I’ll Never Know Everything!
Okay… this one might be true. You might never know every single word that exists in your target language, but cut yourself some slack, do you know every single word in the English language?
I know a lot of English and consider myself fluent but there is no way I’d be able to hang with nuclear scientists and understand every bit of jargon they use.
Or consider some non scientific slang you might hear… like bubbler!
“Op’ (common involuntary midwestern noise) scuse’ me, just need the bubbler (drinking/water fountain) there…”
I learn new words in my native tongue every week!
Fluency is a difficult word to define and everybody seems to have their own definitions of what “fluent” is and looks like. I personally believe that “fluency” means I can survive in a country where that language is spoken. As such, I would consider myself fluent in a language if I had the ability and confidence to go out, find some sort of housing, shop for food, make friends and plans, and be able to take part in community events while speaking with people and understanding them!
If I can work a job in the target language, then that’s mega-fluent in my book! Your grammar might not be 100% perfect, your pronunciation may not be 100% correct, and you probably won’t know every single word that you hear but that’s okay! I’ve never had an instance where a speaker of another language got mad at me for trying to speak in their native tongue and making mistakes. People are flattered and generally impressed that you are making the effort to communicate with them in their language!
Nobody Speaks “X” Language Around Me.
Good news: Technology today has eliminated this problem!
There are a number of websites and apps you can utilize in order to find speakers of the language you are learning to practice with. Some of my favorite websites and apps to use for finding language exchange partners are:
- and more…
It’s important and wise to be careful about using the internet since you don’t actually know who you may be talking to. When I am looking for a new language partner I like to make sure they have a well made and complete profile that I can check out and determine if they are somebody legitimate and would make a good language exchange partner for me! Even when people send me requests I check them out before responding right away. It’s just something that makes me feel more safe and comfortable when striking up conversation! It usually turns out well, sometimes you will find people that don’t want to practice as much as you’d like to but the great thing is that you can have as many language partners as you’d like!
Some of my language exchange partners have even turned into good friends!
I had an English-Spanish language exchange with a girl about my age who lives in Peru while I was in college. From there we skyped for anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours once or twice a week before I had to go to Spanish class! We still keep in touch but due to busy schedules it’s not quite as much, however, we still get along great.
I Don’t Have the Time to Learn a Foreign Language
We lead incredibly busy lives. However, there are 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in one week! Let’s look at where some potential time might be gained.
- Drive times: pop in a podcast or listen to music in your target language
- Shower time: podcasts and music!
- Breakfast time: enjoy a level appropriate book (or maybe a podcast or some music)
- Lunch break: great for a 5-10 minute Duolingo lesson
- Family dinner: find a pleasant music soundtrack to play quietly in the background
- T.V. / Netflix: Try watching in your target language or check out the subtitle feature
- Cooking time: try foreign recipies written in the original language… or it’s a podcast/music opportunity
- Make time: wake up 15 minutes early so you can read a book, do a lesson, listen to some jamz, etc.
Think about the time you spend on activities like these. They may last only 10 minutes to an hour but if you incorporate your new language into those activities the time will add up fast!
You don’t need a 3 hour study session, you need consistency.
I’ve Never had a Mind for Foreign Languages
Stop. Right. There. You most certainly do have a mind for foreign languages! When you were born every language was a foreign language. Babies come into the world as universal language learners.
They (you) are primed for learning any given language whether that be Mandarin, Russian, Afrikaans, or Korean!
Kids become specialized language learners as they are exposed to their mother tongue. While you may not be a baby anymore, you still have the mental capacity to learn a language. Some people even argue that adults are better language learners than children because you know what works best for you! You know how you learn best and you can manage your own time! At the end of the day, you most definitely have a mind for language.
Stay tuned for ideas, tools, and tricks to enhance your learning!
Learning a Language is too Hard!
This couldn’t be farther from the truth and especially when you break the language down into small manageable milestones to build up early successes and confidence. When you see how well you are doing and quickly you are coming along you will know that learning a language can be made easy! Keep the right mindset and keep moving forward.
It’s OKAY to make mistakes!
Think of how a child learns their first language, how many times does that child make a mistake? A lot. It’s a learning process and you learn from your mistakes, so don’t sweat it! Making mistakes is one of the beautiful parts of learning a language. While teaching English in Mexico to kids one student, while learning names of common animals, very boldly and excitedly exclaimed that the word for “abeja” (bee) in English was “sheep!” The class got a good laugh out of it and I corrected him. That memory stuck with him and he will forever know that “abeja” means “bee” and that “sheep” is “oveja.”
Its moments like these that remind me of my own mistakes I’ve made while learning a foreign language.
In my second year in high school Spanish, my teacher gave the class the speaking assignment to stand up in front and talk about an activity they liked doing. When it was my turn I stood up and tried to say, “I like mountain climbing without ropes!” so I said, “Me gusta escalar montañas sin ropa!” I felt proud that I nailed this line until I saw the look of confusion on my teacher’s (and classmates’) faces. I had actually declared, “I like mountain climbing naked!” So… needless to say I learned from that mistake and have never forgotten that “ropa” means “clothes” and not “rope” … false cognates will get you!