4 Mistakes to Avoid While Learning a Language

by Grace Dickins

Broadening your horizons by speaking another language boosts brain activity and enhances your cultural awareness. While on vacation or studying abroad, it's impossible to measure the satisfaction you feel when you're able to navigate through small talk with a local (however simple it may be).

To help you get there, here are four common mistakes to avoid when learning a new language:

1. Choosing the wrong learning method

Many people make the mistake of not considering their learning style when tackling a new language. If Rosetta Stone isn't your thing, don't fret. There are countless other ways to learn. Some simply use auditory methods (listening and repeating), while new smartphone apps like DuoLingo teach both visually and verbally through a video game. You score points and reach new levels once you've mastered certain sections. Try a few different learning programs, and feel free to move on if concepts aren't sticking after a week or two.

2. Getting stuck in a learning rut

Having a routine is great when it comes to mastering conversational French for a semester abroad, but variety is the spice of life. To change things up, watch some French subtitled TV episodes or movies. Netflix and Hulu both have extensive foreign language film options. If you're lacking inspiration, invite some friends over for a culturally themed party. Munch on baguettes and Brie while speaking only in French (for however long you can!).

3. Being scared to speak the language

Even if your rolled Spanish "r's" are far from perfect, give it a shot next time you come in contact with someone from Mexico. People love when others try speaking their native tongue, even if it comes off stilted or slightly incorrect. Whoever you speak to may even give you some language pointers. Remember: practice makes perfect, and with each conversation you have in your new language, you'll feel more comfortable speaking it.

4. Burying your head in a book

It's certainly impressive to be able to make out Japanese alphabetic characters, but at the end of the day, most language learners want to speak to people. At its heart, language is about communication between two people. Remember to exchange words with someone else. Luckily, the Internet allows you easy access to people all over the world. Watch native speakers on YouTube, or try to join language learning web chats. Going beyond the book helps a lot of people absorb a new language.

No matter the language you're learning or the method you're using, keep in mind that everyone is a beginner, and it takes most people years to become an expert at speaking another tongue. Don't get bogged down. Take it day by day, and remember that learning takes time. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and most of all have fun!