Our success in everything we do depends on our perception of what we can and cannot accomplish. If you want to learn a foreign language you must be confident of your ability to get the result you are pursuing. However, our past results can affect the way we think of ourselves.
Most adult language learners are false beginners. They have been exposed to studying a foreign tongue at school as it has been for years a mandatory element in the curriculum. In the UK, French has been the favourite choice in the curriculum followed by German and Spanish only recently. Nevertheless, most of the population is considered monolingual. They remember hardly anything about the language they have studied. Some adults are interested in acquiring this skill either for personal reasons or because of work. This is when their problem starts. Doubts creep in and they start questioning if they truly have the capacity to learn.
They have a pre-determined feeling about language learning, and it all goes back to their school years. They see mastering any language as an extremely difficult even impossible task. Why is that?
Their first contact with language learning was not easy, and mostly it was due to the teaching approach. The textbooks consisted mainly of grammar, selected passages for reading and/or translation, vocabulary and some had lists of idioms and proverbs.
The students were recommended to memorise the grammar content and the first part of the lesson was spent on grammar. The rest of the lesson was reading, memorising and practising dialogues. There was no emphasis in enhancing the student communicative skills and the student was expected to have a quite high standard of grammar knowledge. Spoken language fluency was never the target let alone an understanding of the culture.
So, we can say that in general their encounter with language learning was at best unpleasant and at worst traumatic. It is then understandable that the student approach to language learning might be of self-doubt.
Based on these past experiences, the way you perceive yourself as a learner will play an important role when confronted to language learning. The qualities you think you have or lack of will influence your outcome.
Bear in mind that the past is gone and can’t be amended but remember that nowadays the language teaching techniques have changed quite a lot. Language teachers try to engage students in the learning process and try to provide purpose to their language learning and motivate them by paying more attention to the areas that interest them.
We language coaches and tutors, stress the importance of learning the language to communicate. We use the target language as the main method of communication in lessons and try to create a more authentic context during the class.
The benefits of using the foreign language- even at a beginner’s level- is to encourage you, the student, to talk and be an independent learner and to promote your enhanced curiosity about the learning process.
You should work on your mindset.
Students with a growth mindset develop a love for learning, a drive for growth and are resilient when facing setbacks. For them these just highlight problems and issues that they will need to deal with and learn from. They are always in the lookout for new learning opportunities. They learn from criticism and suggestions and are always seeking to implement new strategies to improve. They act on the feedback they receive.
When you have a growth mindset, you are aware that you are on the driving seat. Even though some people may have an innate advantage, no matter what your natural aptitude is, you know that your effort will lead you to results. With effort you will improve and consistently surpass the set milestones in your language journey. This assurance will keep you committed and motivated in the long run.
Language students with a growth mindset always look for learning strategies that can help them improve (My blog newsletter is jam packed with them); and they look for the adequate solutions when they are confronted with setbacks. They find the right support; they invest time and effort in practising the language. They know they can develop their abilities and grow beyond expectation.
They crave feedback, because as previously mentioned, they know that it is an important tool for their growth. They cultivate a positive attitude to learning, they don’t give up, they try and try again until they get things right. Striving for excellence boosts their motivation.
How you talk to yourself matters
Be careful about how you talk to yourself, because it will influence your feelings and your performance.
Every time you surprise yourself saying “I am rubbish at languages”, or “I will never understand this grammar rule”, say STOP.
It has been proven that by doing so - just after a negative thought- helps you overcome the stress and the fear of not wanting to use your new language in a conversation and you will stop dwelling on the worst-case scenarios “I will make a fool of myself”, “everybody will laugh at my accent”.
Instead ask yourself questions. For example, “How can I improve on my accent?”
This technique is effective because it triggers a call to action in your brain, and it starts searching for possible answers.
When you panic during a conversation and think that you are not good enough, repeat to yourself “you can do this” or “you’ve got this”. Various Research demonstrate that when you use “you” or your name at the start of your affirmation, you will feel calmer, and you will be perceived as a confident person.
Remember “Don’t lose your present to your past.” Forget all your negative experiences dealing with language learning. Now it is a new day full of possibilities. You just must grab them and have the courage to take the first step toward the future you, the one who is able to add a new language to his/her portfolio, and I’m here to cheer you up.
If you need help, Download this FREE Self-Limiting Beliefs Questionnaire