Is it difficult to learn a language? Have you had to overcome language learning frustration? Have you felt stuck in your learning? If you answered yes, you are not alone. These are common experiences among language learners even though there are those who will tell us that we can learn a language easily and quickly.
In my opinion learning a language is challenging. It is extremely fun and rewarding, and will open doors that we didn’t even know were there, but it takes effort and patience.
I feel that a source of frustration for many learners is their own expectations that they should learn everything quickly and easily. Most of our learners at Street Smart Brazil are working professionals, including entrepreneurs and high-ranking executives. For many, it is uncomfortable to find themselves struggling to communicate simple ideas or having to ask the meaning of a word again. This is just a natural part of the learning process, as is making mistakes, but for many learners it is a major source of frustration.
5 Tips to help you in your language learning journey
How can we make our language learning journey more joyful? I have a few simple reminders that I find very useful.
1. Use the language every day
To learn a language well one needs to use it often, repeatedly, if possible in real life. I understand that using the language in real life can be challenging when you do not live in the country of the language you are leaning.
So how can you get around this?
You can engage with authentic content. Read the news in Portuguese. Watch videos on YouTube about any topic that interests you. Listen to podcasts. Read a book in Portuguese. If you like music, learn the lyrics, observe the words, and sing along – as loud as you can 🙂
2. Create Portuguese-speaking moments
If you have Brazilian friends, create agreements to have Portuguese-speaking moments together. But remember to have fun. Focus on the adventure of learning and not on the challenges of communicating. Tell your Brazilian friends that they don’t need to correct every detail of what you say. You, too, need to have patience. I know how it feels when we want to communicate an idea well and have the English language right there asking to enter the conversation. Resist the temptation. It takes practice to get your brain comfortable expressing ideas in the new language.
3. Engage all your senses in the learning experience
When using Portuguese with other people, resist the temptation to ask your friends to translate what you don’t understand. Have fun using gestures, draw a crazy picture, ask for synonyms, grab objects, do a little dance. Interact with the world around you in Portuguese.
4. Have fun with your mistakes
We all learned how to walk by falling. We all learned how to speak by saying words incorrectly at first. We learn from our mistakes.
No one likes to make mistakes. However, it is simply impossible to learn a language without making mistakes. In fact, making mistakes is necessary if you want to become fluent.
I have made many silly mistakes speaking English. I used to say pimp every time I wanted to say pimple. I still have to think about these words before I say it. It’s hilarious. I also laugh when I remember that I used to say smashed potatoes instead of mashed potatoes 😂 I did that for a long time.
I have been living in the US for over a decade and my husband still corrects my English. When it happens, I embrace the opportunity to learn.
5. Be patient with yourself
Most of all, be patient with yourself. Most likely you will not be fluent in three months or learning 10 minutes a day. Most of us will not learn that easily. Learning a language takes consistent effort. It is challenging. You are not alone.
Remember that you are learning the entire world with new words, new rules, and new sounds while the many other areas of your life compete for a chunk of your attention and focus.
Learning a language is an adventure. Allow yourself to have fun and be silly at times. It is truly all right.
I’m frustrated after studying for 4 years and 7 months and going to Brasil 14 times and having a Brasilian girlfriend and not being able to converse with her yet. I can’t order food. I can’t read. Its a secret code for me. Any ideas? Thanks
I don’t believe there is one grand key to overcoming the frustration barrier. But I do believe there are many heuristics you can use to help yourself push through this difficult phase.