Education,  Social distance

Overcome the obstacles while learning language

Learning language is one of the most useful thing to do due to the globalisation and people with many language knowledge is always needed. On a personal side you can learn not only a new language but also a new culture. However it doesn’t always go as easy as you might imagine. I’m also someone who speak 5 languages and you might think I’m a genius but in reality it wasn’t easy. I grew up with Vietnamese and Hungarian. I got to learn English since I was 10 and for some reason it was extremely easy for me to learn it. I understood the grammar right away and remembering words and sentence structure wasn’t a challenge either.

However, when I got into high school, I had to choose a second language and I got to learn French. To meet the expectation of my class, it wasn’t hard. But to upgrade it to the speaking and understanding level I should have made much more effort. The same with Korean language. At university I majored in Korean studies and my failure started when I was over-confident with my “language talent”. I thought by time my mind will absorb all the grammar structure and vocabulary without me making an effort… of course it didn’t happen. Therefore I had to learn how to learn language just like another people.

One thing I realized that having talent for a language doesn’t mean you can understand and remember right away. It only means you learn it easier. However, to acquire the fluency level, you always need to make an effort. A lot. Which means there will be obstacles and difficulties that you will have to overcome. It takes time and energy, but it will pay off if you don’t give up and persist.

Before all the solution to the difficulties, there is one thing you need to make it clear to yourself!

WHY do you want to learn this language?

Only when you know the WHY, you can progress and invest your time and energy into the new language. You need to set up a clear goal, how that language can be beneficial for you. What is the reason you want to learn it? Do you feel connected to it?

When you get the answer to the WHY, then no obstacle can stop you. The methods will only make it easier for you.

Don’t feel like to learn new words

I think we can agree that without words language cannot be learnt. However, it’s not easy to remember all the new words. I have a student who could never remember the new English words that he had to know. Once I asked him:

“Why don’t you learn the vocabularies? These are the basic ones!”
“No matter how much I learn, I will forget them anyway.”
– he replied.

I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to tell him. Then when I realized the same symptom while learning Korean, I had to find a way to make myself remember the new words. For me the best way was to watch videos in Korean with English subtitle.

All of us are different when it comes to learning. Some of us is visual type (remember things by seeing), other is auditive type (remember by hearing) and some is kinesics type (remember by practicing and experience)

I’m a visual and auditive type, therefore I need to see the words or the image in order to remember. If I hear the word being used in a correct context, then I can acquire and use it fast.

In my student case, he can remember the words when it appears many times in the game he plays, as well as when he watch Youtube videos. In his case the final step is to incorporate those words into his speaking, therefore I have to make sure he speaks a lot.

So if you have a hard time learning new words, you can try reading articles and watching films, videos in that language. It’s better to watch with subtitles, so you can see them as well. It makes it easier for you to have not only useful words, but also know how and in which context to use them.

Don’t feel like searching in dictionary

Searching new words to understand it in the dictionary consumes a lot of time and energy. Even if we have digital dictionaries, it doesn’t help us to fight laziness (in my opinion). I usually have this conversation with people:

“I don’t like watching films in English with English subtitle, because I don’t understand them.”
“That’s why you have dictionary!”
“Then shall I stop the video every second to search the new words? No way!”

That’s where they fail. I remember when I was young, my brother downloaded a 12-episode Japanese series with English subtitle. Of course I didn’t speak Japanese so I could only rely on the English subtitle. Since I liked the series and wanted to know what they were talking about, I watched it again and again. I did stop the video and search each words to understand the whole sentence’s meaning. It worked.

Searching in dictionary takes time. But it will pay off. When you decide to learn a new language, dictionary is your best friend. It’s also a good idea to make your own dictionary.

Open a MS Word or Excel and write all the new words that you have learned in there. Then classify it according to the topics (e.g: sport, classroom, house). In the topic, classify it according to the word-class (verb, adjective, noun…). That way it helps you to see the words logically and remember it better. If you are a visual type, you can also include a picture in there. I would recommend to collect the words electronically, because it’s easier to modify and to search in case you need.

This steps requires a strict consistency. Everytime you learn a new word, you write in there. However, hard work pays off. Make sure you read them at least once a day.

In order to practice it, you can download different flashcard apps (e.g. Quizlet, Ankidroid) and practice remembering the words on it.

Don’t feel like learning new grammar

No matter how boring, frustrating and complicated the grammar is, it’s necessary in order to make sentences that make sense. The basic grammar structure is a must.

For example when I learned English, the first thing I always needed to complete an exercise was an example. When I see an example, I check where the subject, predicate, object is. For the exercise, I keep the order of the word and only change the words in it. I found it easy to remember the sentence structure by having a sample sentence that I can always use.

When I learn a new grammar, in case of English a new tense, then I check which part is changed.

I always do my homework. – present tense.
I always did my homework. – past tense.

Only the verb changed but it’s in the same place. Did is the past form of do.

I don’t (do not) always do my homework.
I didn’t (did not) always do my homework.

Since did is the past form of do, then I only have to remember this part, and the order of the words. Next time I just use this scheme to form negative sentence in past tense.

I always try to find a logic in each grammar structure that can be connected to the basic one (e.g. present tense) and with that it’s much easier to organize and form the tenses correctly. As for the usage, it’s best to read and write a lot. Reading helps you knowing how to use it in different context. Writing makes you practice and acquire the usage of it.

If you write diary or do journaling, you can write them in the language that you are learning. I started journaling nowadays, and after writing everything automatically in English, I translate them to Korean, so I can practice the usage of the words and grammar structure.

Don’t feel like speaking in the target language

This is a part where most people shed blood. Some people are shy to talk to a native speaker or just shy to use the language because they are afraid of making mistakes.

But if you don’t make mistake, how can you be perfect in anything?

When I was at school I was perfect in English. I mean my grades were always high. When I had a chance to go to the US for work, I didn’t hesitate. I thought I would understand everything. Of course no. I couldn’t understand anything. Let it be speaking. However, I was in an environment filled with English, the only one way to make people understand me was that I had to use the language. After 1 month, I got used to the environment and started to understand what Americans said, and I could also express myself.

The same happened with Korean language. I don’t like my Korean master studies at all. But if I have to find a reason why I started it, then it was because life wanted me to learn the language properly. My Korean teachers only speak to us in Korean, and we could only answer them in Korean. At first it was painful, but after 1 year, I realized I could express myself. Even my listening skill improved and I can understand the Korean films better.

Whatever language you are studying, I encourage you to find a native speaker and arrange a speaking lesson, where you guys only speak in the target language. Instead of money, you can exchange language, that way you can save and learn.

Luckily, I could find a Korean student who was willing to talk to me in Korean once a week. What we did was only speaking in Korean in any topics that came up. Later I also offered him to speak in English, so he can practice it. Of course all without money. I have improved a lot in Korean.

The WHY

But above all these four methods, the most important part is that you know WHY you want to learn the language. If you know it, then you will be creative and find a solution to all your problems right away.

Remember, if you don’t give up, you will always end up as a winner!

What is your effective method to learn new languages? Share it in the comment! 🙂

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