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3 Common Myths about Learning a Foreign Language

3 Common Myths about Learning a Foreign Language

Summer is almost over, Christmas is almost upon us and before you know it, we’ll be starting a brand new year! New Years: a time for celebrations, fresh ambition and New Year’s Resolutions. Did you know that one of the things more and more English-speakers are resolving to do is to learn a foreign language? And yet, so many potential polyglots (that’s someone who speaks a lot of languages) are holding back, scared to fail and preferring to make excuses.

I’ve taught languages for over a decade, and on three different continents, and here are some of the most common reasons that I’ve come across that stop people trying a new language on for size, and why they are all absolutely not true.

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I’m not good at languages!

Anybody who is able to say this sentence is flat-out lying. Why? Because anybody with the ability to communicate in their mother tongue is already a successful language learner. Within the first few years of your life, you managed an incredible feat- making sense of, replicating and mastering the sound and melody of what you heard from your caregivers and the world around you, with hardly any structure at all. You learned to say “I went,” and not “I goed,”; “he is” and not “he are”; to make your voice go up at the end of a question and down at the end of the statement. Nobody taught you these things.

You and your incredibly complex brain did it all by yourself. The trouble is that we usually try to learn (and teach) language as if it were any other subject- by presenting it as information to be remembered rather than a habit and skill to be acquired. So you are good at languages- you’ve already excelled at the language learning once before. And guess what: your brain is more than capable of repeating the process.

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I’m too old…

So, nobody is going to argue with the science of brain plasticity. Basically the brain is more malleable and ready to absorb new information when you are a child than when you are an adult. But the brain is a muscle, so-to-speak, and needs regular exercise in order to function at its best. So the more you use it for certain types of activities, the better it will perform. If you look at language learning as a test of memory- how many words or grammatical structures will you remember and be able to recite- then you will invariably “fail” at language learning.

But if you consider learning a language the same as any other skill-using it until it becomes second nature, you will find that age isn’t an obstacle. In fact, in my experience teaching adults of all ages, I have found that the biggest obstacle in older learners is letting go of the learning habits they formed at school (e.g. repeating, drilling, writing out long lists etc.) that can, at times, be counter-productive to language learning. If the older generation can work out Facebook, smart phones and automatic cars, there is no reason why an older brain can’t learn a new language.

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I don’t have time…

You may not have time to go to classes four times a week. You may not have time to translate pieces of writing back and forth. You may not even have the time to work your way through a language activity book. But here’s some good news: language learning is not as time consuming as you may think! I like to think of language as something to be absorbed, rather than studied. Language classes, and by that I mean good, quality, communicative, language classes, are a great investment of both your time and your money, but if they are beyond your reach for the time being, there is plenty you can do to simulate immersion into the foreign language (immersion really is the best way to learn a language- this is why children and people living in foreign countries pick up the local lingo so quickly).

Everybody can set their technology to the language they are learning- TV, phone, laptop and anything else that you regularly use. Anybody can listen to music, the radio and watch films in a foreign language- with subtitles in the target language if your level of understanding permits. Everybody has “in-between time” in which they can peruse magazines or read storybooks in the target language, or even practice writing foreign letters in a notebook or on their phone. There are plenty more ways to absorb language without taking up too much time in your day.

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Language is primarily a means of communication, so anybody who is able to communicate has the capacity to learn to do so in a foreign language. That being said, our brains are all wired in different ways so some people may be more adept at some aspects of language than others. For example some people have great pronunciation, but very poor grammar; some have wonderful fluency, but struggle with spelling. But with the right resources and, above all, the right attitude, anybody can become fluent in a foreign language!

Featured photo credit: www.brainscape.com via brainscape.com

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Last Updated on January 16, 2020

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

The way you feel about yourself greatly influences how you live and interact with others. If you are confident about yourself, you tend to see yourself positively and actually enjoy spending time with and around people. You don’t feel self-conscious or awkward around others, and that allows you to live your fullest and happiest life.

However, if you’re drowning in a sea of self-doubt, hesitancy and shyness, you often withdraw and isolate yourself from others and avoid interacting and connecting with people. That anxiety you feel in the pit of your stomach when you are around people is holding you back greatly and it is not good for your emotional health and overall well-being. You need to do something about it if you are low in self-confidence or have friends or family members who are not confident.

“Confidence isn’t walking into a room thinking you’re better than everyone, it’s walking in not having to compare yourself to anyone” – Anonymous

Here are simple, practical tips to boost your confidence right now and make you feel and act your best.

1. Stop labeling yourself as awkward, timid or shy.

When you label yourself as awkward, timid or shy, you sub-consciously tell your mind to act accordingly and psychologically feel inclined to live up to those expectations. Instead of labeling and entertaining negative self-talk, visualize and affirm yourself as confident and strong. Close your eyes for a minute and visualize yourself in different situation as you would like to be.

Be your own cheerleader. Experts believe that positive affirmation and good mental practices like picturing yourself winning or achieving a goal can lead to greater feelings of self-assurance and prepare your brain for success.[1] As the saying goes, “seeing is believing.” Picture yourself as confident and soon enough you will begin to manifest behavior that gives evidence to this new ‘fact.’

2. Recognize that the world is not focused on you (unless, of course, you are Kanye West).

That means you don’t have to be excessively sensitive about who you are or what you are doing (or not doing). You are not on the center stage; there is no need for preoccupation with self and perfectionism. As rap music star Rocko sings, “You just do you and I will do me, aight?”

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Forget about trying to please everyone or being perfect. Trying to be perfect and being a people-pleaser puts too much pressure on you and creates unnecessary anxiety. Besides, people are too preoccupied with their own issues to pay much attention to your every move unless, of course, you are a mega famous, super celebrity like Beyonce or Kanye West.

3. Focus on other people as opposed to yourself.

If you are low on confidence, self-conscious, nervous and shy in social situations, focus your attention on other people and what they are saying or doing instead of focusing on your own awkwardness.

For example, think about what it is that is interesting about the person who’s the centre of the party or the guy or girl you are talking with. Prompt them to talk more about themselves and be genuinely curious and interested in what they say. You will instantly come across as confident and warmhearted.

People generally want to talk about themselves, be heard and understood. They will love it when you’re eager and willing to listen to them and really hear what they have to say.

This habit of focusing more on what you love in others as opposed to what you dislike in yourself will not only help you become more assertive and comfortable in virtually all social situations, but also instantly make you feel great about yourself.

4. Know (and accept) yourself for who you are.

Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu, author of the internationally acclaimed book The Art of War, said, “Know yourself and you will win all battles.” Even in the battle with lack of confidence, you will need to know yourself to win.

Knowing yourself starts with understanding that people are not all the same, neither are all social situation suitable for everyone. You might not be confident in large gatherings, but you could be bold and confident in one-on-one and small group interactions. We all have our own unique gifts and unique ways of expressing ourselves. Embrace yours!

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Introverts, for example, have a quiet confidence that is, unfortunately, often confused for shyness. They are naturally low key and prefer to spend time alone. However, this natural disposition affords them certain unique gifts, such as an ability to listen better than most people and notice things that others don’t.

Your uniqueness is where your strength and advantage lies. You won’t be comfortable and confident in all situations all the time. Albert Einstein said,

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

5. Crack a smile.

If there is one sure way to instantly boost your confidence, it’s cracking a smile. Christine Clapp, a public speaking expert at The George Washington University, says that flashing those pretty, pearly white teeth will immediately make you appear both confident and composed. But, the effect of smiling is not just external. Studies show that smiling can also help nix feelings of stress and pave the way for a happier and more relaxed you.[2]

Not a bad return for something seemingly so trite, wouldn’t you agree?

6. Break a sweat—with exercise.

Working out is another great way to make yourself feel amazing and confident. Science has shown that exercising increases your endorphins, helps reduce stress, tones your muscles and makes you feel happy and confident.[3]

And hey, all you have to do is take a walk a few times a week and you’ll see the benefits. What seems to matter—as far as your confidence goes—is whether you break a sweat, not how strenuous your session is, which is pretty cool. Start working out now.

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7. Groom yourself.

This might seem mundane, but it’s amazing how much of a difference a shower and shave can have on your confidence and self-image. And when you spritz on a scent, the boost on confidence and self-esteem is incredible. As it turns out, your favorite fragrance does more than make you smell oh-so-nice.

A study found that a fragrance can inspire confidence in men. Interestingly, the study also found that the more a man likes the fragrance, the more confident he might feel. Another study found that 90% of women feel more confident while wearing a scent than those who go fragrance-free.

8. Dress nicely.

Another one that might seem trite, but it works. If you dress nicely, you’ll instantly feel good about yourself and give your confidence a real boost. That is largely because you’ll feel attractive, presentable and sometimes even successful in nice clothes.

While dressing nicely means something different for everyone, it does not necessarily mean wearing $500 designer outfits. It means wearing clothes that are clean, that you are comfortable in and that are nice-looking and presentable, including casual clothes.

9. Do activities you enjoy.

Whether it is reading a book, playing a musical instrument, riding your bicycle or going fishing, do what you really enjoy and what makes you truly happy often. It will boost your self-esteem, soothe your ego and allow you to identify with your gifts and talents. That will in turn bolster your self-belief and grow your confidence exponentially.

You might not become popular for doing what you love, but you might not even want to be popular at all. Being popular doesn’t make you happy; doing what you love does.

10. Prepare for the possibility of rejection / setback.

Late World No. 1 professional tennis player Arthur Ashe said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. A key to self-confidence is preparation.” You need to prepare for the possibility of rejection and setback.

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Why?

Everybody suffers rejection and setback at one point or another. You are not exempted. The question on your mind, therefore, should not be if you will be rejected, but how you will handle rejection when it comes.

Prepare yourself adequately in every situation to minimize the risk and effect of rejection and so that your confidence is not broken. For example, learn public speaking and rehearse what you are going to say beforehand if you have landed a public speaking engagement. That way, you are sure of yourself and confident you have what it takes to hack it. If you are rejected, don’t take it personally.

Rejection and setbacks happen to the best of us. Take it as a learning experience. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

11. Face uncomfortable situations square in the face.

Don’t run away from uncomfortable situations. Running away from people or situations because you feel scared, shy or timid only confirms and reinforces your shyness. Instead, face the situation that makes you uneasy square in the face. For example, go ahead and talk to that person you are afraid to approach, or go straight to the front of your yoga class! What’s the worst that can happen?

Prepare and be ready for any eventuality. The more you face your fears, the more you realize you are stronger than you thought and the more confident you get. This simple, yet admittedly courageous, act makes you unstoppable. You get comfortable being uncomfortable and begin to feel like you can take on the world. And that is the hallmark of someone destined for great things.

12. Sit up straight and walk tall—you are awesome!

Yes, sit up straight and believe you are awesome. Don’t slump in your chair or slouch your shoulders. Experts say the right stance can not only keep your self-esteem and mood lifted, but also lead to more confidence in your own thoughts.[4]

The way to sit is to open up your chest and keep your head level so that you look and feel poised and assured. And when you get up, stand tall and walk like you’re on a mission. People who sit up straight and walk tall are more attractive and instantly feel more confident. Try it now: you’ll feel fierce and confident just by sitting up straight and walking tall.

Featured photo credit: Freshh Connection via unsplash.com

Reference

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