You know what’s the most embarrassing thing about speaking a new language?
It’s when your mind goes blank when you’re trying to communicate with someone.
Especially when you have memorized those words a hundred times, the words never seem to come out just when you need to communicate at the right moment.
Thankfully, you’re not alone and there are many out there who have conquered their foreign language amnesia.
The Benefits Of Learning A New Language
Learning a new language can open many doors in one’s life but at the same time it can be really daunting at the same time.
However, the benefits are tremendous when you consider that having the ability to speak more than one language can rewire your brain in a different way.
You can become more competitive in the job market as employers see people who know more than one language can open up new opportunities.
Learning a foreign language effectively gives you the key to access a foreign culture. You effectively build more rapport with locals and see another side of their world.
Because language is connected deeply with culture, you will pick up a new way of thinking, relating information and cognitive problem solving abilities compared to being monolingual.
Knowing more than one language can even help offset the effects of old age as cognitive flexibility actually slows down the effects of dementia.
Learning A New Language Is All About Reprogramming Your Brain
Speaking a language fluently is all about reprogramming your brain, and you’ll be able to remember twice the amount of words in a fraction of the time.
And this is not about memorizing a bunch of words in a textbook and repeating those words over and over again.
Your brain is designed to associate neural pathways that make speaking a new language as fluent as your native language.
Here is a good analogy.
Would you learn to ride a bike by reading a manual? Of course not.
You learn by riding it even if you have to fall down and get up again.
Because once you know how to ride a bike, you can’t forget it.
It is embedded in your neural pathways and it would be very hard to forget.
Mastering a new language is the same as learning to ride a bike – you actually need to use it for it to work.
Remembering Is More Than Just Memory
We are conditioned to think that repetition is the key to remembering forever.
While it is true in a general sense, it is the application of how we condition our brains that will cement the new language into our neurology.
We will be able to speak a new language more fluently when all our facial muscles are working repetitively – you will know you are getting fluent when your face starts to hurt after speaking the words a number of times.
Subconsciously, we will also be able to listen better when you can see a person’s face as they speak.
The human brain is not conditioned to hear unfamiliar sounds. But it will recognize communications subconsciously when you can ‘see’ the words coming out of a person’s mouth.
Body language does speak volumes after all.
Here are a number of ways to reprogram your brain and increase your fluency easier.
1. Intention and context are the most important things
Intention is the most powerful tool to reprogram your brain into speaking a new language. When your why is very strong, your ‘how-to’ becomes very small.
Your brain gives the signal that you WANT this and your heart, body and soul will align itself to absorbing new words like a water to a sponge. So find your WHY and the rest are just mechanics.Once you have the intent to communicate, the context of the communication will make it’s way clear to you. Being clear about the context of the conversation will help you ‘hear’ the words correctly.
2. Don’t stick to the textbooks and exams alone – talk to real people
One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to learning a new language is studying for exams and receiving a certification.Here is a story of two students.
One spent 7 days a week memorizing textbooks for a year while another guy barely reads but parties, socializes and speaks a as much as he can even though his grammar is terribly butchered up. Guess what, after a year, the party animal became so fluent that he sounded like a native speaker but the textbook person was still struggling to make sentences.
Language is like a muscle – you have to USE it. The more you use it, the more your brain creates neural pathways to help you remember it… it will be like riding a bicycle – once you learn it, it is hard to forget it.
3. Speak the core vocabulary – you don’t need that many words to communicate
When you look at a new language, it might look really daunting. It can scare your brain and it will cause it to shut down and prevent new input.
However, the real truth is, only a small percentage of words make up 70%-80% of most of the conversations because those are the core words needed to carry a conversation.
Why do you think some men learn to swear in many foreign languages? Because they think of those as essential words in their vocabulary!
Don’t scare yourself – it’s all a mind-game in the end.
4. Learn the conversation fillers and back-channeling
Conversational fillers are very important when it comes to talking with native speakers of a language.
Not only will it make you sound more like a native speaker, it will also help your brain to feel more at ease when it comes to recalling new words.
For example, words like – er, so, you know, yeah, well… these little words help carry the conversation. Find the equivalent to those words and they will help you a lot. Back channeling – by repeating the words other people have spoken helps you to ‘hear’ them better and buys you time to come up with a response.
5. Think and solve problems in that new language
Language is all about practice and when you try and speak the language to yourself by solving problems in your life by thinking in the language you are trying to learn, it helps speed up the process.
A lady who tried to learn Chinese wasn’t getting ahead with mastering the language. She could barely get by typing a few words on the keyboard.
One day, she received a project that would turn out to be her biggest client.
The only problem was that she had to learn to type in Chinese to the client.
Cornered? She had no choice but to force herself to learn to type otherwise she would lose her biggest break.
Guess what happened?
She mastered typing Chinese characters in a single night and she would never forget how to use the keyboard after that.
When you use the new language to solve problems, the language gets cemented in your mind.
6. Writing helps your speaking
Do not underestimate the power of writing words in a new language.
When you write, it actually strengthens your ability to speak so you become fluent faster.
Human beings are all different.
Some are visual, some auditory, some kinesthetic…
When you combine all the modalities, your chances for retention is greater.
7. Listen to yourself speak and you will master the pronunciation
Can you record your own voice on an iPhone?
Record yourself speak so you can hear yourself speak. It will help you improve your pronunciation better.
It may sound weird to hear your own voice, but if you do not ‘hear’ yourself, you will not be able to spot the pronunciation mistakes that people would not understand.
8. Sing your favorite songs
Music wires the brain differently. When you sing your favorite foreign language song, you will completely memorize the lyrics without understanding it.
That’s half the battle won.
When you learn what it means, it will make your favorite song even more meaningful
9. Modeling and abandonment
Modeling and abandonment is a very powerful way the same way actors use ‘method acting’ to fully immerse in their role.
By modeling your favorite star (artiste, actor, famous person), you can ‘trick’ your brain into adopting the neurology of that person.
In other words, it requires you to ‘abandon’ your personality in your native language so you can speak like the person with the new language.It is sort of like a ‘death’ to your old personality and modeling the new one to fully immerse in speaking a new language.
10. Have fun!
Lastly, remember to have fun when you are learning a new language.
When you stress yourself out, your brain is unable to retain anything.
Think back and never forget why you fell in love with the language in the first place.
If you make mistakes, laugh it off – lower your expectations and know that native speakers wouldn’t expect you to be fluent!
You are a brave person for wanting to try something new.
The greatest super learners are able to have photographic memories and retain knowledge from decades ago is because they have taught their brains how to think.
The skill of teaching your brain how to learn better is considered to be the mother of all skills.
Once mastered, you will never forget the words of the language you’re trying to learn and people will even start to treat you as a native speaker.