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  • Foto del escritorMonica Jones

The recipe to learn another language

Actualizado: 8 ago 2022

Last week I posted about my experience learning Spanish in Mexico using GET phrasal verbs. Here’s a video of me telling my story. Check it out here!

Now, let’s talk about the recipe to learn another language. There are four Ingredients: don’t be afraid to make mistakes (no tener miedo de cometer errores), have a sense of humor (tener un sentido de humor), be consistent (ser consistente) and be okay with the unknown (estar bien con el desconocido) (see video here

Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of each one of these ingredients!

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes you’re not learning. Learning another language takes courage. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and possibly risk looking foolish. It’s normal to feel embarrassed when making a mistake, especially as adults. I made a lot of mistakes when I started learning Spanish and I still continue to make mistakes today. This is part of the language learning process.

Would it help if I tell you an embarrassing story of how I made a mistake in Spanish when I first moved to Mexico? Okay, here you go!

I was eating lunch with my friend, Diego, from Mexico, and I wanted to ask him if he was hungry. Rather than asking him if he was hungry (¿Tienes hambre?) I asked him if he was a man (¿Eres hombre?). I remember the look on his face when I asked him this. His eyes got big and he looked at me with confusion. Diego’s sister, whose English was quite good, started laughing hysterically and told him what I meant to say was, “¿Tienes hambre?” not “¿Eres hombre?” Was I mortified when I realized the mistake I had made? Yes! Did I stop learning Spanish and making mistakes after that? No! I also never forgot how to ask someone if they were hungry in Spanish after that very embarrassing but helpful learning moment. Although, my friends and I did have a good laugh that day. Speaking of laughter, that leads me into the next ingredient of learning another language, humor!

Have a sense of humor. Who doesn’t love to laugh? Having a relaxed and enjoyable English learning experience facilitates a more positive environment for learning. When students’ anxiety and stress are low their motivation levels increase in order to create a more favorable and pleasant learning environment. Watch my video with some funny video suggestions.

Now we need to add our third ingredient to our recipe, consistency!

Be consistent. After six years of teaching, I’ve noticed that the students that have been the most successful in learning English are the ones who create a daily habit of exposing themselves to English on a regular basis (at a minimum a few times a week, but ideally, daily). Imagine that you want to run a marathon. In order to do this, you need to train. You wouldn’t be able to run a marathon on the first try. It’s the same for learning a new language. Your brain is a muscle that needs daily training to learn another language.

I know what you’re probably thinking. But I don’t have time! You don’t need to make more time; you just need to think of a daily habit you have and add exposure to English to that habit. For example, if you take the metro every day to work then watch an English video or listen to a podcast in English during your commute. If you read the news every day then read one short article in English. If you love to cook then look for new recipes in English. If you listen to music in Spanish every day then start listening to music in English. If you watch Instagram and TikTok videos, watch them in English. So, you don’t need more time, you just have to replace a daily habit you do in Spanish with a daily habit in English. You may not understand a lot of English at first but after a few weeks you’ll start to notice a different.

That leads us to our final ingredient. What if you don’t understand everything when you’re watching a video or reading an article in English? Or if you can’t speak English perfectly at first? The unknown is part of the language learning process.

Be comfortable with the unknown. The unknown is scary for most of us. We’re creatures of habit. Most of us like to stay in our comfort zone and it takes a significant effort to step out of this familiar environment. You’re not alone. Feeling anxious about learning another language is a common issue. You’re not going to understand every word you hear in English at first. If you focus on the general message in context, rather than every single word, you’ll slowly start to understand more and more. It’s not realistic to expect to understand and speak English flawlessly at first. The more experience you have learning English the more comfortable you’ll become with not knowing every single word and the easier it’ll be to learn and improve your English. You’ll speak “broken” English in the beginning, which will be frustrating at times but by practicing you’ll get better.

Now what?! If you haven’t already started, create a daily habit of exposing yourself to English. If possible, at least 15 to 20 minutes a day. After a few weeks you’ll start to notice that you’re improving, slowly but surely!

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