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One tip that can help you learn English (or any language)

This tip is for anyone learning any language, who's currently at a beginner or intermediate level. Many of you might already have realized it, but it came as sort of a revelation to me:

When learning a new language, don't think of that language as foreign. Think of it as normal.

I speak English natively and Spanish at an upper intermediate level. For years I thought of Spanish as a foreign language. It felt like I was learning something strange, because I didn't understand most of what I read or heard, and I couldn't speak well in it yet. But one day I decided to purposely switch my thinking and tell myself that Spanish was the normal language and English the weird one. So instead of asking "why is this English grammar concept so weird in Spanish?", I started asking "why is this Spanish grammar concept so weird in English?"

That simple change in my learning approach ended up making my learning much less mentally exhausting and much faster.

Perhaps this tip can be helpful for you for English (or whatever other language you're learning): don't think of the language you're learning as foreign, but 100% normal.

Mar 17, 2018 10:28 PM
Comments · 4
That's a really good point. I posted a quote from a linguist and professor from an Ivy League school who wrote books on pronunciation of German and contrasting it with that of English, and other books about German, which was his specialty and second language. I bought his book on pronunciation about 40 years ago, which was published in something like 1961, and was intended for teachers. He said in it that there were two impediments to learning pronunciation (which I think also applies to what you said in learning any language in general): 1) there was the habit of using your own native language and its pronunciation for thousands of hours, physiologically, in regards to your speech organs (muscles in the mouth, tongue, voice box) that practically precluded you from reproducing any sounds OTHER than English ones, so you had to train yourself to get out of the habit and learn how your target language produced sounds differently, and 2) as you said, he noted there was a more subtle problem in that English seemed to the learner as the only "normal" way of communicating. It's sort of a trick your mind plays on you that you have to unlearn so to speak. It's exactly like you said. You have to come to see the target language as "normal" and your native one as the "odd" one. You'll never have to worry about unlearning your native language, so you can demonize it all you want without hurting your speaking abilities in it anyway. . But, yes, make the new language at any learning level you may be the NORMAL language for you. And, do it by all the exposure you can get to the new language. Next thing you know you'll be talking to yourself in the second language and dreaming in it. That's how you really master a new language. Excellent observations!
March 18, 2018

@SHL Agreed.

@Sergey Happy it was useful to you!

@Maxim Haha, those are great (and funny) examples you gave.

March 20, 2018
I  got  your trick,  Eric. There are no foreign languages around  the  world. All  languages  that  we  learn  or know  are  the  native  ones. Some  of  them  we  know  at  the level "Mum, give me  this!" - pointing  at a box of juice in  a display window.   Other  languages we know  at  the level: Addition is simply the combination of distinct sets of like entities. Thus..."  There are no "strange"  languages  or  strange  sounds  with  no sense. :D
March 18, 2018
Great tip, Eric, thank you.
March 18, 2018
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, Indonesian, Spanish
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), Spanish