My Struggle Learning a New Language

In, Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving Abroad, I shared that one thing I really wish I knew was the language of course!

Even though I always heard multiple languages just walking down the streets of NYC and studied Spanish in middle school, I am only fluent in English.

I knew a couple of Japanese words before moving to Japan. I kept hearing that some people have lived here for 10+ years and never learned the language. I didn’t fully understand how that was possible at first. Then I noticed that, depending on where you work and live, you can get by knowing very little.

For two years, I taught at an international school where English was mainly spoken. It’s been a little harder to communicate in my neighborhood but, closer to the Olympics, more employees tried to speak English. Other than taking some individual and group lessons, I didn’t really start to focus on studying until this year. I am in no way great at learning a new language, especially as an adult. Here’s what helped me learn some Japanese from nothing.

Create a Plan-Decide on a schedule, exactly what you’ll study and the materials you’ll use.

Read & write-This can help build vocabulary. I’m a visual learner so no matter how many times I hear the same word, it doesn’t click until I see it and can make a connection.

Get Online- There are a lot of free apps and websites for languages. I start each lesson with Duolingo.

Watch Movies (w/ subtitles)-TV shows and movies are great listening and reading activities. It’s also good for building vocabulary and you can hear the natural flow of the language. I use the Language Learning with Netflix extension.

Talk with Other People & Get Out Your Comfort Zone- Starting a new language can be scary. As a foreigner in another country, I found myself avoiding speaking Japanese out of fear. The best change that I made was putting myself in positions where I had no choice. Some things that have been working are talking to and messaging people, asking store employees where items are (even if I already know), and purposely waiting for the elevator that says the floors. 

Do you speak more than one language? What are your tips for learning a new one? (Help me, please!😆 🤓)

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