quinta-feira, 28 de fevereiro de 2013

Language Learning: How To Overcome A Block

by Emmanuelle Archer 

So, since it’s so easy to get stuck while learning a foreign language, here are a few pointers to get you, well, unstuck. Because after all, that’s what you came here for!

Three steps to overcoming your language-learning block

1. Please try your best to forget all the language-learning myths you’ve heard over the years.
I know, they are many and they are persistent. Forget them nonetheless!
“It’s much more difficult to learn a foreign language as an adult.
Mandarin (or Thai, Arabic, Finnish, Hungarian) is just too hard for foreigners to learn.
You can’t learn by yourself, you have to take classes.
Classes are a waste of time, just wait until you get there and pick up the language by osmosis.”
Blah blah blah…
I could debunk these myths one by one, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. For now, all I can tell you is, don’t worry – the human brain is wonderfully resourceful and resilient, and it will rise to the occasion if you really want to learn.

2. Identify precisely where you’re stalling
To put it another way, what’s the step you’re not taking?
Why is this relevant? Because it will give you an important clue as to where the underlying issue is – not the excuse you’re making up, but the actual resistance.
For instance, let’s say you get stuck after the 6th Spanish lesson and just can’t bring yourself to play the darn CD-Rom yet another time. If I were to ask you why, you might tell me that you’re bored, and that there is too much grammar.
But if we went a little deeper, we may find out that what’s holding you back is the fear of not mastering the grammar – fear of failure – or the thought that if you cannot even get through the 6th lesson, then it’s hopeless and you will never get to the end of the CD-Rom – being too hard on yourself, or fear of not being good enough.
But maybe you got stuck much earlier than that – maybe you haven’t even purchased the CD-Rom yet, or you’re making all sorts of excuses not to go to the Goethe-Institut and sign up for German classes.
That’s clearly a higher level of resistance. It could be that all the tangled-up negative emotions are too much for you to take right now. It could also be that you unconsciously refuse to learn the language – and this would be a good opportunity to explore whether you might be resisting the move itself.
If you come to the conclusion that change and transitions are hard for you to handle, you may find What is your relationship with change? helpful.

3. Treat yourself gently, goshdarnit!

When you’re stuck, putting additional pressure on yourself is pretty much the worst thing you can do. Force yourself to sit down and study, and watch your resistance levels go through the roof!
I always find it interesting that we choose to treat ourselves much more harshly than we would treat our friends if they were in the same situation.
Imagine that your best friend, who is about to move away, tells you that no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t study and that she’s afraid to even open her books. What would you do?
Would you heap blame on her and insist that she strictly adhere to a rigid study schedule from now on? (well, you can if you want, but don’t be surprised when she doesn’t invite you to visit next summer and forgets your upcoming birthday – that’s what you get for being a lousy friend).
Or would you be genuinely concerned, try to understand what’s going on and find out how you can help? Yes, that’s what I thought.

So please, don’t be a lousy friend to yourself. Extend the same concern, compassion and care to yourself as you would to others. Ask yourself what you need, and find a way to let yourself have it.
Hint: what you need has little to do with external, material stuff. When you’re trying to overcome an emotional block, you have to work on the emotional level. A new grammar book, coloured markers or more time to study won’t do the trick.
But if you know that what’s holding you back is fear of change, and what you’re craving is reassurance, then how can you give yourself what you need?
Would a talk with your partner help? Or would you feel better if you already made a few contacts with fellow expats in your new country? Ask for what you need. Schedule the talk to make sure you won’t be interrupted. Get on a message board or on Twitterand make a few connections.

What happens next?

By not working on the problem but around the problem, you’ll make it much easier for your emotions to disentangle themselves. You may find that your motivation and desire to learn have returned, without your having to fight and push and force yourself. And then you’ll naturally start moving forward again, only without all that horrible pressure on yourself. Doesn’t that feel better already?
Oh, and if you’re really, really stuck, or if you’re not used to self-work, you may want to drop me a line. I have some great techniques to help with procrastination, and we can uncover and shift a lot of resistance in just a few sessions. You know, two heads together are better than one and all that good stuff.
And of course, comments are open, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts!

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