Welcome to my second blog post! This time I am going to be looking at the topic of the psychology of language learning!
Firstly, I would say that a positive attitude to learning goes a long way towards helping you learn a language. I have lost count of the number of people who say something to me along the lines of ‘I’d never be able to learn a language I’m not a linguist/good at languages.’ The truth is you CAN learn a language even if it takes you that bit longer or means you need to ask for extra help from your teacher.
Secondly, some people are afraid to make mistakes when they speak but I would encourage you to be brave and have a go anyway. I used to be afraid of speaking when I first lived in Bolivia, but I soon realised I wouldn’t learn unless I did. The truth is that if you are speaking to a native speaker, they will likely just be pleased you are trying to speak their language and will gently correct your mistakes if you ask them to. Actually, don’t be afraid of the mistakes, its best to laugh about them and learn for next time. My advice is to take your learning seriously but to not take yourself too seriously. I once confused ‘ pecado’ (sin) and ‘pescado’ (fish) in a church service in Bolivia much to the merriment of the Bolivians present, but although I was a bit embarrassed, I laughed with everyone and never made the same mistake.
Thirdly, don’t compare yourself to other learners. It’s not a competition or race. Everyone is an individual and learns differently. However, do make the most of other learners if you can. If you are learning on your own, I’d suggest joining a meetup or language conversation group, so you can swap tips with others in your position. However, don’t worry if someone knows the subjunctive and you haven’t covered it yet or if Mary owns a house in Tuscany and goes every year and you’ve only been to Rome on a two-week holiday.
Fourthly, if you haven’t learnt a new language, never underestimate the healthy effect that it can have on the brain and on your mood. Apart from the fact that learning a language is a SERIOUS achievement and gives you a real sense of satisfaction, it also improves your memory abilities and thinking skills. Basically, if you learn a language, you give your brain a good workout and you lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. That’s why I would always recommend language learning at any age, even if you think you’ll never master it. The important thing is that you try and enjoy yourself while you’re at it!
Finally, I think that language learning really helps you grow as a person, as you learn to understand a new culture and way of perceiving the world. Every language represents a different viewpoint on life and you are forced to broaden your horizons to really understand the cultural undertones of the language you are studying. For example, in Italian you say ‘in bocca al lupo’ when you want to say good luck, which literally ‘in the wolf’s mouth’. The response to this is ‘crepi!’, which means ‘let it die!’ This expression is the equivalent of our ‘break a leg’ in English.
I hope I have inspired you to learn a language or to carry on learning one!
Do drop me a line if I can help you with Spanish/English/Italian lessons.