I recently started taking Italian classes: Elementare Uno. So far I am thoroughly enjoying myself – I’d forgotten how wonderful it feels, after fumbling with words and tentatively mumbling a new verb conjugation, to be able to finally put a sentence together!
Being a language student has reinvigorated my understanding of the general student experience. It also reminds me of what us language teachers sometimes forget to talk about in class. So, here are my top four suggestions for students learning a new language. Thanks to my Italian school, Istituto Italiano Scuola, for reminding me!
1. Speak. Sorry, but you just have to. Eventually it just has to happen. This brings me to my next point….
2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I know everyone says this. But it’s easier said than done. The best thing to do? Put yourself in your conversation partner’s shoes. If someone was trying to practice your native language, you would probably be excited to support and help them. You wouldn’t mind if they made a few – or even a lot of – mistakes. You’d probably feel honored that they are looking to you for support and help.
3. Grammar is important. But it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. As a language teacher, I can be a stickler for grammar. But really, you don’t need exquisitely polished grammar to make friends, get around, and do what you need to do. The grammar will come in time.
4. “Keep your eye on the prize.” My dad has often shared this phrase with me, and I think of it all the time. Keep your language learning goals in mind. Why did you choose to learn a new language in the first place? To have amazing travel experiences? To meet interesting new people? To read articles and books? To eat delicious food? To communicate with someone you love and with their family? Keeping your goal in mind will help you through the rough patches.
So, that’s it from me! What are strategies that have helped you when learning a new language?
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