The Commitment to Learning a Foreign Language

We have highlighted the importance of communication in our personal life and professional career. We have previously thought a little bit about how to assess our communication power in our mother language. This time, I would like for you to think about your competencies in a foreign language.

We live in a highly globalized world where information gets to the other side of the planet through the Internet in a matter of seconds or a few minutes. The language most commonly spoken among the most diverse nationalities is English. However, other relevant languages also need to be valued, such as Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, and French.

For instance, in the last century, mastering English was a plus in the résumé enriching the professional’s competencies. In the 21st century, it’s a requirement to master at least one foreign language. Whoever does not qualify in this area is already behind in any recruitment process. Beyond the professional environment, a foreign language opens the vision and the range of knowledge about several topics that can enlarge your worldview.

Something that needs to be considered when someone learns a language is that time will not wait nor give second chances. We cannot just keep waiting for the perfect moment to start communicating in an effective way in another language. The more we put it off, the more distant it becomes.

Like we suggested a series of questions to check our communication skills in our mother language, we want to suggest a reflection on our commitment to learning a foreign language. The self-awareness, that is, the understanding about yourself, is fundamental when it comes to acquiring another language. Learning a new language takes us beyond letters and grammatical concepts. It allows us to have the richest interactions with people from other cultures and broadens our vision of the world making us more humane and professionally more prepared for this globalized market.

Therefore, ask these questions to yourself, trying to evaluate your commitment to learning foreign languages. I suggest you answer the question for yourself before reading the comment that follows it.

DO I LIKE FOREIGN LANGUAGES? WHY? WHY NOT?

These fundamental questions should be asked because not everyone likes to study or speak a second language. Not everyone has their linguistic intelligence developed or stimulated; some people just feel more comfortable dealing with numbers, for example. Like a foreign language or not can positively or negatively influence its acquisition and use in your whole life.

Did you start to study the language at a language school and quit? How many times have you given up? What were the causes that made you abandon the process? If the reason was financial, was there any other way you could have kept studying the language? What makes you procrastinate something that can bring benefits to your life? The answers to these questions can reveal emotional issues involved that have nothing to do with learning a language itself, but with past traumas or bad experiences with the language in question in the past.

WHY IS THIS FOREIGN LANGUAGE IMPORTANT TO ME?

Maybe today, your need is to grow professionally because of the market demands. Perhaps you want to apply for a Master’s or Ph.D. program, or even want to go for an exchange abroad for fun or for a course in your professional field.

Bearing this in mind, how much time are you willing to invest in learning another language? How many of your resources can you use to make it happen? What are your goals, in short, medium, and long terms?

When it comes to learning, there are no shortcuts. There is merely focus, dedication, commitment to yourself, and perseverance. If you don’t make an effort, you will not get anywhere.

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES WHEN I COMMUNICATE IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE?

Recognizing your limitations when you communicate in another language is necessary to know what to invest your study time in. In the face of your professional demands, what are your major obstacles concerning a foreign language: go through a job interview, read or write emails, write reports, hold video conferences, negotiate contracts?

There are four linguistic skills – speaking, writing, reading, and listening. Reading and listening can be considered receptive skills as the bigger effort is the other speakers’. They transmit the information while you receive it using your previous language background to interpret that message. Speaking and writing are considered productive skills because you have to make an effort and offer what you have, in terms of vocabulary, grammatical structures, correct pronunciation, and intonation. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses in each skill can help you understand what kind of help you have to search for. The four skills depend on each other – they complement each other and help you develop each one.

WHICH SPACES DOES THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE TAKE IN MY DAILY ROUTINE?

Being exposed to a foreign language is extremely useful. Giving room to another language in your daily routine will help you have more contact with it. Which language is your cell phone set to? And your computer? Which language do you read the daily news in? Do you watch films and listen to music in a foreign language? And are the subtitles of your favorite series in your foreign or mother language? Have you ever adventured to read magazines and books in the language you need to learn? If not, why not? You can rely on these resources to be exposed to authentic texts and speeches and develop your linguistic competence, not depending on other people.

Nowadays, it’s way easier to be in contact with a foreign language than in the past century. Information is accessible to most parts of the planet population. With the advent of technology and the Internet, you can take courses, have private teachers, access dictionaries and encyclopedias, make friends in other countries, watch films and videos, listen to music, read newspapers and magazines, do some research and much more, just a click away.

DO I EXACTLY KNOW WHAT LEVEL I AM IN THIS FOREIGN LANGUAGE?

In case you are not a beginner and have already studied a foreign language for some time in your life, for sure, you have some knowledge in the back of your memory. This previous knowledge cannot be ignored. It exists, it’s within you. It’s important to know in which level of language domain you are. These days, it is common to find online placement tests to check your language level. One of the most known level references is the CEFR – Common European Frame of Reference. It rates the users from level A1 (starter) to C2 (proficient). Knowing in which point of the journey you are will help you discover from where you can restart your study.

HOW DO I FACE MISTAKES IN MY LEARNING PROCESS?

Most of us are afraid of making mistakes because it causes frustration and a feeling of failure. However, I want to highlight that the errors will be your best allies during your learning process. Each mistake you make and correction done will allow you to review language and consolidate your knowledge. It is important to take advantage of the mistakes we make. They can serve as revision and lessons. Nobody learned how to ride a bike or roller skate without falling down, even getting hurt, before achieving the balance required.

WHAT IS MY LEARNING STYLE?

We need to know what our learning style is. Each person is different, so each person learns differently. Some people are more visual and need to see a written text to understand and memorize a concept. Other ones only need to listen to the information, and then they will process it. Other people need to write while studying because they need to deal with that information so they can assimilate the contents. On the other hand, others are kinesthetic and learn while they’re doing something, they need to put their hands on so they can learn. What’s your learning style?

WHICH TOOLS CAN I ACCESS TO STUDY A FOREIGN LANGUAGE?

First things first, ask yourself if you would prefer to study alone or with a teacher’s help. If you prefer to be alone in a class environment or to study in a group. This decision will help you choose the best tools.

If you decide to study with a teacher, you can invest in an in-person course or virtual classes, in a group or on a one-to-one basis. You will find a lot of websites on the Internet which can help you with courses, bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, course and grammar books, podcasts, all sorts of language exercises, conversation platforms with native speakers, vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar videos in the most diverse media, paid or for free.

Finally, what are you willing to do to make your communication in a foreign language take off?

May all these questions help you map which point you are. May the challenges and goals identified during this self-evaluation reflection find their answers and solutions, whether looking for a language course or the support of a private teacher or even studying by yourself. The most important thing is that you should move on to accomplish your goals. May you meet them by your continuous and perseverant efforts until you can master the use of your so desired foreign language.

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