It’s that time of year again – the beginning. It’s a good thing, too; 2016 got a bad name. There were the passing of famous celebrities (RIP Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds), Harambe was killed, Syria is in disarray, and let’s not forget about the Zika virus. As we turn to the New Year, we are all hoping for a few more positive events like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar. More of those little gems would be great in 2017. The New Year brings with it an optimism we know so well by now, and with that optimism comes resolution, a determination for change. Some might want to lose their extra holiday weight, while others want to quit smoking, or spend more time with family and friends. Some, though, will want to learn a new language.
Do you have a language resolution for 2017? Whatever your reason for learning a new language, be it travel plans and aspirations, communicating with your employees, or building relationships in general, it is important to realize that sticking to learning is just as hard as trying to lose weight. People who lose weight don’t just decide on Sunday that by next month they’ll be down 15 pounds, and then stop. In order to lose weight and keep it off, adopting a healthy lifestyle must become a part of your life with regular exercise and diet change. Learning a language is the same way: to truly become fluent, you have to live it. To stick with an analogy, a half hour session with a personal trainer twice per week might work your muscles, but you’ll only see results if you do your homework and eat right. Similarly, listening to your “Learn Italian in 6 months” CD on the way to work and back every day is nice, but you have to do your homework, too. Put sticky notes around your house labeling everything in the language, study a book, and speak. Speak, speak, speak.
So you’ve got your CDs or podcasts for listening, your “Spanish for Dummies” book you study every day, tips on how to learn a language, and self-made flashcards which you use to quiz yourself on vocabulary. But what will happen when you finally get the chance to start speaking? You’ll step into a market, a business meeting, someone’s home, or a new country, and you will need to understand what those around you are saying. Then, you’ll need to communicate back something that makes sense and not just “There is a man in the living room” or “It’s sunny today; tomorrow it will be cloudy.” You need to have some practice under your belt not just with listening, but with understanding and providing an appropriate response.
A live teacher is essential to this kind of ability. If you can’t be immersed in the environment where your target language is spoken, the next best option is to be able to interact with someone on a regular basis. A teacher can help you monitor your progress and keep you accountable and excited about reaching your goal. Just like a personal trainer, a language teacher will notice little things about you that you might not notice. For example, a teacher might realize that you learn better visually, and will respond with graphic representations of grammar structure to help you to conceptualize what didn’t make sense before. He or she will learn quickly where you struggle to keep focused, and make sure to follow up with you in those areas to ensure that you’re “eating your vegetables.” Your teacher will also know lots about the language and culture you’re studying that books and research won’t tell you. This can be anything from the correct pronunciation to tidbits like how close to stand to someone when you’re having a conversation, which can vary dramatically by culture. Most importantly, your teacher will provide you with an invaluable outlet for communication skills in that language.
Communication isn’t just reading a sentence in a textbook and conjugating it correctly. Communication is body language and immediate understanding without translation. Even if the message is communicated incorrectly, it is understood by the people who need to know its meaning. A teacher will listen to you and push you through the most difficult parts of learning the language, making learning much more enjoyable than if you were sitting alone at your desk. These difficult components might be the six different ways to say “the” in German, the honorifics in Japanese, or inflections that could mean the difference between an innocent word and a curse.
Where to find a live teacher? CORE Language specializes in one-on-one tutoring and group classes with an on-site teacher who comes to your home or business. Our support team carefully selects our most experienced tutors, professors, instructors and trainers across the U.S. The best teachers are then matched to students and classes for which they will be an appropriate fit. This year, make your New Year’s resolution to give us a call, so we can keep you accountable and help you accomplish your goal.