Why are you doing it? If you’re doing it for work, you may ‘have to’, so you as well make the best of it and really go for it. And if you’re doing it for fun, because you want to, then jump in and enjoy the journey!
Take a chance
What’s the worst that can happen? Like many things in life, sometimes we just have to take a chance and see what happens. If we start a conversation with somebody and make mistakes, the other person will generally really appreciate the fact that you made an effort and the good thing is that next time, you know what not to say too.
We can learn from how children learn. Copying what we hear, what people say and what we read can be a highly effective way of using and improving our language skills.
You can meet people for language exchanges and this can apply to people who live in the country of their chosen language or not. With a few ground rules, it can be a fantastic way to listen to authentic language, get the chance to speak in an (almost) real situation and also get to know some new people.
Regardless of your level, you can always find books, newspapers and magazines to read. Everything is available online these days. There are graded books, magazines covering every topic imaginable and children’s books which can all help improve your linguistic confidence.
Conversations in cafes, shops and even on the street and all around you are excellent ways to make the most of your environment if you live in the foreign country. And if you don’t, you can still enjoy listening to a wide variety of topics being discussed in podcasts and radio programmes.
Make a little time every day
Like going to the gym or training for a marathon, you have to walk before you can run. Just 10 minutes every day focusing on reading, listening, speaking or writing can be far more useful than doing an hour ‘whenever you get round to it’. If this is important to you, make a little time for it every day.
This one is mainly for those of you who live in the foreign country where your language is spoken. Everything around you is an opportunity to improve your language skills. Everything. A trip to the bar, the doctor’s and the local shop are all opportunities for you to use and improve your language skills. A little preparation beforehand goes a long way. I’ve been living in Spain for 4 years and I still prepare some vocabulary/questions/expressions before most encounters as there is always something new that comes up.
As non-native speakers, you don’t have to sound ‘Spanish’, when you use the language, but you do need to use the correct pronunciation for people to understand you clearly. Fortunately, Spanish has very few ‘rules’ for this and once you know them, there aren’t any exceptions.
Like anything, learning a language is about how you approach it. If you constantly tell yourself negative things such as ‘It’s too difficult’, ‘I’m too old to learn new things’ or ‘I was terrible at languages at school’, then inevitably, you won’t make any progress. However, if you can look at it with a slightly more positive viewpoint such as ‘I’m getting better with every conversation I have’ or ‘I may be making mistakes, but I’m enjoying learning new things’, then you are far more likely to learn and enjoy learning and using your new language skills.