Why I Suck At Learning A Foreign Language
Start writing a post
Travel

Why I Suck At Learning A Foreign Language

And how I'm going to change that.

672
Why I Suck At Learning A Foreign Language
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

We have all heard about how important it is in the 21st century to be multilingual. In an ever-diversifying world, it is more important than ever before to be able to break the language barrier and connect with people who didn't grow up the same way you did.

Despite the unavoidable truth of this reality, I have found it incredibly difficult to pursue a second language. This is something a lot of people seem to have a problem with and I think it's time I stop pretending it's not possible for me to learn another language.

In the seventh grade, I started learning French as a mandatory foreign language. While a lot of my classmates were unenthusiastic about learning French, putting forth the minimal amount of effort required to pass, I had a good reason to want to learn. My grandfather is French-Canadian and when I was asked to choose between French and Spanish for my required foreign language, I felt an immediate connection to my ancestry through the prospect of learning French. Maybe that is a melodramatic way of putting it, but I wanted something to connect me to my family.

I threw myself into studying French. I studied my butt off on every chapter in the textbook (skipping ahead because I was impatient), I started listening to French music (Noir Desir & Alizee), I even wrote to a handful of penpals via an app I downloaded. But after three years, I hit a brick wall: I could not use French conversationally.

At the height of my French-speaking ability, I could at best read most of anything in French and what I couldn't translate I could work out through context. I could write passable French, but only over things that I had specifically studied. I could speak French, but only if I first thought about what I wanted to say in English and then translated before I spoke. I could understand French if spoken slowly and even then only if I already knew the specific context of the conversation (being asked for directions as opposed to discussing restaurant menu items).

My central problem was that I could not think in French. As a lifelong English speaker, my brain is hardwired to look at the moon and think "moon." I unconsciously identify the world around me with the words I have always used to describe things, which creates a mental bottleneck when learning a new language. I think fast, but there is a limit to how fast I can translate back and forth into English.

If you ask a bilingual person how they manage to speak multiple languages fluently, they'll say they don't usually translate back and forth when interacting in their second language. Rather, they have learned to think in that second language when they need to, some even using their second language more primarily than their original.

Additionally, people who learn a second language as children have an easier time than adults because adults have many years of conditioning to reprogram, always viewing the world through the lens of their native language. For me to learn a second language, I have to first overcome the lifelong reflex of labeling the things I experience with their English terms.

So then, we've clearly defined the problem that has prevented me so far from learning a second language. What am I going to do about it? Well up until now, I just quit. I quit French after three years and now I can barely remember the basics. I've tried to pick up German but once again I found myself giving up, this time being more difficult without anyone to teach me. Recently I once again decided to pick up German as a foreign language. This time, I'm going to do things differently.

First, I'm going to set aside daily time to practice German. I was told about a useful app called Duolingo and I will be using it daily to practice German. In addition to the exercises provided, I will be doing my best to speak it out loud so I can sound more fluent.

Second, I will be reaching out to a friend of mine who does speak fluent German and asking her to talk with me in German. Real personal conversation is one of the best ways to really understand another language and it will also help me with the little details she can explain to me that an app like Duolingo just couldn't provide.

If you don't know a fluent speaker of the language you wish to learn, it might be a good idea to look into a penpal-type app that will let you communicate with a native speaker. My advice, though, would be to avoid using a translator app like I used to. It ends up being a crutch to rely on and doesn't help you think in the second language if you're reading and typing in your original language anyway. Besides, translator apps often do not translate very well.

Third, I will make a point to go through my everyday life with this second language in mind, trying to retrain my brain to conceptualize the world around me not only in English but in German as well. It will be vital that I carry around a translator app for simple things like streetlight or tree, anything that I encounter that I don't know the word for in German.

Learning a foreign language is as important as it is difficult. If I am able to learn German, I will have opportunities in the workforce that I would not otherwise have access to. As the world continues to globalize, these skills will only become more important.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
The 100 Things Millennials have ruined: A Comprehensive List
http://www.factandmyth.com/the-middle-class/are-mi...

Millennials: the generation everyone loves to hate. The babies of 1980 to 1995 take a lot of heat. I mean, we inherited a crashed economy, earn stagnant wages, live with crippling student loan debt, and try to enact change in a rigged system but our affinity for avocado toast and use of technology has wrecked society as we know it! As a tail end millennial, I wanted to know what I was ruining and, like any other annoying millennial would, I did some research. I scoured the internet, read online newspapers and scrolled through every listicle I could find. So, in case you needed another reason to resent the millennial in your life, here are the 100 industries we've killed, things we've ruined or concepts we've destroyed.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Anxiety Doesn't Discriminate

This month, Odyssey brings about awareness & normality to conversations around mental health from our community.

3632
Anxiety Doesn't Discriminate

It's no secret that even in 2018 our country still struggles with discrimination of all kinds. Society labels individuals by the color of their skin, heritage, religion, sexuality, gender, size, and political beliefs. You are either privileged or you're not. However, here's the thing, anxiety doesn't care about your privilege. Anxiety doesn't discriminate.

Keep Reading... Show less
College Boy Charm is Real and it's Very Sexy
Disney

After surviving a year of college and watching "Clueless" countless times, I've come to the conclusion that college boy charm is very much a real thing and it's very very attractive. It's easiest explained through Paul Rudd's character, Josh, in "Clueless". The boy who has a grip on his life and is totally charming. In this article, I will list the qualities of a specimen with College Boy Charm, to help you identify him at your next party or other social events.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Tik Tok Stars: Worth the Hype? or Overrated?

As Tik-Tokers rise to fame, do their 'copy-cat' dances deserve the clout?

4786
Tik Tok Stars: Worth the Hype? or Overrated?
https://pixabay.com/photos/tiktok-social-media-app-tik-tok-5323007/

Oh, the wonders of social media. Trends come and go just as quick as a story on Instagram, everyone posting for their shot at fifteen minutes of fame, and the ever growing following of a new type of celebrity- social media influencers and content creators. Everyone who owns a smartphone probably has Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and now Tik-Tok, as it's growing to be a major social media platform for teenagers and young adults. Tik Tok became popular in the United States in late 2019 and since then has grown a considerable amount. Personally, I was one to make fun of Tik-Tok and say it was a dumb app like Musical.ly or Triller, and now months later, I spend more time on it than I do on Instagram.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Because self confidence is sexy

And as a woman, I want us all to love ourselves a little bit more today.

8020

Women have such high standards to live up to today. We’re expected to do and be so much. The great Tina Fey said “Every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes." This quote is not only hilarious, but also incredibly true! How many of you feel insecure every time you walk on campus, or every time you walk into a party? Even the girls you think are perfect are insecure. Everyone has flaws. Sure some flaws may be more exaggerated than others, but that doesn’t mean that the girl still feels bad about them. My point here is that it doesn’t matter how “perfect” you are, what matters most is how “perfect” you feel.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments