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How to Stay Motivated – Part 1: Common Difficulties in Learning Language Paths

Among the questions language learners ask the most are: Why is it hard to learn a new language? And Why is learning a second language so difficult?

Of course, some foreign languages are more challenging to acquire than others. But none is impossible. Besides, learning a language is a fun way to boost your curriculum, health, and happiness.

So why do so many people focus on the difficulties they find during their learning process? And how hard is it to actually learn a new language?

Whether you have already begun or are considering learning, you can demystify the challenges you might face. Doing so will help you prepare to overcome them with little effort and reach your fluency goals.

This post is part 1 of a 2-article series focusing on helping you stay motivated to learn your target language. You will discover some of the challenges fellow language learners face and get the best tips on how to reach fluency!

What makes language learning difficult?

Most people have contact with more than one language regardless of where they live. Yet, about 32% of European citizens know no foreign language. In the United States, about 1 out of 5 people speak more than one language.

Language learning comes with challenges you have not faced when learning your mother tongue
Language learning comes with challenges you have not faced when learning your mother tongue

Learning languages is not an easy task or a one-day endeavor. When you start learning, you should have clear goals, a plan, and a strong internal motivation. Like any other project you might put your mind to do, it comes with its challenges.

The Child Vs. The Adult Brain In Learning Languages

Our brain is programmed to absorb languages from an early age. A study showed that newborns’ native language shapes their cry melody. Children learn to communicate by interacting with their parents and other groups. And most kids can speak before they start school.

Thus, difficulties seem to arise when humans try to learn foreign languages after they become adults. There are multiple theories as to why this happens. However, many agree that humans tend to lose brain plasticity during growth

Hence, it becomes more challenging to learn and retain knowledge. Nevertheless, despite common misconceptions, an adult brain can develop new synapses. 

The child and the adult brain learn differently
The child and the adult brain learn differently

These new connections benefit the brain, even changing it on a functional and structural level. Scientists correlate them to the practice of new and complex activities, such as learning a new language.

The Challenges of Language Acquisition

There are various challenges related to language acquisition, especially in adults. Still, some of these difficulties are common to most people who learn a foreign language. Here are eight situations you might relate to:

  1. Pronouncing in a Foreign Language
  2. Not Developing Listening Comprehension
  3. Understanding Grammar and Syntax
  4. Acquiring Vocabulary in a New Language
  5. Misunderstanding Semantics
  6. Fear of Speaking
  7. Having no one to Practice With
  8. Not Letting Go of The Mother Tongue

These difficulties involve most language skills. So, you will likely face them while learning to communicate with anyone speaking your target language.

Do you want to learn a new language but don’t know where to start? Discover The Journey!! It is a European Portuguese gamified experience that helps you become fluent while having fun. Dive into science-based teaching methods and real-life dialogues. With The Journey, you can learn a second language easily. Check it out!

Tips For Language Learners: Overcoming Common Challenges

Difficulties change according to your learning style and the foreign language you are studying. But they also vary with your language learning experience. For example, people who study Mandarin usually struggle with the subtleties of pronunciation. Similarly, it will be harder to learn to read if you are learning a language with a different alphabet.

Native English speakers can easily learn the Frisian language as it relates to their own. And if you are studying your first language, you might struggle with other challenges. Establishing realistic short-term goals or understanding grammar could be two problem areas.

Look into eight difficulties you might relate to and how to overcome them:

Pronunciation in a Foreign Language

One of the first challenges you face is correctly pronouncing words in your target language. Despite your progress, this difficulty can appear often, even when you are already an advanced student.

It is frustrating to focus on developing a perfect accent and speaking just like native speakers. You might never fully acquire some sounds, which does not mean you won’t talk well.

You should invest in your speaking skills to communicate effectively with others. After all, that is the point of language learning. You can find YouTube videos that share techniques to help you replicate the most common or critical sounds. For example, see our video Tricky Sounds of European Portuguese.

Tricky Sounds of European Portuguese

Another valuable resource is asking a native speaker of the language you are learning where you need improvement. They can let you know which sounds to focus on and maybe even show you how to improve them.

Not Developing Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is essential. You need to understand when others speak to you so you can answer accordingly. Yet, it is not always easy to develop the ability to understand native speakers. This is true, especially at the beginning of your language-learning process.

One of the best ways to improve your listening comprehension is through exposure. Play music in a foreign language and try to understand the words. Watch shows or movies with subtitles without using your native language. Follow talk shows or podcasts that feature a diverse group of people, accents, and vocabularies.

Focus on what you can understand and try to assume the conversation topic and arguments without resorting to translation. With time, you will comprehend more of what you listen to.

Grammar and semantics are a common difficulty among language learners
Grammar and syntax are a common difficulty among language learners

Understanding Grammar and Syntax

Few people enjoy memorizing grammar rules. It is tedious, complex, and hard to retain. Besides, it might change over time to reflect how people speak now, as opposed to how they used to. Thus, grammar can be challenging whether you are learning a second language or are already an accomplished polyglot.

Yet, more often than not, the problem is within the approach and not the subject itself. The traditional method of study and memorization doesn’t work for most people. Besides, there are many fun ways of learning grammar. You can watch videos, read articles about your favorite topics, or sing along to music in your target language.

Changing your learning practice and incorporating fun activities will help you internalize grammar. It will reduce your need for regular study time and allow you to enjoy learning.

The Journey is a European Portuguese language course that allows you to have fun while learning! Explore our beautiful language through real-life dialogues and interactive tasks. Speak naturally and engage confidently with the natives!

Learn European Portuguese the Instinctive Way!

For the last decade, we’ve been working on putting together the best possible European Portuguese course. After much research, feedback from our students, and several iterations, we think we’ve got it! šŸ˜‰

At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learned instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help you master pronunciation, phrase construction, oral understanding, grammar, and all the necessary bits to get you to fluency. And still, the whole thing is presented as an adventure. It’s a course like no other, trust us!

Acquiring Vocabulary in a New Language

Acquiring new vocabulary words is not always easy. Sometimes, you will find words similar to those you use in your native language but with different or opposite meanings. It is frustrating when you forget a term you want to apply, and it might take a while to memorize the meaning of ordinary words.

An efficient method to deal with this challenge is using rote memorization techniques like acronyms or rhymes. Flashcards are another helpful way to retain vocabulary. They associate an image of the object with its name, allowing your brain to link the two.

Additionally, you can research the common words that exist between most languages. For example, Spanish and Portuguese people who learn English can connect words like Sopa to Soup.

Besides, you get a head start in your vocabulary by understanding the rules that transform words from one language into another. For instance, you can learn 500 Common Words in 3 minutes! (European Portuguese Vocabulary).

Misunderstanding Semantics

Each tongue has a logical association of its terms with one or more meanings, depending on various factors. The words carry these relations between themselves, allowing speakers to understand each other. But when you learn a language, these links that seem so obvious to its native speakers might make no sense to you.

If you already speak a Romance language, the learning process of other languages that also come from Latin gets simplified. As multiple languages fit within the same group and are closely related to each other, the thinking process becomes simple. Additionally, you have less need to memorize words. After all, your brain already connects some terms and sentences to their correct meanings.

Keep a vocabulary notebook during your language learning process. In it, you can write down the semantic connections between the words you learn. This way, by improving your understanding of semantics, you will memorize new vocabulary words and know how and when to use them.

Fear of Talking

Embarrassment or fear of speaking can hinder your language-learning process

Almost every learner deals with the fear of speaking practice. The ultimate goal of language learning is effective communication with a native speaker. Still, you can feel nervous or embarrassed to take the first step. The time you start speaking can be a critical period that leaves you demotivated.

But consider how you would look at someone learning your native language. Would you be rude or judge them poorly? Or be kind and patient? How would you feel toward someone who made a real effort to speak to you in your language?

Adjusting your attitude toward other people’s missteps can help you become kinder and more tolerant toward your own. Besides, you will only become better at new languages by being willing to feel uncomfortable for a while.

To prevent feeling embarrassed, make it a point to practice speaking from day one. Talking to yourself, your pet, other students, or any native speakers you can find is a key to fluency.

Having no one to Practice With

Having no one to help you practice your target language can be demotivating
Having no one to help you practice your target language can be demotivating

When you first decide to learn a new language, you might not know any native speakers or fellow learners. With time, it can turn into an issue that stops you from becoming conversationally proficient. Besides, it is more challenging to overcome difficulties when you feel alone.

However, finding people who know your target language is not as difficult as you might think. You can search for the places near you that represent the culture you are exploring in your new language.

Find museums, cultural events, and local businesses and start simple conversations. Even if they don’t have much time, most people will be happy to practice with you when they see you making a real effort to speak their tongue.

But the world is your oyster when you turn to technology to find the people you are searching for. There are online forums, language exchange sites, and language-learning communities. This way, you can find a native practice buddy or a fellow student and enlarge your foreign language friendship circle.

Not Letting Go of The Mother Tongue

To learn a language and become fluent, you must also develop the ability to think in that language. One of the biggest obstacles to developing your language skills in this sense is continuing to use your native language.

Children benefit from a mixed approach. Using their native tongue boosts their learning ability. Simultaneously, using a second language helps them master grammar, pronunciation, and thought processes.

Adults tend to confuse their native with their second language. So, even if you start by using your first tongue, the goal is to transfer to your target language as soon as possible. Since adults also have a busier life rhythm, they benefit from periods of full immersion that help them reach fluency faster.

Face The Difficulties of Learning A New Language With Confidence

If your long-term goal is to acquire a second language, you can do it! You can face any challenges that come up with confidence and reach fluency. Your concerns might vary depending on your learning style, methods, and experience. But the features that make language learning difficult are also the ones that make it worthwhile.

Conquering them will help you gain the motivation to continue and allow you to be even prouder of your achievements. Still, what can you do when you hit a plateau? What if you have already started learning a new language but feel stuck on the same level?

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, which is coming out next week: How to Stay Motivated to Learn a Language – Part 2: Dealing With Plateaus!

Share this post with your friends who are also learning a new language! Would you like to start learning European Portuguese but don’t know where or how to start? 

See our article: Start Learning European Portuguese ā€“ Free 30-Day Plan and watch: Learn Portuguese in 30 Days (Complete plan for FREE).

Learn Portuguese in 30 Days (Complete Plan For FREE)

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