10 More Problems Only a Language Lover Will Understand

Posted on 20. Oct, 2014 by in Language Learning

I’ve got 99 problems and learning a language ain’t one… but these 10 things are. (So are these 10 things from the first post, in case you missed it.)

1. When you think of the right word… immediately after using the wrong one.

1One day it will just come out naturally… right?

2. When you try speaking in a foreign language and the other person immediately switches to English.

2I’ve put hundreds of hours in to this language. You will give me 2 minutes of your time to practice!

3. When you’re texting in a foreign language and auto correct goes apeshit.

3Because changing the language back and forth on your phone is such a pain in the…

4. When someone tells you that you’re wasting your time learning so many languages.

4Right, because that hour they spend trolling Facebook every night is such a productive use of time.

5. When you’re dying to chime in on a stranger’s conversation in a foreign language, but don’t want to give away that you understand them.

5Because eavesdropping in your second language is a thousand times more thrilling than eavesdropping in your native language.

6. When you try to explain some really fascinating aspect of a language to your friends and they Just. Don’t. Care.

6Friends? Who needs them, anyway? Nobody understands you like your fellow language lovers do.

7. When someone says “I’m just not good at languages.”

7Yeah, because the rest of us are just special or gifted, right? It’s called putting forth the effort, buddy.

8. When you practice over and over in your mind what you plan to say, then somehow a bunch of nonsense spills out of your mouth.

8I swear I actually speak this language…

9. When you fall victim to a false cognate.

9What an amateur mistake, I should know better.

10. When you feel the random but oh-so-irresistible urge to start learning another new language.

10Can’t stop, won’t stop until you learn them all! With 90+ languages available in Transparent Language Online, we can help you get there. Sign up for a free trial and explore our alphabet courses, vocabulary lists, pronunciation activities, grammar videos, and more!

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6 Tips on Learning to Love Screwing Up

Posted on 15. Oct, 2014 by in Uncategorized

Itchy Feet: A Travel and Language Comic by Malachi Ray Rempen

As I argued last week, if you want to learn a language, you’re going to have to learn to love screwing it up. As someone from the comments last time pointed out, you learn by making mistakes! It’s the only way! So learn to be at ease with making a mess of things.

But how?

Easier said than done, right? Nobody enjoys acting and sounding like a fool (if you do, then you don’t need any help from me). So I came up with six tips for you to get comfortable with discomfort while learning a new language.

1. Start with an easy language

Part of the difficulty with starting a new language is the steep learning curve. With most languages, you need several hundred words before you’re feeling confident speaking about the most basic things. My solution: learn an easy language first, get used to making mistakes in that language, then learn something more difficult. By the time you graduate to harder tongues, you’ll have no problem butchering it.
“But wait!” you say. “There’s no such thing as an ‘easy’ language.”

Wrong: there’s Esperanto! It’s so easy to learn, it’s suspicious. Benny the Irish Polyglot recommends learning Esperanto for this very reason. I’ve heard of people learning it fluently in months—because it’s constructed to be easy (if you’re a western speaker, you point out. True, Esperanto won’t be that easy for someone who only speaks Thai, for example. But this article is written in English, and you’re reading it, so…).

Another reason why Esperanto is so great is that it’s not a native language for anyone (okay, maybe like three people), or an official language for any country. That means you can…

2. Speak with someone for whom it’s a second language

Learning a new language can be a lot harder if you have to communicate with native speakers all day long. As I’ve mentioned before, learning a language from people who’ve learned it as a second language can be a great way to reduce stress on your end. You don’t have to worry about your accent, or biffing the word order, or offending them by accidentally swearing. They don’t care—it’s not “their” language!

That said, remember that you only learn by speaking with someone who is better than you. You have to be okay being the one at a lower level, so perhaps you might as well…

3. Find a helpful native speaker

I’ve got a friend here in Berlin, a native Berliner. He speaks perfect English, as Germans tend to do. But he knows I’m learning German, and I’ve asked him that when we hang out, we speak German together. This doesn’t always work—my own German father finds it really difficult to hold a conversation with me in German when we could just be speaking fluent English together!

But if you can find someone who speaks your desired language as a mother tongue and will help you, you won’t be worried about screwing up, because they’ll be expecting you to screw up. And if you biff it badly, they’ll correct you. That’s ideal.

But you don’t need to limit this to language learning. Why, if you’re going down this road, why don’t you just…

4. Practice screwing up in other areas of your life

We don’t like messing up while speaking a language because we don’t like messing up doing anything. We like being competent! Well, if you can get comfortable making mistakes in every aspect of your life, you can get comfortable making mistakes in a new language.

Ruined the roast for the dinner party? Laugh it off. Wore mismatched socks to work? Say it’s what all the cool kids are doing (they probably are). Dropped your friend’s guitar and broke it? Now you know what to get him for Christmas.

Nobody’s perfect, my friend, and that means you. So what if you make mistakes? As long as you can accept responsibility for them and get on with your life, you’ll be fine. All you have to do is…

5. Love yourself

Speaking of easier said than done, am I right? But honestly, this is pretty much the key to success at anything (who knew this article was going to be a pep talk on life?). Confidence, attitude, charisma, popularity, achievement, beauty—all of these are aspects of love thyself. And the best part? You don’t need any tools, or anyone else, and you can start right now. Just think of all the aspects of yourself that you love. That’s easy. Now start to love the aspects of yourself that you dislike. Harder, but definitely possible. Practice makes perfect. If you can love yourself, warts and all, you will succeed in anything you put your mind to, and that’s a fact.

But let’s say you can’t manage to love yourself, or find willing native speakers, or learn Esperanto—darn it, you just want to be a bit more relaxed when speaking a foreign language! Well, there’s always…

6. Alcohol

Yep! We all know alcohol is a social lubricant. A little bit of beer or wine does wonders for speaking a new language. As long as you can drink responsibly, the words will flow from your mouth like the wine flowing into it. It gives you the confidence to try new words, laugh off your mistakes, and just generally be easier on yourself. You forget that you don’t know things, and you don’t overthink it, which is key. Just know your limits—if you’re slurring your words, they’ll be unintelligible and unattractive in any language (if you’re pregnant, or unable to drink, or a teetotaler, kindly see tips 1-5).

What about you? What tips do you have for those trying to be at ease making mistakes?

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Why Language Learning is a Daily Commitment

Posted on 13. Oct, 2014 by in Language Learning

Ever heard a product that claims that you can learn a language in 10 days? Ever met someone who actually truly learned a language in 10 days? Coincidence—I think not.

Image by Dafne Cholet on Flickr.com

Image by Dafne Cholet on Flickr.com

The “secret” to language learning is just this: there is no secret! As with most things in life that are difficult to achieve (running a marathon, getting your black belt, earning your PhD, you name it), you just have to put in the time and effort. The *super top secret* part for language learning is to put in the effort every single day. I’m not saying total 24/7 immersion is the only solution—not even close. A brief but productive 15-30 minutes of study every single day is all you need. Here’s why:

  • We learn best in short, consistent bursts: Have you ever heard that exercising in short, intense bursts yields better results than hours of moderate exercise? The same concept applies to learning languages. We’ve all crammed for a test for several hours the night before a test, only to regurgitate the information on paper and promptly forget it all. That technique of massed learning is not designed to help you retain material in the long run. More effective is the spaced learning technique, which involves reviewing and refreshing previously learned material on a regular basis. Spend 30 minutes really memorizing 10 new words today, then review them tomorrow and add 10 new words to the mix. Repeat this process every day, and you’ll be in much better shape than if you learned 100 words in one painfully long sitting and didn’t look at them again for two weeks.
  • Short bursts are more manageable: Part of the short-but-consistent bursts idea is to really engage your mind during that time. If you sit down to study for 3 hours, you’ll undoubtedly face numerous distractions during that period and give in to them. (Real talk: I’ll admit to having checked my Facebook, e-mail, and the news so far while writing this post up to this point.) Our attention spans are short, and we need to respect that. You can easily sit down for 30 minutes and study intensely without checking your phone. But any longer than that and you risk getting distracted, which disrupts the learning process.
  • Learning in short intervals prevents burnout: Being able to bring a higher level of concentration to your studies isn’t the only benefit to learning in small chunks. This approach also prevents you from experiencing the dreaded “burn out.” Everything is good in moderation, right? One cookie is heavenly… a dozen cookies later, you feel miserable and never want to see a cookie again (for like a week, anyway). Don’t put yourself in that situation with your new language. Learning for six hours on a Sunday may seem like commitment, but chances are the last thing you’ll want to do at the end of a long Monday is revisit that language.
  • Learning every day establishes a routine: When we first commit to doing something new, we’re excited, which motivates us to dive in head first. But once that initial excitement ebbs, it’s pretty easy to let your commitment fall off too. We all know how it goes—taking one day off leads to two days off, which leads to excuses like “I’ll start over next week.” or “I’ll have more time after I finish this project.” Don’t fall for it, language learners! Everyone can find 15 minutes in their day to engage with a language, whether you’re commuting to/from work, waiting for an oil change, cooking dinner, folding laundry, on your lunch break, on the treadmill, and on and on and on. Pick up a book, put in some headphones, or do whatever you like. But do it every day until it becomes second nature.

So, language learners, what does your language-learning routine look like? Do you commit to learning every day?

If you need help making time or getting in the habit of learning a language, check out our free eBooks for expert advice!

10 Ways to Make More Time for Language Learning

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15 Habits of Successful Language Learners