3 top tips on learning your first foreign language as an adult with Mundey Young
I’m baaaaaack! Taking a break, even from something you love, is so important. I feel refreshed, recharged and full of creative ideas for the rest of the year.
Earlier this year, I connected with International Lifeytle and Business Coach, Mundey Young. We tried to record a podcast back in June, but sadly the quality wasn’t great. There was communication back and forth before we finally managed to sit down and record something good in August!
Moving abroad and learning a language in a pandemic (interview with Mundey Young on World Radio Paris)
I spoke with Mundey on her radio show, Living la Belle Vie. about moving abroad right before the pandemic hit and therefore trying to work and learn a new language while wearing masks and trying not to get too close to people. Needless to say, it’s been a fun challenge!
You can listen to the full episode on the World Radio Paris website HERE.
In the episode, I provided my 3 top tips on learning your first foreign language as an adult. If you want to dive a little deeper into these tips, keep reading.
3 top tips on learning your first foreign language as an adult:
1. Find a way to make it accessible and fun for you
If a kid doesn’t like doing something, they simply refuse to do it or stop doing it. You’ve seen them throwing strops in the middle of supermarkets or town centres. They’re pretty damn vocal about not liking something. Why aren’t we?
When I first moved to Germany, I went on a couple of structured language courses. I sat in a classroom and read from a textbook while a teacher made us speak basic sentences over and over again.
Now I’m not discounting the validity of these courses. They lay a great foundation base on which you can build your language learning. But I didn’t feel like they were enough for me. They didn’t incorporate enough of what I needed, which was the use of the language in everyday life, work and integration.
Language learning apps pose the same problem for me. As you know, I talk a lot about my love for Duolingo. And that love is genuine.
Much like the courses based in the classroom, language learning apps provide an easy (and often free) way to learn basic grammar and sentence construction. Plus some of the sentences can be…interesting. You can see what I mean here. And here.
Structured learning is important. Textbooks and courses are important. As an adult, however, if the learning isn’t fun for you or doesn’t fit into your life, then it can be very difficult to make the learning stick.
2. Be prepared to sound like a child
As adults, we always need to have the logical reasoning to explain why we’re doing something. We need to feel purposeful and validated in doing that thing.
The same applies to learning your first foreign language as an adult. We need to understand why a sentence structure is one way for standard sentences, but good luck if you add conjunctions!
When I first started learning German, my brain had numerous meltdowns per day, all from overthinking. I wanted to be given reasons and logic. Why? There is a common feeling among those who speak more than one language that when you switch languages, you lose a part of your personality.
As a Brit, my personality is based entirely on tea jokes and sarcasm. Whether you realise it or not, who you are is encased in your language, your accent, your dialect.
So when I had to start from scratch and revert back to learning the alphabet and basic numbers, I had several mild panic attacks at sounding like a child and losing my personality. It had taken me twenty plus years to feel comfortable in who I was. Now I had to start again!
But I found that, once you climb over the fear hurdle and embrace sounding like a child, your personality actually continues to shine through. I laugh at myself when I make mistakes in German and I’m always sure that I go headfirst into a conversation with a positive attitude. It’s not always to the German’s liking, but I can’t help the fact I think it’s funny and important that we fail and make errors in order to grow.
Once you embrace that fear, I absolutely guarantee you will find your language skills improve almost overnight.
Nobody cares about you more than they care about themselves, so stop thinking you’re being judged. You’re not.
“Shame fascinates me – it’s such a learned state. Kids aren’t ashamed by anything until we tell them to be.”“Ice Cream for Breakfast” by Laura Jane Williams
3. Submerge yourself in the language in any way possible
You’ll hear this spouted a lot. People will say the easiest way to learn a language is to visit or move to the country where the language is spoken. They’re not wrong. But it’s not always that easy, is it?
People learn languages for different reasons and much of the time, most people are not privileged enough to flit around the globe in order to speak the language.
But the great thing about modern life is that almost everybody has access to the Internet, in some way or another. And with the Internet comes a great selection of resources that allow you to submerge yourself in a language even if you can’t be in the country.
Even if you’re not living in the country of the language you’re trying to speak, the Internet provides so much access to the rest of the world now that it’s super easy to still submerge yourself into a language.
This tip also ties in with making your learning accessible and fun to you. What do you enjoy? Consume this content in your chosen language.
As an example, I’m a massive comedy fan. Stand-up, comedy films, dark comedy. So I went searching on YouTube and Netflix for German comedians. Sorry to burst your terrible stereotypes, but Germany does have a sense of humour.
I’m also addicted to podcasts. I listen to them when I’m doing the most mundane daily tasks. It made sense that I also seek out podcasts in German so I could constantly have the language in my ears. You’d think that living in Germany would afford me that opportunity, but much of my day-to-day life is still conducted in English. Listening to German podcasts gives me an extra dose of language.
Formula 1 is my favourite sport. So why wouldn’t I watch races in German? Watch animated films in German, where the overdubbing isn’t so obvious. Read books in German! There are several dual language books available, where you’ll find one page in German and the other in English. Watch German YouTubers, Twitch streamers, follow German Instagrammers.
Whatever your ‘thing’ is, I promise there is somebody out there on the Internet making content in that language.
Passively soaking a language up in this way is highly important to your cognitive development. You’ll be surprised how much you can pick up from simply listening to ten minutes of news every morning.
I hope you enjoyed my first post back. To catch up on everything else I’ve been up to, make sure you sign up for my newsletter (now monthly instead of weekly) so you don’t miss out.