4 Common Fears About Learning a Second Language and How to Overcome Them
What can you do to brave a new language class? Here are four common fears and how to face them head on.
Fear #1: “I don’t understand!”
Many students are certain they won’t understand a word in class, in the textbook or from their classmates once they step into a Spanish class. No one wants to be the only one in the room who feels lost...However, there will be times when a word or phrase goes over our head and sets off a round of anxiety. How can we keep this fear in its place?
Solution: Find the right teacher for you
One of the best ways to get past this fear is to consider your options. The right teacher, environment and pace will help you relax. Once the stress is out of the picture, you can enjoy the moments when you don’t understand – that means there’s a chance to learn something new. Some teachers use music, props or actions to help with context while others use more images or texts. Look for a teaching style that inspires you and a teacher who can go at your pace and you’ll love every minute of class.
Fear #2: “I can’t say that word.”
Pronounce this word: Refrigerador. If you struggled to get the vowel sounds and accent right, you are one of many new speakers thrown by this and many other common words in Spanish.
Spanish vowels, stress, and accents on vocabulary vary. It’s easy to mispronounce words as we learn a new language, but there’s hope for you and anyone who struggles to open the mysteries of él refrigerador.
Solution: Sing a song
Singing is one of the best ways to learn how to pronounce new words. Look for songs that show their lyrics or come with a printable version of the words. If looking to master the language, join a Spanish choir, take guitar lessons in your new language or translate a popular song into Spanish.
A melody and a beat will help you hear the words in a new way. The added emotion of the song will seal the proper pronunciation into your memory.
Fear #3: “What if I freeze up?”
The fear of conversing with someone and suddenly forgetting an important word or how to properly place it in a sentence is one that many students express. It happens – one minute we know what to say, the next we don’t.
Solution – More practice in and out of class
The best way to face this fear is to let it happen, laugh at yourself, then try again. Learn some key phrases like, “I’m still learning; give me a second,” can be extremely helpful. Ask your teacher to give you a few ways to say that you are a Spanish learner to help you remind your new acquaintances you might need a moment to express yourself.
Keep in mind that even native speakers go blank or get distracted sometimes. It’s normal.
Fear #4: “What if I can’t do it?”
We all shiver at the thought of being the lowest in class, the last to learn something or the student who quits and walks away from something new. If you’re feeling this way, it’s a good thing. It means you’re being realistic about your schedule, your limitations, and prior commitments.
Solution – Set good goals for yourself
Sit down with your schedule and block out your free time. Do you have a window you can dedicate to a new class? If your answer is yes, think about what you might use as a reward for completing a semester of Spanish. Whether it’s as big as a trip to Mexico or as small as a new pair of shoes, grab a picture of your reward and hang it on the wall to remind yourself what you’re working towards.
Everyone gets intimidated by new things, but fear doesn’t have to be the decision maker. Take control of the situation, be realistic and reward yourself for learning new things and taking risks. You’re worth it!
Have something to add to this of common fears for learning a new language? Please feel free to share with the HSA community in the comments below!
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