requires the same mindset. It requires changing the way we think about those so-called obstacles. By turning the challenges into small hurdles to jump rather than mountains to climb, we alter our brain chemistry and turn them into possibilities instead of limitations. That alone opens up our mind to thinking in a new way—something that is critical for learning a new language.
To learn a new language, we recommend establishing a learning plan. Start by determining how much time you can realistically set aside for learning. The key word there is ‘realistic.’ If you only have 10 minutes per day, then set that as your goal. Next, decide what time of day you can consistently set aside those 10 minutes. Set an alarm to remind yourself and actually use that 10 minutes to study. Now you cannot say you do not have the time.
Find yourself a proper study space. Make sure you have enough light and are comfortable in the space. Bring your materials (pens, notebooks, dictionaries, etc.) so you do not have to get up from the space during those 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes are for you to study. Do not let yourself be distracted by other things. Maintain your focus. Now you have the materials and location. They are no longer obstacles.
There are many language programs out there that report incredible results, but many come with an incredible price tag. If your bank account is not very deep, start with some of the free apps like Duolingo or 50languages.com. Start to learn the basics with these programs before investing large sums in programs that often end up on your shelves or hard drives, never to be opened. See, money was just a small hurdle to jump.
Select a method that works for you. If you are an auditory learner, use CDs, podcasts, and other online programs where you can listen and repeat. If visual learning is more your style, write the words in your notebook. Highlight important things with bright colors. Use flashcards to repeatedly see the words. If you prefer to move around while studying, make sure you have some space. Act out the words. Stretch, strike a pose, dance, or get on your elliptical machine. Now you know how to make this happen.
Whichever method you choose, stick with it. Remember, learning a language does not happen overnight. You have to be committed for the change the take place. For many people maintaining that commitment is the biggest challenge. One of the best ways to stay committed is by having a support network to help. Get a language coach or tutor who can help you along the way. Family members may know the language and be willing to help, but our experience has been that students often prefer to learn from someone outside the immediate family. In that space students can make mistakes and learn from them without the embarrassment of being laughed at in front of their family.
With a dedicated time and study space, money in your pocket, a method that works for you, and a support network around you, you can do this! You can learn a new language! Make 2015 the year that you follow through on your resolutions by taking these steps. We will be here to help you along the way!
For more insight into learning foreign languages, please contact Global Perceptions. We are relocation and language specialists who want to help you and your family transition smoothly from life in one culture to another. Contact us TODAY!