Learning a new language can be an emotional experience. I know, because I have been learning Vietnamese for three years, and I still get frustrated when I have problems. I think:
Why can’t I say this better? Why do I make so many mistakes?
When I have problems communicating, I sometimes feel like I’m stupid. Do you ever feel this way too?
It’s easy to get excited when you start learning a new language. Everything is new! You’re constantly learning new words and expressions, and when you say a simple sentence, it makes you so happy!
But after awhile, this begins to change. You think: In my language, I’m so smart! Why don’t I sound like this in English? You’re no longer happy saying simple things. You want to express your personality – and you get frustrated that you’re unable to do it.
Here’s the thing to remember: these feelings are normal. Everybody feels this way sometimes – but you don’t need to feel that way all the time! Here are some things you can do to build your confidence while you continue learning English.
When we talk, we want people to understand what we are saying. So pronunciation is VERY important.
Listen to this conversation between a Vietnamese person and an American:
What happened? The American could not understand the Vietnamese speaker because her pronunciation was unclear.
In my experience, both as a language learner and a language teacher, there are a LOT of pronunciation differences between English and Vietnamese. But some problems are more serious than others. A pronunciation problem becomes serious when it interferes with communication.
There are TWO common problems Vietnamese speakers have that I believe are very serious. If you consistently make these errors, people will not understand you.
How Do We Learn Things? We learn from parents, uncles, aunts, grand-parents, friends, and strangers. We learn from books, films, and surfing the ‘net. We learn by chatting, listening, reading, watching, and even dreaming. Even our pets teach us things – about them and about ourselves.
In fact, the whole world is a teacher to us: the mountains, the weather, the stars.
Our parents teach us because they love us – and it is what our friends do because they love us too.
I spend most of my work days helping students try to get abroad to university though the International Foundation Year (IFY) Programme at Language Link. Something I’ve noticed from the students I encounter is their lack of awareness of world news.
To help them with this, I implemented a current events summary assignment. Each week students have to do the following:
Find an article that interests them (politics, sports, fashion)
Condense (summarise) the article into 150-200 words
Submit it to me for lexical and grammatical feedback
The real purpose of the assignment was to create general awareness in this ever-expanding global world. If you’re going to study abroad, you need to understand the world you live in.
Do Babies Study Grammar? Think of how a baby learns to speak. Babies don’t study. But over time, they learn to speak quite well. How do they do this? They are surrounded by people who speak their language. They listen, and after some time, they begin to speak. It happens naturally.
Natural Method Most students I know work very hard. They study grammar, write vocabulary lists, and take tests. Some people I know have been taking classes for years – but they still have trouble speaking English!
Listening is supposed to be easy, isn’t it? Actually, it’s not. Hearing’s easy; listening is waaaayyyyy more difficult.
First off, it’s exhausting! Until you are an advanced student – and sometimes not even then – the effort to listen can be very tiring. You have to concentrate very hard. After awhile, it becomes easy to shut off your mind. And this is not useful…or polite to the person who’s talking.
Fear not! You can train yourself to listen more productively. You can learn to focus.