Learning a second language is like falling in love. It starts with curiosity, which turns into fascination, and before you know it, you have a strong desire to understand it in every possible way.
Just like any great love, though, learning a language is not always sunshine and rainbows. It requires patience, sacrifice, and a willingness to endure the both the good and the bad.
But in the same way that your loved one’s presence can make all the hardships worth it, the joy you experience when you start having meaningful conversations in a new language will make all the challenges worth it.
The top 8 ways to fall in love with language learning
As with any relationship, the key to learning a language is commitment. You have to accept everything about it – from mastering grammar rules to moving your tone in weird ways, to using your throat to pronounce letters you never knew existed before (trust me, learning to pronounce the German ü, ä, and ö was quite the hilarious process as a native English speaker).
So if you’re ready to have some fun and take the plunge, here are my top tips to help you fall in love with language learning.
1. Learn to accept and love its nuances and imperfections
In the same manner as choosing your life partner, the first step in learning a foreign language is to accept and embrace everything about it.
While it’s good to understand grammar rules, for example, you have to accept that every rule has an exception. This is true whether you’re learning English, German, French, or any other language.
Trying to make sense of a new language using your native language’s framework is a recipe for frustration. When I was an English teacher, it did happen sometimes that new language learners struggled or quit because “the language didn’t make sense”, but that’s only because they were trying to force their own ideas of what a language should be.
Just like there’s no ideal relationship, there’s no perfect language. Learn the rules, remember the exceptions, and I promise you’ll learn it much faster.
2. Search for compromises when you have an argument
When you’re having difficulty learning new vocabulary words or meanings of idioms, don’t give up and dismiss what you’re learning as useless. Take a deep breath, accept your limitations, and move forward.
If you’re tired because you see no progress, reassess your strategy, and take a break. You can always start again tomorrow. Don’t worry if you’re not learning as fast as you hoped to. Learning a second language isn’t a race but a marathon.
3. Create new memories together
Remember when you first met your loved one? How about your first date, or the first time you travelled together? Remembering milestones helps you appreciate your relationship more, and the same is true when learning a new language.
In fact, celebrating language learning milestones help you stay motivated – whether it’s the first time you fluently ordered food in a restaurant, or had a conversation with a native speaker, or even just used an idiom in the right context. Focus on the small victories to inspire you to learn more.
4. Build new friendships
Even if you’re committed to each other, you need to grow individually and build meaningful relationships with others to keep the fire burning.
It goes the same way when learning a foreign language. You might start out learning a language with a dedicated teacher (which is great for helping build a strong foundation), but eventually you’ll need to speak with other people if you want to progress. This might include getting a tandem partner, listening to people with various accents, or speaking with other people learning the same language. Everyone has their own way of speaking, so in order to truly become fluent, you need to get used to the individual differences within the same language.
5. Maintain your focus on your long-term goals
Are you dating just for fun, or are you working towards a long-term and committed relationship? If you’re serious about your loved one, you have to work on your relationship and continue to be worthy of their love.
Again, the same is true when learning a language. What are your long-term goals? Do you want to be fluent in a second language in order to advance your career? Do you want to eventually move to and live in a new country? Focusing on your long-term goals helps you overcome the tediousness of memorising conjugation tables and grammar rules.
6. Show your appreciation every single day
When your loved one cooks you breakfast or sends you flowers just because, never miss the chance to express your appreciation and gratitude. A simple hug, kiss, or heartfelt thank you does so much for a relationship.
Learning a language involves learning on a regular basis as well – daily in the best case scenario. Even if you just spend 15 minutes reviewing vocabulary or listening to a short podcast in your target language, it adds up over time, as well as helps you store the information in your long-term memory.
7. Stay committed and don’t give up
Heartaches, problems, and misunderstandings can derail even the strongest relationships. Still, as long as you remember why you chose your loved one in the first place, you’ll be more understanding and forgiving.
I’ll be totally transparent here: many obstacles will cross your path to mastering the new language. But with every obstacle you overcome, you become stronger and that much closer to fluency.
8. Love the long-lasting rewards
Whether it’s for an anniversary or for finally being able to roll your Rs (I seriously relate to your struggle here too with Spanish), it’s important to celebrate what you’ve achieved so far! Basking in the joy of your achievements gives you the drive to aim for even bigger language goals.
Falling and staying in love is not just a fleeting feeling, but is a daily choice to be with that person despite the hurdles. While it may have been mere curiosity that started you on your language learning journey, once you become fluent, you’ll experience rewards that seriously last a lifetime – both professionally and personally.