Learning Article : 5 Reasons You’re Not Fluent In The Language You're Learning Yet!

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This article outlines the five most common mistakes that language learners make. By avoiding these issues, you can become fluent a lot faster and easier.

Apr 29, 2018 12:00 AM
Comments · 50

Thanks everyone for reading. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my experience, and I hope you can learn from my mistakes!

Let me know in the comments:

What do you think is the biggest mistake that you've made learning a language? 

April 29, 2018

Great job on that article. Everything was spot on. 

Fear of speaking and making mistakes are the most profound problems learners face. Interestingly enough, native speakers of all languages never experienced this as children because the acquired the language in a different way than those who learned later in life. A huge advantage for them. When I took my first German class in 1977 when I was 19, and at College, we had a young girl in the class who had been an Exchange Student in Germany the entire year before. Having spent an entire year in Germany the year previously, you’d have thought she was pretty fluent in the language. To my surprise, however, I never heard a single German word out her mouth. It baffled me.  She was kind of a timid person and was absolutely terrified of speaking in German, obviously for fear of making a mistake. I have no idea what happened to her, but I would bet that 40 years later, she probably speaks not one word of German anymore.  I always thought what a shame it was. She had to have spoken plenty of German the year previously when she lived over there and even went to school there, but fear held her back. Hearing the target language spoken and speaking yourself is the single most effective way of learning a foreign language. It’s just that simple. It reinforces grammar (which you have to know before you can effectively speak anyway) and teaches you new vocabulary, which is the hardest part of learning any language. And it makes remembering vocabulary much easier. Flashcards, in my opinion are a total waste of time. Words on a slip of paper mean nothing. But hearing those words and using them causes you to remember them. When I went on and studied German at a different  university, I had two great native German professors. The classes were conducted exclusively in German, so we had to speak it. But the professors were very non-chalant about your speaking. Part 1.

April 29, 2018

Part 2.

It’s not that the professors didn’t care about you making mistakes, but it was almost like they pretended not to care, like it was unimportant to them.  Hence, the door was opened to freely speak. And we did. If someone made a mistake, the professors would never correct the student formally, like saying, “Oh you made a mistake saying XYZ. It should have been ZYX.” Instead, they would just casually repeat what you said in the correct form and maybe follow it with a discussion about a book we were reading by Günter Grass or someone. It was a very effective teaching method. When people on this board say they fear speaking, it’s almost always out of fear of making mistakes, virtually never fear of making pronunciation errors. I always tell people two things: If the teacher or native speaker corrects you, sure you might suffer embarrassment. But guess what happens? You learn what the mistake was, how the thing you wanted to say should be correctly said and, because of the little emotional hit your ego took because of the mistake, the odds are very high you’ll never forget it. Hence you won’t repeat the mistake and will have learned from it. Namely, you’ll REMEMBER it. And what’s the hardest thing in learning any language learning? Remembering vocabulary and idiomatic and non-idiomatic phrases. So what seems like two steps backward is actually 3 steps forward.  Second, how many native speakers are there in your target language?Take German for example. What are there, at least 100,000,000 native speakers between just Germany, Austria and Switzerland alone? So you embarrassed yourself in front of ONE out of 100,000,000 people. None of the other 99,999,999 native speakers are ever going to know you made the mistake and you are unlikely ever to make the mistake again. It doesn’t matter. So, when you look at it that way, making mistakes aren’t that scary or embarrassing, because who cares what one out of 100,000,000 people think anyway? 

April 29, 2018

One more big thing that I learned in the process of learning and tutoring languages is to reduce your scope (at least initially). Languages are enormous beasts with seemingly endless amounts of vocabulary. If you are reading Shakespeare one day and cooking articles the next, it will be difficult for you to get the repetitions you need to build up the vocabulary in one (or a few selected) areas, so that you can hold a conversation on those topics. Once you can do that though and begin to gain confidence with the language, then you can branch out and broaden your scope. The repetitions will solidify the "structure" and patterns of the language in your brain and from there you can just continue to add vocabulary on as many different subjects as you like.

Just my humble opinion :-)

April 30, 2018

Jennifer - Great! Great! Great! Such perfect advise that I will do. You are so right about he speaking. Things I do is read aloud and also record myself telling a story or explaining something in the goal language and sending it to a native speaker I know. At least then someone is listening just not real time. :-)

Starting at dinner tonight, I'll pick one speaking drill to do with my family. They speak German and I'm learning. :-)

- Derry

May 3, 2018
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