Learning a Foreign Language: In Between Frustration and Satisfaction

I won’t lie to you: learning a foreign language can be harsh and frustrating. However, you might want to resist the storm since the satisfaction you’ll be getting throughout the journey will be greater. Learning a foreign language requires perseverance and determination. It’s still not very likely to learn a language overnight. This process inherently takes time.

Moreover, before setting off for it you should bear in mind that this will be never-ending. In every discipline, there’s always something new to learn, and when it comes to languages, this is true as well.

All of this shouldn’t be surprising, considering that it is quite unimaginable to come to know every single word existing even in one’s native language. This is because language refers to concepts, and it serves the purpose to render them available and understandable to the human mind: having knowledge of each and every one of them sounds quite not achievable.

Nevertheless, once it’s been stated the infinite character of the learning process of foreign languages, it’s up to you whether to embark on it.

If your answer is still a ‘Yes’, well, let’s get down to business.

Learning a foreign language: a pendulum constantly swinging between frustration and satisfaction

Language Learning Methods:

The language learning process can be carried forward through very different methods. No technique can be said to be more appropriate than the others: their suitability varies according to the person involved. The modes to assimilate new information are hence unique and personal.  

However, it’s still possible to list some of the most widespread methods and tools to learn foreign languages.

(The below listed items are ranked on a random basis, not on importance.)

1. Traditional teaching method

      This is usually the most theoretical one, and it relies upon grammar and rules but hardly on real-life practice. It considers language as another academic subject to be studied but disregards its special status related to its communicative function. Often, using only this method can be lacking the necessary experience to become proficient (C2 level) in the language. 

2. Associative learning

It is proven that people tend to learn faster when information is grounded in context, which can be physical, spatial, emotional, and so on.

Thus, you might want to create contextual associations while learning new words in your target language (L2).

For instance, were you to employ flashcards at this stage, you could write down the foreign word you’re trying to memorize on one side of the card, and depict or put in writing the association you’ve made up on the other side. This trick may help you ease the process of remembering through evocation. 

3. Immersion method

This one mostly relies on mimicking: the idea behind it is that learners should immerse themselves straight away in real-life contexts where the L2 is naturally employed, thus having real conversations with native speakers, and the possibility to mimic the sounds and flow of the new language, without worrying about grasping the meaning of each word.

Only after having gathered some practical experience, could it be necessary to resort to more traditional methods to secure the knowledge acquired.  

4. Mnemonic method

Mnemonics could really ease up your learning process, through association and evocation. 

Indeed, if you’re struggling with remembering some words, you could affiliate to them some funny, memorable stories or facts that should catalyse your assimilation. 

For instance, memes may be helping you in constructing this association process: they are usually grounded in a specific context and they tend to display sentences or words broken down into smaller units, while making associations with something which is known to the target public. 

Hence, you could actually learn new words just by scrolling through your Instagram!

5. Combined method

How about combining all these methods all together? If one method can be helpful, imagine how much they might be useful if employed together. 

Indeed, as a language learner myself, I believe that the combination of all of these methods could produce much better results. 

Depending on the stage of the learning process, one may be more suitable than another. 

Thus, understanding your language learning needs is the most pivotal thing in the process: according to them, you should choose the method which is more likely to meet your necessities. 

For instance, personally, I prefer firstly to dive into grammatics and rules, and only after this deal  with real-life L2 contexts.

In addition to this, you should get familiar with the wide range of tools available that can facilitate your learning process. Apart from traditional books and paper dictionaries, technology is the real deal here. 

Nowadays, there are more learning language tools than ever before. Indeed, since globalisation and the birth of the Internet, it is possible to have access to very different kinds of resources, in different languages, from everywhere. 

Online an infinite quantity of texts, podcasts, movies, tv-series, and music can be found in every language of the world. Indeed, they should make the learning process less boring and more engaging. 

Moreover, technology allows to interact with native speakers without travelling and spending money: social networks such as Whatsapp or Telegram and software such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft teams, among the others, can allow you to message, make calls and video calls from anywhere to everywhere and thus to communicate with people living on the other side of the world as if they were in the same place as you. 

Hence, you just need to be willing to learn. 

Last but not least, with regards to the websites and apps available for learning languages, in the last few years a lot of them have been born with the aim to ease the language learning process. For instance, VocApp, Duolingo, and Memrise are just a few of those available online. They all favour different techniques, so you should check in advance which methods they are up to and download the most suitable app for you.

Nothing comes easy, but if you have the will to start this learning process, you will achieve everything you want. 

I hope this blog post helped you get to know your possibilities and strengthened your interest in learning foreign languages.

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