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We often hear the same tips, tricks, rules and advice from master language learners. Do they even have any meaning any more?
Nobody listens to the safety instructions on an airplane. They’re always the same. Something something seatbelt, something something no smoking, something something seat backs tray tables “brace brace” electronic devices. I fool myself into thinking that by now I’ve got the whole routine memorized, and I could get up there with any flight attendant and pretend to blow in that red tube on the inflatable life vest. But if I were ever in a plane crash – I’ve been in a couple hairy landings, but never a crash – I’m pretty sure everything they told me would go sailing out my brain, replaced by pure white panic.
Luckily, the stakes in language learning are rarely as high as they are in a tailspinning 747. And yet there are plenty of “rules,” or guidelines, that everybody should know, but that we almost always forget when we’re in the heat of the moment. But they’re important, and like clichés, they exist for a reason. So allow me to be your linguistic flight attendant for a short moment as we review the three most-repeated language learning rules:
1. Practice, practice, practice!
You’ve probably heard this refrain so often, the words have lost all meaning. Like “jingle bells” or “ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong,” it’s just nonsense going in one ear and out the other. I know that’s how I feel. And yet, if you don’t follow this rule, you will very quickly feel the ill effects. “Use it or lose it” is another way of putting this that might get your gears churning with a bit more moxie.
2. Don’t worry about looking silly.
Right. Easier said than done. We are hardwired as social animals to worry VERY MUCH about looking silly. We subconsciously look for silly signs in others so our lower minds can write them off as “others” and “non-members” and because of that, we have a constant running voice in our head telling us that no matter what we’re doing we are being constantly judged. You want me to intentionally bring attention to myself by talking in a silly way?? Forget it! Well, okay, I’ll try. But I won’t be happy about it.
3. Immersion yourself.
Also in the category of easier said than done, this is a rule you often hear and probably think “yeah that’s the point, dummy, of why I’m learning this in the first place!” We can’t always bounce around the world like YouTube stars and live wherever we please. So we often disregard this rule. Hell, I live in Germany and I still don’t immerse myself as much as I should. But if you do, you will see a huge difference. And it doesn’t have to be uprooting yourself and living in a village in some foreign country. Just go to your local mall and practice with whoever’s at the ethnic restaurant in the food court (just be sure to ask politely. Don’t judge books by their covers!).
What about you? Have any oft-repeated language learning rule that you’ve heard so often you don’t register when you see or hear it?