We all have different ways of learning. And not all are effective. As a Lingo Live coach, I’m able to give situations perspective for my learners. However, as a learner I can’t do these things for myself. When I began studying Japanese in 2014 (pre-Lingo Live), my language learning could barely be called a process. Still, I want to share it. It may seem obvious now, but I didn’t realize how ineffective my methods were until I connected with my coach.
Resolve to speak up in a conversation, but then just nod along.
I’m the type of person who practices something extensively before diving fully into it—this includes learning a language. Conversations with native speakers are ultimately the best way to learn but the level of conversation makes a huge difference. When I first started began learning Japanese, I threw myself into conversations that were too advanced for my proficiency level. The resulting conversation—or lack there of—was frustrating and discouraging. The conversation moved so quickly, and I was afraid to slow it down to ask for clarifications.
However, with my coach, I feel like I’m on the Holodeck. I can practice building and practicing my skills in a safe environment where I allow myself to open up more. Then, when I feel more secure in my skills I can join those advanced conversations and actually participate!
Alright, so crying may be an exaggeration, but learning a language is super overwhelming! Also, “comparison is the thief of joy” and listening to native Japanese speakers in fluid conversation made me feel insecure about my own skills. Even after three years, sometimes it still feels like I’m not making any progress and I think, “Ugh! What’s the point?” But it is motivating to have an expert validate your progress. My coach is that expert. I get so caught up in the details of learning another language, it’s hard for me to take a step back and see how far I’ve come. Thankfully, my coach is always there to remind me of the progress I’ve made, while encouraging me to make even more.
Make up insanely elaborate stories for the characters in my textbook
Genki is a popular Japanese book series that features four language skill areas: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. It also features two characters Takeshi and Mary. Not since Romeo and Juliet has there been a more compelling romantic tragedy—in my head. Needless to say, imagining what happened to the beloved couple between Genki I and Genki II was not advancing my studies. Although, I should look into becoming a romance novelist.
Cram in more information in one day than I could ever possibly retain
The current book I’m using has about 18 new grammar patterns PER CHAPTER. I can maybe remember 3 of them—on a good day. My brain is so eager to learn those new things (woo!) that I end up absorbing very few things (boo!) because I take on too much at once. My coach helps me to slow down and process new information in a way I can actually use it. We focus on one pattern at a time, practice until I feel comfortable with it, and then begin adding in a new grammar pattern.
Even if you aren’t trying learn Japanese while crying and eating sushi like I was, we could all stand to have someone there with us while we’re learning to keep us accountable, track our progress, and encourage us to keep improving (and maybe to serve as an editor for our romance novels).
Tracey Gordon, Office Manager/Lingo Live Coach & Learner
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