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The abundance of language-learning materials available online has made it easier than ever to learn a language by yourself from the comfort of your own home. Total win, right? Not exactly… learning a foreign language isn’t like learning algebra or world history. To really progress and maintain your language skills, you need to do more than just study: you need to use the language regularly.
Unless your language goals do not involve speaking proficiently, this is where other people come in to the equation. Meeting new people, speaking the language in real time, and making mistakes are vital to any serious language-learning regimen. But for the introverts among us, this might pose a problem. Not because introverts are super shy, as common misperception would have you believe, but because they themselves drained by social events. This can make putting a language to use with other speakers seem daunting—add on to that any shyness or self-doubt about their language abilities, and it becomes really intimidating and exhausting.
So, introverts, how can you practice your language skills with others without burning out? Here are a few suggestions:
If you’re not quite ready for face-to-face interaction, bridge that gap by joining online communities. We host online communities in two dozen languages where you can find free language-learning resources and engage with fellow learners. Services like InterPals can match you with a pen pal who is a native speaker of your target language (and vice versa) with whom you can correspond. Forum-style sites like Lang-8 allow you to post to in your target language and have it corrected (politely!) by native speakers. All of these tools allow you to interact with fellow learners and speakers in a very innocuous manner, which can help you build up to more social activities.
The internet is a double-edged sword. The availability of language resources online gives many people an excuse to hide out behind their computer and learn alone. On the other hand, it also gives you access to millions of people around the world! Do more than just write to them while still avoiding the pressure of meeting in person (and the hassle of going to and fro). One of the best strategies for introverted learners is to hire an online language tutor.
Working with a trained professional ensures you’ll improve your speaking skills and eliminates any fears you may have about speaking. While I’ve very rarely encountered a native speaker who outwardly made fun of me for a language mistake, you’ll certainly never run in to that with an online tutor. After all, it’s their job to help you fix your mistakes, not ridicule you!
Best of all— one-on-one tutoring is a controlled social situation. When you learn online, it’s on your terms. You pick the time, day, and duration, so you can avoid burning out or being overwhelmed.
Take it one step further and sign up for an online language class. You’ll reap all of the same benefits of a brick and mortar classroom experience—a professional instructor, peer interactions, etc.—without the stresses that an introvert may associate with classroom learning.
You’re by yourself in your own home and you can connect and disconnect quickly, eliminating any need for small talk or chit chat before and after class. Similar to one-on-one tutoring, it’s a controlled environment with a time limit, which is a nice security blanket for some introverts. It gives you time to really focus on learning the language and interacting with your peers in the language, but without any of those taxing bi-products.
If you’re pushing yourself to be a more social language learner, you deserve a big pat on the back! But you also deserve a respite once in a while to recharge. Remember, introverts aren’t just shy people, they’re people who find social situations somewhat draining. You need some alone time to recover, but don’t abandon the language during your alone time. Find solo activities—completing a lesson in Transparent Language Online, watching a movie or TV show in the target language, etc.—that recharge your batteries before you put yourself back out there in class.
So, introverts, what say you? What strategies do you use to practice speaking and using a new language?