The mistakes people make when trying to learn a second language

We all make mistakes when trying to learn a second language and to be honest we make them because of who we are and they way we approach things in our lives. The most common ones are:

1. Not listening enough
Just as babies learn language by hearing and parroting sounds, Those looking to learn a second language have to revert back as if they are a child an immerse themselves in the sounds of the language that they wish to learn. This will help you to recognise patterns in the language and separate out of what can be a babble of sounds, the individual words and phrases.
You need to learn to listen first and unless you live in a foreign country or take immersive language courses you will find this difficult. The answer is to in addition to studying the language, listen to the music, podcasts, find an internet radio station, watch videos and TV online, search on Youtube and just immerse yourself in the language and hopefully this will help you with item number two below.

2. Not interested
Attitude to learning a language can be crucial. We have all had to endure language classes in school because we HAVE TO. Unless you are in the army and about to be deployed to a country where your life may depend on learning a few basics, it doesn’t help. On the other hand, a student who is keen about the culture will be more successful and receptive in their language studies And more relaxed when interacting with native speakers.

3. Learning by rote
Studies have shown that students with a low tolerance for ambiguity tend to struggle with language learning. Learning a language involves a lot of uncertainty and until native-like fluency is achieved, there will always be ambiguity, contradiction and confusion.
If you are the type who needs to learn the rules as a formula instead of disassembling the word and guessing the meaning from its context, you may find you are not learning a language, but instead, a  formula. It doesn’t help and will just leave you frustrated and ready to quit.It’s a difficult mindset to alter but you will find that activities such as  finding the lyrics to a song or reading a poem might help. Both of these types of text can be ambiguous in their meaning and will really help you learn to understand he meaning of a word or a phrase rather than attempting the ability to repeat it parrot fashion. So immerse yourself in the culture and the music and books, read a newspaper online or listen to the radio. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up watching badly dubbed Columbian TV shows and wished they had left them in the original Spanish.

4. Using just one learning method
Some learners are most comfortable with the listen-and-repeat drills of a language lab or podcast. and s some need the comfort of a grammar book to help them to make sense of a new language. We all learn in different ways, some of us by rote, some by listening, some by seeing, some like me, by doing, Students who focus on how they learn best but include different skills in their studies do best, and they say ‘a change is as good as a rest’, it helps you form getting stuck in a learning rut. So when choosing a class, be honest with yourself and think about how you learn best and focus on that method but also seek a course that help you practice all four language skills (reading, listening, writing, and speaking).

5. Fear of failure
It doesn’t matter how well you can read or write in a foreign language, at some time you are going to have to speak to someone. This is the stage when students can clam up, and feel shy. It happens to us all, even more so when saving face has a strong social value. The key is to not be afraid or shy and learn from your mistakes. When I learned Swahili I studied a version in which ‘bibi’ meant young lady. In Dar es Salaam I got into big trouble  for using it when speaking to my sister-in-law. In her eyes I was calling her an old lady. She kindly helped me correct the errors of my ways and I didn’t do it again. The more we speak, the quicker we improve.

In Summary
In summary I would say that the root cause of these mistakes is our natural fear of making fools of ourselves and approaching the task as that, a task to be endured rather than an activity to be enjoyed. Through our fear we try to control what we learn, how we learn and the environment in which we learn. At the end of the day, if we don’t converse with others or get any pleasure or self-satisfaction out of the learning experience then…