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Problems in Learning a Language

Challenges seem to appear at every step when you are learning a new language. What is needed is a realistic approach. Here are some tips to help you out.
"Learning a language is too difficult and I just can't do it." This is the excuse most people give for not learning a new language or giving up once they have begun. People who have grown up with only one language often find it difficult to grasp the concept of what it takes to learn another language and feel that it is just plain to difficult to understand. Many people just do not expect the problems that arise while learning a language, and consequently give up.

Approach
One of the major obstacles is that they do not know how to learn a language. Many people approach it the same way they would learning anything else. Getting hold of a new language is unlike learning anything else. You basically have to turn your thinking upside down.

Visual learners usually have the hardest time learning a new language, especially if they are older when they begin to learn. This is because they have learned that they do not do well in a classroom setting, so they often avoid sitting down to learn anything. They need to get their hands into what they are doing to understand. The problem when they try to learn a language is that they literally need to "see" it. Often you will see these types of people glancing upward as though searching for the word somewhere. This is actually what they are doing. They are trying to visualize that word. These people need to spend some time in a classroom setting learning, even if it is for just a few weeks, so they need to see what they are saying.

Pronunciation
One of the biggest problems for any new learner is simply learning to pay attention to how a word is said - pronunciation. One of the biggest confusions nationals say they have is the other speaker's accent or just that they did not say the word correctly. You need to not only take the time to listen to exactly how a word is said when someone else is pronouncing it, but also take the time to listen to yourself as you say it. This means speaking slowly. You may feel about two years old and completely stupid, but it is better to be understood and speak slowly than to speak quickly and face the humiliation of someone telling you that they had absolutely no idea what you just said.

Word Order
Pay attention to word placements. Often a meaning of a phrase is changed simply by where you place the word. For example, what is the difference between the phrases, "Only I like pizza," and "I only like pizza"? If you are trying to say that you are the only one who likes pizza, both phrases can be used, but the first phrase is much more direct and less confusing.

Prepositions
Take a day to really study those pesky words called prepositions. They are a headache in any language, but completely necessary. Saying I am waiting "at" the store and I am waiting "in" the store can make a big difference to someone looking for you.

Reading bill boards and advertisements is a great way to learn basic phrases and expressions. They are usually kept simple and direct so that people can read them quickly in passing.

Visual Reinforcement
Visual reinforcement is absolutely necessary in learning a language. Often you think you hear something one way, and when you see it you realize, "Oh, so that's what they were saying! No wonder nobody understood me when I tried to say that."

Speak it!
Don't be afraid to speak up. Trust me; they already know you don't speak their language, so it will be no surprise to them. But most people really are patient and very appreciative with others taking the initiative. They often love to help you say it correctly or will give you an easier phrase to use next time. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and to laugh at yourself when you do. Allowing yourself to laugh releases the pressure of being afraid, and it communicates to others that you realize you didn't do it right and it probably sounded pretty funny. This opens the door to help others feel more relaxed too and reach out to help you.

Patience, Patience, Patience!
Most of all, be patient with yourself. It just takes time and practice. Be humble. Except correction and help from others around you - regardless of their age or experience. They might just know a better way, and it helps you learn that quality we listed above: learning to pay attention.
By Claudia Miclaus
Published: 4/30/2010
Bouquets and Brickbats
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