If there is anything a teacher wishes for their students and undoubtedly students for themselves, it is the positive attitude towards the language and language learning. Over the course of years teaching English to adults, I’ve come across certain unfavorable aspects on learning a foreign language that time and again make people feel uneasy about learning or using the language. Based on the experience people had in the past learning the language, they tend to point out “learning great amounts of words by heart”, “grammar being copied from the board and drilled without proper understanding”, “not being able to speak because of lack of knowledge and comprehension of grammar” and “not being familiar with vocabulary needed for a situation”.

As a result, people sometimes feel uneasy to hold a conversation in the foreign language or are simply afraid to do so and some don’t think they could ever make significant progress in language learning.

Although the latter most likely results in several possible reasons (lack of focus on student’s reasons for learning the language and on their language needs, teaching methods and strategies used in the classroom or lack of those thereof, poor time management, etc.), the core of the situation begins elsewhere. What I’ve learned by learning and teaching English is that before diving into language learning, we need to create a clear vision of the language. It is the definition of a language in general that paves the way of language learning and, ultimately, its success. It starts with our awareness of what language represents, it starts with our why.

Let me explain and elaborate on it by answering to three questions – the following hopefully help you rethink the view on the foreign language and take further action.

To do so, you need to answer the questions yourself and be frank while answering them:

1. What is the purpose of (any) language?

Why do we use a language? To communicate. It’s about having the ability to successfully communicate with others in a variety of situations with confidence. Isn’t that what we feel when speaking in our mother language?

So why think differently when it comes to a foreign language?

Yes, it’s because »I don’t know what to say or how to say it in [insert your foreign language].« The better way to address the situation is »Isn’t that just natural?« Aren’t you ever lost for words in your native language? Don’t you make grammatical mistakes? Explain the word descriptively, ask for help, use your phone to look the word up, do whatever you would do if it was your native language.

Language is a communicative skill, it means successful interaction with other people without beating yourself up.

2. How consistent have you been in speaking the foreign language?

The number one question I get when talking about language learning is “How do I become fluent in speaking? What do I do?”

What people normally do is buy more books on learning the language or download free written language resources. It never hurts to sharpen your reading skills and expand your vocabulary, but does it aid improve your fluency?

Fluency is the ability to speak easily and reasonably quickly without having to pause too many times. The answer, therefore, lies in the definition – speaking; and once again, why do we use the language?

Keep speaking, keep making mistakes and keep learning by doing so, and by actively listening to your co-speaker. Listening and speaking represent 70% of the language skill, yet the focus in many language courses remains grammar and reading. The key is to continue with your work, it doesn’t stop at completing the course: keep listening to songs, podcasts, watching the news, speaking to your friends abroad. The only sure way of stagnating in the level of your language is to cease the process.

3. What have I done up until this point to improve the situation?

Maybe you are already aware of all the written above, but what you need to improve is your action. Make sure to define your why and the needs you would like to meet in foreign language learning.

Think, set goals and act accordingly.

For information on business English communicative language courses, please contact me on info@linguarum.si.

Happy speaking!