The way any language is supposed to be learned
Most students in China study English for more than 10 years in school, yet few of them can actually use the language to communicate fluently after graduation.
I wasn’t a good English learner back in school either. All of the grammars, words, expressions and transformations are just too much for a total foreigner to remember. Like most of my classmates I suffered learning English for a long time. But now I’m writhing a blog, in English, about language learning. So what happened?
Just to clarify, unlike those people who grow up abroad or have the chance to study or live abroad for a couple of years, up to this point, I have never even traveled abroad, not to mention living or studying there. Yes, if you have the opportunity, living in a place where your target language is spoken by everyone is certainly the best, fastest way to learn, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m here to share my experience of learning a foreign language without going abroad, without being suffered from all the grammar stuff and without even spending a penny.
Be clear about your motive
Maybe you are just getting started, or maybe you have already get some of the basics. Whatever stage you are, you need to make sure you have the answer to this question as early as possible: Why am I doing this?
Now take a minute and ask yourself this: Why do you want to learn Chinese or any language that you are about to learn?
Don’t worry if you cannot come up with an immediate answer. Actually, that could be the best case scenario because if you want to learning something but you cannot tell why, it means you might be driven by your passion, which looking back from now, was my motive in the first place.
Technically, I never actually “learned” English. Back in the days I was so into the US TV series Prison Break. The story was intense, the guys are cool, and the way they talk, man, I wished I could talk like that! And then I started to imitate the way they talk when nobody is around. how they negotiate, how they make plans, how they threaten people even, all because I thought it was cool. I may be making tons of mistakes in gramma or something but I didn’t care, I just imitate and I could feel so much satisfaction when I complete a whole sentence fluently.
I kept doing that until talking to myself in English became a habit. I still make mistakes, of course, but that doesn’t matter because I simply enjoy doing this.
In the college entrance exam, my English score was 140 out of 150, highest in the entire grade. But don’t even try asking me anything about the gramma because I assure you I know nothing more than a regular junior high student.
What I’m trying to say here is, Learning a language is a long way to go, so make sure you have a motive that is clear and strong enough to support you in the entire journey. Passion is the best one, you can also do it because you admire the culture, or you want to look smart (people who master more than 2 languages are easily considered smarter than others), or you want better job opportunities, or even simply because you want to impress a girl. Anything is okay, just make sure you have one, and make sure you feel excited imagining you have already mastered the language.
Go for something is actually useful
Most of the language learners start from the very basics. You learn the characters, some of the basic words, the one-to-ten, then move on to very basic daily conversations, and you learn more characters and more words, yada yada. This is a scientific learning method, but it’s also making people easy to give up.
You know why? Because it’s boring, not fun, at all.
Language is a magical thing. It carries not only messages, but also a mood, a state of mind, a style, a culture, a character that has been passed along for hundreds or thousands of years by the people. Of course you will lose interest if you repeat and try to remember something like “How do you do” or “ate is the past tense of eat” for months. Because you don’t reach even one bit of the fun part. And the worst of it? You may never use some of the terms in real life.
So my advice is, don’t limit yourself. Learn some basic words and jump directly into something interesting and useful. Try your best to listen, repeat or imitate, and always learn something that you are excited about. Movie lines, slangs, hell even swear words, anything. Along the way you will encounter something confusing. Look it up, google it, and you will make progress before you even know it.
Fake it till you make it
Once you have learned a couple of simple words you can start pretending to be a pro. Use all of the stuff you have just learned to talk to yourself or your friends as much as possible, even if you know you are using them wrong. Whatever you know, just pretend that you know more.
How does this help you ask? Well, first it boosts your confidence. Speaking something in a whole new language is really satisfying, and you’d want to feel it as soon and as much as possible. Like all of the satisfying stuff in the world, once you’ve tasted it, you’d crave for more. Second, when you are pretending something that you are not, you will make mistake. I said it’s okay to make mistakes because the more often you make the mistake, the more you’d want to know what the correct way is. Up to a certain point, what happens happens naturally.
Starting is the easiest
People say the first step is always the hardest. Well, in my opinion, When it comes to language learning, The first steps are always the easiest. It could feel a little hard when making the decision to actually learn it and learning the first couple of words and phases, but that process won’t take very long. Once you get over it, it get’s easier. You can always feel the satisfaction of learning new words or terms or expressions, and that satisfaction drives you to learn more.
I guarantee you, the easy and fun part will last at least until you are able to show off in front of your friends, make daily conversations and read most of the tweets in the language. Moving on from there you might start to feel that you are making progress way slower than before. That’s a good sign, because it means you are officially in the business.