What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem people face when trying to learn a new language?
I think for most people the biggest problem is that they have never done it before. Most first-time language learners cannot envision themselves as capable of fluently speaking another language. As you learn your first new language, your confidence increases. You realize you can do it. You know how to do it. Your previous success makes you like doing it. Success breeds success, as they say.
So, how can a first-time language learner overcome this obstacle?
I think there are a number of things that as a first-time language learner, you need to do. The first thing is to realize that learning another language is a natural process. If you spend enough time with the language listening, reading, speaking, and even writing, you will learn the language. It is important to believe that.
The next thing is to accept the idea that most of what you learn you will forget. You will constantly have to relearn things. Somehow in school we are conditioned to believe that if we study something, for a test for example, we will retain it. But language learning is not about retaining what we learn. It is more a matter of exposing ourselves to the language. So the important thing is to stay with the process and not become frustrated.
Do you have any other advice for people who struggle with their language learning?
Yes. Make sure you do things which you enjoy. Much traditional language instruction is built around grammar explanations and grammar exercises. People who enjoy doing these exercises should do them. I don’t enjoy doing grammar exercises and therefore I don’t do them. I do the things that I enjoy. Mostly I listen and read. When I have enough vocabulary I start speaking. I try to make the process meaningful at all times. In this way language learning is an enjoyable activity and I put in the time necessary to succeed.