Learning a new language is always a big challenge. And it can be made easier or more difficult depending on your attitude and personal experiences. You may feel insecure for many reasons. Just remember that insecurity only gets in the way. My own history learning the English language is an example of this, which is why I want to share the story of how I became a Uninter Global Student Ambassador with you.
I am sure that speaking in a second language is not a problem for many people. And I hope that this is the case for you. But it wasn’t mine. I always studied in public schools. When I started to really learn English, I was already in college and had many traumas with the language in my past. Even with a late start and a sordid history, I managed. I think it is possible for anyone to achieve what I did. In fact, I’d go further: if you don’t make the mistakes about making mistakes that I made, it could be much easier.
“I am sure that speaking in another language is not a problem for many people. And I hope that this is the case for you. But it wasn’t mine. ”
I wanted to learn all the languages in the world from an early age. Unfortunately, studying in a public school, the opportunity came late and started with failure. I began English classes in 5th grade. I didn’t learn much. I arrived at high school with little knowledge of the language. I left there in the same way, but with a lot more trauma from not understanding anything the teacher said in class. At that time, I took an entry level French course taught by language trainees at the school where I was studying. I fell in love with the most romantic language in the world and decided that I would learn French anyway.
After starting law school and doing a number of volunteer internships, I finally got a paid job. I decided that I would take a French course. As much as I loved the French language, I knew that English was the most used in the world and the most helpful for my career — as much as I had hated my experience with it at school. I then determined that I would study both languages: French for love and English by obligation.
I stayed in both courses for a little over a year. During that time, I noticed crucial differences in my learning. I am sharing them here so that you don’t make the same mistakes. The first difference was in the levels at which I started each course. I started French at level 1 because I had very little knowledge. For English, I did a placement test. I don’t recall my ideal level, but I remember that the school had no adult classes at that level. They asked me to start the course at the level above what I’d tested into. I believe that this difference determined how I would behave in the classroom. I was open to learning and to making mistakes in the French class, which was filled with beginners like me. I closed down and was scared to death in the English classes.
I couldn’t do much about the English level problem, since the school I chose (the only one I could afford) did not offer my level. But looking back, I realize that my attitude could have been different: I combined my frustration with learning the English language and the insecurity of being in a place where everyone knew more than I did. Instead of fighting to catch up, I spoke as little as possible to avoid embarrassment. In French classes, in contrast, I didn’t mind making mistakes.
“Looking back, I realize that my attitude could be different: I combined my frustration with learning the English language and the insecurity of being in a place where everyone knew more than I did. Instead of fighting to catch up, I spoke as little as possible to avoid embarrassment. ”
The biggest difference was in the way I viewed each language. I was learning French because I loved it. I tried to learn English out of sheer obligation because I thought it might be important in the future. Don’t get me wrong, it really was important. And I believe that forcing me to learn it was very good. But it would have been even better if I had approached the language with the same desire to learn.
When I reached the end of both courses, I felt that my knowledge of English and French was practically equivalent, but that I had a much easier time expressing myself in French. I think this happened because I remained open to speaking (and making mistakes) in French classes, but thought it would be a great shame if I made a mistake in English.
In the following years I was able to improve my English with TV series and films, listening carefully while reading the translation in the subtitles. But more than that: I learned to love English and to want to learn more and more. I believe that this was crucial for me to finally be able to speak English, which only happened now, at the age of 32. I am sure that, if I had adopted this approach before, I would have learned much faster and without so much suffering.
“I learned to love English and to want to learn more and more. I believe that it was crucial for me to finally be able to speak English, which only happened now, at the age of 32. ”
I hope that my experience highlights to you that it is never too late. Learning a language (or any other subject) is much easier if you remain open to learning and to making mistakes. Knowledge is often built by questioning certainty and breaking with previous beliefs. Trust your ability to learn new things, keep your brain moving and don’t be embarrassed about pursuing growth, no matter how old you are! It’s never too late.