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5 “difficulties” of learning a foreign language & how to overcome them

By Q Language Sponsored | 16 September 2020

Header image courtesy of Bongkarn Thanyakij (Pexels)

By now, we’ve all heard about the many benefits of learning a foreign language countless times. Some of us could also have personal reasons for wanting to learn a new language, whether it’s for career, travel, cultural interest, or a myriad of other reasons. Yet often, interest alone just never seems to get off the ground and materialise into action. A frequent complaint is that learning a foreign language is just so hard!

Is it really, though? Allow us to examine exactly why we feel that way, debunking the common gripes, and proposing solutions for the hidden fears underneath the surface. You’ll soon be well on your way to learning that language you’ve always wanted to master!

1

“I’m too old to start.”

You’re probably tired and battered from constantly being hit with the narrative that it’s best to learn a new language when you’re young, because of the wiring of the brain and enhanced abilities that magically come with youth, et cetera... So let’s pause that thought.

Have you considered that as an adult, you’d be more self-motivated, self-disciplined, and focused than when you were a disinterested kid who’d rather be playing outside? Adults are also more logical, and will likely have an easier time with grammatical rules and sentence structures. You also have more life experience to draw from, making all sorts of connections to what you’re learning—this handy application reinforces your memory like no other.

Ultimately, “I’m too old” is a self-fulfilling prophecy that prevents some people from even thinking of getting started with a language project. Even if you’re still not 100 percent convinced that age isn’t a factor, why not tweak your thinking to “I’m still young enough” instead? If you never start, you’re never going to find out.

2

“It’s too different from my native tongue.”

If English is your native language, French and Spanish will be a breeze, though learning the likes of Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic would seem extra daunting because the these language pairs are so inherently different. We agree that disparate languages would take more effort to learn, but rather than growing frustrated at difficulties in comprehending or translating meanings into your native language, embrace these fundamental differences instead.

For example, some languages are written left to right, or even vertically. Look into the other language’s historical, cultural, and linguistic roots to understand why they are a certain way. It’s only understandable that we’re used to viewing the world through the lens of our own language.

Embracing linguistic differences will not only help us overcome mental blocks to comprehension and appreciation, but also make us more open-minded, tolerant, and insightful about the colourful world around us.

3

“I don’t have the time.”

Fair enough—we all juggle several aspects of our daily lives, and a packed schedule is a valid concern that plagues people in modern society. This is when we need to reaffirm our reasons for learning a language and articulate to ourselves just why it’s so important to us. Again, this is something that only adults are capable of doing well. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you’ll automatically manage to make time for projects such as language learning without anyone telling you to do so.

Besides, don’t pressure yourself into feeling like you have to spend hours at a time studying. It’s far better to spend short ten-minute sessions every day than to do five hours on a single weekend, because consistency will build up your memory muscles.

To flex those muscles, you could also try thinking or speaking to yourself in the language you’re studying anytime during the day, or listen to something in the language during your regular commute. Consistency in exposure is the key!

4

“I’m too embarrassed to speak it.”

Speaking a language is essential to learning it, though we’re often too embarrassed to do so because we lack fluency, or perhaps because we may have an accent. But it’s important to realise that you are your own worst critic—native speakers are often delighted that others are learning their language, and will be more than happy to assist you with practising it!

And really, what’s the worst that can happen? You might mess up some syntax or pronunciation, but will also learn from the process. Of course you’re not going to be perfect at the language; that’s why you’re learning! Don’t forget that you’re already an expert at your native tongue, too.

Still, we understand it can be hard to stop feeling self-conscious, regardless of evidence that suggests otherwise. This is why many people prefer to take group language classes so they can practice speaking with peers on the same level of their journey, or one-on-one with a teacher without fear of judgement.

5

“I have problems staying committed.”

It can take years to master a language, a timeline that can be intimidating, especially to those who shudder at the idea of commitment. That’s when you have to be firm about your motivation for starting the language in the first place, and be clear on why you want to learn this skill.

If you aren’t sure about your original intentions anymore, find new ones—there are plenty of reasons to be learning a new language! Don’t burn yourself out by studying too much in one go, but instead build up language learning to become a daily habit, a little at a time.

It also helps if you shell out some money for a language class. It’s the same theory as when you sign up for a fitness package at the gym, and are motivated to go because you’ve already forked out the money and don’t want it to go to waste. Joining a class will not only help you stay committed to learning so as not to waste the money, but you’ll also have peers and a teacher to encourage you and hold you accountable in your journey.

At Q Language, you’d find exactly that sort of supportive environment to help you with learning languages such English, Mandarin, Cantonese, or Korean. Whether you’ve just decided to start a new language, or are already well on your way to speaking it fluently, Q Language offers tailored classes to suit each student’s personal goals.

Courses include intensive boot camps, business and corporate speak-focused classes, small group classes, and one-on-one tutoring in a relaxed learning environment. For university students looking for some extra help with English, they also provide school enhancement courses, that covers exam preparation, debating, presentation skills, and much more.

Study alongside peers from multinational backgrounds, taught by native-speaking professionals with internationally recognised academic training qualifications and worldwide working experience, and see yourself well on your way to fluency in your chosen language. Enrol yourself in a class at Q Language before you let excuses of “I don’t have time” or “I can’t commit” catch up to you!

Q Language

Q Language is the premier place for both local and overseas adults to study language in Hong Kong, with a range of English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Korean courses taught by a team of native-speaking language professionals. Q Language also provides unrivalled student services to assist in all things related to living in Hong Kong.

14/F, Wing On Cheong Building,
5 Wing Lok Street, Central

(+852) 2540 0552

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