Ave and I both live in countries that are far different from our homes. She left Estonia for love, I left Bolivia… well, partly for love (an unsuccessful one at that!) but mostly for better career opportunities.
It’s very challenging to be a new immigrant in a country with unfamiliar traditions, lifestyle, people and worst of all: THE LANGUAGE. It’s so difficult to pick up a new language and manage to integrate or assimilate into the new country. It’s stressful, it’s confusing, and it’s frustrating. There is no easy way to go about it, unless you’re naturally gifted at learning languages (which I, unfortunately, am not).
Neither I nor Ave speak our new home language fluently, but we speak it well enough to get by. Heck, I’m even considering taking a plunge by studying in university in a year or two.
I’m by no means an expert in this, but based on my own personal experience these past few years, there are a few key tips that can make language learning more successful:
Get over the shyness
This is my Achilles heel. I am SUCH a perfectionist that I have a hard time accepting my thick accent and my many mistakes. I hate the fact that I sound foreign and that it takes me an extra second to remember a word or conjugate properly. A lot of the problems I have with speaking Hebrew are based on shyness.
I’m aware that if I stopped feeling this and just let go, my spoken Hebrew would be greatly improved. I’m so self-conscious that I don’t allow myself the chance to practice and that in turn depreciates my ability to speak well. This is the case with a lot of new language learners and it’s time we changed our mentality! (Silly, silly us)
They say practice makes perfect, and it’s quite true. If you’re unwilling to practice, you won’t improve!
Practice scenarios in your head
Makeup conversations in the new language in your head or out loud on your own. Since no one is listening to you, there’s no stress of making mistakes. It’s a great way to go over the words and conjugations you learned and repeat them till they well engraved in your mind.
Plus, it prepares you for real conversations that will happen.
Watch children’s television shows
This is seriously one of the best strategies I could have done being new here. Children’s shows feature characters that speak slowly, and they use basic words and imagery so you can connect the images to words just as babies and toddlers do. Repeat after them. From the shows, you can learn the colors, numbers, animals, feminine/masculine nouns, and lots of basic words and conjugations. I also used to read children’s books. (You know the type: This is Tom. Hi, Tom! See Tom run. Run, Tom, run!)
As you advance in your learning, increase the level of the shows as well. I’ve reached the point now of trying to understand the news… I can understand about 70% right now, but I started off with baby shows!
Learning a new language can be exhausting. Often we want to get to the point of speaking well as fast as possible can but unfortunately, that’s just not how our brain works when it comes to learning a new language. Patience, repetition, time and practice are all key to genuinely learning the language.
When all else fails, take a step back and breath
We all mess up, we all get confused and forget words. It happens. Take a moment, breath and remember: you are learning a new language. No one, not even you, expects perfect fluency. People will be supportive of your learning process, especially as you get stronger in the language. Just remember to take it easy!