Why Mindset is Key

By The Arabic Institute Team

from the 2015/16 catalog

If you are at the point of researching how to go about learning a new language, you are no doubt motivated, open-minded and keen to expand your knowledge of the world around you. The good news is that this attitude will serve you extremely well when it comes to beginning language lessons.

However, it is only natural that you will experience some doubt regarding your ability to learn a new language. Even if you have already decided which language you are going to study, the scale of the task facing you can be daunting: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar — there are so many aspects to a language that becoming a master of any, never mind all of them, can seem like a near-impossible feat.

Here are a couple of important points to remember before you begin learning your new language.

There is a difference between language “learning” and language “acquisition”

Language “learning” is when a student sits down to absorb the rules of grammar and vocabulary associated with a new language. They are consciously aware of what it takes to construct a coherent sentence, and what they need to communicate effectively.

Language “acquisition”, on the other hand, involves the unconscious development of understanding. This is how we learn our mother tongue. As children, we gradually nurture an awareness of the sounds we need to make in order to communicate. A similar situation occurs when immigrants move to a new country and do not have the opportunity to take formal language lessons. Instead, they become aware of which words to say in a given context.

You are in the category of language “learner”, and therefore will be aware of what you are learning. This might lead you to be more self-conscious when in the process of learning, but it is also to your advantage, as you will be able to explore the many facets of the new language as you are introduced to it.

There is no need to be embarrassed when you make a mistake!

Remember your school days in French or German class, when someone would make an appalling attempt at pronouncing a new word and the rest of the class would laugh? As an adult, you will likely be just as sensitive to a negative reaction when you don’t get the hang of a particular word pronunciation. Overcoming this fear, however, is vital to developing your grasp of a new foreign language.

Many people imagine that children are simply “better” language learners because their brains are more malleable at a younger age. While there is some truth to this, the main reason children succeed in learning new languages quickly is because they are unafraid to make mistakes. Instead, they keep trying with their word pronunciation until they know they have been understood.

As an adult learner, try not to worry about “perfect” pronunciation or sentence construction at first. Making mistakes allows you to learn more effectively.