I have already discussed this topic in ‘Here’s how feeling vulnerable can help you learn a language,’ but I still see a lot of resistance from introverted students. However, it doesn’t come from those who feel a little fearful when speaking a new language- that’s normal, by the way- but from those who still ignore any advice given. Therefore, I have decided to sum up the main points in how to boost your confidence when you are learning a language. As a matter of fact, it does not matter if you are introverted or extroverted. The following tips may help anybody get out of their learning plateau and rut.
Trust me in the fact that even extroverts ‘suffer’ when they learn a new language. One advantage that introverts have over extroverts is that they, by usually being socially quieter (even in their mother tongue), may achieve more as a result of feeling happier when they finally manage to express themselves in a foreign language. On the other hand, when you do have supreme verbal skills in your own language with excellent social and communication skills, you may find that working around a new language is a bit more frustrating than how your introverted counterparts find it. Again, it’s an individual perception and it doesn’t mean extroverts can’t learn a language, quite the opposite. All you have to do is to use your own strengths to your advantage, and adapt your personality to your learning style. Really, it doesn’t matter if you are a lone wolf or the life and soul of the party; we can all learn a language if we put our minds to it. Equally, we all have our struggles.
As a result, I can sympathise, as I have been through the same struggles of language learning and I am an introvert too! But hey, I have learned three languages! However, I have an unusual personality type in which the introvert can become extroverted at times, as an INFJ. If you would like to take a free personality test, click here (the best set of questions to help you identify your personality type, as long as you are brutally honest. You will be surprised!).
Have I ever struggled in my language learning process? Far too many times to count them on my fingers!
So, what to do? Set small, achievable goals in six steps:
- First, find out your learning style and accept the person you are. Communicate with your tutor. As an introvert, you will feel more at ease with one-to-one communication.
- Try to be prepared for the lesson- if you can, and when you can, but allow yourself a margin of flexibility and spontaneity.
- Ask your teacher if there is any specific topic or passage for the following lesson that will require you to speak and prepare vocabulary in advance. You may already know if there is one.
- Express how you feel. Don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability. If you are nervous, it’s okay to say it.
- At more advanced levels, set your goals by preparing what you want to say and stick to your plan. Use bullet points with key words for speaking presentations. You will most certainly be asked something you were unprepared for, but it’s part of your learning, too. However, the more you practice, the more fluency you will achieve and be ready for those ‘unprepared’ moments.
- Praise yourself for what you were able to communicate. Don’t be too hard on yourself for what you were not able to. Everyone else will be feeling the same uneasiness. Fact! Even the most extroverted person in the group. If it’s a question of polishing your skills, revise! Don’t wait until the last minute to do so. Take those 20 minutes a day or even one hour a week and do it!
If you don’t like the current topic your tutor has assigned or you don’t know much about it, it’s okay to be quieter. Remember that as long as you show your abilities at different times, your teacher will get you!
All in all, feel proud of yourself for trying. And believe your tutor when they say you have done well. You are speaking a new language, congrats! Pat your shoulder, big HIFIs! You are allowed to make mistakes. It’s not your native language, and you only learn by making those mistakes you don’t like. Allow your vulnerability to come out. I know, easier said than done. Society has taught us to pretend we are always okay, but being strong is being genuine. So, take this on board next time you think you have failed! When you are weight-training, for example, experts say your muscles have achieved their full potential when you fail to do that last rep with your current weights. That’s when your success disguises as a failure and you are ready for the next step (heavier weights). But you will need a short break, of course.
Remember these notes. They will serve you on so many levels!