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I’ve completed the first week of the 3-Month language challenge and I want to reflect on the experience. First, for myself so I can clarify the experience in my mind and secondly for you readers out there. Some of you might be doing the challenge and others may be thinking of trying it one day. It doesn’t hurt to share these personal experiences of the journey. 

How was the first week overall? 

I’d say it wasn’t a success, but it also wasn’t a failure. I could have done a lot better and I’ll explain what happened. 

My plan  for the challenge was to work with Arabic on a daily basis each week. Unfortunately, last week, I only did this for four days.  The main reason was because I was under the weather and had no energy to do anything. Now I’m starting to feel better and hopefully I’ll feel completely back to normal for the remainder of this challenge.  If anything, I’d say that this first week has helped me to reconfirm my commitment to this challenge and I know that it’s something that I’d absolutely like to continue.  

Something new that I’ve learned

Toward the end of the week, I had an online lesson with one of my favorite Arabic teachers.  I asked her to help me with my pronunciation and the definition of new words in the novel that I’m currently reading.  That was very helpful since we were able to cover these much more quickly than I normally do when I use a dictionary or translator.  However, this session opened my eyes up to something. Something new that I learned is that my spoken Arabic has become absolute trash.  Words that I once knew, escaped me. Conjugating words took some time and overall, I was shocked by how much of the language I lost. I don’t think that I’ve spoken the language in a sustained way in probably 5 months.  It’s understandable why the level dropped so dramatically. As they say, use it, or lose it.  

Going forward

The original plans were good and those will stay the same for the most part. The only thing to change would be to add more speaking practice.  I want to focus on becoming a better speaker again and that comes from practice. Practice will happen during lessons with my teacher, but the effort will also be made toward talking with native speakers of the language.  Luckily, there are some security guards that I chat with here and there whenever I go to the local mall. It would be a good idea to move beyond the superficial and to have conversations that are a bit deeper or that force me out of my comfort zone.

Here’s hoping week number two turns out to be much better than the first!  

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If you’re interested in joining the language challenge, you can join here.

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Just Around the Corner

The three month language challenge is just around the corner. On September 29, 2019 I’ll be starting my three month language challenge and I hope you’ll be joining me too. I’m excited for this chance to really push myself and become better. Three months is really a short amount of time and it’ll fly by quickly. Although it’s short, I’m certain that I’ll see a lot of improvements in my language skills.

Challenges Faced Together

Growing and improving on a journey is great in itself. However, going on that journey with other people is an even better experience. We often hear that learning another language is difficult, or we’ve even faced that problem. Although people often talk about the difficulty of language learning, it doesn’t need to be like that. When we face obstacles alone, they can be harder to overcome. When we face them knowing that others are in the same situation, the problem starts to look just a little bit smaller. By knowing that we’re a part of a three month language learning community, we’ll be more likely to reach our goals. If you’ve wanted to start learning a new language, but haven’t had the motivation to do so, now is a great time to start.

Getting Started

In a previous post, I mentioned why a language challenge is a great idea. I also wrote about what I plan to do in the three months. With less than a week left before the start of the three month language challenge, how can you get started? You don’t have to do anything too complex or difficult. It’s better to do something simple, but to do it regularly. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Choose 2 or 3 materials that you want to learn from regularly. These can be anything. Netflix shows, books, etc.
  2. Make a list of people or places you can get help from when you need it. Friends, teachers, tutors, online, etc.
  3. Have a goal in mind of what you want to achieve by the end of the three month period. You can also make a goal for only the first month. Once you finish the first month, you can make a goal for the second, and later the third.

These three points are a great way to start the three month language journey.

Join the Challenge!

Interested in learning another language? Now is the time to start. Join me for the three month language journey. You can also sign up to receive regular newsletters filled with tips and advice during the three month challenge. Sign up here and you’ll receive a 3-month calendar and log that I’ve created for this challenge. These can help you to keep track of your activities during the three month period.

I hope that many of you reading this will join the three month language challenge and use it as a boost to reach your goals. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to like it, share it, and follow us here and on Facebook. It would be much appreciated!

Can you learn a language in 3 months? Yes, of course you can.  Can you become fluent in a language in 3 months starting from scratch?  Most likely not. Three months might not get you to fluency, but it can bring a drastic change in your foreign language abilities if you’re committed.  Because of this, I’ve decided to push myself to continue to learn a language in 3 months. Basically, I’m planning to do a 3 month language challenge. What’s a language challenge and why am I doing one?

Some background information

In the last few posts on this blog, I’ve discussed goals, why they’re important and why they should be clear.  I’ve also talked about why we should use the last few months of the year to recommit to the resolutions we made at the beginning of the year.  These weren’t simply random posts. The ideas in them had true meaning to me and in my life. At the start of 2019, I decided that I wanted to be at the C1 level of Arabic.  (C1 is a low advanced level on the language proficiency scale). For the longest time, I’ve been stuck at an intermediate plateau. I can learn vocabulary fairly easily, but grammar is another beast.  Speaking with the correct sentence structure has also been a big problem for me.

I decided this year would be the one for me to focus and get past the plateau stage. The focus for the earlier part of the year was on input.  Reading graded readers (these are books that are simplified for learners) and novels. TV shows translated into Arabic were another constant part of my efforts to escape the plateau zone. This year I was more consistent than I’ve probably ever been before.  Now, with the last 3 months of the year quickly approaching, it’s crunch time. It’s time to focus and to be dedicated to the task of acquiring the beautiful language of Arabic. This is where the 3-month language challenge comes in.   

The 3-month language challenge explained

Imagine you’re learning Dutch.  You take two 1-hour classes twice a week. In between classes, you study three days a week for half an hour at the most.  It’s a decent amount of time especially for a working adult or a student. However, it totals 3.5 hours per week at the most.  You might experience some development.

Now, imagine that you commit to learning Dutch for 3 months. You say that you’re going to work with the language for at least one hour per day.  If you stick to that, your total will be at least seven hours of time spent with the language per week. Already, you’ve at least doubled your hours with Dutch. With the 3-month language challenge you’re not haphazardly dealing with the language that you want to acquire.  Purposefully, you’re going toward it, and you have a goal in mind. The goal can be anything that you want. In my case, I want to speak coherently, develop my grammar, and build a stronger lexical (vocabulary) base. Put succinctly, I hope to be at the C1 level of Arabic once the 3-month period is up.  

My plan (to continue to) learn a language in 3 months  

Everyone has their own ideas when it comes to doing a 3-month language challenge.  As they become more advanced in their target language (the language they’re learning), they become more aware of what they’re lacking.  Once that’s known, they’ll know how to approach learning the language in 3 months. In my case: 

Reading

I’ll continue to read novels each day to build my vocabulary.  Reading will also allow me to be exposed to a variety of examples of sentence structure.  I plan to spend at least an hour per day reading. I know that I have problems with pronunciation of new words.  In the majority of books, there are no vowel markings. As a result, I’ll be adding an audio component to the books that I’ll be reading.  Thankfully, I came across an app called Kitab Sawti. It’s an audiobook app much like Audible, but for Arabic books. I have the Hunger Games books in Arabic and Kitab Sawti has that available as well, so I’ll be reading while listening.   

Listening 

To help with listening, I’ll be making use of YouTube or any other source to watch TV shows.  I’ll be watching a TV show in Arabic daily. On average, it should be about 30 minutes per day, give or take.  I prefer to watch cartoons translated from English and especially from the 80’s or 90’s. Since I’ll probably already know the topic, I’ll have an aid in understanding what’s happening.   If I have an idea of the story, I’ll more readily catch new words. There are a lot of shows such as Smurfs, X-Men, Recess, and even Courage the Cowardly Dog that are now available in Arabic.  Entertaining shows in their own right, a healthy dose of nostalgia, and full of comedy.  Enjoying yourself while learning enhances the learning process and, thankfully, shows like these are very enjoyable.  

Smurfs in Arabic
Recess, a classic show from the 90s is has been translated into Arabic
One of the BEST cartoons of the 90s that most people don’t know about, Exosquad. It’s also available in Arabic.

I prefer to watch TV shows over movies because of two main reasons.  First, TV shows are more easily digestible. A show’s runtime can range anywhere from 25 minutes to one hour.  Compared to a movie that’s two hours or longer, I’ll have less of a chance of suffering from fatigue. The second reason is that TV shows have many episodes.  Once you understand the characters, locations, and general plot of the first four or five episodes, it becomes easier to understand the future episodes. Movies are one offs and even with sequels, the topics may be so different that it would leave a language learner lost.

Writing

Writing is something that will happen twice a week.  Just a short essay of about 3 paragraphs or so. For writing, I’ll be working with a tutor so I can get feedback on what I’ve put together.  The main reason I’ll be writing is to work on my sentence structure and to ensure that there’s coherence. I’ve read that writing is a great help when it comes to speaking, so I hope to see the effect of it over time.  In English, writing is a piece of cake (I’ve been doing it long enough after all). In Arabic however, it’s a different story. For just 3 paragraphs, I’ll probably need at least 45 minutes. Over time, I’ll hopefully be able to reduce the amount of time it takes for me to compose something.  

Speaking 

Speaking will also happen with a tutor.  I’ll be working with a tutor once a week for one hour to increase my speaking abilities.  Speaking abilities includes fluency, accuracy, and expanded spoken vocabulary. My hope is to make use of the vocabulary and structures that I’ve learned through the other three skills (reading, listening, writing).  

Grammar

If there are grammatical areas where I’m weak and repeatedly making mistakes, I’ll ask my tutor to point these out and I’ll try to work on them.  Improvement is the name of the game.  

The big picture

I’ll be averaging about 13 hours per week of working with the language.  Working a full time job at the same time, it won’t be easy, but I’ll have to continually remind myself that it’s only for 3-months.  Also, it’s not a class or a chore, this is a hobby for me, so I should approach it in that way. I’m sure that if I stay committed to this, I’ll be able to successfully exit the plateau that I’m in by the end of the three months.  

Minimal action

There are some days that are extremely busy.  Some days are bad. Some days are exhausting. I think on days like these, there should be some kind of minimal action.  If you’re doing a 3-month language challenge and there’s a day or even a week where you’re just out of it, there should be something that you can do at the very minimum.  For me, I’ve decided that watching a program will be that (or listening to an audiobook). These can be done while eating, laying down, etc. So, if I find that I don’t want to do anything after a long day at work, I’ll at least listen for 20 or 30 minutes to something in Arabic and leave it at that.  

In ending

There you have it, my plan to (continue to) learn a language in 3 months.  I’ll be starting on Sunday, September 29th and continuing until the end of December.  It’s the perfect way to end 2019 and to begin 2020 on a high note. I’ll be leaving updates on here about my progress and experience with this project of mine.  If you’ve read this far, I applaud you.  

Are you also interested in doing the 3-month language challenge? If you are, click here to subscribe. You’ll also receive a free language learning log and a 3-month calendar to keep track of your progress. Be sure to share this with your friends and others who might also be interested.

Until next time! 

We’re quickly approaching the last three months of 2019.  Before we know it, a new year will be upon us and along with that, resolutions.  Some of us make New Year’s resolutions at the start of each year… then we fail to follow through.  When that happens, we decide to wait until the next year to make resolutions again. This time around, instead of waiting for a new year, why don’t we take advantage of what’s left of the current year?  We’re at the finish line of 2019. Let’s start where we left off (or maybe even never began) and finish the year off strongly with a 3-month challenge. Did you plan to lose weight? Gain muscle? Read more? Make new friends? Learn a new language?  If you did, but fell off the wagon, now is the time for you to get back on and to focus on your goal for the next three months.

MY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION (AT THE END OF THE YEAR)

In my case, I’ll be doing a 3-month language challenge. Currently, I’m at an intermediate level of Arabic and I want to improve on that.  My new year’s resolution (at the end of the year) is to focus on building my language skills and to hopefully reach an advanced level.

JOIN ME FOR THE 3-MONTH CHALLENGE

If you want to work on learning a language in these last months of 2019, join me. I’m starting on Sunday, September 29th and will continue until December 29th, 2019.   The more people that join, the better. If you’d like to join, sign up here, so you can stay up to date. You’ll also receive PDFs of a reflection log and a 3-month learning calendar to help you keep track of your goal. I hope you’ll join me and we’ll all experience growth for the remainder of the year.

You’ve probably set a goal once or twice in your life.  Many of us tend to go on a goal setting spree at the start of a new year.  With each new year comes a new resolution. Yet inevitably, after a month or two (if we’re lucky) we fall off the bandwagon.  Our goals take a back seat. What things have you wanted to do in the past and failed to accomplish? Why haven’t you achieved your goals?

THE ROAD MAP. 

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail”.

Whether it’s saving money, traveling a bit more, learning a language, or something else, most of us have something that we want to achieve.  In our minds we create a goal phrase. For example, you might say, “This year, I want to learn German”. Some of us might even write it down to remind ourselves of our goal. Then we haphazardly do some activities that are supposed to help us achieve our goals.  Our excitement begins to fizzle out after a short while and eventually our goal is forgotten about. Although people often fail to remain committed to their goals, this isn’t something that has to be inevitable. By making plans with clarity and direction, your ambitions can become a reality.  Two useful methods that can help you strategize more effectively are having SMART goals and making use of the GROW method.

SMART Goals.

Having a goal is one thing, but setting SMART goals can bring you closer to accomplishing what you want in life. What does SMART mean?

S- Specific. When setting your goals, they should be clear and specific. 

M- Measurable. The goal should be measurable, you should be able to count or measure your progress toward the goal that you’ve set for yourself.

A- Actionable. What steps (actions) are you going to take to reach your goal?

R- Relevant. Is your goal important to you? Does it have a place in your life? If the goal doesn’t have some kind of importance for you and no real value in your life, it’ll be harder for you to achieve. 

T- Time bound. Your goal has to be limited by a certain amount of time. If you leave your goal open-ended in terms of time, there’ll be no sense of urgency. By placing restraints on your goal, you’ll know that you have a limited amount of time to reach your goals. That can push you to work hard and steadily toward what you want to reach.

Let’s make an example goal using the SMART method. Earlier, I wrote the goal phrase “This year, I want to learn German”.  That is a goal, but it’s not specific enough. What does “learn German” mean? How will I know when I’ve “learned” German? How much German do I want to learn? To make a more specific goal, we might say something like “This year, I want to learn German and reach an intermediate level in the language within 6 months. I will spend an hour each day learning by working with a teacher, build my vocabulary through reading and Netflix, or doing an audio program”

GROW Model

Another option that can help you reach your goal is the GROW model. Similar to SMART, GROW is an acronym and stands for the following.

G- Goal. What’s your goal? What do you want to achieve (be sure it’s clear!)?

R- Reality. What’s your current reality? In relation to your goal, what is your situation here and now?

O- Options/Obstacles. What choices are available for you to meet your goal? What obstacles stand in your way and what could you do to overcome them? 

W- Way forward. What are you going to do and when will you do it?

Looking back at the example I gave earlier about learning German, let’s apply the GROW model to it. Goal: To learn German to an intermediate level. Reality: I am an absolute beginner in German and have no knowledge of the language. I’m also not in a German speaking country and I have no Germans around me. Options: I can look for a school that teaches German or find classes online. Obstacles: I may not have a lot of opportunities to practice speaking the language and it might be hard for me to find books in German.  Way forward: I’ll find some audio programs to start learning from and try to learn some new words next week. I’ll also look for easy articles online for learners of German. In a month, I’ll find a teacher online to begin working with.

The Take Away

Think about the goals that you’ve had in the past. Why haven’t you achieved your goals? Everyone can achieve a goal even though it sometimes seems like it’s impossible. Through being clear about your goal, careful planning, and being determined, you can accomplish the things that you want to. Next time you have a goal, try using the SMART method or the GROW model and see how that works for you.  When it’s all said and done, you might be pleasantly surprised. Good luck in reaching your goals!  

On today’s show, we’ll be reviewing the book Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley. If want to improve your memory, tune in to today’s show. If you would like to buy the book, you can do so on Amazon at this link:

Please note, the Amazon link is an affiliate link. This means that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, but at no extra cost to you.

***In full disclosure, I have placed some affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon associate I make a commission based on recommendations that are purchased, but at absolutely no extra cost to you.***

As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, learning a language can be a rewarding endeavor.  There are many benefits that you can get from learning a new language.  Let’s say you already agree with this idea and you want to start learning a new language.  How can you start?  Maybe you can register for a course at a school.  You also could find a teacher online to help you out.  Or, you could join a language study group that meets at your local café or library.  I’m going to take a different position and suggest you don’t do any of these.   Instead, I think you should start learning a new language by yourself.  Yes, you’re reading that correctly.  I think you should start learning a new language by yourself.  I know that learning languages is a social affair and it gives you the chance to meet new people.  You’ll also have a teacher who can correct you.  Perhaps even classmates who’ll encourage and motivate you to keep pushing through, perhaps… However, let me give you give you some reasons why it’s better to start learning a language by yourself instead of in a classroom.  If you keep reading after these reasons, I’ll even give you some ways to make it happen.  

Why should you start learning a language by yourself?   

It’s cheaper

Unless you’re learning a language with volunteer teachers, or you have a scholarship, your courses are going to cost money. Depending on the language, it can cost a lot of money.  If you learn independently, you can get away with doing it for free, but if you want quality, you should expect to pay some money.  However, you won’t be paying per hour.  Many of the materials you’ll be using will be yours to own, or at least you’ll have unlimited access to them. Why pay an arm and a leg just to learn basic vocabulary and to conjugate them from the present to the past?  Save that money for a higher-level class where you’ll get more bang for your buck.  This leads us to our next point.   

Enter at a higher level

If you start learning a new language by yourself, you may end up being exposed to richer materials and more words than you would in a traditional classroom.  You won’t be constrained by a curriculum (for the most part).  There won’t be limitations because of your classmates.  You might also be willing to push yourself more than you would in a class.  The topics you expose yourself to will (hopefully) be interesting and that will pull you more deeply into the language.  The more interest you have, the more the likelihood of increased exposure. The more exposure you get, the more growth you’ll experience.  Once you have the basics down, a solid set of vocabulary, and you’re able to communicate to some extent, you’ll be ready to enter into a classroom environment with some tools at your disposal.   

A stronger foundation

Having a stronger foundation in the language you’re learning, you’ll be able to bring more to the classroom.  Now, you’ll be able to understand more of what your teacher has to say.  You’ll also have the ability to communicate more readily.  You decided to start learning a new language by yourself, and while you have grown, there are some things that aren’t very clear to you. You’ll come to class with curiosity, filled with many questions to ask your teacher about those unclear parts of the language.  This will lead to a richer experience in the classroom environment compared to if you had entered as just a blank slate.  Your foundation is solid, and now your role and that of your teacher is to build on what you already know.  The two of you can now work on pushing you to the next level of your language journey. 

How can you start learning a new language yourself?

If you decide to start learning a new language by yourself, what products or materials are available to help?  There’s a plethora of YouTube channels available.  There are also an endless numberof blogs out there.  None of these will be recommended because for the most part, they’re limiting. Unless you don’t mind spending 15 minutes to learn how to say a single word or to say “good morning”.  (Note:  I’m talking about channels and blogs dedicated to learning specific languages. When it comes to the topic of language learning in general, there are many extremely useful ones out there.)  Below, I’ll give you four ways to start learning a new language by yourself.  

Pimsleur  

Although in recent years Pimsleur has started to promote their “premium program” which includes things like reading lessons, digital flash cards, and games, I’ll be talking about their classic program.  The Pimsleur audio program has 30 lessons that are around 30 minutes in length.  The lesson starts off with two people having a conversation in the language that you’re learning.  Then, step-by-step, you’re introduced to new words and phrases. You’ll be asked “how do you say ‘xyz’” and you’ll have to answer out loud.  By the end of the lesson, you’ll be having a conversation with the recording.  You’ll also be able to understand the conversation that you couldn’t understand at the start of the lesson.  Using Pimsleur as you start learning a new language by yourself does many things.  First, it helps to build your vocabulary.  You’ll be exposed to common words and phrases and that’s a great thing for your lexical foundation.  Second, your listening skills will develop and improve over time. Since the program is a strictly audio one and has nothing to do with writing or reading, you’re forced to listen. Finally, your speaking skills will improve as well.  Maybe you won’t be fluent, but you’ll be able to communicate to a degree.  Many people who have used it (myself included) have had the experience of people saying that their pronunciation is great and very clear.  The take away.  The classic Pimsleur program will have you speaking from the very beginning.  You’ll gain vocabulary and your listening skills will develop as well.  Whether you’re at home, driving, walking, or doing anything else, you’ll be able to use the program.  Currently, there are more than 50 languages and language varieties available.  Some languages only have one level available, while other more popular languages (such as French, German, and Spanish) have 5 levels.  Stick with the program and follow the learning instructions and you’ll be sure to see some progress.  The Pimsleur program is available on their website as well as on audible.com.  I’m not sure about other countries, but in the United States, many public libraries have the program available.  If your local branch doesn’t, you can ask them if they can have it sent from another branch.  

Reading*    

Reading is one of my favorite ways to start learning a language.  By reading, you can become exposed to vocabulary, sentence structures, and more. Through books or novels, you’ll experience repeated exposure and repetition will help things to stick. 

So how does this work?  Let’s assume that you’ve already done two levels of the Pimsleur program. Now you have some vocabulary under your belt.  You can now try to increase your vocabulary by getting your hands on a very easy book. There are two kinds of books that you can look for.  The first are children’s books.  If there are illustrations in the book, that would be even better to help with comprehension.  The second (and my preferred kind) are graded readers.  These books are novels that have been simplified and made specifically for language learners.  I enjoy them because they’re repetitive (again, more exposure) and they also give you a gauge of your language level.  Graded readers are generally available from level 1 (absolute beginners) to level 6 (advanced learners).  

*If you’re learning a language that uses a different writing script than you’re used to, you’ll first need to find a book or instructional guide that can show you how to read and write the script of your language.

Podcasts and Cartoons

So you’ve completed some levels of Pimsleur and you’ve completed some books.  Now what? You can move on to podcasts and cartoons.  Both of these are free for the most part and you’ll get a lot of exposure and listening practice.  Cartoons are great because the characters will generally speak with a clear voice. If the cartoons are popular, there’ll be many episodes and seasons available to watch.  That gives you a continuing storyline and with enough time, you’ll know the characters, the situations, and what’s happening in each show. The more episodes you watch, the more you’ll be able to pick up with time.  Additionally, many cartoons have been translated into different languages. Are there cartoons that you enjoyed watching as a child? Search for them and see if they’re available in the language that you’re learning.  Podcasts are also similar and they can help you to learn about the culture and ideas of the people who speak the language that you’re learning.  You’ll get a lot of insight from them. 

Practice Makes Perfect

You’ve spent some time building your vocabulary and speaking skills with Pimsleur.  You’ve been reading books.  You have your favorite cartoons and podcasts to help you with listening and understanding. Now you might want to work a little bit on your writing and grammar.  The book series Practice Makes Perfect is great for that.  They have books that give you explanations for grammar points followed by pages upon pages of exercises.  You can practice on and solidify your understanding of things like tenses, subject-verb agreement, and more.    

Concluding thoughts

It’s not impossible to start learning a new language by yourself.  In fact, you can accomplish a lot by starting on your own.  To sum up the above information, you can begin your own independent learning program by doing the following:

  1. Pimsleur audio program (Months 1-2 [or up to 5])
  2. Reading (Months 2-5)
  3. Listening to podcasts and watching cartoons (Months 3-5)
  4. Practice Makes Perfect for grammar and writing skills (Months 3-5)

Just to make it clear, if I were to start learning Spanish in the year 2020, here’s what I would do.  From January until May, I would work with Pimsleur.  In February, I would start reading short, easy books.  I would continue reading until May.  In March, I would start listening to podcasts and watching cartoons.  I’d also start working with grammar or exercise books.  All of this would be done until May.  The grammar books, I’d work with only once a week, but everything else, I’d try to do daily if possible.  Pimsleur would absolutely have to be a daily activity because that’s a requirement of the program. Once May came around, I’d begin to work with a teacher to iron out any mistakes I’m making, but also to push me to the next level and closer to fluency.  

After four or five months of consistent practice and learning, if you decide to take more formal lessons in a classroom setting, you’ll see that you’re no longer a beginner.  Now you’ll be able to continue with your language learning journey and at a much higher level than if you had joined a class at the very basic level. If you want to start learning a new language, you should start.  Don’t let an absence of schools or native speakers stop you from reaching your goal and pursuing your desire.  

On today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about friendship, the importance of it, and how to make it happen even when you’re away from home. In the second part of this episode, we’ll talk with a special guest who will tell us her experience with friendship while living in a new environment. Join us for episode 3 of the Words and Bridges podcast!

It’s Never too Late to Learn a Language

First, let’s start off by me saying that it’s never too late to learn a language. Again, I repeat, it’s never too late to learn a language. Why am I saying this? A few days ago I came across an article that debated whether or not foreign languages should continue to be taught in schools. In the comment section, one person wrote that teaching a foreign language is useless if it doesn’t begin at the primary level. Their idea was that after reaching a certain age, reaching fluency was next to impossible. This is a myth and has been disproven time and time again, both through research and the experience of individuals. 

Children learn better than adults 

Exposure

Some people have the idea that children learn languages better than adults do.  They reach this conclusion because they see how children who move to different countries are able to easily pick up a language, speak fluently, and usually without any trace of a foreign accent.  An adult who spends the same amount of time in the same country usually won’t have the same amount of success. The adult might speak in a broken style with a lot of mistakes, or they may have a strong accent that makes it difficult for a listener to understand what they’re saying.  Even if the adult goes to a language school or works with a language tutor, the results of the adult will be lower than that of the child. Does that mean that the adult has started learning at an age that’s too late? Not necessarily. At least, not biologically. The amount of exposure that a child usually receives often eclipses that of the adult.  Children will find themselves surrounded by other children who only speak a certain language. For hours on end, they’re hearing the language from their classmates and their teachers. When they watch TV, they’re hearing the new language from TV shows and movies (not to mention music that might be playing on local radio stations). The adult on the other hand may only use the new language to communicate what is absolutely necessary, and nothing further.  The adult’s language might be broken, but it can be understood, so no correction is given, and the adult doesn’t have a pressing incentive to further develop their language skills. The child might be exposed to the new language for many hours per day. If we take into account only the number of hours they’re in school, then they might have anywhere from 5-8 hours of explicit (direct) language instruction each day. The adult who manages to go to a language school might be exposed to around 4-6 hours of language per week in an educational institution (unless they enroll in an intensive language program).  

Fear

There’s also the fact that children tend to have less fears of making mistakes when speaking or using the language.  As they become older, the fear of being embarrassed or of failing increases which can decrease the chance of a young person taking risks.  On the other hand, adults language learners may not have much confidence. They might be more inhibited when it comes to using the language, especially outside of a classroom.  The more shielded they become, the less likely they are to use the language and the less likely they are to use the language, the less growth they’ll experience in the language that they’re learning.  Bearing these things in mind, can we really say that it’s too late to learn a language after a certain age, or can we say that learning a language in adulthood is absolutely possible? From my perspective, it is possible to learn a language well into adulthood and success in doing that is completely achievable.  It just requires giving yourself the best chance possible.  In short, it’s never too late to learn a language.   

Your methods and commitment 

Commitment 

First things first, if you’re going to learn a new language, you have to commit to the goal.  If you decide to quit after a week or a month of trying to learn, then you’re only failing yourself.  Commit to learning a language for at least 6 months. In addition to that, make a solid plan for yourself, specifically, how much time you’re going to dedicate to learning the language each day and each week.  Be committed and be consistent in learning your target language.  

Your Methods

Secondly, you have to use methods that are effective for you in language learning.  Many adults who decide to learn a language try to learn the same way they were taught or learned in school.  This includes using flashcards, conjugation charts, and just learning words out of context. It might work for some people, but using these methods as your foundation for language learning usually won’t be very fun and effective ways to reach a good level in the language of your choice.  Nowadays there are many options available to learn languages. These include apps, audio programs, online or in-person tutors, and more. You can also try to immerse yourself in the language you’re learning from the comfort of your own home.  In some future posts, I’ll give you different strategies that you can help you to learn a different language. However, the most important thing is to use methods that are effective and helpful to you.  Don’t just do something because you’ve seen other people doing it or because you learned that way while you were in school.     

Learn about learning

One thing that’s overlooked in learning languages is the idea of learning about learning.  How does the brain work? What are the best ways to store new information into our mind or to ready ourselves to receive something completely brand new?  There are plenty of works and research in the field of neuroscience and you should consider spending some time learning about this area of research. One book I’d recommend is Make it Stick by Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel.  You can (and should) also take some time to look into books and studies that discuss language learning and compare the different results to see how you can apply them to your own language learning journey. Learn how to learn so that your learning process is smooth and effective.  Learn and apply, learn again, and apply again.  

In ending

This post could definitely have been a lot longer because there’s so much information on this topic, but I wanted to keep it short and sweet and drive the point home that it’s never too late to learn a language.  Don’t listen to people who don’t know what they’re talking about and who probably never even tried to learn a language as an adult. If you have the desire and the will to learn a new language, then go ahead and learn the language(s) of your choice.  You’ll be happy with the worlds that will open up to you as a result.  

What languages are you learning?  What languages would you like to learn?  We’d love to hear about your experiences, so share them with us below in the comment section

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Have you ever dealt with or even heard of culture shock before? Today we’ll be discussing it and we’ll also have a special guest from the Philippines who will be sharing a traditional story with us from her country.

In our very first episode of the Words and Bridges podcast you’ll learn about us and what we’re about!

Culture Shock! 

This phrase is thrown around often enough and that has been the case for years on end.  Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation that a person may develop when they enter into a culture that isn’t similar to their own.  The further away from their own culture, the more severe the case of culture shock might be. In short, they are shocked by the things they see in the new culture that they’re encountering.  Culture shock is said to consist of 4 phases.  

The Honeymoon Period

During this phase, the traveler is enamored with the new culture that they have entered.  They are thrilled to try new food, traditional clothing attracts their attention, the sound of a different language is exotic, the people are different.  It’s a new experience for a person who’s traveling and they’re taking it all in. However, if they stay long enough, the traveler may find him or herself transitioning to the second phase of culture shock.  

Frustration

As the name says, the traveler now suffers from frustration.  The language that was so exotic becomes an annoyance. It’s difficult to communicate, and who knows, the locals might very well be making fun of the poor traveler.  The food is too spicy (or too bland, or too sweet). There aren’t any “regular” clothes. People don’t honor their commitments, others are too fastidious when it comes to time. Travelers lament “why can’t these people just be normal???”  There’s a lot of anger, irritation, and the traveler may wonder why they are still in the country. Given enough time, the traveler (if he or she is lucky) may move on to the next phase of culture shock.  

Adjustment

When the traveler adjusts, they become used to the way of life in the new country.  They might make friends, learn the language (even if only passingly), and start to have an active life.  It may become easier for them to find the things that they need (like “regular” clothes) and they may start to feel comfortable in the place they’re currently living in.  

Adaptation or acceptance

At this point, the traveler has absorbed the culture and might even be a part of the culture.  They rarely question why people do things the way they do or why things aren’t “normal” like they are at home.  In fact, for some travelers, this place that caused them so much grief, confusion, and shock might become their home while their original home becomes a little more foreign to them day after day.  Now, they’ve become fully immersed in the society and they can function in it nearly as well as a local (some even become more local than the locals).  

Is Culture Shock Necessary?

The idea of experiencing culture shock when traveling has been around for ages and it was a guaranteed part of the traveling experience in the past.  When communications between countries (and even villages) was limited, there weren’t many ways for a person to know what to expect when going abroad except by word of mouth and maybe through reading.  However, with globalization and mass communication that reaches every corner of the Earth in this day and age, is it really necessary for culture shock to occur? Is it possible for travelers (or even expats and immigrants) to prepare themselves for traveling beforehand so thoroughly that they don’t experience culture shock or that the experience is at the absolute minimum?  This is an idea to think about and one that we’ll revisit a little bit later.  

Is Culture Shock a Bad Thing?

Often when people talk about culture shock, there is the idea that it’s not necessarily a good thing.  Culture shock is to be expected, but it has to be overcome in order to truly enjoy one’s experience in a new land, so they imply.  Becoming disoriented, frustrated, and feeling lonely are definitely not good things, but culture shock doesn’t have to be that way and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing either.  If anything, a traveler can reorient his or her mindset and accept culture shock (if it happens) as just another part of the traveling experience. Just as they might expect to eat different foods, take different modes of transportation, and watch different kinds of television shows, the traveler can just as easily expect to deal with the highs and lows of being in a different culture and embrace the experience just as that; not as a good or a bad thing, but just as an experience.    

Preventing Culture Shock

If, on the other hand, we look at culture shock as a jarring experience for a person, is there a way to prevent it from happening altogether?  In the past, it may have been a next to impossible task. Nowadays, the situation is entirely different and I think culture shock can be completely eliminated, or at least mostly eliminated.  Unless a trip is unplanned and happens suddenly, any person who is traveling can easily acclimate themselves to a new cultural environment before even purchasing their plane tickets. Nowadays, we can watch an endless amount of videos on YouTube or other sites and see the people of a culture, their regular routines, their norms, and so forth.  We can meet people online and have language or cultural exchanges with them. We can read forums on traveler websites about what it’s like to go around in the country, how transportation is, what the negative sides of the society are, and more. For the majority of the places in the world, we can get a wealth of information about what to expect and how to prepare for it beforehand.  This is not to say that doing all of this work will totally erase the disorientation and stress that a foreigner might feel from being in a different society. However, once something is expected, the occurrence might not be as harsh as it would have been had it occurred unexpectedly. In short, the more preparations and precautions a person takes, the less likely they are to deal with culture shock.  This is especially the case with a person who has an adaptable nature and is able to go with the flow. Knowledge plus flexibility goes a long way.  

Final thoughts

Traveling can be a wonderful thing.  Culture shock does occur, but it doesn’t have to be a given.  Learn a bit of the language, know what to expect of the people, get some idea of what is considered normal, read “official” information from the big magazines and sites coupled with the experience of visitors from traveler sites and blogs and your shock is sure to be minimized (in most cases anyway).  

Have you ever dealt with culture shock before?  Was it an acute case or mild? Did you go through all four stages, or did you leave halfway through?  Let’s hear your stories in the comment section below!  

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