Learning a new language requires a fair amount of putting yourself out there, and yes, sometimes even making a fool of yourself. Which is why it can be all too tempting to opt for language courses and apps where embarrassing yourself is not an option. After all, if you don’t have to interact with anyone in your chosen language, then you’ll never risk putting your foot in your mouth, right? But if you really want to succeed at learning your chosen language, then you have to step out of your comfort zone. Picking up a new tongue definitely should not be a solitary endeavour, and here’s why:
No one is actually bad at languages
Something that may be holding you back from the interactive experience of learning a new language is the idea that you’re simply not good at them. Maybe you have bad memories from failing Spanish in school, or struggle to remember what you had for lunch and can’t imagine recalling a vocabulary list. Whatever your reason for thinking you just don’t have the natural talent required to learn another language, I’m here to give you some really great news: no one is actually bad at languages. Learning a new tongue can come as naturally to you as it does to a child, as long as you take the time to figure out what sort of learning style is best for you. Traditional classes don’t always work for everyone, and if that’s not your cup of tea how about giving one-on-one classes a try to begin with? With one-on-one classes you have more say in how you learn and still get to interact with a native speaker, which is great for your language skills!
Languages aren’t static
Another reason why you shouldn’t embark on a solitary language learning journey is that languages are constantly changing. And I mean constantly. I’m a native English speaker and sometimes even I struggle to keep up with the new slang and phrases that seem to pop up every other week! If you choose to learn a language in isolation, you will mostly likely end up learning an outdated version of the language, and will be at a loss when you actually try to use it. Or, even worse, you won’t understand why certain words have developed whole new meanings because you won’t have been exposed to the ever-changing nature of your target tongue!
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You can’t correct yourself
Yes, to some extent you can learn a language on your own, but when you choose to not interact with other learners and native speakers, you risk developing bad habits you won’t even realize you have. There’s a limit to how much you can correct your own mistakes. Pronunciation and organic conversation are two huge areas of language learning that can be severely affected by solitary study. One thing I’ve learned during my years of studying multiple languages is that just because you think you’re saying something right, it doesn’t actually mean that you are. Sure, my Mandarin sounds great when I’m in my living-room talking aloud to myself. Not so much when I actually have to communicate with someone and realize that my tones are all wonky and no one can understand what I’m saying. This is where a good tutor or language exchange partner can really benefit you and keep your learning on track!
There’s no confidence in solitary
Here’s the thing, let’s say you successfully manage to teach yourself French using online courses and never having to try your skills out on anyone. Will you actually be able to use your French out in the real world? The answer is, probably not. Speaking a foreign language to another person can be incredibly intimidating, and it’s always better to start out in a safe space where mistakes are the norm. This is why signing up for classes where you have to talk to native-speakers and other learners is so important. In a way, because you are constantly making mistakes, over time you sort of become immune to the embarrassment that should come with it. Through constant interaction you build up your confidence over time so that when you have to use the language with someone outside your usual safe space you’ll feel a lot less daunted!
Have you ever tried to learn a language in isolation? Share with us what did and didn’t work about the experience.