The Emotional Component of Language Learning

A. Fall in love with your target language. Embrace the new words. Connect them with important experiences in your life. Describe those key moments in the target language. I remember how I used to talk to myself about my school day on my way home, and believe me teenagers have a lot of emotional matters they need to work through. That was a great way for me to practice English.

B. Don't stress over always delivering the perfect sentence. We learn from mistakes. Embrace your mistakes. Look at them as a part of the journey you are on. Laugh them off. Perfectionism is toxic. It is per definition unattainable. Always keep in mind that most people are going to be impressed by your language skills.

C. Picture your future. How amazing will it be as soon as you have reached your goals. Imagine the positive emotions you will be feeling: pride, joy, and happiness. I have been learning mostly Russian and French, but also some Italian and Turkish. One of my greatest motivators is how I picture myself impressing my husband when we are on vacation in Paris, Moscow, Istanbul, or Rome. I imagine his face and the feelings of pride and joy I will experience when asking someone for directions in any one of these languages.

D. Always focus on the words you have already learned. Humans tend to focus on what they do not know yet. Don't do that. Always stay positive. You are improving. It is a process. Enjoy the ride.

E. Embrace the new vocabulary. Do not look at new words as abstract concepts instead simply label them as new words just like when you learn a new word in your native language. Attitude is everything here.

F. Speaking of attitude: Never tell yourself that you will not remember a word. As soon as that thought pops up in your mind, banish it to the most remote corner of your brain. Always think: This is easy. No problem.

G. Don't be afraid. Ever. You learn from mistakes. Don't be shy. Stage fright is real when it comes to languages learning. Think about it there is so much processing going on in your head at the same time: Am I pronouncing this correctly? Is this the correct grammar, sentence structure? What about the words I am using? Am I using the right words? Ignore those thoughts. They only create stress. Think about it this way most Americans do not speak a second language. They are already amazed that you are making an effort. You are like a superhero to them. Most importantly, you should be your own language superhero. English is a piece of cake for you. You can do this.

(photo source: here)

Marike Korn