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September 2017

Boost Learning by Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Uncomfortable tips for speeding up language acquisition

At some point in any student’s path one reaches the plateau. This is the high yet sad place where you’ve made lots of progress but can’t seem to make it any higher. Perhaps you’ve exhausted your available methods of study, or maybe you’re simply getting bored. It just doesn’t seem like you’re learning as fast as you used to.

What is a language learner to do?

The best way to jumpstart your language again is to identify your pain points and to tackle them directly. Often this means becoming very uncomfortable with the language learning process. It is diving head first into the thick of things, hoping to emerge with greater knowledge. Today we’ll take a look at some methods to do just that.

Talk to everybody

The best way to learn a foreign language is to talk. A lot. Do you have friends who speak your target language? Is there a local group of students studying the same language? Are there restaurants serving the cuisine of your target country with natives working there? Find communities in your area that speak your target language and engage with them. Talk as much as you can and talk to as many people as possible. Be shameless. This social immersion, which may be very hard for introverts, is a very good way to not only push your language learning, but also to make your language learning process more fun. Socialising reminds us why we learn foreign languages in the first place.

Make mistakes

We mention this one a lot because it’s so important. It’s not enough to be fearless about mistakes; language learners ought to embrace their mistakes. Often it’s in our errors that we learn how to correct ourselves. The more embarrassing the situation, the more likely we’ll never make that mistake again. If you find it hard to remember all the mistakes you commit in a day, keep a notebook with you to keep track of the corrections you’ve learned. If you ever wanted to say something in your target language but couldn’t get the right phrase out, write it down in your notebook with the right translation so you never get stuck on that sentence structure again. Making mistakes shows us where our faults are and allows us to address them.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The worst students are those who don’t talk or ask questions. This is not to say they are bad people or that they won’t learn, but it’s very easy to form bad habits or retain errors if one does not ask many questions. Be inquisitive, naturally curious. If something is confusing to you, ask questions until it’s no longer confusing. If you think you are committing an error, ask a native speaker to be sure. Without asking questions, it is very likely that a student can inadvertently keep committing the same error until someone says something. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because it is a wonderful way to learn more.

Travel

Obviously not everyone is privy to the luxury of travel; it’s expensive and time consuming. But if you can visit the country of your target language, do it. It will improve your language skills like few other endeavors. Immerse yourself as much as possible while there, making the most of your time. Refuse to speak your native tongue; speak only your target language. It may not be comfortable (in fact, it may be downright scary) being in a foreign country while still learning the language, but there simply is no better way to learn.

What are your tips for jumpstarting your language learning? Have you ever embarrassed yourself linguistically? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on language learning.

Picture: (c) Fotolia, Henry Schmitt

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